Edited by Beth
“Can you hold on?” Chuncao asked without turning around.
After a few hours following the nerve-wracking birth, Dr. Zheng was on the brink of collapse. He was carrying the howling baby in his arms, while on his back was the weak yet gasping mother. However, the weight of both the mother and child seemed to have filled him with endurance. Dr. Zheng replied firmly, “Yes!”
Si Nan spoke quietly. “Be alert. We’ll go upstairs.”
Chuncao led the way, with the doctor in the middle and Si Nan at the rear. Taking advantage of the lack of zombie activity in the corridor, they ran as fast as they could.
Still, despite having put in their best effort, the small team who were determined to survive lacked any speed to speak of. The shuffling steps of the zombies drew closer; moans could then be heard coming from around the corner. The zombies were catching up!
Si Nan, “Fire!”
Chuncao spun around, aimed, and both simultaneously pulled the triggers.
Dr. Zheng was a citizen used to living in peace. Shocked by the sudden burst of gunfire, he shouted. Vaguely, he could feel someone pulling on him. However, in the dark surroundings, with bullets flying about, he was unable to tell if it was human or zombie. All he could do was protect the child as best he could.
“Run, run, run!!” A few seconds later, Dr. Zheng had someone roaring in his ears. It was Chuncao. “The stairs— get upstairs!”
Carrying the mother on his back, Dr. Zheng ran for his life. Chuncao and Si Nan suppressed the zombies with their firing whilst they dragged him towards the stairway. But just as they were about to head upwards, Chuncao’s voice cracked as she shouted, “There are zombies here as well! Be careful!”
Standing in the middle of the corridor, Si Nan fired ceaselessly at the zombies whilst glancing to his left and at the floor below.
Within the bright bursts of gunfire, he spotted another group of groaning and staggering zombies as they made their way up!
Zombies were suddenly flanking them from both sides— they were truly unlucky. Si Nan steered his weapon, shooting nonstop while back-to-back with Chuncao, attacking as best they could. He barked a command at Dr. Zheng without looking at him, “Go! Get upstairs!”
However, Dr. Zheng was restricted while carrying a child in his arms and a woman on his back. With the deafening firing of the guns, bullets spraying all over within the darkness, and his age catching up with him, he stumbled a few steps and nearly tripped up the stairs.
Wang Wen opened her eyes with great effort.
Their surroundings were enclosed in darkness, but with a burst of light which came from gun-fire, as well as a ray of moonlight which flooded in from somewhere, she was still able to see her daughter’s face.
The baby was so small, so delicate. Her face was flushed, and her little limbs were flailing as she cried.
Wang Wen smiled, trying her best to reach out.
This is my darling’s little face.
These are my darling’s little hands.
These are my darling’s legs, and look at how much energy she has.
How nice, she thought. My darling will definitely be able to grow up strong, unlike her useless mother who is dragging down so many good, capable people despite being on the brink of death.
Grabbing hold of the handrail, Dr. Zheng finally managed to reach the top floor. Before he even had the time to steady himself, he felt a cold hand patting his back.
It was actually rather scary, but at such a critical point in time, Dr. Zheng did not react at all. He heard Wang Wen’s hoarse voice right next to his ear, and she only said two words. “Run quickly.”
It was followed by a weight lifting from his back. Wang Wen had actually pushed herself off.
“Don’t—!” Dr. Zheng realised what was happening. He abruptly roared, only to see a figure lean over the handrails and fall to the floor below!
Chuncao jerked her head back. “No!!”
With a slam Wang Wen landed heavily amongst the zombies!
The scent of fresh blood stopped the zombies swarming up the stairs. Chuncao and Dr. Zheng were both frozen in shock.
“..ru-run! Quickly!” Si Nan shouted as his voice trembled. “Don’t watch! Run!”
After only half a second, the three people who had taken advantage of the zombies wrestling for food, scrambled their way up!
There was a total of ten floors in the dormitory building. Carrying the child, Dr. Zheng scrambled up the stairs. Si Nan and Chuncao were either side of him, supporting him as they ran. They soon arrived at the top.
At the end of the day, the speed of the zombies was lacking in comparison to that of a human. So when they reached the top floor they could barely hear the movement of the zombies. Only hollow moans and groans could be heard, reverberating up the stairway.
The top floor seemed to have been used by the building’s supervisor. There was a metal door at the top of the stairway and Si Nan swiftly shot the lock with his gun. After making sure that Dr. Zheng and Chuncao went through first, he reacted quickly and blocked the door with some junk.
“Si Nan! Here— quickly!”
Chuncao opened one of the doors off the corridor. It was a large suite, with a couch and a bonsai tree. Dr. Zheng collapsed immediately upon entering, falling straight onto the ground as he held onto the infant; not even having the strength to stand up.
Si Nan locked the door. Together with Chuncao, they pushed the couch and all other available items of furniture to block the doorway.
The infant’s cries became louder amidst the silence of the room. Before Dr. Zheng could even coax her, Chuncao plonked herself straight down onto the ground and could no longer suppress her tears; they dripped down her face. “Why did she have to jump?”
