Dead End Chapter 3

Dead End Chapter 3

Chapter 003

In Nalevski where Penguin Village was, Son Taehwan was bound by a blizzard while trying to enjoy half a day of fishing. He had wandered in the blizzard for about 10 minutes but nearly lost his life in the ordeal.

“Damn it, damnation. This is like…”

He ran out of curse words just when his heart felt colder than when he had discovered a corpse. The blizzard in Antarctica was beyond what most people could imagine. Snowstorms almost like typhoons raged, threatening to shake the parked snowmobiles outside. Worse, the temperatures dropped with the blizzard, leading to death by freezing.

“I need to prepare quickly… If I just stand here, I’ll freeze to death. Freeze to death, Son Taehwan! First, I need electricity… electricity. I need to keep the generator running.”

The word ‘electricity’ kept echoing in his mind. As an engineer, Son Taehwan had no way of knowing when the blizzard would stop, nor could a meteorological agency predict it.

The next thing that came to his mind was ‘food’. If the blizzard raged, his strength would wane. And if he encountered another corpse in such a weakened state, he didn’t know what would happen.

“Damn!”

He quickly closed the outer door and entered the interior of the living quarters.

“At least the cafeteria here is safe. If there was a body, it should have attacked me earlier. Now, I need to find high-calorie food. And something to burn, some oil or anything!”

Shivering, he searched for high-energy foods. Snacks like chocolate bars for easy consumption were stored in his workplace’s mechanical warehouse, and what was piled up here were cans and fresh vegetables ready for immediate consumption. He gathered the canned goods lying outside and various dried foods, and even snacks that he wouldn’t normally bother looking at. It was fortunate that the people at the base had saved up for a party for their last evening. There were plenty of canned goods and dried squid lying around, as well as appetizers like peanuts.

Then, he packed various canned goods and groceries into a non-woven fabric bag beside him. Son Taehwan transformed the non-woven fabric bag into a backpack using a line he wore on his waist. It seemed faster than finding a real backpack. With the blizzard approaching, time was of the essence to him.

“Shoot, water. A water jug! Typical that it’s nowhere to be seen when needed. This is maddening.”

Surrounded by natural snow, he paradoxically might not be able to drink water while confined inside the building. Searching for a container to serve as a water jug, he shook his head. Then suddenly, he remembered something cook Kim Hyunsoo had said.

“Emergency bottled water. The refrigerator. Yes, the refrigerator!”

Like a soldier repeating a command, Son Taehwan rushed to the commercial refrigerator. It sometimes contained drinks and emergency bottled water. Regaining his composure, he flung open the refrigerator door.

It was his complacency that betrayed him. As soon as he opened it, he fell backward.

“Ah!”

Inside the refrigerator lay the frozen corpse of cook Kim Hyunsoo with a knife stuck in his throat, his blood congealed. Startled, he quickly slammed and locked the door. It felt as if Kim Hyunsoo would rise and reach out for him at any moment. He panted heavily, turning away from the refrigerator and exhaling deeply.

“Bro. Bro…”

Kim Hyunsoo’s eyes were closed, which was a small mercy. Seeing Kim Hyunsoo’s body brought up overwhelming emotions in Son Taehwan, who had been acquainted with Kim for a long time and could actually talk with him at the base.

“Sob. Damn it. What is this, what is it…”

Son Taehwan trembled with tears. After seeing Kim Hyunsoo’s corpse, his gut twisted, and only one word came to mind.

Survival.

It was an ironic feeling. Even after seeing Kim Hyunsoo’s corpse, he felt a desire to survive rather than sadness. He wanted to live, no matter what. He did not want to die like that.

He got up, wiping away his tears and staggering. His eye caught a glimpse of a kitchen knife smeared with chili powder on a table.

“Bro…”

Somehow, Son Taehwan felt as if the knife was a weapon gifted by Kim Hyunsoo. A good idea came to him.

He pulled out the electrical tape he always carried and grasped the knife. He then separated a cleaning bag from the mop and, placing the knife against a wooden handle, he tightly wrapped electric tape around it. It was similar to when he fended off a crisis with a ski pole during an earlier encounter with a zombie.

“Damn, damn…”

Son Taehwan banged his head against the stainless-steel refrigerator. A dull thud echoed as he repeatedly shook his head in denial.

He still couldn’t understand what was going on. Why had the commander died like that, Han Young met such a fate, and why was Kim Hyunsoo frozen inside a refrigerator? What had happened to the peaceful Sejong Base?

