This novel is best viewed in my blog, completed with pictures and larger characters.
Chapter 12: Tales from the Others (Part Two).
My name is Eloise Hawking. I was born on July 4th, 1928.
My father was Major Stephen Hawking. He was a remarkable military man. He graduated in West Point among the top 10 in 1916. Soon World War I took place. He was in the first batch of the army to send to Europe after the U.S. declared War on Germany. He got a Bronze Star in the Battle of Amiens, and a Silver Star at the end of the Hundred Days Offense. He was a hero in the battlefield. His subordinates all followed him and fought beside him with confidence. By the end of the World War I, he was promoted to major, but unfortunately he lost the left leg due to a serious infection. A purple heart was awarded, but it doesn’t have much meaning to him anymore. He was forced out of the battlefield and came to our town as a recruitment officer. I believed this arrangement gave him more pain than losing the leg.
After being in town for a few years, he married my mother, who was a nobody. She was only a country girl who had a crush on men in uniforms. You don’t need to know her name.
I had two elder brothers: Charles and James. Because my father’s influence, they began their military training ever since they could walk. I watched them marched and exercised in toddles. My father didn’t like me to get involved in the drills. He always said a girl should always act like a girl. However, being born into such a military family, Barbies and all the girly stuff were just disgusting to me. I became one of them eventually. If you were there, you would have seen me climbing up and down or running around with a BB gun. And if you dressed in uniform, I would salute you with a perfect posture.
My brothers always needed someone as the practice target to play their little war games. They had no choice but use me as a little bogey man. In the beginning I was always the first one who lost, which brought them a lot of joy. Later I learned to use my advantage of being small and fast, things became differently then. Sometimes I could even maneuver around to their back and gave them a surprised attack. Those occasional victories had given me the happiest moments in my childhood.
My eldest brother, Charles, always tried to be the protector of us. In my school no bullies dared to touch me, not only because I could really fight, but they all feared the “Hawking Three”. There were once James had run into troubles with local gangsters because of some girl’s issue. Charles went to their lair alone and single-handedly put down all four of them. He instantly became a popular guy. Girls would give him gifts on holidays, and they would try to know me to get close to Charles and James. However, it turned out that it was difficult for me to be a friend of girls. I was a tomboy who always talked loud and acted tough. My closest friends in my childhood were all boys.
I remembered vividly that I was practicing my newly learned stick fighting techniques with a friend in the cornfield when a boy ran near and yell, “War! War! Japs hit us at Pearl Harbor!”
I was only 13 years old, but I was so pumped up after hearing the word “War” that I broke my playmate’s rib-bone with the stick. (Later I was grounded for a whole 3 months.) I let him lying on the field moaning, and ran as quickly as possible back to my home.
Charles joined the army that day. He was only 18, not the drafting age yet, but since he joined the army voluntarily, my father and the other officers were happy to accept him. He would be transport to a training camp within a week.
My mother cried a lot that day, but my father was happy. He seemed more excited than my brother. He rarely touched alcohol, but that night he drank a lot and told us his heroic stories all over again. Frankly we three had heard his WWI experiences thousands of times already. None of us were really interested, but we all knew it might be the last time we were together as a family, so we let him do the talking one more time.
After putting my seriously drunk father in bed, Charles pulled me aside and asked me to take care of our parents when he was gone.
“You know James always put all his mind in chasing girls.” He added, “Our wheat and corn will all suffer drought before he dumped the girl. So you are the only one who I can really depend on.”
“You know you can always count on me, Charles. Go and kill some Japs for me. OK? Get me some souvenir from the war, like our father’s Luger.”
“Yeah, I will.” He smiled, “I am not afraid of the Japs, but my little sister’s scissor kick.”
I tried to kick him with my signature “flying scissor kick” but he dodged it easily. We both laughed.
“Don’t be a hero there.” I suddenly started to concern, “That’s really dangerous in the battlefield.”
“Relax, my little sissy. Dad had been training us well for something like this. I will be safe. No worries.”
And that’s the last word I heard from him. The next day we found out that he was gone. He couldn’t even wait for a week to join the army.
One year later we heard the bad news from an officer. Charles’ tag was found among piles of bodies in Guadalcanal. No one knew how he died, or even which body was his. It was believed that he was the first one who rushed the enemy and was gunned down into pieces.
His death hit us really hard. We couldn’t smile ever since. My mother cried for a long time. She blamed my father for sending her son to his doom. My father became a silent man. He never said anything to refute my mother’s accusation, which really worried me. You see, if my father was not speaking, that must because he was extremely angry or extremely upset. In that case it was no doubt the latter. My second brother James went out and got drunk many times. His girlfriend left him because he was intolerably annoying. The smart and funny brother I used to know had gone, and he was replaced with a bitching alcohol addict. Me? I felt like I lost my best friend, the only one who really understood me. The pain was indescribable. I can’t really tell you how lost I was.
