Written by Summer Xu
Earned an Honorable Mention in the 2021 Scholastic Art and Writing Competition
The last thing I saw from the window was the bright light gleaming, followed by an explosion in the sky like a perfect fireball. When the fumbling cloud gathered into a mushroom shape on the skyline, the fierce pain that cut through my body made it a torment to even keep my last train of thoughts on their track.
It had been a gorgeous morning in my little town. I walked out of my room, asking Okassan if we could play with the neighbor’s puppy that day. I was disappointed to hear the “no” from her mouth, but I couldn’t be mad. In fact, nobody was in a spirit for fun this time of the year, if I were honest.
Back in the lounge, Okassan and Ojisan huddled around the dim television. “Yuki, you need to keep up with current events… When I was your age…” Ojisan muttered slowly. His eyes had been blinded in a bombing accident just a couple of months earlier.
On the television, blurry images of a foreign harbor being struck glared at me with vicious eyes in the form of tiny pixel blocks. A sudden urge to vomit overcame me, so I immediately turned away to look at the glowing setting sun outside the window.
To avoid. Avoid the reality.
The war had struck our family hard, but we had still managed to hold things together. Little brother would try his best to entertain us with his magic tricks, and Dad would keep us updated about affairs from the frontline every week.
“The current situation seems pretty bleak, Okassan, don’t you think?” I had asked her a couple of days earlier, but she simply patted my head and said, “We will be fine. It’s none of your business. Go do your schoolwork; keep yourself busy.”
But my Ojisan was not convinced. “She deserves to know how young men and women are slaughtered; she deserves to know how the war stagnates the entire Japanese economy; she deserves to understand why her father is not here with her. Our entire nation is tattered by the revolting militarism, and she should not be brainwashed like other kids her age!” Ojisan exclaimed in his hoarse, shattered voice.
“Please!” I heard Okassan say in an unusually irritable tone of voice not normally permitted in this household, “Can’t we just let her have a normal childhood, without the war traumatizing her entire life?”
Hearing them argue, I really wasn’t sure if I believed there would be “an entire life” for me. I knew Okassan was wrong then, that the war had something to do with everyone the instant it struck us in the first place.
The fatal night sky was blood red, with a bright gleaming light that smelled like burning fuel.
As Okassan herded us into the basement, I think we all began to feel just how wrong we were to have ever thought we would escape affiliation with this world war. When I found my position in the corner and waited for my Ojisan to join me, I felt our house shake and break apart into a million shards, taking our bodies and our souls with them…
(Okassan: “Mom” in Japanese. Ojisan: “Grandpa” in Japanese)