Yuyeon was too close to aim her gun. Realizing the situation, Ryung threw himself between her and the unidentified figure. A series of sharp gunshots rang out, sending Yuyeon sprawling to the ground.
Groaning from the bone-shattering impact, she groped through the darkness for the gun she dropped to the ground, and quickly shone a light toward the situation in front of her. At the edge of the thin beam of light, she could see him, gun in hand, facing off against a zombie.
“Wow… This son of a bitch…”
The zombie had grabbed the gun by the muzzle, pointed it elsewhere as if it understood how it worked and sank its teeth into Ryung. This was not a good situation. As far as brute strength went, the zombie was usually much stronger. The zombie’s arms were flailing, but his legs, holding him up, were sliding back a little.
‘Calm down, please…’
She aimed for the zombie’s head as soon as she spotted it, but her hands were shaking and her aim was off. The proximity of the creature’s head to hers required a calmer, more accurate shot, and she wasn’t sure if the shock of her fall was still with her or if her focus was splintering into multiple points, making her unsure of pulling the trigger. Just then, Ryung spoke out.
“Sunbae, I’ll hold it off, so get out of here quickly.”
“Get out, lock the door, please… quickly.”
His voice was shaking from the effort he was exerting.
Yuyeon hated this. She hated that Ryung was trying to protect her, that she couldn’t yell at him for not shooting her sooner, and for not knowing what he was doing. She hated that she didn’t feel like she could trust him. She felt like her incompetence had killed them. She felt like her whole life was being denied.
“Shut up, hold on to it.”
Using the gun as a cane, Yuyeon forced her staggering body to her feet. She ran over, put the muzzle directly to the zombie’s head, and pulled the trigger.
The air rippled, creating a roaring sound.
The zombie’s only weakness was its head. Only when the brain is destroyed does it die. The shot didn’t miss, and for a moment, Ryung relaxed a little, as if he’d taken a breath.
The zombie’s eyes flickered open, and it lunged at them again.
Alarmed, Yuyeon fired at the zombie’s head. Several bullets pierced its forehead, but it didn’t die. It couldn’t be. All she could do was keep pulling the trigger while her head went white.
The sweaty exchange of fire only ended when Yuyeon was almost out of bullets. The honeycombed zombie finally collapsed to the floor. With half its brains blown out, the zombie’s head was a mangled mess.
At that moment, the faint sound of zombie cries could be heard from beyond the door. Ryung heard it too and quickly slammed the door shut. Yuyeon stayed on her toes, watching the zombie’s behavior until the very end.
When she was sure it was dead, she felt the weight of the gun and her excitement subsided. With the strain, her legs gave way and sank to the ground, breathing raggedly. Her heart was pounding, and a cold sweat broke out on her back and forehead. It was a frightening experience, but now, the situation seems to be settled.
“Hah… What the hell is this? It’s a zombie, but…”
Looking at the back of the fallen zombie’s head, Yuyeon shined her light on the unresponsive Ryung, who was standing far away in the darkness. He must have been exhausted from holding the zombie down the whole time, and it was odd that he was so quiet when he should have been bustling about, checking on her condition.
At the sound of his name, he broke out of his stunned silence and began to laugh in a small voice.
“Haha… What can I say, sunbae?”
Turning his head, his smile was awkward. It was a bizarre expression that couldn’t be categorized as a laugh, as it was filled with all sorts of emotions. Just as Yuyeon smelled something ominous, Ryung grabbed his arm.
Yuyeon’s face turned pensive.
“I’ve been bitten, sh*t…”
The teeth marks were clearly visible on his pure white forearm. Blood oozed from the deep wound and trickled down his hand. His uniform, rolled up, was tattered at first glance. During the battle, Yuyeon was so focused on shooting the zombie in its head that she didn’t even realize he had been bitten. It was a clear lack of competence on her part.
He let out a low sigh and started to pace around the area. Yuyeon froze on the spot while Ryung banged his head against the wall in agony and groaned.
‘What the hell is this? How can this be?’
He was off-duty today, and he wasn’t supposed to be here. Is that it? He actually got bitten by a zombie while trying to save Yuyeon… because she opened the door too quickly, because she reacted too late… because she tried to run away from his feelings…
‘I was the one who should have been bitten.’
With a low sigh, Ryung walked over and knelt down while Yuyeon panicked. He stepped into her line of sight and brightly smiled, just as he always did. It was hard to believe that this was the same man who had just banged his head off the wall. Right now, this moment felt like an improbable dream.
