Pairings: Hanchul, Kyumin, Kangteuk
Warnings: the word blood pops up a lot (a lot)
Summary: After Seoul becomes infested with the living dead and the government abandons them; it's only natural that they realise hidden feelings in the midst of disaster - but where are Heechul and Sungmin? What happened to Hankyung? Did Youngwoon and Jungsu escape? And is Kyuhyun really dead?
Notes: Merry Christmas!
prequel 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
They lifted Hankyung’s dead-weight with surprising ease, his arms slung around each of their shoulders to support his slumping body between them. As the elevator descended slowly, shakily, Heechul watched the numbers count down from six with mounting anticipation. His breath accelerated along with his heartbeat and his knuckles throbbed from pummelling Hankyung’s face. The elevator stopped with a jolt, rumbling as the doors slid open.
Sungmin’s eyes were as hard and serious as Heechul’s, an odd expression on such a naturally joyful face. They stepped out cautiously, ready to fight whatever awaited them, but there was nothing. This time they were truly alone.
They stood in a lobby of sorts; a high, domed ceiling and long glass windows filling the large space with sunlight. Corridors led to either side of them, a waiting area and reception before them.
‘What on Earth happened here?’ Sungmin asked as he regarded the building with a look of fear and disbelief. Chairs lay overturned, tables smashed and glass covered the floor. The drag marks were here, too. More, though, darker and thicker, coming from the corridors and leading to the exit. Red handprints coated the glass doors, smeared across the reception desk. Barely a single surface was untouched by the murky red colour of blood. But this was old blood, stale and crisp, the colour of burnt copper. The stench was bearable, barely noticeable compared to the room they looked inside before. There were more pock holes down here, too – great chunks of wall having crumbled apart from the lack of support.
‘I don’t know, but our Chinaman might.’ Heechul said, and he started to walk again, Sungmin falling into step with him. They moved Hankyung to where the seating area used to be, and Heechul let Hankyung’s full weight rest on Sungmin, his small frame dwarfed by the taller, heavier man. He pulled over a seat, motioned for Sungmin to sit him down.
‘Is it safe to stop here?’ Sungmin asked, looking nervously at the destruction around them, but Heechul dismissed his question with a scowl and a wave of his hand, kneeling in front of Hankyung.
You could barely recognise the man now, his face was completely swollen. Heechul touched his bruised cheek softly, almost tenderly before giving it a quick, sharp slap. Sungmin gawked at him, wondering whether he should step in in case Heechul lost it again, but stopped when the Chinese man stirred from unconsciousness with a groan and a murmur.
Hankyung look blearily at Heechul’s face for a moment, collecting the thoughts that Heechul had slapped out of him. His clarity seemed to return briskly, though, as he straightened in his seat, swollen eyes peering at the two with confusion.
And then he frowned, a hand raised to his cheek, his mouth opened to yell. Heechul slapped his hand across Hankyung’s mouth, silencing the man.
‘Be quiet,’ he hissed, his eyes looking here and there as if to warn Hankyung of their dangerous position with only his facial expression. Hankyung shook his head, swatted Heechul’s hand away.
‘We’re fine here for a while,’ he said in a pained voice, ‘calm down.’
‘There’s someone upstairs, they were following us.’ Heechul protested, still on edge.
‘It’s Kyuhyun.’ Hankyung said with a dark look, suggesting something more. ‘Sungmin, stop.’ He hissed rising from his seat as Sungmin ran back to the elevator.
‘Why? Kyuhyun’s up there, still, right? Aren’t we going to take him with us?’ the teen asked, confused. His eyebrows furrowed as he tried to understand the meaning behind Hankyung’s pitiful expression.
‘Kyuhyun is…’ Hankyung paused, grasping for the softest words, ‘different, now. He’s dangerous.’
‘What do you mean?’ Sungmin persisted, his voice incredulous, ‘How is he dangerous?’
‘I’ll explain later, when we’re somewhere safe.’
‘Sungmin, please.’ The Chinese man said with finality in his tone, and Sungmin glared at him. He was sulking visibly, his bottom lip sticking out childishly, but Hankyung was already walking out of the doors, his boots crunching on the broken, bloody glass.
