Dear diary, if I were to choose a day that I was the angriest at myself, I would have certainly picked our 'Dark Mall' experiment day, the day where we were supposed to see if the zeds avoid the dark. In the midst of our preparation and excitement, we have forgotten one important detail about the zeds. About why and how they were attracted to us, as in how do they detect us in the first place. We forgot that the zeds were attracted to carbon dioxide, and we humans exhale it as part of our everyday function. More so especially when our body is performing strenuous task, which was exactly the thing that I was doing as I lead them on a chase in the mall. We had expected them to not run after me in the mall, but that was exactly what they did.

As I ran, jumped, slid and dodged, I could only spew curses from under my breath for not making the link earlier. How else could the zeds detect the presence of humans?

The darkness of the mall worked to my advantage. As I approached the third checkpoint with the blinking LED light, set up by Daniel, the moans, growls and whatever sounds that the zeds made were not as loud as compared to when I first lure them in. I could hear the sound of bumps, thuds and the zeds crashing into things behind me, so I guessed that their sight in the dark was not any better than us. The traps worked their magic too, slowing the zeds as much as possible I maneuvered around them effortlessly. Just as what I have done a few hundred times before.

I turned behind to try and see how many of the zeds were following me. It was hard to gauge in the pitch black darkness, but from the figures and moans they made, I was guessing about five to six remained. That was still way too many from what I expected.

The blinking fourth LED light indicated that there was an elevator in front of me. I knew that because the fifth light was on top of it. This part was trickier as I could never accurately predict the size of the elevator steps itself. If you have ever misjudged the size of a step of claiming staircases or inaccurately expected a step there when there was none, then you would understand it was important to get it right. One wrong expectation and you are bringing down your feet too hard or too soft. Which was why as I approached the elevator, I slowed my pace down a little to give me a window to adjust myself.

Daniel had pasted the fourth LED directly on top of the first step itself, but I still slowed as I approached it. I looked behind again to try and see how far they were from me, in case one was close enough to grab me if it was close enough. From the sound of that they were making, I guessed about two to three feet away. It was too close for my comfort. A small feeling of panic began to rise up at the sight of the fast approaching LED light. What if I misjudged and fall? What if the zeds were able to grab from behind? Their mindless growls seemed to taunt this feeling of mine. But just as I was a few steps away from the elevator, a light bulb switched on in my head.

"The enemy's biggest strength could also be their biggest weakness," I remembered seeing it somewhere. A grin appeared at the corner of my mouth as I drew in a mouthful of air, and held my breath. The steps behind me slowed to a stop and hearing that, I immediately spun around. I almost burst with euphoria with what I saw, or heard, behind me. The zeds were no longer running after me, but were rather standing there. If I could describe them, I would have say that they almost looked lost. No longer am I hearing menacing growls and moans, but rather, they seem to have reverted to the stage that we usually see them at night. Passive and static. In my moment of joy, I screamed in excitement, which of course sent the zeds coming right straight back at me again. I turned back around and began running up the elevator, and thankfully zeds were not good with stairs. They were not going up as fast as me, some of them stumbled and fell back down but that did not matter to me. Because now I have found something that we could finally use back at them.

I continued running up to the fifth floor, excited to tell the others about my discovery. The lights continued to light my path. As I try look behind me again to check on the silhouettes following me, I could make out about only two to three zeds remaining. From the dozen or so that I had baited initially, two to three is a good number. It means that what we were doing, we were doing it right. Most of our assumptions worked splendidly, if fact, all of it worked splendidly. The act of the zeds chasing us is merely due to the fact that we had forgotten about an assumption. But that did not matter too. Even though the zeds do follow us by the carbon dioxide we exhale, I was thinking that there was a limit to the radius and amount they could detect too. The further I am or the less carbon dioxide I let out, the less likely that they were going to detect me. The opposite would then be true if I happened to be closer or producing a lot more of carbon dioxide. This would explain why after some of the zeds fell away, they did not resume the chase. It must have been because of the combination of the darkness and me being outside of their optimal detection range. I was interested in trying out the idea.

As I climbed the final step, I checked my back for the last time. There was no zeds behind me now. If it is not because of the risk of exposing our position, I would have screamed out loud in enjoyment. Somehow, I felt that this would be our first step in retaking our lives from the zed. Personally, this was one of the few good things that happened since the outbreak. For the first time, I felt happy. So happy in fact, that tears began to well up in my eyes. I just could not wait to see the rest of them and tell them the great news.