After wiped out the tears, I arranged the whole funeral, went back to school and at the same time took care of the crops with my father. It was all tough works. I did manage all that without crying in the public. It was not easy.
James joined the army three months after the funeral. In contrast to Charles, he was drafted because the age limit had expanded. He tried to escape to Mexico, but my father and I captured him and sent him to the station. There he was warned that refusal of the military service would be punished by a maximum 5 years in Federal prison and/or a fine of $250,000. I felt shame of him.
Two weeks before he was sent to the front line, my father and I visited him in the training camp. He cried in front of everyone and said, “Papa, I am scared!” My father hugged him really tight. I could see his face was twitching, like someone was cutting his heart out.
The next day my father announced his decision in the dinner table, “I am going back to the army. And I will go with James to the frontline.”
I was only mildly surprised, but my mother went berserk and she used all kind of language on him. It was like in the middle of storm of cursing, begging and swearing. My father just stood there, calmly and quietly like a rock. My mother hit him hard in the chest and eventually collapsed in his arms. I went up and hugged them both.
My father looked at me and said, “Sorry!”
I said, “Don’t be. Someone got to take care of James.”
He managed a slight smile, “I just want to show him that there is nothing to be feared, not even the death.”
“You already taught us that, dad.” I said, “It’s up to James to understand it.”
“I’ll make sure he will.” He said, “He can’t be a shame of the family.”
“Yes, I know.” I kissed him in the cheek, “Don’t be a hero. You are already one.”
He looked at me like he wanted to say so many things, but he didn’t. He just wiped his tears and told me, “Go do your homework, Ellie.”
2 years later, it was a freezing early spring day of 1945. We met the same officer who brought us the same bad news. It was last winter in a small hill near Bastogne, Belgium where they found both of my father and my brother’s bodies. They fought bravely against the Germans, as they said. My father was hit by an artillery shell in his foxhole, while my brother was 300 feet away to the front, killing a German soldier while his head was shot by someone else. They had to break his hand in order to pry him away from the dead German soldier. James didn’t shame us at all. He was awarded a bronze medal.
My mother went crazy after hearing it. She ended up in a mental hospital where many soldiers suffered severe post-drama symptoms, just like her.
Still wearing the black dress from the funeral, I went to the local recruiting center where my father used to work. The officer rejected my enrollment for 2 reasons: one, I was a girl, and two, I was only 17. He said I could only be a nurse if I wanted to go to the front, and I need at least 2 years of nursing experience in a hospital. He begged me not to do anything foolish, because he couldn’t take the news of another Hawking died anymore.
I knew there was no way they would accept me in that town, for everybody knew me and my family’s tragedy. However, I was so determined to take revenge. So I cut all my hair and packed my bag, drove to the big city and joined the army there.
It turned out that they did have special branches for women in the army, but I was very disappointed to learn that none of them could carry a gun. Women were only allowed to do office, mail, cooking or nursing. I was completely useless in all the above. So it didn’t take long for me to decide that I would impose as a man and join the marine.
It seemed that the big city’s office was too busy to check who I really was. They hastily sent me and many 18 year olds to the training camp. Right after we vacated the truck the drill sergeant informed us that, due to the shortage of the manpower, the training period were shortened to 2 months only, and we would be inducted into the Marine Corps right after that.
I had no problem with it, actually it was good news to me, because the longer I trained with those boys, the higher possibility I would be exposed as a girl. At the same time, all those boys were quite upset. Obviously they had no mental preparation for the war whatsoever.
You must be wondering how did I enrolled as a man, and how did I passed the medical exam in the camp. I will explain them one by one.
Faking the look and voice was easy. At that time I had a jarhead, and looked exactly like another pretty boy. For the voice, over the years I perfected my skill of faking a man’s voice. It was like I was a natural. So at that time when I stood in my uniform, you wouldn’t be able to tell that I was a girl.
How about my breasts? What a sick question! Okay, you wouldn’t see it either because they were, uh…, undeveloped yet.
The medical examination? Yeah, that was a little bit trickier. The same day I arrived in the camp, I followed the doctor to his home, and I told him everything about me. I begged him for his help. It turned out that the doctor lost a son in the war too. After promising him to take care of his other son in the camp, he agreed to cover me as much as possible. You see? Everything is possible, as long as you have the will strong enough to do it.
The training for those 2 months was a piece of cake. It was exactly the same way my father used to train us, only easier. It reminded me of him many times during the training process. I really missed him and my brothers.
The showering was easy to handle too. I did everything faster than anyone, usually when they even took off their pants I already finished my shower. Sometimes I even joined them in the shower room. Nobody was suspecting so no one was really looking at my body. I always choose the faucet in the far end of the room, so they could only see my back, which had some battle scars, courtesy of my brothers. Of course they would look away immediately.
Two months later the doctor asked me one last time if I really wanted to go to the frontline. I told him that he must be joking. It was too late to back out. If he said anything about my sex, I would certainly kill his son in a single blow. The doctor finally succumbed to my lethal threat.
