Chapter 5 - Survivors
We halted in front of a securely shut metal door. It stood as the communal shower room for the male occupants on the dormitory’s top floor. Each room had its private bathroom, but the shower room catered to those in quads.
Initially, the shower room door resembled a piece of plywood like the dorm rooms, lockable with a key. However, a few years back, an incident occurred where someone picked the lock to the women’s shower room in the dead of night. They were eventually discovered hiding inside a locker. Consequently, all the doors were replaced with metal ones equipped with electronic locks. They were now secured overnight to prevent unauthorized entry.
“This is the only place where we can safely hide.”
“How do you plan to open it?”
Only the dorm manager and staff were privy to the passcode. Was Youngwon intending to force the lock open with an axe? Although it would undoubtedly damage the door.
“Why have you suddenly become so foolish?” Youngwon scowled, regarding me as though I were a peculiar creature.
I believed it was a reasonable question, but now I felt like the most ignorant person on Earth.
“Has the shock caused you to forget how to open an electronic lock? All you need to do is lift the cover and enter the code.”
“You know that’s not what I’m asking!”
Before I could finish, he had already slid open the lock cover, unveiling the number pad. Just like opening the door to his own house, he effortlessly pressed the numbers. Each button emitted a soft beep, but after the final digit, a jingle chimed, and the door unlatched as if eager to swing open.
What could I say? I was speechless. How did that senior know the passcode undisclosed to students?
I glimpsed what lay beyond the metal doors: the walls adorned with identical lockers, accompanied by a shelf for toiletry baskets and towels. A group of people huddled near the benches, jolting upright, startled that the lock had been opened.
“H-huh…?” Someone stammered, pointing at us.
I, too, was taken aback. Throughout the whole ordeal, Youngwon remained eerily composed. Meanwhile, the tip of the axe scraped against the floor, creating a chilling sound.
Finally, a piercing scream erupted from someone’s lips.
After a whirlwind of chaos and confusion, people cautiously approached me and Youngwon. They seemed relieved upon realizing that we were not among those… things.
“How on earth did you know the passcode?”
“It was written on the side of the monitor in the management office. You guys broke in after seeing that—why bother asking?” Youngwon replied halfheartedly, annoyed by the queries.
He maintained the same casual demeanor with others, despite meeting them for the first time. In a way, he was consistent.
“Oh, right…” The male student who had asked trailed off sheepishly.
He wanted to pursue the topic further, but it appeared he no longer had the energy to do so. Wearing glasses with a strong prescription and a varsity jacket, his arm bore the number indicating he was a freshman.
“Anyway, wait a moment. You guys.”
Another individual interrupted the conversation, thrusting his face toward us. His chin displayed untidy patches of unshaven hair, and his long, disheveled locks completed the look. I could immediately tell—he was undoubtedly a returning student. If he were in his early twenties with such an appearance, I would have been scared for a different reason.
“Where were you all this time? I thought we were the only ones left with our sanity intact. Everything else is in ruins, starting from the cafeteria.”
Youngwon completely ignored the other man. To the point where onlookers began to feel secondhand embarrassment. The atmosphere quickly turned tense and hostile.
“Hey, I asked you a question. Where were you?”
“I don’t know. I can’t remember.”
“What? Are you fucking with me?” The returning student scowled, cursing.
For the first time, Youngwon’s impassive facade cracked. The eyes above his mask narrowed into crescents, intensifying his already unfriendly aura.
“The only fucking mess here is your face. You should at least compensate for your ugly mug by speaking politely.”
Internally, I was in awe. How could he aggravate someone with every word? The two men glared at each other, but it was the returning student who averted his gaze first. Most likely angry at having lost by turning away first, he huffed like an enraged bull, pointing his finger at me.
“Fucking… what a psycho… Hey, kid next to him. Where were you?”
“I was in my room. I had a midnight deadline for a report on the 25th.” Everyone’s eyes were on me. Admitting that I had been consumed by my assignments, oblivious to what was happening, made me feel somewhat sheepish. “I was alone in my room all this time, so I had no idea what had happened.”
“What? All this chaos occurred, and you didn’t know? Are you lying?”
“E-excuse me, Joonsuk.”
The male student in the varsity jacket cautiously stepped forward, but the returning student shoved him aside. The slender figure staggered helplessly.
“Did I say something wrong? We’re all trapped here, people are dying one by one, and I feel like I’m losing my mind. One guy can’t remember a thing, and the other claims to have been oblivious to the entire situation. Can you believe that? Can you? Huh?”
Anxious gazes darted back and forth. Everyone in the shower room was overly sensitive and tense. While I had been oblivious during my slumber, cut off from the world, these people had lived through this hell. They had endured a dreadful time, and their nerves were frayed.
“Why would I lie?” I smiled.
In any case, these people had occupied the shower room first, and we were the intruders. I wanted to resolve the situation amicably, even if it meant going to great lengths. Tedious affairs bothered me, and I did not want to draw attention or instigate conflict.
“I understand it may sound arbitrary, but it’s the truth. I never left my room due to the mountain of assignments, and after completing them, I slept with earplugs in, unaware of anything happening outside.”
I glanced at Youngwon, who remained detached from the world. He had led me all the way here, yet he acted as if he were a mere bystander.
