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“Liu Yan, where is your soldier friend?”
Liu Yan turned a deaf ear to the questions as he was immersed with modifying the blueprint. Only until the girls next to him laughed and asked him for the third time, did he glance at them.
One girl said, “Wasn’t he planning to look for a job here?”
“Meng Feng…” Liu Yan picked up his eraser and rubbed it gently on the perspective drawing. “His parents asked him to go home, and so he left. He left last month, you guys aren’t up to date with the news.”
“What a pity,” said another girl, laughing. “Such a handsome soldier, no wonder we haven’t seen anybody inviting you out for dinner these days.”
Liu Yan glanced at them and teased the girls. “Who fancies him? Give me a bottle of Xiancheng Duo, I can give his phone number to you.” Finished speaking, he blew the eraser dustings away, as if he was trying to drive away a stubborn memory in his mind.
The bell rang, signalling the end of class, the students then quickly exited the classroom.
A glimpse of the blazing summer sun filtered by the filthy glass window in the huge empty classroom. Only Liu Yan was left, who sat alone at the last row rolling up his perspective blueprints and packed it up.
It had been one month and twelve days since they had broken up, and that day had been the anniversary of Meng Feng and him being together.
Seven years ago, Liu Yan and his childhood friend, Meng Feng attended the third year of high school together in Z city. That was when the confession occurred, and then the duo began dating. After the Gao Kao, Meng Feng joined the army and Liu Yan was enrolled into a university. Liu Yan still remembered the vows of eternal love they had made during their school days. Even when they began walking different paths in life, they still remained in contact with each other and maintained their relationship, continuing to look forward to the day of Liu Yan’s graduation and Meng Feng’s discharge from the army so that they would be together once again.
During Liu Yan’s second year in university, due to his excellent performance and grades, Liu Yan was sent to Germany as an exchange student. Even though he was far away in a foreign country, he didn’t forget his original lover. When he returned to China, he was recommended as a graduate student.
It was two years later after Liu Yan returned to China, that Meng Feng was finally discharged. He went straight to the university in S city to find him. When they met that day, there weren’t any intense lustful feelings and neither was there a night of passionate love, Meng Feng only hugged Liu Yan as they peacefully slept together that night.
Liu Yan didn’t move but he was unable to sleep. Looking at the ceiling, he felt something was different.
Meng Feng decided to stay in S city and was planning to find a job and live together with Liu Yan. However, due to the fact that his level of education was too low, he was unable to find a satisfactory job. Due to this, he finally left.
Liu Yan didn’t interfere with Meng Feng’s choice. When he closed the door, Meng Feng was standing outside whilst he was standing inside. Their hearts clearly understood that they were no longer the same high school lovers from seven years ago. Time was the sharpest knife, dragging mud with water for many years. Though the lotus roots were cut, there still remained strands connecting them, so when they finally met again, those strands would be cut mercilessly and everything would end.
In the blink of an eye, time slipped through the fingers like fine sand without any trace. They were no longer the same people, and they no longer had the same feelings for one another. Blame could not be placed upon the long-distance relationship, and they also could not blame each other’s lives. It wasn’t the other person’s fault, but one’s own fault.
Their seven years relationship had ended one month and twelve days ago. Liu Yan sat alone in the classroom, suddenly an unspeakable feeling arose inside of him.
“Liu Yan!” A classmate’s head peered past the front door. “The professor is waiting for you, why haven’t you gone yet?”
Liu Yan looked as if he had just woken up from a dream, and quickly retrieved his blueprints before heading towards the office.
“I’ve seen the blueprint,” said the Department Head. “There are lots of minor mistakes that need correcting, but there are no major problems overall.”
Liu Yan put down his blueprint and took the coffee that the Department Head offered to him. He took a sip before looking at the bookshelf, and asked, “May I borrow a few books to read?”
“Certainly.” Liu Yan’s teacher was a graceful 50-year old man and at this moment, he was sitting at his desk, drinking coffee. “Your design is very focused on practical use, and there is a strong Icelandic style and feel to it. However, the ergonomics is the weakness, it is simply unbearable.”
Liu Yan laughed at himself. “When I was attending Bauhaus, the machine I made was completely useless, why is this?”
Liu Yan pulled out a book from the shelf, ‘The Zombie Survival Manual.’ He couldn’t help but laugh when he saw the title.
