Dead End Chapter 21

Dead End Chapter 21

Chapter 021

There was a part of him that wanted to ignore the hints and the shattered frame of the Antarctic map deep in his heart. King George Island was no joke, but it paled in comparison to the Antarctic continent.

In reality, many had perished crossing the sea from King George Island, and the Antarctic continent and the straits were places of death, lingering with the resentment of numerous explorers.

Again, the weak voice inside him whispered temptations. The bases on the other side of the sea were safe. Let’s head there. Or maybe the rescue team would come. Let’s wait.

“No, damn it. Always assume the worst situation. If you let your guard down, you’re dead. I’m in Antarctica where the walking dead roam!”

Son Taehwan reaffirmed to himself—it was a matter of life and death. As he thought of his own plane crash, he swallowed hard. He had faced death once before, and now those sensations were coming back to life.

“Sen, senior. What’s wrong?” asked Sujin Han with concern.

“Ah, it’s nothing. Why did you come down here instead of staying warm by the fire?”

Sujin was dressed in heavy fur, as if she had just been in the women’s changing room.

“Hey but… what’s up with your hair?”

“My hair?”

“You didn’t selfishly take a shower alone, did you?”

“Wow, treating me like some sort of traitorous scoundrel, are you for real?”

“Quiet, miss, and take a look at your hair.”

It seemed she had washed her face and hair with hot water during the time Taehwan descended the stairs. Her bangs had frozen on the way down, sticking up like a question mark.

“Woo, woong?”

“That’s petty. You didn’t secretly eat everything upstairs, did you? I knew you were a glutton, but…”

“Wow, really low blow. Would I be that shameless?”

Blushing, Sujin fidgeted with her question mark-shaped hair.

“Anyway, Taehwan senior, the corn has cooked. Let’s eat first.”

“Alright, I was so hungry I thought I was going to die.”

Taehwan nodded, grabbing the guidebook for Antarctica. She stared hard at the book in his hands. Sujin was a brave and clever lady.

“You’ll tell me, right?”

Taehwan nodded to her without saying a word.

The two returned to the women’s shower room and shared the cans of corn that had simmered nicely.

“Ouch, hot. But tasty!”

“Indeed!”

They scooped the warm canned corn with chopsticks and laughed heartily together. The warmth filled their insides and made the gloomy thoughts disappear. Taehwan gulped down the sweet broth and handed the can to Sujin. There was no time to discuss hygiene matters when both had touched the can. She also drank the broth, smiling contentedly.

Then they had a bit of grilled German sausage and sugarless mixed coffee.

“This is like a forced Americano. I hate these.”

“Heehee, Senior, if you won’t drink it, give it to me.”

Sujin reached out playfully, and Taehwan pushed her forehead with his hand. She was intently looking at the wound on his hand she had treated.

The mood turned serious once more. Taehwan shrugged his shoulders, trying to lighten it.

“I won’t even give this coffee to the Grim Reaper himself.”

“You’d probably curse him out if he came, Senior.”

“What would I say?”

“Hey you XX bastard. What did I ever do to deserve this?”

Sujin mimicked him impressively, and they tussled for a bit before sipping their coffee.

The coffee was missing sugar due to creating Molotov cocktails earlier, but they enjoyed it immensely nonetheless.

“Man, sitting down just makes you wanna lay down. Makes me want a drink.”

“Ha, same here. It would be nice if we had some alcohol.”

They were painfully aware of the importance of their remaining supplies. They couldn’t afford to waste alcohol.

“Senior, now that you’re calm, tell me. Why did you scream down there earlier?”

“That is…”

Taehwan shared with her all the information and observations he had deduced. Now, it seemed safer to leave King George Island. They couldn’t afford to conceal information, especially if panic might cause immobility—they had to bring each other along, even if it meant picking each other up.

“Hmm… Senior, do you think we have to go to the Antarctic continent?”

“Probably. We can’t stay at Sejong Station for long anyway. And just before…”

Taehwan shared with her the strange occurrences they had encountered while fighting before. The last remaining zombie had acted as if it were trying to infect him by dripping black blood on his face.

“If your deductions are correct, then it is transmitted through mucous membranes or wounds. If we keep fighting, we might get infected without realizing. Then it might be wise to avoid combat situations altogether and go somewhere secluded.”

“Is that your medical opinion?”

“Yes, obviously. It’s best to move away from the source of infection.”

