The sky was clear. A dozen people were sitting on top of a cargo container, looking off into the distance at the military camp on the side of the road. Six large vehicles slowly chugged past, leaving the scene behind them.
The interior of the barracks was devastated. There was a huge breach in the perimeter wall. Inside, it was completely empty. All the zombies had escaped.
Meng Feng brought along some people to take the remaining weapons left inside the barracks back to the trucks, which took up most of the cargo container.
Liu Yan held a small box in his hand, flipping it over and over as he looked around. The conditions were subpar, and the power lines had been soaked during the storm. It would need resources to be repaired. Only then would the place’s conditions be improved.
In the evening, the convoy of vehicles took off once again. They followed the road, passing through the Nanling Mountains and out of the province, and headed north.
“Dad, I’m going to die.” In the darkness, Jue Ming’s voice sounded.
“You won’t,” Zhang Min said softly. “Darling, there are some side effects from the fever medicine.”
Jue Ming, “I feel very uncomfortable…”
Zhang Min’s back was against a cardboard box. The space they were in was very narrow since most of it was filled with bags of flour, rice, canned goods and miscellaneous things. Inside this narrow space, the cardboard boxes separated them from half of Lin Musen’s followers. Opposite them were Meng Feng and Liu Yan. Further inside, the area sheltered from wind and rain were for the women.
After Jue Ming had been soaked in a night of rain, he started to catch a cold and have a fever. His fever went down but he was still listless and couldn’t eat, turning and fidgeting uncomfortably in Zhang Min’s embrace.
“Drink some more water,” Zhang Min said. “Are you hot?” He touched the child’s forehead, and then decided to distract him from his discomfort. “Look at what Liu Yan’s holding. What is it?”
Jue Ming shook his head, and looked at Liu Yan who was opposite him. “Alarm clock?”
Under the dim light of the torchlight, Liu Yan was assembling a piece of machinery that looked like a small round disc.
“It’s a detector that can sense traces of life,” Liu Yan said. “Meng Feng found it inside the military camp. I’m recalibrating it a bit. It uses differences in temperature to sense traces of life from long distances.”
“Can it find zombies?” Meng Feng asked.
Liu Yan shook his head. “It’s different from infrared sensors. It can only find humans. Its radius is about three kilometres.”
Zhang Min nodded and said, “That’s pretty good.”
Jue Ming was silent again. His whole body was sweaty, yet he held onto Zhang Min’s waist tightly and didn’t let go.
They had three ways forward.
One: Follow the Sichuan-Yunnan Highway and enter Sichuan, leave the southern region, enter the Qinghai plateau, and then go into Tibet.
Two: Take the Gansu National Highway and head towards the dry weather of Xinjiang.
Three: Leave H Province and take the road north, bypass the densely populated Zhongyuan Region, go through Ningxia to head towards Inner Mongolia and find a place to stay near Hohhot.
The less populated an area was, the safer it would be. The harsh and windy environments would dry out the zombies very quickly. Their connective tissues would slowly degenerate, and their cell fluids would dehydrate and evaporate so that they would lose mobility. The cold environments would help humans, freezing zombies and turning them to ice, destroying their muscles.
This was Fang Xiaolei’s suggestion, and was also mentioned in the “Zombie Survival Manual” as one of the rules of escaping. Liu Yan, Meng Feng and the rest discussed this for a very long time, and decided that going to Tibet was the safest option.
Lin Musen was stubborn and wanted to follow his own way, so he rejected all other suggestions, deciding to sweep through small villages, hoarding materials along the way and going north, and then he would eventually set up his own base.
However, the whole country was emptied in an instant. One ghost city after another appeared in front of their eyes, and they could not even find any signs of calls for help.
The journey was long and lonely. After a few hours, a morning, even after a whole day, two days, no one else appeared along their way. The life detector in Liu Yan’s hand didn’t sound once. The occasional zombie would appear on the other side of the highway railings stretching out their arms and mindlessly grabbing, but other than that, there was only the piercing blue sky and the ever-burning sun.
It was very hot and stuffy inside the cargo containers. When they stopped by the side of the road to do checks and repairs, Zhang Min made a request that they had to open the window on top.
There were already quite a few members of the crew that had fallen sick. That day after getting soaked in the rain they had gone on a long trek and expended most of their energy. Even Lin Musen couldn’t stop coughing.
Zhang Min measured the pulse of the people who weren’t feeling well, and said, “The conditions inside the container aren’t good. It’s very easy to fall ill and spread diseases. You have to find a place to stop and sanitise it, disinfect it, and let the sick have a good rest.”
