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August 15th, 1945. Tokyo, Japan.
I slipped foggy combat goggles over my eyes, and took a deep breath inward. My face was covered in salty sweat, and my mouth was completely dry. My peers didn’t look any better, and seemed even more terrified than myself. I faced forward, and studied my flight commander, Tezuka Hasegawa. His face looked ashen, as if all the blood had been drawn from it by a sharp needle.
“Pilots!” Hasegawa began, clearing his throat. “Today will be a day that our sacrifices will go down in Imperial history. We must show the enemy what we bring to the table, and not allow for him to mount a counter strike!
“Today the cherry blossoms will fall, and we will bring victory to the Empire!” he continued, pointing at a picture of the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise on the briefing board for all to see.
“Hai!” we all shouted in organized unison, stating that we understood his orders. In reality, I understood none of it. I was drafted early in the war as a fighter pilot, and had participated in many violent battles that shed a lot of blood. At the Battle of Midway, I remember seeing the carriers Hiryu, Kaga, Akagi, and Soryu ablaze in hot flames, causing much death. Memories are what make us human, if one likes it or not. But that doesn’t mean that memories can’t cause significant pain.
My twenty five year old wife, Fumiko Hasegawa, died of fatal burns when the Americans bombed Kobe this year, burning it to rubble. I had heard that thousands of women and children had also been burned to ash in the chaos, which made me even angrier. I never knew about my wife’s death until three weeks after it happened, and personally, it was the reason why I had decided to join the “Special Attack” unit. To get revenge.
Nothing could prepare me for the horrors that ensued not long afterward. All of my friends who I had served with since the beginning of my combat career died within weeks, each by “Special Attack” missions. Now it was my turn to sacrifice myself. It was my turn to get a sweet taste of revenge.
I looked down at my gloved hands, and stared at a spider that had made its way across my right index finger. I didn’t bother to kill it...I had no right to. Perhaps it was a symbol of good fortune, and perhaps I would actually sink an American aircraft carrier today...or maybe I wouldn’t.
One of the operation maids gave me a small glass of traditional sake sprinkled with shredded cherry blossoms. I nodded her a thank you, and gulped the liquid down in one sitting before slamming it into the ground. The glass shattered into a million pieces, and Hasegawa gave me a sad smile. I bowed to him, and then glanced over at my A6M Zero fighter.
It was camouflaged in dark green, and was rigged with bombs and explosives. My loose hands balled into fists, and I exhaled. My peers ran toward their respective plane’s, getting ready to launch into the sky and fall like cherry blossoms.
I slowly walked over to my aircraft, taking off my right glove and laying my right hand onto the fuselage for a last goodbye. The metal on the fuselage was as cold as a child’s popsicle, and I felt a sharp pain coarse across my veins. I refused to remove my hand from the fuselage, and stroked it as if it were my only chance at life.
Before entering the cockpit of the aircraft, I looked out across the beautiful rice field near the flight strip. The murky water surrounding the Sinica rice plants trembled at the sound of Hasegawa shouting for all remaining pilots to enter their aircraft.
I slid into my cockpit, and exhaled once more. The cold, sweat on my head instantly became warm, my heart rate decreased drastically, but it didn’t stop me from painfully choking the control stick at my feet out of anxiousness. I wrapped my fingers around the throttle lever, and waited for Hasegawa’s signal to start all engines.
I took a deep breath, and thought about what that was taken from me. My wife, my friends, everything. I looked at my instruments, and saw that the spider had made its way on top of my altimeter. Perhaps he wishes to volunteer, I thought to myself.
I leaned back in my seat and looked up into the crisp morning sky. There was no cloud in sight, which wasn’t as good as it seems. If there were no clouds, it meant the Americans would be able to see us coming before we were even able to get in range for attack.
My face was covered in sticky sweat, and my eyes were fiery with rage. Personally, it was extremely uncomfortable, but I remained at the ready. When is Hasegawa going to tell us to launch? Does he just want us to ponder our own demise and cause us more pain? I asked myself, glancing over at my flight leader.
Hasegawa stared at the radio near his outdoor desk, but he looked confused. In an instant, he ran over, flailing his hands in the air as if he were treading water in a pool.
“Stop the launch! Stop the launch! The Emperor has announced our surrender! Stop the launch!” he screamed, his voice breaking several times. What? How could this be? I thought to myself. Hasegawa continued to blabber on about how the Emperor had agreed to the unconditional surrender by the Americans and how all military operations would halt immediately after the “atomic” bombings. I had no clue what “atomic” even meant, but I knew it was devastating, and probably killed a lot of civilians.
I exhaled, and looked at the spider that had crawled its way on top of my gunsight.
“Saved by the bell, huh?” I asked the arachnid. The spider continued to make its way toward the canopy. I chuckled, and I slowly exited my cockpit, and stretched.
My peers stared at the ground in shock, and Hasegawa had tears streaming down his cheeks. I, however, even though I wanted revenge, didn’t bother to cry. Perhaps it was from my memories. Memories. Memories are what make us human...