What I Want to Say Now
by Akiko Takakura

At the drill ground, the burnt field was strewn with what must have been dead soldiers. Overwhelmed by the calamity I had been suffering since morning, I was utterly stunned, unable to think. I lay down on the field, now nothing but dirt. Again, I don't know how much time passed, but at dusk I suddenly vomited what must have been the remnants of my breakfast-corn, soybean draff, and imported rice. I vomited bloody phlegm twice. I knew then that I, too, would die in that place. I felt chagrined that, despite the countless corpses all around, it never occurred to me that I, a human being like them, might also face death. I had been taught from an early age that after we die we meet our loved ones again in another world. I began to feel that I would soon go someplace far from my parents and siblings.

When night came, paper still left in buildings caught fire and burned red, fluttering down as sparks in the dark sky. Though it was the hottest time of the summer, we shivered with cold at midnight. My friend complained, "I'm freezing." I searched the area and found a burnt tin sheet and laid it on top of her. Her shaking gradually quieted. I found another tin sheet for myself and lay under it.

When dawn came, I heard shoe-clad feet walking from the west across the soundless drill ground. I told my friend, "People wearing shoes are coming." The footsteps stopped near us, and we heard a voice say, "You girls survived. Good for you. Cheer up, a relief squad is on the way." The man, a middle-aged military doctor, started walking toward where the Eleventh Infantry Regiment had been. He was the first person we had seen fully dressed and wearing shoes since the bombing.

During the night of the 6th, I thought, "I'm going to die here soon," but the kind, encouraging words of the doctor gave me the will to live. "I'm going to live, I've got to live." I cannot express how grateful I was to hear his words I learned later that I had sustained 102 lacerations on my back, two serious bruises, and two burns.


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