‘I’m sorry,’ he said, without a hint of sorrow in his voice, ‘but we have to get out of this place now. I’ll explain when we’re safe.’
Heechul followed close behind like a lost puppy, not feeling the glass beneath his feet. Hankyung stopped outside the doors for a moment, put a hand to his swollen face and gave Heechul a sour look.
‘You know,’ he mumbled, ‘that beard looks absolutely ridiculous on you.’ A sly smile spread over his puffy features at the look in Heechul’s eyes, but instead of pummelling him again, Heechul only laughed. They walked on as if the phenomenon was completely normal.
Sungmin stepped out into the sunlight, taking a deep breath of the warm air. He couldn’t remember the world ever smelling so fresh. He felt the roughness of the sidewalk on his bare feet as he looked up at the clear, blue sky, letting the sun warm face. He looked at Hankyung, striding confidently ahead with Heechul in tow. Even Hankyung was acting odd, he thought; though it was less visible than the change he saw in Heechul. Heechul was stronger now, almost like an animal. Sungmin didn’t think he’d ever forget the look of Heechul’s eyes as he pummelled Hankyung’s face, how they seemed to glaze and glow. For a moment he’d imagined they’d changed colour completely – turning entirely blue.
He shook his head, dismissing the discomforting thoughts; instead he took a better look at the street they walked on, unfamiliar to his eyes. It was silent all around them and as they walked Sungmin realised it was too quiet; it seemed to close in around him, the sound of his footsteps inaudible over the suffocating sound of nothing. He could see Heechul talking to Hankyung, saw their lips moving in conversation, but he heard nothing. Not a breath of wind or the sound of his own breathing. But then there was a beating, dull and soft, and it grew louder and louder until it was a booming drum in his ears.
‘Why is it so warm?’ He blurted out, his breathing heavy and strained. ‘It’s still February, right? It should be colder than this, surely.’
‘It’s May.’ Hankyung said matter-of-factly, and Heechul’s eyes bulged.
'’What?’ he choked out, his face a picture of total confusion.
‘It’s May.’ Hankyung repeated with that same irritating flatness that grated Sungmin’s nerves terribly. Heechul seemed too shocked to question the revelation any more, simply staring at Hankyung with his big doe-eyes, his mouth hanging slightly slack, unsightly.
Hankyung couldn’t be lying though. Why would he? Had they really been asleep for three whole months? But why, what happened after the roof? After Kyuhyun bit him?
He touched his neck at the thought. His wound was gone completely. Why? He should’ve died from that, surely – Kyuhyun tore half his shoulder out, for God’s sake.
The thought of Kyuhyun made a chill run up his spine, and he stopped walking. The silence was back, the drumming in his ears louder than before. There were eyes on his back, cold, terrifying eyes. He turned, looking around wildly. Nothing. Who was it? A zombie, Kyuhyun? He didn’t know which he should be more frightened of.
‘We’re being watched.’ Hankyung said, and Sungmin jumped. The drumming left him, replaced by the sounds of paper and leaves rustling in the wind. Hankyung and Heechul had also stopped, he saw. ‘They won’t move until its dark, keep walking.’
Sungmin bristled at the command. Hankyung made him feel like a child in the way he spoke to him and he would’ve happily smacked him for his rudeness, but instead he lowered his gaze, moving his feet to walk slowly behind the Chinese man and his puppy. The way Heechul was looking at him was discomforting and he tried to find something else to look at.
The road they walked along was long and empty but for the litter covering the ground. Scraps of paper and plastic bags blew on the breeze, an almost ghostly sound in the desolation around them. There were no cars, no people, no zombies, nothing of what he remembered from before waking up in this place. All that remained of the apocalypse he left behind were the once-blazing skeletons of skyscrapers standing silent against the deep-blue sky. And as his feet met the warm pavement, felt the tiny stones irritate his feet; it dawned on him that it all really happened. His friends, his family, they were all dead. Even Shindong.
