By day nineteen, we didn't even hear the screams anymore.
Oh, there were still screams, of course. How could there not be? When you see a man's flesh boiling off of his bones only inches away from where you stand, you can do nothing but scream. But we learned to ignore it, in the same way that you can learn to ignore the sound of your breath, or the feeling your shoes make against your feet.
I say day nineteen, but it could have been earlier, or later; we were there for twenty-five days, and each day was as close to a lifetime of Hell as anyone could have imagined. There were no calendars, no radios, nothing to let us know what day it was or what was happening in the outside world. Only the war. Only the screams.
We had some notice of their arrival, from the radio telescopes, bot none of us knew quite to expect. Only when our landing craft hit the beach, and we saw with our own eyes the still-smoking bodies littered across the beach, did we realize what we were up against.
The first few days, when we had not yet assessed our enemies' capabilities, were probably the worst. We saw entire resorts burned to the ground; scorched, grinning skeletons lying on chaise longues, still gripping their Mai Tai glasses. An entire workout room filled with bodies, carefully stacked and tagged for later retrieval and recycling.
We fought valiantly, of course. Their carapaces were fairly thin, and our rifles cut through them quickly. But by the time we arrived, they already had strongholds on six islands, and what few resources we had went to defending the two that we still controlled. And we held them off, for twenty-four days. I wish I could say "it seemed like a year" or "it seemed like a century," but it didn't; our sense of time was gone completely, not just skewed. There was fighting and waiting. That was all. We could not even muster enough energy to bury the casualties; we left our dead where they lay and the sand preserved them. It was all we could do to notice them.
On the twenty-fifth day, not one of us—the ones that were left—could justify staying there another moment. We knew that if we evacuated, our careers were over; the luckiest of us would get off with dishonorable discharges. But when Island Seven fell, there was nothing left for us. We aborted.
When our craft returned to the mainland, we returned to families that had been notified of our deaths, and generals that made us an offer that we were forbidden from refusing. We were offered transport to the country of our choice, new identities, new families; the only condition was that we never return to the United States. Most of us accepted.
I did not.
Soon afterward, the entire chain of islands shuddered with volleys of nuclear blasts; when the final bomber landed back at Andrews, not a single thing breathed in the entire state. The public was told that the islands had fallen into the sea; with all the talk of global warming, this lie would not fall under much scrutiny. Trans-Pacific flights were rerouted to avoid crossing over the site, and Americans eventually found different vacation spots.
But don't bother looking in your history book for the Battle of Hawaii. The memories of the war are all but gone, and when the last survivor falls, they will finally control the truth.