A summer thunderstorm was brewing in the skies of F city. The lights went out, and the city was plunged into darkness for a long time. In an apartment, Jue Ming was wearing his school uniform. He was sitting at the edge of the living room, dazedly looking into the darkness through the floor window.
The thunder clouds shot out streaks of bright lightning tangled with one another. The lightning connected the tall buildings on the ground to the black night sky. The distant view was reflected in the teenager’s pitch-black eyes.
The first explosion of thunder sounded out, the blossoming lightning illuminating his pale face. An unknown sound rang within the thunder, the thunderclouds rolling over. The phone rang constantly.
“Dad, how long until you get home?” asked Jue Ming.
“Darling!” The man on the other end of the call cried out anxiously. “What are you doing?! I won’t get home that quickly!”
“Oh, I know now,” answered Jue Ming, a clap of thunder could be heard.
Zhang Min’s voice shouted, “I’m delayed on the road for a while! I estimate that it will be midnight when I get home! Go eat dinner first, there is cooked food inside the refrigerator!”
On the other end of the call, there was a lot of noise like there was a disturbance. People were swearing, some were urging. The rainstorm covering the skies was masking the sounds coming from the phone.
Jue Ming said, “The power is cut, the microwave can’t be used.”
Zhang Min anxiously shouted, “What did you say? Be a bit louder! I can’t hear you!”
Jue Ming loudly said, “It’s nothing! I’m hanging up!”
Zhang Min finally heard his voice, laughing as he shouted, “Wait for me! Dad will come back soon!”
Jue Ming hung up the phone and fetched a glass of water, he didn’t open the refrigerator. He simply sat silently in the house. Living at school for five days a week at F city’s high school. During this rare holiday, Jue Ming came back home to accompany his adoptive father.
Thursday, Zhang Min went on a business trip, they had already agreed that he would go out for dinner. Friday, Zhang Min was rushing back, but he was blocked and delayed on the road.
There were two more hours until a new day arrived. Jue Ming was sitting in the darkness, not moving at all like a statue.
At 12:00 AM sharp, the electricity came back. The entire room was lit up instantly, Jue Ming’s pupils had difficulties with adjusting to the sudden change in brightness, thus he was forced to squint.
He turned on the television, the whole screen was static, white noise spreading through the room. Jue Ming then turned the television off. Downstairs, the distant sirens of an ambulance rang out.
The phone rang persistently again, Jue Ming went over to pick up the phone. The noise on the end had decreased substantially.
Zhang Min, “Darling… Are you alright?”
Jue Ming, “Here.”
Zhang Min’s voice sounded like it was trembling, his words coming out intermittently through the phone. “You, don’t go out, you'll meet ghosts. How is it going? Did anybody knock on the door? If someone knocks on the door, never open the door.”
Jue Ming answered, “Oh.”
Zhang Min panted for a while, it was very quiet on his side. “Go downstairs and wait for me, I entered the urban district already.”
Jue Ming answered, “Understood.”
Zhang Min immediately changed his mind. “No, nevermind. Just stay inside the home. Oh, pack up a little. Pack a deck of cards, money, bring medicine, a change of clothes. Dad is taking you camping. Darling! Wait for me to come home, regardless of who knocks on the door, don’t open the door. About ten more minutes before I arrive home.” Zhang Min said, “Whoever knocks on the door, don’t open the door! Remember!”
Jue Ming hung the phone up silently and walked into his room. He didn’t ask anything, he took out the suitcase he used for boarding school. He pulled the suitcase zipper open, pulled out the clothes that needed washing and placed them into the washing machine. Then he packed a few sets of Zhang Min’s clothes and his own. Following that: a medicine box, cigarettes, money and a deck of cards.
Zhang Min’s bank cards and cash were all inside a drawer, Jue Ming was also able to find a small box within the drawer. Inside of the box was a pair of platinum phone pendants — Capricorn and Cancer.
Jue Ming fastened the Capricorn phone pendant to his phone. The other phone pendant was hooked on his little finger. Finished packing the things, he sat in the living room waiting.
Outside the door, there was an awful scream. Jue Ming sat up involuntarily, his two eyes staring blankly at nothing. He turned on the television but there was still no signal. He turned the television on and off, again and again. He repeated this several times before he finally managed to turn it on. Slowly he rose, walked to the door and looked into the spyhole. The corridor was completely dark, nothing could be seen, it was so dark that it couldn’t be right.
“Help—!” cried a woman miserably, the sound of a door slamming could be heard. Jue Ming’s eyebrows were shaking due to being shocked by the sound of a door slamming, he retreated from the door slightly.
