Chapter 1: My Final Hour
My name is Onaga Katsuro, I’m sixteen years old and I’m a soldier serving my country. My name supposedly means “Victorious Son” but what's left of my platoon call me Katsu meaning “Victory”. Although judging by my current circumstances they might as well call me Kami meaning “God” or Kazuya meaning “Peace”. All of the above are fantasies from where I am standing.
Where am I standing you ask? Well if you really want to know, I am standing in the blasted ruin of a supermarket in Sapporo in the middle of winter. If you were a sane person you would be asking why is a sixteen year old teenage boy standing in the middle of a warzone? Sadly however, sanity is tough to come by nowadays…
So here I am standing guard over the only way in and out of this ruin in minus 20 degrees celsius weather. But it’s not all bad, I got this coat that I looted off the corpse of a dead Russian. They do make really warm coats, you know? Oh yes! The enemy are the Russians and I am defending my homeland of Japan in case you were wondering what war this is. Why is this war going on? Well the short answer is that the Russians decided to call the American’s bluff on their commitment to help defend our great nation. So now the American ships are hiding somewhere in the pacific while my nation sends children to fight after most of the adults died.
Anyway sorry for the sarcasm and dry humor. As a soldier fighting for a lost cause you gotta make your own entertainment you know? Well I should probably stop talking to myself, some people say that is the first sign of insanity. Well those people have probably never seen the things I’ve seen.
I refocus on the dark and blasted remains of the street. As if on cue I hear movement, I raise my Type 32 rifle and peer into the darkness. I see a hand appear out of the darkness holding a white cloth, the figure steps forward revealing the uniform of the JSDF.
“Friendly. I have a message for your officer.” the figure said, in a high feminine voice.
So the messenger’s a girl, the Russians don’t use women in their army. They still have men to fight no need to resort to women just yet. Which means most likely this one wasn’t a Russian wearing the JSDF uniform.
“Get in before the snipers get you.” I reply as she hurriedly climbs over the ruined wall.
As she clambers over I get a good look at her. She’s young, probably about 14, the younger ones usually get used as rear echelon troops if they're lucky. If you aren’t lucky you end up here, like the twenty that were sent here last week of which six are left.
“Follow me.” I say as I walk in towards the main room. I can hear odd cries echoing out from the room, no doubt one of the guys is shagging one of the girls. This happens more often than you expect, with death always around the corner some decide to just.... get on with it... so to speak.
Sure enough, as I enter the large main mart area I see one of the new replacements on top of another one. They are doing it in the room in full sight of everyone else in the platoon. No one else seemed to care and this was part of the reason why I always volunteered for first watch. I always hated hearing it, it is like some desperate cry of an animal before you slit its throat, like a hog squealing as the butcher approached.
I see a nearby replacement sitting on the floor with a thousand yard stare gazing across the room. I drag him to his feet and shove his rifle into his hand.
“You, take over my watch, stand at the wall and try not to die.” I say as I shove him out of the room towards the opening.
I look at the pair who were getting louder and louder with each passing second and feel a growl rise to my lips.
“Hang on a sec.” I say to the messenger behind me as I storm over to the pair. The guy Saito, Saigo or whatever the hell his name is doesn’t even notice. The girl however does see me, as she’s on her back and has a clear view of me approaching. Her face goes very pale when she sees the expression on my face.
I reach down and grab the idiot by the hair and hoist him up causing the blanket they were hiding under to fall away. The girl shrieks as she tries to cover her chest but I couldn’t care less.
“I don’t care what you like to do at night. Keep. Your. Voice .Down.” I hiss into his pale face.
“Yes Sergeant.” he stammers in response. Hearing this I roughly throw him back onto his partner and turn back around to face the messenger.
“Why are they…” the messenger begins red faced.
“Shut up.” I snap in response as I turn and continue deeper into the room. The sound of her footsteps informing me that she is still following.
I find my officer and my older brother Onaga Shuji sitting at his usual spot, a cup of most likely expired coffee in his hand. He looks up and sees the messenger and wearily like an old man rises to his feet.
“Your message, Private.” I say as I look over my shoulder.
“Err yes! Sir, orders from command are for you to attack the communication station again. You are to take it and hold at all costs.” the messenger says.
“We need reinforcements, I can’t take the station with so little soldiers. When is the attack?” Shuji asks.