Si Nan sat down in the corner of the room. He gasped for air, covering his eyes.
“Why did she have to seek death in such a way? She just gave birth, how could she bear to do it?”
The infant seemed to have been influenced by the sorrow and despair of the adults. Her limbs flailed continuously as she wailed at the top of her lungs. Chuncao took the child from Dr. Zheng’s arms and bundled her in her arms. She was extremely upset. “We were willing to protect her, so why did she have to kill herself? She might have survived! We weren’t at such a point where we had no other options!”
Dr. Zheng covered his face as his shoulders trembled. A moment later, he raised his tear-stained face and sighed. “When the zombies come.. I’ll.. just let me go and divert them away. The two of you can quickly escape with the child. You’re soldiers.. you’re more qualified than us ordinary people. Your chances of surviving this are greater..”
“What nonsense are you spouting?!” Chuncao demanded. “You’re a doctor! Even more people need you! Do you understand?!”
Dr. Zheng could only respond dejectedly, “I’m just a useless doctor. If only I could’ve sped up her birth.. if I had run faster.. things wouldn’t have turned out like this. At the end of the day, this is all because of my uselessness and I—”
“If you’re saying stuff like that, then doesn’t that mean I’m the one who deserves to die the most?” Si Nan suddenly spoke up from the corner of the room. “I’m no one, nothing more than a volunteer.”
Dr. Zheng and Chuncao exclaimed simultaneously, “Shut up!”
“So stop speaking like that. For all we know, Zhou Rong will be here soon to pick us up.” Si Nan sighed before reminding them, “Quickly, keep the child quiet.”
—will your Captain Zhou really return to a place crawling with zombies?
Dr. Zheng’s lips moved but he didn’t voice his thoughts as in the following moment, the howling infant drew his attention away.
It was actually a good sign that a baby eight-weeks premature could cry like that, but zombies retained their basic biological instincts and would naturally chase after both sounds and the smell of blood. With the current volume of crying, the zombies would eventually find them.
A large crowd of zombies had already broken through a metal door downstairs, how long would a door being propped up by junk last? If and when the zombies started looking for the source of the noise, the three of them would be sitting ducks!
Dr. Zheng was anxious. He took back the child from Chuncao’s arms and paced about while coaxing her gently. “Be good, be good, don’t cry anymore, go to sleep, go to sleep, be good…”
Still, as the child had yet to taste a drop of milk since her birth, her cries became even more strenuous until she looked almost out of breath. It was impossible to make such a young baby quieten down. If they covered her mouth, she would most definitely suffocate. Dr. Zheng shuddered; trapped between a rock and a hard place.
“They’re on the move,” Si Nan looked over from pressing his ear against the floor.
The desperate cries of the baby became everyone’s death-call. Dr. Zheng and Chuncao looked at each other, the circumstances becoming more perilous by the second.
“Give her to me,” Si Nan instructed.
Dr. Zheng responded without thinking. “What are you planning?!”
Si Nan removed the bedsheet and tore it into strips. After a few alterations, he tied the baby to the front of his chest and knotted the fabric so she firmly positioned. After that, he pushed the nearby window open and looked downwards.
The area in front of the building was swarming with zombies; too many to count. In the distance, the industrial zone had completely turned into a sea of zombies as well, so it was likely there would be thousands of them making their way south.
Si Nan rotated his head, looking up. Above the window, a pipe, and further up was the rooftop.
“It’s too.. it’s too dangerous..” Dr. Zheng’s voice trembled.
Si Nan tightened the strap of his gun, fixing it securely over his shoulder. After spitting into his palms, he rubbed them together.
“Stay here and don’t make a sound. Chuncao, take care of the doctor,” he commanded clearly. “Wait for Zhou Rong to come rescue us.”
Then, under the nervous gaze of Chuncao and Dr. Zheng, he leant out of the window and grabbed hold of the pipe. He firstly tested its strength before heaving himself upwards.
“Ah!” Dr. Zheng exclaimed before covering his mouth tightly.
Chuncao reached out of the window, ready to catch him at any moment. Si Nan twisted in the air, curving his body upwards. With astonishing flexibility, he managed to hook one of his legs onto the railing of the rooftop. Using the strength of just that one leg, he managed to support his entire body. Then, with a gracefully athletic movement, he curled his body upwards!
He managed to grab hold of the railing and flip himself over it!
In that instant, both him and the baby were completely suspended in the air. The only support being the slender ankle hooked over the railing. Chuncao’s heart jolted so hard it almost stopped. Only when Si Nan’s call of, ‘Done!’, echoed down from the roof did she give a sigh of relief.
“Don’t be scared!” Si Nan called from where he stood on the roof. “Make sure the door is properly reinforced and don’t make a sound!”
The baby was crying to the point of breathlessness. Si Nan didn’t know how to comfort her, so out of courtesy, he rubbed her little belly with two fingers as he strode towards the only passage between the top floor and the rooftop— the skylight.
The skylight was covered by a wooden board. After removing it, he found a ladder. The facilities of the dormitory were old and this wooden ladder was typically used by the cleaner when tidying up the rooftop.
