Home to Nagasaki – Chapter 8

August 22, 2012

 

Halha River, Mongolia

1940

 

I often traveled with Masaru into the war zone. Along the border of Mongolia and the Soviet Union, where thousands of our troops had been slaughtered along the bank of the Halha River, Masaru and I sat in an army jeep, a case of chocolate bars rested at the Colonel’s feet.

He had convinced the Army command to stage a counter attack at Halha and we were leading a contingent of 100 men who would install water filters in the war zone so that our troops could enjoy a clean water supply.

“It is crucial to provide clean water to our troops in the theater of war,” Masaru argued and our superiors authorized the expedition into Mongolia. What Masaru didn’t say was that our water filters were necessary to inoculate our troops from something Masaru had planned for our enemy.

“My suicide squad.” Masaru described his secret contingent of Japanese troops like they were something out of a spy novel. The more I learned about his squad the more I realized that’s exactly what they were – a group of spies ready to engage in biological sabotage. A covert operation so dangerous they may never return, that could likely kill them with infection if they ever did.

This was the business I had chosen.

I looked to the shoebox-sized case of chocolates at Masaru’s feet. “Are you sure you need those?”

He followed my glance and smiled when his eyes found the chocolate. “Pathogens are good. They don’t kill good people.”

Are you going mad? Pathogens are good? They don’t kill good people? What kind of logic is this? I remembered the piles of dead bodies sent to the incinerator and wondered where Masaru would place them on the scale of good and bad.

As we waited in our jeep near the river, waiting for the sun to set, I thought of my wife Kimiko in Nagasaki. What would happen if I were to abandon my duties at the facility and take her away to another place? To retire and forget about the epidemic prevention bureau of Imperial Japan.

“We’ve gathered a wealth of scientific information,” Masaru said as he opened his arms towards the Soviet land, which faced us just across the river. “We’ve discovered and developed methods to protect humans from contagious diseases.” He peered my direction. “This idea of yours has led to some very prestigious work, Major.”

He wants me to thank him but why does his compliment feel more like a curse? Sure, we were providing drinkable water to our Japanese soldiers but only because we were about to conduct biological warfare against our Soviet enemies.

The sun set, darkness fell and the river became quiet. We waited in the darkness until a young captain of the army approached our jeep. “The squad is ready to deploy, Colonel.”

Masaru had been napping quietly and now he sat up straight, adjusting his uniform and touching his hair. “Of course, Captain. Thank you, and proceed.”

The captain nodded and disappeared into the darkness.

Masaru lit a cigarette and handed another to me. “Come on,” he said as he hopped out of the jeep and walked towards the river. “Bring the chocolate.”

I complied and followed the colonel.

“Just imagine, Major, soon the land on the other side of that river will be in Japanese hands!”

And it will be polluted by anthrax and the plague.

We approached the river where a small fleet of rowboats was being tended by Japanese soldiers clad in black. I counted twelve boats in total, though in the darkness it was difficult to see across the black water. Soldiers on shore quietly handed wooden boxes to their counterparts on the boats. Some of these boxes were packed with metal tubes each the size of a thermos, which the soldiers handled carefully. The rest of the boxes were animal cages; inside were dozens of living rats.

The men were methodical as they loaded their cargo, only speaking when necessary and pointing or using hand signals whenever they could. I made it a point to remain as quiet as possible.

Once the cargo was packed, silently and stealthily the soldiers boarded the boats and set off rowing upstream.

“Captain!” Masaru called with a graveled whisper. “You forgot the chocolate!” Masaru pointed to the case of candy in my hands and the captain jumped from his boat and ran to take the package from me.

“Good luck, Captain,” Masaru said as the captain tossed the chocolates to a soldier on his boat, boarded the dingy and started rowing upstream. Five minutes later the boats had disappeared into the darkness leaving only a thin ripple of water in their wake.

Masaru watched contemplatively, ignoring the cigarette that dangled between his fingers as its orange glow dimmed and darkened. He flicked the butt into the river.

