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Not all teenagers who went off all on their own had a smooth journey. At least, Jue Ming didn’t.
He had driven most of the way there, and nearly reached the bottom of the mountain when the jeep got stuck in a ditch, its front tire tilting at a weird angle towards the road. The car died. This was a literal sign of “digging a hole and not filling it in” that in turn sabotaged other people.
Jue Ming pulled everything he could pull, stepped on whatever pedals he could step on, and pressed whatever buttons he could press, including the ones for the radio and the windscreen wipers. It was all futile.
He sat in the car for a while, then said, “Dad.”
Then, he leaned against the steering wheel, two red-rimmed eyes watching the heavy snow fall outside the car window.
After ten minutes, he picked up the gun, pushed open the door, and stood knee deep in the snow. He opened the map and looked at it for a bit, then walked to the road.
By dawn, he was walking along the road, following the markings on the map and heading towards the mountain. Whether it was because of the pastor’s prayers or because of the aliens watching out for him, the snow miraculously stopped falling, and the winds were much gentler.
A pair of straggly footprints headed towards the Qinling Mountains.
The mountains looked so close, yet they were so very far. He walked for the entire morning, taking two breaks in between. He ate some biscuits. He did not bring the water with him because it was too heavy, and had left it in the trunk of the jeep.
Jue Ming ate some of the snow to quench his thirst. His curiosity was piqued when he saw a piece of cloth lying in the snow. He followed it and dug downwards. After digging for a while, he dug up a frozen zombie’s foot.
He covered it with snow with an expressionless look on his face, and continued to make his wobbly way forward.
Jue Ming did not know how to shoot. What was the point of him holding onto an AK47 that weighed 4.79 kilograms? The thing that weighed nearly five kilograms was so heavy to him that he could barely stand. Finally, he thought of an idea. He tied the gun to his bag, and used more rope to wrap around the bag, then put it on the snowy ground and started to drag it.
There was little friction from the ice and snow was, so Jue Ming finally solved this important issue.
The mountain range was just in front of his eyes. He noticed that the ice carried traces of tire tracks. As he followed these tracks, he knew that he was drawing close to his destination.
“Dad!” Jue Ming shouted as he walked.
“Dad!” His voice echoed back in the valley.
Dozens or so zombies heard the voice, and started to walk shakily up towards the valley, heading towards Jue Ming.
Jue Ming, unaware of the situation, walked along the winding mountain path, and fired a shot into the air.
Bang! Firing the gun at such a close range had given himself a fright.
Five hundred meters away, the side of the mountain peak was collapsing in an avalanche. Thousands of tonnes of snow rumbled and rolled down from the peak, burying those dozens of zombies at the bottom of the valley.
Jue Ming was not aware of any of that. His feet slipped, and he continued to slowly walk up the mountain.
“Dad!” Jue Ming called out desperately. His voice noticeably softer.
In front, there was a pool of purplish-black blood that had frozen over. He crouched down and touched it, as if trying to confirm that it didn’t belong to Zhang Min. After a moment, he stood up and continued on his way.
After walking the whole afternoon, Jue Ming was hungry and tired. He collapsed in the snow.
“Dad…” Jue Ming murmured.
He opened his diary. On the first page was a doodle in pencil that Zhang Min had given him. Zhang Min, who knew how to do everything, was also very good at drawing. It was a dog stretching out its paw, smiling as its paw rested on the chick’s head. The chick’s head was lowered, with a book open in front of it.
Beneath the drawing was a sentence: Write in your diary every day. Dad is watching you.
Jue Ming kept the notebook, ate a biscuit, ate some snow, and stood up again.
“Dad!” Jue Ming called out helplessly. “Come out, you’re not dead!”
He was at the end of the road. Ahead of him was a cliff.
He squatted down, looking out at the cliff. He could not see anything. He sat there in a daze for a while at the edge of the cliff, then turned around to head back down the mountain.
He did not know where he should go now. In the distance, there was a collapsed bomb shelter. He tried to move the rubble blocking the way, using all the strength in his body to move a single piece.
