PDA

View Full Version : Short Story #3: Beijing China *WARNING: Violence, Profanity, Politics, Sex Innuendo*



JamesR
March 18th, 2015, 11:43 AM
Here is the third installment to my short horror story series. If you have not read the previous two stories, I would strongly suggest reading them before tackling this once since they take place in the same universe. Here are the links: Story 1 (http://www.writingforums.com/threads/151271-Short-Horror-Story-*WARNING*) and Story 2 (http://www.writingforums.com/threads/151988-Short-Horror-Story-2-(offensive-language-and-violence)). However, it is not necessary that you read the previous two since each story involves new characters in a different time and place, with little connection to the previous stories apart from Hand-Waves. As per tradition, I have tried to keep subtle elements of humor in this story as I have in the previous ones. Brownie points to anyone who can successfully point out all of the pop-culture genre-related references.

Anyway, more than anything, I wrote this particular story as a tribute to my little sister who isn't much older than one of the characters in this story. The whole thing is an anthem to the beautiful sibling relationship between a big brother and his little sister amidst the worst of circumstances. In fact, this particular character's personality is based off of my little sister, along with her catch phrases and quotes. The main protagonist is based off of my middle-child little brother who is again not much older than the character. The story is about sibling love.

Without further ado, here is my story. I hope you all will enjoy it.
_____________

1st August 2015
Beijing, China
7:50AM

“Hurry or you’ll be late for school!” Huang Li shouted to her son as she poured herself a cup of tea. “The bus will be here any minute!”
The 10-year-old Kevin Li emerged from the bathroom a wreck. He had overslept and was running late. His hair was a mess and his shoes were untied; his shirt was wrinkled and his pants were unzipped. Frantically he approached his mother and embraced her in a hug.
“Do I have to go?” he whined to his mother.
“Yes,” she affirmed. “Chen and all your friends will be there.”
“Okay,” he sighed as the hug came to an end. “I love you bye.”

Kevin Li exited his apartment and made his way downstairs to the bus stop below. Children were already boarding the bus en masse. Kevin sprinted and entered the bus just in time before its doors closed.
“Don’t be late!” the driver shouted. Kevin paused in confusion. He had never seen this driver before. He wore green fatigues and had a gun holstered to his side. It was then that Kevin realized that this was not his regular school bus. It had been replaced. He spotted a banner hanging from the ceiling. It read “People’s Armed Police.”
“Well don’t just stand there like a dumbass!” the driver broke the awkward silence. “Sit down!”
“Yes, sorry,” Kevin returned to his senses as the other children laughed at him. He walked to the back of the bus and took a seat.

“What’s with the new bus?” Kevin whispered to his friend Chen.
“Martial law,” the boy responded. “Things are getting weirder.”
“Yeah,” Kevin agreed. “My dad said it has to do with Taiwan.”
“Ha,” Chen scoffed in disbelief.
“What?”
“Don’t get him started with those stupid rumors again!” two little girls named Lin and Jane interrupted the boys’ conversation.
“Whatever,” Chen disregarded them. “I hear that corpses are coming back from the dead and eating the living, and that the whole Taiwan thing is just a government cover up.”
“Stop!” the two frightened little girls pleaded. “We think you’re just making that stuff up! Kevin’s dad is right; it’s nothing but Taiwan.”
“Believe what you want,” he teased them. “But I know what I heard. And it has nothing to do with Taiwan.”
“Says who?”
“My grandma,” he replied. “She’s one of the evacuees from Shanghai. She saw those reanimated corpses with her own eyes. She called them ‘jiangshi’ and told me a cool story from the old days. She said that back when she was a teenager, those living corpse ‘jiangshi’ things overran her village, and that’s how she met my grandpa. He was one of the Red Guards that Mao sent to clear out the village.”
“You’re lying!” the girls sneered.
“No I’m not! The jiangshi are gonna come, and they’re gonna eat you!” he attempted to kiss one of the girls.
“Eww! Keep your lips to yourself!” she pushed him away.

Kevin ignored the trio’s bickering and gazed out the window. He saw countless police vehicles and armed officers patrolling the city. He even saw regular military units overseeing their efforts. Numerous civilians were hassled as they struggled to make their daily rounds amidst the martial law. Some were apprehended and forced to strip nude as officials in hazmat suits inspected their bodies. Kevin watched in terror as a small crowd was viciously beaten to a pulp for protesting the new citywide curfew. He then saw an apartment complex similar to his own. A large tent had mysteriously been erected over the building, and various emergency vehicles surrounded it. Donning riot gear and hazmat suits, a combined force of military personnel and police officers stormed the complex with their rifles and flamethrowers. The repeated sound of gunshots sent chills down the young child’s spine.
The children exited the police bus as it arrived at its destination with minutes to spare. Kevin Li groaned as he drudgingly approached the school with his peers. Soon he would have to endure another day of boring lectures and being yelled at.

“Single file lines!” an officer shouted as the children were herded into position like sheep. The Ministry of Public Security had long overtaken the schools since martial law was declared. They were supported not only by the People’s Armed Police, but also by regular units from the People’s Liberation Army. A bored Kevin Li watched as soldiers and policemen alike drank coffee and smoked cigarettes. Some of them ate breakfast foods acquired from local concessions stands. The delicious smell of pork-filled baozi and steamed rice zongzi made his stomach growl. Dinner the previous night had been sparse as the new nationwide rationing of food grew stricter every week.

“Uncle Lee!” Kevin Li excitedly approached a young soldier who stood guard as policemen sorted the schoolchildren.
“Kevin!” the young Corporal Lee Wang of the People’s Liberation Army embraced his nephew. He was a dutiful soldier who took great pride in his appearance. His green fatigues and black combat boots were perfectly pressed, ironed, and polished. His young face was shaved smoother than oil, and his hair was tucked neatly beneath his field cap.
“My mom really misses you. She has your pictures hung up all over the apartment,” Kevin Li said to his uncle. “And my little sister Lily does too. She always wears that helmet you sent us.”
“I miss them too,” the corporal responded. “But the good news is that my rotation ends soon. Tell the family I’ll be home by next week.”
“Awesome,” the child cheered.
“You should get going to school now; the line is getting shorter.”
“Okay,” the child lamented.
“But wait, one more thing,” the soldier remembered. He retrieved from his pocket a rare, Western-import Snickers chocolate bar and gave it to his hungry nephew.
“Wow, thanks Uncle Lee!” Kevin Li replied as he tore open the candy bar and ate it in one gargantuan bite.

He then returned to the line. The routine had been the same every day now since martial law was declared. After being herded into single file lines, each student would individually pass through the checkpoint at the entrance where a policeman would wave this mysterious device over them before granting entrance. He speculated that it was merely a metal detector; only, why did they not just use the metal detectors that were already built into the doors? Chen’s turn came. The policeman waved the object over the child’s head and instantaneously the device began to flash red. A group of soldiers swiftly seized the child and hailed him off to a windowless van where men in hazmat suits drove him away. Kevin Li began to sweat profusely, and tears streamed down his face. He wanted to panic, but he was afraid of what would happen if he did. The sound of his best friend’s petrified shrieks haunted his memory like a bad nightmare. His turn came next. To his relief, the device flashed green and he was allowed into the school where he promptly went to class.

“Good morning class,” the teacher Ms. Hu announced as she arose from her desk to address the students.
“Good morning Ms. Hu,” the class replied in unison. A perturbed Kevin Li sat in his normal spot at the back of the classroom and paid no attention to the teacher. Not even her perky young chest caught his attention today as he fiddled about with his pencil and daydreamed.
“Things are going to be a little bit different today,” she unexpectedly explained. “In light of the martial law, the schools will be shut down as of tomorrow until further notice.”
The class erupted into anarchy as ecstatic students tossed about their textbooks and cheered amongst each other.
“Calm down! Order!” Ms. Hu settled the class. “But that still doesn’t mean we don’t have class today. In light of the martial law, someone else will be your teacher today. Class, I would like to introduce you to Major Xiao Zheng of the People’s Liberation Army.”

