While Yohan and the volunteers were clearing out zombies upstairs, three figures were standing in front of the door to the food storage. They tried opening the door several times, but it was locked tight. The figures whispered amongst themselves. One of them had a hammer and positioned himself to hit the doorknob with it. The three exchanged a look and nodded in agreement.
“Stop it.” Hyuk’s voice interrupted them just before they struck the handle. The three turned to look at Hyuk and jeered at him.
“What? Are you going to boss us around too?”
“You should just go take care of your brother.”
“If you put it down now, I won’t tell anyone,” Hyuk said.
“Don’t you have any pride?”
Hyuk frowned. He honestly didn’t need to hear this from these lowlives. Seeing Hyuk deep in thought, the three continued.
“Honestly, whose fault is it that your brother got hurt? It’s that bastard—what’s his name—Yohan that made him that way.”
“He’s right. Gunn could have kept living normally if Yohan hadn’t taken you all into a zombie filled area. Why are you even following him around still? Don’t you have any pride?”
Hyuk could see flickers of madness behind their eyes. There was no point in reasoning with them. Even if they managed to break open the door and steal the supplies, they lacked the ability to survive if they left the camp and wouldn’t be able to resist Yohan’s wrath when he returned. All they had was a shortsighted plan that was motivated by hunger. Hyuk was being merciful in giving them a way out.
“Please leave while I’m being nice,” Hyuk repeated. Even though it was a three-against-one advantage for the trio, they didn’t seem confident that they could fight Hyuk. At the same time, they didn’t back down. They just stood there. Feeling impatient, Hyuk pulled out a kitchen knife from his waist.
“If you’re not going to fight, don’t waste my time.”
“Y—you!” If the trio had any inclination to fight, they wouldn’t just be standing there idly. Finally, the three slowly walked away. Hyuk watched them leave with a dark expression on his face. Their earlier comments still lingering in his mind.
* * *
The non-fighting members of the camp went up to the ground floor after getting the news that all of the zombies there were taken care of. They were met with such a putrid hellscape that some people began throwing up.
“Clean up the mess that you made,” Yohan quietly remarked.
“How can you say that?”
“What? We’re not going to have one cleaning group for zombies and another one for vomit. At least go and make sure that girl is ok.” Yohan indicated at a female student who was still throwing up. Saeri went over and patted her on the back.
“Jung Hwan, take Ki Moon and a few more people to the loading dock and grab a dolly and a rolltainer.”
“You know, the cart with wheels. It’s square and tall. You guys put the boxes of ramen on it.”
“Oh, you mean a rolling cart? Got it.”
“Okay everyone. We’re going to load the zombies onto these carts and burn them on the rooftop. Before you touch them, make sure that they’re actually dead.” As Yohan shouted out his instructions, Hyuk appeared with three men in tow. With some prodding from Hyuk, the three started helping out, but wore sulky expressions on their faces. Yohan surmised that there was some conflict between them earlier. He approached Hyuk.
“Still the same.”
“I see. I’m sorry to hear that. How are you doing?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Take care of yourself mentally. Try to keep your head straight at all times.” Yohan patted Hyuk on the back a couple of times. Hyuk didn’t say anything until Yohan turned around to leave.
“Yohan,” Hyuk whispered. Yohan turned around once more.
“I don’t blame you.” Hyuk and Yohan’s eyes met.
‘Is there something bothering him?’ Yohan pondered for a moment, but then conceded with a nod.
“If you need someone to blame, you can blame me.”
“Gunn is either going to die or will have to live on with just one arm. Neither scenario is ideal and I’ll always feel guilty about that.”
“You remember the people from your previous excursion group that died? What were their names again? Oh yeah, Sung Hyun, Sae Hwa, and… I can’t remember the other person’s name. Anyways, the memory of them is haunting you, right? Like a nightmare. They keep appearing in your dreams, right?”
“How did you…”
“It’ll only get worse. You’re not the kind of guy that forgets people easily. That’s your burden to bear.” Yohan patted Hyuk on the shoulder again. “When you’re ready to take responsibility and bear that burden… that’s when you’re ready to lead people in this messed up world.”
People were responsible for their own actions and decisions. This was true whether they were willingly volunteering, reluctantly persuaded, or forcefully coerced. Once somebody decides to do something, you can’t blame the consequences of that decision or action on someone else.
Still, it was impossible to shake the guilt that comes with the death of a comrade, whether it was because you failed to protect them or because your decisions led to their death. As guilt built up, Yohan had seen many people break under its weight.
However, Yohan had built up tolerance against it. In the previous timeline he had already experienced a lifetime’s worth of guilt and did not let it get to him. As he walked away, Hyuk stared at his back with a blank expression on his face.
Yohan watched as the camp survivors filled the carts with corpses, making sure no one wandered off. Once the carts were full, he gave instructions to start moving them. The scene of people pushing the carts around reminded him of mall employees getting ready for a grand opening. However, there was an element of morbidness to it as the carts were filled with corpses and blood was trickling down the metal cages.