There was a rotting hand reaching out from the inside!
Jue Ming looked at it for a while, and confirmed that it wasn’t Zhang Min’s. He used the rock to smash it a few times. When the bones were broken, he used the barrel of the gun to push it back in, put the rock back, and continued down the mountain.
The sky was dark. The jagged mountain road and rolling hills seemed to take on a different appearance, as if there was a mournful, evil spirit in the night that was watching him intently. Jue Ming’s throat was sore, and he no longer yelled. He was like an obsessed, crazy person, with a flashlight in his hand, the light flicking here and there across the grass that was iced over, then digging at the snow. Of course, there was nothing there.
After he was finished with this patch, he would follow the path onto the next one.
As he walked and walked, there was snow that had built up underneath a true, and Jue Ming tripped into it. There was the soft sound of branches breaking, and a stone cut open his skin where he fell.
“Ah–!” With a whoosh, Jue Ming fell into the hole. The cloth strap around his shoulder that had the bag and AK rifle attached to it flew past him. Jue Ming shouted. The bag whistled past him into the hole along with the AK spinning as it fell. With a click, the AK was jammed horizontally in the hole, the bag hanging from it.
Jue Ming had been dragged, both of his hands clinging onto the rope with his legs now hanging in the air. The flashlight he had been carrying had dropped all the way down, and smacked Zhang Min right on the head. Zhang Min woke up.
Zhang Min lifted his head and shouted, “Is someone there? Who is it?!”
He crawled on the ground and picked up the flashlight, looking upwards. His voice trembled. “Jue Ming?”
Jue Ming held onto the rope, swaying from side to side as he hung in the air. When he heard Zhang Min’s voice, there was a sudden wail as he burst into loud tears.
Jue Ming was bawling and crying, but Zhang Min smiled. After a moment, he shouted, “Who’s up there? Hurry and pull him up! He’s about to fall!”
Jue Ming kept wailing. Zhang Min continued to shout a few more times, but no one responded. As Jue Ming was crying, he was also trying to mumble something, but paused, and continued to cry fiercely.
“Don’t cry! Darling! Listen to me! What are you saying?” Zhang Min sat on the ground, struggling to tilt his head backwards to look up at him.
“Don’t cry, Jue Ming! Zhang Jue Ming!” Zhang Min shouted. “Zhang Jue Ming! You listen to me! Your tears are falling down here! Your snot too!”
Jue Ming’s cries softened a little bit. He could not stop trembling as he held onto the strap.
“Dad–” Jue Ming started to cry again.
Zhang Min suddenly understood completely. In that instant, his eyes were rimming with red as he choked out, “Darling, did you come to find me on your own?”
Jue Ming nodded. Zhang Min rubbed his nose, and couldn’t help but start to cry as well.
Zhang Min, “There’s no one outside?”
“Mm.” Jue Ming looked downwards through his tears. “I can’t hold on. Can I jump down?”
“Don’t jump! Please, don’t jump! Can you climb up?” Zhang Min said hurriedly.
Jue Ming tried to find purchase with his feet. “To your right, there’s a rock you can step on. Do you see it?” Zhang Min said.
He moved the beam of the flashlight towards the right. Jue Ming lifted his leg, tried a few times to step on the rock, and then struggled to climb upwards. The blood from his scraped hand dropped down, landing on Zhang Min’s neck.
Zhang Min fought to hold back his tears, and said, “Keep climbing up and take a look, see if you can get out. If you can’t, then jump down here. Dad will hold you and we’ll die together.”
“I can.” Jue Ming was not crying anymore. He pulled on the strap, and with newfound strength, got half of his body out of that narrow hole, and climbed out.
Zhang Min let out a sigh of relief, and leaned tiredly against a rock. He closed his eyes. It was quiet for a while.
Jue Ming was outside of the hole, shouting something and sounding nervous. “It’s okay! I’m okay!” Zhang Min hurried to reply.
Jue Ming, “What? I can’t hear you!”