The Department Head was fond of Liu Yan, and so he explained with a smile on his face, “Did you know the U.S Department of Defense published an online guide as an early warning. The official statement stated that this served as a reminder for everyone that the future had unlimited possibilities.”
Liu Yan flipped the book’s pages, crying out in laughter. “Is it true? Let me borrow the book and see.”
“I’ve written all of the modifications that need to be made on your design, they’re all on the USB Drive,” said the Department Head. “Don’t forget about your homework whilst you’re reading.”
Helpless, Liu Yan said, “Okay.”
Liu Yan put the USB drive into his pocket, carried his blueprint and notebook out of the office before taking out his mobile phone to call home. No one answered.
Today was Friday, and Liu Yan was going home. He was heading back to his dormitory where his friends were watching the live news.
“Cui Xiaokun, are you going home this week?” asked Liu Yan.
“No, why?” Cui Xiaokun asked, “Are you going back?”
Liu Yan teased, “Busy flirting with girls?”
Cui Xiaokun spluttered before answering, “What? No- If there's something you need this brother to do, quickly say it!”
Liu Yan smiled and said, “Can I borrow your car? I’ll come back tomorrow evening, and refuel the car.”
“Roll!” Cui Xiaokun said angrily.
A moment later, the car keys flew towards Liu Yan. Cui Xiaokun was in the Department of Automation, a department which was closely related to his. The car was a second-hand car. Liu Yan took the keys and said, “Thanks, I didn’t want to go to the bus station.”
Cui Xiaokun took off his headphones. “Hey Liu Yan, are you sure you really want to go home?”
Liu Yan was concentrated on dialling his mobile phone. “Why do you ask?”
Cui Xiaokun pointed at the news video he had opened. “Come and see for yourself.”
“This summer, Z city has another outbreak of rabies. The relevant departments have informed the public that you should not leave the house, and wait for the hospitals to release news about the new vaccine injections…”
Liu Yan frowned and asked, “When did this happen?”
Cui Xiaokun lifted his chin and drank some water from his cup. “This was the morning news, and it was broadcasted repeatedly. Isn’t your mother a doctor?”
Liu Yan was part of a single-parent family, as a child, he grew up living with his mother. Right now, he could feel that something was abnormal.
“Don’t go out?” Liu Yan’s eyebrows furrowed.
“The authorities are spraying disinfectant in most communities, and they are evacuating the people downtown. They are prohibiting access to public places such as hospitals for unauthorised personnel. Currently, the subway has been temporarily suspended…”
Liu Yan dialled his mother’s mobile phone, but the line was busy. At this time of day, she should be busy working overtime, there was no wonder the phone at home was not answered.
“I’ll go first,” said Liu Yan.
“Good luck, don’t be bitten by a dog.” Cui Xiaokun said lazily.
Liu Yan pulled the car door open, threw his computer and clothes into the back seat. He then threw the books he had borrowed from the Department Head into the front passenger seat. After that, he started the car, reversed and set off.
12:00 AM S City Highway intersection.
Liu Yan took out his wallet and paid the fees. Once done, he connected his phone to the car’s loudspeaker via Bluetooth and pressed automatic redial on his phone. He then continued driving the jeep on the highway.
The highway from S city to Z city was empty as far as the eyes could see. The hot summer sun burned brightly, and the dazzling blue sky at the end of the road stretched on and on.
The other road from Z city to S city was completely flooded with cars. The cars were all in a long queue, and the cars were incessantly honking.
3:30 PM, the last section of the highway.
The mobile phone finally managed to dial and connect to his mother’s. Liu Yan said, “Mum!”
“Yan Yan… Yan Yan…” The woman’s voice on the other end of the line was anxious.
Liu Yan immediately drove the car and parked it at the roadside. Chaos could be heard from the other end of the line, and mixed within the incessant whining of the wind was a female’s voice. “Yan Yan-”
Liu Yan stopped the car and shouted, “Mum! You’re alright!”
The woman said, “Don’t come home, listen to mother, don’t go home. Ah, mother is okay, mother loves you, Yan Yan…”
Liu Yan, “What happened at home? Are you at the hospital or at home? Why didn’t you answer the phone at home?”
“Yan Yan, stay at school, mum is safe. I will call you…”
“Mum loves you, Yan Yan…”
The phone rustled and was then hung up.
Liu Yan sat in the driver’s seat depressed, he kept calling his mother’s number but the call couldn’t get through.