The thought of Kyuhyun invaded his mind once again; he recalled those last, long moments before the world turned to a thick, blinding black. His sightless blue eyes, his teeth in his flesh, his cold lips against his skin – yet he still felt love for him, a warmth in his chest; and it was a conscious struggle not to turn and run back inside, to see if Kyuhyun was really alive back there, watching him, waiting for him. Why did Hankyung say he was dangerous? The Chinese man knew things, he could tell. Three months had passed and somehow Hankyung had lived them, somehow he’d escaped the fate that befell him and Heechul. He had so many questions to ask, but he knew Hankyung would only dismiss them in that flat, emotionless way, as he had been doing since Heechul slapped him back to his senses. He pulled the lab coat tight around his naked body, letting out a heartfelt sigh and catching up with the two walking ahead.
Though the ground was littered with rubbish and broken glass, his feet felt no worse than he could remember. The sky had turned a pale grey, now, and Sungmin guessed it was nearly evening when they arrived at Hankyung’s destination. They stood before a large, metal-plated mobile home, and Sungmin couldn’t help but feel disappointed. Was this what Hankyung had lived in these past three months? For all the ‘safety’ he’d sworn of Sungmin had expected to be taken to a fortress, not a camper van. It was large, yes, but did Hankyung really expect them all to live inside it? And for how long?
The sound of keys chimed from beside him as Hankyung unlocked the side door. He gestured for Heechul and Sungmin to enter first, and they did, before he climbed in afterwards.
Seeing the inside of Hankyung’s ‘safe house’ did nothing to quell Sungmin’s disappointment, though it did make him believe that maybe they really had been asleep for three months. They were crammed into a small kitchen, filled with rubbish and dirt and old food. The sink was overflowing with unwashed plates, the oven covered in scorched rice. He’d always taken Hankyung for the tidy type, but apparently he’d judged him incorrectly. Corrugated foil covered the windshield at the front of the van, the only light coming from a small lamp attached to the bottom of a cupboard. A ragged sheet of cloth hung at the end of the kitchen, and Hankyung motioned for them to go through.
And when Sungmin lifted the cloth, he allowed some of his disappointment to ebb away, because what he saw left him awe-struck. The room was small and cluttered; a mattress slumped in the corner, covered with moth-eaten bed-clothes and surrounded by books and plates and clothes. The walls were covered with sticky notes and sheets of paper, a large map taking up the whole wall above the mattress; on it were multiple coloured lines, scribbles and hastily jotted notes, pushpins dotted all over the place. But what caught his eye immediately were the multiple monitors fastened to the far wall, a larger one in the centre; all showing different angles of the street outside, casting a blue-ish glow on the entire room. Wires and cables covered whatever floor still remained, plugs and extensions hidden under food packets and underwear. Hankyung had been busy.
‘There are bunks in the next room,’ Hankyung said, following Sungmin and Heechul into the blue room and pointing at the door barely visible behind the maps and papers, 'Sorry about the mess. I’ll find you both some clean clothes – feel free to sit down.’
Hankyung lifted up the map and pushed open the hidden door, closing it behind him and leaving Sungmin and Heechul alone. Sungmin tiptoed around the junk on the floor and sat gingerly on Hankyung’s mattress, and Heechul followed suit. They sat there for a few minutes, silent. Hankyung could be heard moving in the next room, but that was the only sound Sungmin could hear. Heechul was completely silent, and it unnerved him. He didn’t know the older man well enough to understand why, either, and it was much too awkward to strike up a conversation so he simply looked around the room again. His eyes fell upon a black backpack beneath the pillow he leant against, straps hanging over the side of the mattress.
He found himself shocked once again.
It wasn’t the backpack, he wasn’t that easily amazed; it was what was falling out of it. The blade of a knife glowed blue and sharp beside the handle of a pistol – and there seemed to be much more inside the backpack. Hankyung entered the room again, then, a bundle of clothes in each hand. As Hankyung leant down to hand Sungmin a handful, the teen gave him a questioning, suspicious look, asked: ‘Why do you have a gun?’
Hankyung paused, and for a moment he seemed surprised, eyes flicking over to his pillow for a moment before looking back at Sungmin. But it was lost in a second. ‘I’ll explain everything in a moment.’ He dropped the clothes onto Sungmin’s lap, straightened and handed the rest to Heechul. ‘You two should get cleaned up. The bathroom’s through there…’ he gestured to a panel barely visible in the dim blue light. ‘It’s small, but there’s running water. Take your time.’