His face was expressionless for a moment as he was thinking, he looked down to see the shoes that had been placed neatly against the side of the door. He saw his own sneakers, Zhang Min’s military boots, and two pairs of slippers — one pair large, one pair small.
Jue Ming said, “Dad told me not to open the door for anybody.”
In the corridor, the door was being slammed crazily; wailing could be heard a moment later. Jue Ming stood still for a moment before bending down to wear his shoes. He knelt on one knee and tied his shoelaces, but as he did so, a pool of viscous blood was seeping through the door gap. He glanced at the blood for a moment, letting go of his shoelaces as he did, before he continued putting on his shoes.
After he finished putting on his shoes, he stood up. Jue Ming put his hand on the doorknob. It was silent on the other side of the door, there were no more wails or screaming. Jue Ming suddenly changed his mind and sat back on the sofa, fixedly staring at the door.
Not a moment later, a rhythmic thumping on the door could be heard, a beastly sound followed the thumping. “He— he—” Jue Ming looked at the door impassively, after that the elevator’s *ding* rang.
“Dad,” Jue Ming said.
Zhang Min roared, the sound of the fire safety glass breaking followed along with loud shouting, then a loud impact was heard. Jue Ming walked towards the door and opened it. With the door security chain stopping the door from opening any further, a small gap was created. Zhang Min shouted, “Don’t come out! Don’t come out right now!”
Jue Ming who was standing at the door entrance, was bumped into once. A rotting hand reached in from outside the door but was immediately pulled away. Zhang Min said, “Close the door—!”
Jue Ming closed the door.
The sound of a heavy object falling could be heard, after that, it was quiet outside.
“Dad?” inquired Jue Ming.
“It’s okay…” Zhang Min spoke with a trembling voice, “Don’t look at the spyhole, wait a while.”
Jue Ming silently nodded, but after a short moment, he couldn’t help but go up to the spyhole to look. Zhang Min was currently hiding something inside the safe corridor. He wiped his sweat and said, “Darling, you can open the door now.”
Jue Ming unhooked the door security chain and opened the door.
Zhang Min’s entire body was covered in blood, he was staring at Jue Ming with red eyes as he panted. The two stood facing each other. Zhang Min’s height was 180cm, Jue Ming was only fifteen years old and was shorter than Zhang Min by a head. Due to this, he had to raise his head to look at him.
Zhang Min swallowed his saliva and hugged Jue Ming without hesitation. He touched Jue Ming’s head and said, “Finally… I can see you. I thought I wouldn’t be able to return.”
Jue Ming didn’t say anything besides a short and simple answer, “En.”
Zhang Min, “I love you, darling.”
Jue Ming nodded his head.
Zhang Min closed the door, leaned against it and panted. Jue Ming asked, “Have you eaten yet?”
Zhang Min answered, “Afraid we won’t be able to eat, the stores outside are all closed, maybe next time.”
Jue Ming, “I asked whether you have eaten.”
Zhang Min shook his head blankly and tiredly said, “How about you, darling?”
Jue Ming said, “The electricity is back, I’ll go heat up the rice.”
Zhang Min immediately realised the danger. “No, we need to go. Have you packed all your things? The car is just downstairs, we’ll go immediately and leave this place.”
Jue Ming said, “Are you able to drive?”
Zhang Min opened his eyes, which were strikingly red. He was like a gust of wind in the room. He looked for a can of Red Bull, opened it and chugged it down. Then he entered the bathroom, turned on the shower. Jue Ming went to find a change of clothes for his father.
Zhang Min was twenty-eight years old, he had studied, served as a soldier and had gone to many places from North to South. He was currently a young vigorous man, his skin was healthy and bronzed. He stood underneath the shower-head, letting the hot water wash over him. Naked, the water flowed down his beautiful abdominal muscles, he looked like a wild yet gentle leopard.
Jue Ming stood close by, quietly watching.
The hot water helped Zhang Min relax by no small amount. The nervous tension he felt had subsided, and he finally calmed down. He looked sideways at Jue Ming, wanting to say something.
Jue Ming said, “Dad, I love you too.”
Zhang Min thought of letting Jue Ming come over to shower together, but then he remembered that time was limited, busily he said, “Darling, is everything packed up?”
Jue Ming shook his head then nodded his head. He then left the bathroom.
“How’s the business doing?” asked Jue Ming.
Zhang Min sighed, replying, “Quite well. We will travel from the North and drive on the highway going out of the province. We’re going to a different city, and we’ll go look for Big brother Wang who had invited us out for food last time. It’ll take two days by car to get there.”