Liu Yan was silent for a moment, then he dialled Meng Feng’s number. His phone number had been deleted from his phone book, but that phone number had not been changed in five years. Perhaps those traces could never be erased from his heart. Meng Feng’s phone was busy, Liu Yan reversed and made a U-turn in high speed, joining the long line of cars that were heading back to the S city.
3:40 PM, Highway U-turn.
Liu Yan reversed once again and drove back onto the highway that was going towards Z city, continuing to move forward.
The car was broadcasting. “Rabies outbreak in Z city has been partially controlled, municipal hospitals are organising emergency treatments. The government appeals to all citizens in the area, please do not go home temporarily in order to avoid causing traffic congestion… Here’s the weather forecast…”
7:30 PM, the end of the Highway, at a curve to enter Z city.
The horizon was covered with crimson red clouds, it was as bright as blood. As usual, the toll station on the highway took the fees before letting the vehicles in.
While driving, Liu Yan paid attention to both sides of the road. As the sun went down, the city began to light up. Vehicles could be scarcely seen, many people should have heard the announcements on the radio and went home.
The websites on the internet were so crowded that it was almost impossible to log in, that wasn’t to mention the intermittent and unstable phone signals that slowed down his internet access.
The closer to the city centre he was, the fewer the pedestrians. Liu Yan’s home wasn't far from the city centre. Along the road, recreational areas and supermarkets were closed. The figures of people in groups of two or three could be seen walking.
There were three police cars parked at the corner of the street, acting as a roadblock. Liu Yan was shocked and immediately stepped on the brakes.
Lights flashed from the top of the police car, but no sound could be heard. Liu Yan got out of his car for a while but didn't see anybody. He couldn't help but wonder doubtfully, Where’s the police?
Liu Yan decisively entered the car, pulled on the seat belt, stepped on the accelerator before breaking past the barricade and drove along the deserted street.
Most of the buildings on both sides of the road were pitch black. A few balconies were still lit. Liu Yan stopped the car, shut the door and ran to his apartment building. The front desk security was no longer there.
Liu Yan plunged into a state of confused panic. He looked around several times whilst shouting, “Is anybody here?”
Nobody answered him, Liu Yan ran into the lobby and pressed the elevator button violently. The light was dim inside of the elevator, and with a *ding*, he arrived at the ninth floor.
Like a gust of wind, Liu Yan rushed down the corridor, pulled out the key for the door. The things inside the house were messy, it must be because his mother had just rushed to work overtime and didn’t have enough time to clean up properly.
Liu Yan inhaled deeply for a moment, took out a carton of cold milk from the refrigerator and drank it all at once. He went out of his apartment and began ringing the doorbells of his neighbours one by one. However, nobody opened the door. Liu Yan took a few steps back and bent down to try and peek through the door gap. No lights could be seen in any of the apartments.
Liu Yan stood still for a while before swallowing his saliva. He went back to his apartment to pack a few clothes and a blanket. He retrieved the first aid kit underneath the cupboards before leaving the apartment. When he was leaving, all of the apartment building’s lights flashed once before going out.
The elevator had stopped working, and the entire downtown area was in complete darkness, besides the lights that operated on separate electricity lines.
Liu Yan opened the curtains and looked out. There was no electricity anywhere. Only one community in the far distance was brightly lit. He took out the Swiss Army Knife and emergency flashlight from the first-aid kit. With one hand holding the flashlight, he pushed open the door to the fire escape and quickly descended the stairs.
The sounds of footsteps could be heard from the stairwell. *plop, plop.*
Liu Yan breathed a sigh of relief and asked, “Is anybody there?”
He quickly ran down the staircase when he received no answer and asked, “What’s the matter?”
The stairwell was dark, Liu Yan held the flashlight and directed the light in front of him, and suddenly his blood went cold. Fear was creeping up from his back to his scalp, tingling with numbness.
At the fifth floor stairwell, there stood a security guard with a waxy complexion. The security guard’s intestines could be seen dangling outside of his belly, the whites of his eyes flashing when the light passed.
It’s a dream. It has to be a dream.
Liu Yan unconsciously retreated by one step. The security guard dragged his intestine and howled with anguish.
“You… Are you Mr. Huang?” asked Liu Yan, his voice trembling.
