I am become death…
Justin Michael King
The waves rolled gently in the morning. Blue water spread wide across the horizon reflected the light of the sun onto the shore. Layers of orange-pink light draped around the sun and billowed throughout the horizon. Seabirds signaled the start of day with their cries and a mild wind carried the sound past the fishermen on the beach and towards the marines who rested inland.
Corporal Neil Collins pulled a cigarette out its pack and rested his head against the concrete wall of a bunker. After weeks of fierce fighting he and his other marines had captured it from the Japanese forces. The battle that they had fought would go down in history as the Battle of Okinawa. That was in June. It was now August 1945 and the marines were awaiting the inevitable invasion of the larger islands where they would see fierce resistance from the Japanese people. Many of his fellow marines had lost their lives to take the long thin island that composed the southern-most point of what the Japanese considered their home territory.
Collins looked out towards the emerald beauty of the Pacific Ocean which expanded forever into the east. Somewhere across the expanse was his home. It was now solely occupied by his mother who spent most of her time worrying about her two sons. Neil’s older brother Simon had joined the Army after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Simon had fought under General Omar Bradley and was now part of the American soldiers who occupied the western part of Germany. He had lived through the entire European portion of the conflict, though he had taken a bullet in the leg while liberating France in September 1944. Collins struck a match and held it to his cigarette. Once the flame touched the end he inhaled deeply as he breathed life into the flame at the end.
Neil remembered when he and his brother heard about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor back in 1941. They had made a pact to enlist after they heard the radio report. Uncle Sam decided to split them up so that each of the Axis powers had to deal with a Collins boy. Neil engaged in the brutal hand to hand combat that often came with island hopping around the Pacific fighting the Japanese which led him to the island of Okinawa. He felt himself lucky to be alive so far into the war. With the rate of losses that they had experienced taking the small island, Neil didn’t think he would make it to see 1946. He rested his head against what was left of the wall of the bunker. His thousand yard stare transfixed on the calm of the Pacific Ocean.
“It is some kind of new of new bomb, Sergeant.” Private Hankins said as he held the receiver of the radio to his ear. The receiver connected to the 38 pound back radio set that he wore on his back.
“A whole city with one bomb?” Sergeant Simpson asked.
“Yes sir the whole city.” Private Hankins answered.
“Well God bless America.” Sergeant Simpson said.
Collins turned his attention away from their conversation. In this war he learned not to think ahead about what he might face. If he thought on it too hard that is when the fear would creep in. It was more than a fear of death. He had seen enough death in this conflict to not fear it anymore. Collins took another drag of his cigarette and rested his head against the ruins of the bunker. Instead of choosing to fear death he had decided to respect life. Collins scratched his arm where the white and red combat medic band met his uniform as he exchanged a brief look with the Okinawan girl who was with the fishermen. She was probably twenty years old and she wore white flowers in her hair. Collins was amazed that someone could look so pretty in the midst of the ugliness of war. She had been on the beach with the fishermen evert day for the last three days. Collins had named her Flowers.
The marines were on the north side of the island about a mile away from the village of Kunigami which sat near the foot of Mount Yohana. The village had been almost entirely destroyed in the battle. The remaining villagers continued their lives as before the allies invaded their homeland and liberated them from their Japanese occupiers. It was well known that many of the Okinawans still worked with the Japanese but the challenge was determining who to suspect. The 6th Marine division now waited for the inevitable Invasion of Japan. Corporal Collins did not look forward to invading a country where every man, woman, and child would fight to death for their Emperor.
“Do you think that the war is almost over Neil?” Hankins asked him with concern as he walked over to where Neil sat. Howard Hankins was from Nebraska and was out of his element in the seemingly boundless expanse of the Pacific side of the war. Hankins was accustomed to a sea of yellow and green cornstalks and not the horrors of war he saw since his enlistment. He was one of the newest and most naïve off the recruits and he naturally stayed close to the veteran combat medic. Collins didn’t mind though. Private Hankins had a good soul and a gentle nature which was a welcomed relief from all that this war had to offer.
“It is too soon to tell. We are still at war today so just keep your head down ok?” Collins said.
“Alright.” Hankins responded and lowered his head. He did not get the reaffirmation that he was seeking.
“We beat the Germans didn’t we? If we can beat them we can beat anyone.” Collins added to put Hankins at ease.
Collins looked at the cigarette in his hand. It was half-way burned down to the filter. Collins had smoked hundreds if not thousands of cigarettes since he joined the war. They knew exactly how long they could burn in the world. When stamped out they fought for their lives and even when lit and set aside they try to live their purpose to burn down to the filter. Their ashes left a history of a life once lived.
“Why Hiroshima? Why not Tokyo?” Hankins asked.
“They dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima because there isn’t much left of Tokyo. We started burning it in March.” Private Phillips said.
Phillips was only a United States Marine because of the current state of the World War. Any young man that could speak Japanese while being under fire was welcome to fight in the Pacific. Of all the men that Collins fought with Phillips was the only one who didn’t seem phased by what he saw.
“Let’s see how many more men want to die for their Emperor.” Phillips said. Collins didn’t respond but inhaled again on his cigarette and caused the ember to glow bright with life. He again looked at the girl with the white flowers as she managed a smile back at him. This time Corporal Collins looked back towards the Pacific.
