Chapter 23.1 – Shelter
The screaming crowd, the messy footsteps, the frightened faces. The world turned upside down in an instant.
Shi Yuan promised Lu Tinghan that if there was an alarm, he would hide in a shelter.
So, he followed the others and was swept into an underground entrance – an entrance that was normally closed, but now, the half-meter-thick metal door was wide open, with green lights flashing.
The passage behind the door was very narrow and winding, and was only enough for three people to walk side by side. The emergency lights above his head were dim, there were so many people that it was hard to breathe. Shi Yuan didn’t know how long he had been walking. He felt that he was almost going to the center of the earth before he saw a huge space.
—They were on the top floor of the space, with a metal corridor under their feet, which was about a dozen floors high from the bottom floor, making people feel soft under their feet.
Shi Yuan leaned on the railing of the corridor and looked out, the emergency passage on the ground connected different floors. He saw people pouring into the space in a steady stream, and the corridors were full of people. Up in the air were crisscrossed aisles and pillars, and the walls were lined with dense, beehive-like doors with numbers hanging around them.
There was a guide robot at each entrance, his mobile phone also received a text message: [It is detected that you have entered the shelter in Area A from Channel 17, please go to Residence No. 5202]
This was allocated nearby. The nearest house number to him was . Shi Yuan walked along the crowd and quickly found .
Pushing open the metal door and walking in, the whole room was extremely dim, the structure was a strange triangle, with twelve beds crowded together.
There were already people sitting on two beds, looking at him silently.
Shi Yuan asked a middle-aged man, “Which bed is mine, please?”
The man was silent for a long time and whispered, “Whatever, first come first served.”
Shi Yuan picked the bed in the farthest corner.
The bed was that kind of metal sheet bed. There was no mattress, only a thin layer of bedding, making you feel flustered when you sit on it. Shi Yuan sat with his tail propped up and felt better.
A few more people came in one after another, sitting on the edge of the bed, without saying a word.
The siren was still echoing. After Shi Yuan sent Lu Tinghan [I’m in the shelter], he had nothing to do and took a nap.
When he woke up, the siren had disappeared, the room was still silent, and the already cramped space was depressing.
In the dead silence, Shi Yuan secretly observed everyone.
The old lady on the bed stared at the ceiling in a daze, the young couple leaned together, the man hugged the woman’s shoulders, the slovenly middle-aged man crossed his legs, the pale light of the mobile phone illuminated his expressionless face, and the others…they were also silent in the dimness.
There was a text message on the phone.
Lu Tinghan sent a very simple sentence: [Don’t be afraid, wait for me to come back]
Shi Yuan bent his eyes and smiled, but the phone screen turned black.
The battery died.
He went to ask the boy in the next bed: “Hello, do you know where I can charge my phone?”
“Charge?” The young man looked at him incredulously. “This is a shelter, not your home, how can there be a place to charge it? At this time, electricity should be saved and used for those military facilities—military, use, facilities, you know?”
“Okay.” Shi Yuan lowered his tail, he couldn’t reply to Lu Tinghan anymore.
For the next three hours, there was still suffocating silence.
Shi Yuan didn’t find it difficult, he had spent too many silent days in the wasteland, and he had long been used to it. It’s just that this place was too narrow, and the density of human beings was too high, making him uneasy.
He lay down again.
The room was constructed in a triangle, with the highest ceiling in the middle, sloping at 60 degrees to the sides, a unique structure that was particularly cramped. Shi Yuan was in the far corner, sleeping against the wall, and the sloping wall was almost pressed above his head.
He saw many people’s writings on the wall.
Probably because it was too boring here, so people always had to find something to do. The handwriting was deep and shallow, some were carved with knives, some were drawn with keys or ballpoint pens, and it said [xxx I love you], [Today is my birthday], [I really want to eat cakes and potato chips], [The glory of the Alliance will last forever!]
The last line was a crooked font: [Everything is meaningless, we will die one day]
Shi Yuan reached out his hand to touch the handwriting, imagining what kind of mood those people felt when they were engraving—this was also part of his observation of human beings.
His hands were uneven, he touched the wall plaster with one hand.
Another two hours later, the iron door was knocked on twice.
The robot delivered the compressed food, and everyone could get one.
There was a direct drinking nozzle in the corner of the room. Shi Yuan got a bag of compressed biscuits and ate slowly with plain water. The taste of the biscuits was not bad, with a dry burnt aroma.
After eating, the surrounding atmosphere finally improved a little, and someone began to speak in a low voice.
