The shock from their stronghold being destroyed and the appearance of the flesh giant had not passed yet. The first horde of zombies was already silently approaching.
Lin Musen roared, “Whose turn was it on patrol?!”
“It’s not the time to point fingers!” Liu Yan shouted. “Run to the East! Find cover! Defend yourselves!”
The rainy night was pitch black. Occasionally, lightning would tear across the sky and light it up for a hundred miles around. A huge group of zombies had gathered together in the midst of the rainwater and mud, and was coming. Both the living and the dead in all directions were heading towards the factory. There were screams and shouts coming from all directions. The rainy night was so dark you couldn’t see your hand if you stuck it out in front of you. The sound of gunshots was deafening.
“Don’t run into the factory!”
Zhang Min, “Darling, hide behind me!”
Meng Feng raised his machine gun and let out a burst of bullets, shouting, “Liu Yan? Where is Liu Yan?!”
Those with guns were only fighting for themselves. Zhang Min yelled, “Assemble! So we don’t injure others in crossfire!”
It was a mess of gunshots everywhere. Hand grenades were going off in the night, plumes of fire rising that were quickly extinguished by the rain. There was no knowing how many had died in the darkness when the night was filled with wretched screams. Meng Feng was shouting, on the verge of desperation. “Liu Yan–! Where the fuck are you?! Hurry up and come out!”
Suddenly, someone was at his back. Liu Yan shouted, “I’m here! Just now, I was the one who threw that grenade so you all could get away!”
As though his whole body was about to give out, Meng Feng hugged Liu Yan with one arm, and rubbed his forehead roughly.
Zhang Min yelled, “Now what?!”
Meng Feng, “Fight and retreat! Get everyone to assemble!”
Liu Yan loaded a flare gun, and a flare was shot across the ground, thinning out the number of zombies by a lot.
Survivors were gradually gathering towards them, and they continued to retreat. As dawn came, the rain became lighter. Trees and mountains that were shrouded in darkness slowly became clearer.
Meng Feng surveyed the surroundings. Seventeen people were left. They had already escaped the encirclement of zombies.
Lin Musen was already exhausted. Jue Ming was wrapped in Zhang Min’s colourful jacket, unable to stop shivering in the cold rain.
Other than the four of them, only thirteen had survived.
Lin Musen’s eyes were empty and blank, as though he never expected that in the course of a single night, the little kingdom he was developing would be wiped clean and destroyed.
“You can point fingers now.” Liu Yan leaned tiredly against a tree, sitting simply down by the roadside.
Meng Feng laughed bitterly. “It’s no use now.”
Zhang Min, “Who was in charge of the night patrol?”
Lin Musen, “They’re not here. Probably already dead.”
Liu Yan, “That giant, you all saw it?”
Meng Feng, “What about it?”
“The infrared sensors only raise the alarm when they detect zombies’ body temperatures that are slightly higher than the usual temperature, ” Liu Yan said. “The giant was made up of corpses that already died the second time, so they no longer had any warmth, like rocks or trees. It was normal that the alarm wasn’t raised.”
Zhang Min, “What the hell was it?”
Liu Yan smiled bitterly and shook his head. “What now?”
Seventeen pairs of eyes all turned towards Lin Musen.
Lin Musen glanced at everyone, and said, “We have to think of how to get away from here.”
“A strategic retreat?” Meng Feng eased his machine gun, lowering his head to study how much ammunition was left by looking at the electronic screen.
“The garage is already destroyed,” Zhang Min said. “How are we going to walk?”
Liu Yan, “I think there are still some people alive. Did you all realise, when we first noticed the zombie horde, there weren’t even that many of them.”
Meng Feng narrowed his eyes and thought about it for a moment, then nodded his head.
“Just a rough estimate,” Meng Feng said. “The last time we went to the barracks, there were close to ten thousand zombies inside, there’s no way the horde was on such a small scale.”
Zhang Min, “There’s only one possibility: not all of them came over. This morning, it was just the first wave, and most of them were wiped out. We can still make it to go back and check it out, there’s a chance some might have survived.”
Lin Musen, “How about this, you all head back to save the survivors…”
Everyone turned their heads to look at Lin Musen.
“Who?” Meng Feng said coldly.
Lin Musen pointed at people. “You, you, you. You three, take five people and head over. Whoever is willing to scout it out, stand forward.”
