Contest #139 winner 🏆

buried in saipan

Submitted into Contest #139 in response to: Format your story in the style of diary entries.... view prompt

193 comments

Sad East Asian Historical Fiction

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

There are still rusted bayonets to be found in the dirt.

Alongside broken firearms, canteens, and bullet-struck helmets. At times, still attached to skeletons. The deep-sea team would occasionally find a corroded tank or the remains of a submarine acting as an aquarium. Fighter planes would turn up far off in the mountains, a surprise to climbers.

Rare was it that Hisao found letters buried in Saipan.

He dropped his shovel and knelt, the archaeology team at work behind him—industrial lights illuminated the tunnel with a silver glow. Brushing the dirt from his find, Hisao picked up a timeworn book with a withered cover. A loose page stuck out from the side.

I’m going to surrender at dawn… a sentence read.

“I got somethi…” 

Hisao trailed off. Curiosity once again bested him. With careful fingers, he opened the book and read off the first page. 


June 2nd, 1944.

The Americans can have this island, for all I care.

I’m tired. We’re spending the day digging trenches near the beach. The hot sun beams down on us, and we have little water or rice to ration. If we don’t work hard enough, we get shouted at. One word out of place and we’re beaten.

If there is any silver lining, it is the sun’s reflection on the clear waters. The sound of calm waves on the shore. Even as bugs swarm me, I cherish the view. It is breathtaking.

My candlelight fades. This bedroll does little to cushion the dirt.

I hope the centipedes stay away from me.


Hisao turned to the next page. His crew continued the work behind him, a wheelbarrow rolling by with crushed rock.


June 8th, 1944.

Mashiro’s playing cards were found. An officer brought him outside, and he came back bloodied. I fear this journal will be found as well, yet my thoughts are loud, and the nights are quiet. Nothing I write in a letter home would make it through censors. 


June 11th, 1944.

I’ve never been an accurate shot. The bruises from the cane are still sore—the officer threatened to keep rations from all of us unless I improve my aim in practice. Another told us we will target the medics when we see them. Americans would risk one life to save another. I’m going to falter when the time comes. 


June 13th, 1944

Despite being surrounded by hundreds of my brethren, it is very lonely. 

Not all see the beauty of life as I do. 


Hisao turned the page. The handwriting on the next grew shaky, as if written in a hurry.


June 15th, 1944

It’s a habit to number the year, even when I have doubts I’ll make it to the next one. 

I’m not going to sleep tonight. Warships bombard the shores. Planes drone overhead, the bombs whistle, and the grounds tremble. Soon it will be me on the front lines. I fear I don’t want I am ready when the time comes.


June 17th, 1944

One of the Americans is in our captivity. He was shot in the gut. We I dragged him into our dugout and bandaged him. The officers will question him come morning. With what little English I know, I found time to speak with him.

His voice shook as we talked, as he hung onto threads of life. I told Alan I grew up in a small town in Osaka, while he spoke of Ohio—a sprawling city with tall apartments. He would’ve been sent to Germany along with his friends, but drew the short end of the stick. He laughed at his joke and I laughed too.

Alan is asleep now. His breathing fades—I don’t think he’ll wake up.

I’m glad I could see him smile.


June 18th, 1944

The last thing Alan did was hand me a letter, asking me to deliver it to his mother in any way I could. When I read it over, I could only realize how similar it was to mine.

It made me question,

what am I fighting for?


Hisao exhaled, then pushed the loose page back into place.


June 22nd, 1944

I’m going to surrender at dawn.

I will fake a stomach problem, then run off. The white cloth I carry will state my peace to the Americans. I am terrified. The last man to mention the word ‘surrender’ was beaten until he couldn't stand, left as an example to us.

But I cannot take the trepidation of battle any longer.

I sit alone with my thoughts until the sun rises.


Turning one too far, Hisao stared at a blank page. The entries had stopped. He turned back to the final one, dated more than a week after the last—three days before America claimed their victory.


July 6th, 1944 

My right eye is still blackened—I can no longer see with it. The officer who beat me is now leading a reckless charge against the Americans. A final stand for control of the island. I, with a few others, am left behind to burn our documents in the cave.

I will not.

Among the documents are letters. Dozens. Addressed to families and loved ones. Ones that were never sent. Words never spoken. Instead, I shall bury them alongside this journal, and hope for it to one day be found.