The security guard walked towards him step by step, climbing the stairs to go up slowly. Liu Yan pushed down on the staircase handle with shivering hands, slowly pulling the door open. When the security guard had climbed the staircase halfway, Liu Yan quickly rushed into the corridor, slammed the door shut and slumped against the door, gasping for air.
Liu Yan was frightened to death by the constant banging. He held onto the door handle for dear life.
“Someone-!” Liu Yan shouted hysterically. The door handle was pressed down slightly, Liu Yan retracted his hand as if he had just received an electric shock. He looked at the door in fear, slowly backing off until his back hit the fire emergency cabinet.
Liu Yan smashed the fire cabinet, grabbing the fire axe inside.
Zombies?! Was it a zombie?! Liu Yan’s only thought was, The world is crazy, if the world is okay, then that means I’m crazy.
The door handle was finally pushed to the bottom, Liu Yan shouted again and ran away, finding another emergency fire exit and stumbled inside.
The lights were flickering within the emergency exit. Liu Yan’s sweat was pouring down his back and seeping into his shirt. He rushed out of the lobby entrance, and out into the streets. The scene in front was like a bucket of cold water drenching him from top to bottom.
The car's lights were still on.
A man wearing a police uniform with protruding eyes that were hanging in front of his face was slowly feeling the car window as if it was trying to find a way to open the door.
In the distance, five more zombies could be seen moving along slowly, coming out from the park that was in the city centre.
Liu Yan trembled uncontrollably, and slowly put down his stuff. He shone the flashlight towards the street, the zombie in a police uniform noticed the light and turned its body towards him. It slowly began moving towards him.
“Ah—” Liu Yan picked up the fire axe, rushed forward and swung downwards, causing a split in the skull. Thick sticky blood poured out, and he then used his foot to kick the zombie away from him.
The zombie was twitching on the ground, struggling to get up. Liu Yan moved backwards and tripped on the steps. Zombies wearing civilian outfits were walking towards the building entrance from all directions.
Liu Yan quickly retrieved his things, rushed into the car, and closed the door. When he was closing the door, a zombie had managed to make it to the car and its arm was now stuck in the door. Liu Yan kicked the door open violently, shoved the heavy body away and closed the door. He then quickly reversed, the sounds of bones being crushed could be heard from underneath his car. He then drove away, hitting several zombies and crushing their bodies as he drove by.
Liu Yan bumped into things several times with the car, he finally moved past the police barricade and made his way out of the area. Confused and dizzy, he didn’t know where to go. He drove on the open road, and he finally stopped outside of a closed supermarket. His head was on the steering wheel, gasping for air.
He glanced at his phone screen flashing, an unfamiliar number but he stilled picked up.
“Finally picked up the phone!” Meng Feng’s voice contained traces of anxiousness. “Where are you?!”
Liu Yan roared, “F*ck! What the hell is going on!”
Meng Feng, “Our city has a virus! Do not come back, stay at your university, do you understand?! I’ll come and fetch you right away!”
Liu Yan, “I'm already near my house.”
On both sides of the call, heavy breathing sounds could be heard.
Meng Feng, “Which street?”
Liu Yan, “I have a car, you say the place. I’ll go find you.”
Meng Feng, “Don’t mess around! You will become a zombie!”
Liu Yan, “I don’t know where this is! Where…"
Liu Yan suddenly saw a man rushing towards him from the end of the street. He was being chased by several zombies. He stepped on the accelerator, turned the car with the front wheel idle, and then rushed out with headlights on.
Liu Yan honked loudly, Meng Feng raised his arm to shield his eyes, quickly took a few steps towards the rushing car, and jumped up suddenly. The military boots could be seen on the car’s front boot. He then walked forward and jumped over the car roof before landing safely on the ground. Liu Yan lost his momentum when he hit four zombies, as the car slammed forward.
Liu Yan then quickly backed up, unlocked the door and Meng Feng entered. He quickly fastened his seat belt as he sat in the front passenger seat bowing over and panting.
Liu Yan turned on the lights inside the car. “You… why are you here?”
Meng Feng gasped, “You didn’t answer your mobile phone or home phone. I called your school, but they said you went home.”
Liu Yan nodded wearily.
Meng Feng, “Although we agreed to not meet up ever again after we broke up, I thought that we were still friends. I didn’t know who to look for, I was afraid that you would get into an accident.”
Liu Yan’s eyes were a little wet. He turned the steering wheel and then drove to another road.
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Cat.