Chapter 24 - Freezing Winter

2013 (Doomsday)


Translator(s): cael
Editor(s): nao

Meng Feng parked the jeep in the windy, snow-covered birch forest. The four people inside had not slept for over forty-eight hours, and they could not take it anymore.

In the front seats, Liu Yan and Meng Feng were nestled up against each other like their lives depended on it, covered by a jacket.

Zhang Min was lying down in the back seat, his head pillowed on Jue Ming’s thigh. Jue Ming leaned against the car window. The windows were all rolled up, the heater turned on, and they fell into a lethargic sleep.

No one had the energy to take shifts for a watch. They slept for a full ten hours. Jue Ming was the first to wake up and noticed that there was a zombie outside.

The sky was already bright. The zombie was sprawled outside the car window, frozen. Its eyes were fixed on the people inside, stuck in the pose where it was reaching for the window. 

Jue Ming held up a finger, and moved it to the left.

The zombie opened its mouth, its muddy pupils following the finger to the left.

Jue Ming’s finger moved to the right.

The zombie’s pupils also moved to the right.

Jue Ming’s finger moved to the center.

The zombie went cross eyed.

Jue Ming held up two fingers together. Just when he was about to separate them, Meng Feng woke up as well.

 “Dear, teasing zombies isn’t nice, dear.” Meng Feng yawned.   

Everyone in the car was awake now.

Liu Yan lazily sat up and turned his head to look at that zombie. “Most of it has been frozen solid, but it's still conscious,” he said.

“Mn.” Zhang Min struggled to sit up straight with his leg stretched out, and let out a long sigh, frowning. “It has basic intellect. What do you think goes on in their brains?”

Meng Feng shrugged. “Who knows. The heart of a zombie is a mystery.”

He started up the engine of the car, and crushed the zombie up against a tree trunk. It let out a strange noise. They continued driving along the main road and left the scene.

Liu Yan distributed some food. He opened up a box of cold, canned beef, along with some buns that Auntie Yu steamed three days ago and a bit of chilli sauce, and started eating.

It was the supplies that Meng Feng had taken in the car when he went for his patrol. “How much food is there?” Zhang Min asked.

“Four days’ worth,” Liu Yan replied.

“I can eat less,” Zhang Min said hastily.

Meng Feng and Liu Yan both looked at Zhang Min, amused by his performance.

“I wasn’t planning on chasing you out of the car,” Liu Yan said honestly. “But you know how to behave.”

Meng Feng held onto the steering wheel and let out a whistle. He uncannily imitated Lin Musen’s way of talking and said, “I like that kind of person the most. Good job! Brother Sen will mentor you!”

Everyone in the car burst into laughter.

“Where do we go now? Head back to take a look?” Meng Feng parked the car at a fork in the road. Zombies were here and there, the land was barren, and there were giant, messy footsteps all over the ground. There were even a few zombies that had frozen out in the wilderness.

“It’s not very safe. There are probably some that haven’t left… And the convoy took all the food anyway. What’s the point of going back?” Liu Yan said.

“You never know, there could be some… Never mind,” Meng Feng said.

He thought that it was not safe, especially when they were running short of ammunition and rations.

Zhang Min, “Are we able to contact our comrades in the convoy?”

Liu Yan shook his head. “There aren’t any communication devices. And even if there were, the distance would be too great to reach them.”

Zhang Min opened a map and said, “Then… Oh, let’s play the “Where did everyone go?” brainteaser…”

Meng Feng and Liu Yan said simultaneously, “We’re not your sons! Go and play with Jue Ming!”

Zhang Min laughed. 

“Let’s go to the town for supplies. I have an idea,” Liu Yan said.

He turned a cassette tape over, and shoved it into the car’s old radio system. The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” started to play. He continued to drive the car down the road to the west. There was a village twenty miles away, the one they swept through before.

Not long after, they arrived at the village. It was a mess, and pretty much the same as they had left it. Meng Feng switched to an AK and got out of the car to do another patrol. “Go and find the box left in the house,” Liu Yan said.