He put his ear against the hole. As long as he could hear Zhang Min’s voice, he felt at ease.
Zhang Min, “How did you get here? Can you head back to get help?”
Jue Ming, “The car won’t start. Someone dug a hole and didn’t fill it in. The car fell in the hole.”
Zhang Min, “...”
“You can’t hear me from the outside?” Zhang Min shouted again.
Jue Ming stuck his head inside the hole. “Yes, I can hear you now!”
Zhang Min, “No wonder they couldn’t hear me calling for help. Darling, do you have food?”
Jue Ming, “I do! What do you want? I have instant noodles, biscuits, chewing gum, peanuts…”
Zhang Min, “Anything will do! I’m starving!”
A packet of instant noodles was tossed down, hitting Zhang Min on the head. He opened the packaging and wolfed it down. Jue Ming tossed a snowball down as well, Zhang Min’s mouth was filled with dry instant noodles. He caught the snowball and shoved it in his mouth, eating most of the noodles in one gulp. “Did Liu Yan give this to you?!”
Jue Ming, “Yeah!”
Zhang Min, “What a poor friend, there’s no seasoning packet in the noodles! Where’s Meng Feng?”
Jue Ming, “There was a huge wave of zombies carrying flags that came! He couldn’t leave! Let me send…”
Jue Ming suddenly remembered, and hurried to shoot a flare into the sky.
Twelve hours earlier.
18th November, 2012, 9:25AM, The Shelter.
Yet another wave of zombies was approaching. This time, their numbers were even greater. The people who went to bury more bombs had not returned yet. Liu Yan set up the signal lights to signal for them to retreat behind the defenses.
“Meng Feng hasn’t returned yet?!” Deng Changhe shouted, nervous.
“Not yet!” Liu Yan shouted over the deafening sounds of gunshots. “Those who went to search for him must have missed him!”
Deng Changhe, “Nothing would happen, right?”
Liu Yan fell silent.
Hu Jue immediately shouted to Deng Changhe, “Nothing will happen! Don’t say foolish things! Focus on your task, we have to hold the defenses!”
Liu Yan closed his eyes, and leaned against the wall outside of the main hall. Whether Zhang Min was dead or alive was unknown to him, Jue Ming was already in the middle of the wind and snow sacrificing himself, and if Meng Feng really never came back… What would be the point of everything he was doing here?
“Liu Yan, listen.” Tang Yichuan saw that his emotions were in turmoil, and quickly came forward to say, “Don’t be disheartened. We are working towards our victory. Liu Yan, there are hundreds of lives here in your hands. Stay strong.”
Liu Yan nodded, took a few breaths, and shouted, “Where are all the bombs that haven’t been planted yet?! Everyone get to the roof, and prepare to throw them!”
Before he had even finished speaking, Xie Fenghua rushed upstairs, frantic. “Tang Yichuan! Something’s wrong with your sister!”
Tang Yichuan jolted, and immediately went downstairs. There was a panic in the hall. Liu Yan listened for a moment, and noticed that something was off with the shouts. It was a panicked mix of “It’s infected!” and “It’s dead!”. He quickly took out his gun and quickly ran to the hall.
Tang Yichuan was roaring. “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot! She hasn’t been infected, she’s normal! It’s a relapse of a drug addiction!”
The sounds of explosions came one after another from outside, it was impossible to hear anything else. A few men soldiers had made the others leave the area, and were armed with guns, about to shoot the disheveled Tang Yixiao who was thrashing around on the floor.
“Don’t shoot! It’s not an infection!” Liu Yan shouted.
She was in so much pain that she was tearing at her own clothes, banging her head into the ground, her face covered in tears and mucus as she screamed, much like a zombie. Tang Yichuan could not do anything but throw himself onto her, and raise his head as he pleaded loudly.
Outside, the explosions kept going off, and no one could clearly hear what he was saying. “Don’t shoot!” Liu Yan roared.
Right at that moment, the explosions stopped. Liu Zhan’s voice carried clearly through the air. Only then did they put away their guns. “Go out and hold the defenses, don’t worry! This is none of your business!”
