Dominion’s End Volume 1: Raining Stars at World’s End
Original novel in Chinese by: 御 我 (Yu Wo)
Chapter 3: Aberrants – translated by Elkin
The four of us leaned against the blockade, expecting violent pounding to start at any moment. I looked back at the window with the iron bars, but there were no tools on hand with which we could use to break them – the chainsaw we had bought at the department store had been stored in the basement. We had no way of getting out.
“G-Gē, did I kill the nurse? I-is she alive?
Shujun’s entire body was shaking like a leaf in the wind, and bits of red and white stuff were even stuck to her delicate hands. She hadn’t noticed at all.
I calmly replied, “Don’t be silly, did she look alive?”
Hearing that, Shujun calmed down a little, but continued uneasily, “But she can move.”
“That’s not a person! You didn’t kill her either – she’s still moving out there! I said that you have to beat the brain to a pulp to kill them, but you only broke her skull, you haven’t pounded it to a pulp.” It is just that, with her skull bust open like that, she probably doesn’t have much longer to live either.
Shujun made an affirmative “uhn” sound, her expression finally relaxing a little.
No matter how long we waited, there was a distinct lack of pounding on the door. Instead, there came the nurse’s wail and some bone-chilling cracking sounds, followed by the sound of chewing…
Everyone’s faces were pale, but I was inwardly over the moon. If Muscle Man ate the nurse, he would be so full he would need time to digest her, so we were safe for the time being.
Here, I slumped to the ground, completely drained of strength and with a burgeoning headache coming on.
Everyone else followed suit and collapsed to the floor. Uncle looked particularly bad, his face white from the blood loss.
Seeing his sorry state, I forced myself to crawl up, but when I stood, my ankle hurt so much my face twisted into a grimace for a moment. I prayed none of the bones were broken.
I found the medicine box and started to help Uncle disinfect and bandage the wound with quick, precise movements. I was very used to doing this in the past – after all, I’d been at it for almost ten years, so even if I wasn’t a nurse to start with, I was at least half way there by now.
Come to think of it, it really was incredible that I had survived in times like these for a good ten years.
Auntie had originally wanted to help out, but when she saw how fast and professionally I was handling it, she gave up the notion.
“Xiao Yu, be honest with your uncle,” Uncle asked, his face a ghastly shade of white. “Will I become a zombie?”
I shook my head. “Getting bitten is fine. You’ll only turn into an aberrant if you die.”
Uncle evidently didn’t believe me as he pressed on, “Really? You’re not lying to me?”
I immediately said without thinking, “I’ll never risk Junjun’s life.”
Hearing that, Uncle breathed out and Auntie was so relieved that she started crying.
I, on the other hand, was astonished. When did I start caring so much about Jiang Shujun? She is Jiang Shuyu’s little sister, not mine!
And there was Jiang Shutian too. Even now, I still couldn’t believe that he was dead, and somehow felt that he wouldn’t die. What is with this? How can I be so confident in a person I’ve known for less than a day?
Is it because this is Jiang Shuyu’s body that his emotions are affecting me?
Dropping my gaze, my hands were carefully wrapping up Uncle’s wounds, but if it was the past me, if there was a heavily injured person trapped in this kind of environment, I’d kill him, no hesitation!
Although being bitten wouldn’t change you into an aberrant, the average person died very easily from the bites. Infection was the biggest problem, and right now we only had some generic anti-inflammatory drugs on hand and no antibiotics or the like.
We should at the very least tie up this man in case he suddenly keels over and dies, but when I saw Auntie and Junjun – Auntie, who was giving Uncle water, and Shujun, who had cut out a piece of her clothing, wetted it, and started wiping the blood from Uncle’s face–
I couldn’t say it.
I dragged my heavy feet to the door, barely squeezing through to find a spot that wasn’t blocked by the barricade, and pressed my ear against the door, listening to the outside. After a long while, there was still no sound, and only then did I comfortably sit on the ground and start bandaging my ankle.
Since it was already ten years since the beginning of the previous apocalypse, my memories from back then were a bit fuzzy, but I could still vaguely remember some bigger things. As I recalled, during this period, aberrants still needed a fairly long time to digest their food, especially when they had eaten an entire aberrant, so we should at least have one to two days of buffer time.