“Come,” he turned and walked back to the jeep. I sat beside him, said nothing and waited for Masaru to talk. Instead he opened the glove compartment and removed a sizable flask of brown liquid. “Have a drink, Major,” Masaru said as he unscrewed the cap and took a hearty swig before handing the bourbon to me.

I did as I was instructed and then sat quietly and watched the darkness. Half an hour passed without a word. I strained my ears for any sound of the boats, the paddle of an oar in the water, the voices of our men, the report of rifles being fired. But there was nothing. Only silence and blackness.

Finally Masaru spoke. “We are building another facility off an island in the Hiroshima Prefecture.”

I know this island: Ōkunoshima.

“Our mission will be to manage a poison production factory that will create mustard gas for the Imperial Army. Ōkunoshima was chosen for its secrecy, its isolation, and its distance from Tokyo. The island has already been removed from maps,” Masaru took another swig.

Most scientists would see any expansion of their work as a success, a great honor. Instead I took the flask from Masaru and swallowed a pair of mouthfuls. The sweet bourbon coated and burned my throat on the way down. I lit a cigarette.

Earlier that month I had conducted a vivisection on a young Chinese soldier, Log 897. I had removed his stomach while the subject was still alive. I had connected his esophagus directly to his intestines to observe how such a modification would affect the behavior of a man’s digestive track, and to time how long he could survive. Not long, it turned out. Within minutes Log 897 had expired.

Your work is a great honor for Japan. I imagined Masaru telling me in order to reassure me, to keep me invested in the business of Unit 731.

We remained quiet for another hour, finishing the flask and with it an entire pack of cigarettes. Eventually we heard a soft trickle of water from upstream and alerted ourselves for a possible attack, relaxing only when we saw our boats returning.

Masaru slid quietly from his seat in the jeep and approached the shore. The captain stood at the bow of the lead boat and with a long stride, he stepped onto the shore. “Mission accomplished, Colonel.”

Masaru grinned. “Good, good work! Join us in the jeep. We will debrief you on the ride back.”

The captain was straightforward and precise in his reporting. The metal canisters had been filled with a powder heavily laced with cholera, which had been dropped into wells and water mains around the Russian base. The rats had been released as planned and the captain described how they scurried into the base, a nearby village, into tents and alleys and buildings. These rats carried fleas infested with a potent form of the plague.

“And the chocolate. Tell me about the chocolate!” An excited Masaru could not contain his joy. The case of anthrax-laced chocolate bars had been his idea.

“We left it on a Russian railcar that was loaded with cargo. It will find its way into the supply line, Colonel. And hopefully into the mouths of hundreds of Russian soldiers.”

Masaru threw his head back and cackled. His bourbon-flavored breath infected the evening air. I had never seen Masaru so delighted.

Mark McGinty‘s work has appeared in Maybourne Magazine, Montage Magazine, Cigar City Magazine and Germ Warfare. His novel The Cigar Maker won a Bronze Medal at the 2011 Independent Publisher Book Awards and was named Finalist at both the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards and the 2011 National Indie Excellence Awards.


Home to Nagasaki – Chapter 4

August 2, 2012

Ping Fan, China

1939

We turned Manchuria into a gigantic chemical and biological warfare laboratory. Nearly eighty buildings were constructed on the compound including an administrative building to house laboratories, dormitories for the civilian workers, barracks for the military, and a collection of barns and stables to house test animals.

Masaru was proud of the special prison that would house our human subjects and I was tasked with overseeing construction of a facility that could conduct frostbite experiments year round.

There was a power plant, a group of furnaces used to discard human and animal carcasses and a recreational facility that Masaru himself oversaw. I wasn’t surprised when I learned it would be staffed with what Masaru described as “a healthy collection of comfort women.”

A railroad connected the facility to the city of Harbin and a private airfield was constructed where newly developed  chemical and biological weapons could be tested.

I would later learn that the facility’s perimeter rivaled that of our German ally’s Auschwitz.

