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Stories from within
   

We are all still here


How am I still enthralled by this place? After how long? Since I broke the watch Noriko gave me, I canít tell the hour of the day let alone the year. But its been at least twenty five monsoons from when I first started counting. Five since Ichiro died, an old man at war. Its almost impossible to think that when we first arrived how awful and fascinating the jungle seemed to us, we were constantly saying how unbelievable our stories would sound when we got home, and they would have done, however, Ichiro isnít going home, and neither am I. While he was alive home seemed a possibility. Neither of us would have contemplated this, we had seen the company numbers dwindle, rapidly at first, when we were green and inexperienced, our arrival opposed by the Australians. They left, and shelled us constantly for five weeks, company HQ was destroyed and the most senior survivor was sergeant Matsuda, but the melancholy that this place induces in some, claimed him within two years. His patriotic fervour, his rousing speeches about it being time for us to take our rightful place among the world powers, how we must rid ourselves of businessmen and politicians. How, only then, could the military be answerable to his Imperial Majesty, gradually subsided into two years of tears, and a single shot, Itís a fate that overtook many, a beautiful and savage place this, with many hidden threats. Food eventually ran out, at first we were wasteful a companies rations for no more than two dozen men, we cooked more than we needed, stored it badly. Consequently it succumbed to damp, mildew, and rats. As the food ran down to sufficiently low levels, and hunger started to change men into true denizens of this place, armed groups fought. First it was for the remaining food, and then banana, cassava, places to fish. Hatreds developed. Some from before the disintegration some as a result of it, Within perhaps ten years fourteen souls remained, living apart on two peaks and tacitly splitting the island in half. Magic became a reality, shrines that had been erected became sacrificial altars propitiating no particular deity but the jungle. Eventually like the food, ammunition ran down to what an individual had secured for himself. Weapons, if not cleaned daily, rusted almost as you watched. Coming across any one of us nobody would recognise an Imperial Marine they would barely be able to identify what they saw as a human being, not from the rags and skins held together with more rags and skins. The wary animal stare, poised to run, the only difference to that staring animal, being that the lips drawn back from the teeth, do not reveal gleaming canines, rather yellowing stumps. Each group became convinced the other had turned to cannibalism, for during the darkest time before the jungle taught us, that survival was open only to animals, fear of the rule that dog eats dog brought us to starvation, as a result we became the beasts that survived and prowled here. I heard the loudspeaker again today, its been years since I have heard a human voice, a Japanese voice, I sat on the headland until dawn, watching the turtles early morning fishing, diving and turning, their webbed feet breaking the surface like sharks fins, I had never seen Ichiro leave the water so fast, the first time we saw that. The sun came up huge and intense, instantly heating the jungle, small beautiful lizards on the rocks, and me. I walked, taking our long route to here, and now I can hear the loudspeaker again. This is our island, we are all still here over every mile. This is our Island. It made us.

ĎIíve found him Sam, over here, heís topped himself. He must have thought we were still at war, I thought they had to commit hari kari or something.í

ĎSeppuku, George, he was probably just an ordinary soldier. And I think he just wanted to stay with his friend, look, thereís a grave over there, and a bowl of rice.

John Cox