Dead End Chapter 20

Dead End Chapter 20

Chapter 020

What suddenly struck him was the mysterious radio contact. That transmission was suspicious no matter how he thought about it. The eerie question of whether he was still alive rippled through Son Taehwan’s mind.

“It’s one thing after another. If those who left did so because they knew no rescue team was coming, then we too must find a way out of here as soon as possible.”

Son Taehwan and Han Sujin had tirelessly worked to get the machinery room’s electricity running, believing that someone would come to rescue them once the storm ended. Taehwan chose not to share his anxieties with Sujin. There was nothing to gain from it.

“Let’s just wait for now. We can’t just leave this place without fully understanding the situation.”

“Yes, senior…”

Noticing her unease, Taehwan lightened the mood again. In such a dire situation, dwelling on the severity only led to faster burnout.

“Let’s first bring some firewood and heat up some canned food. Aren’t you hungry, you glutton?”

It was perhaps the most instinctive response. At the mention of canned food, she immediately growled with hunger and blushed.

“Ah… Now that you mention it, I’m starving. At least I’ll lose some weight, which is a silver lining.”

“Honestly, how much do you weigh?”

“Various places, a lot. Humph. And if a woman says she’s dieting, you’re not supposed to ask about her weight in detail.”

Han Sujin turned her head away with a pout but couldn’t help but let out a small laugh. The tension from the unexpected radio transmission began to ease.

“I swear, when I get back to Korea, I’m not even looking at snow. I should just live in Busan. It doesn’t snow there, right?”

“I came here because I liked snow, but…”

“I’ve seen enough snow for a lifetime. If I ever step on snow again, I’m no longer human.”

“Didn’t you use that line before about not playing poker? Guess the Son Taehwan I know has given up on being human?”

The two chuckled over jokes that weren’t particularly funny. Then, they opened the main gate to bring in firewood, guided by the corpses of burned zombies serving as grim landmarks. This time, Han Sujin meticulously closed the gate and patted Taehwan’s back.

“Let’s go, senior. I’m ready too.”

Transporting the wood proved easier than expected. With the immediate area clear and no zombies wandering around, there was little danger.

Taehwan used a chainsaw to cut the long pieces of wood into smaller sizes, and after about five trips back and forth, they had gathered a significant amount of firewood.

However, the tension remained. Any sound of snow falling from the roof of the wooden building would direct Sujin’s spear in that direction, while Taehwan kept the chainsaw ready for action.

“Senior, if we run the combined heat and power unit in the power station, it’ll get warmer, right?”

“Yeah! Tomorrow! Let’s go check it out tomorrow! During the day!”

The emergency generator in the machinery room provided limited power to the power station and the barracks. However, venturing to the drafty cave-like power station was no easy feat.

It was uncertain whether all the zombies had emerged from the power station, let alone how many remained. A trip to the power station would require full preparation for another fierce battle with the zombies.

“Senior! Don’t you want to eat something hot?”

“Me too! Let’s retreat for now!”

Eventually, after completing their task of transporting firewood, they secured the main gate with ropes and chains, unsure if any zombies remained in the unsearched buildings.

They thoroughly checked the upstairs windows and even locked the second-floor stairway door Taehwan had used before finally feeling safe.

“Phew. That settles it.”

“Right. It’s good we’ve secured a safe zone.”

“One step at a time. Tomorrow, we start with the power station.”

They surveyed the lit interior of the machinery room. No shadows of zombies lingered; only the one they had knocked down was slowly vanishing, emitting black smoke. Watching the evaporating zombie, Taehwan spoke to Sujin.

“They last quite a while… How long do you think it takes for these bodies to completely evaporate?”

“Apart from injuries like bleeding, the skin and outer clothes evaporated like melting, and internal organs like the intestines evaporated later. Bones took longer.”

“Bones? Did you… watch it all?”

“I am a doctor, after all. Seeing a corpse is nothing. And since the dead person moved, who knows if it might move again even after becoming a corpse. I had to watch, just in case it rose again.”

“Not bad for a quack without a license.”

Sujin playfully smacked his back and continued.

“It seemed to take about a day for complete evaporation. Only the traces of black blood remained and then vanished completely…”

“It took a day for complete evaporation? It’s all so confusing. In Han Young’s zombie case, it seemed like it could have lasted for days with the black smoke… And when I killed it, it melted away instantly.”