“What are you doing?”
“Shoot me while you’re still sober.”
He spoke in a playful voice as if he was casually talking about something. His white forehead was black with blood from a cut. The two opposing elements told Yuyeon that he was now wearing a mask to keep the fear of death tightly contained, to ease the burden of his comrades in arms.
The time it takes for an infected to turn into a zombie is only ten minutes or so. Yuyeon took the muzzle of the gun and pointed it at his face. Not to aim, but to get a better look at him. His white face was no different than usual in the low light. That unwavering gaze, a smile on his lips, and flushed cheeks. He looked like a boy in love for the first time in his life. The same adorable face that always made her smile on the inside.
‘I can’t believe he’s dying.’
The man who waited for her in front of her quarters every morning, waving good morning, eating at the table across from her, leaning in to check on her condition and complexion… he would be gone tomorrow.
“I love you.”
The moment she heard his voice echo in her memory, her eyes went white. She shook her head, silently wiping the tears from her eyes. She couldn’t shoot. She didn’t want to.
For a brief moment, a sad look crossed Ryung’s face, but he quickly wiped it away with a smile.
“Haha… I wonder why you’re like this. It’s almost as though you like me…”
His voice, too, was trembling despite his feigned calmness, and he rolled his eyes and shook his head to hide his face.
“Don’t do that, you’re making me think I’m mistaken. You don’t even like me… You say I’m a nuisance daily.”
Yuyeon’s voice was now tinged with tears, obvious to anyone who heard it, and the corners of her eyes were filled with tears, too.
“I was scared… I was scared… I was scared… I was scared of having someone who liked me…”
“I was scared of this situation…”
It was a moment she hoped would never come again. She became that little girl who lost her family and cried for the world to go away. Seeing her sobbing so bitterly, Ryung also shed a tear.
“You were a liar after all. I also lied to you, can you forgive me?”
“We didn’t sleep together. Isn’t that a shame?”
“I’m very disappointed.”
Voice dripping with mischief again, Ryung snatched the muzzle of her gun and brought it directly to his head, locking eyes with her. His eyes were tinged with a golden color, indicating that the infection was quite advanced by now.
“I wish I could stay with you longer, but I don’t think I have much longer.”
“Oh, I’m supposed to have coffee with you… but why today…”
Ryung fumbled in his back pocket and tossed something at her feet, his folded wallet opening at the impact of the fall. Inside was a photo of Yuyeon and no one else.
“Sunbae, can’t you give me a copy of the photo you took?”
A memory strangled her throat.
“Just make sure you buy it with my money later, okay? I can’t buy it for you anymore.”
Despite his kind words, Ryung pulled the gun closer and pushed her. Yuyeon dropped the gun altogether and backed away.
“Don’t do that… Hmph, I can’t… Don’t do that… Ryung…”
“I like it when you call me that… It sounds good. I wished you called me that sooner, to make you regret it. You’re a bad person, really…”
“It’s because of me… Hmph…”
“It’s not your fault. Why are you crying? Really… I can’t even soothe you anymore.”
He mumbled as he stared at the gun, and when she noticed his gaze, she suddenly hugged him and he held his breath.
“Sunbae… What are you doing? It’s dangerous… get away from me… quickly…”
“You’re right… I, ah… I’ve been lonely a lot, too, haven’t you?”
“Let’s stay together, Ryung.”
Knowing full well what those words meant, he didn’t speak for a moment. He just hugged her tightly and took a deep breath.
He whispered the short words, and with a momentary burst of strength, he pushed her away and pushed himself up. Taking a couple of steps back, he shook her head as if to say don’t come and smile.
“I want you to live a long life.”
Her heart thudded in her chest, knowing what those words meant.
“Ryung… It’s an order. Come here.”
“You and I don’t see eye to eye, once again…”
“Ryung, please do as you’ve been ordered…!”
“You’re the one who taught me that there are no exceptions… Thank you, for being the first exception.”
He pulled the firearm from his own waistband and pointed it at his own head. Because he knew better, he knew there was no more time. If he couldn’t count on her to do it, he had to do it himself. It was the only way to keep her safe.
“Thanks to you, this has been fun.”
Frozen in terror, she pleaded with him, paralyzed.
“I like you, sunbae.”
Just as the corners of his eyes gently twitched, shaking off the tears that were hanging on, a sharp gunshot echoed through the space.