Dead End Chapter 4

Dead End Chapter 4

Chapter 004

“Stop it! Just stop!” The sounds of hollow slapping grew louder, as if to mock Son Taehwan. He stepped back, gasping for air, realizing the situation didn’t allow for calmness.

What would have happened if he had carelessly opened the power station door?

The captain’s corpse lay there, its entrails completely eviscerated. Similar to how predators in the animal kingdom eat the soft innards first before tearing into the flesh, Son Taehwan imagined his protective clothing being ripped apart and his belly being shredded like paper.

“Ugh, ugh.” The shocking scenes continued, and Son Taehwan, using his ice pick as a walking stick, started to get up as he retched repeatedly. The noise of his vomiting couldn’t be heard over the relentless slapping sound.

“Damn it all! Damn it!” Taehwan imagined several scenarios as he looked at the echoing power station.

The first scenario was someone luring the infected here and locking the door.

‘The power station is complicated enough because of all the machinery. It’s a plausible method.’

The second scenario was that scientists and meteorologists trying to fix a generator were ambushed and infected by zombies from behind. This thought was even more chilling.

“If there are more of those things out there, I won’t stand a chance. I’ll be dead.”

The zombies with black blood that seemed to evaporate were not like the ones in movies. They ran, jumped, and charged like living humans. Taehwan tried to keep his cool, puffing out white breaths.

“Son Taehwan, look. The door is locked. You’re safe. It can’t get out, so it’s just hitting the door.” He scolded himself after belatedly spotting a chain and padlock. Opening the door as he had imagined would have been disastrous, especially if the power station had fallen to the zombies with black blood.

Furthermore, dark storm clouds were approaching. Without heating appliances, trying to withstand this blizzard would be suicidal. He kept picturing the bluish face of his captain and the frozen figure of Kim Hyunsoo.

‘The captain must have rushed into the machine room with the electrical panel to hold out. With a zombie of Han Young wandering outside and the unrelenting blizzard… in the end.’

He slapped his face with his gloved hand, and the ice-crusted sensation jolted him to awareness.

“I don’t know what’s going on, but I need to keep moving. Need to find a way to survive.”

To where? Son Taehwan shook his head to dismiss the question. The area was all snow, and even if he managed to survive the blizzard without heating appliances, he had no idea where to go.

The phrase “freeze to death” painfully resonated with Taehwan. What was at stake now was not just heating—it was survival. His hands and legs were starting to feel numb even though he had not been outside for long. No matter how advanced the cold weather gear, Antarctica’s icy hell was not something human body heat could contend with.

He glared toward the blizzard and realized he had only two choices, now that he couldn’t run the power facility.

“Either brave the blizzard to a nearby station or… hold out here.”

There were many bases established by other countries on King George Island, and there could be a chance of getting help in another place. However, a blizzard was no mere storm to push through. Not only would the bone-chilling cold and fierce snow cut through you, but the most grave danger was the wind itself. If you took a snowmobile or boat in the wrong direction, failing to reach another base spelled certain death. The nearest station by land was the Argentine base, 9 kilometers away, followed by the German observatory.

“The Chinese base…”

To get to the large Chilean Frey base or the Chinese base by land was much farther, or you’d have to cross the sea. Taehwan’s eyes then fell on the missing emergency boat. Even if he managed to get past the blizzard, he might still be trapped with the zombies.

Human selfishness exceeded imagination. Taehwan remembered a disease outbreak in a game years ago. Even then, hiding infections and traveling resulted in the instant deaths of many characters. Although it was just a game, he guessed the reality wouldn’t be much different. Those who watched themselves turn into zombies would hardly go somewhere hidden to wait for death quietly.

“Right, staying here is advantageous. If the zombies are all trapped, this place is safer.”

His body shivered, but maybe he could make it if he burned interior materials or desks from the living quarters. There was an old stove left by an earlier expedition, which could be used to stay warm without worrying about smoke inhalation. Son Taehwan considered the old stove, then realized another fact he had forgotten.

“Oh! That’s right! The emergency generator! It’s in the machine room, you idiot!”

Sejong Base had a total of 7 generators. Six ran consecutively for 24 hours in the power station. And in the machinery room connected to the science wing, there was an emergency generator. Normally passed by without a second thought, such minor details were now crucial to survival.

“If I can get that generator running, I can endure the blizzard with heaters. Yes, I can live!”

Son Taehwan cheered to himself. The dire situation made even one hopeful thought feel intensely exhilarating. Filled with joy, he sprinted towards the machine room.