“Hmm… Maybe that black smoke is similar to human bleeding?”

“Bleeding?”

“Well, it’s not exactly the same, but when there was a wound, black smoke rose, right? Maybe if that state persists, the body’s… what should I call it? Cohesiveness? It might weaken.”

“So, dying instantly leads to slow evaporation, and dying slowly leads to quick evaporation? It seems safe to assume that for now. We’ll have to check again later.”

“Okay, senior.”

Son Taehwan shook his head as he thought about Han Young’s zombie, which had melted away from the limbs up in an instant. There was still so much that was unknown. Understanding the variations among the zombies was also an essential task.

However, that was a concern for another time; right now, they were more focused on eating. The rumbling of Taehwan’s stomach was a constant reminder of their hunger.

“Anyway, I’m starving. Zombie or not, let’s eat something. And here’s a gift. I grabbed it from the snowmobile you rode in on.”

“Ah! A can of corn!”

Han Sujin was visibly surprised, probably thinking she had lost it forever.

Holding the can of corn with a green giant printed on it, they exchanged light-hearted banter as they approached the fire.

The drum can crackled with burning wood, and the sound of boiling water from the electric kettle filled the room. Normally, the sound of boiling water would be mundane, but now it felt like a return to normalcy.

Son Taehwan suddenly felt as if everything that had happened was like a dream. Living corpses, evaporating black blood, missing people, exploding foreign bases… And finally, that mysterious radio transmission.

“It’s a miracle we’re still alive.”

“Hehe. I was thinking the same.”

The silence that followed the cessation of banging on the door made it seem eerily quiet. Taehwan almost felt as if they were the only ones left in the world.

As the firewood crackled and burned, the two watched the can of corn cook in silence.

“Senior, what will we do once the blizzard ends?”

“First, we need to estimate how long we can last, and then decide from there. We’ve sorted the electricity and fuel, but food is the issue now.”

“We can’t last forever, that’s for sure.”

Han Sujin nodded in agreement, understanding the gravity of their situation. Sejong Science Base was in ruins. They had enough fuel, but food was a concern. They could stretch their food supply for a while by rationing, but they also had to consider the possibility of leaving.

Thinking about taking food and moving to another location. If the situation turned out to be worse than expected, and they had to leave for another base, they might not last long.

And there was the option of waiting for a rescue team. Taehwan squinted, gazing coldly at the chilled interior.

“Will that rescue team… come?”

“I wonder. Since we’ve sent out the message, maybe something will come.”

“Senior, we could try to hold out here, right? With what food we have, we might last about a week.”

“If there’s no danger, that’s the best option. Moving to another base doesn’t guarantee safety either.”

Taehwan didn’t mention the scene of the other base burning. That information wouldn’t help in making rational decisions. If Han Sujin panicked thinking they had nowhere to escape, they both could end up dead. Somehow, they needed to figure out why that base burned down, why those who left the base didn’t wait for a rescue team, and escape.

“If we run out of food and there’s no rescue, no place to run, then I might tell her… to accept death.”

For now, they had food and, albeit limited, the ability to use electricity, so there was no immediate need to leave. And to Taehwan, that was the most crucial hint.

“They left because they thought no rescue was coming. That’s the only reason. They must have learned something through the radio transmission that made them leave. It’s the only logical explanation.”

It made no sense to flee if a rescue team was coming. But where could they have gone with an inflatable boat? There are limited and dangerous destinations in Antarctica, and it’s not like the boat had a navigation system.

And then, something crossed Taehwan’s mind. He suddenly stood up.

“Navigation!”

“Senior, what’s up? Where are you going?”

“Just remembered something I need to check.”

“What do you need to check?”

A flicker of anxiety passed through her eyes.

“The combined heat and power unit isn’t my forte either. Need to look at some manuals.”

“Ah… Okay. Oh, then I, I’ll just take a moment… Not for anything else, just need to use the bathroom.”

“Sorry.”

Blushing, Han Sujin gestured towards the bathroom. The shower and toilet were adjacent, and it seemed she had been holding it in for a while. They hadn’t really had the opportunity to use the bathroom either. Taehwan nodded and stepped outside the shower area.