The order then is to take our own lives. Grenades have been left for us—we will pull the pin, then hold them to our chest. It will be quick and painless. I can only hope, that in the afterlife, I am set apart from those who took joy in this conflict.

Until my words are read,

Koji.


Hisao sighed. He closed the book, then reached for a bag to seal it in.

“I found something,” he called. His coworkers stepped forward. Hisao handed one the sealed bag, then reached in front with both hands. He swept back the dirt, promptly hitting the old leather of a satchel. 

Cameras clicked around him. Another archaeologist dropped to help. They pulled the satchel from the ground, and the string wrapped around it came loose.

Out rained handfuls of letters.

March 29, 2022 01:45

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193 comments

Ashley Herman
04:38 Apr 09, 2022

This story is amazing. I love how you played the diary into the story rather than it being the story. This technique reminds me of 'The Never Ending Story' (such a fantastic movie). I find it difficult to get so much emotion into such a small word count but you did it very well!

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Alex Sultan
01:58 Apr 13, 2022

Thank you! Spinning a unique take on the prompt was my first idea when I saw it. I appreciate the kind words, Ashley 🙂

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Debra Brown
03:16 Apr 09, 2022

Kudos and Congratulations. Your story was worthy of the win for sure. Great job. Happy writing, Deb

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Alex Sultan
01:57 Apr 13, 2022

Thank you, Debra. I appreciate the kind words.

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Tina Lonabarger
02:16 Apr 09, 2022

This win is well deserved. Your story put me there. I always wondered if they had the same thought as the enemy. I bet so, we are all human after all. Congratulations

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Alex Sultan
01:59 Apr 13, 2022

Thank you, Tina. I did put a lot of thought into this one - I'm glad you liked it. I appreciate the comment, it is very kind of you 🙂

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Frank Lester
00:58 Apr 09, 2022

You might've found this tough to write, but I found it tough to read. Well done! You struck the right mood with a simple format and direct, concise dialogue. Kudos! Thanks for sharing it. Stay well.

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Alex Sultan
01:54 Apr 13, 2022

Thank you, Frank. I never really expected my story to reach veterans such as yourself! I'm glad you liked it, and I appreciate the kind words. I hope you're doing well.

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Frank Lester
15:16 Apr 15, 2022

My pleasure, Alex. I am well, thank you. Have a Happy Easter.

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Philip Ebuluofor
22:07 Apr 08, 2022

Wow, engaging really. Educative too. Master piece Alex. You are there. More grease to your elbow.

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Alex Sultan
01:55 Apr 13, 2022

I appreciate it, Philip. Your words are very kind.

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Philip Ebuluofor
09:00 Apr 17, 2022

Pleasure

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Wow! Congratulations on the (I think well-deserved) win!

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Alex Sultan
21:36 Apr 08, 2022

Thank you! I don't know if I would've got it without your feedback.

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Hey Alex, I have a question for you: ------------------- Do you read the prologue of a book? A Yes, every time B No, never C Sometimes/It depends Note: I am copy-and-pasting this to multiple people. -------------------

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Alex Sultan
07:29 Apr 17, 2022

To give you an honest answer, (A) I do always read the prologue, but I don't like prologues. I'd prefer to get into the book right away with no filler.

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Thank you for the honest answer.

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Hey Alex! I wrote another story, and entered it in the contest. I haven't entered anything since the entry fee started. I would appreciate feedback and critique ASAP. I pray this finds you well.

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Alex Sultan
13:12 Apr 23, 2022

Of course - I'd be happy to read through and write feedback, although it may be somewhat late.

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Riel Rosehill
20:15 Apr 08, 2022

Congrats Alex - it was such a good story to read!

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Alex Sultan
21:36 Apr 08, 2022

Thank you, Riel. I'm glad you liked it.

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Andrea Magee
20:01 Apr 08, 2022

Great story that caught my attention from the start and held it to the very last word. Congratulations 🎊 on the win!

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Alex Sultan
21:37 Apr 08, 2022

Thank you, Andrea. I appreciate the kind words.

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Mickey Carroll
19:37 Apr 08, 2022

Congratulations 👍

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Alex Sultan
21:36 Apr 08, 2022

I appreciate it, Mickey.

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Mickey Carroll
23:20 Apr 08, 2022

It’s great to see a fellow writer succeed. Enjoy it, Alex.

