Chapter 13: Life and Morality
Before Chang was even able to decide what to do next, he stood there as still as he could and held his breath. Chang was afraid that if he made any sort of movement, the wickers would endlessly and fatally attack him.
He adjusted his breath and leaned over in the grass at a snail’s pace. When Chang observed the strange tree, he noticed something bizarre. Behind the guard of the glossy red wickers, there was a humanlike face on the trunk – it wasn’t exactly a face; it was more like a lump that commonly grew on old trees. But now, he saw a bloodshot eye on the lump that only humans had.
This scared Chang.
“What’s going on in the world? It’s been less than 24 hours and this tree has already grown eyes. I can’t imagine what kind of changes would happen if more time passes.”
The answers to the questions raised during the apocalypse had gone beyond his wildest imagination. Who could’ve ever thought that the unicellular organisms from before the Cambrian Explosion could completely transformed the Earth into a vivid paradise?
But now, it was a different situation. The world already contained many more complex organisms like human beings. What would be the result if another event similar to the Cambrian Explosion occurred?
A spark of mixed thoughts flared in Chang’s mind, but as soon as he came back to reality, fear filled his heart once more.
Chang’s body became stiff as he spent a long time observing the tree. He made a hypothesis to his own question – that strange tree may have sensed the vibrations from the ground to determine the location of its prey.
Though there were tiny red vessels in the tree’s eye socket, it would take at least a few days for the tree to fully be able to see.
Chang further lowered his breathing as he made this judgment, then he removed one of his shoes slowly.
Foosh! He hurled his shoe to the other side of the courtyard.
The shoe fell on the thick grass with a muffled sound. Four or five stout and barbed wickers immediately flew to the location of the sound.
The wickers split the bushy grass and hit the ground heavily, destroying the entire region where it hit. Chang’s shoe was pretty durable, but was still torn into pieces in a fraction of a second.
The attempt confirmed Chang’s hypothesis, so he quickly threw another shoe at the same spot, and seized the opportunity while the tree was distracted to flee as fast as he could.
He could escape the attack range of these wickers if he could run about 40 meters.
Chang took a deep breath. The moment his shoe hit the surface of the grass and the wickers attacked, he ran for his life. The medicine bottles in his bag collided with each other as he scurried, and the jingling sound from his backpack was a premonition that hustled Chang to quicken his pace.
The jingling was followed by the bloody wickers’ pursuit as they quickly responded because their previous attack was fruitless. They quickly approached Chang; they were fast – at least twice his speed.
Fortunately, he had already run 10 meters before the wickers initiated the second attack.
In the end when the bloodthirsty wickers were about to catch Chang, they could no longer reach any further. The wickers had stretched to their limit.
He had escaped the immediate danger, but Chang still had a lingering fear and kept running until he was out of breath.
After he caught his breath, he turned around. However, there was nothing he could see in the fog. The bizarre scene was left behind, as if whatever happened to him was just an illusion.
He sighed and decided to leave this place forever, as there was no room for him to worry about others’ lives. The danger of this world didn’t only come from what was behind him; the mutated willow was merely one of those dangers.
Chang felt like a century had passed, and his soul was completely drained the past 24 hours. He lost everyone – strangers, classmates, friends, and maybe even his family. Chang unconsciously caressed the necklace that he made. He couldn’t even tell whether he was grieving or not, but at least the pressure of survival didn’t leave him any time to mourn.
A bitter smile came on his face, and Chang slowly walked out of the courtyard of the hospital with bare feet as he saw some people gathered in front of the hospital. Some were talking to their each other while others had passed out. Apparently, they were restless and wanted to get some medication from the hospital.
The small crowd was seven or eight meters away, so they couldn’t see Chang, but he could see them clearly. Even the conversations they were having was crisp and clear in his ears.
“Mom, dad is dying, let me try to go in there.” A family of three was within Chang’s vision range; a teenage boy carried his father with worry written all over his face.
“Don’t, you can’t go in.” Beside the boy was a middle-aged woman. She shook her head after she heard her son. “We haven’t seen anyone come out from the hospital since this morning.”
“That doesn’t mean they’re all dead!” The boy almost yelled impatiently, “We’ll lose dad if we don’t even try.”
“If someone has to go, it’ll be me.” The woman gently pushed her son aside, “Look after your dad, I’m going.”
“Don’t go into there, there is no way you can pass the courtyard.” Chang’s sorrowful figure showed up from the fog and walked towards the family.
“Who are you?” The woman and the boy looked at him warily due to his sudden appearance.
“Don’t worry, I don’t have any bad intentions.” Chang waved his hand and hid the scalpel behind his back. “I just fled from the hospital. A scary monster is growing in that courtyard. You’ll die as soon as you step in.”
“But my dad… my dad won’t last for long…” The boy almost burst into tears. “We need… we need antibiotics; his wounds are infected.”
Chang looked at the father’s wound; it was as worse than the one he had. It was a deep scratch from some sort of animal and was severely festering.
“Go somewhere else, it’s too dangerous here,” Chang kindly suggested again.
“The medications are all gone. Starting from this morning, many groups were all scrambling for medication. We didn’t even get one pill.”
“Yeah, humans are extremely vulnerable now, and even small scratches from grass are fatal. Many people got infected and needed medications, so all the pharmacies on the street were basically robbed. The hospital would’ve been in the same situation had someone come out of it.”
“Really?” Chang didn’t expect this. That monster tree somehow did him a great favor. Without its obstruction, he could’ve been torn apart by these desperate groups, not to mention he managed to bring out a considerable amount of medication.
“Never mind, I have some antibiotics here. Go ahead and help your father take these pills. I don’t know whether they’re going to be effective though.” The father reminded Chang of Tao, so he sighed inaudibly and took out a pack of antibiotics and handed it to the boy.
He then left the family without looking back.
He didn’t need appreciation, nor was he pretending to be a hero. The value that he always believed taught him to help others in such a scenario. Even so, he wasn’t pleased, as he knew that he was reducing his own chance of survival when he shared his medication with others.
In fact, Chang was consuming his own life for integrity – which was apparently meaningless in the apocalypse.