“This senior… is not a bad person. Joonsuk, you understand, right? The chaos and madness have everyone on edge. Shouldn’t we survivors try to get along?”
Disapprovingly, the returning student scrutinized me, but he did not offer any further retort. Perhaps he felt slightly relieved due to my evident humility and submissiveness.
“We should introduce ourselves. I’m Hohyun Jung, majoring in business management.”
At that moment, a female student emerged from the back, excitedly greeting me. “Hohyun! Do you remember me?”
“I’m Dabin, Dabin Choi. We worked together on a group project for an elective in the first semester. Understanding Sports Marketing. Do you remember?”
Rummaging through my memories, I exclaimed in recognition. She studied industrial design or graphic design—some form of design, in any case. I had not recognized her initially because she had cut her long, straight hair into a shoulder-length bob, along with a perm.
“Oh… Sorry, Dabin. I didn’t recognize you with your new hairstyle. It’s been a while. How have you been?” A sense of numbness washed over me as I asked about her well-being.
“Yes, thanks to you. After receiving the highest grade for the project, I got an A+ in the class. I managed to maintain my scholarship. Ah, hello, Senior.” Dabin greeted Youngwon, who stood beside me. Unlike her friendly approach toward me, she adopted a more formal tone with Youngwon.
“Do you two know each other?”
“Yes, he’s Youngwon Ki from the sculpting department. I’ve seen him a few times in our integrated art department courses. I remember his name from roll call.”
I was taken aback. Youngwon had been absurd from the very beginning. His behavior was surreal, his statements bizarre. In my daze, I realized that he was indeed a student at my university, attending classes and pursuing a major.
Despite Dabin’s attempts to greet him, Youngwon did not acknowledge her.
“I don’t remember you.”
Unfazed, Dabin replied, “I knew you wouldn’t.”
The icy tension finally seemed to ease.
Dabin grabbed my arm, pulling me toward the center of the group, as she began introducing me to the others. “This is Gunwoo Park, a freshman majoring in math education.”
The bespectacled male student bowed to us.
“And that person over there is Joonsuk Yoon from the public administration department. He’s in his final year. Um… Joonsuk, won’t you say hi?”
“Hi? Why bother with pleasantries in this situation? It’s not a blind date.” Maintaining his agitated demeanor, he grumbled to himself, peppering his speech with swear words.
Dabin shot me an apologetic look. I felt a strange kinship, observing a kindred spirit in distress.
Each person leaned against a locker, shelf, or wall. I didn’t have much knowledge of the situation, so I kept quiet, and Youngwon stood against the wall, arms crossed, seemingly intent on remaining silent. Eventually, the two underclassmen began recounting how they had ended up here.
“On that day, I was packing my bags to go back to my family home,” Dabin began.
“I had just finished my major specialization exam late that day… I was returning to the dormitory after the exam. I was planning to stop by the convenience store on the first floor before heading up to my room,” Gunwoo added.
Our university campus sprawled across a vast area. It was situated in a remote location, tucked away in the mountains where land prices were lower. Consequently, the school garnered complaints for its sprawling nature. Every year, lost freshmen could be spotted at the start of the semester.
The student dormitories were located in the most secluded corner of the campus, adjacent to the forest. Windows facing the wilderness often allowed bugs to infiltrate, and a rumor had circulated a few years back about a wild boar roaming the hallways. Due to its isolation, we were the last to realize that something was amiss.
“I was pulling my luggage when I heard a scream coming from the cafeteria. I thought, ‘What’s happening? Is there a fight? Did someone find a bug in the food?’ I was about to walk past.”
Dabin recounted the moment, recalling her experience.
Our school’s remote location meant that public transportation was far from campus, requiring a car to traverse a lengthy road through the wilderness. As a result, the school operated a shuttle bus every few hours to transport students to the foot of the mountain.
During the end of the semester, the dormitory buzzed with activity. Students gathered in the cafeteria to celebrate, packed and waiting for the shuttle bus. Suddenly, a student covered in blood stumbled into the cafeteria, his movements unsteady. The extent of his injuries should have rendered him unable to walk, making his mobility a mystery.
Everyone screamed, recoiling in horror. Someone hurriedly ran to call the security guards. Among them, a brave student approached the injured individual.
“Excuse me, hey! Are you okay?”
“What? I couldn’t catch that.”
The blood-soaked student convulsed.
“Can you move? Excuse me—huh?”
“Krr… grugh… grahhhh!”
Soon, the cafeteria descended into chaos.
“After that, I dropped my luggage and ran. Gunwoo and I managed to escape quickly because we witnessed it all from outside through the window. What happened to the people inside the cafeteria…”
Dabin explained their situation, recalling the horrifying events.
Hundreds of students from the cafeteria and lobby scattered in panic. Most fled the dormitory through the open doors, while a few ventured deeper into the building. Dabin and Gunwoo belonged to the latter group.
“We were fortunate. As long as we remained quiet and lock ourselves in the shower room, we were safe. The creatures outside have poor eyesight but are sensitive to sound.”
Youngwon had said something similar earlier, possessing knowledge of their natural tendencies.
“That’s why you were safe too—because you were sound asleep in your own room. Those who screamed or made noise were all caught.”
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