“Thank you Ms. Hu,” Major Zheng entered the classroom. He was a tall man in his mid-thirties who walked with an authoritative gait and whose chest was adorned with various medals and badges. Not a single student dared to misbehave in his presence.
“Major Zheng will be teaching you some basic survival skills today,” Ms. Hu said to the class. “You will respect him as if he were me.”
“Affirmative,” Major Zheng explained as he paced around the room. “And my first order of business as your new teacher is to return your textbooks to Ms. Hu. We will not be needing them today.”
“Then what will we be using today Major Zheng sir?” a studious little girl with glasses raised her hand.
“I’m glad you asked darling,” he revealed a large duffel bag to the class. “Everything we need for today is in this here bag of mine. You will return your textbooks to Ms. Hu and then proceed with me to the gymnasium in an orderly fashion.”

Kevin Li did as he was instructed and went to the school gymnasium with the rest of his class. Anticipating some sort of physical activity, he lamented at the prospect of having to exercise this early in the morning. The class watched as Major Zheng placed the large duffel bag on top of a rectangular table and unzipped it. He then rolled out the bag like a carpet, and its contents were revealed. Expecting to see merely a football or some other boring piece of sports equipment, Kevin Li was in utter disbelief at what he saw.

“Lain before you today is an assortment of firearms,” Major Zheng addressed the stunned students. “Today you will learn not only how to load, operate, and fire them, but also how to hit a balloon-sized object with ease. You will be transformed into sharpshooters.”
“Major Zheng,” Ms. Hu politely expressed concern. “I’m not sure if this is appropriate for my students.”
“Ms. Hu,” he responded. “Need I remind that as per martial law, the Ministry of Public Security has granted both the People’s Armed Police and the People’s Liberation Army total jurisdiction to do whatever it deems necessary for the security of the state?”

The teacher reluctantly backed off, and watched as a small group of soldiers brought in huge crates of ammunition for the firearms. Erected at the far end of the gymnasium perpendicular to the table was a massive, portable wall outfitted with a layer of Kevlar vests. The teacher correctly surmised that this was a makeshift firing range.
“You will use these firearms to complete the exercise that I have appointed for you,” Major Zheng switched his attention back to the students. “Set up downrange are six human-shaped, automated targets. For this exercise, you will be shooting the balloon at the top of each of these targets. I have chosen balloons because they are the perfect analog to the human head, being of approximately the same size and shape.”

“Major Zheng!” one boy rudely interrupted. “My dad was in the army and he said that you’re supposed to aim center mass. Why are you having us aim for the head?”
“Because,” Major Zheng’s calm demeanor suddenly changed to anger as he shot the boy a death glare. “I am the major and you will obey me or else. Do I make myself clear?!”
“Yes sir…” the boy was taken aback by the hostility.
“Now,” Major Zheng continued. “It is very important that you aim for the head. Even more important is that you hit it fast and with the least amount of ammunition possible. Your performance will be judged by these factors. Now, I will need a volunteer to go first.”

Kevin Li was ecstatic. His heart began to pound out of his chest. He had always dreamed of firing a gun, and today was perhaps the only opportunity he would ever have.
“Me! Pick me!” he eagerly threw his hand in the air.
“All right, Mr. Li,” Major Zheng motioned the boy to come forward. “Your uncle is in my battalion isn’t he?”
“Yes sir,” he replied. “Corporal Lee Wang; you should give him a promotion. He deserves it.”
“We’ll see about that,” the major chuckled. “Now, I want you to pick up that gun right there.”
Kevin Li gazed at the assortment of firearms in amazement. He had seen firearms in movies and videogames, but never had he seen one in person. He carefully reached for the first firearm as per the major’s instructions, and was in shock at how heavy it was in his tiny hands.

“In Kevin’s hands is the Type 77 pistol,” Major Zheng taught the class. “Manufactured by Norinco in 1981, this gun has remained the essential sidearm of both the People’s Liberation Army and the People’s Armed Police up to this very day.”
“Sir can I shoot it now?” Kevin Li impatiently asked.

“Hold on,” the major hushed him and then continued to address the class. “You will begin with the Type 77 pistol and then proceed to the Type 81-1 assault rifle, the Type 95-1 carbine, and then finally the Type 97-1 shotgun. You will form a single file line, and you will fire each of these guns until they are empty. You will then reload them for the next student and return to the back of the line. This will be your exercise until the end of the school day.”
Major Zheng then turned to Kevin Li and gave him the signal to fire. The child took aim to the best of his ability as he struggled to steady the heavy firearm. He wondered why they were being taught to aim for the head, especially when the torso made a substantially larger and therefore easier target to hit. But after the major’s outburst at the last child to question him, he did not dare to ask.

“Snap!” the Type 77 cracked. The recoil nearly knocked Kevin Li off his feet. Barely hitting its mark, the 7.65x17mm projectile popped the balloon like a bubble. A fresh balloon instantly came up from the automated target to replace the previous one.
“Success!” Major Zheng congratulated the child. “You have scored one successful headshot with one bullet. Now, I want you to continue until the gun is empty.”
Kevin Li took aim at the next target and fired again. This balloon also popped, signifying another successful headshot. Alternating between the six different targets, he repeated this process until finally the Type 77 handgun rang empty.

“Reload it for the next student and then switch to the Type 81-1,” Major Zheng instructed him. Kevin Li pressed a button on the side of the gun and its empty magazine fell to the table. He reached into one of the large crates of ammunition and began to load fresh bullets into the empty magazine. His little fingers shook in anticipation as he hurried to move onto the next firearm. After loading ten fresh bullets into the magazine, he slid it back in place and then set the gun back on the table.
“Sir,” a confused Kevin Li asked. “Which one is the Type 81-1?”
“That one,” he gestured to the boy. Kevin Li fumbled for the large assault rifle and carefully unfolded its detachable stock. Despite having never handled one until now, he appeared to have an instinctive knowledge of firearms. Crouching down on one knee and using the table to steady the rifle’s barrel, he fired.

“Tat-tat-tat-tat-tat!” the Type 81-1 fired repeatedly. The heavy recoil knocked Kevin Li off balance and nearly broke his shoulder.
“My mistake,” Major Zheng apologized. “What I should have explained is that the Type 81-1 is a select-fire weapon, meaning it can fire in two ways. Today we will only be firing it in semi-auto—meaning, one bullet will be expended for every time you pull the trigger. Kevin, look where the selector is by the left side of the rifle, just above the handle. Switch it to ‘Semi-Auto.’”
An embarrassed Kevin Li recovered from the fall and did as he was instructed. He then took aim and fired once more.

“Pop!” the bullet burrowed out of the rifle’s barrel and beautifully broke its balloon target. Several more shots rang out, each followed by the satisfying pop of a balloon. Finally the rifle clicked empty. Kevin Li hit the release, and the weapon’s large magazine came tumbling out. Placing the rifle on the table, he noticed how much it resembled the AK-47 of old as he began loading fresh bullets into its magazine until finally it was full. He then slammed it back into the rifle and returned the weapon to its place on the table.
“Fantastic Mr. Li!” Major Zheng commended the child. “You may proceed to the Type 95-1 carbine.”
Kevin Li picked up the mid-sized carbine and was fascinated by its unorthodox bull-pup design. It looked futuristic, and wielding it made him feel as if he were in a sci-fi flick. He charged back the handle at the top of the weapon and took aim at the first balloon.