Zombies continued to flood the building, about to reach the floor they were on. The resonating sound of a baby crying was like a beacon for them that dinner was about to start. Increasing numbers of zombies crammed their way up, bringing with them a bloody, rotting scent as they went for the wooden ladder.
Si Nan raised his machine gun. Just when he was about to pull the trigger, he remembered something. Tearing two small pieces off the corner of his shirt, he rolled them into tiny balls and carefully popped them into the baby’s ears. From there, he open-fired on the wooden ladder, shattering it.
Growls and groans rose into the air.
The zombies were hit by fragments of the wooden ladder. They moaned unhappily, desperately reaching upwards.
Under the lifeless eyes of the living dead, Si Nan slammed the wooden board down over the skylight and heaved a breath of relief.
Fortunately, the design of the building was old-fashioned. It was lucky because there was no emergency stairway which reached the roof. Otherwise, to ensure everyone’s safety he would have had no other option but to kill the baby.
It was currently already half four in the morning. The darkest period before dawn. The moon was hidden, the stars invisible, and the earth was like an abyss reaching out with its bloody jaws.
Si Nan shivered from the cold. He looked at his multifunctional military watch. It was -6 ̊C.
The child was not wearing any thick clothes so her skin was pale from the chill. Her sobbing had gradually weakened too. With the child kept close, Si Nan found a sheltered corner from the wind and sat down. Trying his best to curl into a ball and keep the tiny body of the baby as close to his chest as possible. He wrapped his arms around her, putting all his effort into sharing his body warmth to preserve the child’s life.
As a baby which was eight weeks premature, the function of her organs had yet to fully develop. Immediately upon birth, she had already experienced so much suffering and it really made one wonder how she would be able to survive.
“You have to live,” Si Nan whispered. “Your mother will be watching from up above.”
He looked at the child’s soft downy hair, wondering if the little girl was hungry. However, he didn’t dare ask Dr. Zheng, in fear that the zombies would be attracted to them once he did. He had no other option, with a lack of supplies for the baby, but to lick his ring finger as a form of basic sterilisation before allowing the infant to suckle on it.
The newborn had very good survival instincts and actually sucked on Si Nan’s finger a couple of times. However, as she got nothing out of it, feeling deceived, she cried even harder.
“Ah, damn.” Si Nan thought, “This little thing is really picky.”
Steeling himself, Si Nan bit down on his index finger. Squeezing out a droplet of blood, he once again fed his finger to the baby.
At least this time, there was some form of warm fluid. The little mouth worked on suckling his finger, but started crying afterwards. However, her cries were a little quieter and less desperate.
Si Nan could only pray for the little girl’s digestive system as he continued squeezing out blood. But this time, the blood supply from his ring finger stopped. So he changed to his little finger, and then to the index finger on his other hand. The baby continued to sob as she sucked on the finger, but just as if she was suckling her mother’s milk, she gradually quietened down— even becoming a little docile.
At least blood could be considered somewhat nutritious. It should be able to sustain the child for a little while, but it was not feasible long-term. Si Nan was not afraid that the child would be sick from his blood, but that it would be troublesome if she suffered gastric inflammation due to the bacteria on his hands. Each time before feeding her, he would carefully lick his finger clean, so in the end his fingers were covered with the taste of gunpowder.
It was 5.30am.
The night grew a little lighter and the sky a little brighter. Peering down from the building’s rooftop, the previous sea of zombies had somewhat lessened, with the marred and damaged industrial zone appearing hazily in the distance.
Si Nan felt the fatigue coursing through his body. He shuddered and hugged the baby closer to him.
Would Zhou Rong return?
Actually, he himself was not really sure.
There was no solid reason why Zhou Rong should return, but there was even more reasons why he definitely shouldn’t. He needed to deliver the antivirus data along with the serum to Nanhai. He needs to lead the team and safeguard the two vehicles filled with survivors. He is the Captain of the Special Forces, and by living, he would be able to save even more citizens. Objectively speaking, if that person had any sense, they would definitely not return.
But he was Zhou Rong.
The same Zhou Rong who carries his emotions on his sleeve; was overbearing and tyrannical while carrying with him the hope even in dark times that made everyone entrust him with their lives.
Si Nan exhaled slowly. He raised his head, looking out into the distance, his eyes sweeping aimlessly through the sea of zombies.
He had already repeated this action countless times over the past hour. However this time, something caught his eye.
Travelling along a road in the distance, lights of a car flashed brightly, followed by the roar of an engine growing closer. The zombies that were too slow to dodge, were ground to paste under its wheels and the bloodbath extended into the horizon behind the vehicle.
The car was headed straight for the centre of the building which was surrounded by the sea of zombies. Casually, a window wound down and the barrel of an RPG launcher slid out.
Wherever the mortar landed, the zombies exploded and soon countless living dead burst into pieces.
The gunfire was like a gorgeous fireworks display in the gradually-lightening sky, smacking viciously into the swarm of zombies. The smoke was thick and sparks flew everywhere. The vehicle’s headlights were like swords slicing through the shadows, forging a path through death and blood, through the obstacles of heaven and earth and yet were seemingly invincible.