There were a lot of crows perched on the roofs of the houses. Rats were scurrying around on the ice cold floor.

A small mouse was sitting in front of a zombies’ head which had been blown off, scavenging for food.

“Look,” Liu Yan said. “The mouse doesn’t touch the corpse.”   

Zhang Min got out of the car, his left hand on Jue Ming, his other hand pulling down his pants zipper so he could take a piss. “That’s true. Even the crows have no interest in them. Shouldn’t carrion animals eat corpses? Darling, help your dad a bit, just hold it… No need to make the sound, it’s coming out.”

Liu Yan stayed in the car, shaking his head in confusion. “I don’t know. Maybe they know these things can’t be eaten? An animal’s instinct is very sharp. They sense danger far better than humans can.”

Zhang Min nodded his head slowly. “That’s good too. At least they won’t be infected. Okay darling, stop playing. Go away! You little pervert, huh?”

In fact, to this day, the only species in the entire world to be infected were humans.

Meng Feng was away for ten minutes, and came back with a big box of food.

Vegetables, canned food, dried food, and a variety of fresh food from the grocery store.

“Dear, come and eat your preservatives, dear.” Meng Feng tossed a bag of chicken feet to Jue Ming.

“Ah, this is good,” Jue Ming said.

Liu Yan laughed. “This is a bit of what I hid away the last time we came here.”

“You thought of that back then?” Zhang Min asked.

Liu Yan shrugged. “No, I just thought that if one day we get into trouble with Lin Musen, at least we’ll have an escape route and survive a few more days in the winter.”

“King of being calm, you can play your brainteaser now,” Meng Feng told Jue Ming seriously.

Jue Ming thought about it, and said, “Let’s go… here.” He pointed to the map.

“That’s the open sea,” Liu Yan said. “How on earth did you survive… Forget it, I should do it…”

Jue Ming, “I just flipped to the wrong page… Oh, here it is. What about here?”

Meng Feng took a look. “It works. We can follow the road north and hope that everything goes smoothly.”   

“We have enough fuel to travel nine hundred kilometers,” Liu Yan said. “It’s best if we find them before we run out, or if we can at least find some fuel.”

Two hours later:

Zhang Min had a hand on Jue Ming’s shoulder. He was humming and swaying along to the song playing from the old radio. 

“Oh, right.” Liu Yan suddenly thought of that female movie star who took drugs. “Zhang Min, your idol came a few days ago.”

“What?” Zhang Min said. 

Liu Yan told him about the situation with Tang Yixiao. Meng Feng and Zhang Min were dumbfounded. 

“She’s my idol too!” Meng Feng said. 

Liu Yan glanced at Meng Feng coldly and apathetically, and said “Oh.”

“Why didn’t you help me get her autograph? Gosh! If I’d known earlier I wouldn’t have gone on patrol!” Zhang Min said.

“Me too! Liu Yan! Why didn’t you get her autograph!” Meng Feng despaired.

Liu Yan’s expression was that of boredom and disinterest.

“Right,” he said. 

“What’s she like? Is she like in the movies?” Zhang Min asked.

“What are you all talking about?” Jue Ming asked blankly.

“Liu Yan, you’re so stingy! Both of us like her, how could you let her go like that?!” Meng Feng said emotionally. 

Liu Yan, “...”

Meng Feng, “How tall is she? Is she like what they say on the internet?”

Zhang Min, “What did Lin Musen do to her? Did she talk about her divorce?”

Liu Yan finally could not take it anymore. “She was taken by Lin Musen. They’re probably being chased by a large horde of zombies now. Why don’t we go and save her?”

“Forget it, that’ll be a drag. It’s too dangerous. Brother Sen will take good care of her,” Meng Feng said immediately.

“Mm, it’s not worth it. I just wanted an autograph, I can’t put my life on the line for that. Meng Feng is right, Brother Sen will protect her,” Zhang Min said. 