“Pow!” the Type 95-1 hissed as Kevin Li pulled the trigger. Yet another balloon popped, and he was amazed by the extreme accuracy of the weapon combined with its low recoil. He fired again and again, effortlessly puncturing the balloons one after the other. Empty shell casings littered the floor like bird droppings until the carbine’s thirty round magazine finally rang empty. Swiftly he released and reloaded the magazine before returning it into the carbine and then placing the weapon back on the table.
“Outstanding!” Major Zheng congratulated the child. “You may finish up with the Type 97-1 shotgun. Now, this firearm is a lot more powerful than the previous ones you’ve fired. It packs a massive backfire, and you have to pump it before every shot. Be careful.”
Kevin Li proudly picked up the Type 97-1 and unfolded its stock. Mustering up all the strength a child could muster, he pumped the weapon. A single red shell casing pinged the ground.
“That’s it,” Major Zheng guided the child. “Now steady it and take aim! Then fire when ready!”

“Ka-boom!” the mighty shotgun roared across the gymnasium like an enraged lion. The powerful buckshot ferociously mauled the balloon like paper. Kevin Li felt pity for whatever unlucky soul would have to endure that to the head. He pumped the shotgun again and fired once more. Another balloon was savagely popped. He repeated this process six more times until finally the shotgun was empty. Doing his best to ignore the burning pain on his side, he reached into a crate of fresh shells and reloaded the weapon with ease.

A dignified Kevin Li proudly returned to the back of the line as the next student went up to take her turn at the firing range. Various gunshots echoed across the gymnasium as the line progressed and the nervous although excited students systematically took turns at the firing range. One boy dropped the Type 77 in a foolish attempt to fire it one-handed like an action film; another had difficulty charging the Type 95-1 carbine and accidentally fired a shot into the ceiling. A little girl managed to hit all six balloons in six seconds with the Type 97-1 and discovered that she had a natural talent with shotguns.

After a few hours had gone by and most of the students mastered the exercise, Major Zheng removed a small electronic device from his pocket and pressed a button.
“You will now shoot moving targets,” he instructed the class as the six targets whirred to life. “You must pop the balloon before the target reaches the red line in front of the table, otherwise your turn will be over and you will have to return to the back of the line prematurely.”

It was Kevin Li’s turn to shoot once more. Taking aim with the Type 95-1 carbine, he watched as the six automated targets slowly rolled closer to his position like bees to honey. He fired.
“Pop!” the first balloon was hit. The target swiftly returned to the back of the range before once again continuing its unhurried locomotion toward the red line in front of the table.
“Once the balloon is popped, the target will reset,” Major Zheng continued. “On top of speed and accuracy, the trick is prioritization and a cool head. You must prioritize by assessing the targets’ distance from you, shooting them in order from closest to furthest; you must keep a cool head by not allowing the stress to compromise your performance.”

Despite taking Major Zheng’s words to heart, Kevin Li began to panic under pressure as the moving targets kept returning even after being reset. His shooting grew erratic, and his shots began to miss their mark. His breathing was heavy, and sweat poured down his face.

“Focus,” Major Zheng calmed the child. “The targets feel no fear so why should you? Remember the four fundamentals: speed, accuracy, prioritization, and a cool head.”

The major’s words struck a chord with the child. Swallowing his fear, he took a deep breath, stabilized his aim, and tried again. Another balloon was successfully popped. The automated target reset as expected, and Kevin Li took aim at the next closest one. Another balloon popped, followed by two more in rapid succession. This continued until the Type 95-1 carbine’s magazine was empty.
“Fantastic!” Major Zheng congratulated the child. Kevin Li reloaded the carbine and swapped it for the Type 97-1 shotgun before completing his cycle and returning to the back of the line. The class continued to participate in this bizarre exercise of marksmanship until finally school was dismissed after a few more hours.
“You may exit the building in an orderly fashion and proceed to the bus where you will be given a ride home,” Major Zheng dismissed the children. “I am very proud of your performance today.”

“Mom! Dad!” Kevin Li arrived home anxious and eager to inform his family of his interesting day at school. He ran into the front den and approached his mother. “Mom! Mom!”
“Kevin,” she hugged her son. “I’m glad you’re home.”
“Mom,” he rambled. “I have to tell you all about school!”
“You can tell me all about it later,” she abruptly ended the hug and headed for the front door. “Your father’s subway got delayed; I need to pick him up from work, then head to Church for something.”
“Aw,” he complained. “Do I have to babysit Lily?”
“Yes,” his mother answered. “And be nice to her; she’s your sister. I won’t be too long, and I’ll bring back dinner later.”

“Lily!” Kevin Li shouted down the hallway. “You okay?”
“Boo!” the little girl jumped out from behind him.
“Ahh!” the boy was startled. He angrily turned around to face his little sister. She was an adorable little 3-year-old girl with two black pigtails and a charming smile that could warm the heart of even the coldest miser. As always, on her head she wore the People’s Liberation Army helmet from her uncle.
“Wanna play a game big brother? Wanna play with me?” Lily joyously frolicked around the room.
“Later,” he irritably dismissed her. “Go play in your room or something; I’m gonna take a nap.”
“Oooh-kay!” she returned to her bedroom as the sound of her favorite television program resumed.

An exhausted Kevin Li collapsed on the sofa. He was perturbed by the day’s tragic events—the new bus, the chilling raid on the apartment complex, and the mysterious arrest of Chen—but he was also tired, and for now he preferred not to think of them. Thinking instead of the positive memories like his exceptional performance at the firing range and school being out for the time being, he began to doze off. Within minutes he was fast asleep.
“Attention!” the news anchorman from the left-on television announced loudly. The noise awoke Kevin Li from his slumber. Startled, he reached for the remote on the coffee table.

“Reports of ma…” the anchorman was cut short as Kevin Li switched off the television. Disoriented, he looked at the clock.
“8:15?!” he shouted in shock at the amount of time that had passed. His fifteen-minute nap had turned into a five-hour slumber.
“Mom? Dad?” he made his way through the kitchen and then his parents’ bedroom. There were no signs of them. They should have been back by now—the citywide curfew was 8:00PM sharp—but he did not think much of it. Delays were common due to the unpredictability of martial law. Perhaps they were halted at one of the many police checkpoints across town, or they were rerouted from their ordinary path and forced to take a long detour home.
“Lily?” he entered his sister’s bedroom. Wrapped beneath her blanket like a little caterpillar, she was curled in the fetal position and fast asleep on the floor. Cautious not to awake her, he flipped off the light and then quietly shut the door. He then promptly returned to the living room and peered out the front door for any sign of his parents. Nothing. He stepped a few meters outside for a closer look.

“Mr. Zhu?” Kevin Li asked, watching as his elderly neighbor wobbled down the stairs. The old man suddenly stopped, turned around, and made eye contact with the child. Kevin Li’s heart sank.
“A-are-are you okay Mr. Zhu?” he was appalled at the ghastly sight. The ordinarily jovial and healthy old man was pale, cold, and tattered. Thick, congealed blood was splattered across his clothing; putrid, decaying flesh dangled from his lips and chin. As his disembodied, expressionless eyes met with Kevin Li’s, he unleashed an otherworldly moan that made the hairs on the back of the child’s neck stand up. He then stuck out his lifeless arms and staggered toward the child in a menacing lurch.

“Ahh!” a petrified Kevin Li ran back into his apartment and locked the door behind him. But he knew that the cheap lock would not suffice for long. Frantically he searched the den for something to reinforce the door with. He decided upon the sofa. It was large and would make a formidable barricade. He attempted to push the sofa into place, but it was too heavy and would not budge. He recalled how when his mother first purchased it, it required the combined effort of both his father and his Uncle Lee to lift it. But the terrified little child was fueled by adrenaline. Kevin Li mustered all his strength and pushed until finally the colossal sofa slid across the den to the front door.
“Whew,” Kevin Li wiped the sweat off his forehead and collapsed on the floor from exhaustion. Moments later, loud banging and clawing was heard as the elderly neighbor attempted to break down the door. But his efforts were futile as the heavy sofa prevailed. The child arose from the carpet and went for the phone in the kitchen. He picked it up and dialed 110 for the police.

