It has been revealed to me some time after my latest entry that the General had authorised the retreat from Sanananda several hours before our patrol was supposed to return. Record-keeping has rarely been a strength of mine, and less so considering the circumstances of our flight. Nonetheless, I shall try my best to elaborate.
We met the Lieutenant sitting under a large tree some four or five hours after the Douglas planes drove us into the jungle. He was frail and delirious before; he was alone, unarmed and barely able to walk at the time. This green hell we crawled through had taken its toll on everyone: my uncle, and I will not refer to him by any other name from now on, had spend his time amidst the mosquitoes' starving drone, and I swear that if the rash of his dengue had been photographed, no nation on Earth would think of sending away her children into this writhing dark. I myself had forgotten what a meal feels like for days, as had everyone else.
What the enemy did not tear apart and burn in their fury, the jungle strangled, drowned, turned into the dead with their eyes wide open. We had been soldiers, and then the beasts of the forest would scarcely look upon us. We had been told not to fear the enemy's wrath, but what of the jungle? This was no mere enemy: its life spring forth from death, its stretches of vines over our dirt beds and its darkening pools reaching into our open wounds.
These were, of course, my worries of the day.
Pte. Ota took over after my turn to watch. He woke me with a light tap to the shoulder at three in the morning and gestured toward to a figure next to a nearby pool. It was Uncle, his heart beating no more. We woke the rest of the party from their sleep, pale and barely able to stand. The Sergeant, having no one to watch over his shoulders now, ordered that the body be cast into the pool to poison the enemy in their thirst. It was not a large pool, and the jungle hid away all signs of humanity in our surrounding. Pte. Kamimura hesitated to sit up, and revolted at the idea. The Sergeant said nothing, then wrestled Uncle's shin gunto off his belt, raised it over the objecting man and struck him down in one blow. It was of poor made, but it did give the pool another body to devour.
We crept through the underbrush in complete silence throughout the next day, not wanting to bring down the Sergeant's wrath upon us. Come nightfall I once again took the first turn to stand watch. There were three of us, running away from the relentless rumbles of the enemy's war machine in distant roads and jungles and having no directions but the whims of a deranged man. The Sergeant and Ota laid down and plunged into deep sleep, their livid forms limp under the moonless sky. I sat on a log, listening and waiting for disturbances in the bushes. The night grew colder. The fever went down on my head, tempting me to fall asleep and abandon my comrades. And then, the moon came and I saw it.
First it was a shapeless spot of dark between the trees. Then it came closer and closer, and I saw there the silhouette of a man. It was Uncle, his spotless uniform gleaming under the pale moonlight. As he approached, I stood upright without the weight of my feverish body where it should be. I stared forward and gave my salute. Uncle simply gave a smile and, in his generosity, embraced me. All was bliss, and I remembered little of what happened afterward.
When I woke up, Ota was nowhere to be found. I woke up the Sergeant and we crept along the bushes to search for the missing man. We spent an hour, found nothing, and returned to where we left our equipment. Then we saw a shape leaning on a large tree, not five metres from where we were. It was him, a bayonet thrust into his heart, his eyes wide open in shock and his arms in front of him as if wanting for an embrace. I neglected to check whose bayonet it was. Serves him right, I thought. He did not wake up for his turn to take watch (an inaction I later found the cause of), and he did nothing in the defence of Uncle's body. Then I turned to the Sergeant. His back against me, away from my rising anger, he simply told me to pack up immediately.
As the heat of the afternoon penetrated the looming canopy, we discovered several of our fellow survivors from the 21st Independent Mixed, or at least what remained of them. Their sergeant, a young man around my age, had his sidearm besides his skeletal mass. His six men were lying around their encampment, each with a bullet in his head. The right sleeve of his uniform was soaked with blood from the inside, and the Sergeant rolled it back out of curiosity. There was a sign carved upon it with sharp twig, two triangles against each other. He simply shrugged and told me to retrieve what could be useful.
It was broad daylight. We were in a plain, surrounded by towering palm trees. I saw Uncle standing on a hillcrest and ran to him. Again, he embraced me and all was bliss. Then I felt my right palm on the rough surface of a rock.
What remained of the Sergeant lied there on that distant plain. His blood washing the green of the vegetation, I could not help but think: he deserved it. He was filth, nothing but filth, upon Uncle's eternal memory. The filth is thrown aside as it should be; only the worthy may go on.
And that, journal-san, was how I find myself on this hill, looking over the little village in the distance bathed in pale grey mist. I have my rifle, and when I do not have it I still have my bayonet, and when I do not have it I have myself to offer. He may ask that I go and act on his will upon Tokyo, Shanghai, Brisbane or Honolulu, but for now this all is the world I have.
I look forward to his embrace still.