Makoto hurried down the street. The sunrise only hinted its arrival at the horizon and the street was empty but for the occasional car carrying supplies to or from the nearby Army Headquarters. Turning a corner, Makoto looked back behind him quickly and saw that he was not being followed.
>He stopped for a moment to breathe, but remembered the urgency of the message he was carrying. The telegraph line at the nearby police station hadn't been working all morning and they had been hiring the local youth to carry messages. Makoto really had no idea what could be so important that they would trust him with. He studied the street again before turning down the alley.
His friend had lived only a block out of the way for years before his family moved East for factory work. He moved to the old alley door they had used, rusted with age, that never shut quite right. The lock and chain on the door were for show, since the owner of the building had welded both sides to the door, not the frame, to save himself the trouble of locking and unlocking it. It worked out fine, as only the neighborhood kids knew that it was open, and most weren't much trouble.
He climbed the three flights of stairs quickly and took a seat on the ledge of the roof. He pulled the message out of the pack and opened it up to read it. It was folded precisely, but otherwise not sealed.
Please forward any important communications with this messenger. If you have anything urgent send an officer.
Makoto felt disappointed. He'd been told that this was very important business. He turned sullenly back to the door, climbing down the stairwell. At the bottom, as he passed the boiler room, he heard a commotion.
"Hello?" he asked the darkness, but only the serene murmur of the boiler responded with its usual unconcerned droning. He could not remember a time that the boiler had broken down in this building.
Makoto returned to the street quickly now, needing to make up some lost time so that the station captain wouldn't realize he was late. He knew he wasn't carrying anything important, but the officials tended to be very uptight about their duties.
"This is for the captain" Makoto called in an official-sounding yell as he approached the guarded station door. The two guards just inside opened the doors for him, one looking resolutely past him with a stern seriousness, the other gazing at him boredly as the radio on the nearby table emitted a soft muted static that filled the room and faded into silence as the ears adjusted to it.
They continued speaking, mid-conversation as Makoto passed by.
"The captian says that there's bomber alert. I don't know why the radio is silent. We haven't been hit by a single run here, and the alert was over just one plane."
"I'm sure there's a good reason," the stern one responded...sternly "maybe we just haven't been told."
Why are guards so boring? Makoto blew past them and down the hallway. Without even having to speak he was directed through a door he hadn't passed before. he proceeded quickly until he heard the Captain's voice from up ahead. He was clearly upset, but Makoto couldn't understand a word he was saying. As he turned the next corner he saw the captain speaking heatedly with a prisoner in a cell. Makoto vaguely recognized the language as English, but could understand nothing beyond that. As he came into view the prisoner turned to him from behind the bars, yelling desperately, and fruitlessly, to an audience who could not understand him. the Captain gave a silent nod to a nearby officer who opened the door, caught the prisoner as he attempted to flee, and began beating him. Other prisoners in the cell, and other nearby cells, looked on impassively. None of the others look like they had been harmed or mistreated: just this one. Makoto saw that he had long, thin raking marks across his face and shoulders, and blood under his fignernails. He turned away in disgust, but also anger at the man's very presence in his country. The man cried out in incredibly broken Japanese.
Between the horrible accent, and improper delivery, it took Makoto a moment to understand what that was supposed to mean.
"Escape?" He mouthed the word back at the prisoner, who was staring at him now, wide-eyed. He didn't like the Gai-jin at all. The captain quickly scanned the message and told him he could go as the prisoner was stuffed back into his cell.
Makoto walked at a leisurely pace back toward the other station listening to the sound of the distant alert sirens calling out their one-note warning: be cautious, but brave. The Sun was higher in the sky now, with thin shafts of red-gold light coming in between the buildings and shallow angles, but the shadows of the city still lingered at ground level. Makoto felt nervous. He wasn't sure what to think of what he had just seen. He reported in to the field station and was told to go home. He headed toward the small military apartments that he lived in, mentally preparing himself for another day working at the docks. The sea air blew in gently as the shadows began to shrink around him. His heart began to race, and he took a hard right, feeling that he might be best off taking the 8:05 train East.