Lin Musen was impatient. “It’s just a small illness. Everyone can handle it.”
Zhang Min, “This outbreak also started from a small illness. Even now, no one has any idea what the source is. How are you so sure that it didn’t come from a common cold virus?”
Lin Musen had been convinced. The convoy pulled over at a roadside gas station. Meng Feng alighted the vehicle first, and brought some people along to scout the nearby area.
“I can hear the aliens talking to me,” Jue Ming said.
Liu Yan had just gotten off from the vehicle, and frowned when he heard what Jue Ming said. “What did the aliens say to you?”
Jue Ming, “I don’t know, it’s buzzing…”
Zhang Min laughed. “Darling, that’s just tinnitus caused by your cold.”
Liu Yan didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, and let Xie Fenghua alight. The others were milling around. Lin Musen was at the side, covering his mouth, loudly instructing his followers to spray the disinfectant.
“He doesn’t look too good,” Liu Yan commented.
“He needs to recuperate.” Zhang Min sat on top of a box with Jue Ming in his arms. Jue Ming was very clingy, and it didn’t seem like Zhang Min could leave him alone. As long as neither of them had anything to do, they would hold onto each other like their lives depended on it. At first, it was nauseating for onlookers to see, and made them uncomfortable, but they got used to it after seeing it for a while.
Liu Yan, on the other hand, kind of wanted to learn from Jue Ming, calling Meng Feng over when he had nothing to do, and hug him just like Jue Ming and Zhang Min did. But it really didn’t feel like something he would be able to do.
Gunshots sounded in the distance. Meng Feng had opened fire and killed three zombies. He came over, gun in hand.
Zhang Min lowered his head as he looked at the map. “I want to go to the nearby city to take a look and find some medicine. The others are coughing, lungs are inflamed, they feel chilly…”
Meng Feng, “Those are just minor symptoms. It’s already a miracle if they’re not dead.”
Zhang Min looked up. “If we don’t treat these minor symptoms, it’s easy for them to worsen into a serious illness. Rheumatism, pneumonia; don’t overlook these things, and even arthritis. Anyway, Lin Musen’s is already sick.”
“It’s a bit dangerous to go into the city. We don’t have a car,” Meng Feng said.
“That’s not a car?” Liu Yan gestured for them to look. In the distance, there was a lorry with its doors falling off. Next to it, there were also two motorcycles.
Meng Feng, “It won’t drive. No gas, no keys.”
Liu Yan, “Search the bodies of those zombies you just killed. Maybe you’ll find the car keys.”
Meng Feng, “Do you think this is an RPG? I already searched them, there’s nothing. Should we reload the save and kill the zombies again to change the drop rates?”
Liu Yan laughed and left the area with the cargo trucks. He headed to a jeep parked by the side of the gas station and searched it. He filled the fuel tank and got into the driver’s seat. He took out a screwdriver to pry open the plastic cover in front and pull out two wires. He used a lighter to burn off the plastic coating, and touched them together.
The engine chugged to life.
“We’re going to the nearby city to have a look and find some medicine! We’re running too low on medical supplies.” Meng Feng had already driven the car onto the middle of the road, yelling at Lin Musen as he drove by.
Lin Musen tossed his cigarette away in disbelief. Meng Feng shouted, “We’ll be back quickly.”
Lin Musen, “You can go, but I’ll only wait for you guys for ten hours, and you’ll take responsibility for yourselves.”
Meng Feng was unsettled by those words, and frowned. “Everyone needs medicine. This isn’t for ourselves, you…”
“Don’t be so talkative,” Liu Yan said.
Zhang Min, “Go.”
Meng Feng turned the car around, and drove down the highway.
The autumn weather and breeze was refreshing. Being outside of those cargo containers brought so much comfort. The car was open on all four sides, going for a spin like this felt so great. Liu Yan flipped out a box of cassette tapes and pushed one into the car’s player. Jacky Cheung’s voice filled the air as they drove.
South of H Province, Qingyang City.
The lorry slowly pulled into the city area. The wind carried scraps of paper across the street. Newspaper boxes that had been soaked by the rain then dried by the hot sun lay scattered all over the road. A car that had crashed into a power pole was burned black.
Liu Yan turned the life detector in his hands on. There were no signs of survivors.
Meng Feng carefully drove them through the outer edge of the city. This city was the one of the greatest cities between the two provinces of Nanling. Right now, they were in Jiaoxi, the city’s high-tech industrial development zone.
Anyone with a brain would know not to stay inside the city. Liu Yan himself had no other motivations, but before leaving the south, he had to find some equipment that he needed.