The final LED light blinked to tell me that I have reached my destination, and I made a left turn into the shop. Inside, Mike and Daniel were standing beside the shutter, ready to bring it down at a moment’s notice. Julie on the other hand, was standing with a baseball bat in her hand. A small battery powered portable lamp sat on a table at the corner at the shop, giving us just enough light to see what was in the shop but not too much as to attract the zeds. If one were to look from the outside, you could only see a faint glimmer coming from the shop. We do not know if that would be enough to attract the zeds, but it was better than sitting in pitch black darkness. I gave them the thumbs up sign, indicating that there were no zeds behind, and they all breathe a sigh of relief.

Mike and Daniel immediately came after me to congratulate me, asking me about how everything went and in our excitement, we committed the second mistake of the day. We let down our guard. We forgot to close the shutters.

The sound of a zed’s deep growl is unmistakeable. And the sound of them making the leap for you sends shivers down your spine. Which was why we all immediately turned behind to see the sight of a zed leaping towards us, arms stretched wide, baring his teeth. Julie immediately screamed, while Mike held up his hands. Both me and Daniel, just stood there, unable to move. Looking how the scene was unfolding before my eyes, it reminded me of a similar event weeks ago, where another zed, someone whom I used to called James, pounced at me. The zed landed on Mike just as how James landed on Amy last time, but unlike the last time, I was no longer prepared to lose anyone again. Everything in my body kick into a heightened mode.

The first thing that I did was to check on Mike. His training as a police officer must have worked, as he was keeping the jaw of the zed from reaching him. I assumed that he could hold the position for a few more seconds so I immediately switch my eyes on the door, in case there was any other potential threats to be taken care of. Seeing that there was none, I screamed to Daniel and asked him to close the door. My voice seemed to have snapped him out from his momentary shock, and he immediately ran to the door. Julie ran after him to help, but not before throwing me the baseball bat. I mouthed a quick thanks and told her to be careful and look after Daniel. She gave a nod before continuing. I secretly wished that this was the only zed we that we need to deal with, or we could forget about getting out here alive. For now, I have to put my faith in Daniel and Julie, and turn my attention towards the zed on Mike.

I was half afraid to be greeted with the sight of the Mike’s hands in between the zeds mouth, just like how Amy has been but luckily, Mike was doing a good job at holding the zed’s jaws in place. The zed was violently clawing at Mike for being held like that, but the jacket that Mike was wearing prevented the zed from doing any real harm to him. I twisted my hands around the baseball bat to reassure myself as I charged towards the zed.

Using all my might, I brought the baseball bat down on the zed’s head, the only target that stood out from the mass of grey body. A dull crack sounded as my bat made contact with his head, and the force send him tumbling to the floor right next to Mike. Now free from the zed’s weight, Mike immediately got up and ran behind me.

“Keep him occupied! I’ll be back!” he screamed as he pass me. I have no idea where he was going or what he was planning to do, but my mind right then was only focused on one thing: the zed in front of me. It was now standing again, half slouched. I could not see its eyes in the darkness, but I could still hear the low rumble of its voice. My own chest was moving up and down rapidly and I realized that I was breathing heavily. I weighed on the choices that I have. Should I take gamble and put my theory to the test? How well could the zed see in the darkness anyway? Would I holding my breath be sufficient?

The zed lunged at me before I could consciously make any decisions, but as it came, I automatically drew in my breath and dodged its outstretched arms. Before long I was behind the zed and facing its back, breath still held in. My lungs protested at the move, but I wanted to see what would happen. Sure enough, the zed appeared momentarily stunned at my sudden “disappearance”. I confirmed two things at one go with my move. That zeds do detect us through our breathing, and they also appeared to have no grasp on the concept of object permanence. Meaning that once an object disappeared out of their sight, they would not remember that it was there in the first place. It is a characteristic that you would see in babies, but as babies grow up, they would develop the idea that the object still exists even though it is hidden by a caregiver. Zeds, if I was right, seemed to have regressed to this stage. If we do not do something that would give away our presence, we could effectively be “invisible” to them. So much for zeds being a higher plane of evolution as Greenpeace claimed.

As soon as the zed decided that I was not there anymore, or rather, forgot that it was chasing me in the first place, it sprang towards the direction of Daniel and Julie. Seeing that, I immediately called back out, screaming in my loudest way possible to distract the zed. The zed caught on and immediately came back, with the mouth opened wide, looking for a place to sink its teeth in. And I gave it the bat. I straightened my bat in a horizontal manner, and holding both of the ends firmly with my hands, shoved it straight to the incoming zed.