Jue Ming asked, “What about this place?”
Zhang Min finished putting on his clothes, changing into a pair of dress pants and shirt. He rushed out, saying, “Don’t care about it anymore.”
Jue Ming, “What about the company?”
Zhang Min was silent for a moment, then answered, “Can’t continue work anymore. After we leave, we’ll give them a call tomorrow. Let’s go.”
Zhang Min took the suitcase, the suitcase was dragged behind him. He opened the door with one hand and held onto his adoptive child with the other. Stopping at the door, the pool of blood had become dry and sticky.
“Don’t look, darling,” said Zhang Min quietly, then he slung his right arm over Jue Ming’s shoulders and used his hand to cover the boy’s eyes, half hugging him as they exited the corridor.
Jue Ming didn't struggle, stumbling along as he followed Zhang Min. They entered the elevator and went down to the parking lot. Zhang Min took Jue Ming straight to the car. He breathed in deeply once before taking a brown car sunshade and pasting it against the front passenger window. He let Jue Ming buckle his seatbelt, then found a blanket and covered him with it.
“Sleep a while. Dad will call you later,” said Zhang Min.
Jue Ming nodded his head, and curled into the blanket like a cat. “Is there enough fuel?”
Zhang Min turned and looked backwards. After a moment, he decided to go to Jue Ming and kissed his face.
Jue Ming stretched his hands out to embrace Zhang Min’s neck, he was quite attached to him, and Zhang Min said, “Let’s go.” He rubbed Jue Ming’s forehand softly, then started the car and drove off.
F city looked like it had been cleansed by an apocalyptic catastrophe. The street lights were dimly lit on the street, newspapers were flying across the street. Abandoned vehicles were thrown to the sides of the streets and the billboards flashed intermittently.
Zhang Min drove along the road through the deserted urban area, the scene was eye-opening. There had not been such a scene when he had been driving back home at high-speeds earlier, but in a short night’s time, the entire F city’s park and streets were completely empty.
There was a person wandering around on the road.
Zhang Min turned the steering wheel fiercely, the brakes causing a harsh sharp sound. However, he was unable to turn completely and stop, thus the car slammed into the man, sending the person in the street flying.
Jue Ming immediately opened his eyes, waking up. Zhang Min said, “It’s nothing, I’ll exit the car to take a look.” After saying this, he unfastened his seatbelt but Jue Ming kept on grabbing onto his sleeves.
Not far away from them, the ‘corpse’ on the street that had been knocked over, used the ground as support, staggering to its feet.
Zhang Min gasped then fastened his seatbelt, bypassed the dead person and drove forwards.
As the car passed the blockade, the policeman signalled Zhang Min to roll down the window, he looked into the car with a flashlight, lighting up Jue Ming’s youthful face.
The policeman asked, "Are you hurt? If you’ve been scratched or bitten go to the clinic next door to dress the wounds."
"No.” Zhang Min couldn't help but feel a chill. "Just what happened?"
"Rabies outbreak,” said the policeman. "Didn’t you listen to the broadcast?”
Zhang Min shook his head, both he and Jue Ming looked normal, nothing like a sick person.
The policeman looked at Jue Ming and asked, "What about you? Take out your ID and let me see, what’s your job? Where do you live?”
Zhang Min said, "He is my son, adoptive son, I'm his guardian.”
A policewoman came over, gestured and said, “I’ll check your eyes.”
Jue Ming’s pupils weren’t very suitable for adjusting to light, and contracted slightly. The police officer commented, "A very beautiful boy, where’s your mother? Why don't you say anything? Is your body uncomfortable? What is your name?” She was talking about the identity card.
Zhang Min said, "Darling? Tell the uncle your name.”
Jue Ming opened his mouth to say, “Jue Ming.”
Zhang Min smiled embarrassingly. “This child doesn’t like to talk, his mother...”
Jue Ming suddenly said, “I don’t have a mother.”
Zhang Min was very embarrassed, but the police understood, nodded and gestured, letting them go.
Eventually, there were more and more living people. Zhang Min’s breaths were still shaky. The road exiting the highway was a long queue of cars. There were cars all around them, and there were many car owners that rolled down their windows to shout and scold from time to time.
Zhang Min finally let out a sigh of relief.
There were still two hundred metres before they arrived at the highway toll station, the glare from four lights shone onto the road, turning it white. There was a quarrel in the distance, and the broadcast from a loudspeaker could be heard.
"Please wait patiently, you will need to be checked and inspected when you pass through the gate...”
