Dead End Chapter 6

Dead End Chapter 6

Chapter 6

Many heavy items and long metal pipes had disappeared; survivors must have taken them when they evacuated. Although heavy, a barbell could be quite useful as a weapon against zombies. Lighter weights rolling around the gym could also become effective blunt weapons if mounted on a stick.

“Reach and destructive force are key.”

Son Taehwan, having fought Hanyoung’s zombies, painfully understood the importance of keeping distance. Zombies would not flinch when hit, and humans risked infection from even a scratch.

Of course, the most advantageous weapon in a distance fight was a gun. Son Taehwan, a former air force officer, hadn’t handled many guns, but he was proficient with automatic pistols and M16 rifles. However, it was unlikely to find firearms at an Antarctic base.

“Such peace and love overflowing in Antarctica. So, despite our countries’ issues back home, everyone here is a brother of the Four Seas, huh?”

Son Taehwan chuckled at his own words. Indeed, Japan, China, and South Korea may have had strained relationships back home, but none of that seemed to matter here. They shared food from their nations and even enjoyed fishing together.

Still, it wasn’t as if there were no firearms at all. The Antarctic Treaty prohibited military bases, but Chile’s Frei Base, ostensibly a scientific station, had soldiers permanently stationed there.

“But even with military presence, it’s dangerous. We don’t even know how the infection spreads, plus they’re fast and strong. If these zombies keep emerging, the soldiers at Frei Base would also be overwhelmed.”

The dissolving zombie moved exceptionally fast. Its strength was also notable; had it been a man instead of Hanyoung, Son Taehwan wasn’t sure he would’ve won. He imagined a horde of zombies assaulting the soldiers—a win-win for the zombies. Some blood would eventually be spilled, and if the infection began within a military unit, their ranks would swell.

“Plus, the spread of infection is too fast at our base.”

There had been about twenty overwintering crew at Sejong Base. Some may have fled, but there was no doubt the base was quickly overrun. Considering the state of the evening meal preparations, it happened within a few hours. The infection spread through the entire base shortly after the first zombie appeared.

“Escaping is the best option… but this is too much. How can I easily resort to killing the people who were my colleagues and friends just yesterday?”

Faces and names floated in his mind; people desperate to survive, even if it meant killing their comrades. Although it’s natural to cherish one’s life, killing someone else so casually was no easy matter. Yet, Son Taehwan doubted he could view any survivor he met as an ally.

What if they were infected?

Or if there were no weapons or food left?

“…”

The second floor search was almost over. As he suspected, the storage had no preserved food left, and the refrigerator contained only discarded waste. It was evidence that at least two or three people had taken shelter here from the blizzard. Looking at the remains, Son Taehwan felt zombies might be preferable to this. The only places left unsearched were the women’s changing room and showers.

“No one’s here to look.”

Feeling a bit smug despite the circumstances, Son Taehwan opened the door to the women’s showers. The first thing he saw through the mirror hanging on the wall was a washing machine and a small fire crackling in a drum barrel.

“…Fire?”

The fire burned inside the drum, the smoke was slightly choking, but it was warm. It was clear that a ‘person’ had lit the fire. As this realization hit, Son Taehwan’s thoughts went blank. That was when he heard a frail scream from inside the shower room.

“Die, you!”

Reflexively, Son Taehwan turned the spear in that direction, but alas, the spear with the kitchen knife was too long for such close quarters. It clanged against the shower room door, sending shivers down his spine.

He was about to die.

Those three words were all that came to mind. He should have dodged and abandoned the spear, but he stubbornly clung to it, unwilling to drop his only weapon amidst zombies.

Then, whack. A wrench struck his arm, causing a sharp pain. It was headed for his head but fortunately veered off course and hit his arm instead. The attacker behind the door had missed the perfect spot because of a blind swing.

But the wrench vanished then came flying back at Son Taehwan. This time, it aimed straight for his head. Only then did Son Taehwan release the spear, ducked down, and shielded his head with his arms.

“Die! Just die!”

“Whoa, whoa! Stop! I’m human!”

Son Taehwan chastised himself for such a foolish exclamation. In this situation, saying ‘I’m human?’ was ludicrous. The zombie was infected. The critical point was not about being ‘still human’ – it was whether one was not infected yet.