Liu Yan, “...”

Jue Ming, “???”   

Liu Yan, “She's your idol! You don’t even care when she’s being chased by zombies?! You call yourself fans?!”

Meng Feng “Ah, you won’t understand this kind of feeling…”

Zhang Min, “That’s right. When I was in the army, everyone in my company liked her…”

Liu Yan really wanted to take up the AK and give each of them a good whack.   

In the next hour that followed, Meng Feng and Zhang Min started to have a long conversation about that female movie star, from the movie that made her famous to the award winning works at the Berlin Film Festival, not even leaving out the recently-released nude magazine. They talked with great gusto about all of it.

At last, they were in the middle of the road, coming to a stop behind a destroyed armoured vehicle.

Meng Feng and Zhang Min’s conversation about that movie star suddenly ceased.   

A giant footprint was embedded in the middle of the road, flattening most of the armoured vehicle in front of them into a piece of metal pancake.

Ammunition rounds littered the ground. There were a number of flattened zombie corpses around as well. The armoured vehicle’s two back tires were tilted at an angle, a small part of the vehicle’s cargo load was still kept in good condition. Liu Yan got out of the car and studied the shell of the vehicle. “Lin Musen was in this vehicle when he escaped,” he said.

“There’s more than one of those giants,” Zhang Min hypothesised. “Lin Musen couldn’t be more unlucky.”

Liu Yan opened the vehicle’s cargo load and took a look, then laughed mockingly. “Not only was he unlucky, he’s also really stupid. He didn’t even know how to operate this vehicle… Look here.”

Inside was an iron box. On top of the box were two round openings.

“The entire front of the car and its engine were stepped on and flattened, yet it didn’t blow up,” Meng Feng said.

“Because I specifically put the reserve fuel under the vehicle’s cargo load. As soon as the zombies started to give chase, people underneath could open the lid of the box and pour the fuel on the ground as they went. They could pour the fuel at their own discretion and then… set it on fire. They could easily rid themselves of the zombies on the road.”

Liu Yan went round to the front of the vehicle and said, “He didn’t even use the flamethrower on board. What a real pity.”  

Zhang Min stucky his head out from the car and looked outside. Meng Feng was standing by the flattened vehicle. Tossed onto the ground was one of Tang Yixiao’s high heeled shoes. 

Meng Feng, “...”

Zhang Min, “...”

Liu Yan, “You can pick that up and bring it back as a souvenir. That’s probably worth more than an autograph. There’s only one show. How are you two going to split it? Do you want to take another look around?”  

Meng Feng consciously changed the subject. “What about Lin Musen? He ran again? He really can’t die.”

Zhang Min looked around for a bit, using one leg for both the accelerator and the brakes to manoeuvre the jeep to push the remains of the armoured vehicle away. 

Meng Feng opened the iron box and found two gory, bloody legs. He could not tell whose legs they were.  

They took the box of fuel, and tied it to the back of the jeep’s spare tire, then drove off.

  

22nd November, 2012.

Today is the fifth day the refuge was destroyed by the zombies. I lost my diary, so I have temporarily borrowed Jue Ming’s Korean brand notebook. The accompanying illustrations were drawn by him.   

We have a month’s worth of food and two thousand kilometers of fuel, a spare tire, and three and a half people. We’re on the road north.

There isn’t a trace of radio communication from the others who evacuated. I’m starting to miss them. (A drawing of little people holding hands)

This year’s winter arrived earlier than last year, and it’s colder too. This really is an icy, snowy winter. There isn’t a trace of life out there in the wilderness. Those villages, buildings, are all covered in a thick layer of snow. It made me think of the ice age, before humans appeared in this world.

Occasionally, in the white vastness of the snow, two scavenging sparrows would appear. When they got off the car for a break, Jue Ming would feed them with biscuit crumbs. 

We saw a road sign. There was an arrow on it, probably pointing to the government’s evacuation directions. After a simple discussion, everyone (other than Jue Ming) all decided to head north following that arrow.