“Japan needs to expand in order to survive as a great nation,” Masaru told me as we stood in a corner watchtower and surveyed the completed facility. “The Home Islands are simply too limited in resources.”

Total war with China was underway and our government believed Manchuria to be the most obvious place to fill our needs.

“This is the most advanced weapons research facility in the world,” Masaru proclaimed, his arms opened wide and his face frozen into a grin like a father admiring his beautiful children. “It is time we started to experiment.”

Our prisoners were mostly Chinese, yet we didn’t call them prisoners. We never referred to any of them by name. “Logs,” Masaru decided they would be called. Nothing more than a word used by the military to dehumanize each of our test subjects. As far as we knew, these prisoners never even had names. Only numbers.

Log 741. Log 622. Log 881.

We fed them biscuits laced with anthrax and measured how long it took them to die. We tied them to poles on the bombing range and detonated cluster bombs filled with plague-infected fleas, observing the ability of the fleas to survive and infect our human subjects.

When a log reached the end of its use, it was terminated, then either burned or dissected.

I trembled during my first dissection. I could hear Masaru whispering into my ear. “Remember, it is an honor to be serving the Emperor,”

I wanted to discuss the honor in testing poison gas and contagious diseases on human subjects. Or was their sacrifice also an act of honor?

“Remember,” Masaru said. “We would not have this facility if not for your research.”

I thought back to the demonstration in Tokyo, when Masaru had purified and downed his own piss in front of Prince Hirohito. Afterwards I was swarmed with handshakes and accolades.

“Remarkable work, Captain,” one general had said to me.

Another patted my shoulder. “Your work on this water filter will halt the spread of encephalitis which has already claimed too many lives.”

I bowed politely. Honorably.

Masaru named me his second-in-command and I was promoted to Major, given a raise and a generous bonus. I moved my wife and child into a newer, roomier home in Nagasaki.

I kept my mouth shut and did my work.

Log 321 was brought into the operating room by a pair of Japanese guards. A middle aged Chinese man, shirtless, with gaunt, pale skin textured with a boney ribcage. Log 321 did not fight. He had already tried fruitlessly to escape form captivity weeks ago. He was weak, malnourished, his eyes were blank and seemed to accept that his life would end here. But when he saw the flat, aluminum operating table, the overhead lights, Masaru and I wearing smocks and latex gloves, his eyes came to life and flickered with fear. Honorable fear.

Log 321 used no words. He made no sound as he thrashed pathetically, unable to break the grasp of the guards. He was laid on the table on his back, his hands and ankles fastened in leather straps – the ultimate symbol of honor.

I studied Log 321, his bony torso, the scrawny arms and legs. His face was a skull wrapped in skin already dead. I would later learn to never look them in the eye. There was nothing to see. These were not humans, they were numbers.

Masaru would lead the dissection. He said to me, “We must time the first incision just right to control the amount of blood loss.”

I felt sick to my stomach. There would be no anesthetic for this man; we wouldn’t even put him out before we cut him open. His heart still beat, his lungs still breathed.

I reminded myself: my research had made this possible. I reminded myself: do not look him in the eye. Focus on the dissection itself. This is a test subject. This is a science experiment. This is for the good of your country.

I swallowed hard and handed the scalpel to Masaru.

 

Mark McGinty‘s work has appeared in Maybourne Magazine, Montage Magazine, Cigar City Magazine and Germ Warfare. His novel The Cigar Maker won a Bronze Medal at the 2011 Independent Publisher Book Awards and was named Finalist at both the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards and the 2011 National Indie Excellence Awards.


Home to Nagasaki – Chapter 3

July 10, 2012

Hiroshima, Japan

August 6th, 1945 8:16am

White skies.

Then a bright and clear morning was suddenly dark.

My military instincts told me to dive for cover but before I hit the ground, a force like a giant’s hand lifted me into the air and threw me towards the river. I hit the paved road, landing on my knees as my wrists slammed into the gravel. Ignoring sandy cuts and scrapes, I clawed my way behind a stone wall as I was showered by a bomb of splinters and dirt.