Liu Yan knew it would be like this, but it was going the way he wanted. He sent a look towards Meng Feng.
Meng Feng understood, and opened his mouth to say, “There’s no need for five others. Just us is fine.”
Lin Musen, “Okay, I have faith in your abilities. Save those that can be saved, and see if there’s anything useful left inside the factory. I’ll take some people onto the highway to look for a car. We’ll come back to pick you up once we find one.”
Meng Feng, “There are cars on the highway?”
Lin Musen, “When we just moved into the factory, I noticed there were three cargo trucks parked at the highway intersection, but I wasn’t sure if there was any fuel in them, but when I sent men to check on them before, it was all normal.”
Meng Feng nodded his head. Zhang Min looked at Jue Ming, then looked at Lin Musen. Liu Yan made the decision for him. “Jue Ming will come with us.”
Zhang Min picked Jue Ming up, and handed him the AK to carry. Meng Feng had his arm around the machine gun like some kind of mechanical warrior. His other hand was holding onto Liu Yan. The four of them made their way slowly along the side of the road.
How many bullets are left?” Zhang Min asked.
Meng Feng, “Four-hundred and sixty rounds. The bullets are all in the factory. We have to go back and refill.”
Zhang Min, “We’re leaving like this? We’re not waiting for them? What if they don’t come back?”
Meng Feng, “Liu Yan?”
Liu Yan was silent all this time. He came back to his senses at that moment, and asked in a dazed manner, “What?”
The water from the mountain road had washed down in a yellow, muddy river. Meng Feng let Liu Yan walk closer to him to prevent him from slipping, and asked, “What are you thinking about? The giant?”
Liu Yan nodded and said, “Lin Musen will come back to look for us. His belongings are all still in the factory.”
Jue Ming sneezed, and wiped his snot on Zhang Min’s neck.
Zhang Min, “I still have to go back and find the medicine box. It’ll be very bad if you get a fever from catching a small thing like a cold…”
They followed the main road for nearly an hour. Jue Ming was covered in Zhang Min’s jacket as he fell into an uneasy sleep.
Liu Yan and Meng Feng held hands as they stood in front of the factory that had been turned into a pile of rubble. The sky was almost entirely bright. There were corpses all over the ground, burnt black. The buildings were destroyed from the hand grenades, the dormitories were collapsed.
Zhang Min put Jue Ming down under one of the buildings to shelter him from the rain, and then patrolled around once to ensure that there was no danger.
“Is anyone here?!” Liu Yan shouted loudly.
Suddenly, there were gunshots. Meng Feng aimed at Liu Yan’s back, shooting holes into a zombie.
Liu Yan nodded to convey his thanks, and headed into the courtyard.
Meng Feng, “Where are you going?”
Liu Yan, “To get my things. You don’t have to come.”
Meng Feng stood in the courtyard, his upper body covered in mud. After a few short moments, Liu Yan tossed downstairs a coat for Meng Feng to wear, then collected his notebook and toolbox before coming down.
“I’ll go take a look by the river,” Meng Feng said. “Zhang Min, you take watch over here.”
Liu Yan carried his toolbox and hurriedly walked past the canteen, but suddenly stopped in his steps.
“Oh god…” His eyes suddenly grew red with tears, and his nose started to sting.
Cui Xiaokun was impaled in the chest by a steel bar. His eyes were wide open, he was half-hanging in the air. Everything below his knees was already chewed off by zombies.
Liu Yan held back the tears in his eyes, and stepped forward to close Cui Xiaokun’s eyes.
Zhang Min, “Your friend?”
Liu Yan nodded. “Roommate. We escaped together at the beginning.”
Zhang Min sighed.
Liu Yan, “You go from East to West, I’ll search from West to East. We’ll meet back here in five minutes.”
Zhang Min nodded and said, “Okay.”
Liu Yan set his toolbox down by Jue Ming’s feet and instructed him not to go running around, then turned around to search among the ruins for survivors.
“Anyone there?” Liu Yan shouted.
A scream rose into the air. Liu Yan sprinted towards the southern building. A zombie was sprawled across the door, its hand sticking into the kitchen, wildly scrabbling. Inside, Auntie Yu’s voice was loudly shouting, “Go away! Go away!”
