Contest #139 winner 🏆

buried in saipan

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

188 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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188 comments

Taj Isly
22:40 Apr 14, 2022

The story is delicately told, with carefully chosen words. The archeologist's reaction while reading the diary is one of my favorites. We can sense it between the lines even though you didn't write it. A well-deserved win:)

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Alex Sultan
07:36 Apr 17, 2022

Thank you for reading, Taj. It was tricky balancing Hisao's reactions with the journal and I'm glad it worked. I appreciate the kind words 🙂

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12:59 Apr 14, 2022

Your story shows how effective really clear and direct writing can be. Exciting and the tension remained high throughout. 1930s-1940s Japanese history is really fascinating, also the 1960s protest movement, so interestingly different than the Japan we think of today.

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Alex Sultan
07:39 Apr 17, 2022

Thank you for reading, Scott. I appreciate your comment - I'm glad the piece worked for you 🙂

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Ron Merkin
01:51 Apr 14, 2022

I'm a very tough reader to please. In fact to be honest, the vast majority of what I read ranges in my opinion from scandalously hopeless to mediocre. Because of that, my delight with your story may be particularly meaningful. The only suggestion I have is that you indicate in its beginning what archeologists are searching for at the site where they're working. Probably because it wasn't specified I was confused: were they looking for the letters you quoted or did they discover them accidentally while searching for something else?

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Alex Sultan
07:44 Apr 17, 2022

Thank you for reading, Ron. I appreciate you taking the time to do so. In the first draft, I did mention the archaeologists seeking out any relics in general - but I removed it since the paragraph then seemed cluttered(Added, I feel the first two sentences got it across they're looking for whatever has been left behind) The letters were a surprise discovery for Hisao. Thanks again for the comment! I'm glad you enjoyed reading through the story.

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Emma Smith
19:40 Apr 13, 2022

Congrats, Alex. I smiled, became sad, and smiled again. And then I wanted to know what was on the other letters in the bag. You did a great job!

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Alex Sultan
07:34 Apr 17, 2022

Thank you for the kind comment, Emma. I appreciate the kind words, and I'm glad you liked the story 🙂

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Ryder Starr
15:19 Apr 13, 2022

i read this agian for another school assignment its so good

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Alex Sultan
07:33 Apr 17, 2022

best of luck with the assignment, friend. I hope my story helped in some way!

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Jeanette Harris
14:46 Apr 13, 2022

I think there a war going on flighen panes censors to letter sent to Germany sad abuse that war

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Alex Sultan
07:33 Apr 17, 2022

Thank you for reading, Jeanette. I appreciate it.

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Ron Davidson
03:39 Apr 13, 2022

This is a really great story. Well done!

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Alex Sultan
07:34 Apr 17, 2022

Thank you, Ron. I appreciate the comment.

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Sara Darvish
00:23 Apr 13, 2022

This was such a wonderful read Alex. Brief but meaningful, I’ll remember this FlashFic. I was surprised to feel myself well up as Koji described his encounter with the wounded American. When Koji reveals his intention to bury the documents of his comrades, I felt like it dampened the impact of the final line. If you write it so that Hisao encounters the leather of the satchel, reads the first journal (Koji’s), both archeologists open the satchel and watch the rest of the letters tumble out— I think it would hit the reader different. Hisao ...

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Alex Sultan
01:53 Apr 13, 2022

Thank you for reading, Sara. Your comment is very kind, and I appreciate you taking the time to write feedback. I think your take could make for an interesting alternative to the story. It's cool, as writers, to think we'd all write this idea differently, and I appreciate your insight.

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Michael Regan
19:04 Apr 12, 2022

Congrats on the win! Another powerful story.

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Alex Sultan
01:38 Apr 13, 2022

Thank you, Michael. I appreciate the comment as always.

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Ryder Starr
18:34 Apr 12, 2022

The entries made me kinda sad just reading it. Good job!

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Alex Sultan
01:38 Apr 13, 2022

I'm glad I could get the emotion across. Thank you for the comment!

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22:28 Apr 11, 2022

Well done Alex! Beautifully written and well deserved win. :)

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Alex Sultan
01:38 Apr 13, 2022

Thank you, friend. I look forward to your next win!

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Jaden Michaels
19:44 Apr 11, 2022

That was awesome great story

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Alex Sultan
01:38 Apr 13, 2022

Appreciate it, Jaden.

