I’m digging in the wet sand. My back aches, my hands are calloused and there’s blood on the handle of the shovel when I throw it down, cursing. One of the other men starts to say something, but I stare him down. He shuts up and drops his eyes. A siren begins to blare, and everyone stops, cranes their necks and stares skyward. In the gaps between its cyclic wail, there is silence, broken only by the buzz of the cicadas. They are everywhere this summer.
Then over the damn bugs, the stupid siren, the rhythmic pounding of the waves, I hear it; the low roar of the engines, enemy bombers lumbering toward our island fortress. Everyone is waiting to see our planes lift from the field, but this time, the sun does not rise. “Where are they?” It’s the same fool who was about to start in on me a moment ago. What’s his name? Toji? Kaji? Who can tell, another damned infantryman, no one I know. I laugh, and they all stare. “You idiots. The Naval Air Group has abandoned us to our fate… Worse, when they ran off, they stole our provisions!”
I’m about to give them all a good piece of my mind when the anti-aircraft guns open up. Black flowers blossom in the sky, far from the attacking bombers. They’ve grown from dots on the horizon, and I can already make out the stubby wings, the underslung engines. At this rate, the last thing we’ll be seeing is the bomb-bay doors opening above us.
“Ha! The Navy's guns spread black smoke everywhere the enemy planes aren't. Not one hit out of a thousand. We’d better get to the caves if we want to live." I turn and start up the hill. Looking back, I see the dullards are still standing there. “Move your asses!” I shout, and someone replies; something about the Lieutenant, he told us to dig here, if we move without permission- I shout him down.
Huddled in the caves, we watch as the bombs churn up the fortifications we’d just vacated. Bastards. That’s more sandbags to fill, more trenches to dig. The Lieutenant shows up and thrashes Toji with his riding crop. Sure enough, he’s mad that we left our assigned position. He’s headed my way when Captain Katsuragi appears. They’re repositioning tanks in the hills up North. Every driver is needed. Even the lazy and insubordinate.
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