Liu Yan yelled, “Get back!” He took a shot with his gun, and missed. The zombie aggressively lunged towards him. Liu Yan didn’t hide or run, but let out four consecutive shots. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. The last shot successfully hit the zombie’s head, and it collapsed in front of Liu Yan, headless.
Liu Yan pushed on the door. “Auntie Yu? Is anyone else inside? It’s safe, you can all come out.”
From inside, there was a scream.
Liu Yan spun his head around. A zombie crashed its way out of a corridor and was coming towards him. Liu Yan hurriedly turned his back to the door and opened fire. There was an electric flash, and an iron cabinet fell from above. With a loud bang, it landed on top of the zombie.
Liu Yan wiped away his sweat, and shakily looked upwards with his gun. From the third floor, a flower pot appeared.
Liu Yan hurriedly shouted, “Stop!”
Jue Ming’s head popped out. “Is it dead?”
Liu Yan, “...”
“What are you doing running up there for?” Zhang Min, who had heard the gunshots and hurried over, yelled.
“Was looking for something,” Jue Ming replied. He came down after finding his things.
The kitchen door opened.
Auntie Yu, who looked like a mother hen, came out first, then the two girls who were also hiding inside: Xie Fenghua and Ding Lan, and three injured men followed suit.
“You can all come out,” Zhang Min said, and shot the zombie who had been crushed by the cabinet in the head. He spread open his arms so Jue Ming could jump down, and then held him and set him down to the side.
Liu Yan, “Are there other survivors?”
Zhang Min, “No. The foundations of the southern and northern buildings are still standing. The eastern and western buildings, as well as the dormitories and garage, are completely destroyed. We'll wait for Meng Feng then assemble.”
Meng Feng was washing his face in the river. The river water was rushing down from the mountains in a furious, bubbling stream, carrying broken twigs and leaves. He suddenly sensed something, and sharply raised his head.
In the distance, there were two soaking wet corpses. One was lying down, the other was kneeling.
Meng Feng yelled, “Who?”
Meng Feng quickly raised his machine gun, and walked across the water to the opposite shore.
The sky was thick with grey clouds, and in the grey daylight, Fang Xiaolei quietly lay in the grass, her eyes staring widely and emptily up at the sky. The other body was a zombie by her side, not moving an inch.
Meng Feng was dumbfounded. “Fang Xiaolei?!”
Meng Feng used his gun to lightly push away the body that was on top of hers. The zombie flipped over. It was the one who had broken both legs, Xiao Yu. A small knife was lodged in his neck, stabbing through to his head.
Fang Xiao Lei’s neck and shoulders were completely covered in blood. As she lay, she wouldn’t stop twitching.
Her lips moved, and she reached out with one hand, placing two of her fingers in Meng Feng’s large palm, holding onto the muzzle of his gun. In a trembling voice, she said,
In the distance, a gunshot.
Inside the dormitory building, Zhang Min raised his gun, and fired a signal flare. Green light flashed in the grey-white sky.
Jue Ming was at the side taking medicine. Liu Yan asked him, “What did you go back to take?”
Jue Ming took out something from his coat pocket to show him: a gold medal, a bottle cap, and an embroidered cloth Plants vs Zombies logo.
Outside, four cargo trucks pulled to a stop. As Liu Yan expected, Lin Musen had come back.
“How are things?” Lin Musen brought some men with him, and came down from the trucks.
Liu Yan, “Safe. You can start loading things.”
“Where should we retreat to?” Meng Feng was wearing a military top, unbuttoned, showing his bare chest. He put down his machine gun and stretched his sore arm.
Lin Musen did not reply, and answered with a question instead, “Is this all the people that survived?”
Liu Yan, “Including you and the people you brought, there are twenty-three.”
Lin Musen let the others start loading things. He scanned the surroundings once, then opened a map and sat in the courtyard.
“To the east are City S and City Z, and Capital City F,” Lin Musen said. “It is said to be the first area in the country to experience the zombie outbreak. You all must definitely not want to go back-”
“No,” Meng Feng said coldly.
No one wanted to return to face that nightmare city.
“Don’t go to the areas that are most affected,” Zhang Min said. “I suggest we go north.”
Lin Musen, “If we go by the northern highway, we’ll be leaving this province. Half a month ago, that area was completely sealed off. I sent some people to scout it out just now. It’s all zombies there.”
Everyone was quiet.
