Lai Yun Ting 2nd Prize

Congratulations to Lai Yun Ting (15309), student of Senior 2 Science B Class from Kuen Cheng High School for being awarded
2nd Prize Winner for Tunku Abdul Rahman University College Short Story Writing Competition 2019

Title: After 1102

After 1102

    A blinding light pierced into his eyes, followed by a loud rumble. His body reacted automatically, and he dropped to the ground, covering his head. The ground trembled, and his heart was pumping hard in his chest. Suddenly, he heard his mother’s voice, gently calling him, “Mahiro-chan, Mahiro-chan!” He looked up and saw his mother, father and younger brother walking towards him, smiling. “Otousan! Okaasan! Koichi!” He got up and ran to them, but suddenly they disappeared, and he could not see them anywhere. “Otousan! Okaasan! Koichi!” he shouted again, and then his eyes jerked open.

    It was just a dream. Mahiro realized. He lay for a while, letting the last of his tears fall to his damp pillow. He took a deep breath, and went out of the house.

    They’re in a better place now. Mahiro told himself. Live on for them. They can kill our bodies but not our souls and spirits. This is a new beginning, live the best you can for them.

    Mahiro went to the small field next to his new home, where a kind farmer had let him and Kenta, another survivor, stay with him, while they helped him in the fields. It was a couple miles away from the bomb epicenter. Kenta was already at work, his sleeves rolled up, exposing the scars on his arms. Mahiro got to work, but after seeing Kenta’s scars, he was reminded of that fateful day again. He felt something well up inside him, and what he saw that day repeated itself in his mind again.

    August 9, 1945, was when ‘Fat Man’ exploded over Nagasaki. In one day, he had lost both his parents and his younger brother Koichi, and also had a little girl not over the age of six die in his arms.

    He remembered the bright light, the loud rumbling, him running towards his brother’s school to look for his brother. He remembered the unexplainable stench along the way, the naked bodies strewn on the streets with their hair and skin burnt off.

    He remembered the little girl calling out to him in a state of delusion, thinking that he was her elder brother. “Onii-san, Onii-san,” she called softly. He remembered kneeling down next to her, tears flowing down his cheeks involuntarily as he held her in his arms. All she said was “It hurts, Onii-san,” and he felt the life flow out of her.

    He remembered being choked with sadness and filled with fear, crying all the way to his brother’s school, only to see the charred remains of the school building, and bodies all around. He remembered turning over bodies and losing hope by the second, then running to the factory where his parents worked. He remembered hearing his mother calling to him “Mahiro-chan, Mahiro-chan,” before breathing her final breath after seeing him for the last time, with his already lifeless father next to her.

    He remembered the long walk home, feeling hopeless, with no will and strength to do anything anymore. He had spent two days at home, doing nothing, until his surviving neighbors who were leaving the place came and persuaded him to leave with them. He had refused to leave, until the wise Obasan from next door knocked some sense into him, telling him to not waste his precious life away but to live on as well as he can.

    Mahiro remembered his journey to this new place, where he found the kind farmer and settled down. He couldn’t sleep properly the first few nights as he kept  on dreaming about all the horrible sights he saw. In the mornings, he was like a zombie when he moved around and looked like one too. After few days, the nightmares stopped, and he could sleep well and regained his strength. He was filled with a new hope and vigor for life.

    Otousan, Okaasan, and Koichi are at a better place already, thought Mahiro. They are expecting me to live on well, and to live on for them. I need to live on for them as a testimony for them and the other innocent people wrongly killed. Only by that, I can consider myself doing something for them. Life is precious. They lost theirs before they could finish theirs. What right do I have to waste it? I need to appreciate mine. Live on! vowed Mahiro.

    The farmer had taught him how to farm, and Mahiro worked as hard as he could, as a way of living his life well. He embraced his new life and surroundings with positivity. He did not want to end up being a useless person with no will in life. Mahiro did not forget what he had vowed to do, and had kept that vow up till now.

    Mahiro thought of when he decided to go back to school. His father had always reminded him that education was the key to a bright future, and Mahiro wanted to make his father proud. He enrolled in a nearby school and continued his studies. He was a diligent student, and studied even harder than before and was also active in sports. Some of the students in school had also lost their loved ones, and always had a sad, angry or disturbed face. Mahiro would continuously encourage them to not dwell on the painful past, but to treat this situation as a new beginning and to live on well for their loved ones who had passed away.

    Mahiro worked in the fields until sundown, and ate dinner with Kenta and the farmer and his wife. They were in their 60s, but did not have any children, so they were very happy to have Kenta and him to accompany them and help out in the fields. After dinner, they talked about many things, about their families, about their likes and interests, about the war, about peace, and also about what would happen if the bombing did not take place. Instead of feeling bitter and vengeful towards the Americans for causing the death of his family, Mahiro saw it in a way that at least, they had allowed the war to end with Japan’s surrender, and that to a certain extent, peace had come.

    Now, months after the bombing, Mahiro’s dreams about his family are not about them dying anymore, but in his dreams they’re smiling. With this, Mahiro was filled with strength to carry on and be able to keep his promise to them and to himself, to embrace this new beginning with hope and positivity, and to live on for all the bomb victims.