The zed treated the bat like a part of my limb, gnawing madly at the bat with both of its hands gripping tightly on both ends of it. One of its hand touched mine and along with it, I felt a strangely cold sensation running through my nerves. Zeds are not warm blooded it seems.  The skin felt rough too, almost like I was touching the surface of a tree bark. The whole weight of the zed was on me, and I struggled to maintain my posture. The zed continued to gnash a few more times on the bat, chewing some of the wood off, before finally deciding it was not meat and wanted to pull its head away to look for another target. In that split second when I felt that the zed was backing off, I used my entire strength and pushed the bat right into the zeds face.

The sudden force from the bat caught the zed off guard and it tumbled on to the floor, bringing me along with it. I guess it did not fancy having me on top of it as it was struggling to shake me off by pushing the bat away. But I held my ground. I kept on pushing pressing my weight on the zed to keep it from throwing me away. I looked around frantically, wondering where everyone is. It felt as if I have been struggling with the zed for hours and I could use with the extra help. Daniel and Julie had just finish closing off the door and to my relief, the zed that I was struggling with was the only zed we had to deal with. As I was about to turn my attention to look for Mike, I heard him calling my name. He was running back with a Swiss Army knife. 

"What took you so long?" I remembered asking, my hands still pressed firmly on the baseball bat. The zed was trying to claw at me, but both of my knees were pressing his hands down. 

Mike explained that he was trying to find something sharp that he could use against the zed, but all he could manage was rackets, balls and other blunt items. Which was why he resorted to tearing open every single box in the shop and finally settling in the Swiss army knife. 

"Stand back, or look away," he ordered, before proceeding to tie a shirt over his mouth. Daniel and Julie who just joined us, helped to press the zed's legs down. Mike put his knees on the zed's left hand just like what I was doing, and asked me to move towards the right sight of the zed. With four of our weight, the zed was still furiously snapping at us. The baseball bat was almost chewed into half by now. 

I turned my head over to see what Mike was going to do. His eyes was focused on the zed as flicked the sharpest knife in the Swiss army open. Catching my eye, Mike barked his instructions for me to look away again. Said something along the line of not wanting me to get infected. I obediently complied and turned my head to my left. 

Behind me, I could hear the what I think must be the sound of the metal blade piercing into the zed's flesh. I have never heard the sound of the flesh being ripped open before, but the sound that came from behind me was an assortment of sounds. I could only picture what Mike was doing. The sight of Mike tearing open the chest, breaking the rib cage to reach the zed's heart appeared in my mind. I hoped that what he said about the heart being the weak point of the zed was true. Or else we would have a problem disposing this zed away.

To our relief, the zed seemed to grow weaker and weaker by the second. It did not exert as much force anymore to shake us off as it did initially. I heard the sound of the blade running through the heart a few more times and before we know it, all of us were sitting in a quiet room with a dead zed in the midst of us. The portable lamp continued to give off its light and although we were not able to see our face clearly, we could sense the bubbling excitement beneath us. We had succeeded in killing a zed, and most importantly we had lived to tell the tell. I guessed Mike surmised our feelings by saying "Fuck yeah!" after a few seconds.

We sat there for a few seconds, still perspiring from the whole encounter. It has been weeks since the zed outbreak began, but this was our first official attempt at taking down a zed up close as a group. Mike's shirt was stained with the brown liquid from the zed and the Swiss knife was stuck firmly in an upright position on the zed's chest. Julie and Daniel sat near the feet of the zed, still feeling the same shock that we did. There was no other sound around us except our own breathing, which means that at least for now, we are safe.

"Thanks for saving me back there," Mike finally sounded, breaking the silence. Images of James biting on Amy's hand flashed in my memory again but instead of telling him how I would rather die than to live through the feeling of losing someone again, I just replied with, "No big deal."

The Black Mall experiment, as how we would call it later to make it sound cool, had been a success according to Julie. We had found several important features of the zeds that we believed would help us in our battle against the zeds and I eagerly wrote them down in the last few pages of the diary so we could refer to them later. Or at least someone would be able to refer to them in case anything bad happened. After we finished our discussion and our debriefing, Mike stood up triumphantly from where he was sitting and voiced out the feeling that was burning inside all of us.

“Now let’s go tell the world."



P/s: As this is a work in progress and as I am trying to finish the story before November ends and not forgetting that I have work from 9-6 everyday, there might be grammar errors here and there and if you spot one, I would sincerely apologize for it. I am looking to publish this story, so if you spot any spelling or grammar mistakes, I would greatly appreciate it if you could let me know by dropping a comment after each post. Proofreading your own work is confusing after all. I won't forget your kindness!


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