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Pamela Brown
19:23 Apr 08, 2022

I was SO moved by this story, Alex. For me, the short lines of the diary format really put me in the situation, they represent the fear, the quick, furtive jotting, necessary to get down a thought while he had a scrap of time. The intimacy and immediacy of the first person emphasised the reality of his ancient moments. The archaeology was a perfect frame for the inner story, again first person, so again 'first-hand' reporting. A Clever and wonderful device to parallel, yet blend, the two stories. Thank you for this experience, Alex. A...

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Alex Sultan
21:38 Apr 08, 2022

Thank you for reading, Pamela. I'm glad you liked the story, and I appreciate the kind words. I knew right away for the prompt I wanted to have it related to archaeology in a way, and it is nice to hear it worked out.

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Mary Duke
19:17 Apr 08, 2022

Such an intriguing (and heart wrenching) story. I wish more people would write historical fiction the way you have. Well done!

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Alex Sultan
21:40 Apr 08, 2022

Thank you, Mary. I still consider myself primarily a Fantasy writer, but Historical Fiction does seem to work well for me. I appreciate the read.

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Helen Gress
18:56 Apr 08, 2022

You twinned the two stories (past and present) very well. Both are interesting and you could easily work this piece into a longer story- a novel even? Well done!

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Alex Sultan
21:41 Apr 08, 2022

Maybe one day, after I write a couple Fantasy novels, I'll do a full one on WW2. I appreciate your comment, Helen. It is very kind.

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Annalisa D.
18:52 Apr 08, 2022

This was a well written story. I like how it's framed with the archaeologists and how you have little actions in the present to bring it back. That technique works really well for this prompt. There are some nice subtle details that bring the emotion to life well. It is a sad but moving story. I enjoyed reading it.

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Alex Sultan
21:39 Apr 08, 2022

Thank you, friend. I didn't really expect this one to win - most of my WW2 end up hitting the shortlist instead. I'm glad you liked it. I hope to read something new from you soon.

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David Adams
17:49 Apr 08, 2022

Can understand why it won. Clever, thoughtful insight to how one we might have called enemy handled the loss of lives.

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Alex Sultan
21:42 Apr 08, 2022

Thanks, David. While Imperial Japan was one of the darkest periods of human history, I'd always like to think, somewhere within, people kept their humanity. I appreciate the read.

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Nicole Bolding
17:49 Apr 08, 2022

Framing it as an archaeological expedition really made your story stand out.

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Alex Sultan
21:42 Apr 08, 2022

Thank you, Nicole! It was my first idea when I saw the prompt.

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Keya Jadav
17:41 Apr 08, 2022

Another win? You're flying through this, Mr. Sultan! Ofcourse, everything is perfect but the thing I most loved about it is the unique way it has been handled (quite caught my eye and I couldn't stop reading). Your work keeps getting better and better and I could tell there's a lot more effort that has been put behind each work. Congratulations!! I can see more wins coming from you :)) And...by the way I heard you on Deidra's podcast, you were amazing! 👍👍 And I am sorry I have not been able to catch up with your new posts (school's keepin...

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Alex Sultan
21:43 Apr 08, 2022

Thank you for reading, friend. I always like to think I'm improving - even if I still got a long way to go. I appreciate your comment, and I wish you the best of luck with school!

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Jess A
17:26 Apr 08, 2022

I agree with a previous comment that the balance between the negative repercussions of war and hope was well written. Great job and congrats on the win!🌟

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Alex Sultan
21:44 Apr 08, 2022

Thank you for reading, Jess. I appreciate the comment, and I'm glad I got the idea across effectively.

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17:21 Apr 08, 2022

This is such a cool take on a prompt like this. One of my favorite books is Mary Shelly's "Frankenstein" because of the story within a story aspect. It would be super cool if when he finds the letters, it thrusts us into the story of the person who wrote them from their point of view almost making us forget that we were reading a letter before going back to the archeologist's point of view. A really cool concept and I'm super excited to see what becomes of it!

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Alex Sultan
21:52 Apr 08, 2022

Thanks, Hannah. I do like framing my stories like this - I thought for this one it'd be unique. It is nice to hear it worked, and I appreciate the kind words.

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Adeliah Saling
17:12 Apr 08, 2022

Wow just wow.

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Alex Sultan
21:44 Apr 08, 2022

wow indeed, Adeliah. I appreciate the comment.

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Lavonne H.
16:36 Apr 08, 2022

Congrats Alex! Way to go!! Yours in writing, Lavonne

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Alex Sultan
21:49 Apr 08, 2022

Thank you, Lavonne. I appreciate the comment 🙂

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