The attacker knew that fact too and relentlessly swung the wrench. Son Taehwan bit his lip and watched for the moment the wrench disappeared behind the door to rush in.

“I’m human! Not infected!”

“Aah!”

Son Taehwan and the voice’s owner tangled and fell to the floor. Simultaneously, he desperately grabbed the attacker’s wrist to control the dangerous wrench. It was only then that he saw the face of his attacker.

“Jin?”

“Tae… Taehwan senior?”

It was Han Sujin, quivering. She and Hanyoung had shared a room. She was bundled up in clothes, with a motorcycle helmet on her head.

Their age difference was three years. Son Taehwan had been in college before joining the air force as a scholarship cadet, and Han Sujin attended the same university. Though technically alumni, they only truly met during their Antarctic overwintering training. They laughed at the quirky fate and from then on, Sujin respectfully referred to Taehwan as senior. The two, once closely connected, now trembled as they stared at each other.

“…”

“…”

Son Taehwan released her wrist and sighed lifelessly. It was relieving to meet someone he knew well and who seemed unharmed. Relieved, he moved aside.

“Get up.”

“Senior, are you not infected?”

Sujin propped up her upper body, looking at Taehwan.

“Didn’t you hear me shouting at the top of my lungs?”

“Ah… Ha.”

“You’ve always been a bit of a fool, but this really proves it.”

“Don’t tease. I don’t even have the energy for that anymore. Ha.”

Sujin, seemingly drained, sat down with the wrench in hand. Taehwan was glad to have run into this entertaining young lady again. Unexpectedly, tears welled up in his eyes. It was the first time he realized how pleasant it was simply to hear another human voice.

“Senior, why are you crying?”

“No, it’s just… Just….”

Sujin’s eyes filled with tears as she saw him cry like a child. Taehwan suddenly burst into laughter, not understanding why. Inexplicably, both tears and laughter erupted.

“What’s with you, senior? You used to make fun of me, now you’re crying and laughing?”

“Quiet. In such a shitty situation, a man can cry if he wants.”

“When did the air force officer Son Taehwan become like this?”

“A man’s hormones can go haywire with age, okay?”

“Are you some sixty-year-old geezer, senior?”

Caught between the terror of death and joyful relief of companionship, the two talked as if they hadn’t seen each other in 10 years. Still, Sujin’s hand held the ‘wrench’. Taehwan kept his awareness sharp amidst the tears and laughter, knowing he couldn’t let his guard down even with the familiar Sujin.

“But Sujin, what exactly happened here?”

“I don’t know. I was about to ask you the same thing.”

“That doesn’t make sense. You’ve been here all along, haven’t you?”

The conversation felt off-track.

“I was on a medical visit to the Peruvian base on the east side. When I returned, the base was a mess.”

“…”

Taehwan narrowed his eyes at her, an instinctive response when suspecting someone. Despite their close relationship dating back to training in Korea and subsequent camaraderie at Sejong Base, he couldn’t help it after witnessing the horror of comrades killing each other and looting supplies.

“When did you go on this medical visit?”

“It was right before the blizzard started. Two or three days ago, maybe.”

Perhaps Sujin set off for the Peruvian base on the very day Taehwan went fishing. He dallied at the German base even after the weather cleared, so it wasn’t implausible that she arrived first. The distance was roughly 20 kilometers. With a snowmobile, one could travel to this base in approximately half a day, even if snow fell.

Taehwan thought this through in silence, choosing not to probe further to avoid being perceived as suspicious.

“…”

Right on cue, Sujin’s stomach growled, breaking the awkward silence. Taehwan stared earnestly at her blushing face and teased her on purpose.

“If you’re hungry, say it. What’s with the girl making such noises?”

“I’m, I’m not really hungry, you know?”

She shrieked, flustered. It wasn’t just because her hunger was exposed. With weapons laid down, they were still in a standoff, and knowing each other’s conditions was crucial ‘tactical information.’ Sujin instinctively understood this.

It was then Taehwan recalled the Chinese geologist collapsed by the window. Those within this mechanic block had killed others to seize their food. And a wrench was a deadly weapon, too; anyone could inflict fatal damage with a blow to the head.

At first, the two were relieved that neither of them was a zombie, but now, they were on edge, knowing the other had survived these conditions.

One would either kill or be killed.

In Sejong Base, where only they remained alive, each realized the other could be the only one left.



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