Black spots, white spots. Ringing bells.

I rolled one direction, then another. Was I asleep? Did I awake? I tasted dirt in my mouth and was stung by burning soot up my nose. Hot, acid snot oozed down the back of my throat like lava.

For a moment I remembered the bomb shelter just fifty feet away but an intense wind blew dust into my face. So I kept my eyes closed and my head down. I was curled into a ball, covering my face with my scraped wrists and stinging hands as the wind pelted me with sands and sticks. There had been no explosions. No familiar pop-pop-pop of bombs detonating in the distance, no BOOM! when one landed nearby. There was no mass of airplanes buzzing above, no whistle as their bombs fell from the sky, no return fire from our anti-aircraft batteries.

Just a flash of light and a burst of wind followed by an avalanche of dirt and junk.

My briefcase was beneath me but I kicked it away. The vial with my capsule dug into my ribs. Minutes later as the wind began to die, I lifted my head to see all of Hiroshima shrouded in a brown haze. Through the dust, a cloud of fire grew a mile into the sky.

I was suddenly disappointed that the city had not survived. What did it mean for my plan? I wanted to ask someone. I wanted to know.

My eyes burned as grit filled my pores. I began to lose focus. My head hurt and I could feel wetness dripping from both ears. I used a hand to wipe the moisture from my temple and looked down to see red fingers.

Did I hear no explosion because I’d lost my hearing?

But I could hear the wind, the shattered pieces of lumber slapping and splintering against nearby houses. The fire. Like a rush of thunder, the fire! But there were no screams, no voices, no aguish. No cries of panic. Absent was the despair that had been so common during war I had known.

I checked my hands and saw the backs were scalded and burned, as if they had been dipped into a pot of boiling water.

Still halfway in shock, I tried to stand but my knees wobbled and I toppled to the ground. A small child walked by in a daze. A black dog passed the child from the other direction, limping and silent. A group of soldiers crawled from the bomb shelter, their bodies covered in soot, their ears bleeding, their faces dazed.

I heard a child ask his mother, “Why is it so dark in the morning?”

I saw myself walking up to the mother as she held her child close, towering above them as the wind and the dirt blew overhead. As she brushed dust off her child’s face, I saw myself looking into her blurry eyes, her mouth caked with dirt. I saw myself ask her, “What does this mean for me?”

The air raid was over in an instant. Had there been only one bomb?

“Impossible.” I muttered.

I imagined myself standing before a classroom of schoolchildren, looking upon the kids who raised their hands and wanted to know if Hiroshima had been hit – if it had been utterly destroyed – by a single American bomb?

I shook my head. “There is no way one bomb can damage so much.” Yet I saw burning buildings all around me. Bodies lining the street as if an army had marched through and executed thousands of people at will. Survivors rose from the wreckage, their faces blank, their eyes lost.

“No way one bomb can do this,” I convinced myself.

Then a hand wrapped around my ankle. I looked down to see Masaru, my commanding officer and saw half his face burned red, his eye sockets blistered. His hair singed and smoking, his good looks destroyed. But when I saw the alertness in his eyes I knew his mind remained unblemished. There was a flicker that I’m sure my eyes lacked.

As his fist squeezed my ankle, I thought of Masaru’s intense patriotism. His sense of nationalism that refused to let me escape with our secrets. I was reminded of his exuberant need to guard the tales of the facility.

Masaru had my ankle but I had forgotten him already.

I thought of the facility.

Mark McGinty‘s work has appeared in Maybourne Magazine, Montage Magazine, Cigar City Magazine and Germ Warfare. His novel The Cigar Maker won a Bronze Medal at the 2011 Independent Publisher Book Awards and was named Finalist at both the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards and the 2011 National Indie Excellence Awards.