“We are currently unavailable to help you right now,” a recording played. “Due to the magnitude of the epidemic, all of our units are busy at the moment. For information, instructions, and/or help, please turn to your local news network for emergency broadcasts.”

“Fuck!” Kevin Li snarled as the recording repeated itself. He swiftly returned to the den and turned on the television.
“Reports of mass homicide continue to skyrocket all across the nation,” the flustered news anchorman chillingly announced. “Citizens report being attacked by hordes of slow-moving human assailants behaving in a sort of mindless trance. The Ministry of Public Security has advised residents to stay inside at all times until further notice. Emergency forces such as the People’s Armed Police and the People’s Liberation Army are working diligently to reestablish order and maintain stability amidst the crisis. This is the official emergency broadcast network and we will remain on the air at all times to keep you informed on further developments relating to the crisis.”

Kevin Li grabbed a pair of binoculars and exited his second-story hillside apartment onto its balcony overlooking the metropolis below. But before he could even raise the binoculars to his eyes, the apocalyptic scene caught him off guard like a deer in the headlights. The once great city’s towering skyscrapers were in ruins. Flames consumed buildings like oversized candles. The roads were congested with overturned cars strewn about like cheap toys. Masses of panicked citizens fled in terror as they were pursued by hordes of shambling assailants. The child zoomed in on them. Like his neighbor, they moved slowly and appeared mindless. With their piercing moans and tattered flesh they stalked their prey like hungry packs of wolves. Vehicles collided with one another before their mortally wounded drivers were drug from their seats and fed upon by the hordes. Kevin Li dropped the binoculars in disgust and vomited in his mouth as one unlucky woman’s innards spewed out from her stomach like a piñata. He marveled at what horrendous cause could drive humans to commit such wanton acts of sadism as the surrounding assailants devoured the woman alive. The child knew that he could not stay put forever. The barricade on the front door would not prevail indefinitely against the growing immensity of the horde. He needed to seek help and find a safer place of refuge before it was too late.

“Lily!” Kevin Li awoke his little sister.
“Ready to play with me big brother?”
“What? No, not right now.”
“Are we going bye-bye big brother? Bye-bye in the car with mommy and daddy?”
“I don’t know,” he ignored her. “Come on, let’s take you pee-pee.”
As the little girl sat on the toilet, Kevin Li returned to the living room and watched the news once more.

“Rescue stations,” the overworked anchorman wiped the sweat off his forehead. “Emergency forces are setting up rescue stations all across the city. Citizens in need of refuge, safety, and/or medical attention are advised to report to them. Here is a list of locations in the area: S.E. King College, 1978 Romero Road, Russo Industries, 1985 O’Bannon Boulevard, Savini Steel Foundry, 11346 Brooks Way, and Matheson Middle School, 1954 Neville Avenue.”
“Matheson Middle School!” Kevin Li was excited at the mention of his school being transformed into a rescue station. It was not too far on foot, and finally he knew where to go.

“I’m all done!” Lily shouted from the bathroom.
Kevin Li returned to the bathroom and attended to his sister. After helping her wash her hands, he took her back to her bedroom.
“Let’s get your jacket and shoes on,” he said to the little girl as he retrieved the objects from her closet.
“Can I take Twilight Sparkle big brother? Big brother can I take Twilight Sparkle? Pleeeease?” Lily innocently asked her brother as he zipped up her jacket.
“Yes,” he sighed. “Take your blanket too. I’ll be right back.”
Kevin Li entered the hallway. He paused momentarily to listen to the television in the den.

“…The mysterious assailants are said to be impervious to pain and extremely resilient, if not invulnerable, to most forms of damage apart from that which is done to the head. They are also said to possess an instinctive aversion to fire, which witnesses say can act as a deterrent. They are immensely dangerous, unfazed by reason and/or emotion, and are motivated by the sole desire to feed. Ghastly reports from witnesses indicate that the victims show signs of being partially devoured, although these reports have yet to be confirmed. Social unrest has broken out all across the nation, with some rural communities in the countryside taking up arms against military and police forces for what they perceive as a government conspiracy…” the anchorman announced.

“Fire,” Kevin Li inquisitively whispered to himself. Swiftly he went into his parents’ bedroom and approached their large bureau. He tore open the drawers and ransacked through their neatly folded clothing until finally he discovered his father’s lighter. He had seen his father use it to light cigarettes many times in the past, and although he technically “quit” smoking a year ago at the bequest of Kevin Li’s mother, the child still saw him sneak a cigarette every once in a while. The boy then went under their bed and retrieved a large dusty trunk. Inside he found a large cache of sky lanterns—the kind that his family would use to celebrate the Chinese New Year. He grabbed as many of them as he could hold and then returned to his sister’s bedroom.

“I’m all ready to go!” Lily happily smiled. As Kevin Li struggled to hold the large quantity of sky lanterns, it dawned on him that he would be unable to both carry his supplies and guide his sister through the apocalyptic nightmare outside. He dropped the lanterns in disgust and cursed under his breath.
“You silly boy!” Lily calmly interrupted her angry big brother. “We can put them in my wagon!”
The girl was right. Kevin Li perked up at the suggestion and rolled her wagon out of the closet. Pink and adorned with flowers, it was just large enough to hold not only the sky lanterns, but also the little girl herself along with her blanket and stuffed animal. After loading it up, he opened two sky lanterns. Using their long ribbons, he tied them parallel to each other on both sides of the wagon. He then primed their long-burning fuses and lit the lanterns with his father’s lighter.
“Ooh pretty!” Lily cheered at the balloon-like sky lanterns.
“Whatever you do, don’t cut them loose,” Kevin Li sternly warned the little girl as she adjusted the loose-fitting military helmet still on her head. “We need them to stay.”

The children then approached the front door. Kevin Li’s heart began to pound; adrenaline flowed through his blood. He was overcome by an impending feeling of fear and anticipation. He slid the sofa away from the door and undid his own barricade. There was no going back now. It was he against the world. The fate of not only his own life was at stake, but also that of his little sister. The pounding at the door had stopped minutes ago. Kevin Li speculated that his neighbor had moved on to somewhere else.
“You stay in that wagon and let me pull you,” he instructed his little sister. “Don’t you dare get out or wander off unless I tell you otherwise. Do you hear me?”
“Yes!” Lily enthusiastically affirmed. “I’m a good girl!”

Kevin Li held his breath. This was it. He flung open the door, and together brother and sister exited the seclusion of their home into the dangerous world outside. The boy glanced from left to right as he stealthily pulled the wagon to the stairs. It was safe—for now… Careful not to lose control, he guided the wagon down the stairs. The duo made it to the sidewalk. Kevin Li halted for a moment to take in the otherworldly scene. As the moon’s spectral rays eerily enveloped the city, the stillness of the night was disrupted by the sordid sound of screams and sirens in the distance. He saw the outer skyline consumed by flames, the air crisp with embers and smoke. Helicopters zipped around the sky directionless; incessant gunshots could be heard like fireworks. Fortunately his street was devoid of activity and relatively unscathed compared to the cataclysmic holocaust raging downtown.

“Look!” Lily said from the wagon. “Look big brother look!”
“Not now!” Kevin Li impatiently blew her off as he wrestled to come to grips with the reality before him.
“No, look!” she whined and pointed her little finger to the other side of the road. “A police car! A police car big brother!”