“Hey,” the teenager in the next bed called Shi Yuan. “Is this your first time here at the shelter?”
Shi Yuan nodded.
The young man asked again: “Which city were you in before? The main city or Fengyang City?”
“I’m from outside the city,” Shi Yuan said.
“Outside the city?” The young man opened his eyes wide. “There are still living people outside the city now?”
—This was a familiar question.
On this issue, Shi Yuan had been unable to make up a suitable lie.
At that time, he couldn’t answer when he registered his identity, but Lu Tinghan helped him out – there was a hand on the back of his neck, rubbing it. Fortunately, infected people were never sane, so no one had ever suspected that he was a monster.
Later, they also brought up this topic again.
It was a very ordinary night, Shi Yuan invaded Lu Tinghan’s bed again at the cost of a nougat.
That night, Lu Tinghan suddenly asked, “Where are you from?” Shi Yuan hesitated and buried his head in the quilt – he vividly interpreted the “hide your head and show your tail”. His head was hidden, most of his tail was out of the quilt, and the tip of his tail curled up in a ball.
Lu Tinghan asked again: “If someone asks you this question, how do you answer it?”
“I don’t know…” Shi Yuan said sullenly.
Lu Tinghan looked at the bulging quilt and the tangled tail in silence for a while, and said, “There is an abandoned outpost outside the city.”
Shi Yuan didn’t understand why he mentioned this, so after waiting for a long time without any movement, he poked his head out to look at him.
Lu Tinghan sighed lightly and flicked Shi Yuan’s forehead, “pa!” a crisp sound sounded.
Shi Yuan opened his eyes wide: “Ah, why are you flicking me again?”
“The outpost has supplies and simple defenses, so it is still possible to live there,” Lu Tinghan said. “Seven years ago, the Alliance army found a family in an abandoned outpost.”
Shi Yuan only hated the flick on his forehead, confiscated Lu Tinghan’s nougat, and only realized the next day that this was an excuse Lu Tinghan made for him.
Since then, he has been using this excuse.
Shi Yuan replied to the young man: “I lived in an abandoned outpost outside the city.”
“Can you live in that place, too? Awesome, the monsters didn’t find you guys?” The young man was amazed, but he didn’t doubt it. “Fortunately, you have entered the city.”
While eating biscuits, the young man told Shi Yuan that he wanted to go to another city.
“I have already bought the ticket and I’m going to take the shuttle bus to the main city,” the young man said. “It’s really unfortunate that this happened.”
“Why are you going to the main city?” Shi Yuan asked.
“My girlfriend is there.” The boy took a big bite of the biscuit and swallowed it whole. “She is in education. The salary in the main city is high, with an hourly salary of 12 yuan. She can live well.” His eyes moved around. “Let me show you something nice.”
Shi Yuan leaned over, and the young man pulled out a black plastic bag from under the bed. After opening it, there was a pot of budding xuejian flowers under it. There were four branches in total, inserted in a small flower pot.
He said: “This is for her. I was carrying the flowers on my way to the station when the warning siren sounded suddenly, so I had to carry the flowers down. I don’t know if they can still bloom without sunlight.”
Only then did Shi Yuan remember that the first batch of xuejian flowers would bloom in two days.
When he was in the car, he often saw xuejian flowers on the balconies of various homes. The budding white flowers trembled in the wind, which looked lovely, but it was a pity that no one could take care of them anymore.
Shi Yuan said: “We will be able to go back soon, no problem.”
“Soon?” The boy sneered. “You’re too optimistic, this is the most advanced Level I warning. Do you know how long we stayed underground in the last Level I warning?”
Shi Yuan shook his head.
“Almost four months,” the young man said. “It was the peak of the infection period at that time. Every time there was a Level I warning, you could always hear the news that several small towns and bases had been destroyed. Of course, I was not born at the time, but I listened to my parents.” He looked around. “Four months trapped in a place like this, one would have to go crazy.”
For an abyss, it’s nothing but a blink of an eye. Shi Yuan was only worried that he would not see Lu Tinghan for too long.
Shi Yuan ate the biscuits silently, listening to the boy tell the story of the past.
The teenager’s name was Zhou Ping’an.
He said that it had been 21 years since a Level I warning had appeared, and that every time it appeared before, a city had to suffer, and that no matter how huge the cities were, as long as they were breached, they were doomed.
He said that he didn’t know how many months they would have to stay underground, this place was boring and gloomy enough to make people moldy.
He said that maybe they would die here, die on this day.