By Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839 – 1892)

An old man, a retired general of the former Japanese Empire, had long escaped Tokyo and retreated to his cabin in the woods miles away from the nuclear epicenters. Alone, wounded from several battles, and still addicted to the smell of used bullets, the general took his rifle (bolt-action) and satisfied his urges by killing the little boars that scurry along the forest floor. At first, he smiles at the squeals that penetrated the deep woods. “Bliss,” the old general would laugh as he took the heads and polished the skulls to compare each boar he killed. The bigger ones made him the proudest. The smaller ones, though less imprrssive, still made him snicker. Tea, rice, some fish from the nearby river, and the daily hunting were all he needed to survive. 

Five days passed. The radio the general brought blabbered about the surrender and pleads with the occupying Americans. He shut off the radio and hid one riffle bullet in a vase made and polished by his wife. “They won’t touch me alive.” Another two days finsihed. More boars die, but the general notices two sets of fresh footprints, one west of his cabin, and one east. He checked his bullets: only nine left in his gun. By his sick instincts, the general already wastes five. No time to gather the bodies. 

For two nights, sleep became a rarity. Footsteps lingered outside his home. The general swore to ignore the male and female voices, which spoke in different tongues. They called his name “Shogo Takahashi” with growing anger. The general’s name was soon indistinguishable that of the squealing of of a dozen boars. The general took his rifle, still four bullets inside, “five bullets left,” and found the intruders on his doorsteps: one man with a green attire and disgusting beard, and an emaciated woman with hair extending to her knees. They didn’t have any weapons. No guns. No knives. 

“Fools,” the general boasted. “You come here from faraway lands to challenge me without the decency of arming yourselves.”

“It doesn’t matter where I’m from,” the male intruder said. “I don’t care about my country.” The beams of moonlight through the trees showed the decor of an American private. “That’s not why I’m here.” He starts walking to the general. “Once I learned your name, you became my mission. Your existence drove me here. Knowing thay you were somewhere still breathing drove me here. Your subordinates spoke too much about you, general.” A ukulele materializes in his hand along with a dog tag reading “Jaime de Sousa.” The burnt wood and missing strings made a deafening tone once played. “These were my father’s.”

The girl took her step forward. A face with sunken eyes and skin with deep craters as the surface of the moon. She spoke, but no words came out. Her lips, sewn together with inperial thread before being burned with acid, pulsed painfully like a second heart. She tosses a photo on the ground next to some boars that wandered close by. 

The general sees two of his soldiers next to a bettered woman with makeup forced on her face while wearing a kimono. “Send this to the boys,” a note written in japanese read, “Best regards from our province in Korea.” 

The general fired his rifle four times. The bullets went through the nearby boars, but left the two intruders unscathed. The general swung his rifle as a club, but still is unable to touch the Korean or the American. He falls onto the leaves on the forest floor and remains still as the insects take refuge inside his sleeves.

“You should check that vase,” the American said. “Didn’t you leave one more?”

The general turned silently towards the cabin and reached for his wife’s vase. The intruders stand and warch as the general panics while digging into the rough bottom of the vase.

“Don’t you remember?” Jamie’s son said with a shaking voice. He and the disfigured woman walk inside as welcome guests. “You wasted that bullet yesterday.”


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