“Gē, don’t bandage it just yet. I’ll wash it with some water and rub on some disinfectant. You’ve got a lot of scratches on your foot.” As Shujun spoke, she tore off a strip of cloth – her clothes were all tattered. Then, she couldn’t help but add, “Gē, bear with it, it’s going to hurt.”
I nodded. Even though these scratches shouldn’t get infected, going by the state of my body at the moment, it was better safe than sorry.
Seeing Shujun earnestly wiping away at my feet with tears in her eyes, her face all filthy with grime, my heart suddenly started aching. This alien feeling scared me so much I almost jumped in the air.
“Gē?” Shujun anxiously looked at me and asked, “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing!” I hastily assured the three who were starting to get anxious about me, hesitated, then asked, “Junjun, Uncle, and Auntie, do you think I’ve changed a lot?”
Shujun blinked. “Aside from the fact that you knew this would happen, you haven’t changed much. Why do you ask?”
Haven’t changed much…
I was silent for a long while before I could squeeze out a smile, speaking with a lightness I didn’t feel in my heart, “When I was unconscious, I had a very long dream, almost ten years long. And in my dream, I wasn’t like this, I had become someone else, so I was thinking whether I had changed into that person.”
Shujun shook her head. “You really haven’t changed much. Just that you’ve become more reliable now, Èrgē, more like Dàgē.”
Haven’t changed much… No wonder none of them got suspicious of me, but I wasn’t the slightest bit happy about it. I closed my eyes in pain. Could it be that I’m really not Guan Weijun? Was that life all just a dream, and I am still Jiang Shuyu?
“Gē!” Shujun asked, concerned, “What’s wrong? Do you have a headache?”
“A bit.” I forced a smile. “Get me a painkiller?”
After taking the meds, I shut my eyes to rest, also taking the opportunity to comb over my memories. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t remember anything relating to Jiang Shuyu. I just remembered that I was Guan Weijun, I remembered those ten years, I remembered him…
I opened my eyes to see Shujun looking at me worriedly. “Does your head still hurt?”
“No, I was just resting my eyes.”
Now’s not the time to be thinking about that – survival is more important right now! I stood up. After my ankle was bound tightly by the bandages, it still hurt but no longer hindered my movement.
“Junjun, Auntie, help me move the stuff a little so we can open the door a bit. I want to check the situation outside.”
“That’s too dangerous! Xiao Yu, your foot’s still injured!” Auntie was immediately opposed to it.
I shook my head. “We can’t stay here forever. There are too few supplies here. We won’t make it past a few days. We must think of a way of getting into the basement. Besides, the Muscle Man could have come from outside, so we’ve got to think of a way of shutting the front doors, otherwise more aberrants will get in.”
“That… ‘Muscle Man’,” Here, Shujun almost laughed as she used my description, but immediately became serious again and continued, “He shouldn’t be from outside. I’ve seen him before, he’s Miss Nurse’s boyfriend. He had probably been brought over by Miss Nurse late last night.”
Hearing that, I got so angry I almost threw a fit. We really shouldn’t have let the nurse stay. No thanks to her, we had two additional aberrants to deal with, and she didn’t stay in her room either. No, she had to run to the kitchen, which had the second-most supplies in the entire house. She really pissed me off! Originally, we should have been able to peacefully live through the beginning of the apocalypse!
Seeing me get worked up, Shujun quickly patted my chest, and only after a long while did I recover my breath.
“Move the stuff. That Muscle Man just ate the nurse, so he’ll probably rest for a day or two. We need to take this opportunity to move to the basement. Otherwise, when he’s digested the meal and gets hungry again, this wooden door won’t be able to hold him off.”
The basement door was stainless steel, and although it wasn’t like the double set of doors at the front entrance, there was an enormous amount of supplies inside. Just using the rice bags alone would be enough to block the door.
After this explanation, Shujun and Auntie had no choice but to start moving the stuff.
Opening the door a crack, I glanced outside. The corridor was empty. Terrific! Muscle Man wasn’t here anymore. If he really had settled down in the corridor outside, I wouldn’t have had a clue on what to do.
“I’m going out a sec.”
At that, Shujun glanced at the open door, fear written on her face, then back at me, but still she steeled her heart and said, “Gē, it’s best if I go.”