“Damn it. I may not understand what’s going on in this godforsaken base, but I’m not dying like this. Hear me, you bastards! I will survive!”

Clutching the mop bag, he let out a deep sigh and looked solemnly at the closed refrigerator door.

“Bro. I’m sorry.”

It was a necessary evil. Feeling the whirring wind, he grew anxious again. The blizzard was drawing near.

Son Taehwan bowed his head towards the refrigerator and stepped back outside. Regrettably, the blizzard was headed straight this way. Narrowing his eyes, he estimated the time it would take for the blizzard to reach Sejong Base.

“An hour? Or maybe 30 minutes?”

Living with talkative meteorological staff had given him a rough idea of wind speeds.

“That meteorological guy…”

Son Taehwan shook his head as he looked at one of the living quarters’ doors. It was a situation beyond remedy. His immediate focus was the snowmobile parked in front of the dormitory. The fuel gauge was still half full, and the battery had been checked before departure from the German base.

“Nobody to scold me for using fuel now.”

With the always careful commander having frozen to death, Son Taehwan shook his head again and drove the snowmobile towards the generator building. It was the building closest to the dock and not too far from the living quarters.

In less than two minutes, Son Taehwan reached the generator building. He tried to recall the manuals he had seen during training, but his eyes were drawn back to the approaching snowstorm.

“First thing, forget about the blizzard. Just forget it. It’s something I can’t control. Focus only on what I can control. Right, only what I can handle.”

It looked like a beleaguered monk muttering prayers in the rain. Son Taehwan, recalling his job training, walked to the generator building. He was one of only two facility staff responsible for overseeing the winter operations at the Antarctic base.

One staff member was selected to handle the combined heat and power unit, while the other was someone like Son Taehwan, chosen specifically to operate emergency generators of a certain company. By a fluke, Son Taehwan had worked with these emergency generators in an Air Force station and used that experience to get selected for the Antarctic expedition.

“If possible, I need to get the combined heat and power generators up and running. Otherwise, using emergency generators alone will consume too much fuel and can’t last.”

Sejong Base’s heating system operated on the heat combined power generator in the generator building. Son Taehwan unquestionably knew the startup procedures. The staff in charge of mechanical equipment had unilaterally left for personal reasons, leaving everything to Son Taehwan before a replacement could arrive. Eventually, he became familiar with the formidable combined heat and power generator, mostly through trial and error with the manual.

“Just do it. Just do it.”

Son Taehwan grabbed the knife spear he had made and ran towards the generator building. Sure enough, he noticed something odd in front of the building.

“Damn it… Where did the boat that was here go? Oh, could they have taken this?”

The boat shed next to the generator building was wide open, and the emergency boat that should have been there was gone. Son Taehwan’s eyes naturally moved towards the bases of other countries across the sea, like China.

Someone must have taken the boat from this side over to the opposite shore because of the black blood incident. Son Taehwan felt that the case was becoming more and more abnormal.

‘Wait a second. If someone exposed to the strange black blood got on that boat?’

The German observation base and Nalevski Cape, well-known for its penguin village, were in the opposite direction from the other shore. Son Taehwan shivered as he recalled the evaporating black blood.

‘If an infected person crossed that sea, this isn’t an ordinary issue. If all the bases on King George Island were…’

He erased the anxious thought. He now had to concentrate only on what he could do. Worrying about what he couldn’t change was futile. This was another important lesson learned in the military.

“First electricity. Let’s think about electricity, whoo.”

He set the knife spear aside and put his hand on the door of the generator building. At that moment, a loud bang as if someone was striking the door came from inside. Sejong Base was betraying Son Taehwan’s hopes in harsh ways.

“What’s that sound?”

Startled, Son Taehwan grabbed the knife spear and trembled. He then swallowed hard as he looked towards the advancing blizzard. It took a long time to start up such large generators. If things continued like this, he might not be able to return to the living quarters he had thought to use as a shelter.

“Is anyone there?”

It was a stupid question, but there was no response to his stupid question. Instead, a thud came from the metal walls of the generator building.

“Could it be… Damn it…”

Son Taehwan slowly backed away from the generator building. The thuds against the metal walls multiplied, filling the air until it sounded like the entire wall was being pounded. This was why he had been unable to start the heating combined heat and power generator and the reason why the emergency boat next to it had vanished.

Banging noises and shrieking screams could be heard, and black blood oozed from between the metal doors, boiling up as if on fire before vaporizing into black smoke.

Son Taehwan fell back completely while backing away. A confused noise came from his mouth, drowned by the thudding against the door.

Inside, it wasn’t just one or two zombies.



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