Part 1 – Survival Game
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1. The Return
Year 2020, Nanji Hangang Park
‘More than anything, I wish I could have a cigarette right now. Has it been 6 months since I last smoked one? No, it feels like it’s been at least 8 months.’
“To think that smoking is all that I can think about right before I die.” A chuckle escaped his lips. Even he could tell that these thoughts were ridiculous.
Blood trickled down from his torn shoulder and soaked through his shirt. He cringed involuntarily, unaccustomed to the pain. It was the first wound that he had received from a zombie and, in this damn apocalypse scenario that didn’t allow for a single mistake, it would be the last wound as well.
Yohan slowly raised his head as he wiped his forehead with the back of his hand. The scenery around where he was sitting stood out to him.
It was complete hell.
A complete annihilation without a single survivor in sight. His entire party was wiped out again. He had stopped keeping track of the party death count once it hit the double-digits. He had already seen hundreds of his allies die. The names—and even the faces—of those who died near the beginning were faint in his memory.
Yohan shifted his gaze to his right. Next to him was the last zombie that he killed. Just a few hours ago, it had still been his oldest and longest companion. It was someone who had been with him to the very end, even when Yohan had given up his humanity to survive in this fallen world. And it was the one who infected him.
He was completely exhausted. It had been three years since the zombies first appeared. He had endured and survived for a long time, but it would all end here. Is there anyone still left alive? His party might have been the very last of humanity.
The final battle between groups, who had been at odds with each other over dwindling supplies, was fierce. It was a battle between two forces who were quite strong and had survived for a long time.
His team was annihilated and the opposing team suffered a blow that was most likely impossible to recover from. Although his team was the one defeated, both sides ultimately lost.
He had already tried his best to survive. He felt like he could take a well-earned rest now.
Yohan closed his eyes.
* * *
It’s an odd feeling opening your eyes after you thought you had closed them for the last time. Yohan also had a strange feeling that there was a soft blanket covering his body.
Yohan’s eyes shot open and he froze as he was met with an unbelievable scene.
“This place is…”
It was a place that he remembered vaguely. He had opened his eyes and saw that he was in the rented room in Incheon that he had lived in since he was 24.
“What is this…”
Yohan looked around at his surroundings. His room was filled with useless things. There was a computer, an air conditioner, and a washing machine. It was just as he remembered it.
*Pick me, pick me, pick me up*
The ringtone from his cellphone snapped Yohan out of his daze. He answered the phone while still a bit disoriented.
“Hey you!” shouted a voice through the phone. Yohan frowned.
“Who is this?” he asked.
“Are you out of your mind? Do you know what time it is? Why aren’t you at work yet!”
“Get over here now!” shouted the man once more before he hung up on Yohan. The caller’s number was saved on his phone and identified the man as “Deputy Manager Moon”.
However, what caught Yohan’s eye more was the date displayed on his phone.
September 2016. It was six months before the zombies went rampant. A time when the world was still peaceful.
‘Is this a dream?’
Confused, Yohan pinched himself. He definitely felt the pain. Was the apocalypse that he experienced just a dream? He hastily scanned through his three years worth of memories.
He didn’t think that he just had a long, awful nightmare. There was no reason he would dream over three years worth of content. Additionally, he could remember specific incidents and people very vividly. Though he had early comrades whose names and faces he could barely recall, he could never forget how fiercely he struggled to survive. Even now, his body was still tense, ready to respond at any moment to rotting corpses rising up and lunging at him jaw-first.
‘If that’s the case, don’t tell me…’
He had returned to the past. There was no other explanation except that. There was no way to physically explain it, but the idea was already solidifying in Yohan’s head. He rested his hand on his forehead and laid back down on his blanket.
He had returned.
Although he never wished for it, Yohan was revived and returned. Initially, he felt resentment towards the fact that he would have to go through the entire ordeal once again. But that was quickly washed away by a feeling of relief. He felt the relief in being able to peacefully take a breath again.
Yohan picked up his cellphone and slowly typed out a text message.
<I will take the day off today because I am not feeling well.>
His company will disappear without a trace in six months. Rather than going to work, Yohan wanted to enjoy the comforts of the present day. He wanted to rest.
Yohan closed his eyes and buried his face into his pillow. The softness of the cotton fabric was so cozy. It was a feeling of comfort that he hadn’t experienced in a long time; it felt almost too good to be true. He fell asleep almost immediately.
* * *
Yohan’s eyes shot open. His body felt so refreshed that he felt like he could fly. He had slept more soundly than he ever did in those three years. He had thought he would never experience such a deep sleep again.
Looking at the time, he realized that he had slept for almost the entire day. There were nearly thirty missed calls from work. Yohan ignored them and picked up a coupon from the floor. He ordered chicken, pizza, bossam, jokbal, and whatever else he could get his hands on.
It was the first time in three years that he had delivery food and it tasted extremely delicious; to the extent that it brought tears to his eyes.
Yohan binged in decadence. Even though he was shoving food into his mouth non-stop, there was still piles of food to go through.
With his most urgent desires, sleep and food, fulfilled, Yohan’s thoughts became clearer. Then came the memories of the past three years.
March 2017. Exactly six months from now, zombies would appear all over the world. They were a mysterious existence that some called the undead, while others simply labelled them as monsters.
Those who were bitten or scratched by these creatures, and had zombie blood enter their wound, would experience pain akin to having their bodies torn and eaten alive by bugs before dying. Then, they would return as zombies. It could happen as quickly as five minutes post-mortem, but no later than one hour.
Zombies weren’t strong or fast, since they were just a moving corpse. The only problem was their numbers.
The Republic of Korea had completely failed in its initial attempt to suppress the outbreak. The zombies appeared everywhere and spread quickly through the large, densely populated cities of Seoul, Busan, and Daegu, shutting down these major cities’ functions in under a month. And while it took a month for a city to shut down completely, half a day was enough for the city to fall into chaos.
Zombies kept coming no matter how many were killed and food supplies kept decreasing. Yohan speculated that less than 1% of Korea’s population remained after the first year.
At first, people were scared of the zombies, but time proved that other people were the true danger. The Republic of Korea descended into anarchy, filled with murder, robbery, and sexual assault. Even within groups, betrayal existed and it always resulted in the group’s annihilation.
Yohan had witnessed scores of comrades dying. Not twenty people, but twenty groups of people. He survived and suffered through extreme situations alone and thought of suicide many times. However, he survived for three years.
For three years he teetered on the line between life and death. Every time he was about to fall over that line, he would claw his way back. If Yama was real, he would have yanked on his beard to pull himself out of the underworld in order to continue enduring that living hell.
Now that he had returned back to this time, he knew what lay in his future. He could have dismissed it as a dream, but he ruled out that possibility. He had decided to put everything on the line and prepare for the apocalypse. It would be a thousand times worse to be unprepared for the apocalypse than to have his life be messed up because the apocalypse didn’t come as he predicted.
Yohan excised extraneous thoughts from his head and focused on only one thing.
‘In six month’s time, the world will come to ruin and only I know that the apocalypse is coming.’
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