Tang Yichuan was trembling as he carried his sister, his voice shaking. “Thank you…”
The situation was already pressing as it was. This close call had nearly given Liu Yan a heart attack. He went upstairs again. One of Lin Musen’s men was quickly heading down to give Tang Yixiao an injection.
Liu Yan glanced at it. He did not say anything and went to the roof.
At 10:20 in the morning, the snow stopped, and the winds had died down. The wind turbines kard down and eventually stopped altogether.
Liu Yan silently cursed. The energy for the fences could only depend on the diesel fuelled generations now. The batteries could not be wasted. The supply of electricity was growing weak, and the number of zombies that were pressing on to the fence was even greater than the last wave.
“Where’s the pastor?!” Liu Yan shouted. “Tell him to go pray!”
Liu Yan held onto the switch for the Tesla coils. The wind had started to blow fiercely and wildly again.
They could begin to evacuate. At this rate, the zombie horde could only be less than twenty or thirty thousand strong. Most of them were wandering in the wilderness. It was entirely possible to break through them with the vehicles.
However, Meng Feng had not returned yet. Liu Yan took a deep breath. Should he get everyone to start preparing the cars and evacuate, or hold the line?
“Get Wen Qiege here,” Liu Yan told Hu Jue. “He doesn’t need to watch Lin Musen anymore.”
If they continued to defend, they should be able to hold off all the zombies. There was some risk, but it was within their capabilities.
If they evacuated, their safety would be guaranteed.
Liu Yan has already gone ahead and instructed people to finish maintenance on the cargo trucks and packing of supplies. If the gunmen set up on top of the trucks, it would be enough to take care of stray zombies on the road.
But what about Meng Feng and Jue Ming?
Hu Jue went to send the message. Wen Qiege came upstairs and said, “Brother Sen is very scared, and is ready to run. He plans to drive the armoured vehicle and escape.”
Liu Yan, “All right. Leave him be… Brother Wen, what about you?”
Wen Qiege, “I’m staying. I’ll watch your backs. Teach me how to use this setup.”
“No, you’ll be in charge of protecting them.” Liu Yan said. “You’ll be in the first vehicle clearing the path. I’ll bring up the rear in the last car, and also... wait for Meng Feng.”
Hu Jue, “When will Meng Feng return?”
Liu Yan slowly shook his head. “The priority is to defend the area, but I don’t have a precise answer. We can also buy some time and prepare to retreat. Meng Feng hasn’t returned. Should we leave now? What do you think?”
Hu Jue did not have any ideas now. He did not dare to make this decision.
“Leave it up to destiny, then.” Hu Jue took out a coin. “Heads, we stay and defend. Tails, we leave.”
Hu Jue flipped the coin into the air. Before it landed, there was the buzz of an engine from downstairs, followed by a series of gunshots. Deng Changhe ran up to the roof, yelling, “Liu Yan! Lin Musen has escaped! He’s heading northwest!”
Liu Yan, “I know! Send people to follow him immediately, hold the breach!”
Lin Musen already had a detailed plan thought out. He brought along his trusted aides and boarded the armoured vehicles Liu Yan modified, turned it around on the field, and throttled at its highest speed to roll through the perimeter fence with a boom!
The breach was coincidentally at the northwest side. The armoured vehicle drove over a number of zombies, painting a bloody trail of flesh and gore as it rushed onto the main road. Tang Yichuan ran up to the roof, roaring, “He’s taken my sister!”
Liu Yan pushed Tang Yichuan away and shouted, “Get ready! All gunmen, aim and assemble northwest! Hold the breach! Buy time for the evacuation!”
“Liu Yan!” Ding Lan cried out in fear.
Liu Yan bolted down the stairs, grabbing two grenades, pulling the pin out of them and shoving them in a bag. He headed towards the breach in the northwest.
The zombies that were like a tidal wave flooded towards the breach in the fence. Everyone was staring as Liu Yan charged over towards the horde, and threw the bag outside. It flew in an arc, and landed in the middle of the horde.
