Wu Weiguang planned for a Christmas dinner. Liu Yan made a lot of handmade gifts for the new recruits. There were a lot of military knives, fishing poles – when spring came they could go fishing.
There were also medals for the children: Meng Feng expanded the organisation again. In addition to the already existing Squash squad, Potato squad (Bomb planters), Scaredy-shroom squad, Sunflower squad (Logistics staff), Peashooter squad (Snipers), Melon-pult squad (Grenadiers), he also added the Doom-shroom squad – a suicide squad. There was only one member in it: the sole Wen Qiege.
He passed the single Doom-shroom badge to Wen Qiege. These days, Wen Qiege stayed away from the group. He did not laugh, or speak, like he had isolated himself as a criminal.
When it was time for meals, he sat by himself at the side. When they played cards, he never participated, only looked out towards the snow, pondering about things.
However, when something did happen, he would take action. The deaths of those two people still held a shadow over his heart. He laboured in the harsh cold, from morning until the dead of night.
He led the last five members of Lin Musen’s gang and fixed the greenhouse in the backyard.
There was a great stash of seeds in the warehouse. The owner of the farm had prepared sacks of vegetable, fruit and flower seeds for the tourists who came to the farmhouse resort. All the people who were here had become zombies. All the livestock had become hungry and ran away. The chickens hid inside the rundown greenhouse as shelter from the cold, pecking at the leaves of vegetables and earthworms. No one fertilised the greens and tomatoes. The plants grew wildly, creating their own, self-sufficient ecosystem.
The ducks would go for a stroll in the day, and return to the greenhouse in the afternoon for food. Liu Yan was really impressed by the vitality and survivability of nature. No one had been around to take care of them, but most of them had continued to live on.
Fertilisers and pesticides were readily available. There were also a lot of grains. There was enough flour and rice in the granary to feed them for a year. The drainage system was connected to a nearby sewer, and had been fixed a long time ago. Daily garbage was disposed of into a tributary of the river, and flowed into the sewage duct outside Xi’an.
In this self-sufficient farm, there was little waste in the first place. Most of it came from the feces of pigs, chickens, ducks et cetera. Most of it would not pollute the environment.
Behind the spacious farm was a large area of fields that stretched all the way to the river, as well as several abandoned machines for arable land. After Liu Yan fixed them, they would all be usable.
Zhang Min brought some people to do a patrol around the east side of the rivershore. They found the cows and pigs that had escaped, and discovered three scrawny, bony sows as well as a few shivering piglets.
Zhang Min brought all of them back. “Find some dogs and the farm will be complete,” Liu Yan quipped.
“You know how to farm?” Meng Feng asked.
“I can always learn.” Liu Yan was currently reading a book pertaining to crop planting. These books had not been thrown into the snow when Deng Changhe was leading the large group in their escape. Liu Yan really did not know whether to mock the cop for his stupidity or praise him for his intelligence.
In the coming spring, they started to till the land and plant their first batch of wheat. A student from Nanjing Agricultural University and another student from the China Agricultural University had joined them, and everything was stable. These seeds of hope were starting to take root in this isolated land, sprouting, branching and blooming.
“Let’s go. Go out and make snowmen,” Meng Feng said.
“I have no time,” Liu Yan replied.
Meng Feng, “Just take a break. Look, hm? There, little student Zhang Jue Ming is having so much fun with his classmates.”
Liu Yan, “No. You go and play with him. Live and learn until you’re old. It’s not good to neglect your studies, dear.”
Meng Feng, “Don’t make me get rough.”
Liu Yan, “Come on then! Brother Feng, has your ego become inflated since you became the boss…”
Meng Feng did not say anything, only picked Liu Yan up in a bridal carry, and with a strong shout, jumped down from the second floor.
Snowballs immediately flew everywhere. Liu Yan got up from Meng Feng who had tossed his whole body to the ground and ran away in embarrassment from the surrounding laughter. Jue Ming led his squad members to flank them on both sides with killing intent and charged forward. Liu Yan warned them while trying to escape them. Meng Feng got up and chased after him.
Liu Yan fell to the snowy ground and Meng Feng caught up. He held him and kissed him but was pushed away by Liu Yan, then went back in again.
“Babe!” Zhang Min called. “I’m back!”
“Your dad is calling you back home to eat, dear!” Meng Feng turned his head to shout at Jue Ming. “You’ll get kicked by a donkey if you disturb people’s business, dear!” As soon as he finished speaking, he was hit in the face by a snowball Jue Ming threw, and he fell back into the snow with Liu Yan.
Meng Feng carried Liu Yan on his back, trekking shakily through the snow and heading into the distance.
“The boss here,” Meng Feng said, raising his head to look up at the wooden houses amidst the birch forest’s trees, “is a wealthy person.”