Book Excerpt: Unit 731… Chapter 22

August 9, 2011

 It’s been awhile since I posted an excerpt from my next novel but being that today is August 9th, the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki (which is what the book is about!), I figured a chapter that takes place the day before that event would be appropriate. This is a very rough, first draft. It hadn’t even been spell-checked until I copied it into this blog. But I’m really happy with how it came out.

Chapter 22

Japanese Airspace

August 8th, 1945 10:11 am

“I thought I had done nothing wrong. I thought my actions were honorable, meant to serve the Emperor, for the good of Japan. How can such noble work be beyond redemption?”

Masaru only scowled, his eyes fixed at some point over my shoulder. I could have slapped him across the head with a stick and his gaze wouldn’t have moved.

I pulled at my handcuffs to test their bond, the metal rings dug into my wrists. I rested my back against the wall of the fuselage, closed my eyes and thought of Kimiko and my son, alone in Nagasaki with no knowledge of my situation. Kimiko expected me to return home in a matter of days, to gather the family and leave Japan for good. As I headed to Tokyo, I wished I could get a message to them and advise them to go now. That I would catch up with them, probably in the afterlife.

I thought of the cyanide capsule in my pocket.

The plane lurched and my body seemed weightless for a moment, held in place by the safety belt buckled across my chest. Then I caught up to my seat and felt the weight of the plane pushing me up from below. I looked across the plane to Masaru, who seemed suddenly frightened, his eyes now pointed towards the cockpit.

I imagined a young, inexperienced pilot flying this broken cargo plane, which was probably low on fuel and behind on its maintenance. Such was the case with all Japanese aircraft at this point in the war – rundown leftovers and castaways flown by inexperienced pilots and hardly any fuel.

The ground began to bounce under my feet and soon the metal tube where we sat violently vibrated back and forth. I was weightless again, the straps of my harness dug into my shoulders and kept me in place but we were no longer on a flat trajectory, we were going down.

One of the soldiers beside me shouted towards the cockpit but I could not understand what he said as the plane became a noisy mess of vibrating metal, grinding engines and rocky, violent flight. I thought of a go-cart I once built with my father and my first bumpy, out-of-control ride down a rocky hill.

Suddenly the bottom fell from below our feet and an alarm siren started to buzz. We were losing altitude quickly and with my hands still cuffed, I could do nothing but grasp the straps of my harness and squeeze until the material cut into my burned and blistered palms.

It was during this freefall that I noticed the cargo alongside our seats had not been secured and was flying freely across the fuselage. A small metal crate was thrown my direction from the front of the plane and I ducked my head slightly to avoid being hit. Pens and screwdrivers, tiny tools and boxes of matches seemed to be circling through the air as if caught in a tornado. I could not avoid being agitated by the free-flying debris.

The metallic banging continued, the heinous alarm kept screeching and our bumpy fall from the sky made me close my eyes and recite a short prayer, my fingers still choking my harness. Then a terrible thud and the soldier to my left fell across my body, his hat knocked off and his head pouring blood from where he had been struck by some flying canister.

I glanced to the soldier beside me, his face pale, his eyes closed and his lips quivering from his own private prayer. The banging and violent back and forth of the plane made it hard to focus on Masaru but I could see him clutching his safety harness, gritting his teeth and looking towards the cockpit half expecting a dead pilot to fall from the seat and land lifeless on the floor.

I looked through the window over Masaru’s shoulder and became terrified by what I saw outside. Land appeared and rose upward at a startling pace. We were near the water, and descending quickly towards a sandy beach. I wondered how much control the pilot had over the plane and if he would attempt a crash landing or simply brace the controls and close his eyes hoping death would greet him swiftly and without pain.

We hit the ground with a blow so hard that it knocked me unconscious. I blacked out completely and cannot recall the impact or anything that happened immediately after.

When I came to I was still strapped to my harness, the wounded soldier on my left lay dead across my legs, his head hemorrhaging blood onto my lap. The soldier to my right was upright but his eyes were closed and his mouth open. A line of blood ran from his temple, down his cheek and hung like tiny red icicles from his jaw.