Meng Feng stopped the car by the side of the road. It seemed that the zombies had all already left this area to forage for food.
Zhang Min and he got off the car, and scouted along the street of shops to confirm that there were no large groups of zombies around. They whistled to signal that Liu Yan and Jue Ming could come out.
Jue Ming pushed open the door. A bell jingled inside the fast food restaurant. Zhang Min took a piece of cloth and wiped the counter which was covered in dried blood, and shoved a broken arm under it. He put on an act and pretended to man the cash register. With his hands on the counter, he said, “Welcome! What does the handsome young man want to eat?”
Jue Ming laughed, and lifted his head to look at the menu board.
“I’ll have one Gong Bao Chicken,” Jue Ming said easily.
“Oh, that won’t do,” Zhang Ming said seriously. “We use gutter oil to cook it, and it looks like you haven’t recovered from your cold. It’s not good to eat things that are too oily.”
Jue Ming, “Do you have Coke?”
Zhang Min, “Carbonated sodas are not good for your health.”
Jue Ming, “My dad always says that, haha. What about Kang Shibo Green Tea? Tongyi Green Tea is okay too.”
Zhang Min, “Don’t even. Do you know what’s inside of that?”
Jue Ming, “?”
Zhang Min put on a scary expression. “It’s all preservatives and flavouring! Didn’t your dad tell you this?”
Jue Ming, “...”
Zhang Min continued on in a good-natured manner. “How about stir-fried tomato and scrambled eggs?”
Jue Ming, “Mn… I’ll have one. Don’t make it too sour. How much is it?”
Zhang Min replied politely, “Today is the Zombie Day Bargain, free of charge! Please have a seat, I’ll deliver my love to you in a jiffy.”
Zhang Min went into the kitchen. Jue Ming scratched his head, and sat down to read some flyers.
After a few moments, a yummy smell wafted out from the kitchen. Meng Feng was dumbfounded.
“It’s still usable?”
“The gas was canned. The eggs were in the fridge. Though the power is out, they haven’t spoiled and have only been there for half a month. The ketchup and potatoes are also still good.”” Zhang Min kicked open the kitchen door, carrying a plate and with an apron on.
“What about this?” Jue Ming stirred the noodles.
Zhang Min, “The noodles were dried, and can be cooked in the pot, and this…”
As if he was performing a magic trick, from behind the counter he pulled out three cups of coffee, a cup of hot milk, water that had been boiled on a camping stove, sugar, milk powder, and black coffee.
Jue Ming ate happily.
Four of them sat around a table with a big pot of noodles with tomato egg sauce. Meng Feng took off his gloves. “Whatever. Let’s eat first.”
“This is even better than Auntie Yu’s cooking,” Liu Yan nodded his head in praise.
Jue Ming, “My dad knows everything, he even knows about flavouring and preservatives and stuff.”
“I can tell,” Meng Feng laughed.
The four of them ate their fill, drank coffee, and they were satisfied.
Meng Feng carried a giant machine gun on his shoulder as they walked down the street lined with shops. He asked, “What are you looking for?”
Liu Yan, “Let’s take a look along the way first… That store hasn’t been looted. What did it sell?”
An auto accessories store, an electronic parts store, hardware stores; Liu Yan took whatever he could grab. He loaded one box after another onto the lorry, and finally secured them with a plank so they wouldn’t fall out.
Zhang Min opened the door to one of the shops and said, “This is a Xinhua Bookstore. No idea where the sign went, but it isn’t destroyed, and it’s in perfect condition.”
“That’s great,” Liu Yan said. “Give me 20 minutes.”
He found many books that he needed inside the two-storey bookstore. Jue Ming was squatting down on the second floor reading manhua.
Meng Feng carried a stack of fashion magazines and headed outside.
Jue Ming, “Hey, you didn’t pay.”
Meng Feng replied breezily, “Dear, stealing a book can’t be considered pilfering. How can stealing a book be considered pilfering?”
Liu Yan opened a 2011 publication of a book on the mechanics of discretization. In the list of authors, there was his head of department’s name, and he couldn’t help but gasp.
At the same time, Zhang Min was searching and collecting all the books on human medicine and traditional chinese medicine, and putting them in boxes to put in the lorry.
“What else?” Liu Yan asked. “We can leave.”
Zhang Min, “We still have to find a pharmacy.”
Everything in the Zhonglian Pharmacy was looted. All the disposable needles, alcohol, and iodine bandages were already gone.
Zhang Min didn’t glance at the empty shelves, and hopped over the counter. He rummaged through the herbal medicines in the small drawer, and was relieved. “This is great. Traditional chinese medicine is all still here.”