Kevin Li was stunned. The little girl was right yet again. There it was, only a few meters away: a police car. He raced toward the vehicle. Lily laughed behind him as the wagon picked up speed.
“Hello! Hello! We need a ride to the nearest rescue station!” Kevin Li pounded on the hood of the vehicle. But to his horror, there was nobody inside. The vehicle was abandoned. Spirits low, the boy went around to the driver’s side and opened the door. Perhaps the keys were still inside. He checked the ignition. No luck. They were gone. But as he began to turn away, something caught his eye like an oasis in the desert. He recognized the metallic shine, polished barrel, and sleek design. It was a type 97-1 shotgun positioned vertically between the two front seats. Kevin Li had fond flashbacks of the weapon. Remembering the amount of damage it did to the balloons earlier, he knew that it would be the perfect defense against the mindless assailants. He went to remove the weapon, but it was locked in place. He tried harder, cursing and grinding his teeth, but still the weapon would not budge. He needed the key, but it was gone.

“Argh!” the little boy pouted in frustration as he pounded his fists into the driver’s seat. Only then did he finally notice the lone Type 77 handgun lying in plain sight on the cushion. Dumbfounded, he quickly retrieved the weapon. It was not as large as the shotgun; nor did it pack nearly the same punch. But it was better than nothing. He released the magazine to discover only three rounds inside. He searched under the seat for more ammunition, but only found spent shell casings.
“Ooh!” Lily’s eyes opened wide at the sight of the handgun as Kevin Li shut the car door behind him. “Big brother you’re being a bad boy! Daddy says we’re not ‘sposed to ever play with guns!”
“Don’t worry; it’s an emergency,” he assured her as he popped open the trunk and scavenged through its contents. Finally he found what he was looking for: ammunition. He emptied the open box of 7.65x17mm bullets across the trunk and reloaded his magazine. He also found a spare magazine and loaded that one as well. He wished he had more ammunition. He also wished he had the shotgun from inside the vehicle. But he was grateful for what little he had.

“Hello Mr. Zhu!” Lily said in the background just as Kevin Li locked and loaded the Type 77. A chill went down his spine.
“Stay behind me and don’t look!” Kevin Li choked on fear as he threw himself in front of the wagon. Sure enough, it was his same shambling neighbor from earlier. The battered old man smacked together his bloody lips and unleashed a hellish moan of excitement as he began to stumble toward the children.
“Stay back!” Kevin Li raised his handgun at the old man. “Don’t make me have to shoot you! Please Mr. Zhu, don’t make me have to shoot you! Go away! Please!”

The old man ignored the child’s pleas and continued his advance. Kevin Li was conflicted. He did not want to shoot his neighbor. But he also did not want to end up like the woman from earlier. Mr. Zhu had always been a nice old man. But the news said that he was too dangerous to be shown mercy. Swiftly the little boy grabbed one of the sky lanterns from the wagon behind him and utilized it as a torch. He held the bulbous fireball from the ribbon like a balloon and waved it from left to right like a madman. Startled by fire, the old man instinctively recoiled back and ceased his advance. Kevin Li threw the sky lantern at him, but the lightweight device caught air and floated upward. The boy went to retrieve the second, but the ribbon slipped out of his hand and that sky lantern too left earth. The old man stood motionless like a turkey in a rainstorm. His eyes were fixated on the floating fireballs in the sky. As the sky lanterns drifted out of sight, he refocused his attention on the children and continued his pursuit. All other options exhausted, Kevin Li took aim with the handgun. He struggled to steady the weapon amidst his fear. He fired.

“Crack!” the first bullet left a bloody cavity in the old man’s chest. He did not even flinch at the wound. Kevin Li fired again. This time the bullet missed the old man’s head by a hair and barbarically took off his ear like St. Peter and Malchus.
“Focus,” Major Zheng’s words reentered Kevin Li’s psych. “The targets feel no fear so why should you?”
Kevin Li took aim a third time. It was just another target; it was just another balloon. This was just another harmless exercise. He recalled the fundamentals: speed, accuracy, prioritization, and a cool head. He pulled the trigger.
“Ka-blam!” the old man’s head exploded on impact and flung gangrenous bits of flesh and brain matter in all directions like confetti. His headless corpse slumped to the ground lifeless just inches from Kevin Li’s feet. The child was stunned. The smoking gun still shook in his grip. Never before had he taken a life; never before had he witnessed death. The pungent stench of rotten blood as it oozed forth from the decapitated corpse made Kevin Li nauseous. He shrugged, and without paying the carnage another glance, he continued his journey.

“Why did you shoot Mr. Zhu?” Lily broke the awkward silence from her wagon. Kevin Li stopped. He looked into the little girl’s eyes. She asked her question with a sincere, childlike sense of innocence that made his heart melt.
“Because I love you,” he answered firmly as he struggled to come to grips with the answer himself. “Because I needed to protect you.”
“Mr. Zhu was a nice old man,” she replied. “He used to let me pick flowers from his garden to give to mommy.”
“Something very bad happened to Mr. Zhu,” Kevin Li attempted to explain. “Mr. Zhu became…different.”
“He was sick?”
“I guess you could say that,” he sighed.
“Oh…” she wrestled to wrap her young mind around his words. “Is Mr. Zhu in Heaven?”
“I don’t know,” he answered. “Maybe we can ask Fr. Tang if we ever see him again.”
“If he is in Heaven, do you think he’s together again with Mrs. Zhu? He really missed her. I know because sometimes I’d see him cry even though he told me he wasn’t crying, but I knew he was. He used to say that I looked like her. I hope he’s with Mrs. Zhu again.”
“Stop asking questions now,” he told her. “I did what I did because I love you. Remember that.”
“O-kay,” the little girl responded with that same self-convicting sense of innocence and non-judgmental curiosity that pierced Kevin Li’s conflicted conscience like a hundred arrows.
“I did it because I love you; because I had no choice,” he whispered to himself repeatedly as he resumed his journey.

Brother and sister crisscrossed their way through the back alleys of the city and did their best to avoid the ensuing chaos as society descended into total anarchy. Masses of hysterical civilians pushed and shoved past the children in a desperate attempt to flee the carnage. Kevin Li tried asking for help, but everyone ignored him. Bodies fell to the street like slabs of cement as countless men and women leapt to their deaths from blazing skyscrapers to avoid being burned alive. The sound of their spines shattering on impact like chandeliers forever haunted the young boy. Pressing further, he stealthily guided the wagon through the maze of overturned cars and blazing infernos as his pleas for assistance went unheard. With the sound of helicopters roaring overhead, the little boy dodged bullets left and right as overwhelmed forces did battle with the cannibalistic hordes.

“Move out of the way!” one fatigued soldier directed the children out of the line of fire before being vaporized into dust as an undisciplined police officer lost control of a grenade launcher. Kevin Li considered shooting the incompetent officer who nearly ended the lives of him and his sister, but lost the opportunity as a group of four assailants closed in on the officer. The man was torn apart limb from limb as his flesh was consumed off the bone like fried chicken.

“Don’t look,” Kevin Li advised his little sister. She immediately complied by burying her face deeply into her helmet to avoid the scene. The duo escaped into a narrow tunnel. The utter pandemonium they encountered earlier in their journey was replaced by an eerie sense of tranquility as they emerged into an endless chain of desolate old homes and slums. Windows were crudely barricaded, and personal possessions strewn across porches like trash. The noise of helicopters and panic in the distance was drowned out by the more immediate noise of beeping car alarms and flickering lights. The school was close.

A paranoid Kevin Li waved the handgun in all directions as he guided the wagon through the ruins. The rustling of a stray cat was a lone assailant; the howling of the wind was the hungry moan of a horde. He saw the mysterious cannibals every once in a while as they shuffled about aimlessly like unearthly marionettes. But fortunately their ranks were thinner than in the city’s epicenter.