Liu Yan instantly threw himself backwards and dropped to the ground.
With a thunderous explosion, the bodies of zombies shot into the air and landed in the field The gunmen came forward, opening fire on the breach.
Liu Yan coughed out blood from the shock of the blast, and struggled to get up. He heard Hu Jue shouting. “Close the circuits! Pull the fence back up!”
Liu Yan subconsciously wanted to give out orders, but his mind cleared immediately and he quickly said, “No! Once you close it, the zombies will all come in!”
Hu Jue realised the mistake in his decision, and was immediately disappointed in himself. Liu Yan gestured for Hu Jue to calm down, and managed to say, “I… understand. I know you’re not a spy sent by the zombies. Get the ropes! Pull the fence back up! Gunmen, provide covering fire!”
The two of them found joy in the midst of all this agony, and helplessly laughed.
Liu Yan could not stop coughing. As he climbed up to the roof, with the switch in his hand, he looked downstairs.
Hu Jue uncovered the coin he had taken out earlier – Tails, pointing towards the vehicles they had to the north.
Liu Yan pressed the switch, and the Tesla coils started to charge again. This time, the flashes of electricity shone brighter and more majestically in the later hours of the night.
The gray sky seemed to shake with the gathering of the bright, white lights. The clouds, as though they were being pulled by some unseen force, were coming together into a vortex. The buzz of electricity from the coils whistled past. Everyone got the order and started assembling at the basketball court of their own accord, the cargo trucks heading out one by one as everyone started to evacuate.
An unstable ring of electricity swept away tens of thousands of zombies and dissipated as it got further away, but the energy did not fade and continued to roll through the tangled mess of zombies.
Even more zombies were flooding in.
“Throw all the hand grenades! Hold your ground! Liu Yan! The first vehicles have left! It’s time to retreat!” Hu Jue yelled from downstairs.
Liu Yan stood, alone, on the northwest corner of the roof, looking out into the distance. Meng Feng had not come back yet… A complicated, indescribable feeling bubbled up in his chest. He had thought countless times about how he and Meng Feng would part in death. Perhaps it would be due to triggering a powerful bomb and dying together; Maybe it would be being surrounded by an overwhelming number of zombies… Whatever it was, he never thought that it would be like today, separating without any warning.
Would he return?
The night before, they had gotten into an argument over something so trivial. Liu Yan had gotten angry in the end, and turned around to face the wall. Meng Feng tried to coax him out of it with a few sentences, but Liu Yan had ignored him.
Meng Feng had been very tired, and had fallen asleep and started snoring before he could pamper him properly.
So, Liu Yan got even more angry, and decided to ignore him.
Yesterday morning, Meng Feng woke up first. Someone was outside the door reminding him to go for his scouting mission. Meng Feng got dressed, looking very handsome in his military clothes. He sat by the bed, taking the initiative to angle his body and lean in closer to kiss Liu Yan on the lips.
At that time, Liu Yan had already awoken, but he kept his eyes closed and pretended to sleep. He took a peek at his well-ironed military field uniform, with his cap and military boots on as he left, then he turned back around and continued to sleep.
Until now, Liu Yan always thought that Meng Feng would be back in a jiffy. Who in this world would always feel that they were about to experience a separation, never to meet again?
He sighed, and started up the Tesla coils. Suddenly, the engine emitted a loud pop.
Liu Yan immediately covered his head and ducked behind the wall. A flash of electricity shot over and brushed just over his head. The main structure of the coil had let off a loud bang and the engine was smoking, but it hadn’t exploded!
Liu Yan raised his head to look at the tip of the coil where the electricity was emitted. A circuit loop was damaged, and the accumulated charge had ricocheted. There was a burning smell. A circuit was burning.
Liu Yan looked outside, over the wall. A large patch of zombies had been flattened. He was worried that the circuits would definitely explode if they did it again.
However, in the moment that he stuck his head out, he was shocked to a standstill.