“Orders are for you to attack at dawn tomorrow.” the messenger replies.
I see Shuji raise his hand to his lips, his hand shaking. He bites his hand for a moment before the hand falls listly to his side.
“I can’t take that station without reinforcements. What other news from the command?” Shuji says, his voice shaking.
“Command says the Russians have taken Kyoto and will move onto Tokyo soon.” the messenger replies quietly.
“I can’t take that station…” Shuji stammers his body trembling.
“Sir, disobeying orders are grounds for…” the messenger began.
I CAN’T TAKE THE FUCKING STATION!
KYOTO IS LOST AND WE ARE BEING SACRIFICED FOR A STRETCH OF STREET!
Shuji roared tears in his eyes. The messenger takes a step back, her face going pale. I grab Shuji by the collar and shove him against one of the nearby shelves.
“You listen to me Shuji, calm down.” I hiss into his face.
“Calm down? Katsuro what’s the point?” Shuji wept, tears now flowing freely.
“Calm down.” I hiss again.
“How many have we lost Katsuro? You remember Naomi?” Shuji asked, a twisted smile on his face, tearing across his visage like a scar.
“Shut up…” I growl.
“She got hit by a tank shell and her head flew right into a fucking tree…” Shuji continued a crazed broken look in his eyes.
“SHUT UP!” I roar, the mental image of past battles flashing before my eyes.
“Why? We’re all dead anyway, command’s just gonna use us until there’s nothing left…” Shuji replied in a cold whisper.
“Yes exactly, we are just going to keep fighting until there’s nothing left.” I reply, I can feel my anger boiling in my mind. The pointlessness of it all, fighting a war we will never win.
“It’s pointless, it’s all pointless…” Shuji wept, as he covered his face with his hands
At those words I feel my rage boil over.
THERE IS NO FUCKING POINT!
I roar as I drag Shuji by the collar and pull him close until we were nose to nose.
THIS WAR IS POINTLESS!
Heroes today, pigs tomorrow.
We are human livestock for the slaughter house.
God has abandoned us.
There is no government, no generals.
It’s just you, me and all these kids behind me.
If we end up as food for the crows tomorrow, FINE, so be it.
BUT I EXPECT YOU TO LEAD US!
I finish as I shove him back against the metal shelf with a loud bang and clatter.
“I expect you to lead us all the way down to hell.” I say quietly as I gaze at the broken face of my older brother.
Shuji opens his mouth and takes in a rasping breath. His tears stop and he gets off the shelf and stands.
“Alright…” Shuji said his voice quietly echoing over the silent child soldiers who were gazing at us in fear.
It was then that I heard a crack of a rifle and then a dull thud near the entrance. Then I hear sobbing and cries from the replacement I had forced to man the watch.
Then I hear it, the voices of Russian shouting in their crude language. I hear boots slam onto the concrete as they vault over the wall. I see the kids scramble to their feet scrabbling for their weapons. Then there was the crack of rifles as the two kids closest the door fell back blood spraying from their chests.
I grab the stunned messenger and shove her behind the shelf before taking cover. I turn just in time to see a hole appear in my brother’s head. His life’s blood splattering on the wall behind him. I look to the corpse of the last family member I have left in this world, my father was dead, killed in this stupid war. My mother is in prison for defeatism as she tried to fight me and brother’s forced conscription.
So it seems I am truly alone now, in those few seconds of contemplation I hear the roar of gun fire and then silence. I hear some whimpering in the room, mostly the sound of the girls. The Russians didn’t take male prisoners unless they were officers. The only ones they took were the girls for reasons I rather not put into words.
Then I hear laughing from the Russians and shrieks from one of the girls. I turn to look at the messenger who is as pale as parchment and has her hand over her mouth to stifle her shudders.
I peek around the corner and see the Russians looting the bodies and examining their new captives. Not one of them thinks to check behind the shelf I am hiding behind. There was a saying amongst the girls, “Save the last bullet for yourself.” It seems none of them are going to have that luxury now… unless?
No kind fate awaits the captives and I know I am probably dead. There’s at least 15 Russians behind this shelf and I doubt I can kill them all....
With things as they are might as well take as many as them down as possible. So I unlatch one of my grenades and pull the pin. I wait for two seconds and then toss it around the corner. I grab the messenger and duck my head as I hear the shouts of panic. The thin sheet metal of this shelf won’t do very well against shrapnel flying at speeds faster than the speed of sound. Then I hear the ear splitting roar of the explosion.