Just like that, I was promoted to sergeant and I led the boys to their naval transportation ship. On the way to the pacific warzone, more and more troops joined us in the ship. I was completely indulged in the excitement of the coming battles. Most of them shared the same enthusiasm; they would yell, “Let’s kill some Japs.” or “A good Jap is a dead Jap”, lines like that, but I knew that they were seriously under-trained for what was coming. Hell, even I was actually not ready for the brutality of the Battle of Iwo Jima.
It was on the ship where I met that boy, Charles Widmore. Somehow he knew something the moment he saw me. I couldn’t explain why. It was like he knew who I really was from day one. He would sit with me in the mess hall and try to initiate a conversation. I insulted him anyway I could think of, but he never backed off. His persistence drove me crazy.
It was a chilling day when the loud speaker announced that all the personnel onboard must go through a genital inspection, because some soldiers were infected by herpes. A rumor was widely spread that some gay officer was having very inappropriate sexual relationships with privates. In order to catch the sex offender, everyone must take off his clothes in front of the doctors and the officers. I hadn’t prepared for things like that. Just when I was deeply troubled by not finding a solution, Charles pulled me away. He took my position and pretended to be me. It was a foolish and risky move, but he succeeded. I was very lucky that I kept a low profile in the ship so the officers couldn’t tell my name. Later he shaved his head and joined the line again. The doctor noticed something, but he didn’t say anything. In the end of the day I went to his quarter and thanked him. He just smiled at me, making me very uncomfortable.
That crisis was averted, but it worried me more. My situation actually became worse because some soldiers found out my secret through that event. They didn’t report to their superiors yet, but I knew it would come down to a showoff sooner or later.
So it was not surprising that one night two big hulky guys stopped me on the way to the shower room. They had evil grins that gave me goose bumps. But before they could say anything, I charged them first and broke three fingers of the first one and one rib of the second one. They lay on the ground and cried like pussies. I passed them and took my shower.
The next day I was summoned by the captain.
“Are you seriously telling me that you are risking being gang raped and sending to jail, just to fight an even more dangerous war?” The captain was puzzled, “Why are you doing this, young lady? Are you out of your god damn mind?”
I replied loudly, “No, Captain! I know what I am doing, sir.”
“Really? Then explain why you pretended to be a man.”
“To join the army, sir!”
“There is no place for a girl in my ship. I need soldiers, not a sissy.”
“I am a soldier as good as anyone else, sir!”
“I don’t care. There is no god damn way I will allow you to continue. Now Private Ryan here will escort you to the confining cell. Once we reached Hawaii, you will be court-martialed. Dismiss!”
And just like that, my plan of revenging my father and my brothers had failed. I was thrown into a cell, which was in complete darkness. There was nothing but my desperation.
Charles Widmore came almost every day. He couldn’t see me in person so he tapped in the wall and sent me some Morse code, “Hang in there, Ellie. We are looking for a way to get you out.”
I replied in Morse code, “Get away from me, pig!”
He sent, “We are all encouraged by you! Now you are the most popular person in the whole battalion.”
I sent, “Stop sending me messages. Are you an idiot?”
He sent, “We love you. And I love you too, a lot!”
I sent, “FUCCK OFF!”
It was like that almost every day.
We didn’t stop at Hawaii because the war was at a critical time. The ships were instructed to go to New Guinea directly. On the way we encountered our first battle with Japanese.
Even though I was in a cell with solid steel walls, I knew it was daytime because I heard the lunch bell rang before the air alarm sounded off. My cell was lighted for the first time since I was there by a red blinking lamp. I sat up, checked my uniform and waited quietly.
Following the alarm, the transport ship opened fire. I could feel the whole floor trembled when a 5-inch cannon shot its rounds. Before long other anti-aircraft guns started firing in a rapid succession. The Japanese planes were closing in.
I remain sitting still. Amidst all the noise around me, I was in such a serenity state that I felt my mind was never so peaceful before. I wondered if my brothers and my father felt the same way before they engaged the enemies.
My war is coming. Please God give me strength to fight without fear. Please don’t let me do anything that shames my family. I will give you my life; I will build you a church. Please at least give me a chance to fight.
My prayer was answered when the steel door was opened, and Charles Widmore stood outside. He was holding a lifejacket and smiling. Before he could say anything, I rushed out and gave him a quick kiss in the mouth. Obviously Charles didn’t expect such a sudden move from me. He was shocked for a while. Hell! I didn’t kiss him because I like him, but because I thought I was going to die soon, kissing a boy before my imminent death was a swell idea at that moment.
I ran to the upper deck. Instantly the strong sunlight pierced my eyes. I had to stop for a while before I could see anything. That’s when Charles caught up with me and said, “Ellie, come on. Wear the jacket. We had arranged you to escape to another ship …”
I shut him up, “Fuucking quiet!”
“But …” he was trying to say something. That’s when I pushed him back in a quarter and ran out to the deck.