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Susannah Meghans
02:50 Apr 11, 2022

You did a great job showing the emotion the archeologist & soldier felt (no longer wanting to fight). You could hear him lose hope with his words. The ending made me tear up thinking of all those lives lost.

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Alex Sultan
01:41 Apr 13, 2022

Thank you, Susannah. Your comment is very kind - it is nice to hear you liked the story 🙂

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Andrea Doig
18:07 Apr 10, 2022

Wow, I enjoyed that. More than I thought I would - I am not into war-time movies/stories etc. Just not my thing. But it did sweep me along for an interesting ride. I loved the length of it, to be honest - just perfect I thought. I always think I must write close to at least 2000 words .. BUT why! Sometimes shorter is more impactful and just easier reading. Thank you. AND well done - a worthy winner.

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Alex Sultan
01:44 Apr 13, 2022

Thank you, Andrea. War stories are definitely not for everyone, so to hear such kind words is very nice of you. I do like to keep my stories on the shorter side - doing so stops them from dragging on in most cases, and can be just as impactful as a 3000-word story. Thank you again for the comment!

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Andrea Doig
11:06 Apr 13, 2022

And sometimes even more so! (Impactful) A lesson for me :) Always so good to learn and get ideas from other Writers! Have a lovely day further :)

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Sheila Roberts
15:49 Apr 10, 2022

This was so heartbreakingly beautiful! I could see (and feel) it all as if I was there. Loved it.

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Alex Sultan
01:42 Apr 13, 2022

Thank you, Sheila. I appreciate the kind words 🙂

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07:39 Apr 10, 2022

Only just found time to read this and discovered that it has won! Congratulations Alex 😀 well deserved!

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Alex Sultan
14:54 Apr 11, 2022

Thank you! I'm glad this won - I really didn't expect it to. I have so much more war fiction to write as well 😎

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21:18 Apr 12, 2022

Hey Alex, just a quick note to let you know that I posted a draft for this week's contest. If you have chance to look, any feedback much appreciated. I'll have to submit it on Thursday because I'm busy all day Friday. So don't worry if you don't have time.

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Alex Sultan
01:37 Apr 13, 2022

Of course! I'd be happy to read it over. I'm glad to see you posted again - I'll try to get around to it before Thursday.

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Carla Ward
17:13 Apr 09, 2022

As one who developed a passion for WWII history as a child (I'm in my 60s now), this story grabbed me from the start. It's great. I remember even as a girl wondering about the lives of all the participants, not just the Americans. I wondered what it was like to be a German or Japanese seeing the war unfold and perhaps participating in their lost causes. I used to scour bookshelves looking for personal accounts of the war, the diaries of partisans and soldiers, and the journals kept by children recording the events taking place around them. ...

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Alex Sultan
01:51 Apr 13, 2022

Thank you, Carla! It is nice to hear you enjoyed the story. I've always had a passion for history, and after watching/reading a lot of war stories from an American/Canadian/English perspective, I branched out to the Axis side and it made me realize how terrible war really is. I'm glad I could portray it effectively. I appreciate the comment, and I hope you're well.

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Ed Hinojos
16:06 Apr 09, 2022

Alex, as someone who has been there, I appreciate the realistic emotions that were introduced in the journal. Many who have never been to war assume that everyone is fighting for their own flag and for their own glory. Most of us felt questions, despair, hate, fear, and creative sense of beauty all run through our heart almost on a daily basis. This was well portrayed in your story. Great job.

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Alex Sultan
01:46 Apr 13, 2022

I appreciate it, Ed. I didn't expect my story to reach veterans, let alone win, to be honest! I'm glad I got everything across effectively, and that you enjoyed it. Thank you for reading.

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Miranda Phillips
14:58 Apr 09, 2022

Hi Alex! Congrats on the win. This was a great, original piece and it made me want to read more. I'm not really a big historical fiction fan, but this story showed history in a unique way that I really enjoyed.

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Alex Sultan
01:47 Apr 13, 2022

Thank you, Miranda. I do like to write my historical fiction stories with a unique style. I appreciate the kind words.

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Jay Mc Kenzie
09:27 Apr 09, 2022

Congrats on a very well deserved win. Moving and sensitive with a unique take on three prompt. Bravo!

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Alex Sultan
01:54 Apr 13, 2022

Thank you, Jay. I'm glad you enjoyed the story 🙂

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