“I’ve decided to go west, and turn northwest after Nan Ling Mountains,” Lin Musen said.
Meng Feng, “But that monster came from the west.”
Lin Musen, “It headed east. We’re not its targets, and it’s already left.”
Liu Yan kept silent the whole time. Zhang Min said, “If we go west, there will definitely be zombies on the road.”
“There will be zombies in whatever direction we go,” replied Lin Musen. “Tell me, is there any area without risk?”
Liu Yan spoke, “I second going northwest. If possible, I want to go to the barracks and collect something.”
Meng Feng nodded. Lin Musen said, “We’ll split into teams of six and take turns taking watch from on top of the cargo containers. Be armed. If there are zombies blocking the road, you can clean them up, as long as the cars can move forward. Now, everyone, go and help to move things, including the women! We’ll leave in exactly half an hour.
The group dispersed. Six cargo cars were lined up on the road. They loaded all the usable supplies onto the vehicles. Liu Yan roughly estimated how much gasoline they had reserved. It was enough for them to travel almost 5000 kilometres.
The followers loaded flour, ice and canned food onto the vehicles, shoving them into the innermost part of the cargo containers, along with boxes of cigarettes and medical supplies. It was only then that Liu Yan noticed Lin Musen had actually so much of these items prepared.
Half an hour later, everything was more or less loaded. A member had accidentally scraped open their skin on a steel bar, and the wound was turning purplish-black.
Lin Musen didn’t say anything, treating it as if he never saw it, and continued to let that member work. At the very end, when they were about to leave, Lin Musen made him get out of the vehicle. He put three packs of biscuits and three bottles of water by the roadside, and instructed him, “Go.”
That abandoned member stood in the middle of the road in a daze, watching the trucks depart on their journey and leave the destroyed chemical factory behind.
Lin Musen was very calculative. In the end, he actually wasted rations, but that member had busied himself the whole time, moving things for most of the day. In front of so many people, he couldn’t just shoot him. This was the most appropriate way.
The four of them sat in the very last cargo vehicle. The road was uneven, and it shook around slightly.
Liu Yan spoke into the depths of the cargo container, “Philosopher, are you still there?”
Xie Fenghua was softly comforting the sobbing Ding Lan, stroking her messy hair. She looked towards Liu Yan.
“What about that author?” Liu Yan asked. “I suddenly want to listen to some stories. Did he live?”
“He left more than ten days ago. There was a book of poems in his bag, and a pillow. He could daydream anytime on his journey,” Xie Fenghua replied.
Liu Yan, “Yeah. Next time, if we meet someone who can tell stories, we should ask him to stay.”
26th August, 2012
We met a zombie horde for the first time since we settled down. A giant beast appeared when no one could have predicted its coming. Meng Feng and I called it the flesh giant. Jue Ming called it a “Disaster Legion”. Because of it, we are again on a journey to escape.
I need to ask someone who’s experienced in biology some questions, but Senior Fang is already dead. Her family, relatives, and friends all died in this catastrophe. Perhaps her hope in surviving lay in being able to see Senior Xiao Yu again. Meng Feng said Senior Xiao Yu still remembered her, and maybe that was her comfort.
I hope they can be together in their next life.
The zombies destroyed the factory in Yu Town. We are bringing the few remaining survivors west on another escape journey. As we go, Meng Feng and Zhang Min are on top of the cargo containers with their guns, cleaning up the zombies that occasionally pop up on the road.
The zombies are in the mountains, most of them scattered in the wilderness and aren’t on the main roads. It’s a blessing amidst this misfortune.
This afternoon, I retrieved something from the sealed off Huanan military barracks that we went to on a mission last time. It was the third camera we left behind.
When we were first designing the infrared monitoring systems, our automation professional Cui Xiaokun installed a chip and separate battery into it. Cui Xiaokun has since left us, but his invention is still useful. This chip recorded the five hours of the events that happened after we left the military camp. Maybe it could uncover the truth for us.
May Cui Xiaokun’s spirit rest peacefully in heaven.
Meng Feng turned towards Liu Yan who was writing in his diary, and said, “Before she died, Fang Xiaolei wanted me to give you something. As a memento.”
He held out his hand and opened it. There lay two shining diamond rings.
Liu Yan silently picked up one of the rings, and left the other bigger ring in the palm of Meng Feng’s hand.
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Cael.