When Sungmin stood to object to Hankyung’s obvious avoidance of his questions, the Chinese man turned his back.
Bastard, he thought. He scowled at his broad back, following Heechul into the bathroom grudgingly.
The bathroom was indeed tiny, a mere cupboard with a toilet, sink and shower. Heechul shaved and showered first, leaving his hair long and dripping before freeing up the room for Sungmin and returning to where Hankyung was; still retaining his uncharacteristic silence.
Sungmin stood at the sink, looking into the mirror and staring with disbelief at the man that looked back at him. Three months with only tubes to feed him nutrients had really taken its toll. His once golden skin was a pale, sickly shade of yellow. Dark shadows hung below his sunken eyes and his cheekbones jutted out of his too-slim face. He washed his face, shaved his facial hair and cut the long, lank black hair that had grown down to his shoulders while he’d slept. It didn’t suit him, the hair. It was greasy and unkept, taking the softness from his naturally cherub-like face. His rounded cheekbones and soft pink lips were lost now, making him seem older and harsher in his looks. The old Sungmin was gone, he thought. Times had changed and he had changed too.
He slipped the lab coat off his shoulders and stepped into the shower, letting the steamy spray of hot water soothe his sore muscles. He hadn’t moved in so long that they’d grown stiff and tense and he let the heat relieve his aches for a brief moment before drying and dressing in the tasteless clothes Hankyung had provided him with. The shirt was off-white and too big, the jeans scuffed and frayed but only a tiny bit too tight.
When he returned to Hankyung and Heechul, they were sat on the mattress in silence. Hankyung noticed his entrance and beckoned him to sit. ‘Get comfortable,’ he said, ‘It’s a long story.’
He was numb and cold and damp. The left side of his body was pressed against something hard, and he could feel cool concrete on his face. There was a dripping sound and he listened to it intently. It was the only sound he could hear other than his own shaky, shallow breaths. Were his eyes open? All he saw was darkness, thick and unrelenting. He moved his fingers but they were stiff and cold, his toes too. He gave up, then, yielding to the cold damp blackness around him; instead he lay there, recalling how he’d ended up in this place. There were faces flashing behind his eyelids, smoke and fire and blood; but one face kept recurring. Fair and slender with wide, excited eyes and lips that made Hankyung’s heart thud with every word. He remembered sitting beside him for a long time, just watching. When was this? There were other people there, too, a large hall and desks covered with paper and ink. College. He shaped the word in his cotton-filled mouth. Yes, college. He’d watched that boy for years, hadn’t he? Watched how the world seemed to shape itself around him, how he could make people smile with a witty remark another person would get a punch for. Saw how lonely he was, even in a crowd, and how his gaze was everywhere but on Hankyung. He wriggled as he reminisced, loosening the bonds he felt wrapped tightly around his wrists and ankles. Heechul, wasn’t it? That was his name. Heechul, Heechul, Heechul. He whispered it to the darkness with a voice dry and rasping, tasting it on his tongue. He tried to grasp at the threads of memory tied loosely around his mind, anything that wasn’t Heechul, but every thought flashed by too fast and he was back to his secret obsession in moments. He felt his chest fill with heat as images of Heechul flashed by, the memory of sheer thrill when he’d woken up with the man by his side. Why did that happen? Where were they? Oh, of course. The world. It had burned to cinders and ash and left him nothing but his own resourcefulness. He’d turned his workplace into as much of a fortress as he could, and by some twist of fate it had lured Heechul in too. There were others, he could taste their names on the back of his tongue. Jungsu? Jungsu. Youngwoon, Kyuhyun, Sungmin. Yes, he remembered. That was what went wrong. If he’d left Kyuhyun and Sungmin to fend for themselves maybe he’d still be with Heechul. Jungsu was intelligent, useful, and Youngwoon was strong. Kyuhyun was stubborn and Sungmin was in love. He’d never trusted them, not from the moment he let them inside. They were a threat. The moment Sungmin walked into the restaurant that morning, alone, he knew something had happened, and from the guilt in Sungmin’s painfully readable face he knew just what that was. The helicopter, how could he have been such a fool? It was Heechul. The sheer joy he saw in his face made him believe that maybe this was just what they thought it to be – safety. A fool he was. They had sat on that rooftop, Heechul looking at the sky and Hankyung looking at Heechul; and Hankyung had wrapped an arm around Heechul’s shoulders, his heart pounding like a man on drugs.
