CW: Some bloodshed and Violence.
Alan was woken by a wave of icy water washing over his body. Jerking up from his bare bed frame, Alan shivered as a chilly breeze blew away all of his remaining warmth. Wiping the water and grogginess out of his eyes, a young Japanese soldier came into focus. Instinctively, Alan reached down for his trusty M1 Garand, when he remembered that he was in a concentration camp.
Even though Alan had no weapon, he was determined to beat the living hell out of the Japanese fool for dumping water on him. Alan stood up to his whole height and towered over the enemy soldier. With a roar of rage, the American descended upon the cocky man, the look of fear in his eyes encouraged Alan as he landed one punch after another. Each punch to the man’s face was an act of revenge for Alan’s comrades.
Suddenly, more Japanese cowards stormed into the tent, jumping up to confront the newcomers, Alan began to throw more punches. The swarm of soldiers looked like bugs as they were squashed by the American POW. Standing at 6’8 and 230 pounds, the POW was twice the size of his opponents. Just as it seemed like he was about to take on the entire Japanese squad, a crack of a gun silenced the crowd. The smell of gunpowder filled the air as the Japanese squad parted to make way for a thin man. Even though he was wiry, his smile brought fear to Alan, the gun in the small man’s hands rose slowly, until it was trained on the American Prisoner Of War.
“Come with me.” The small Japanese man said with a smirk.
Seeing no other way, Alan followed. Even though he was scared of the consequences, his eyes showed nothing but defiance. Looking back at the bloodshed he had caused, Alan was sure that his punishment would be death. Instead of forcing him against a wall and putting a round in between his eyes, the Japanese man led Alan into a small hut. Opening a hatch in the floor, Alan was shoved into the hole. From above the Japanese man and his soldiers smirked.
“Don’t look so tough now.” A soldier spat in broken English.
Others just jeered and taunted Alan, showing no emotion, he coldly stared back at every one of them, like a hunter marking down his prey. However, in this case, Alan was powerless, he was stuck in a hole as the prey laughed from above. Before turning around and leaving, what the leader said chilled Alan to the bone.
“Enjoy your stay at hell on Earth.”
The man and his soldiers closed the hatch and Alan heard the footsteps retreat and his dire realization soon settled in. In the pitch black, Alan felt around in his surroundings. In the end, the POW determined that the hole was around 5 by 5 feet, not even long enough for him to lie down. The hatch was around 12 feet up, too high to attempt an escape.
Feeling defeated, Alan slumped down and sighed, this was a fate worse than death. Hours, days weeks even could have passed and Alan was going insane. With no one to talk to, he began to chat with imaginary figures. Nightmarish creatures haunted him in the dark, visions of his best friends dying in battle brought the once proud man to tears. Food and water were also a growing concern. Alan survived off of licking the water off the damp walls. Just as it seemed that all hope was lost, a click and the hatch opened revealing a Japanese soldier. Alan’s eyes burned as he stared at the light, fresh air filled his lungs and he was filled with hope. Was he getting set free? The Japanese Soldier tossed in a package and Alan rushed to rip it open.
Under the paper wrapping, there was a small canteen of water and some sticky rice. The portions were minuscule, before he could complain, the hatch slammed shut. Even though he should be thankful for being fed, all that Alan could think of was how the Japanese were prolonging his torture. They were keeping him on the brink of death, making him suffer; this truly was worse than death. The isolation was taking a heavy toll on him as well, some days, Alan would forget his own name, while some days he would just break down completely. Alan estimated that food and water came every five days, just enough for him to live. His once muscular body was now shrivelled, his excess skin draped across his body.
The same tortuous routine continued for many weeks before the hatch opened to reveal the small man from before. Saying something in Japanese, a ladder was thrown down the hatch. With all his remaining strength, Alan climbed the ladder, just as he was at the top, a soldier kicked him back down. Hitting the ground, Alan was winded, but he didn’t care, escape was in front of him. Even if he died falling, it would be better than his current situation. As he climbed again, the soldiers jeered and again, as he reached the top, Alan was shoved back down. Not giving up, Alan climbed up and was pushed back down multiple times. When the soldiers finally were satisfied, Alan clambered up the hole.
Looking at the sunlight, Alan shed tears of joy and breathing in the fresh air, he felt alive. However, Alan did not have long to rejoice, he was immediately brought onto a podium, surrounded by all the prisoners.
“Let this be an example of when you don’t follow the rules.” The small Japanese soldier yelled at the crowd.
There was no response, the prisoners stared uncomfortably. Some people looked upon Alan with a sympathetic look, which angered him even more, while others showed no emotion.
