“I’ll take you to them, grandma. I promise!” Jessica Hill talks to herself as she holds her grandma’s cinerary urn close to her heart. Outside the fast moving train, the dense jungle along the Burma Thailand railway is magnificent: the spectacular high extinct volcano, the steep narrow valley, the perpendicular rock formation with almost vertical sides, the tranquil lakes nestled amidst the hazy mountains, and the quaint tropical small towns.
Jessica can’t believe a place so beautiful used to be a battleground sixty years ago. She searches for signs, anything that can bring her to what happened a long time ago. None. She can’t find any. All she sees are the majestic jungle and the images of two handsome young soldiers—one with a charismatic smile and the other, a broad grin.
Jessica takes out a manuscript from her backpack. The papers have turned yellowish throughout the years; some of the words are smudged. “Burn my story.” She remembers what her grandma instructed her to do in the will. “Scatter it over the jungle along with my ashes. The wind will bring me to where they are.”
Burn the manuscript? Her heart sinks. Sadness etches in her pretty face. Jessica can’t imagine herself doing that. After all, the story is her grandma’s heart desire. How can I? She picks up the manuscript, starts reading it, for the hundredth time.
“Jack? Jack who?” Mika Yamaguchi, a beautiful Japanese girl in her mid-twenties, stepped out of the shadow in the hallway and asked. She had been there for a few minutes, watched through the open bars of a small prison cell crammed with a dozen American soldiers. She was trying to decide what to do before she heard someone calling Jack’s name. Even though she knew the odds of accidentally finding her best friend half way around the world seemed next to zero, she just had to ask.
“No!” Mika blurted out. No, not the Jack Long she knew, she prayed. Not in this dark, filthy cell. Not as a prisoner of war! Jack was not meant to be a prisoner! She moved closer to the bars griping stiffly on the rods. The hot and humid air made her sweat all over even though she only had a light ivory dress on. The royal-blue trim along the neckline and cap-sleeve cuffs adorned this simple yet elegant outfit.
Inside the prison cell, Danny Hartnett, an athletic tall man, stood up with Jack in his arms, moved closer to the bars with great care.
“Jack?” Mika squatted down. Please don’t let him be the Jack I know. She closed her eyes and prayed for a brief moment before she studied the man being called Jack under the dim light. Her heart beat faster when she saw the outline of a familiar face, a craggy face covered with dirt, camouflage, bruises, and blood. She recognized his slightly rumpled dark brown hair.
“Jack!” Stretching out her right arm across the bars, she touched his face. Her fingers grazed over the dark stubble on his cheeks and chin. He was burning hot.
“What…happened? He’s…sick. Or injured?” She lifted her head for a moment, not even long enough to engage in an eye contact before she gazed back down at Jack. Her black eyes brimmed with utmost concerns.
“Tor…tured,” Danny hesitated a brief moment before he answered.
“Tor…” Shocked, she stayed perfectly still for a full breath, hands over her mouth. Then, shaking her head in utter disbelief, she let out a horrified gasp. Her silky black hair swayed sideways like waves on her back. She felt dizzy. The unbearable heat! The awful smell! Under the gloomy light, her petite figure looked so frail, it seemed she was going to faint.
Extending both of her arms through the rods, Mika picked up Jack’s hand. She pressed his lifeless palm on her face and rubbed it lightly against her cheek. Tears surged down her pale but delicate face. “Jack!” Her voice soft, couldn’t be more compassionate.
Sometimes this world seemed so small and people’s lives intersected in a peculiar way. Out of trillions of people on this planet, Mika found her best friend halfway around the world, on this unheard of small island in the Fareast Asia.
Mika Yamaguchi met Jack Long in September 1938 when she was a student in college. They happened to take Introduction to Chemistry together. From the very beginning, Mika liked this tall, rugged good-looking young man. Jack was the most fun-filled person she had ever met. He was always in a good mood even in bad situations. He talked a lot, but he joked even more. Life could never be dull when he was around.
In fact, she liked him so much that she even went out with him a couple of times. Unfortunately it didn’t work out. As Mika put it, as much as she liked Jack, there just wasn’t enough “right chemistry” to go beyond friendship. “You took the wrong chemistry class,” Jack used to joke about it. While he took Inorganic Chemistry that semester, Mika took Organic Chemistry. Luckily, the “basic chemistry” they had was strong enough to keep them as best friends.