“No!” Both Auntie and I exclaimed at the same time. As for Uncle, he was already so worn out from his injuries and blood loss that he had fallen asleep on the floor.
Shujun protested, “But Èrgē, your condition’s too bad. How can you go out investigating?”
I shook my head. “Junjun, you don’t understand the situation, so it’s no use even if you go out to look. I have to go look myself. Stay here with Auntie and help her take care of Uncle.”
Taking the house keys from Junjun, I walked to the open door, paused, then turned to say, “You turn into aberrants after you die. If things aren’t looking good for Uncle, you best tie him up. Make sure to tie him tightly. If he really dies…”
I took a deep breath before continuing. “You must destroy his brain.”
Auntie choked a sob, her hand flying up to cover her mouth.
Color drained from Shujun’s face. I shot a look at her, and even though her eyes were filled with shock and alarm, she still gave me a silent nod. She really was a good girl. Although she looked soft and gentle, she had the tenacity to survive.
“Remember that Uncle would never want to hurt either of you, so don’t let the aberrant that swallows him hurt you.”
With that, I took in a deep breath and stuck my head out the door. The floor and walls of the corridor were red, interspersed with patches of white or meat-colored bits. If Shujun saw this, she would’ve either fainted or vomited. There was no way she could have brought herself to step past this sea of flesh and blood to scout out the situation.
But thinking back to the beginning, I used to just scream and couldn’t calm down at all, much less take up a baseball bat to bash out someone’s brains. So Shujun really was doing quite well.
Jiang Shuyu must have really loved his sister. I felt a little at a loss. Just what is with this feeling of wanting to protect Shujun even in my thoughts?
Sighing, I forged on with heavy steps.
My room was on the second floor and, from there, you only had to walk to the end of the corridor and look down to see the living room. The kitchen was also on the ground floor, and to get to the basement, you had to pass through the kitchen, but not necessarily the living room.
I moved lightly, only a baseball bat in hand. Every room I passed by had a closed door, and the doors wouldn’t budge even if I pushed, so the Muscle Man shouldn’t be inside.
At the end of the corridor, I peeked downwards. There, the Muscle Man lay on the living room sofa, both eyes shut as though asleep. His stomach was engorged, so round that if he were pregnant, he would be in his twentieth month.
I sucked in a deep breath and lightly tapped the railing of the stairs with the baseball bat. Below, the Muscle Man moved, almost making me bolt back to the room, but he just turned over and stopped moving.
I silently waited, and only when he completely failed to give any further reaction did I walk down the stairs. Then, I quickly turned into the corridor at the back and even stopped to take a look at the kitchen.
The kitchen door was piled up with miscellaneous supplies up to a person’s waist. It should be Uncle’s handiwork, only that he hadn’t had time to complete his task. My guess was that if the nurse hadn’t made the move, then it would have been Muscle Man charging out. And this waist-high pile of supplies wasn’t enough to block the nurse, so we ended up in the situation where we were chased by both the nurse and Muscle Man.
I stuck my head into the kitchen for a look inside. It was a mess, but the supplies were more or less intact, perhaps the one fortunate thing amidst all this misfortune.
Here, I quickly looked back alertly, only to see the Muscle Man’s leg dangling on the upper part of the sofa. The rest of him was blocked by the sofa, but very obviously, he was remaining quite quiet.
The entrance to the basement was at the end of the ground floor corridor. I quickly strode over and glanced down those stairs leading into the basement. The stainless steel door was closed. I breathed a sigh of relief. As long as the basement was fine, we’d be able to live in there for a good year and a half, no problem.
I headed back to the room and knocking quietly on the door, murmured, “I’m Shuyu.”
Auntie and Shujun immediately pulled open the door. I didn’t go in, instead whispering, “Carry Uncle out. We’re going down to the basement.”
Their eyes brightened.
Uncle woke up immediately when called – this was a good sign. He had probably only fallen asleep from exhaustion just now rather than passing out.
“Close your eyes when you come out, and move forward slowly. Wait until I say so before opening your eyes.”
The average person would never so easily accept a scene of carnage, and I had no desire to have them vomit like crazy the moment they stepped foot from the door, so I asked them to close their eyes before moving out.