The speech continued and Alan was humiliated even more, finally, when the point was made, Alan was sent back to his living area. His living quarters was even more crowded than he remembered. The small room hosted ten bunk beds and a small table. As he walked into the room, the rowdy voices were replaced by hushed whispers. Alan lowered his head in shame as he sat on his thin mattress.
“Hey, you did a very brave thing you know. I was here on the day you fought the soldiers. Even more impressed that you survived three months in the hole!” A friendly soldier with a thick British accent said as he approached Alan.
“Not worth it, in the end, don’t think I can ever sleep in the dark ever again. Don’t even think I can sleep another night in this prison.” Alan answered.
“My name is Robert Hawkins by the way, seeing as how thin you are, you can have my portion of food tonight.” The British soldier offered.
“Thank you so much, I’m Alan Smith nice to meet you, Robert,” Alan responded.
That evening the food was scrumptious, though it was just plain rice, the portions were double of what he was fed in the hole. After eating Robert’s ration of food as well, Alan felt as if he had all the energy in the world. That night, however, nightmares haunted Alan and he could not fall asleep. Around midnight, Alan heard a creak as the door slowly opened and two soldiers stepped inside. After some chatter, the soldiers approached a man across from Alan and pulled out a syringe. Desperately wanting to act, Alan strained, but upon thinking about the hole, he stopped. Instead, Alan watched in horror as the soldiers injected it into the sleeping man. The man squirmed for a second but immediately settled down. The two soldiers hoisted the unconscious man up and lifted him out of the room. He did not know where the man was dragged to, nor why, but at that moment, he knew he had to escape.
Time ticked by, Alan was full of excitement and nervousness for today was the day. Playing his escape over and over in his head, Alan knew that his chances of survival were low. However, he’d rather die than spend another night in this nightmare. At the brink of dawn, Alan slowly slid out of his bed. The guards were due for a shift change in a few minutes and would be the most tired. Hidden by the cover of darkness, Alan stepped outside the room as a chilling breeze hit him. Powered by adrenaline, he snuck through the thick bushes and past more guards. His heart thumping, Alan reached the barbed wire fence. Seeing a low point on the fence, Alan ripped off his shirt and covered the sharp barbs. Using his remaining energy, Alan started to clamber up the fence. Sharp points still cut him through his shirt and he was losing energy. The sun was rising and Alan didn’t have time, he was too weak from his months in the hole and was about to give up. Just as he was about to fall, a hand started to push at his feet. Alarmed, Alan looked down and was relieved to see his new friend, Robert’s silhouette. With the extra boost, Alan made it over the fence, looking back Robert was already climbing. Even though Robert was thin, he looked like a bodybuilder compared to Alan and made it up the fence with little trouble. However, jumping down the fence, Robert’s shirt caught one of the barbs and he yelped in surprise as he dangled on the fence.
That yelp alerted the guards. As the soldiers clambered to get their guns and rush towards the sound, Alan was desperately trying to free Robert. Grabbing his friend’s feet, Alan started to pull as he saw the soldiers close in on them. Just as the soldiers reached the escapees, Robert’s shirt gave way and he fell onto the thick forest floor. Without a second thought, the two started to bolt. Gunshots followed the two and wood splintered beside them. As the canopy of the forest engulfed the two, stray bullets still flew past. Suddenly, Robert tripped and his leg gave an ugly crack as he fell to the floor. As Robert went to help his friend, a bullet struck Robert in the heart and he fell limp.
Unable to process what happened, Alan turned around and started to run. Even when he could not hear the gunshots nor his pursuers, Alan continued to run. The man ran till the night and settled down by a small river. Alan could not sleep, sounds in the forest startled him and visions of Robert haunted the man. The sun reluctantly rose that morning as Alan continued his venture. Not wanting to get lost, Alan followed the river as he knew it would lead to the ocean.
The walk was gruelling, hunger chewed at Alan, but he continued, one step at a time. Hours later, the river enlargened and the trees dispersed. Even as night fell, Alan didn’t stop. Despite his raw feet and throbbing legs, Alan could no longer feel the pain. It must have been midnight as Alan’s feet touch the sand and the roar of the river grew into the splashes of waves. Falling onto the beach, Alan fainted due to fatigue.
On the next day, Alan was awoken by the chugging of ships and the roar of planes. Stumbling onto his feet, Alan was prepared to run, instead, he froze in fear as he saw the huge fleet of ships ahead. Like a tidal wave, the fleet came closer. There was no outrunning the Japanese this time, Alan thought in despair. However, something was off, upon closer inspection, Alan couldn’t believe his eyes. Instead of the infamous rising sun flag of the Japanese, Alan saw the Stars and Stripes. The Americans were here.