Now I have spotted my target. Six miles above the earth, at this distance, it is but a moving speck leading contrails. Soon it will loom within my wind screen as a vast winged B-29 bomber. It is headed for the city of my birth, Hiroshima.
I have trained for this exact moment for many months. Jibaku, self-crashing a fighter plane into a bomber, requires more skill than most believe. An eye-blink, a hesitation, and you will miss the one chance you get at this speed. My fate is sealed within this cockpit. It will be my coffin. I have no parachute. The wheels are locked and I cannot land.
My mother taught me that the kami-kaze, the divine wind which would save our nation, the world itself one day from destruction, would not be an act of killing. She believed that an act of compassion, falling from a white cloud, like a tear from the goddess Kwannon, would reverse history itself. This act would spring from selfless sincerity, makoto, pure as the cloud itself.
I must not listen to her voice now. There is a bomb, painted black, embodying contempt for life itself, which will drop from the edge of cold space if I do not succeed.
My name, Harukaze, ‘peaceful spring wind’, was chosen by my grandmother. Its sound pleased my father, who did not like the path which the “China Wave Men” were dragging Japan down. He opposed the invasion of Manchuria and for this he was assassinated when I was seven. It was certain he would have been elected Prime Minister and Pearl Harbor would not have been bombed.
“History never really changes through violence”, he often said. But there is no time to linger on pacifist sentiment when Death is shadowing your own city. I get into diving position.
When the submarine off Tinian Island alerted our base that the special B-29’s were taking off, we six pilots prepared ourselves for death. Others wrote last letters home. I composed my death poem. I wish to leave something behind of my recurring nightmare about Hiroshima.
‘I see the blind horses left stranded on the bridge. They can hear the running water in their thirst.’
We fly the new high-altitude fighters named “Violet Lightning”. It is always Zen irony to conceal violence beneath a beautiful name. There will be nothing subtle in my act of destruction. I will guide 5,000 kg of bomb-laden machine into another at a speed approaching sound. Blind physics will do the rest. The eleven men in the Enola Gay bomber have been told that by killing thousands they will shorten the war, saving lives. I have been assured that by killing twelve men, myself included, I will save thousands of lives in Hiroshima. I do not have the confidence of God in such cold mathematics. If each life is infinite in value, how can I weigh them in any scale?
I dive through a white cloud, unusual at this height, and in its milky embrace, seem to see the face of Kwannon, long hidden during war. I remember why I love my father and mother in these my last seconds of life.
I am seven, flying a beautiful kite, made with great care by my mother. It is strong in its very subtlety, like silk, like her patience. She is speaking to my father about things above my understanding. “History is changed by a moment of hesitation,“ she urges. “Then we awaken from nightmare.”
Some soldiers appear along the road. They are pushing and pulling, cursing and beating, a poor old horse with staring ribs. He is bound for the slaughterhouse. When he could no longer pull field-cannon, the Army had no more use for him. With tears in my eyes, I beg my father to stop this terrible cruel thing. He does, ordering the soldiers to leave the horse in our care. For the first time, I realize he must be someone of importance.
At the final second before impact, I cannot do it. I only know with certainty what my own hand on the death-throttle will do. If I can only protect life by taking it, where will it end but in Fire? My plane spins earthward like a falling maple leaf. I seem to fall through Time again.
The old horse looked up from his grazing at the crowds surrounding the house. Harukaze Hayashi, seven, was reluctant to abandon his kite at his mother’s urging. His father had been elected Prime Minister. There was to be no war over Manchuria.
High overhead, there was a white cloud which stirred in him some memory of a life he could not possibly have known.
John Impey is a long time peace activist past the prime of standing at barricades. He enjoys re-telling myths as they interface with our cyber-Civilization. Only late in life discovered the computer, before that painting dancing horses and wily bison on cave walls by the light of that new power, Fire.