Human beings burned too. Some brighter than others and some who burned longer Collins thought. Some lights go out all at once like in Hiroshima. The remains of the bunker he rested his head against had men that burned by flamethrower.
Sergeant Simpson had organized Japanese prisoners of war to remove the bodies but the smell remained. The other marines stayed away and ignored the smell to the best of their ability but Collins couldn’t ignore it. The Corporal wanted to see, hear, and smell all that happened in the War. He never wanted to forget what men where capable at their worst and what it took to stop them. Some people burned while others wore white flowers in their hair Neil thought.
A far away series of pops interrupted the quiet that the men rested in. A large flock of sea birds took to the sky several miles north of their position as clouds of smoke could be seen in the distance. It seems that the Japanese resistance on Okinawa decided that war would once again interrupt the peace of the day. Soon after the radio that Hankins carried began to squawk and the private picked up the receiver and Collins couldn’t easily make out what followed.
“Sergeant. HQ says that Isono has an artillery gun and are shooting at our forces. They want us to take care of it.” Howard said.
“Alright boys we have a mission. Isono is still out there causing trouble so get ready. You got two minutes before we head out.” The Sergeant said.
The Japanese soldiers were brave and would fight till the last bullet had left their guns and till the last breath left their bodies. They had captured stores of Japanese munitions and weapons stacked in large crates near the bunker, but Col. Isono still fought with the relentless fury of a man who would never surrender. He didn’t know that the bomb changed the war and that men with guns no longer mattered compared to its power.
Collins flicked the dead remains of the filter as far as he could out towards the ocean. Just another corpse in an innumerable amount of corpses because of this war. Collins stood and grabbed his Thompson submachine gun. His chin strap dangled from his helmet as he held it in his hand and joined his the rest of his squad.
Just as Collins walked towards Hankins’ side the earth shook in a violent rage. Collins put on his helmet and sought shelter from the falling debris of the bunker. The initial shock was followed by a series of aftershocks that worried all the marines around him.
Collins turned his attention back to the Ocean and in the distance saw the wall of water that was headed their way. The lower part of the wave fed into the top of the wave as it came towards the shore. The fishermen and the girl scattered and out of instinct Collins quickly sought high ground and protection from the massive wave headed their way.
“Get outta here! Move! Move! Move!” Sergeant Simpson yelled.
After the initial tidal wave, large waves began to crash upon the shore of the island. Collins thought it just another rain storm and sought to seek shelter from the rain but as he stood he noticed not a single dark cloud in the sky. The waves of the Pacific crashed against the island again. With them they brought scores of dead fish covered in a dark ichor that washed up upon the shore.
“Everyone alright? Anyone injured?” The sergeant asked his men. He looked around and nodded once he saw that his men were unharmed albeit soaked in water. The marines were still alert, however. They all fought in this war long enough to know not to let their guard down.
Collins looked again into the Pacific. In the far distance at the end of his vision he could see something on the brink of the horizon. Something large. Something dark.
“Sergeant look out in the water.” Collins said.
“Watch out boys! This could be another Jap suicide attack!” The Sergeant said. Collins grabbed his Thompson and dropped to the ground just as he was trained to do. The other marines did the same.
Collins looked through his binoculars at the mammoth Entity in the water. It was either covered by or entirely comprised of matted seaweed that covered all the parts of the entity above the water. The blackness of the creature stood out against the swaying of the ocean and the purity of the sky. Collins looked at the brilliance of the white sun that sat high in the sky gracing all below it with warmth and light. The brilliance seemed to end as soon as it reached the entity as it absorbed all the light that struck it. Light from the infinite sky above and darkness from the depths below. Collins would find it hard to believe that these two bodies could exist in the same world had he not saw it both of them with his own two eyes.
“You think this is because we blew up Hiroshima?” Hankins asked.
“It is certainly possible.” Collins said.
“Be prepared for anything boys.” The Sergeant said.
“Sergeant I don’t believe that this is an attack by the Japanese.” Phillips said as he raised his head with curiosity as he looked out at the thing in the Pacific Ocean.
“What are you talking about Phillips? Hey get down!” The Sergeant said as Phillips stood up with his rifle by his side.
“Sergeant! I think Phillips is right. Here take a look.” Collins said as he hurried to the sergeant’s position. Collins handed him the binoculars and the sergeant looked out towards the Entity.
“What is it? Some kind of whale?” The Sergeant asked once he looked through the lenses.
“I don’t know. It is big whatever it is.” Collins said.
“Why does it look hazy like that?” Sergeant Simpson asked.
“It is beyond the horizon line. If it wasn’t so tall out of the water we wouldn’t be able to see it at all.” Private Phillips said.
“Anyone know what the hell this thing could be?” The sergeant asked his men. They all shook their heads no.
“I hope we find out.” Phillips said as he looked at the entity with fascination.
“Whatever it is it can’t be good.” The Sergeant said.
“One thing is for sure is that it looks like it is headed right our way.” Collins said. A second round of waves smaller than the first hit the island and the ocean in front of the Entity was violent and choppy as the presence of the entity agitated the Pacific. The waters in front of the entity became thick and black with an ink which reminded him of oil leaking from a damaged ship.
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