Taehwan gulped, looking at her serious face.

“Then for survival, it might be best to stop engaging zombies intentionally to expand our search area and activities. Even a grazing attack from an enemy can infect and claim victory, but we can’t afford that luxury.”

The ones who had departed might have had the same idea or experienced it firsthand. The western bases tried to resist but gradually succumbed to injuries, one by one, until total annihilation. They could have crossed to Sejong Station and left immediately after.

“Alright, doctor lady. How many days do you think it would take for the entire King George Island to turn?”

“Hmm… I can’t be sure. It’s quite different from a typical infection source… But I can speculate about the fastest case.”

Sujin spoke very cautiously.

“Three days.”

“What? It would only take three days?”

“As long as we avoid contact, but since people in Antarctica almost always gather indoors, and those zombies walk without any problem in the freezing outdoors, what’s needed is just the time to move from base to base. It wouldn’t take more than a few hours for one base to be completely infected. Though, we might fight and win like we have, and secure a safe haven… since they don’t need sleep or energy replenishment, three days. If we assume the worst, in three days, they could reach and infect all bases on King George Island.”

Taehwan couldn’t help but nod in agreement after a moment’s thought. It had been about a week since he visited the German base and returned. At least a week of infection had passed, with at least ten individuals infected.

If some of the zombies at Sejong Station moved non-stop to other bases, it wasn’t long until they reached nearby ones. And if confronted without any information? It was likely to be bitten and die or be infected. Once the first victim falls, the infection rate more than doubles.

“Considering what we’ve thought so far, escaping from the island seems prudent. Zombies can’t board ships.”

The more they considered, the more the decision to escape by rubber boat seemed optimal. Although the zombies had intelligence, piloting a ship to Antarctica seemed out of reach. That was beyond the domain of instinct.

“Sujin. We might have to head to other bases that are in this state.”

“If we go to the Peru base…”

“Even that might be wrong. As you said, the infected walk uncaringly in snowstorms. We should head somewhere we need, not just safe havens.”

While humans couldn’t walk 7 or 8 kilometers through a snowstorm, zombies could. The ones they had killed were walking about uninterruptedly on the frozen grounds, burning.

“Let’s secure the boat and food first. We have reliable weapons.”

“Yes… If not, we can go to the Peru or German bases.”

“That’ll work.”

Taehwan glanced at the sausages roasting and worried about the German scientists. They were even smaller than Sejong Science Station, and if attacked by these creatures, they would be in more danger.

“Hm, too many worries. Anyway, let’s sleep in shifts. My head will explode if we keep this up.”

“Then…”

“You sleep first. I do know a thing or two about ‘ladies first.’”

“Is our senior always this considerate?”

“Who else will look after our junior if not her senior?”

Taehwan smiled wryly at his watch.

He positioned himself by the door, recalling his military duty shifts. He held the chainsaw’s starting cord in his hand, ready to pull at any time, and relaxed as he listened to the howling wind outside.

Sujin tried to say something but instead lay down next to the bathtub. The tub was full of hot water, which, along with the fire and hot water heat, quickly made her snore in comfort—a luxury she couldn’t have imagined, having barely survived by the campfire.

Taehwan chuckled as she started snoring almost immediately upon resting her head. Loyal and spirited, she had a definitely naive aspect to her nature.

Sujin was quite popular in this winter expedition team. Not just her pretty face, but her attentive treatments and willingness to take on tough tasks endeared her to everyone, even if not romantically.

Of course, Taehwan never felt any romantic emotions toward this doctor. He had a girlfriend he broke up with upon coming to Antarctica, and his feelings were still in a mess. He had cut contact in a fit of pride, but it left his emotions unresolved. His mind wasn’t at leisure to consider new romances.

And though his male pride was hurt, she had been truly dedicated. They met as a campus couple in college, and she waited for him even while he was in the military. As an aviation scholarship student with a 7-year service, she spent her entire 20s traveling between Seoul and Gangneung to support him in the army.

“Huh… Because of you, I really messed up my life.”

But wallowing wasn’t Taehwan’s style. He tucked away the photo and examined the map of Antarctica. There was no time to dwell on an ex-girlfriend. Now it was about considering how to survive with Sujin.

“We must survive. I will live, and so will Sujin. We have to escape this wretched Antarctica together.”

Taehwan steeled his resolve, looking at Sujin’s peacefully sleeping face.



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