He categorised and poured all the medicine into their own respective bags. Finally, four large but light sacks were tossed onto the lorry. He even found precious herbs like ginseng, and stuffed a piece of American Ginseng into Jue Ming’s mouth, then held his hand as they walked out.
“Liu Yan!” Jue Ming called from afar.
Liu Yan was taking apart the circuit board of a lamppost. He didn’t even raise his head as he said, “What?”
Jue Ming, “Your alarm is ringing!”
Liu Yan, “Then turn it off!”
Then, he suddenly realised that something was wrong. He sprung to his feet and dashed into the lorry. The life detector was lit up with green. Beep beep beep. It rang again and again.
Liu Yan frowned, his expression serious. He held the disc-like detector as it turned and finally pointed east.
The numbers on the LCD screen jumped, showing the distance. Two and a half kilometres away, there was a sign of life.
“Are we going to rescue them?” Meng Feng asked.
Zhang Min, “How much ammo do we have?”
Meng Feng examined the machine gun strapped on his shoulder. “It’s full. I reloaded it fully before we left.”
Liu Yan, “I feel like we should go back first and get backup.”
Zhang Min, “But I think they won’t be of much use, and whether Lin Musen is willing to rescue others, that’s hard to say.”
Meng Feng, “He needs the manpower. Are you confident that you can convince him, Liu Yan?”
Liu Yan shook his head, but it was a risk. What if Lin Musen grew impatient waiting for them, or he never had the intention to wait for them in the first place? During the battle at the chemical factory, it was as if Lin Musen seemed to have broken. He never wanted to stop driving when they were on the road, like he was trying to flee from death. His heart was filled with fear, almost to the point of insanity.
“He’ll say,” Jue Ming added. “That your alarm is broken, and you should throw it away.”
Jue Ming’s words were groundbreaking. That sentence completely wiped away all of Liu Yan’s thoughts about going back to ask for backup. “Let’s switch to a lighter car. We’ll go check it out first.”
As soon as he finished speaking, there was an explosion in the distance.
Liu Yan, “Zhang Min, bring over the boxes that I’ve numbered. I’ll go find a car.”
Liu Yan found a Mitsubishi jeep. Meng Feng shot open the locks with his gun, and Liu Yan crawled into the driver’s seat, the upper half of his body inside the car as he pulled out the wires to hotwire it.
“Do you know what I’m thinking?” Meng Feng said, expressionless, as he stood by the car, guarding it.
Liu Yan replied, “You… Save it. Ever thought about the thrill of driving a famous branded car? Only the old-fashioned me can use this trick. Like Chevrolets, Cadillacs and Benzes, those luxury cards have anti-theft functions built into them. You can’t just take two wires and touch them together… to…”
Meng Feng, “I’m not thinking about that.”
He used the barrel of the gun to nudge Liu Yan’s waist that was hanging out of the car. “Babe, when you’re bent over like this, I really want to fuck your ass.”
Liu Yan, “...”
With a chug, the Mitsubishi jeep started. Liu Yan said, “You and Zhang Min will sit in front. Jue Ming will help me assemble things. Get in!”
The jeep slowly headed southeast. After that one explosion, there was no other noise, but the life detector still shone. Liu Yan shoved and fixed it onto the back of the front seat, and flattened out the back seat area. He opened a box, and poured out all of its contents with a clang.
“Pass me a hand grenade,” Liu Yan said.
“If you plan on disassembling a grenade in the car, you’ll blow us all sky high!” Meng Feng exclaimed.
Liu Yan, “I promise that I won’t. Quickly. Be good.”
Jue Ming, “It's just being blown into the sky. Not like we’ll die.”
Meng Feng, “That’s only the way they act it out on TV…” Even as he said all that, he still passed the grenade over.
Liu Yan used a small knife to pry open the outer casing. He held some tape between his teeth, and wrapped around it two, three times, then silently gestured for Jue Ming to bring the can over.
He opened the can. He casually fed some of the luncheon meat inside to Jue Ming, and poured the rest away. He filled it with a box of iron nails. At the bottom, he used a can opener to cut out six petal-like pieces of iron, and pinched them outwards so they stuck out at an angle.
The hand grenade was placed in the middle, the lead pulled out of it, and slowly tied around the pole of a mop.
Meng Feng slowed the car down. Zhang Min breathed in deeply. “Oh my god.”
At the end of the road was a two-storey building. Outside, it was surrounded by hundreds upon hundreds of zombies. The iron gate rang as they kept banging on it. It was nearly halfway down.
On the door to the building hung the badge of the police – It was a police station.
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Cael.