The booming sound of the cannons on the deck was deafening. I saw many small clouds in the sky while twenty to thirty small airplanes were dancing, drawing one circle after another in the sky. Those should be Japanese Zero fighters. The other 40 to 50 of warplanes surrounding them should be ours, which were flying in squadrons and trying to stop the Zeros from getting close to us.
They were not so successful in stopping them. Though those Zeros were dropping like leaves, half of them had broken through the line and coming toward us at high speed. All the guns opened fire at them. It formed a breath-taking firework display.
Everyone was either working at his post or looking up at the sky. Nobody noticed me of being there. I watched the main anti-air guns in the bow firing for a while, and saw it missed the targets miserably. The first wave of Zeros passed us without a scratch and headed directly to the aircraft carrier nearby. One of them crashed on it and caused a series of chain-explosion. They were Kamikaze pilots!
At that moment I was extremely angry. I could imagine that the soldiers in that carrier could be someone’s brother or father. They didn’t have to die if we had at least shot one down. In a fury, I jumped to the gun-turret and slapped on the gunner’s face, “What the hell are you doing, Rookie?!”
He was instantly shocked by my hard slapping, “Uh…Uh…” Half of his face turned red.
I scolded him, “You shot in front of the airplane, not at the plane! You idiot! You could have killed our pilots who were following the Zeros!”
“Uh…Uh…” He was still in shock, or he just couldn’t argue against me. I was sure that he knew everything from the training already, but in a real combat situation, he just too nervous to remember them. Well, I didn’t have time to calm him down or remind him of everything. The next wave of Zeros was coming.
“Get out of the freaking post!” Without his agreement I untied his harness and dragged him out of the turret in a smooth wrestling move. His back hit the ground flat and everyone nearby was stunt at the scene.
I didn’t really care about what they thought. I just took over the gun and got ready for the next wave of Zeros. The soldiers sitting next to me stared at me like they were going to take me down. What the hell? I shouted at them, “Get back to your gun post. Prepare for the fight. You all know the drill.”
At that time Charles Widmore finally ran up to us, and he shouted out loud at the top of his lung, “Everyone, calm down! This is Ellie! She’s the Ellie.” His words did change the attitude of the soldiers dramatically. One moment ago they were considering about arresting me, the next they were all my friends.
A soldier next to me showed his hand to me, “Pleasure to meet you, Ma’am.”
I shook his hand and say, “You too! Now everyone go back to work. We are going to shoot some Japs.”
A round of cheer rose up.
At that time the sky was a complete mess. Many warplanes flew up and down. There were no more formations. It was really hard to tell which one was friendly and which one was not. All I could see was some planes were flying toward us.
“HOLD YOUR FIRE!” I ordered. Officially I was suspended and waiting for a trail, but it seemed nobody cared about my status. Hell, even the lieutenant behind padded me in the back and said, “Give them hell, Ellie!”
Being unofficially in charge, I announced, “Wait for them to get closer. Pick your target. Make sure it’s a hostile, and always aim in front of it. Remember: once you open fire, don’t stop until you nail the SOBs.”
“Yes, sir!” They acknowledged simultaneously.
As the planes approached, one by one the big canons opened fire at their own targets. Under the unbearable loud bang, the sky once again filled with small puffs of black mushroom clouds. That time it was much more efficient. High above the coming Zeros dropped like they had hit an invisible wall.
My gun remained silence because it was an Oerlikon 20mm canon. It had a practical range of only 1.5 km. So I had to wait for them to come in closer.
Very soon I found the perfect targets. Two of the Zeros passed our defense effortlessly like two ballet dancers waltzing in a crowded rock party. It was not luck that made them through the heavy bombardment. It was pure skill, almost to the perfection. They flew in broken circles, going up and down unpredictably while maintained their direction. From my point of view they looked like two Olympic freestyle ice dancing partners making their best show, or two butterflies fluttering in a storm. I never thought flying warplanes could have such a beauty.
It was too bad that their opponent was me.
It took me more than 5 seconds, which was way too long, but I found their flying patterns: the leading Zero was actually following the one behind, whenever the latter one moved, the leading one would do a opposite (mirroring) maneuver a split second later. That was why they looked like danced in synchronization.
I opened fire at last, just when they were above us. They pretended to pass us at left but I saw the latter one was turning on right. It made perfect sense to me: those two pilots were both right-handed, so when they banked right, it would be much faster when passing us.
A streak of 20mm projectiles pierced the air. It lay exactly in the path of those two Zeros. The first one had almost no time to react, and it was torn into pieces by the devastating power of each round that hit home.
The second Zero made a drastic turn in the middle of the maneuver. I didn’t know how it was humanly possible that it could change its course in such a short time, and how it could manage not to stall. More impressively, it went head down right at me.
I kept pumping all the shells until all 60 rounds in the magazine were out. The remained Zero rolled wildly to dodge the bullets and released its two 60kg bombs under its wings. While everyone yelled “Bomb! Bomb!”, I kept stared at the Zero as it was diving in a crazy fast motion, it made an unusual inverted roll at a dangerously low altitude. I could see its canopy flying upside down and just barely passed me at 20 feet above.