It seemed like they wouldn't be going anywhere for awhile. There were armed policemen in all directions. There shouldn't be any big problems. Zhang Min had been driving for nearly 15 hours, and he could no longer stand it. He said, "Darling.”
Jue Ming was in front of the window and looking out. When he was called, he turned his head to look at Zhang Min.
Zhang Min said, "Go to sleep for a while again, obey me.”
Jue Ming shook his head, Zhang Min followed his gaze outside, and said, “Dad will rest for a while, when the car in front of us is gone, yell for me.”
Jue Ming nodded. Zhang Min took off his coat and covered himself with it. He laid against the driver’s seat and closed his eyes. Jue Ming looked out the window. The dark sky was lit by lightning, flashing one after another. Under the highway junction, the vast wilderness was connected to the heavens.
There was a jeep parked next to their car, their positions slightly staggered. Jue Ming was facing the jeep’s rear side windows.
There was a woman sitting there, she turned her head and smiled at Jue Ming.
Jue Ming pressed one hand to the window. It was raining again, and the crystal-like rain splashed against the glass.
It was unknown how much time had passed, but the woman at the Jeep window had disappeared.
Suddenly blood splattered on the window. The sounds of screams came out, and a bloody handprint appeared on the window.
Zhang Min was suddenly awoken, the police outside were shouting.
"Open the door—!”
“The people inside the car, put your hands on your head and exit the car—!”
Jue Ming probed around and saw that the jeep’s driver door had been pulled open. Several policemen pressed the car owner to the ground. The owner couldn't help but struggle, one policeman’s arm was bitten. The policeman couldn’t help but yell in pain.
The father and son duo quietly watched this scene.
The police dragged the car owner who was biting away. The blood was cleaned off the car and washed away onto the road by the rain. The woman who had previously smiled at Jue Ming — half her body was hanging out from the car, it had been bitten to the point that it was unrecognisable.
Jue Ming said, “Teacher Xiao.”
Zhang Min, "..."
The deceased woman was a teacher in Jue Ming’s school. He waved at her. Zhang Min said, “Don’t look outside. She’s gone already, darling.”
The stalled car queue finally began moving again. Jue Ming’s distracted gaze was in the direction the lights were pointing towards.
It was finally their turn to pass the gate. The duo was taken to a brightly-lit cabin and inside sat several doctors.
"Where are you going?” one person asked.
Zhang Min answered, “Going to S city.”
"Take off your clothes.”
Zhang Min took off his outer clothing and trousers. A few people looked at him, Zhang Min put his clothes and helped undress Jue Ming.
"Come over for an injection,” said another nurse.
The needle for the vaccination was very thin. After the injection, Zhang Min asked, "What serum is this?”
A doctor raised his eyes and said, "There's also a rabies outbreak at the place where you want to go. It is recommended to go Northwest. Do you have relatives in the Northwest?”
"Boss Zhang!” A competent doctor noticed Zhang Min.
Zhang Min shook hands with him. Jue Ming walked to the side of the car. Zhang Min asked, “Is it an epidemic disease?”
The chief physician whispered, "I don't know clearly, can Boss Zhang mobilize support for medicinal ingredients?”
Zhang Min smiled and shook his head. The employees were gone, mobilise what support for medicinal ingredients? Zhang Min’s hometown was in the countryside not far from here. When he had retired as a soldier a few years ago, he went to the provincial capital to start a business. He started a small-scale medicinal ingredients company with the knowledge and craftsmanship of Chinese medicine passed down by his father. It was a business dealing in medicinal ingredients with several large hospitals in the provincial capital. The chief physician in front of him was a person who had received his red envelope before.
Zhang Min said, "There isn't much stock left, I'm planning to go out to purchase goods. I just came back not long ago. The goods haven't arrived yet. The deposit has already been paid..." As he was speaking, his hands were searching for something in his coat pocket, but he was unable to feel anything.
Jue Ming walked over and handed him a pack of cigarettes. Zhang Min was crying and laughing, thinking, Fortunately Jue Ming remembered to bring cigarettes.
The doctor in charge took one and Zhang Min helped light his cigarette, and asked, "Is there a vaccine already?”
The supervisor said, "The effects aren't clear, but it's harmless to the human body. Get an injection first and see, still need to be careful.”
Zhang Min nodded, and the doctor in charge said, "Pay attention to the radio. Although the epidemic came fiercely, it has yet to reach the scale of the SARS epidemic in the past, it should be able to get better.”
Zhang Min said, "When you leave, all of you must also pay attention to your safety.”
He said goodbye to the doctor, entered the car and left the highway, departing for S city.
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Cat.