“Wait here,” Kevin Li whispered to Lily as he peered his head around the corner of an apartment building. He saw six of them as they lumbered around the road. The school was just up ahead. He thought about making a break for it, but the risk of Lily falling out of the wagon behind him was too great. He considered shooting them, but the sound of gunshots might attract more. He returned to the wagon with an idea.
“Are we there yet big brother?” Lily asked.
“Very close.”
“Oh boy!” she exuberantly leapt in joy.
“Shhh! Quiet down!” he reprimanded the little girl. “You want more of those things to find us?”
“No…” she lowered her head. “Sorry. I won’t do that anymore.”

Kevin Li lit four new sky lanterns and tied them to the rails of the wagon. He made sure that the knots were tight so that they would not float away in the wind. He then emerged from the corner and bravely proceeded up the road. The six cannibals immediately unleashed their signature moan at the sight of fresh meat and began shambling their way toward the children. But Kevin Li remained undaunted. Just as he predicted, they stumbled back at the sight of the four flaming sky lanterns. They circled around the traveling duo like sharks, but none of them came closer than a few meters. One specimen in particular caught Kevin Li’s attention: a young prostitute. Her torn, dirty fishnets revealed a grisly half-eaten leg. Her makeup tarnished whatever beauty she ever possessed as it was smeared across her bloody face like a clown. Her eyes were mechanical and emotionless, yet beautiful in a dark way. The repulsed little boy gagged at the sight of her exposed femur as flesh dangled off of it with every step she took.

“I think that poor girl needs a bandage,” Lily innocently surmised as she hugged her Twilight Sparkle doll for dear life. Kevin Li ignored her and vigilantly continued their perilous odyssey until finally they gained some distance from their pursuers.

“We’re just about there!” he happily announced to the little girl. But as he eagerly approached the front of the school, nothing could prepare him for what he saw next.

“OUT OF ORDER!” the big red sign singlehandedly destroyed his hopes for salvation. “OUT OF ORDER!—please check your local news network for an up-to-date list of operational rescue stations.”
“No! Fuck no!” the enraged little boy screamed.
“Pow! Crack!” the Type 77 hissed as Kevin Li fired two rounds into the sign before pummeling it until his hands bled.
“Big brother now you’re gonna need a bandage!” Lily proclaimed.

Kevin Li slowly regained his sanity as the adrenaline wore off. He felt the sharp pain in his hands as blood trickled down his knuckles; he noticed that Lily was humming the My Little Pony theme song. Most importantly, he came to grips with the fact that his plan had failed. The rescue station was closed down. To make matters worse, the spine-tingling howls of the cannibals grew louder as the two gunshots from earlier attracted them to the children’s position. The boy considered his options. He thought about traveling to another rescue station, but the distance combined with the fear of it being closed down deterred him from that option. He thought about returning home, but decided it was too risky to traverse the city again. At his wits’ end, he ran…He ran aimlessly through the slums, cutting between deserted old houses and barren roads. He ran for miles and found himself lost in the maze of unending urban sprawl as he desperately tried to escape the nightmare.

“Look!” Lily pointed from her wagon to a structure off in the distance as Kevin Li collapsed on the floor from fatigue. He despairingly turned his head and saw it. He could tell by its traditional upwardly curved rooftop and towering pagoda that it was a Buddhist monastery. Situated atop a hill, it was as safe a shelter they were going to find amidst the chaos. Kevin Li wanted that monastery, but taking it would be risky since a dozen cannibals surrounded it. He watched as they chillingly loitered around the courtyard in search of prey. But he was desperate and out of options. With nothing else to lose, he rose from the ground and approached the structure.

The bumbling cannibals instantaneously released their harrowing moan and staggered toward the children like hellish windup dolls. Exerting extra strength to drag the wagon uphill, Kevin Li ran with all his might. His heart raced, and his young legs were sore. But victory was close. The boy swiftly flung open the door and rolled the wagon inside. He then went to shut the door, but three of them were already at the doorway. He pushed and shoved with all his strength, but the small child could not overcome the combined strength of the three adult assailants. He screamed as two cold, severed hands tugged on his clothing in an attempt to drag him outside.

“Pow! Crack! Snap! Boom!” four gunshots rang out as a terrified Kevin Li fired his Type 77 into the half-open door. But the shots were to little avail as each bullet missed the head. The cannibals finally managed to overpower the little boy, and all hope was lost as the door opened…

“You leave my big brother alone you mean, mean stinky people!” Lily unexpectedly shouted as she exited the wagon. With all the strength an incensed little girl could garner, she thrust the wagon forward like a bullet. The speeding little wagon plowed its way through the three assailants at the doorway like a runaway freight train and knocked them to the ground like bowling pins. One of them made contact with the sky lanterns and instantly erupted into flames like a giant, smoldering marshmallow. It inadvertently bumped into the other two and set them ablaze as well. Kevin Li instinctively kicked the door shut and lowered its heavy bar into place. He then peeked outside through one of the door’s fresh bullet holes and watched as the flaming assailants plummeted down the hill dead as charred, crusty corpses. He breathed a sigh of relief, and then he turned his attention to his little sister.

“You saved our lives,” an astonished Kevin Li said to the little girl. “Why’d you do it? You should’ve run away.”
“Because I love you,” Lily responded as she stood heroically with her Twilight Sparkle plush in one arm and blanket in the other. Kevin Li embraced the toddler in a hug and developed a newfound respect for his brave little sister.

Threat deterred, he then picked up the handgun and investigated the monastery’s interior. Apart from a few benches and basic pieces of furniture, the room was bare. A narrow corridor at the end of the room opened up into a huge, opulent chapel. Kevin Li looked at the elaborate Buddhist shrine at the end of the chapel with sorrow as he contemplated the fate of the monk who used to live here. Another corridor at the other end of the room opened up into a kitchen. He approached the kitchen sink and washed the dried blood off of his hands. He was relieved that the city’s plumbing was still operational.

“I have to go pee!” Lily whined and pressed her little hands against herself as Kevin Li returned to the front room. He began searching for a bathroom. He stumbled upon a door at the left side of the room. He opened the door.
“Pffh!” the little boy recoiled back in disgust. He indeed discovered the bathroom—but he also discovered that monk whose fate he earlier contemplated. He approached the body of the dead monk with caution and uncertainty of what to do. It was hunched over the bathtub with its wrists slit all the way down. The tub was filled with bloody water and an old kitchen knife. It was evident to Kevin Li that he was looking upon the somber scene of a suicide. His initial disgust at the sight of the corpse turned to sorrow. He then brainstormed what to do. He did not want to leave it in the bathroom for Lily to see. But he also did not want to endure the health hazard of moving it somewhere else.

“Big brother I really have to go bad!” Lily pressured him to act.
“Okay,” Kevin Li reluctantly gave in. “But first close your eyes until I say so, then you can come in this bathroom and go pee.”

The girl complied, and Kevin Li then grabbed the corpse by its shoulders and drug it across the floor until it was outside the bathroom. He stopped for a moment to catch his breath. He also checked the corpse for a pulse just to be sure the poor monk was not still alive. Nothing. He continued to drag it across the floor until finally it was in the chapel. He would figure out what to do with it later, but for now it was out of Lily’s sight and that was all that mattered at the moment.

“Okay,” he told the little girl. “You can open your eyes now and use the bathroom, but don’t look in the bathtub. It’s…er, it’s got spiders.”
The boy returned to the kitchen and washed his hands compulsively after handling the fresh corpse. He then scavenged through the cabinets for something to eat.

“KEVIN!” Lily cried hysterically. “Shoo! Shoo! Go away!”

Dropping the roll of cookies onto the counter, Kevin Li removed the handgun from his waist and darted for the bathroom. But what he saw next as he arrived in the front room stopped him dead in his tracks.

“No,” he whispered to himself in fear. He was stupefied at the sight. It was impossible—he had seen the cut wrists. He had checked the pulse. It was dead. He looked on in utter disbelief as the same corpse he had just finished transporting to the chapel stumbled its way toward the bathroom to cannibalize the little girl.
“Big brother!” a petrified Lily pleaded for help as the undead assailant came closer.

