Chapter 2 - Zombies?
The shelf reverberated with a thunderous noise as my shoulders collided with it. Startled, I swiftly turned around without considering my surroundings, almost instinctively causing the products on the shelf to tumble down, their cascade filling me with shock and clenched teeth.
Stepping on a packet of travel-sized tissues, the creature staggered aimlessly, lacking the intelligence to assess the situation. Sensing an opportunity, I took advantage of the moment to create some distance between us.
Only now did I fully grasp the dilapidated state of the store. The fresh food and water aisles stood empty, ravaged and disordered. It seemed as though a marauding thief had plundered the place.
The creature screeched, its bloodstained teeth gleaming malevolently under the flickering light. Flailing its arms, it lunged at me, prompting me to swiftly dart around the corner.
“How is this… urk!”
By a hair’s breadth, it narrowly missed me, its putrid hands, bearing patches of decaying flesh, brushing past. In that moment, I realized that one misstep could lead to my capture, resulting in the same fate as the part-timer in the storage room.
Anxiety gripped me fiercely, causing my mouth to dry up. My head throbbed with every pulsation of my heartbeat, pounding at my temples. My field of vision narrowed, but I managed to catch sight of the bare counter. Leaping over the waist-high staff door, I propelled myself forward.
Given the store’s size, the interior of the counter offered ample space, accommodating several individuals.
The creature pursued me relentlessly. Before it could ensnare me, I grabbed hold of the counter from the opposite end and vaulted over it. My muscles protested in agony, unaccustomed to such exertion, yet there was no time to acknowledge the pain. As I landed on the other side, the creature’s waist became ensnared by the counter.
Desperate to overcome the obstacle, the creature flailed and scratched, its hands oozing with blood and unidentified black fluids. It left black handprints on the public service announcements affixed to the counter. “Restrictions on the sale of alcohol to underage customers,” one notice read, while another queried, “Do you possess a membership card?”
Gasping for breath, I belatedly realized that I had forgotten to breathe during the chase. My head spun as I quickly regained composure, replenishing my breath. For the moment, I had halted its movements, granting me an opportunity to escape.
Suddenly, a strange sound emanated from the storage room.
“Hrgh… krrgh, krr…”
I had witnessed it firsthand—no one besides the part-timer should have been in the storage room. Their condition was so mangled that mobility should have been impossible. So how was it that the part-timer, with her bloodied and crushed limbs, managed to crawl forward in such a grotesque manner?
The part-timer’s neck contorted and cracked unnaturally. Having suffered brutal disfigurement and half-eaten, she struggled to balance her head. Wearing her disheveled uniform, she crawled toward me, spasming.
Upon seeing the bloody convenience store logo emblazoned across her uniform’s chest, I covered my mouth, overwhelmed with a sensation of nausea. This was the same part-timer who had jadedly bestowed upon me an entire box of energy drinks just a few days ago. Why…?
The creature that had been trapped behind the counter decided to employ an alternate strategy. Flattening itself against the countertop, it thrashed its limbs, altering its center of gravity until it gradually toppled over the edge.
While the part-timer crept closer, leaving behind a trail of blood, both the creature on the counter and she aimed for me, their intentions to feast upon my flesh and gnaw on my intestines evident.
There was no time left to prolong this harrowing encounter. I hastily turned the corner, flinging the glass door open and darting outside. The entrance bell jingled, its sound inexplicably cheery.
Beside the door stood a long-handled mop, likely placed there after the part-timer had finished mopping. With no other option presenting itself, I shut the doors, exerting my weight upon them to prevent the creatures inside from escaping, and wedged the mop firmly between the handles.
Simultaneously, a resounding crash ensued as the creatures lunged at me with such ferocity that they slammed their bodies against the doors.
The doors quivered and jolted, while a faint handprint stained the glass with a thin film of blood. A poster proclaiming, “Have a warm and joyous holiday. Selling warm red bean buns!” met a similar fate, now besmirched. The pastry’s superhero caricature, its big, glossy eyes, took on an eerie aspect after being tainted by blood.
With a glass barrier separating us, our gazes locked. The grotesque creatures stared at me, their swollen, discolored eyeballs devoid of focus. A shudder coursed through me.
“You bloody bastards! Go away! Fuck off!”
My anger erupted, albeit belatedly. Yet, the only response I garnered was a menacing howl and further struggling. Maintaining my grip on the handles, I shook in unison with the doors.
I disengaged and took a few steps back. The mop lodged between the handles ensured the door remained steadfast. Casting a wary glance toward the convenience store’s interior, I deduced that the creatures would not imminently escape. I promptly averted my gaze.
Breathing heavily, I fled for my life, sprinting without respite, akin to a lunatic. The chill in the air brushed against my ears. Perhaps it was my imagination, but the scent of putrid, decomposing blood appeared to accompany the breeze.
Undoubtedly, this was the worst Christmas I had ever experienced.
I proceeded to the management office situated at the far end of the ground floor lobby. Peering through the small, perforated window, I observed an empty office.