Idiot. He’d always been smart, quiet and calculating. The slightest sign of affection from someone he lusted after and it was gone in a heartbeat. The look on Heechul’s face as the dart flew into his neck had broken Hankyung’s heart, that millisecond before he was poisoned himself, the way Heechul seemed to fall in slow motion, his eyes fixed on Hankyung in a silent plea for help.
He opened his eyes. The room was no longer dark, instead it was cast in a dim greyness, different shades playing off the walls around him. He was lying on the floor of a small cell. There was no window, a single door directly in front of him. Empty. The bonds about his wrists and ankles were loose enough to slip out of and he stretched his legs and arms until the stiffness had gone from his muscles. He wasn’t the same Hankyung as before. He was tougher. Wherever he was, they hadn’t simply left him to sleep quietly here – they’d done something to him, and he was going to find out what that something was.
He stood against one of the four walls of his cell, eyes trained on the door as he listened for anything moving outside. There was a barely visible sliver of white light spilling in from under the door, he noticed. There was electricity here, then. He heard a phone ringing somewhere, keys rattling on a keyboard and the quick murmur of brief conversation. This place was populated with something much worse than zombies - humans. Zombies were easier to avoid.
He walked over to the door with slow, silent steps and pressed his ear to the metal. He smelt antiseptic. A hospital? A facility of some sort. There were no sounds from outside his door, and he tried the handle. Locked. He pulled the handle toward him, pressed his knee to the bottom of the door and threw his body weight against it, shoulder first. The door swung open and he managed to catch it before it slammed against the outer wall. He peeked his head out into the hallway that lay beyond. Bright white light flooded in, but his eyes barely squinted. There was an office at one end of the hallway, white blinds half-drawn displaying the layout of a desk and computer. Empty. He walked toward it, but stopped. He heard footsteps, shoes with metal heels clicking against linoleum in a fast off-beat rhythm. He flattened himself against the nearest wall and waited. The footsteps drew nearer and a man emerged from around the corner clad in a white lab coat over a drab two-piece grey cotton suit. He wore a surgical mask and glasses and his eyes were downcast at the pile of papers he held out in his hands. He didn’t notice Hankyung until it was too late; a jab to his pressure point, a hand over his mouth and the doctor was limp in Hankyung’s arms. He slung the man over his shoulder and carried him back into his cell before stripping him of his clothes and binding him with the ropes that he had once been restrained in himself. He stepped out of the cell clad in the doctors generic clothing, pulled one of the mask loops over his ear and closed the door firmly behind him. That certainly made things easier, he thought.
He made for the office once again.
He came to a crossroads of hallways, the number 5 painted on one wall in large, bold grey font. Floor 5. How many floors were there in this building, then? He looked around for any signs and saw a list of floors and departments. Floor one: deliveries, reception, cafeteria, toilets. Floor two: dormitories. Floor three: security, surgery, animal testing. Floor four: surgery, lower class subject holdings. floor five: offices, research, successful subject holdings. floor six: surgery, research, subject training rooms, high caution subject holdings.
He seemed to be just where he needed to be. Offices. He’d find documents here, surely. He turned around and entered the open, empty office behind him. He closed the door, shut the blinds, and barricaded himself in with a desk. This was what he needed, yes. Filing cabinets, rows and rows of them stretching far back into the room. He walked through them, reading the labels quickly. They referred to this floor as subject holdings, so he must be a subject – as they seemed to be holding him here. So he searched for the word ‘subject’, hoping to narrow down his search. It helped little. There were more folders labelled ‘subject’ than not. He searched each and every one with dogged determination. He came across names he remembered from college, lecturers and students and cleaning staff until he realised the cabinets were ordered by the floors the subjects were on and the districts they were found in. He found his own file easy enough. A picture of him was paper-clipped to the front of a manila folder, he was pale and unconscious with wires jammed into his head and neck, tubes coming out of his nose and mouth. It was discomforting, to say the least.