At that split second I saw the Japanese girl who was flying the Zero.
She should have worn an aviator hat but she didn’t. Perhaps the shattered glass of the canopy had cut off her hat. So I could see her long hair flowing backward. At that exact moment I saw her looking up at me below. She was just a pale, young Japanese girl with an empty expression. And the next moment she and her plane disappeared from the upper deck.
One bomb missed our ship by meters but the other one hit the other end of the ship. Instantly the whole ship jumped up under me. Everyone on the deck was knocked down by the powerful blast wave except me. I was tied up to the gun turret so I was still up while I was pushed violently to another direction. Luckily the metal shield of the gun turret had blocked some shrapnel for me.
Everything happened so fast that I didn’t have time to think about what kind of lost we had just suffered. I swiveled to the direction that she disappeared, and saw that she managed to roll flat and pull up when the Zero hit a wave. It almost looked like she played a throwing-stones-in-a-pool game with her Zero, touching the water then she got up in the air again. I was so disappointed that she didn’t crash in the ocean.
Immediately I shouted at the soldier next to me, “Reload! Quick! She is coming back.” Realizing that I couldn’t hear my own voice because my ears were still ringing, I gestured him frantically.
The soldier struggled to his feet. Still in shock, he changed the heavy magazine with trembling hands and asked, “Who’s coming back?” right at the time when my hearing was back.
“The girl in the Zero.” I replied.
“You sure?” He wondered, “She already dropped her bombs.” It’s true that she got some revenge, but I wouldn’t bank on that. By the way she looked at me, yeah, she will be back. I thought. That’s what I will do if I lost a perfect partner. I will kill the one who kill him, nothing less.
I took a glance at our ship. It was a living hell. Half of the bridge was gone. Thick smoke came out of the huge hole the bomb had created. Soldiers cried out loud by the extreme pain they were suffering.
She was quite a formidable enemy, a deadly adversary. It made my blood boiled with excitement.
Come on! Come and get me, BITCH!
The battle continued around me. One by one the 5 inch cannons resumed firing. All the smaller anti-aircraft guns turned back to the sky and shot at their targets. Navy personnel shouted each other at the top of their lungs to pass orders. It was loud and chaotic, but I felt quiet.
It was the quiet before the fieriest storm. I knew it. I searched the sky but couldn’t find the plane.
Where would I attack me if I were the girl? I considered the possibilities, then suddenly I swiveled around and pointed my gun to the sun.
It was the oldest trick of the books, attacking from the direction of the Sun, but it was really difficult to think of it when you were in a combat situation. Even you did realize it, it was really hard to shoot a moving target while the sun was shining directly in your eyes.
From there, she opened fire first.
It was an unbelievable scary yet exciting experience. Big bullets rained down at me. Each one opened a hole on the steel surface as large as my face. Debris, splinters and shrapnel flew all around me. I felt strong pain all over my body but had no time to find out what caused it.
Ironically her Zero was equipped with the same kind of 20mm Oerlikon cannon I was using (they were called type 99 cannons in Japan). I had 60 rounds in my magazine while she got 120 in two guns, so the fire power was basically equal. However, she had the overwhelming agility and position advantage. I had no choice but to let her fire at me first, and she did wreck havoc in my direction. I didn’t know how I could still be one piece after that first two seconds, but all I needed was those two seconds to find out where she was and how fast she was coming.
From the dazzling fast passing tracers I spotted the little black dot above the sun. She was doing a barrel roll to adjust her shoots. Of course once she was done my gun turret would be in the dead center. I pulled the trigger hard. A streak of bright yellow dots rushed out toward her in a small circle, which was the opposite direction she was rotating.
It was no way of telling whether I hit the target or not. All I could do was stabilizing the gun with my body as hard as I could, and watching the ballistic string of fire racing up toward the Zero. While at the same time she lay everything she had at me. Scattering big bullets narrowly missed me and destroy everything in their path around the turret.
In about 8 seconds I shot all my rounds. It was the most hellish 8 seconds I ever experienced. However, during that short moment I was not afraid, or nervous. I concentrated so much of my attention up and above, that I didn’t feel any pain or hear any sound around, though they were both extremely unbearable. I guessed I would never have such a strong focus again in my entire life. All I could think about was, “DIE! BITCH! DIE!”
Now I wonder if she was thinking the same at that moment.
It was purely my luck that saved me. It really should have been me who died there, instead of my projectiles breaking her left wing and ending the duel.
Her plane span out of control like a kite with a broken string. While still shooting randomly as it tumbled around, it was no longer a threat. When finally it crashed flat on its bottom on the upper deck of my ship, a fireball came up instantly. The Zero plane, though remain relatively intact with one wing left, burned like an inferno.