The cart pushers stopped at the loading dock. There were still quite a lot of supplies here. Like fresh snow, no one had touched it yet. The supplies were still covered in clear plastic wrap, making everything look radiant as it reflected the sunlight.
“Even if half of this stuff is expired and would need to be tossed, there should still be enough to last us around three months,” Yohan commented. All the camp survivors gave him a hopeful look. Suddenly, pushing these corpse-filled carts didn’t seem so bad. The fact that the zombies were cleared out and additional supplies were obtained made the future look bright. There was hope that they would be able to live longer now.
“Oh, there’s beer. I guess we’re having a party.”
“I wished we had some fried chicken to go with it… But Yohan, how will we move these…”
“Jung Hwan, you see the wooden frame on the bottom?” Yohan pointed at the base of the boxes.
“That’s a pallet. And that orange device over there is a pallet jack. Insert the pallet jack into the pallet, pump the lever a few times, and you’ll be able to move the whole stack. However, the problem is we don’t have a good place to store everything. Once we get back to camp, we’ll need to find a bigger storage room.”
“Got it.” Everyone was still staring at the supplies with a dumbfounded look on their faces as Yohan started to move on.
“The supplies won’t run away, so let’s just leave it for now.”
The group left the loading dock and climbed two floors up to the rooftop garden. Along the way, they group encountered only two zombies, but they were dispatched easily.
“Wow!” The camp survivors yelled in excitement. The bright sun was blinding, but the early summer breeze was warm and felt nice against their faces. It had been six months since any of them had left the underground floors and they all breathed deeply as if they were enjoying the fresh air at the top of a mountain. The air probably wasn’t that clean, but Yohan decided to let them have their moment. With no cars generating air pollution, the air quality was probably better than it was six months ago anyways.
People gathered by the railings and looked out. Even the volunteers, who had been fighting alongside him with intense ferocity a few hours ago, were relaxing by the railings. Yohan was the only person who was still tense. The gray cityscape before them was in desolation. Black smoke was trailing out from various parts of the city and only the undead could be seen crowding the streets.
The city stank of death. It was also quiet, proof that it had become a ghost town. It felt as if any sound they made on the rooftop would echo endlessly throughout the city, so all the camp survivors remained silent.
While everyone was lost in thought, staring at the cityscape of a ruined world, Yohan was focused on one place. S University Hospital. They definitely needed a doctor or a nurse. If it wasn’t already too late, getting one could save Gunn.
‘Even if there aren’t any medical professionals, if we could at least find some medicine… or blood transfusion bags, it would help Gunn a lot.’
“To think there were this many zombies…” Jung Hwan felt a loss for words when he saw the endless crowds of zombies.
“We made a lot of noise, so zombies nearby started gathering around the mall. They’ll thin out again over time.”
“I guess it really is the apocalypse.”
“The world as we knew it before is gone, but it’s not the end of humanity.”
“I think the human race is already done for,” Saeri remarked, disagreeing with Yohan.
“There’s a lot of survivors like us. More than you think. Big cities are dangerous because there are a lot of zombies but, in remote places, there might be people who haven’t even seen a zombie yet.”
Just then, as if right on cue, they heard far away gunshots from the direction of Bupyeong. Yohan shrugged his shoulders at the coincidence.
“See? Military bases still exist as well. Anyways, let’s get back to work. Stack the corpses.”
Yohan grabbed the gasoline that Sung Bae provided and made sure that the surrounding area was clear of flammable material before he started pouring it on the pile of corpses. Once he lit the pile on fire, flames and a foul odor arose.
“Do we have to burn them like this?” Saeri covered her nose.
“An infectious disease can spread in the summer if we just let the corpses rot. Burning them is the most effective way to get rid of them.”
“But the smoke is too noticeable.”
“Of course it’s noticeable.”
“What do we do if people find us?”
“Well, if someone can get past all the zombies around the mall and enter the camp, they’re sure to be useful to have around.”
“What if they come with bad intentions?”
“Then we kill them,” Yohan replied, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. Saeri kept her mouth closed after that.
It took a long time for the corpses to burn away, but the camp survivors seemed pretty energetic. A single hard day of work was more meaningful than the dull six months that they had endured. Hope was growing stronger and was reflected in their eyes as they watched the flames.
“We still have to do three more trips, so grab the carts and let’s hurry. Jung Hwan, stay here and keep an eye on the fire. Be careful and let it burn slowly. If you add too much fuel, it’ll get too big and spread.”
“Okay. What are you going to do Yohan?”
“I’m going to go check that out real quick.” Yohan pointed at the water tank. It no longer provided water, but Yohan still wanted to examine it just in case. There were actually two water tanks. He examined both tanks and then looked back at the camp survivors and smiled.
“This camp really is lucky.”
There was still water in one of the tanks.
— Ω —
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