The idea felt good, and he hurried now towards the station, running with the hope that he could make the train. At a full gallop he passed an alleyway and collided with a man leaving it. Both went sprawling down to the pavement hard, Makoto's arm scraped cruelly against the concrete and bled freely. He turned to look behind him at the other man who was screaming loudly as his leg jutted out at an unnatural angle from his body. His eyes were wide not in pain, but panic, and as Makoto looked up a dark form leaped from the alley, covering him for but a second, and his screams fell silent.
Without the slightest sound the form revolved, revealing itself to have little form at all. The light shining over the next building struck the wall with a golden hue only feet above it and it began advancing on Makoto. the body of the man he had run into lay on the sidewalk, his scream frozen onto his face and his skin a pale, mottled, gray. Makoto did not hesitate further and began to run.
The creature followed quickly and, if not for Makoto's utter panic, he would have never been able to outrun it. It followed soundlessly, without the scraping of flesh or rubber on the concrete surface of the city, and left a trail behind it of smooth ruts and prints in the street, as though the hard surface were instead a soft muddy lake bed.
As he ran he spotted two more corpses, gray and mottled. One was sitting on a bench, awaiting a bus that it would never board, with a calm expression as it stared blankly at the final word it would ever read printed on the newspaper in its hands. The other lay on the ground in a fetal position, no sign of its attacker.
The day grew brighter. Not knowing what else to do Makoto turned back toward the old apartment building as his breaths began to come more raggedly and he knew he did not have long left. Four blocks later he made a hard right, the beast showing no sign of fatigue as it slowly closed the gap between them: persistent as death. He flung the metal door wide and turned up the steps. Another creature stood by the door to the boiler room, not responding as he entered, and the landlord's body lay nearby cold and still.
Determined to lure the creature into the light of day he climbed the stairs with the last of his strength. The creature moved more slowly along the wooden framed stairs and he could hear the gentle crackling of the steps giving way as the creature's passage deformed them. He burst forth triumphantly onto the roof, into the bright morning sunlight, and turned to face his pursuer.
The creature arrived a few seconds later, continuing its steady advance and stopping abruptly just inside the shade of the doorway. Makoto laughed.
“Afraid of the Sun?” he taunted it, in tears from exhaustion and terror, “how are you different from the monsters of my childhood?”
Its response was only silence, but within that silence he could hear the tortured cries of innumerable voices. They whispered their suffering directly to his soul, raging in torment they could not express. No words were uttered in the mad throng of sound and emotion, but Makoto knew that the creature was not afraid of the sun.
It stepped forward, and a fine, thin mist seeped from its flesh as the light struck it. Its skin had the dark, almost imperceptible sheen of black, wet rubber, and thing tendril-like forms shifted slowly beneath. It had no eyes to speak of, and it moved forward on a mass of black, tenebrous tendrils that traced paths in the black tar roof as though it were clay. It advanced slowly, as though taking pleasure in the horror it caused. The Sun shone down brightly – too bright. Makoto tore his eyes away to look at the sky and saw a quickly expanding point of light that outshone the sun. He dove behind the large stone structure that housed the top of the stairwell, back into the shadows and turned to see a wall of fire wash over the creature before him.
It did not react, or even move with the force of the air as it sailed by in streams. It was singed away, bit by bit, as it continued to move towards him. No sign of charred flesh or gore or blood appeared, but it simply slipped away into the fire until nothing remained but the horrible screams of untold victims.
Makoto could not breathe, and only a second later the fires bore through the walls around him. He was carried from the rooftop by the force, and could only watch his hands blacken and burn as the minuscule cinders bit into him.
The tiny, crystalline flakes of his salvation coursed slowly through his flesh as his sight dimmed. They glowed brilliantly, like cherry blossoms in the sun.
Normand Brissette was a US POW held in the Chugoku Military Police Headquarters in Hiroshima, Japan.
He was present at 8:15 am when the Enola Gay dropped the first Atomic Bomb ever used on human targets. He died shortly afterward of his wounds in the attack.
Events depicted in this story are entirely fictional, to the best of our knowledge.