These days, we drive along Highway 108. There’s no signal from the life detector. The only zombies that appeared were frozen solid in the open cold. There are no broadcast signals. The road signs have a thick layer of ice on them.

In this world, are there any other survivors? The white snow-covered ground, the endless highway, the dead silence all around. The cassette tape with The Beatles on it was repeated hundreds of times by Meng Feng, until the magnetic strip stopped working.

Fifteen days passed and we entered Xi’An. The entire city was frosted over in ice. East Changan Avenue was looted clean. Luckily, there was still some food to be found there. We changed to a larger car, and found enough resources from the convenience stores, chemical stores, hardware stores, Walmart and Carrefour warehouses. 

The arrows on the road signs disappeared. The end of it was probably in Xi’An, which had been overrun.

Meng Feng suggested that we stay in the city for a while, but he rejected that idea on his own in the end, because there were thousands and thousands of zombies in the sewers underneath the city. They were actually sheltering themselves from the cold by going underground.

In Lintong County, the mausoleum of Qin Shihuang was sealed in ice for thousands of miles.

This is wrong.

This is not like a northern winter at all. What on earth happened? The weather is too unusual.

I even suspect that everyone else on the planet has died. The empty sky, land, plains… Only the four of us are driving round and round under the sky and over the land.

We left Lintong, and continued north.

7th December, we finally saw an airplane cut across the sky.  

“A plane!” Meng Feng shouted.

He pushed on the brakes hard, and Meng Feng quickly climbed onto the roof of the car, both arms waving as he roared, “Hey!”

Meng Feng took off his jacket and waved it wildly at the sky. Liu Yan loaded the flare gun and fired a shot into the air. The green light whistled into the sky, drawing an arc and then falling into the snow.

(Simple illustration of a plane) 8th December, we waited at the place we saw the airplane for a day. Meng Feng carved out an SOS in the snow, and built a fire in the middle of it.

There was no other sign of rescue.

Was it a reconnaissance aircraft? A bomber? A plane carrying paratroopers, or a cargo plane?

Whatever it was, it’s good that other people were alive. There is always hope.   

The wind and snow got fiercer and heavier, as though there is a cold current blowing south. There aren’t any weather reports. Staying alive is the most important.

We travelled along the southern foot of Liupan mountain, on the leeward side. At the same time, we saw another frozen road sign with an arrow on it.   

Just as we were about to get a closer look, the wind and snow stalled the car. The wind was too strong, and blew the sign away. We had no choice but to abandon the car and go on foot.

Zhang Min recovered very quickly. He is already able to walk using a crutch. Meng Feng marked the area where the car was parked and brought us to higher ground to search for a cave where we could find shelter from the wind.

21st December, yet another cold current blowing south. The weather got better. We came out from the cave, got ready, and continued to drive north. We still have enough food to get us through a couple of months. If we ration it, it can last us until spring. Yet, for some reason, I have a feeling that spring may never come.

That was just a hunch.

Until we saw, on top of the icy mountain top, that thirty metre tall radio tower.

“Liu Yan! Look there!” Meng Feng said.

He shoveled the snow away. At the bottom of the metal tower, there were traces of a fire that had been built. Liu Yan frowned, and squatted down to push away the ice. They scoured the snowy ground around that area, and discovered a wet cigarette butt, some half-burned pine branches, and a piece of rope.

“A parachute cord,” Zhang Min said. “A parachute from where?”

They stood on the top of the mountain and looked downwards. On the other side of the clouds and mountain, a sliver of the red light of dusk was shining through.

“This is a wireless radio tower,” Liu Yan said. “Jue Ming! Get the radio out!”

Jue Ming was wearing a thick wool cap with earplugs in his ears. He stood under the tower and extended the long antenna towards the tower. He turned the knobs on the radio all the way to the left, then all the way to the right.

Silence.

