Dead End Chapter 5

Dead End Chapter 5

Chapter 005

Black trails of blood marked the spots where the fighting had occurred, a sign that someone had encountered and taken down one of the zombies here. Son Taehwan felt a sharp, twisting pain in his stomach.

“Come out, you bastards!”

His bravado was a facade. Though his words were tough, the spear-like kitchen knife he wielded trembled as much as it had when he was scouting in front of the power station earlier. The engine room was the only building in the Sejong Base composed of two floors, which meant there were more places to search.

The cold chill of death already pervaded the machine room. Under normal circumstances, people like Son Taehwan from the facility maintenance team or other department members dispatched to assist with engineering tasks would always be present. However, the cold emptiness suggested that living persons were scarce or entirely absent. Then a rustling noise emerged, echoing emptily in the vacant space.

“Come out, damn you! I’ll stab you all to death! Kill every last one of you!”

Despite being startled by the sound, Son Taehwan postured with all the bravado he could muster. But he couldn’t help but wonder: if a zombie like Han Young-ssi appeared again, could he triumph? His previous victory over Han Young had been sheer luck. If the zombie had attacked from the side, Son Taehwan would have met his end.

As he swallowed his saliva, a stainless steel cup tumbled down with a clang, causing him to whip around, kitchen knife at the ready. His hands shook, and finding nothing, he let out a sigh of relief.

“Damn it all. I can’t do this. I must be crazy. What was I thinking coming to Antarctica?”

To overcome his fear, Son Taehwan murmured to himself. A quick survey with his pen light revealed that he was the only living thing moving around on the first floor. Only after a thorough search behind every piece of machinery could he finally sigh in relief.

“Why the hell did I even come to Antarctica? I might as well have stayed and been promoted to captain.”

Son Taehwan never imagined his life would come to this. He had been an Air Force lieutenant and had rejected the opportunity to take the examination for a long-term career, saying he loathed the military. If he had applied for it, he probably would have passed.

“I’m an idiot, really. Huhuhu.”

Shaking his head in disbelief at his own foolishness, Son Taehwan recalled how ludicrous the reason for his resignation had been. He had been stationed far from Seoul, and his girlfriend often complained about the difficulty of meeting. Eventually, he left the military to be with her, only to break up due to personality differences a mere month after his discharge.

“Han Minsu. My life’s become a tangled mess because of you. Damn it all.”

Even now, Han Minsu’s image haunted him. Son Taehwan sighed again and headed to the office of the facility maintenance team to prepare starting the generator. Then he remembered something he’d forgotten.

“Oh, there’s an upstairs.”

Antarctica typically only had single-story buildings, so he often forgot about the second floor. He took a deep breath, holding the kitchen knife-spear once more. Since the first floor was clear, he naively assumed there would be nothing upstairs. But before he even took a step, he heard something rustling above.

“Did I hear that wrong?”

The pain returned to his stomach, feeling as if it were being wrung out. The second floor housed the showers, gym, laundry room, and storerooms, which were more challenging to search due to multiple doors needing to be opened. It felt as though ice clung to his back with every door he approached—and it was not only a sensation. Looking toward the windows by the stairs leading to the second floor, he saw them packed with snow.

Suddenly, a door opened with a whoosh, and snow blew in. And from the pile of snow, a ‘hand’ protruded outwards.

Suppressing the urge to scream, Son Taehwan swallowed hard and focused every ounce of his being. The opponent was a zombie—an individual who could have sustained against such cold when a human would have frozen to death.

‘It was definitely the neck. Yes, stabbing the neck killed it. If I hadn’t aimed there, I wouldn’t have succeeded. The neck, the neck, the neck…’

The neck was obscured by snow, and he couldn’t see where to stab. He jabbed the knife-spear into the snow based on an estimate. Unlike when he had stabbed the unfortunate Han Young-ssi, piercing this gave him a sensation akin to stabbing a chunk of wood. There was no reaction, except for a frozen corpse sliding down onto the snow beside him.