I saw her burning inside the plane. She must be dead already, because no human brain could survive such a high speed freefalling crash. Still, I could see her pale face and black silky hair. Her facial expression looked surprisingly calm, not the fearing or screaming face I was expecting. I guessed at the last moment of her life she felt relief, not panic. In under a minute, her pale face was burned into black chars. I was hating her that minute before, but the horrible scene had permanently pressed in my mind. It made me pity her. Even today, I still remember how her beautiful doll-like face turned into a nightmarish Grim Reaper.
Charles Widmore came up and held me in his arms. “Ellie, it’s okay; it’s all over.” He helped me sitting down on the floor.
I said something like, “Get away from me.” That’s when the pain in my back hit me hard. I groaned in agony and gradually lost my conscience. Charles told me later that my whole back was soaked in blood. The marine uniform was torn into long strips. A piece of steel pierced into my shoulder and remained there. Doctors later took out 15 pieces of metal from my back.
It was the next day when I finally found out how much she devastated us. The captain was killed, along with other 50 officers and soldiers, over a hundred wounded. The navigation and the communication system were gone, so we all had to transfer to a battleship in our fleet. In the bow where my gun turret sat, volleyball size bullet holes were everywhere. 10 of the vehicles in the lower deck below were serious damage. Two of the 5 inch guns were torn apart. I had no idea how could I survived, being in the center of the firing.
It was a win at a hefty price.
The doctor on the battleship wrapped me in bandages and made me looked like a mummy, but believed it or not none of those injuries were life-threatening. So the next day I could walk again. This time the whole battalion became weird: when I passed anyone on the way, no matter he was a private or a colonel, he would salute me and said, “Sergeant Ellie.” It was quite embarrassing, especially when a superior officer did that to me. My hands were all wrapped up so it was hard to return the courtesy.
Three days later we reached Pearl Harbor. Our transport ship had been seriously damaged, so it would be under repair while we waited for her to take us back to the journey. The battleship which took us in had left for the battle of Iwo Jima. I was upset about not able to go with them. The boys all took their time to enjoy the pleasant life of Hawaii.
One week later, I was summoned to the headquarters.
There I met a general in a meeting room. He was reading some documents when I slowly walked in. He at-eased me before I could finish saluting him.
“Young lady, you had pulled quite a stunt!” He said.
I was not sure that was a compliment or a damnation, so I could only said, “Yes, Sir!”
“The pilots you shot down,” he pointed to the folder of documents, “were navy idols in Japan. You had slain their heroes. Do you know that?”
“They always flew in a pair. The man was Hiroyuki Dogen. The girl was Kyoto Lu. They were the best pilots in Japan. Each of them had shot down at least twenty of our planes.”
My eyes must have opened wide, “But I never heard of them, Sir!”
“Of course, we couldn’t let public know about them. Are you crazy? It’s war time. We won’t sing the praise for our enemies.”
“That’s alright. Now I don’t know how you did the impossible. Shot down two aces in a row with that no-power too-slow little-ammunition 20mm gun? It was a remarkable feat, young lady!”
“I am sorry that I couldn’t protect the ship better, and many good soldiers died because of me.”
“Don’t blame yourself at all. It was much better than those two bastards sunk our carrier again. Do you know that they did that before?”
“No sir.” I was really surprised, “Are you serious? They could sink the carrier just like that?”
“See? That’s exactly why we had to keep it as a secret. You should be much happier to know that since you have stopped the unstoppable, now our fleets are much safer, so we decided to promote you as 1st. Lieutenant. What do you think?”
“I am really happy, sir!”
“You should. We also asked the pentagon to give you Medal of the Honor, but those idiots in Washington didn’t want to give it to a girl. So the best we could do was a Silver Star. Here you go.”
He handed me a gold star medal, which had a blue-white-red strips ribbon.
“Sir, I am really honored.” I was almost in tears when I saw the medal. It reminded me of my father.
“OK, remember to wear it in tomorrow’s funeral.”
“Yes, Sir!” I imagined how proud my father would be, from heaven watching his daughter wearing a Silver Star, just like he did before.
“One more thing, we are sending you home.”
“What?!” It was an unexpected twist.
“You had done your job here. Now your new job is to go back to the U.S. and sell the war bonds. You will be the first female heroin in the army. We can get a lot more support from that half of the population. Hell, you don’t look bad at all. You will be the perfect model that everyone looks up to. We can sell a lot of bonds through you.”
“Sir…” I hesitated, “Permission to speak frankly, sir?”
“OK, you have it. What is it?”
I looked him in the eyes and said, “I came here to fight the Nazi, not to be a salesperson, sir!”
“What?”The general took off his eyeglasses and stared at me, “You had your war, lady. And you won! You killed their best pilots, got a silver medal and can go home safe. What more do you need? Uh?”
“Sir, I didn’t join the army for the medal or fame, but to fight my enemy. So far I only had one battle like everyone else in that ship. I don’t deserve going home so early.”
“Oh, gosh!” The general walked around in small circles in front of me. He must be irritated. “You really want to die there? Are you serious out of your mind?”
“Apparently I am, sir!”