Now, in the summer of 1944, almost six years after they first met, Jack reentered Mika’s life in such an implausible way. Mika could hardly believe her eyes: this tall energetic young man was lying lifelessly in front of her. She could never picture this even in her wildest dream!
Mika just made up her mind. No matter how difficult, and how impossible, she was going to use every fiber of her being to save and to take care of this young man she used to care so much for. Little did she know that this turned out to be a promise which caused her almost everything to keep up!
Mika kissed Jack’s hand before she put it down. “Don’t worry, Jack, I’ll be right back,” she spoke in a suffocated whisper. “I’ll take care of you.” Her gaze stayed with Jack a little longer. Then, she stood up, turned away, disappearing into the shadows of the hallway, as quickly and quietly as she appeared.
Jack Long woke up from an awful nightmare. He couldn’t remember what had happened exactly, but he believed he was in hell. All kinds of ghosts, monsters, and evil spirits surrounded him, hurt him. Each bone and every muscle in his body ached. Jack wanted to fight back, badly, but he felt powerless. For some reason, he couldn’t move; he had no way even to lift his arms or legs.
Kicks? What happened to my karate kicks? Jack wondered. He was in top-notch shape. And his kicks were very powerful. They used to win high praise from his best buddy, Danny Hartnett, who was just as superior. Where did his power go? Jack was bewildered.
Then he saw an angel. She was flapping her small wings vigorously around him, tried to get rid of all the evil spirits. Who was that angel? She seemed oddly familiar, but he couldn’t tell for sure. What he could feel was the love emanated from her like a warm blanket would be to someone in the throes of hypothermia. Jack worried about this tiny little creature who faced so many insidious giants around her, enveloping her, he cried out, “Watch out!” With an incredible hoarse voice echoed in his mind, he opened up his eyes. His body was soaked in sweat.
“Jack!” He heard a soft voice, one that spurred pleasant memories; and he saw a familiar face, a delicate face of an angel. I must be dreaming, then. Jack closed his eyes back shut.
“Jack?” As he struggled to orient himself, he heard the sweet voice again, this time much clearer. It sounded so real, and familiar, that he had to find out. With great effort, Jack fought to open his heavy eyelids. “Mi…?” He couldn’t believe his eyes. A beautiful Japanese girl was looking down at him, with foremost concerns. With her delicate features, slender body, cascade of silky black hair, and the ivory dress, she indeed seemed to be the embodiment of an angel.
“Yes, Jack. It’s me, Mika. Long time no see! How…how are you?” she murmured, stroked his charcoal brown hair. Her voice was tender, as if a mother whispered to her sleeping baby.
“I…” Jack opened his mouth, but he didn’t know whether he made any audible sound or not. He didn’t want to tell Mika that he was in hell, he was aching all over, and he never felt so powerless before. Mika Yamaguchi! The sweet little friend of his from his homeland. Jack didn’t want to frighten her or worry her. Besides, even if he spoke, he didn’t know whether anybody would understand him.
“Hang on, Jack,” she said as she ran her hand over the dark stubble on his chin. “I know you are in pain. I’m going to help you, Trust me! As soon as the medicine is here… Any minute, it’ll be here any minute. I will… I will…” Tears glistened in her kind eyes.
Jack blinked his eyes in understanding. He trusted Mika. She had never promised anything she didn’t keep, and she always delivered more than she promised.
“Let me give you some water first. Now, can you open up your month for me?”
His lips were swollen and cracked. As Jack opened his mouth, a sharp pain ripped at the corners of his mouth. The sores split. Mika bathed his lips with water. Then a spoonful of water went down his dry, fiery sore throat. It was so good. Jack had never tasted water so sweet. He eagerly drank the water that he almost choked in his haste.
“Slow down, Jack. No need to hurry.”
“How…how…” After several mouthfuls of water, Jack managed no more than a husky whisper. His throat felt as if it had been burned with fire or scraped with a knife.
“Shhh…don’t talk. I’ll tell you everything, but not now. I’ll make you feel better first. You’ll be all right, Jack. I promise. Just hang in there!”
A tidal wave of fatigue hit him, weighed him down. Jack closed his eyes again. Mika was right. Even if she told him everything, he couldn’t finish listening. He was too exhausted. At once, he slipped under again, away from the pain and into the welcoming beckon to darkness.
I hope you enjoy reading my story so far. For more information, please check: https://www.coolbeanspe.com/