“Should we climb up and take a look?” Meng Feng said. “Point the antenna over here a bit, I think if it touches the tip of the tower…”

“I really can’t stand this part of you, Meng Feng,” Liu Yan said exasperatedly. “Is it really such a waste of your time to look at the manual before using things?”

Meng Feng, “My father was always like that. When walking, the antenna needs to be…”

Liu Yan, “That’s where you and your father’s thinking is wrong. We’re already standing below the signal tower. If there’s no signal, there’s no signal! Where you point it at is irrelevant! Even if you hang Jue Ming up on the tip of this tower, he won’t be able to receive any signal!”

Meng Feng became furious. “Your mom isn’t that great either, Liu Yan! When I went to your place, she didn’t even know how to use the remote, she just smacked the television! Can you change the channel by smacking the TV?! Do it and show me?”

Liu Yan, “Enough!”

Zhang Min laughed until he collapsed on the roadside. Jue Ming did not even hear what they were talking about - he was still immersed in his aliens’ signals, hugging the radio and following behind Liu Yan.   

Meng Feng went back to drive the car over and said, “Where to now?”

Liu Yan, “I don’t know. Ask your father’s radio.”

Meng Feng started the car up. “Then let’s… look around the base of the mountain. Eh? Look, dear. There are two snowmen over there?”

Liu Yan did not look. Meng Feng patted his face and said, “Turn your head. Look over there.”

There were two piles of snow in the middle of the open wilderness.

“It’s natural,” Zhang Min said.

Meng Feng, “Mm. Which physics theory is this? Dear, explain it to us.”

The car came to a stop. Zhang Min was curious, and got out of the car to waddle his way over. The snow even seemed to be covering some kind of object. Jue Ming pushed away the snow on top, and felt something long and hard, and pulled on it.

He pulled out a carrot.

Jue Ming, “?”

Meng Feng was dumbstruck.

Three seconds later, Liu Yan noticed something. He rushed to the car and pressed on Meng Feng’s hand to sound the horn, the noise travelling far through the snowy land.

Meng Feng rifled through the glove compartment and found a whistle. He took a deep breath and gave it a strong blow.

   

From the back of the base of the mountain, a child was coming towards them through the snow.

“Cap… Captain!” That young, fat boy saw Jue Ming, and immediately shouted. “Captain Jue Ming!”

Meng Feng breathed in deeply, and held Liu Yan’s hand as they got out of the car. The fat boy shouted as if he had seen a ghost, and turned around and ran.

“Wait!” Liu Yan shouted. “Where are you going?! Stop!”

The fat boy fell, and then continued to run wildly until he disappeared. They got into the car and gave chase, passing through the roots of the snow-covered mountains. Suddenly, they came into an open area. In the distance was a large farm sitting at the foot of the mountain.

The fat boy brought a group of people running towards them, all of them shouting and yelling. Liu Yan stopped the car and rushed towards them, crying out as he embraced the other survivors.   

22nd December, 2012, we finally found our missing companions. They left the arrows and markings on the road when they left the refuge. All this time, it was Hu Jue’s idea.

After that, Wen Qiege brought everyone through northern Xi’An and to the southern part of Ningxia. He saw the large radio tower at the border between these two regions and, like us, travelled along the leeward side of the mountain heading east and then turned to the north.

There was a road here, and at the end of it was a farm with a sign that said “Happy Family Farm”.

Hu Jue took command of those who could fight and got rid of the ten zombies inside, then buried them in the south side of the farm.

The area was not big, but it was much better than our previous home.

It is surrounded by mountains and water. The river to the east has already frozen over. It is said that people tried to make artificial hot springs, but due to a lack of resources, it already froze. 

A farmhouse resort in the suburbs… It’s like paradise.   

In the days that we weren’t around, seventy-nine people followed Hu Jue as the leader. Wen Qiege was the squad leader responsible for protecting everyone. When Hu Jue passed my diary back to me, he said something to Meng Feng.

“This is great. Our leader has finally returned.”


This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Cael.

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