Though the machine room was right next to the power station, even that short sprint was challenged by the increasingly fierce snowflakes hitting his face—a sign that the blizzard was starting.

Son Taehwan stopped mid-run and watched the black storm clouds starting to envelop Sejong Base. Though the full blizzard hadn’t hit yet, it felt more daunting than the one he had experienced days before.

The unlowered Taegeukgi flag flapped wildly in the wind, and the snow powder from the roofs billowed in gusts. Instinctively, he knew this blizzard wouldn’t end in just a day or two.

The sound of ice shards hitting his cold-weather clothing was intense—not just a snowstorm but like a storm of ice fragments. He focused again on the China base, catching sight of a distressing scene.

“What the hell? What’s that?”

A curse slipped out involuntarily. Until now, the distant Chinese base seemed untroubled, but what he saw was ‘black smoke’ rising.

“It’s too far to see clearly. Where are the binoculars?”

Taehwan stopped his route to the machinery room, rummaged in the snowmobile parked next to the machine room for binoculars, and turned his gaze back to the Chinese base. Before he could even focus the binoculars, he saw an orange flash and an explosion from the station. The base was over 10 kilometers away, so the sound reached him later.

The earth-shaking ‘whoosh’ was unmistakably unusual. Soon after, the same orange flashes and rising smoke emanated from the Uruguayan base next to the Chinese base.

Taehwan gaped as he watched both stations be engulfed in flames in an instant. Just as he processed it all, the blizzard’s black clouds darkened everything, making the grotesque scene even more sinister.

“What on earth… What’s happening?”

The last thing Son Taehwan saw before those bases were lost to the blizzard was someone on fire, stumbling toward the sea before collapsing onto the snow-covered ground. The snowstorm quickly swallowed the sight, and any trace of black smoke vanished in moments—an event that transpired in the blink of an eye.

“What the hell is going on? Dammit…”

King George Island was virtually devoid of anything that could have caused such an explosion. Occasionally, an air gun was used for capturing biological samples for research, but not the kind of weaponry that might lead to such destruction. The bases here were strictly for international research, and with no sovereignty recognized by the Antarctic Treaty, there was no reason to wage war in this snowfield. What gain could there be from a war in such a place?

Yet Son Taehwan had felt that vibration before — there was a clear memory of it. But the momentary confusion in his mind left him unable to recall where that had been.

Meanwhile, his hands trembled, and he felt a bitter cold cutting through the blizzard. The plan to casually head to the Chile base once the storm passed now seemed utterly absurd.

“That explosion… It’s definitely related to that black blood. Yes, it must be connected to that black blood.”

Once again, Taehwan envisioned the worst-case scenarios he’d considered before. Someone might have concealed their infection and then fought desperately. Even without weapons, those smart scientists would have found a way to respond to zombies. And…

Son Taehwan choked back tears, turning his eyes away from the Chinese and Uruguayan bases. Regardless of national relations back home, the people of Antarctica were close-knit. They’d come together for huge parties on Christmas, leaving minimal staff behind, and flown kites together on New Year’s.

“Damn it. And here I am, all by myself… Ugh.”

He felt a desperate sadness, as if watching his comrades fighting from afar. But the blizzard had already swept in, hiding everything behind a barrier of snow. He exhaled heavily. The noise of the intensifying blizzard filled the air, and there was no more room to worry about the fate of people in the neighbouring bases.

“I have to survive. I’m worrying about others when my own life’s on the line here, Son Taehwan.”

The idea of worrying about distant others seemed laughable when he was in such immediate danger himself. Besides, only if he survived could he have a chance to help or make a difference.

With that thought, Taehwan clenched his ice pick tighter and staggered forward. The blizzard had cast a much quicker shadow over the Sejong Science Base than he had anticipated.

“I will survive. I have to.”

Taehwan removed his gloves and slapped his own face. A tingling sensation reassured him of his aliveness.

“That’s right, I’m still alive. Surviving— that’s what matters.”

Fingers felt ready to snap with the cold as he quickly removed his gloves. He pushed open the door to the machine room on the first floor and scurried inside. The blizzard was already howling, and walking a few steps was exhaustingly difficult; pressing through such a blizzard seemed more insane than ever.

Taehwan carefully closed the door behind him against the wind and snow. With his penlight tucked in his ear and ice pick in hand to probe ahead, another curse slipped out.

“Damn it…”

It was the markings of black blood.

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