Blood of Nanking (Part 4 of 4)
The past never dies
"You didn't kill him."
Thompson lit his cigarette and stared at the smoke wafting away from him. He didn't answer as he stared at the bustling street below him.
"You know, if you had, I would just look away. No big deal."
He merely gave Lee a flat look.
"Is it done?"
Lee nodded. "His blood, and your blood and Xiao Yan's comb. It's done."
Thompson crushed the still-burning cigarette in his hands. It stung a little.
Lee said: "It's the right thing to do, Thompson. He has to pay."
"Do you see regret on my face?"
Lee didn't answer, but his gaze drifted to the Bible on his desk.
Thompson closed it and pushed it away from him. It toppled off the desk and fell to the floor with its pages splayed and crumpled.
"Wonder how long he'll last?" Thompson said dismissively, his eyes on the Bible.
"Ogawa died last week. Ran in front of a truck. It took him a month."
"He's still alive. But now he spends his days eating his vomit "
"Tough bastard, isn't he?"
"How's Hiro doing?"
"He's running around the streets of Tokyo, screaming at his shadow."
Lee grabbed the chair opposite his and sat down. His face was serious.
"Hasegawa's the last one. Are you at peace now?"
Thompson blew the smoke from his lungs.
"Peace," he muttered. "Wish I knew what that was."
It took him a while to free himself. By the time he could wriggle himself out of the shredded ropes it was already dark and cold. He hurried home and hid his face in shame as he hurried past people on the street, wondering if they could smell the stink of urine on him. The bloody mark carved into his skin stung like a million ants were around it and he could feel warm blood still trickling down his chest. Fortunately, the blood stain was hidden by his mud-splattered shirt.
When he got home, the lights were on, indicating that Mrs Miro was home. The pleasant smell of fried fish wafted from the kitchen.
"Hagesawa-san, dinner is ready soon!" Mrs Miro called out.
He yelled out a thank you and tried to hurry to his room unnoticed but his mission failed when Mrs Miro came out of the kitchen. Her eyes widened.
"Hagesawa-san! You looked as if you spent the evening rolling in mud!"
Then her nose wrinkled in disgust. "And what is that smell?"
He bowed deeply, his face pinking up in shame. "I am sorry Mrs Miro, but I didn't want to see you like this. I … I fell into a pig shed on the way home."
"A pig shed? Where did you go to?"
Mrs Miro didn't look quite convinced.
"It is a long story, but Mr Osaki wanted to show me his farm. I went there but had this misfortune."
"Couldn't he have offered you a bath at his home?"
He had forgotten how sharp Mrs Miro was.
"I preferred to return home as soon as I could. It was getting dark."
Mrs Miro made a perplexed sound. "Oh, but you could have caught a cold," she said, shaking her head in disapproval.
She turned as if to return to the kitchen, but then stopped as if she remembered something.
"By the way, you had a visitor this morning. A Chinese man. I told him that you were at the ceremony. Did you see him?"
His mouth went dry. He wasn't sure whether to be furious at her for telling his kidnappers where he was or to come up with a convincing lie, so he stayed silent.
"Who was your friend, Hagesawa-san?" Mrs Miro prodded when he didn't answer.
He wanted to say that Lee wasn't his friend. That he nearly died at the bastard's hands and that he and Thompson made him run away like a dog with its tail between its legs. But he told his landlady that he was merely a customer.
"He came all the way to see you in Nagoya?"
For his shop was in Tokyo after all. Mrs Miro had a mind far too sharp for her own good.
"Yes, yes. He was very eager to get a kimono for his wife," he said impatiently.
"The foreigner has married a Japanese woman?"
"Yes, yes," he muttered.
"Ah. Young people are so different these days. If I had done that, my mother would not have forgiven me," she said.
She finally left him alone and headed to the kitchen.
Hasegawa huffed and went into his room. He went still when he saw that the door to his room was open. Worriedly, he peered inside. Except for the light of a single candle at the corner of the room, the room was shrouded in darkness. But he could make out something on his bed.
No, not something. Someone.
A woman was in his room. She was sitting on his bed, combing her long, straight hair and singing softly. The colourful qipao hugged her curves lovingly.
What was a Chinese woman doing in his room?
"Who are you?" he snapped.
He had quite a terrible day already and didn't need a stranger to entertain. It was curious, however, that his landlady did not inform him that he had a guest.
A thought occurred to him.
Was this another one of Thompson's cruel games?
The woman turned around. Her dark brown eyes were alit with mischief and her red lips were quirked into a smile.
He stared at her, confused. Then, recognition hit him and he gasped, backing away. His feet slipped on the tatami mat, and he fell heavily.
"It cannot be," he said, whimpering.
The creature got up and walked up to him the same way she did when she died fifteen years ago, with her head held high, too proud even then to acknowledge his mastery over her life.
The soft, brown eyes turned coal black, and her red lips turned grey as soot.
The scent of rotting leaves and wet soil filled the room.
And he knew then that the gaijin didn't spare his life after all.
Not gonna lie, I hesitated at the thought of publishing this story in these politically correct times. Especially since it’s centered around one of history’s most brutal war crimes. Many, many people are still pissed off by what happened, even if it took place nearly a century ago.
I wrote this short story many, many years ago. It was my way of coping with what I saw in the 2011 Christian Bale movie The Flowers of War. It was inspired by Geling Yang’s novel, which I also read.
Both were good but horribly brutal, unflinching in their portrayals of violence, horror and sheer injustice of the Nanking Massacre.
The movie and book may be fictional, but seeing women—young and old, rich and poor—brutalised in a sick genocide just seared my brain. I left the movie really disturbed and teary-eyed, wondering why human beings do such awful things to one another. And like always, I had to write to let out my emotions by writing about it and this short story was the surprising result.
The Nanking Massacre, which was also known as the Rape of Nanking, occurred within a six-week period after the Japanese captured Nanking, which was then the capital of the Republic of China, on December 13, 1937.
During this period, hundreds of thousands of Chinese people—civilians and unarmed soldiers—were brutally tortured and murdered. Women—some were children—were violently raped and murdered.
After watching the movie, I did research about the Nanking Massacre and came across a documentary where former Japanese soldiers, now in their old age, were asked what they did during the Massacre. What struck me was how remorseless some of them were. How did they commit these crimes and sleep at night? Worse, how did the survivors of the Massacre deal with what they went through?
And this was how the Blood of Nanking came to be.
I wanted to make sense of the darkness in humanity. And I have to admit, perhaps a part of me craved vengeance … this is not a straightforward, feel-good horror short story by any means.
Not all horror stories are supernatural. Human beings are scary enough.
Tell me what you think of Blood of Nanking — I’d love to get your feedback. Should we depict violence and horror in detail in literature? Or is this something we should tone down?
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