His suspicions were affirmed, though. They’d definitely been experimenting on him. The more of his file he read, the more he discovered. They were creating the perfect human, immune to the disease carried by the undead. Strong and fast and clever. That’s what they were aiming for. Immunity was impossible, though. They’d found no way to make a cure, an anti-virus. You get bitten, you die. But they got clever, tricky. They made their own undead, fed their flesh to the healthy. Blood transfusions and diets of raw human meat.
They made monsters.
Hankyung was a success, though. They’d trained him to fight in a semi-conscious state, he read. They pumped him full of drugs so he was never fully awake, so he was docile and compliant. They made him fight the other subjects; sometimes they even put him in a room with a few undead and let him do his worst. Amongst the numerous, countless failures… Hankyung was the perfect specimen. They’d given him blood transfusions, too. Subject B. Who was subject B? Hankyung was Subject 00. What did these numbers and letters even mean… if they even meant anything at all. Either way, the blood had made him stronger, faster. He was a weapon now; he just didn’t know whether he was in the right hands.
It seemed to Hankyung, from the amount of files and folders and test cases, that they’d been taking every survivor they could find. They’d scoured Seoul for every remaining human and brought them here to be injected and dissected and improved - or destroyed. He put his file back, closed the drawer. He walked over to one of the computers by the door he’d barricaded and he turned it on. There was no password, and his hands flew into their computer files. He needed more information – what was happening outside? Was it even worth trying to escape if Heechul and everyone else were already dead?
SM Corporation. An organisation created by the government to find a cure for the plague sweeping across the country, the world. This wasn’t the only facility, but it was the biggest. Some of the others had already been destroyed. He checked the date – 13th March. A month since the helicopters had arrived. They’d dropped bombs on the surrounding towns and cities, resulting in nothing more than a few scorched undead and a whole lot more radioactive ones. China was silent, but rumours of life had been surfacing every now and then. Britain, America, Canada, Japan, India – gone. Where they’d gone, nobody knew - underground, undersea, maybe even into space. There was nothing of anything on the satellites, just the undead shuffling and stumbling endlessly on through the empty, abandoned ash-filled streets. Somehow South Korea had survived. Barely, but definitely. He looked through the files and folders saved into the computer but found no reports or test cases of the subjects. So, turning the computer off, he returned to the filing cabinets.
Hankyung hadn’t seen many rooms like his own while on this floor, so he skipped straight to the sixth floor files. Heechul didn’t seem the docile type, so he doubted he’d have been a successful experiment if he’d ended up in this place at all. And right he was. They were in the last drawer, right at the back of the sixth floor filing cabinet. He didn’t see Youngwoon or Jungsu at all. Two manila folders and one red. He didn’t touch the red one. There was a sense of foreboding when he reached for it, and he decided to leave it alone. Sungmin. Subject A. A failure, kept only for his blood compatibility with Subject Z. Heechul was subject B. Hankyung’s source of blood nutrition, and also Subject Z’s. The file told of Subject Z’s preference for Sungmin’s blood, though. Heechul’s blood was becoming insufficient, and if the situation did not improve within three months of the initial report, Heechul would be scrapped.
Hankyung wasn’t going to let that happen.
It dawned on him then that someone would be checking in on him soon, and that they’d quickly realise the naked man lying on the floor wasn’t who it should be. He put the files back and made to close the drawer, but something drew him to reach for the red folder once again, and this time he pulled it out. And he found Kyuhyun.
Unlike him and Heechul and Sungmin, and every other subject he’d flicked through, Kyuhyun wasn’t unconscious in his picture. No. He was screaming, mouth wide enough to split with red, blood-stained teeth and pale blue lips. His eyes were empty and blank and his skin and hair was caked in dry blood. He was dead, Hankyung remembered. The dart to his neck had made him fall, but he’d twisted in his descent to catch a blurry snippet of the scene unfolding behind him. Kyuhyun’s teeth in Sungmin’s neck and Sungmin’s eyes filled with fear. Of course his blood would be matched with Sungmin’s. Just like his was with Heechul’s.
