Dead End Chapter 2

Dead End Chapter 2

Chapter 002

Son Taehwan cautiously picked up the ski pole, as if he were dealing with a wild beast. It was an item others occasionally used as a cane while moving between the barracks and various research facilities.

“Wait, just a moment, Hanyoung, let’s… let’s talk this out?”

It was futile to expect understanding. Uncharacteristically for a zombie, it suddenly charged, not at all sluggish like the zombies seen in movies or novels.

However, it was fortunate for Son Taehwan that he had picked up the ski pole. The sharp end of the pole struck the zombie’s head directly, and Taehwan, gripping it like a spear, exerted strength into his hands.

“Aaaah!”

Another stroke of luck was that the zombified Hanyoung was a small-built woman, and Taehwan was a man of considerable physical strength. Close combat was a battle of physique. No matter how strong a predator, it couldn’t beat an African elephant.

As Taehwan pushed until the ski pole bent, the zombie could only wheeze weakly, unable to retaliate. Finally, the pole, lodged in the zombie’s neck, snapped, silencing the wheezing as the neck broke. Such was the force of the thrust that half of the neck frayed, and the head detached from the body, astonishingly, black blood flowed in the freezing indoor temperature. Even more astonishingly, the body began to disappear.

“Is… is the body vanishing? What’s this? Evaporation? Is it evaporating right now?”

Taehwan’s hand, still gripping the bent pole, trembled. The dead body slowly melted away as if decomposing. Hanyoung’s once beautiful face also dissolved like melting ice. Black blood dripped beneath her, bubbling up and starting to evaporate with black smoke, akin to burning oil-soaked wood. Without any flame, the black blood boiled and vaporized into black smoke. How could a human body evaporate like this?

Watching this, Taehwan swallowed hard, turning his gaze to the already deceased base commander, who had frozen solid, clearly dead from the cold. Compared to this, the disappearance of Hanyoung’s body was truly bizarre.

“Damn it… what the hell is this?”

As Taehwan trembled, Hanyoung’s fingertips also turned into black liquid, dissolving away. The black blood corroded her clothes as well. Taehwan then understood why people ‘evaporated’. It was unclear how many had suffered this fate, but they vanished without a trace.

He knelt, sharply observing Hanyoung’s evaporating body, contemplating touching the black liquid but instead swallowed his saliva. A thought crossed his mind.

“Could it be an infection?”

It was the first word that flashed through Taehwan’s mind. He had never heard of a disease that could make a dead body rise and move, but it seemed plausible that touching it could lead to infection.

Then, Taehwan discovered something on Hanyoung’s body, now reduced to a torso with limbs dissolved away—a crimson fingerprint on the stake.

Did someone, bloodied, thrust the stake into Hanyoung’s chest in a fight?

“Ahh… Someone fought with Hanyoung, a person bleeding red fought against Hanyoung, who bled black…”

He could almost see the scene of someone struggling to drive the broken stake into Hanyoung’s chest.

It likely happened on a blizzardy evening. Meteorologists and scientists, having finished their work early to escape the storm, headed to the barracks for a meal, with meat thawing appetizingly and soju for a rare treat. With the blizzard rendering work impossible, everyone relaxed, enjoying a drink. The smell of cooked meat spread, and as the alcohol flowed, joy abounded.

Then, someone turns into a ‘revived corpse’, bleeding black. The others, puzzled, panic upon realization. Like Taehwan seeing Hanyoung’s body for the first time, they would have been shocked. And as the corpse bites someone, flesh tears away, and in the chaos, people make contact with the corpse. And then… everyone at Sejong Base ‘evaporates’.

“Yes, it must be an infection. An infected corpse, upon receiving a fatal wound, seems to evaporate along with black smoke… Those not leaving a body were infected and fought each other… Damn it. Why did this happen?”

Taehwan was relieved he hadn’t carelessly touched the black blood. He held his breath and stepped back.