“Phew.”

Son Taehwan, drained, used the kitchen knife as a cane to support himself and sighed. The fallen corpse, blue-faced like the captain’s, was merely a victim of the cold—and someone he recognized.

“Wasn’t this person from the Chinese base? A geologist, I think.”

Among the winter expedition teams of other nations, there were geologists as well. Antarctica, unlike the Arctic, had land beneath the ice that was invaluable for paleontological research. He remembered this Chinese individual had once had halting conversations in Korean with the scholars at Sejong Base.

“Why did this person come here?”

Given there was no emergency boat present, it seemed probable that the survivors from Sejong Base had fled aboard a vessel to another base across the promontory. However, this individual had come from the Chinese base on the other side.

Son Taehwan scrutinized the Chinese corpse and noticed a knife embedded in its abdomen. A chocolate bar was gripped tightly in its hand. The sight of that chocolate bar indicated the likely circumstances that had unfolded.

“A struggle over food…”

While oil was supplied via tanker, food stocks had almost run dry with the change in personnel impending. Dried foods like chocolate bars and dried squid didn’t receive regular restocking. It was likely that the survivors had raided the storeroom upstairs, which was filled with dry and packaged foods, in a frenzy.

Much like Son Taehwan had concluded earlier at Living Quarters, everyone else understood the importance of food. Since there were zombies in the Living Quarters, they chose not to risk entering and targeted this place instead. Proximity to the emergency boat storage and docks also likely played a role.

“Wait. Why fight over food? There’s no need for that, is there?”

Son Taehwan found the logic peculiar in his own thoughts. After fighting and surviving against zombies, one would indeed realize the dire need for food. That much made sense. But to kill another person over it? That part didn’t fit. Even with a zombie outbreak, if the other bases were secure, there was no need to hoard food so desperately.

In other words, there had to be a situation more harrowing that necessitated such drastic measures.

“…”

Son Taehwan quickly closed the window to shield himself from the frigid onslaught. The blizzard was so fierce it felt like his face might freeze off. Once again, he realized that staying in this desolate base might have been the right decision.

The icy blast cleared his mind, which had been swirling with thoughts. He gently laid aside the Chinese corpse beside the staircase. Just then, he heard a rustling sound again.

“Ah, shoot.”

Regaining his composure, Son Taehwan picked up the knife-spear and remained on guard. There was no time for sorrow or unnecessary sentiments. He had come here to investigate the upper floor.

The tip of the knife-spear continued to tremble uncontrollably. His stomach had been hurting for a while now, and he felt unusually hungry—the timing coincided with lunch, and the tension and cold had whetted his appetite.

Suppressing his hunger, Son Taehwan ascended to the second floor. Just like below, there was no trace of warmth. It felt like at any moment, a zombie could burst from the shower room and pounce on him. He shook off the unsettling thoughts and patiently searched the men’s shower room with his pen light.

At that moment, Son Taehwan stumbled and fell clumsily. Ice had formed where water had spilled, and his shoes weren’t equipped with anti-slip crampons.

“Phew.”

He quickly got up, clutched the knife-spear tightly, and glanced behind him. Only the sound of water dripping was audible. He exhaled deeply upon finding the source of the droplets.

“Dammit. Can’t anyone shut off the taps properly? We’re not six-year-olds for heaven’s sake.”

Irritated by the negligence, Son Taehwan turned off the shower tap. Water was precious in Antarctica, especially hot water.

After thoroughly inspecting the men’s changing room, he moved on to the gym—and there, Son Taehwan was startled. Someone was standing there.

“Gasp.”

Upon closer inspection, it was his own reflection in the gym mirrors. Since his encounter with the zombie, even familiar places now seemed haunted.

He sighed and surveyed the gym, noticing something off. Too many pieces of equipment were missing.

“They took everything they could use as weapons. Those scoundrels… planning to kill people and save themselves?”

Son Taehwan swallowed his anger.



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