Dramatic historical fiction based on the Manhattan Project to develop the atom bomb in WW2
Chapter 1: Crucibles
Miyuki Kimura, August 6, 1945
Miyuki Kimura felt as if a dagger plunged right through her, striking deeper than her blistered skin, sharper than her broken arm, and fiercer than her oozing eye. As her brain struggled back toward consciousness, her seared throat and lungs scorched like a pent-up volcano. The other miseries broke through in fleeting jolts only as her nerves allowed them past a traffic jam of terror.
She wheezed in attempts to pull free of whatever was restraining her from behind. Confusion. Why this pain? What happened? Her awareness slowly formed--twisting, dissolving, and re-forming--as she slouched among smoking ruins.
Miyuki's mental picture of her surroundings did not match the scene now appearing from the haze. Her retained image had her as a petite young woman in a plain white dress, bent over a microphone that stood on a decrepit wooden desk. She was shuffling papers, brushing long black hair from her face, and sending coded messages from a cranny in the basement of an Imperial Japanese Army signal office.
The next thing she knew, she was here waking in a tangle of pain, blood, and silence.
I'm still in the seat of my chair, she realized. But what happened to the rest of it? And my back... why so wet and clammy? Wincing, she turned her head. She was pressed into muddy earth where cinder blocks had been chipped out of the basement wall, forming one of several arches a couple of meters tall and wide. Yes, that's right, she remembered. They hauled away blocks to build defenses against an American invasion.
Miyuki shuddered, envisioning American soldiers. Asami!" A shockwave of fear for her sister overwhelmed her. Visions of rape and torture. So young and pretty. I promised to protect her. I must fight through this. For her sake!
From one story underground, Miyuki gazed around, holding her good right hand over her injured left eye, feeling intense heat but seeing no flame. As her vision cleared she noticed two worlds around her, divided by a line inscribed across the concrete floor. That boundary stretched like the edge of a shadow projected from the lip of the gaping hole above, where a three-story building once stood. Her side of the basement was black and charred; the other, etched bone-white and throwing off such heat that she had to keep her good arm raised to shield her face, turning to the side and stealing quick glances.
She tried to focus.
An earthquake? A tsunami? No, not that. It can't be.
No. An explosion. A big bomb!
But maybe this is a dream. It can't be real. Yes, yes, a nightmare...
Miyuki's head slumped to her chest. Pain soon stabbed her back to awareness. As she once more surveyed her ruin, too stunned for emotion, there was no other explanation. It was a bomb.
Despite her muddle she understood the irony. Because she had been working as a lowly woman, crammed into a dank, dripping corner that no man would have, the main force of the explosion had passed over her head. Most everything on her side of the basement was now dry and smoking. But the opposite side was eaten away right down to bare concrete, twisted metal, and shards of bone.
Miyuki sat, tongue lolling from her mouth, until the ringing in her ears subsided. She made a few grunts. Her right ear worked, but not the left. She looked up in hope. But outside her hole was a total void. No shouts, no birds--just ghastly pall. Somehow, broken as she was, she had to get herself out of the basement. There would be no rescue.
What terrors await me up there?
Struggling free from the earth's clammy grip, she tried to stand, but crashed to the floor. Her jaw flung wide in a scream that only hissed. She steeled herself and crawled with her good arm toward the concrete stairs. In horror she watched a wiry clump of her hair, skin still attached, plop to the floor.
Her sense of smell returned in pulses, thumping her brain with the stench of charred wood and singed hair.
Panic attacked like a fire-breathing dragon. How could she fight it? Wallowing in agony... that was a weakness she knew would destroy her. She must battle the urge to collapse.
Miyuki stopped and focused on her father's training in the way of bushido. The way of bravery, sacrifice, and meditation. Turning to sit on the bottom stair, she reached deep within her mind and envisioned a way back.
She pictured herself atop a craggy peak of pain and despair. Storm clouds and lightening all around. She stumbled downhill and across boulders until meeting a raging river of grief. Its icy surge would numb her, she knew, as she plunged headfirst. Letting the torrent tumble her along, she caught glimpses of the mountain fading on the horizon. Floating to warmer, more peaceful waters, she found herself drifting in crystalline currents, skimming across rippled white sands. Slowing everything down, she made time to celebrate the birds, butterflies, and swaying palms along shore as she floated into a blue expanse. Her last trace of anguish melted in tranquility.
Miyuki drew comfort from these meditations. She sought strength from those who had tumbled the mountain before her. I've seen so much pain and suffering, she thought, but so far it has passed me by. Now it's my turn. I must be strong like the others. Healed a bit mentally, if not physically, she pressed ahead and up the stairs, cautiously poking her head up into the missing world above.