GPT

“The navigation wouldn’t be on the rubber boats. To navigate through the seas to another location, a ‘map’ is absolutely necessary.”

Son Taehwan quickly went downstairs to the facility maintenance area to look for a map. The people who had been here before him seemed to have had a keen interest in Antarctica, possessing various books and detailed maps of the region. He practically knocked books off the shelf to grab maps and literature on Antarctica.

These were the books he’d skim through occasionally when bored. Taehwan found not only maps of King George Island but also maps of the entire Antarctic region.

“There must be a missing map. They took the weapons and food, so they had enough time to take a map. Without it, they wouldn’t have even considered leaving. This is Antarctica, after all.”

The hint had been there from the beginning. If they had simply abandoned Sejong Station, Taehwan coming from the German base and Han Sujin from the Peruvian base could have considered moving to those locations. But they fled with a rubber boat, not a snowmobile, indicating their intention to leave for the Antarctic continent or mainland. Either way, they couldn’t have left without a map. Finding the missing map could pinpoint their direction.

“…Here it is.”

After scouring through every map, Taehwan found evidence of the survivors’ destination. The missing piece was a map of the Antarctic continent.

Looking closely, he found glass shards on the floor and signs that someone had taken down a map of the Antarctic continent that had been hanging in the facility maintenance area. He hadn’t noticed these clues when turning on the lights earlier.

“The continent, not the mainland. Does that mean it’s safe to go to the Antarctic continent? Safe to go?”

If they had taken a map of Chile, it would imply they were heading to the mainland, planning to leave Antarctica entirely. But the survivors aimed for the Antarctic continent instead.

Why?

There was only one reason: it was safe to go to the Antarctic continent. “Here” wasn’t safe, but the continent was considered a viable destination.

Those living in Antarctica knew all too well the dangers of crossing the ice seas in a rubber boat. If they absolutely had to escape by boat, heading to the mainland wasn’t out of the question. Going to the continent or the mainland was equally crazy.

“In other words, this place is dangerous. ‘King George Island.’ That’s why the survivors didn’t head to another base but had to aim for the Antarctic continent.”

What they discovered that made them leave was still unknown, but the best course of action for Taehwan and Han Sujin was also to escape King George Island. If those who left took everything, including the batteries, they were making rational decisions, not just fleeing in panic.

“So, is heading to another base pointless? Or is it dangerous?”

Taehwan reviewed the distances between bases outlined in the King George Island booklet.

If they decided to leave Sejong Station, Taehwan considered reaching the Chilean Frei Air Force Base on the west side of King George Island. There was a shuttle to the Chilean mainland and a modest airport. With a plane, Taehwan, a former pilot, could possibly make it work.

But if the Chilean base had fallen to the same fate as the others, it would be a wasted effort. And the images of other bases burning kept coming back to him.

“Wait, could it be…?”

Taehwan sighed as he looked at the map of King George Island. By coincidence, both he and Han Sujin had traveled from the east to the west of the island, unaware of the base’s condition. “So, something came from the west to the east… something from the western bases?”

Contemplating the map of King George Island, Taehwan swallowed hard.

Since the survivors made a rational decision, they must have considered relocating to another base as an option. However, they chose to escape King George Island definitively. And the cause was something from the west, possibly from the Chinese base located there.

In short, this situation meant that those from the western Chinese base had to travel around Maxwell Bay to Sejong Station, eventually abandoning King George Island for the Antarctic continent. The sense of unease crept up on him.

“But now there are no rubber boats left. Some were used to transport researchers to the King Sejong Station on the continent, and the survivors took the rest.”

Taehwan looked outside at the evaporating zombies. If the Chilean base in the west had experienced the same disaster, they would have to fight zombies to the brink to secure a rubber boat.

Then, where to? The seemingly safer eastern bases?

But now, the condition of the eastern bases couldn’t be assured. Moreover, if they ended up with nothing, even their return food supply could be jeopardized.

If the eastern bases had no boats and their personnel had already fled with all the food, they could end up in a dire situation.

“…No choice then. We have no means to leave King George Island by ourselves. Whether east or west, we must leave.”

Escape. Taehwan began to seriously consider their options for departure.



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