Both were dead.

Masaru was across from me, hunched over with his face hovering above the ground and his hands still locked on his harness. It looked like he was about to be sick but he soon lifted his head groggily and opened his eyes, took a moment to focus and still hunched over, looked up to see me staring back.

His face was just a foot from my boots and invited me to take swift action. I lifted my knees to my chest and thrust my feet towards Masaru’s face, connecting squarely with a double face-kick that snapped Masaru’s head back and sent him crashing against the wall behind him.

His nose was broken, blood poured from his nostrils.

The solder beside him was barely awake and when he saw me kick Masaru, he was instantly alert. I reached to my chest and unbuckled my harness then lunged across the plane towards the soldier, surprising him with an elbow to the jaw. He slumped to the side and I was immediately on top of him, the chain of my handcuffs wrapped around his neck, squeezing all life from his stunned and wounded body.

Masaru groaned beside me, the sting from my boot-kick starting to fade as Masaru realized he had survived the crash and now had an escaping prisoner to subdue. He would not have a chance to do more than become aware of his situation as I released the soldier from my handcuffs and turned them on Masaru.

“No!” his muffled voice shouted as I attacked him head-on, driving the chain of my handcuffs into his mouth like a gag and using my fingers to claw at his cheeks. I used the weight of my body to push him to the ground and then rolled on top to suffocate him.

I noticed a sharp pain in my left arm and realized I had broken at least one bone during the crash and now sensing my pain, realized that my wounds were extensive. Blood flowed into my eyes, my ears echoed with a quiet, distant buzz and my head hurt so badly it forced my eyes closed. For a moment I thought I would pass out.

But I had Masaru trapped below me, the three soldiers had been killed and only the pilot – if he had survived – could stop me. I clasped my hands together to form one giant fist and then drove it down towards Masaru’s bloody face with all my strength. He groaned and coughed blood as I rolled off his body and found myself staring at the utility belt of one of the dead soldiers.

Keys.

I reached out and took them from his belt, fumbled for the small one that would unlock my handcuffs and slipped it into the hole. Seconds later I threw my handcuffs across Masaru’s body. Ready to take my path to freedom, I stopped myself and looked down to Masaru’s bloody face, his broken body writhing on the floor, and considered handcuffing him to some railing inside the plane, confining him to the wreck until a rescue party arrived.

Instead I knelt beside him and whispered, “No matter his sins, no man is ever beyond redemption. Not even you, my friend.”

I rose and turned toward the cockpit. The door was still closed and I wondered if the pilot had been killed. Not taking the time to find out, I kicked the plane’s door open and fell onto a sunny and sandy beach.

The wings of the plane had broken off miles away and the body of the plane had slid across the sand, carving a trench in the dunes as it ground itself to a stop. Black smoke rose from the wreckage and I could see columns of smoke rising from the dunes up range.

I paused to survey my surroundings, to calculate my location. We had been headed for Tokyo, northeast from Kokura and had been in the air for at least thirty minutes before we started to fall. No telling how far we had veered off course, or if we had ever been on course in the first place but I figured we were closer to Hiroshima than Tokyo, and probably father from Nagasaki than I had been two days ago.

It would be a long journey home.

I turned inland, to the west, away from the beach and the rising sun that reminded me of our flag, our Japanese glory. Then I noticed something I never expected to see this far from Nagasaki. I shook my head and wondered if the wreck was causing me to hallucinate, or my mind to play games with my eyes.

It was the Mount Otake, an active volcano I had visited as a child, nowhere near Tokyo and was in fact on the same island where I had grown up.

Masaru had lied to me. We had not been headed for Tokyo at all. He had no intentions of bringing me to the capital to stand trial. Instead he had taken me the opposite direction, towards the city of my family. To my initial destination, the one place in the world where I wanted to be.

Masaru had brought me home.

Mark McGinty is the author of The Cigar Maker. His work has appeared in Cigar City Magazine, Maybourne Magazine, La Gaceta. Contact him at mmcginty_32@yahoo.com.


