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by Gen Del Raye

Admiral Onishi owns a ledger that holds the war. The first column lists the reasons for defeat, and the second the hope for victory. He holds it at night in his barracks in Mabalakat, and he can’t sleep. There are no lights, but the stars are bright enough to cast shadows. He sits up with his back against the gentle trade winds blowing from the mountains. He tallies up the columns. He wants to see which will win.

The first column is full of the names and numbers of American machines. There are many of them, more than he can count, more than he can even imagine. There are names like F6F and P-51 that stand for fighter planes that are faster and more powerful than any of his own. There are names like B-17 and B-29 that stand for bombers that fly so high their pilots wear flight suits and oxygen tanks, while his have to make do with wool jackets and deep breaths. Listed in this column are the names of twenty-seven American aircraft carriers, while his navy has none. The names of American cargo vessels and resupply ships that deliver food, fuel, and even magazines right up to their front lines, while his soldiers starve. Listed in this column is an industrial juggernaut that has already destroyed his own.

The second column is also long, and it too holds names. It holds the names of the brave, the desperate, and the helpless. It holds the names of boys and men whose bodies will be asked to make up for the lack of machines. It holds the names of the hundreds who will fly their planes into American ships because they lost too much fuel to make it back to base. It holds the names of the thousands who will pilot suicide planes, suicide motorboats, or even suicide bombs dropped from high altitude onto American steel. It holds the names of the crew of the battleship Yamato, who will go to war with high hopes but without the protection of any air support at all. It holds the names of the three thousand teenagers who will test a concept for a diver-operated mine. It holds the name of Nishina Sekio, who will design and pilot a suicide torpedo, and carry in that torpedo the ashes of a friend who will have died the same way.

Admiral Onishi thinks that he can calculate the balance of the first column and the second. This is not his fault. This is the logic of a ledger. The first column contains the losses. The second the profits. If he can only come up with some conversion, he thinks, some procedure, he could do it. If only he knew how many people equal one B-29. How many for a P-51, or an aircraft carrier. Admiral Onishi’s ledger holds machines in one column, and bodies in the other, and he thinks the second can compensate for the first.

Gen Del Raye grew up in Kyoto, Japan, and lived there until he was eighteen. Currently he is studying marine biology in Honolulu, Hawaii. His stories have appeared in FORTH Magazine and are forthcoming in Pidgeonholes and Petrichor Machine.