The end came as Hong Sheng expected. When he saw the zombies reaching for Lu Hao, Hong Sheng ran forward.
The girls screamed. The zombies advanced. Lu Hao looked grimly at death. The elevator was almost there -- and so was Hong Sheng.
The elevator dinged.
Just as it did, Hong Sheng took Lu Hao’s place in front of the zombies. He shoved Lu Hao and the girls into the elevator and smiled at their shocked faces.
The metal doors slid shut, just as the claws and mouths of dozens of zombies sunk into Hong Sheng’s skin.
Everything after that had been flashes, brief and vivid pictures of darkness and blood and pain. Hong Sheng as a zombie didn’t have enough of a working brain to hold complex memory, but he remembered the feelings of pain, and fear, and most of all: the hunger.
He had stumbled in the darkness for who knows how long, his desecrated corpse falling apart.
There was one day where the light came back.
Hong Sheng remembered a voice. It came from the warm body standing in front of him, rich and fragrant with blood and living flesh. Hong Sheng was so hungry. He wanted to eat. His rotting eyes rolled in their sockets.
The body in front of him had been making sounds. It had one arm outstretched, cold metal held in its hand. Two trails of water flowed from the body’s eyes when it saw Hong Sheng, and Hong Sheng rattled out a breath. It looked so delicious. It was everything he had ever wanted.
Hong Sheng had stumbled toward the light, and the body’s mouth kept moving, but Hong Sheng couldn’t understand.
Then, there was a loud sound, and the world fell away from Hong Sheng’s feet.
In his last dying moments, Hong Sheng had a moment of clarity. He remembered. The body in front of him was Lu Hao. Lu Hao, whom he’d loved since childhood. Lu Hao, who’d become a hero of the survivors. Lu Hao, who had always been beautiful and popular, who always had a cluster of women and men adoring him, leaving no room for miserable little Hong Sheng.
Hong Sheng had just been Lu Hao’s pitiful childhood friend, but today, in his last moments, he received everything he could ever hope for.
Lu Hao’s tears and Lu Hao’s bullet, Hong Sheng received them both. And now, in exchange, Lu Hao had taken Hong Sheng’s life.
The boy known as Hong Sheng had died twice, and each time he gave his life to Lu Hao.
That was supposed to be the end of his story.
An alarm shrieked by Hong Sheng’s ear. His eyes snapped open and he gasped, hands clutching soft bedding, feet trapped by warm blankets. Sunlight filtered in from the window. Outside, songbirds chirped their morning songs, and car horns blazed.
Hong Sheng sat up slowly. His hands fumbled the alarm clock, having forgotten the shape of it. He turned off the alarm, and when he flipped the clock over to check the date, he inhaled sharply.
It was the 14th of April, 2017. Three months before the start of the apocalypse, and eight years before the time Hong Sheng died.
Hong Sheng fell back onto his bed with a thump, his ears buzzing, unable to understand anything.
Before the apocalypse, Hong Sheng had been living alone in F City. After father remarried there wasn’t enough space in the house for him anymore, and anyhow, it was easier to get to work from his apartment. Hong Sheng was a physical computing consultant. He hadn’t been smart enough to be worth the fees of attending school, so while everyone else continued studying, he went into the basement of an office building to fiddle with machines and software.
After the apocalypse, he had been rescued by the government and shipped off to a safe zone. By chance he had met Lu Hao again.
Lu Hao also lived in F City, but his family owned a villa in the countryside. When the apocalypse hit, Lu Hao had escaped there and established a base. Over time he attracted more and more helpers until finally he had established a stronghold. There were ravagers and bandits of course, but Lu Hao had gained several incredible powers from the apocalypse mutations, so he was able to singlehandedly defend his home for a long time.
Of the people that hadn’t turned into zombies, Hong Sheng was part of the majority that didn’t receive any powers. He was left helpless to the onslaught of monsters, and could only clutch the thighs of others for safety.
Over the years, Hong Sheng found that he had a skill for making bombs. He was also decent at sniping from long range, if they could get their hands on any salvaged military rifles. He had been glad to finally be able to contribute, but still, he would never shine like Lu Hao did, and it was impossible for him to stand up against the many talented geniuses Lu Hao had gathered in his home.
Despite Hong Sheng’s uselessness, Lu Hao had generously taken him in. Lu Hao had even remembered him despite having not seen him in years, warmly greeting Hong Sheng with a hug. Hong Sheng had been moved to tears.
For the rest of the time after that, Hong Sheng’s sole wish had been to help Lu Hao in any way he could. He was repaying a debt that spanned since their childhood, when Lu Hao had been Hong Sheng’s only friend, the sole person to protect and care about him for a long time.
Even if Lu Hao had forgotten, Hong Sheng never would.
Even now, with the apocalypse knocking on their door and death waiting at the doorstep.