He stopped the circling and stared at me up close and personal. I felt uncomfortable by his intensive gazing.
Finally he said, “You know what? I hope my son can have half of your guts. I wish it was him who said those things to me, instead of running off to Canada. But young lady, now you are giving me a big problem here.”
“Pentagon already knew your name and your story. We must follow the order and send you back home.”
I turned my head quickly to him. At that moment I almost wanted to beg.
He made a difficult decision, “However, I do understand the reason you want to continue. I read your files. That’s hell of a story. So let’s screw the orders! Here I offer you a way to stay here. It depends on how determined you are. Do you want to know what that is?”
“Yes, sir!” Whatever that was, I would do it. I just hope he wouldn’t ask me to blow his old pipe.
“We can tell Pentagon that Eloise Hawking was severely wounded and die a few days later. This way you can use a new name and continue your fight, but you will lose all the honors and start as a private again, and it’s highly possible that you will die in action as a nobody. Can you really do that?”
I was very glad, “Thank you, sir! Thank you so much for covering me up. I will do my best in your division.”
“You are sure you don’t want your Silver Medal?”
“No, sir! I love the medal, but I want the fight even more.”
“Crazy woman!” he muttered, then announced, “OK, the matter is settled then. You are dismissed, private.”
“Thank you, sir!” I suddenly had an impulse, “Can I ask one more thing?”
“Can I take a look at those pilots’ files?” I asked carefully, “I just want to know more about them.”
“Those are classified documents.” He said, then he thought about it for a while, “You can only read them here. You got 10 minutes. Starting now.”
“Thank you, Sir.” I truly felt that behind the general’s cold rigid face he got a good heart.
Actually I was really curious about those two pilots. Somehow I felt like their lives had something to do with me.
I read the files about Hiroyuki Dogen first.
He was born with a silver spoon. His family business had once dominated the Japanese airplane manufacturing market. Unfortunately, a serious car accident happened when Hiroyuki was still a child. It put him in a hospital for two months. All the doctors said he was going to die, but miraculously he woke up and got better day by day. His father mysteriously disappeared during the two months and never showed up again. The government sent out all the policemen in Japan to search for his father, but still couldn’t find him. Since then his family business went downhill in a steep slope. Eventually the whole business was sold to Mitsubishi for a very low price. Even so, the family’s money was enough for him to support his life-time goal: becoming the best pilot of Japan.
Hiroyuki had a talent of flying airplanes. He got his pilot license even before the accident. After his fully recovery he won many aviation competitions. Every year in Sakurai Festivals he would show people how to fly a plane through a 10 feet gap between two poles. Most of the time, he would drove his amphibian plane all around the Japanese Sea. Rumors said that he was looking for his father.
At the age of 18, he joined the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service and became a test pilot. It was at that time he met his future wife Kyoto Lu, who was half Japanese and half Chinese. They were inseparable from then on. All the carrier fighters were tested by them before they could be mass-produced. Therefore they had the highest flight hours among all the Japanese pilots. They knew the Mitsubishi A6M Zero inside out before any other pilot had a chance to touch it.
They excelled in all the air-combat training. Most incredibly their record of 100 win 0 lose was still a record that nobody could change. Unconfirmed source said that they had such a high precision of control, that they could fly the planes back to back and hold hand-in-hand mid-air while both planes were doing a perfect synchronized barrel roll.
It was hard to believe at first, but when remembered what I saw that day, I thought that was possible for them.
As I wanted to read the files about Kyoto Lu, the general said, “Time is up. Go back to you tent, private.”
I put down the files unwillingly. It was the girl I really wanted to know, but too bad my reading speed was slow, for I was never a book worm.
Her burning face reappeared in my mind. My god! I thought. Maybe I will remember this horrible thing for the rest of my life.
Indeed I did.
After 6 months, they finally finished repairing the ship. We were one the way to the battlefield again. Along the way I was dispatched to this island to investigate some unnatural phenomenon with Charles and our platoon. Some strange things happened and I was trapped here ever since.
At first I wanted to leave this island very bad, but the leader, Jacob, told me that the war would be over in one week. It turned out to be true. After that he said there was a battle waging in the island between good and evil. This battle was far more important than the war we were fighting outside. We were the good guys. He said, if we lost, the world would be over. I trusted him, so I stayed and joined his force.
As a way to show his appreciation, Jacob extended our lives. That means we won’t get old for 10 years, and it was true. Can you imagine what kind of power he must possess in order to achieve this miracle? To me, he was like a new Messiah.
In this island, the life was simple and time passed fast. 25 years had gone since I arrived here and started the war against the monster. Now is 1970. We had fought many battles against him. We used every weapon we knew except that Hydrogen bomb. Yet we still couldn’t find a way to kill it. That thing is truly the darkest evil being on earth…
“Wait!” Gerald DeGroot said, “What are you talking about? What Hydrogen bomb?”