Kevin Li snapped back to reality and immediately took action. He rammed into the ghoul like an angry rhinoceros, and as the two struggled on the ground, he pressed the tip of his Type 77 onto its forehead and pulled the trigger.

“Pop!” the gunshot finally downed the reanimated corpse once and for all. It was only then in that lightning fast, messy moment as bloody bits of brain splattered across Kevin Li’s face that he realized his worst suspicions had been confirmed true: the dead were returning to life and cannibalizing the living.

“I had an accident…” Lily sheepishly frowned as urine trickled down her legs and onto the bathroom floor.
“T-t-that’s all right,” Kevin Li gently responded to the shaken little girl as he arose from the messy, morbid massacre on the floor. “Let’s get cleaned up, then we’ll somewhere for you to sleep.”

Half an hour later, Kevin Li returned to the chapel and salvaged some ornate cushions and pillows from the shrine. He felt remorse for defiling a religious setup, but it was an emergency and he knew that the monk would have understood. After all, his sister needed to sleep. The boy used the materials to lie out a makeshift bed for Lily. He positioned it in the center of the kitchen so that she would not have to see him dispose of the corpse in the front room.

“It’s not perfect,” Kevin Li said to Lily. “But it’s the best I can do. Try to get some sleep now, okay?”
“Kevin,” the little girl softly whispered to him as she crawled into the improvised bed like a kitten.
“What?”
“I love you.”
There was a long silence. The boy struggled to hold back tears.
“I love you too.”

Kevin Li then turned his attention to the gruesome scene in the front room. He knew that keeping a fresh corpse nearby posed a serious hazard to his health. And after having already witnessed it reanimate once, he was not going to take any chances. He approached the front door and peeped out of one of its bullet holes again.
“Perfect,” he sarcastically complained. The small horde outside had gradually grown larger. The gunshots must have attracted more. He sidestepped over the dead monk back into the bathroom and searched underneath the sink.

“☠CAUTION! HIGHLY FLAMMABLE!☠” the label on the gallon of toilet cleaning agent read. Kevin Li retrieved the flammable substance and returned to the front room. It was then he saw a small radio in the corner. He approached the radio and turned it on.

“This just in,” the announcer choked as he tried to hide the panic in his voice. Kevin Li could tell that things had gone from bad to worse. “Due to the growing enormity of the crisis, of which military officials see no immediate end, the government has suspended the right to private residency. I repeat: the right to private residency has been suspended! Citizens as of now are required by law to abandon their homes and report to the nearest rescue station for refuge and evacuation…”

Kevin Li scoffed at the irony of that order. As if the government was actually capable of keeping its rescue stations operational after Matheson Middle School from earlier, let alone capable of enforcing such a mandate on the populace. Still though, he reluctantly listened on.

“The reports have been confirmed true. The dead are in fact returning to life and cannibalizing the living. We now definitively know that the mysterious trancelike assailants that have been wreaking havoc upon our nation and the greater part of the world are in fact the reanimated corpses of the recently deceased. The cause of this strange phenomenon largely remains unknown up to the present moment, although the latest press release from the Ministry of Public Security reports that a U.N. panel of the world’s leading scientists has linked the cause to the outbreak of a manmade Israeli virus upon a Palestinian village. The Israeli government has vehemently denied all accusations as quote ‘a global anti-Semitic conspiracy’ end quote, and the United States has threatened to cease aid to any nation that levels such charges against Israel, stating quote ‘if you will not stand with Israel, we will not stand with you’ end quote. Regardless of its origins, all humans who have been exposed to the mysterious virus will reanimate after death. The Ministry of Public Security is taking no chances and has ordered that all bodies of the recently deceased be surrendered to the People’s Liberation Army, People’s Armed Police, and/or other emergency forces for proper disposal. Should you find yourself in circumstances where this is impossible, bodies must manually be disposed of immediately after death either by burning, destruction of the brain, and/or decapitation. Of the three, burning is the most strongly recommended…”

Kevin Li opened the container of flammable cleaning agent and poured its liquid contents onto the bloody corpse. He then took off his own shirt and used it as gloves to drag the corpse to the front door. He looked out its bullet hole once more to make sure they were not too close. Nervously he opened the door and proceeded to drag the corpse outside. The mangled lips of the undead smacked together at the sight of fresh prey, and as if on cue, they unleashed their otherworldly moan. Kevin Li curiously watched as the small horde staggered up the hill from all directions. Their wretched moaning attracted more to their location, and together they encircled the monastery in a siege. The boy took out his father’s lighter and set the battered corpse ablaze. He then carefully kicked it down the hill and watched as the undead assailants instinctively recoiled back at the sight of the tumbling fireball. But he knew that the corpse would not burn forever. Soon they would continue their advance, and their numbers would only continue to increase.

’Post abandoned?’ What the fuck do you mean ‘post abandoned’?! You mean to tell me they bailed and our chopper’s gone? What the fuck is going on here?!?! Where the fuck’s that fresh list of rescue stations?!?! Where’s my damn cup of tea?! Evacuate? Tell those bitching military jarheads to give us 5 more fucking minutes!” the anchorman barked over the air as Kevin Li came back inside and locked the door behind him. The boy could tell by the indiscriminate sound of bickering, gunfire, and feet scrambling around the studio that society was truly on the brink of collapse. His suspicions were further reinforced by the hair-raising sound of thuds all across the monastery’s exterior as the horde closed in and aggressively banged on the structure. The boy jumped in fear.

“Sorry about that folks,” the announcer reverted back to his professional tone. “We are experiencing some technical difficulties at the moment. Due to security concerns, the military will be evacuating us out of this studio and taking over the network. But before we go off the air, here is an up-to-date list of operational rescue stations…”

The radio abruptly cut off. Kevin Li immediately began fiddling with its controls. But it was no use. Not even static was heard. The power had finally gone out for the city. The room was engulfed in total blackness. Darkness acting as an omen for troubles to come, the thumping outside grew more relentless. Banging was elevated to pounding as their thwacks grew all the more violent. The walls shook under pressure. The floor rumbled like an earthquake.

Kevin Li worried that the structure would not maintain its integrity for long. He approached the bullet hole and peeked outside once more.

“Oh no, no damn it no,” he mumbled to himself as he nervously ran his fingers through his hair. The horde outside had grown to at least fifty ghouls. They mingled about like livestock and pounded relentlessly on the monastery’s walls. Kevin Li could not bear to watch any longer. Trying his hardest to dismiss the stress of being under siege, he drew his Type 77 and ejected the empty magazine onto the floor. He then reached into his pocket for the second one. It was all the ammunition he had left. He reloaded the empty handgun and then frantically paced around the room like a meth addict.

“Big brother?” Lily timidly crept out of the kitchen.
“Go to bed!” Kevin Li impatiently shouted at the little girl.
“I’m a little bit scared,” she whined. “I want the noises to stop.”
“Argh!” Kevin Li growled in a frenzied rage. “You are so annoying! What does it take for you to listen?! I said GO TO BED!”
The little girl’s chin began to tremble, and teardrops fell from her gorgeous little eyes. She used her blanket for a handkerchief.
“Sniff,” she embraced her doll tightly. “It’s okay Twilight Sparkle. We can be scared together.”
Kevin Li felt remorse. He knew that he had lost his temper with the little girl. As stressful as she was, she was the only person he had left. And he loved her more than the world.
“I’m sorry,” he apologized to Lily. “I really am. I’m just scared. Big brothers get scared too sometimes.”
“You got mad at me!” she cried. “I miss mommy and daddy! I miss Uncle Lee! I miss my nice warm bed and cartoons!”
“I do too,” he hugged her. “And I’m sorry I got mad at you. But you’re my little sister and I’m always going to love you.”
“Promise?”
“I promise.”