Liu Yan’s face was buried in Meng Feng’s shoulder. He was carried by him as they swayed from side to side. His shoulders were broad and strong.
“Mm,” Liu Yan said casually. “I can tell. Single?”
“Didn’t you see the things inside the study? I found a whole stack of love letters. It was from his younger days, when he wrote them for his wife.”
“Apparently, he was an educated person from the 60’s, older than even our own parents,” Meng Feng said, rather emotionally. “After returning to the city, he started from nothing and built a business in the 90’s, married that girl, no kids. He sold the company off after earning tens of millions in assets, brought his wife here and started this farmhouse resort.”
Liu Yan smiled warmly. “That’s quite an interesting life. Not many people can retreat from that fast-paced life.”
Meng Feng nodded. “I saw those love letters. He missed his days in the countryside very much. The girl was a villager and always supported his business. Who would have thought that after opening the farm, the boss lady would die after a few years and leave him alone to take care of the place. He even hired people to do that. Look in front.”
They were in the birch forest behind the wooden house. He stopped in front of two gravestones.
One tombstone was made of white marble, smooth and without engravings. The other stone was engraved with the words “Grave of my wife, Rui Wan Wan”.
“It was probably the virus carried by refugees from the city,” Meng Feng said. “The boss also became a zombie. After Hu Jue took care of him, he searched the area and found this. Look. He buried his wife but left another grave in preparation for his own death, so that he could be buried there.”
“Where’s the body?” Liu Yan asked.
“I told them to move the body here a few days ago,” Meng Feng said.
Liu Yan nodded, and held Meng Feng’s hand as they stood in front of the graves for a few moments. Then he said, “Thank you for the farm you left behind. I hope you meet each other up in heaven again.”
“Time to eat!” Deng Changhe shouted at the top of his lungs. “Meng Feng! Liu Yan! It’s the new year’s dinner today! Hurry up and come back!”
“I carried you on the way here. Now it’s time for you to carry me,” Meng Feng said.
Without another word, he clambered onto Liu Yan’s back. Liu Yan took one step forward with much difficulty, struggling to move forward and wobbling as he did so. Just like Jue Ming carrying a gigantic leopard plushie on his back, Meng Feng’s two legs were dragging behind in the snow. Liu Yan carried him for fifty metres, then collapsed to the ground, playing dead and laying still.
31st December, 2012, New Year’s Eve.
Meng Feng called for forty bottles of wine to be opened. Two hundred people gathered in the great hall feasting and chattering and playing drinking games. After their meal, they hung out together to play cards and smoke, eat snacks and have fun. They played hot potato, told jokes and sang.
Zhang Min was very popular. He was drunk as soon as he started drinking with people and was now lying on the sofa.
“Dad…” Jue Ming said.
Meng Feng, “Dear! Your dad is out cold! He’s going to puke! Go and play with the radio! Come back later! Punish him later and make him kneel on the washboard!”
The men noisily carried Zhang Min off to the side. It was 11:40PM. Hu Jue was singing English songs with a lot of feeling, and they were pleasant to listen to. Deng Changhe was in the middle playing guitar. The cheers and applause woke Zhang Min up.
“Brother Min, do you play? Play a song, come on,” the police officer held the guitar out to him.
There was a buzzing in Zhang Min’s head. He took the guitar and smiled as he played a song. The girls went crazy and screamed and clapped, asking for another song.
“Hold on, let me think about what to play.” Zhang Min was drunk. He smiled handsomely, took the old guitar which had been fished out from abandoned belongings, and looked at the score that its previous owner had left behind.
“It’s almost time for the countdown,” Zhang Min said. “Five minutes left. Let’s not play.”
“Just one more–!” The crowd called.
“Where’s Jue Ming?” Liu Yan was looking around.
Meng Feng was a bit high off of drinking and said, “It’s almost countdown time. Go and find Jue Ming.”
“Tell Brother Wen to come down and do some magic!” Xie Fanghua knocked two liquor bottles together and laughed. “Brother Wen knows how to do magic!”
Liu Yan turned and headed upstairs. Wen Qiege was on the second floor, closing a door behind him. He did not lock the door, and stood in the corridor, looking out the window towards the sky full of snow.
“Has Lin Musen eaten?” Liu Yan asked.
These few days, Lin Musen’s condition had been getting worse. He ate less each day. Today was New Year’s Eve. While the others were down in the canteen partying, Liu Yan instructed Wen Qiege to bring something up for Lin Musen to eat.
Liu Yan sighed. “Dead… Forget about everything that happened before, then. I wish him a peaceful journey.”
“The pastor already prayed for him,” Wen Qiege said.
Liu Yan nodded. “The countdown is starting. You should go down. Xie Fenghua wants you to perform magic. When it’s bright outside, Meng Feng will bring some people to give him a burial.”