“Sir, are you present? Is anyone there? Hello? Someone, please!” I yelled while pounding on the door. The eerie silence absorbed my cries, reverberating through the tranquil corridors. No response echoed back. I turned the handle; the door was unlocked.
Entering cautiously, I surveyed the surroundings. Neatly filed documents adorned the bookcase, while a whiteboard on the wall displayed the schedules of the security staff and building maintenance. Everything remained undisturbed. The juxtaposition of such peace and tranquility with the horrifying events transpiring outside was unimaginable.
Advancing further into the office, I passed a windowed desk and chair, eventually arriving at another door. It led to the room where the dorm manager rested during night shifts. However, hesitation gripped me. A large X was marked on the door, which had been frantically scribbled over with a red permanent marker, imparting an ominous aura.
That wasn’t all. The door’s cracks and handle were concealed by duct tape. A weighty metal filing cabinet had been toppled and placed before it, obstructing the passage.
Suddenly, a faint collision emanated from within. I instinctively recoiled. My field of vision expanded, revealing small letters written in the corner of the door. The hastily scrawled words resembled chicken scratch, but their meaning was clear.
If you wish to survive, maintain silence. Do not disturb them.
The word ‘silence’ had been underlined multiple times. Holding my breath, I stood frozen, fixated on the door.
Once more, the banging noises reverberated from inside, initially feeble but gradually escalating.
The thunderous drumming assaulted my ears, sending a chilling shiver down my spine. At some point, my trembling hands betrayed my growing apprehension.
Realization dawned upon me—my actions had been a grave mistake. I had rushed in, my footsteps resounding down the corridor, before forcefully banging on the door and calling out for the dorm manager. I shouldn’t have done that.
Despite the tape’s attempts to hold it back, the door quaked violently. Eventually, the tape succumbed, gradually peeling away. Snap, snap—the ominous sound of the tape relinquishing its hold persisted. The filing cabinet blocking the door inched forward, slowly but surely.
Gritting my teeth, I sprinted away. Uncertain of my destination, I ascended the stairs in blind desperation. I surmised that the dormitory’s interior offered more safety than the outside, where nowhere provided a hiding place and unknown adversaries lurked.
Abruptly, a deafening crash resounded from behind. It was the sound of a door being flung open. I didn’t slow my pace or glance back. I had never taken pleasure in watching horror or thriller films, but I knew that if I stopped and looked behind, my demise would swiftly follow.
Climbing the stairs with an unbridled frenzy, I knew not whether I stood on the third or fourth floor. Below me, I thought I could hear the sound of dragging feet. Glancing downward, I caught a glimpse of a dark, moving silhouette. Despite its broken limbs, it moved with surprising speed.
Summoning every ounce of strength, I propelled myself forward. My fatigued legs threatened to buckle, but I compelled them onward. Soon, I reached the top floor, the stairs no longer ascending. I ventured into the hallway, discovering an absence of living beings. The silence enveloped me, amplifying the sound of my own breath, now seemingly too loud. Doors, similar in appearance, lined both sides of the corridor.
A growl echoed from the staircase. The pursuer must have followed me up. Though lacking agility or intelligence, it possessed unwavering tenacity.
I sprinted across the hall, consumed by urgency. What if something blocked my path? What if I encountered a dead end? Rather than worrying about hypothetical obstructions, I resolved to prioritize evading the threat pursuing me. I had no other option.
The hallway before me appeared pristine, yet certain peculiarities caught my attention. Slightly ajar doors. Frantic footprints stamped onto the white-painted walls. These were details I had failed to notice when I recklessly made my way to the convenience store mere minutes ago.
The pursuer displayed unwavering persistence. Exhausted, I raced forward, my stamina waning. In contrast, the creature, devoid of life, experienced no fatigue. Its growls and arm flailing intensified, drawing nearer. I knew I shouldn’t, but I couldn’t resist glancing back.
Recognition struck me. Despite half of his skull caved in and his jaw twisted at an unnatural angle, I recognized the face of the dorm manager. Blunt force trauma had left its mark. His mangled jaw caused his tongue to hang out disconcertingly.
“D-dorm… manager.” My voice trembled helplessly, yet the manager offered no response.
An acrid stench of putrid meat permeated the air. Despite my own exhaustion and fear, I knew that if I were captured, I would suffer the same gruesome fate as him.
Gasping for air, my vision blurred with red and black. Stumbling, I turned a corner, and there, in the middle of the hallway, I spotted a large luggage carrier. Toiletries, basic skincare products, and clothes were strewn haphazardly. Perched atop the luggage, a tall figure sat, his back facing me. One hand rested in the pocket of his black jacket, while his long legs extended before him, idly tapping the ground.
A living person—a human—amidst this chaos.
Silence fell upon me as I hesitated, momentarily forgetting the pursuit behind me. The man sensed my presence and turned around, revealing black hair and a mask concealing half of his face. His ears adorned multiple piercings.
Locking eyes with me, he silently rose to his feet. It was then that I noticed the object grasped in his other hand—an ax, its blade painted crimson, reminiscent of a firefighter’s tool.
In the midst of such turmoil, his presence appeared surreal, as though I had stumbled upon an unexpected sight.
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