Sensing no pain I grab my rifle and turn the corner to see the grenade killed at least half of them, injuring a few more. The rest however were prone on the ground and they looked at me in shock. I take aim and gunned down one of the Russians who were on the floor. That snapped them out of their shock and I could see barrels being aimed at me. I ducked and dragged the messenger off to the left as 7.62 Russian rounds tore the shelf I was hiding behind to pieces. I unlatch another grenade and toss it over the shelves in the general direction of the Russians. I hear more shouts of alarm as the grenade goes off.
I throw the messenger down behind some freezers and duck behind them. I can hear some of the Russians still talking and cursing with a few crying out in pain.
Blyat, ubit' etu cyka
I don’t speak Russian but I can guess what they want to do with me judging by their tone. I see one turn the corner and I let off a spray in his direction. He ducks behind the shelf just in time and my shots clatter onto the shelves.
Then I hear the crack of bullets ping onto the freezer and I duck lower as the sparks fly. The messenger starts to scream and cry as I try to crawl to a better position.
I see a grenade land in front of me a moment later. The messenger screams when she sees the grenade and covers her face in terror. I reach out to grab the grenade intent on throwing it back....
I can feel my body still in the same position, on my knees, one arm out reaching for that grenade. Then I see an ominous red glow illuminate my surroundings. The floor is pitch black, even with the red light it looks like the night sky.
I look up and see a pair of red orbs peering down at me.
An eldritch voice rings out across the darkness, the voice seemingly coming from every direction. It’s low baritone echoing out across the abyss.
Not knowing what to think I try to stand and find myself able to. I notice my past aches and pains from living in a war zone are gone. I feel good, perfectly healthy, no aching back, no bruised knees, no scraped elbows, nothing.
I look up again at the twin orbs, they shift as if some dark god is tilting its head in fascination at some new lab rat.
You choose silence then
I look up at the eyes and see them narrow as if amused.
“Who are you?” I ask, in the back of my mind I know I’m dead. The grenade probably went off in my face, probably going to be a closed coffin funeral, if they still have wood for coffins that is.
I am called many things, The DArk God, The End, Death, the Devil, The Final Arbiter and many many more
Which would you prefer?
“Does it matter?” I ask. So it seems I am dead, this is probably the last bits of my brain firing whatever meager electrical signals they can muster. Probably why the rest of the world is missing and it’s just darkness in every direction.
You are not dead
“Hmm?” I reply lazily, this is just perfect, a self aware illusion. No point in replying. I should just wait it out until the sweet embrace of death claims me.
Then I feel a shock as my mind is seemingly assaulted by some outside force. It tears at my mind, showing me images of the past, my first day in highschool, my mother’s cheesecake that I love so much, me swimming with Shuji and then… the truth…
“You’re real…” I gasp, somehow whatever this god thing was, it just rammed the truth straight into my mind.
Good, now we are getting somewhere
“So what is this? My judgement?” I spat, now all the bottled up rage from the past two years of war started to spill out. So there was a god, a cold, indifferent, spiteful god. One who sat on it’s throne and watched while the masses writhed beneath it.
“If you want to see if I’m going to heaven, then save it. Send me to hell, I want no part of your paradise. When I reach hell I’ll…” I shouted, tears of rage forming in my eyes, my vision going red.
Greet the devil as an old friend?
“Yes, exactly. So get on with it, judge me you foul creature.” I shout, spittle flying from my mouth.
There is no hell
Nor heaven for that matter
“Then what is there? Why am I here?” I demanded, I am sick of higher powers playing with me like I’m some fucking pawn on a chessboard.
When you delete a file on a computer what happens?
It disappears, there is no second existence
“So why am I here? Is this some flight of fancy? Want to talk to one of your guinea pigs before you smite their existence from creation?” I ask, glaring at the deity.
“Or do you want me to beg? Beg for absolution? Well FUCK YOU! You want to kill me? GET ON WITH IT!” I roared, jamming my finger up at the pair of red eyes, screaming so hard I feel my voice crack.
How can I delete you when you aren’t dead?
“What?” I asked, cooling down, my curiosity for a moment quelling my anger.
You see I have need of someone like you
I have need of a champion
You will be my champion