She was running.
Barefooted, against the wind. The rays of the morning sun peeked through the clouds, and it glared into her eyes, but she didn’t care. It wasn’t important. She had to get the doctor to come to her house, because her younger brother was sick. He had been sick for weeks, but they hadn’t attempted to find the doctor because there was too much danger for her to leave the house.
In the beginning it was just a flu, a runny nose; but now her younger brother was lying in their bed, delirious, and before she left she briefly recalled seeing his lips turn blue.
She had to pause in her steps when a man in beige uniform came out of a guard post by the intersections of the streets; a few more shops down the street she would have reached the pharmacy. The man stuck out a hand. She stopped in her path, breathing heavily from the running and the fear that’s now coursing inside of her, rippling across her stomach. Now, it’s her turn to feel sick. She wanted to vomit. The soldier stared at her, and then he opened his mouth.
When the man spoke, he said something. She could understand it, somehow, but what did it mean, what did it mean? She opened her mouth, but nothing came out; not a single sound. The man stared at her, his lips pulled up at the corner, sneering, and then he swallowed and spat into her face. She flinched back. And even while the mucus leaked down her nose and in between her own lips, she stayed in position, afraid that if she turned, the man would stab the bayonet through her back.
She shook her head, saying that she didn’t understand, that she didn’t speak Japanese. The soldier was yelling something, something she knew but forgot. She’s heard it a thousand times before, but suddenly, today, this very moment, those syllables and sounds that escaped from the soldier’s mouth sounded too unfamiliar.
She shook her head, tearing up, and apologised. But the man was yelling down, and he grabbed her by her left elbow. She stumbled towards him, but pulled away, crying as she explained herself.
He didn’t understand her at all. She was saying she needed the doctor, and that her younger brother was sick. She was begging as she clutched the man’s uniform, which was hard and coarse under her fingers.
Please, she begged. He’s my only family left.
But the expression on the man’s face was blank. He didn’t understood what she said the same way she did not understood his words, and the language barrier stopped the man from feeling any hint of empathy – if he had any.
He stared down at her; in his mind she was nothing more than another creature that bugged him at night. A roach. Her life was worth something, at least.
Or perhaps, that was the only way he could convince himself to stay sane during his stay in a foreign country. Either way, the way she was looking at him irked him. He felt disgust and fury at the way she begged with mucus streaming down her nostrils and into her mouth. The way her eyes looked up pleading. He had no sympathy for the girl, because there was no need for that. She had disrespected him and his country, so he swung his gun up from his shoulder and held it up, the knife on the tip of the gun glinting under the sunlight. She instantly collapsed in front of him, sinking to her knees so that now her head was at the same level of his groin. She begged, almost screeching, and the noise annoyed him to no end, because he sounded like all the other girls in the city, the screeching.
She paused, shaking and trembling, then she slowly edged her hands to his belt, and she tugged at it. He glanced down at her, furrowing his eyebrows. She looked up, baring her teeth to smile, and tugged at his pants and fiddled with his groin and pointed to herself.
He laughed, taking a step back, and her hands touched the air. The bayonet tempted him, and he watched her face fall as he took a step forward, while she pushed herself against the concrete ground, trying to escape him. Just a few hours ago, he was reprimanded by his commander for taking away too many rations, and his commander had stared down at him with his slitted eyes while beating his fists into him.
The bruises were still forming themselves. And he knew where he could unleash the fury inside of him.
And the blade entered through her heart.
She collapsed. Her knees scraped across the cement ground, but the pain in her knee didn’t register in her. All she could feel was burning in her chest, the pain that ricocheted in her body, through her ribs. She took a deep breath, then choked, feeling herself drown from the inside out. She had seen people die before, but never understood death well enough until now. She laid on the ground, shaking in her own warm blood. The man stared down at her, and she saw the corner of his lips lift up, sneering, before he pulled back the bayonet and stabbed her again. And again. And again. She coughed, feeling the blood leak from her throat and out her mouth.
He didn’t need anyone to tell him what to do. He was the one in charge.
The sun rays glared down at her, but she couldn’t feel anything, anymore. The man sneered, then he spoke again, and this time, she heard the syllables and sounds, linking together like beads on a string. Her final thoughts as she took her last breath…
She remembered. She remembered what those words meant.
“Bow to the Imperial Army.”