“All right, Liu Yan, I’ll perform some magic for you,” Wen Qiege said.
Wen Qiege took out a coin, and flipped it with his left hand. He caught it with his right, and opened his hand. There was a snowball in his palm.
Liu Yan laughed.
“Happy new year, Liu Yan,” Wen Qiege said. He straightened his collar, and went downstairs.
Liu Yan stood outside that door, but did not open it in the end.
“Farewell, Brother Sen,” Liu Yan said from outside the door, then turned and went up to the third floor.
A cold breeze blew through the third floor corridor. Jue Ming was wearing a cotton hat and thick gloves, his face red from the cold, and he was wrapped in thick jackets. He was hugging a radio as he sat on the windowsill. The antenna was pulled out and pointing towards the dark sky outside the window.
Delicate snowflakes floated to the ground. Jue Ming turned the knob on the radio to the left, then to the right.
“You’re actually sitting here playing with the radio.”
“Huh? I don’t drink alcohol. Did he vomit?” Jue Ming asked.
“Go on and head down. They’re counting down. It’s almost time for 2013,” Liu Yan said.
“Ten… Nine… Eight… Seven…”
The sounds of the countdown were heard from afar. Liu Yan did not leave, just stood behind Jue Ming, looking out at the silent night sky.
“Darling–” Zhang Min ran upstairs.
“Six… Five… Four…”
In that moment, the entire farm was filled with light. All the lights were on. On the entrance to the farm there was a sign that said “Hope Town”.
Rainbow-coloured lights were strung all around the wooden sign. A colourful christmas tree stood amidst the wind and snow.
Meng Feng followed the spiral staircase upwards.
The cheers travelled far through the snowy land. The next second, silence, then a firm male voice sounded.
“This is the Chinese branch of the International Rescue Division. Today, at 0000 hours on the 1st of January, 2013, on behalf of the Chinese military, the government is calling out to all survivors…”
Liu Yan, “...”
Jue Ming, inexplicably, looked down at the radio in his hands.
“These past five months, the human race has been met with the greatest disaster in history. The broadcast channels were cut off, and cities all over the country were infected by the virus that arose...”
“Meng Feng!” Liu Yan grabbed hold of Jue Ming’s hand and rushed down the stairs. Zhang Min, who came up, immediately picked Jue Ming up into his arms and rushed down as well.
“Quiet! Quiet! Listen!” Meng Feng roared.
The two hundred people in the hall became quiet until not even the sound of breathing could be heard. The only noise was from the radio in Jue Ming’s hands. Liu Yan was trembling, and turned the volume up to the maximum.
“These past five months, we could not see a sliver of hope. The infected have ruined our country. This is the consequence of destruction. But this disaster cannot destroy the human race’s stubborn will to survive.”
These past five months, we established a pacific rescue base in the high seas. The Chinese government has set up a rescue organisation, and joined the international alliance. The whole world is currently dispatching large rescue groups. No matter how difficult your situation is right now, please do not give up the hope of living on…”
“Today is the first day of the year 2013. As of now, at the cost of soldiers’ lives, transmission towers all over the country have been repaired, and have been switched on at 0000 hours, on the 1st of January, 2013. Initial diagnostics of the transmission shows that it covers most areas of the country.”
“If you can hear this broadcast, please pass this message on to other survivors. Avoid the outbreak of the virus in the south. Prepare supplies for survival and for the cold, as well as medicine. If you are entering the northern provinces, be especially careful to avoid the southeastern coastal provinces and central areas. Rescuers are currently searching for survivors across the provinces…”
At that moment, everyone started to cry. Finally, after being isolated from the world for five months, hearing the first call from other human survivors… That emotion was impossible to describe.
“If you are listening to this broadcast, please pass this message on to other survivors. Move to the closest radio tower, and tie a white cloth on the tower to show that the surrounding area is safe. Tie a black cloth to show that there are wandering infected nearby and that it is not safe.”
“Please mark the area around the tower with directions, and leave after you have done so. Find a shelter within fifty metres. Once the rescuers arrive, they will search the area within fifty metres.”
“If you are safe now, please try to help other survivors who have not been infected. Support one another, and fight to survive. If you are using weapons against your surviving comrades, taking this disaster as opportunity to steal and murder, please stand down, and help those in need. This is not the apocalypse, but a test of China, of the human race, of the entire world.”
“Please do not give up hope, and at the same time, remember the morality and love that we are born with. We must be united, and work together, and help one another. The ground you are standing on is China. As long as you do not give up on yourself, this country will never give up on you.
“The follow-up searches need your patience. Our primary stance is to not abandon any survivor. This message will be broadcasted every half an hour. Happy new year.”
“Happy new year...” Liu Yan said quietly. “... Uncle Meng.”
t/n: yes it’s meng feng’s dad :^)
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Cael.