Unit 731 – Chapter 16

December 3, 2010

I’m continuing to post snippets from my forthcoming novel (but probably a novella) called Unit 731, a World War II thriller. This is very rough – very, very rough. But it’s on paper and right now, that’s all that matters.

 

Chapter 16

I swerved around one curve, then another. My spotty vision blurred the street and I leaned forward in the seat, clutching the wheel with both hands to better control the vehicle. I drove faster than I ever had and as the truck rounded a bend, it nearly toppled over. Tires squealed and the truck seesawed from one side to the other. I backed off the gas pedal to slow down and regain control as a pair of jeeps appeared in the rear view mirror, rounding the curve where I nearly rolled my truck, pursuing me as a snake of dust crawled into the air behind them.

Through a residential neighborhood we sped, now miles from the site of the bombing. The homes here were pristine, but the threat of war was apparent in the roadside bomb shelters and foot soldiers. I raced through a small crowd of pedestrians who parted before me like clouds after a storm. The jeeps followed, closing the gap.

The neighborhood thinned of houses and soon I drove through a sea of trees, then the trees grew shorter and shorter until my truck raced through a open field. The road became dirt, then rocks, and disappeared completely as I sped at top speed directly towards the flowing current of a dark, muddy river. The brakes were of no use as the truck smashed into a hard wall of water.

For months I would have a bruise across my chest from where I was thrown into the steering wheel. Water began to flood the truck from the floor, the windows, from everywhere. I was able to push the door open and slide to safety as the truck sank and became consumed by the river. But my good fortune lasted only moments as tires from the two Army jeeps soon skidded to a halt on the gravel road above me.

I plunged my head below the surface and let the current whisk my weary body downstream. I noticed right away the water tasted like algae and dirt, the way a river should taste – absent was the odor of industrial death. No dead fish floated along this surface, it smelled of wet logs instead of ash and atomic soot.

As I came up for air, a pair of projectiles splashed before me with a zing. Then a crack, a rifle’s report, as shots were fired towards me. I ducked under the water again and swam with the current. Bullets sailed over my head as their rifles popped and cracked behind me.

“Kiyoshi!” I heard Masaru’s voice call, but it was muffled by water splashing all around me. I kicked and clawed at the river, the cool, clean water soothed by burns and washed the dirt and dust from my eyes. More shouting and gunfire from the riverbank but it grew more and more distant as the rush of the water became the only sound.

I thought of my wife in Nagasaki, and my child. I wanted to get a message to them, to let them know I was coming, and to be ready to leave the islands forever. But stuck in this river, with my fellow soldiers pursuing me along the riverbank, all I could do was keep my head submerged and move with the current. Soon the river grew wider, the current eased and I moved towards the middle of the stream, then crossed it completely and reached the shore on the other side. I looked back the direction I had come – my truck, the landing where I had crashed, Masaru and the soldiers who had given chase, where nowhere to be seen.

I drew myself from the muddy water and crawled to the rocky shore, hiding in the weeds to catch my breath. Then shouldering my great burden, I set off, seeking a path that would deliver me from this island, and bring me home to Nagasaki.


First sentence of my next novel “Unit 731″

August 1, 2010

So I’ve been putting together a few story threads for my next novel, and doing some initial research. After knocking a few opening scenes around in my head, I finally decided on where the story should start. I still need to decide on the character’s name but I was able to write the first sentence of the story.

First, a little about the book, Unit 731. I’m trying to condense my log line into a single sentence. Here’s what I have:

In the final days of World War II, a Japanese doctor attempts to flee Japan with a state secret and is pursued by an Imperial police officer through Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Here’s the opening line (I haven’t decided on the main character’s name yet)

<Name> was given a cyanide capsule and instructed to take the secret to his grave.

Still have a few more sentences to write so don’t expect Unit 731 to be in print until around oh, summer of 2012?? If you need some reading before then, be sure to check out The Cigar Maker!


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