No matter how careful we all were, a group of us would still create more commotion than I just did. But there was nothing to do except slowly inch forward, and it felt like an excruciating half a day before we started going down the stairs.
The three of them saw the bulging belly of the Muscle Man, and their complexions took a turn for the worse. They probably understood why I had wanted them to close their eyes just now.
During our journey, the Muscle Man tossed and turned a few times, scaring us into immobility a good number of times, but we still made the safe if scary trip to the ground floor and through the kitchen. When the last person started down the stairs into the basement, I finally felt like I could relax.
“Junjun, Auntie, carry Uncle inside!”
After I tossed the keys to Shujun, I gripped the baseball bat and turned back to watch the top of the stairs warily. Seeing as we’d already gotten this far, there was nothing to worry about even if the Muscle Man suddenly came chasing us. Given how slowly he moved, I would have enough time to whack him with the bat before making a run for it.
The sound of the door opening behind me made me even more relieved. Compared to the previous apocalypse, this time around, I had a family, a place to live, and even a large amount of supplies, so it really wasn’t too bad. Now if Jiang Shutian could just–
I looked back sharply and saw a dark shadow pounce on Shujun. My heart skipped a beat at the sight and I immediately rushed forward, swinging down the baseball bat.
But the bat was caught in one hand and his target switched from Shujun to me. A pair of blood-red eyes fixated on me. His face, with its pointed cheekbones and a long jawbone, was already completely inhuman and closer to being bat-like, and there was even a fair amount of black hair growing on his face.
Lin-bó! A chill swept over me. I yanked hard, dragging him from Shujun, and flung him to one side together with the baseball bat. At the same time, I yelled, “Junjun, go inside! Quick!”
With strength I didn’t know I had, I gave a terrific shove, and Shujun crashed into Uncle and Auntie, the three of them falling through the doorway. Just as I was about to follow, I caught sight of Shujun opening her mouth in terror. She didn’t even have the time to form her words, but I already knew what she wanted to say.
Something heavy struck my back and pain lanced through my shoulder – the agony of claws burrowing into flesh.
Shujun’s eyes were filled with terror and fear, but overriding those feelings was concern. In the end, she actually crawled up to her feet, wanting to dash over to me.
I slammed the door shut on her terrified gaze and immediately bolted the door. This was the only door in the house that could be locked from the outside, and this was also why I had placed the chainsaw in the basement; if someone bolted the door shut from the outside, we could still force our way out with the chainsaw.
But even though there was a chainsaw behind that door, the supplies were in such a complete mess that it wasn’t something that could be found at a moment’s notice.
The Muscle Man be damned! I shouted at the door, “Don’t open the door! Junjun, promise me, don’t you ever open that door, you hear me?!”
The pain in my shoulder grew more and more intense. I looked around and was immediately struck by a foul odor. He was opening his mouth to bite down on my neck, and I barely managed to stop him by grabbing his lower jaw. If I really had gotten bitten on the neck by that mouth of teeth, then I really would have ended up being a meal in Lin-bó’s belly.
I struggled to throw him off, hoping that on the off chance I’d be able to rush into the basement, but both his claws had a vice-like grip on my shoulder, the sharp nails digging down deep into the flesh. In addition, he had both legs wrapped around my waist, so I couldn’t get him off no matter how hard I tried.
At this point, the pain was so overwhelming it almost drowned out my ability to think. My breathing had become difficult, and I knew at that very moment that I was on the verge of passing out.
Getting a firm grip on his head, I slowly took the stairs up, my consciousness growing fuzzier by the moment. I really had no idea how I found the willpower to keep walking on and on – even in my past life, I wasn’t anywhere as resolute as I was now.
Once I reached the living room, I kicked the sofa forcefully. Even if I was going to die, there was no way in hell was I going to let things go the way these two bastards wanted. At the very least, I was taking one of them down with me!
The Muscle Man let loose a roar, and to my surprise, Lin-bó seemed scared of the Muscle Man. Upon hearing the roar, he instantly dropped from my body and squirreled back down the stairs toward the basement.
A chill had descended on my body and even my lips were so cold that my teeth couldn’t stop chattering. Resigned to my fate, I waited for the Muscle Man to spring up and rip me to shreds, but amazingly, he didn’t do so. He just turned over and continued sleeping.