It was inside a dark cave in a hill. A pile of fire slowly burned with pine branches. Eloise Hawking sat on a rock with two sticks tied up one of her leg. She was already 32 years old yet still very attractive. Dr. DeGroot sat next to her and checked her wound on the leg while raised the question.
Eloise said, “Never mind. It’s a dud. We buried it already. It won’t do any harm.”
“But how did you get it at the first place?”
“We don’t know it either. The villagers said it was there since the day we arrived at the island, which was 25 years ago.”
“You sure it’s safe to bury it underground?”
“Yeah. A young scientist once told me that before he disappeared in front of me. Somehow I trusted him.”
“What do you mean by ‘disappeared in front of you’?”
“What more could I say? He just disappeared in a flash. One second he was there and the next he was gone.”
“And you are not surprised?”
“Well, there were many magical events happened in this island. I got used to it after a while.”
Dr. DeGroot thought about it and said, “Ironically it was for the same reason I and my wife came here.” Karen’s last moment played back in his mind, which made him feel the pain again.
Eloise patted on his back and said, “I am sorry for your loss, doctor. And thanks for saving my life yesterday.”
“Oh, that’s nothing.” Dr. DeGroot wiped his eyes and said, “I just passed by and saw you chased by that smoky monster. So I just jumped in and tried to get killed. Too bad that bastard just ran away.”
“That thing has been trying to kill me many times, ever since I came to this island.” Eloise explained, “Without my special ability, I would have died a thousand times already.”
“Special ability? What was that?”
Eloise hesitated. She was considering if she should tell him the truth. This man here had a special charm. He was open and completely honest with her. He told her everything about the Dharma Initiative and its peaceful research purposes. He also told her about his family, and the tragedy happened a few days ago, when they just arrived at the island. The way he talked about his feeling without any pretence made her feel like she could trust him with everything.
“You are not going to tell anyone, aren’t you?” She finally asked.
“Nope. Consider me as a dead man walking. I have no intention to spread any gossips.”
“Okay then.” Eloise lowered her voice, “Every leader of the village can gain a special ability for the service of Jacob. Charles chose to be able to read minds, but I selected the ability to predict the future.”
Gerald was in awe, “Wow, that’s amazing. You know. If someone told me the same thing 10 days ago, I would have said that he was crazy, but now I see it differently.”
“Well, actually I think I made the wrong choice. Being able to predict the future is a curse, not a blessing. It gave me more pain than I ever could imagine.”
“How could it be? If you can see the future, you can change it or make the best of it. Like back in the outside world, if someone can see the lottery numbers before it happens, he can make a lot of money in a short time.”
“That much money won’t bring him real happiness. Believe me, I don’t want this ability and nobody should have it.”
“Well, imagine that if I had this ability. I would have known that my wife Karen would be murdered before we landed on the island. Then we would never have come here, I would be a much happier man, and my son won’t feel lonely back there anymore. To me, this is really a good thing.”
“If you still think it this way, how about I give some of my ability to your son? Desmond, isn’t he?”
“How do you know my son’s name?”
“I know it because I saw a vision with him. In the future one day I will sit with him and share him my ability. I hope your son will enjoy it.”
“Well… Thanks! I don’t know what to say. It’s a great gift!” Gerald smiled when he thought about his son, “How does he look like?”
“He is handsome, just like you.” Eloise said, “And he is a good man, who is willing to help others for a great length, just like you too.”
“Really? I am very glad. Thank you so much for telling me that!” Gerald said, “We were worrying about him being a problematic teenager without his parents.”
“He will turn out to be a really nice man, and he will be happy, eventually, with his true love and his son.” Eloise said it in a not so happy tone, “However, I don’t want to tell you more about him.”
“It’s good enough. You just made a dying man really happy.” Gerald said, “I could use some good news like that. I hope I can tell Karen the same thing when I meet her in the heaven.”
Eloise patted him in the back again, “Why you want to die so eagerly? I really appreciate the fact that you saved my life, but jumping in front of the monster was no joke. He could have torn you apart.”
“I was hoping he could do that to me, so I could see my wife again.” Gerald said with a little disappointment, “I don’t know why he flew away.”
“Just a theory.” Eloise said, “Villagers said if you are not afraid of him, and you hadn’t done anything wrong in your life, the monster can’t kill you. It’s one of the rules.”
“I don’t think a monster will obey any rules.”
“There might be a bigger monster who has control over him.” Eloise said, “Again, just another theory.”
“Well, enough of those theories. I think I am all done here.” Dr. DeGroot put out the fire, handed Ellie a wood stick and said, “You can walk back to the village with this cane. You don’t need me anymore. Thanks for the story of your life. It is a very interesting one.” He started to walk away.
“Wait, doctor. Where are you going?” Ellie cried out.
“To die, of course.” Gerald said. Then he left the cave.
“Wait for me!” Ellie struggled on her feet with the cane, and tried to catch up with Gerald, “I know how you feel. I wanted to die before.” She struggled to the outside, but he was already gone. She shouted out at the top of her voice, “I really know!!”