Kyuhyun was their monster, blood-thirsty and uncontrollable. They’d made him in reverse to Hankyung – a zombie trained to be human, where Hankyung was a human trained to think like a zombie. But zombies don’t think. That’s one thing the scientists had forgotten and a good few had died because of their mistakes. Kyuhyun was holed up on the sixth floor away from the staff and subjects. Why they hadn’t disposed of him already, Hankyung couldn’t figure out. The files report was sparse and brief.
He froze at the sound of a man coughing nearby, footsteps approaching. He put the file back with haste, closing the cabinet quietly and removing his barricade. He hid at the back of the room where it was darker, crouching silently behind the cabinets and watching, waiting. A man entered casually, not noticing the subtle differences Hankyung had made to the office. He opened a drawer, took some papers and left. Hankyung exhaled and made his escape.
He stood at the juncture of a staircase between floor five and six. He should leave – he needed to leave… but he needed to look, just to see if Heechul was really here. He wouldn’t do anything. He’d wait, wait until the deadline. Then he’d come back and save them, he swore it to himself then and there. He took the stairs to the sixth floor.
The door was coned off but he stepped over without a care, pushing the heavy metal open with little effort. This floor was definitely different, yes. No windows, just hallways and doors. No phones ringing, no doctors, no nurses. There was just silence and beeping. He walked through the maze of corridors and hallways, looking at every labelled door.
Subject 08, Subject 10, Subject 19… but no Subject B. But then he came upon a different door. A long list of names ran along the side of the door. Subject A, B, C, D, E… Heechul was in here, as was Sungmin. There was a security room beside the door but he daren’t go inside. Instead he pressed his hand against the plastic of the door and promised to come back. And then he left. Nobody questioned him, nobody even noticed him leave. He opened the glass doors out onto the real world; felt the wind whistle past and ruffle his shoulder-length hair this way and that. He couldn’t taste smoke on the air as he had before, back on that roof. It smelt like nothing he’d ever known, pure and fresh. As he looked about he found it almost surreal. Like a dream. There were shops – shops! Food markets and chemists, tailors and mechanics. The road was clear and cars and vans were parked harmlessly along the kerb. How can these people feel so safe? But as he turned the corner he understood immediately.
Soldiers stood patrolling a line of tanks and jeeps, a road block just beyond where they stood and parked as they protected the small community that lived here, letting no one in and no one out. Nobody but Hankyung, because Hankyung was clever and fast. He’d perfected the art of being invisible his whole life, and now he could finally put it into play. The area was clear for miles around but the destruction was evident. This was the world he’d left behind, minus the zombies. Scorched buildings and broken windows. He found a van and parked it in a parking lot, and he built his life with every resource he could get his hands on, all within a mile of two of the biggest threats to his being he could imagine. The undead and the living.
One night, heavy gunfire roused him from his dreams of home cooked egg fried rice and a mother’s smile. He kicked off the moth-eaten blankets tangled around his legs and clambered over wires and cables to his computer, turning on the screens that watched the world outside. It was still dark, it was barely dawn, but he could faintly see the grey-blue light at the entrance of the parking lot, make out the shapes of broken legs shambling along out on the road. He waited for them to pass before getting into the driver’s seat and rolling the van slowly, cautiously out onto the road. They were gone, he thought, until he edged around a corner, his foot hitting the brakes in panic. He reversed, parked, watched.
The blockades were overturned, the military retreating with their guns flashing as the undead gained and fell and gained some more. They ran inside the building, but Hankyung didn’t see them come back out. The undead stood outside the glass doors, pounding, moaning, pushing, and finally the glass shattered and they were inside. He watched and waited for any sign of movement, then, but nothing happened for hours. It was silent, eerily silent, until doctors and nurses spilled forth from the front of the building. Vans and lorries roared around to the entrance, headlights flashing, and the staff started dragging the corpses from the road, tossing them into the back of the vehicles. More emerged from the building carrying laden body bags, their white lab coats stained with blood. The bodies they dragged out seemed endless but within a few hours they were done, and they drove away. They didn’t return.
‘And that was three days ago.’
Heechul was staring at him blankly, and Hankyung wondered whether he’d been listening at all. Sungmin was quite the opposite. He looked close to tears, his hand pressed to his neck, rubbing a wound long healed.
‘Well, shit.’ Heechul said, and they all nodded in agreement.