Seeing that death wasn’t coming this way, I could only drag my feet toward the corridor behind me, enter the room closest to the basement, and close the door – I didn’t even have the strength to shove something over to block the door – then I collapsed directly onto the bed. Slowly, everything melded into a blur.
Lin-bó was guarding the entrance to the basement, so there was no way in for me, and as for my current condition…
That fucking nurse!
And that mother-fucking Lin-bó!
I must be burning up with a fever?
My head felt like it was splitting open, my cheeks were hot but my body felt icy. This body was originally very weak in the first place, and if not for the black fog, I probably wouldn’t be able to get up. In fact, I was rather surprised I even woke up again – this Jiang Shuyu’s constitution was quite something.
The thirst was too much for me, so even if I was as weak as a kitten, I absolutely had to get up to find something to drink.
Levering up my body, I discovered that this room seemed to belong to Lin-bó. Fortunately, the supplies from before were still here, otherwise I’d be better off bashing out my own brains rather than starving to death and turning into an aberrant, though having said that, there was no baseball bat anywhere to be seen!
I practically inhaled three cans of drinks. The fact of the matter was, there weren’t all that many supplies in the room – just a box of drinks, a gallon-sized bottle of water, a dozen odd cans, as well as a few packs of candy and cookies. Theoretically, I was supposed to ration my supplies, but judging from the current state of my body, it was possible I wouldn’t even live to see the sunrise tomorrow, so there was little point in saving up on the supplies. I might as well just replenish a little bit more water to see if I could get better.
After slaking my thirst, I looked down to check the wounds on my shoulder. There were ten puncture holes, but while there wasn’t much blood, the wound looked unclean. If it got infected, I’d probably die.
I dug out the medicine box and splashed on disinfectant like it was free. It stung so badly I almost screamed, and my mind, originally muddled from the fever, cleared instantly.
After disinfecting the wound, I carelessly swallowed a bunch of anti-inflammatory pills and painkillers. Then, hauling my leaden body along, I barely managed to move a table to block off the door. As for the rest, I gave up. I really didn’t have the strength to move any more heavy things if I had to do it without making a sound.
Tasks completed, I lay on the bed, so tired I almost couldn’t open my eyes, but the headache kept me from sleeping, so I could only let my thoughts wander.
In the previous life, I was ripped to shreds, and in this life, I’d die from a fever. Comparatively speaking, this was still a better death, except there was no chance of turning into an aberrant when I was torn to bits, whereas the same did not apply if I died from a fever.
If she saw that I had turned into an aberrant, I wonder how sad Shujun would be, and if Jiang Shutian came back, he would definitely be so pissed off he’d tear both Muscle Man and Lin-bó apart with his own two hands.
Now I could only hope that Junjun and Auntie wouldn’t come out to find me, I hoped that Uncle could make a full recovery, I hoped Jiang Shutian would come back… Shit! Jiang Shuyu, just how much do you love your family? Why is it that, even with another person on the inside, I can’t help but love them and worry about them even on the brink of death?
I’d originally thought to die before the twenty-first, yet, now, I didn’t want to die; I really hated the idea of dying.
Tears kept trickling down my cheeks, and for some reason, a lot of images flashed through my mind. Most were of Dàgē and Junjun, the occasional shots of “him,” and also of my mother, who died during the early stages of the apocalypse.
Guan Weijun, Jiang Shuyu; the memories of these two people meshed together, and at that moment, I truly had no idea who I was.
I lifted my head to look at the photos hanging high above, the only things left of the father and mother I knew so well. Surrounding me were murmurs and whisperings, broken only by the clear sound of my little sister’s sobs. Looking around, I saw Dàgē speaking with the adults, his complexion awful. Mèimei didn’t dare to go over to him, so I walked over to give her a hug.
As I listened to Mèimei’s crying, unknowingly, tears started to well up in my eyes, and I began to cry alongside her.
Dàgē finally came over. At seventeen, he was already very tall, and his arms were long enough to wrap around both of us, letting us cry in his embrace. But Dàgē himself fought to keep a stony expression and refused to let a single tear fall from his eyes.