The bubbling black blood. Evaporation. Vaporized liquid.

Breath held, Taehwan mirrored his eyes in the mirror, finding them frantically shaking but free from black smoke or blood. Clutching the ski pole, trembling, he tried to make sense of it all.

He was sufficiently startled but tried not to lose his rationality.

“Stop panicking, Son Taehwan. It’s okay, still okay. I’m still alive, damn it.”

Gradually, the trembling in his hands ceased, and he began to think calmly again.

“I’m fine. Doesn’t seem like I’m infected. It’s not airborne. No way. Do you understand, Son Taehwan?”

Taehwan, as if explaining to himself, mulled over the information he had gathered again.

“Even Ebola has rare cases of airborne transmission. And if it was instantly transmitted through the air, those red bloodstains would be meaningless. It would mean getting infected immediately upon being stabbed with the stake. Okay… the situation is shitty, but still okay. Just need to avoid direct contact…”

Although Taehwan regained his composure and sharply analyzed the situation, the ski pole he was holding began to tremble again. Even a seasoned veteran who had faced numerous battles might tremble in such a situation as Taehwan. The fear one feels when encountering the unknown, and the sight of Hanyoung’s evaporating body or moving corpses, was too terrifying to handle with mere human bravery or logic.

“Damn it, what in the world happened… Ah, CCTV! There’s CCTV!”

Various places in the Antarctic base were equipped with cameras for various reasons. There should be camera footage capturing the details of what happened in this barracks. Holding a penlight, Taehwan exhaled deeply and stood up. Even if it wasn’t airborne, breathing inside was uncomfortable.

He kept thinking of a ‘goal’ in his mind to somehow overcome the incessant fear.

“First, to the power station. Yes, just think about that. First, I need to turn on the electricity and the heating.”

Taehwan turned his gaze away from Hanyoung’s body, which was evaporating down to the torso, and looked towards the location of the power station.

And naturally, his eyes fell upon the miserably deceased commander. Seeing the commander’s corpse, Taehwan swallowed hard. It wasn’t just Hanyoung’s body that was a problem. The death of the seasoned winter-over commander at the Antarctic was also a shock. Taehwan averted his eyes from the commander’s mangled remains and closed his eyes tightly. Everything felt like a dream.

He wished he was at the German base and had merely dreamed a nightmare about Sejong Science Base. But even in the cold interior, the pervasive smell of blood was intensely real. He began to rummage through his cold-weather gear, trying to eliminate the smell.

“Damn, no cigarettes? Are there really none left? This is driving me mad.”

In his tense state, he searched for cigarettes, but he had given all his cigarettes to the people at the German base.

“Is there any cigarette left somewhere? Many people smoked here… Maybe there are survivors.”

There were many buildings at Sejong Base, so there might be other people alive. It was possible that, faced with this situation, everyone sought refuge in a warehouse or a heated area.

Taehwan nodded vigorously to himself, clinging to that slim possibility. He didn’t want to be alone. Yet, the chilling thought that he might be the sole survivor kept dominating his mind. Evaporating black blood. Bodies that vanished completely. He closed his eyes tightly again, focusing only on the power station.

“Just think about the electricity for now. Other bases might be aware. To contact other bases, power is essential.”

His body started to tremble again, and his voice quivered. Whatever the nature of this black blood, if it spread to areas close to Sejong Base, it would be disastrous.

He returned to the entrance of the barracks to head towards the distant power station. He donned his balaclava and goggles, then hit his head against a pillar as he exited. Despite repeating to himself not to panic and that he needed to handle the electricity, he was clearly flustered. And as soon as he stepped outside, a harsher reality greeted him.

“This is too much, even considering everything.”

Opening the outer door, Taehwan took off his goggles and cursed for a while.

“Another blizzard!”

The blizzard. A snowstorm in Antarctica, or rather, an Antarctic nightmare beyond imagination. The blizzard, which had led many expeditions to death, was mocking Taehwan again, slowly approaching.



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