Kevin and Lily embraced each other tighter as the encircling ghouls outside continued their onslaught against the monastery. They felt each other’s hearts pound rapidly. They both began to cry. Kevin Li wished that there were something he could do to make the noise stop. But ultimately he submitted to his powerlessness over the situation. Together brother and sister lovingly fell asleep cradled in each other’s arms and covered in a blanket of tears.

“Thud!” the two children were awoken violently in the night. Kevin Li looked at the clock. Four hours had passed. It was 3:00AM.
“What’s that noise?!” Lily wailed as the loud thud was heard again.
Kevin Li saw the origin of the loud noise. It was coming from the other side of a door next to the bathroom. Initially he had assumed that it was merely a closet. But as the pounding from the other side continued, he knew that he had been wrong.
“Big brother are we gonna die?!” Lily began to cry.
“I don’t know,” Kevin Li wrapped his arm around the frightened little girl. The pounding grew louder. This was it. He knew that the door would not last much longer. He raised his Type 77 and bravely prepared for a violent last stand against the undead hordes that would be flooding into the monastery at any moment now.

“But remember this,” a teary-eyed Kevin Li consoled his little sister. “No matter what happens, I’ll always love you.”
“I’ll always love you too,” Lily cuddled with her big brother.

“Slam!” the door opened, and then…

“Uncle Lee!” Lily gleefully exclaimed with tears of joy streaming down her face. She ran up to the soldier and tenderly wrapped her tiny arms around him for dear life.
“Lily? Kevin?” Corporal Lee Wang was surprised to see that his niece and nephew were still alive as he slung his Type 81 rifle to his back and heroically scooped up the toddler in both arms.
“It’s just Uncle Lee! It’s just Uncle Lee big brother! He’s gonna protect us and take us away from all the stinky bad men! Everything is gonna be juuuust fine!” Lily smiled as she kissed her uncle’s face.

Kevin Li could not believe his eyes. He stood motionless like a statue and watched as his uncle embraced the little girl. First he thought it was a dream. Then he thought it was a hallucination. But the adrenaline wore off, and his doubts disappeared. The Type 77 slipped out of his hand, and the realization finally dawned on him that he was not going to die.

“H-how’d you find us?” Kevin Li stuttered.
“Sheer luck,” the soldier replied to his nephew. “It’s a miracle I found you two alive. But I’m happy I did. It’s a mess out there.”
“The whole country?”
“More like the whole world,” he sighed. “Rogue priests in Russia, prison riots in the United States, humanity is barely holding on.”
“So,” Kevin Li was at a loss for words. “I’m guessing the Taiwan thing was just a cover-up?”
“I’m afraid so,” the young corporal confirmed. “In fact, our government allied with the Taiwanese government a long time ago to better deal with this epidemic. Ironically it was ultra nationalistic terrorists who opposed the union that let the infected into the city. I guess they wanted to get back at the government or something.”

Kevin Li was silent at the startling revelation that the rumors had been true. His legs began to tremble. Sweat dripped down his back.

“You wouldn’t happen to know what happened to our parents would you?” the boy reluctantly asked his uncle and expected the worst.

“I’m happy to say they’re alive,” he chuckled. “When we got the order to start evacuating out the civilians, I went looking for your parents. Knowing my big sister the faithful Chinese Catholic, I found your mom at the Church. Your dad was also with her. After getting them evacuated, I went looking for you two. I checked the apartment but it was empty. So I contacted the nearby rescue stations and asked if they had any records of you guys checking in. Nothing. At that point, I had no choice but to rejoin the rest of my unit and wish for the best. We’ve been evacuating survivors ever since.”

Gunshots suddenly rang out. Boots trampled across the roof overhead. Ghouls lifelessly plummeted down the hill like boulders as the soldiers above thinned their ranks like clay targets.

“But enough of that,” the concerned uncle continued as he embraced the little girl tighter. “Let’s get you two out of here.”

The trio ascended up a staircase to the roof of the monastery where the roaring sound of propellers filled the air. Kevin Li spotted two parked helicopters accompanied by a dozen soldiers raining down semiautomatic gunfire on the horde below like target practice.

“What have we here?” the leader of the group approached the trio. Kevin Li looked at the nametag embroidered across his front pocket. It read: “STAFF SERGEANT YUAN – People’s Liberation Army.”
“Two survivors sir, my niece and nephew,” Corporal Lee Wang replied to the staff sergeant.

“That man has a fat tummy!” Lily abruptly blurted out. Kevin Li angrily shot her a death glare. But it was too late. The damage was done. Their uncle lowered his head in shame and prepared to be reprimanded.

“Well,” the greasy, overweight staff sergeant leaned over to the charming little girl. He removed a cigar from his mouth and cocked a smile. Kevin Li could not help but notice how brown and decayed his teeth were. “Aren’t you just a little doll? I reckon my tummy is kind of fat. It’s because I like to eat a lot of ice cream. Do you like ice-cream?”
“I love ice cream!” the little girl smiled. Relieved, the corporal raised his head at the realization that he was not going to get in trouble.

“Chang! Song!” Staff Sergeant Yuan shouted at two unruly privates. “Get your slimy asses over here! On the double!”
“Yes sir?” they reported in unison.
“Go into my personal cooler and give this darling little girl some of my favorite ice cream bars,” he ordered the pair. “The rest of you get back to the birds! We’re hauling ass out of here right now!”

Corporal Lee Wang took the children into one of the helicopters and together the trio prepared for a long night of flying. Kevin Li took a seat by the window. His uncle sat across from him. Lily smiled as she blissfully munched away on two frozen treats before settling down on her uncle’s lap. The whirring of propellers grew louder as the helicopters ascended into the air and left the monastery behind them. They rejoined a large fleet composed of hundreds of helicopters and together fled the city in defeat. The night belonged to the living dead.

Kevin Li descended into a catatonic state of shock as he stared out the window at the cataclysm below his feet. He saw them—with their mangled, maggot-ridden flesh and trademark shamble as they aimlessly roamed the countryside in search of prey. Only, it was not a mere ten, twenty, or few dozen ghouls. It was a massive, ever-growing horde whose numbers ranged in the early millions. Armed convoys stretching miles long navigated their way through the unnavigable ocean of ghouls and mowed them down by the hundreds like a meat grinder. It was the remaining military and police forces. They traveled to and fro the various rescue stations below to evacuate the panicked civilians as their oases of safety were overwhelmed by the mammoth horde. Automatic gunfire rang out. People screamed in terror as they were devoured alive. Kevin Li saw one unfortunate rescue station get consumed like a goldfish amidst piranhas as its chain-link fence fell like a deck of cards. Its brave military defenders, trapped on the rooftops and with help too far away, turned their rifles on their own heads and committed suicide to make the inevitable less painful. Fleets of helicopters supported the convoys below by providing cover fire and aiding in the evacuation effort. Ragtag bands of rural citizens armed with a wide array of hunting rifles, pitchforks, shovels, and other farming tools desperately did battle with the hordes as their villages were overrun like sandcastles.

“Rescue stations,” Corporal Lee Wang whispered to his nephew as the child gazed down at the chaos below. “They’re gathering up the survivors and preparing to flee. We’re all fleeing.”
“To where?” Kevin Li inquired as he watched his uncle compassionately run his fingers through the sleeping Lily’s hair.
“The Gobi Desert,” he answered. “The government has set up a new stronghold there. It’s the last safe-zone left. The capital is lost.”
Kevin Li watched in fear, terrified as the undead apocalypse dawned into day. It was like a bad nightmare; only, this nightmare did not go away. There was no escape—no liberation at sunrise. Time was on the side of the ghouls. The nightmare was reality—a reality where even Death itself held back its bittersweet consolation of escape, as the dead would no longer stay dead for long…

“Chen’s grandma was right,” Kevin Li whispered in awe. “She was right all along. It’s the jiangshi.”