“Xiao Yu, you mustn’t cry anymore after this. You need to help Dàgē protect Shujun…”
Xiao Yu? So these are Jiang Shuyu’s memories?
I really couldn’t figure it out. Am I really Guan Weijun, a woman who has taken over Jiang Shuyu’s body?
My fever blazed on, completely scrambling my thoughts. Following that, the times when I regained consciousness were few and far between, and perhaps the one good thing out of all this was that there wasn’t much commotion in the house. Even Muscle Man was quiet, his digestion needing much longer than I had anticipated.
Day three of the apocalypse.
I lifted my head to look at myself in the mirror. Even without much rationing of food and water, although I made an effort to eat more, I was still skeletally thin. My eyes, originally quite large to begin with, became frighteningly huge against my sunken cheekbones, and I actually started to resemble that bat-like Lin-bó. At this rate, I might really turn into that kind of aberrant when I died.
Pulling off the bandages around my shoulder, I was immediately assaulted by the smell of rot. My wound was infected…
I needed antibiotics, but there was none to be found, not even in the basement. You needed a doctor’s prescription for that kind of stuff. Otherwise, there was no easy way to get a hold of it.
Guess I won’t have to worry about starving to death. This body of mine definitely wouldn’t last until the day I ran out of food and starved.
I started rooting around for belts. Lin-bó’s collection of belts was much smaller than Jiang Shuyu’s; there were only two to be found, just enough for one for each leg. So I tied down each leg like I did last time, only Lin-bó’s bed didn’t have any railings like the hospital bed I could tie them to. I ended up adding a finishing touch by ripping clothes into long strips to tie around the foot of the bed, so I could anchor my belts on them.
Another day passed.
As I quietly lay on the bed, I had the feeling that, if I closed my eyes this time, I really wouldn’t be opening them ever again – or perhaps I should say, whatever opened its eyes wouldn’t be me anymore.
At least I was able to save Junjun, Uncle, and Auntie. I accomplished so much more in these four days following the apocalypse in this life as compared to the ten years in my previous life.
Dàgē, come back. Junjun can only rely on you for the remaining times to come.
I stared at the ceiling, thinking about my loved ones down in the basement below. I absolutely refused to die, so I struggled to keep my eyes open until the very last instant. Just as my eyelids grew so heavy that I almost couldn’t keep them open, the moment before they fully closed, I suddenly heard a bunch of noises.
No way, Junjun and the others can’t be coming out? I got so agitated that I immediately woke up again, and concentrated hard on listening.
Footsteps, sounds of what sounded like combat, and someone calling out names…
Are Uncle and Auntie calling me? No, hurry up and go back to the basement, hurry–
I started. It can’t be…
“Where are you! Answer me!”
That shouting voice sounded close to the brink of insanity.
I suddenly realized who it was and a tremor ran through my body. Gathering all the strength in my body, I yelled with all my might, “Dàgē–”
The calling stopped, and I started doubting whether I was hearing things right before death. But the next moment, the entire door was smashed in, and even the table I had pushed up against the door was blown away to one side by the incredible force.
One person rushed to the bedside, looked down at me, and stiffened. And that face that hadn’t even shed a tear at his parent’s funeral crumbled.
Jiang Shutian lowered his head, stroking my cheeks with shaking hands, and his voice actually trembled as he spoke, threatening to turn into sobs.
Although I couldn’t see it, I knew that I must look dreadful. I had already looked like a skeleton yesterday, and now I was on the verge of dying, so who knew what I looked like. Perhaps I was even scarier than an aberrant.
I worked my lips and tongue, but I couldn’t make any sound.
“What?” He hurriedly leaned in close to listen.
I struggled to force out the words, “Basement, Junjun.”
He immediately said, “Don’t worry, Yunqian is checking it out.”
I relaxed. Everything was alright now. We had Dàgē, and we had supplies. The apocalypse had nothing on us…
I snapped out of my reverie and looked at Dàgē. Strange, he is right by my side, yet his voice sounds like it’s coming from very far away.
Dàgē’s frantic expression made me feel slightly bemused. The Dàgē who has always been taciturn and stern is freaking out? He bellowed to one side, “Bring the antibiotics! Right now! Shuyu, wake up, you’ve got to stay awake, Shuyu–”