He slowly stood up. Under the curtains of the gray-blue sky, a jeep was heading towards him at a high speed.
“Meng Feng,” Liu Yan mumbled. He used nearly all of his energy to yell wildly, “Meng Feng!”
The jeep rushed in with a beautiful drift. The windows had been shattered. Gunshots that sounded like it came from the barrel of a machine gun swept away the zombies blocking its way, followed by a hand grenade being tossed out of the window, clearing out a large area with a boom.
“Meng Feng!” Liu Yan was shouting hysterically as he bolted downstairs.
The jeep reversed and drove into the wire fence, through the east side where the herd of zombies was the thinnest, flying in and then skidding to a stop.
Meng Feng slammed the door open and came running, shouting, “Liu Yan! Are you casting some kind of fucking spell?! You’ve got some guts! You don’t even have someone to draw aggro from the monsters for you!”
Liu Yan rushed downstairs. Meng Feng’s arm was raised as he sprayed bullets and shouted at the same time, his machine gun letting out a series of gunshots, knocking down the zombies that charged forward. He stretches out his left hand, catching and holding Liu Yan who jumped into his embrace.
Meng Feng, “Where’s Zhang Min?! How did this happen? That electric tower can be used already?! Damn, that’s badass! Can it go again?!”
Liu Yan came back to his senses. The zombie horde was flooding in again. Meng Feng and his team were shooting endlessly.
“If we use it again it’ll roast you alive! There’s no time to explain!” Liu Yan shouted. “Are there zombies to the north?”
Meng Feng kept shooting at the zombies in front of him as he shouted back, “Not many! Are we escaping again? You’re a technician! What’s there to brag about?!”
Liu Yan, “We’ll follow the original plan! I’ve prepared everything! Lin Musen ran off early… To think that I believed his facade of someone who would stare down death! Deng Changhe! Hu Jue! Get the last batch of people in the vehicles! Take them away!”
Meng Feng, “You can always trust his words! Get in the car! We’ll bring up the rear!”
Liu Yan, “I nearly did! If I see him again…”
Meng Feng roared, “I’ll destroy him with my gun! Shit! I was running around the lake for so long, if I didn’t remember my wife and came back early, I’d be dead! All of you, hurry and evacuate! Leave the things behind! We’ll come back and search for them next time!”
The last cargo truck drove out of the surrounding circle. There were two gunmen on each side of the truck, shooting the zombies on the road nonstop. From the cargo container, Hu Jue shouted, “Liu Yan, hurry and get in!”
“Meng Feng! Liu Yan!!” Everyone was yelling. “Get in!”
The machine gun in Meng Feng’s hand was firing endlessly. He turned around and shouted angrily, “He won’t go! He’s staying with me to bring up the rear! Go!”
Liu Yan laughed. As the convoy left, some of the zombies were split off to follow them. There were much fewer zombies in the school now, but they were slowly surrounding them again.
Meng Feng saw that everyone had evacuated. “You'll drive!”
Liu Yan crawled into the jeep, put it in reverse, driving over a zombie, and opened the door. Meng Feng’s fired crazily then put away his gun and got into the car. He set up the gun in the shattered window of the car and continued to fire.
Liu Yan turned the steering wheel with force and charged out of the surrounding zombies.
In the distance, the convoy was ahead with a group of zombies behind, separating Liu Yan and Meng Feng from them.
“Shit,” Liu Yan said. “Can we force our way through?”
“I don’t have many bullets left,” Meng Feng replied. “Oh no, they're coming for us now! Run!”
Liu Yan turned to speed down the main road. “Run where?!”
Meng Feng, “Go south… No! West… no, head east!”
The jeep made a left turn, then a right, zig zagging and making a few more turns. From inside the car came Liu Yan’s angry shouting. “Just where do you want me to go! Do you want to stop and flip a coin?!”
Meng Feng, “A coin only has two sides! Have you become silly from reading too much! Head east! Is there really time to argue right now?!”
The jeep drove at lightning speed down the road, rushing off towards the east.
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Cael.