I imagined I'd arrive home to trumpets and balloons, well, maybe not actual trumpets but at least a banner or two. How it had turned out I could not have envisaged three short years ago when I set off in my shiny shoes and stiff uniform. Off to war.(more) I had been naive and wet behind the ears. Before then I had not seen war, felt war, suffered, seen suffering and experienced the death or both comerade and hope all in one. As the van came closer to my home town my stomach began to contract. It was as if there was a wet, cold bag of cement in there that had been dropped from a great height. I began to pick out the familiar sights along the road, the diner on the edge of town, my old high school, looking strangely small and run-down. It had once been the very hub of my existance. I had been prom King, it all seemed so futile and childish now. The sky sat on the shoulders of the town heavily. As we began to make the turn into my estate I felt an overwhelming urge to ask them to stop, to turn around. I wanted more than anything to jump out of the back of the van and to run away, to hide, to-banish the thought, be one of those who did not return home. As we rounded the bend to my Willow Grove I spied a group gathered, shivering outside the house. The lights blazed and there were some token balloons. The van purred to a halt. Maurice, silent by nature looked at me as he switched the engine off. I caught his eye. He patted my arm, "It'll be OK, lad" he said as he began to wheel me out.(less)
"You can change your mind at any time." The nurse was very soft spoken and reassuring. It must be a very strange job to have. Part nurse, part coroner.
"I understand." Tim replied, matching her quiet tones.
"There is no shame at all."
Shame. (more) He wasn't sure about that word. Shame. He wondered if it was the word she meant to use. Was this a lost in translation thing. Probably not. I'm sure she had done this so many times she had to have chosen the word intentionally.
Going home was never an option. He knew he would be received well. His family would be delighted. The girls would anyway. They would welcome him home like a war hero. Mark might not be so happy. They had said many things in the last few days. He wasn't sure how much of it was said because of the high emotion. He wasn't sure how much of it could be taken back.
The nurse closed the folder and took a deep breath.
"We will meet you in 2 hours to take you to the office. I must warn you it does not look nice or welcoming from the outside but we have made it very comfortable within."
"We will give you the first mixture to suppress the gag reflex and after that has settled, we will give you the poison."
He looked into her eyes. He wanted to see if she had used that word to scare him. Was this another, final tactic to weed out the people who were not 100% sure.
She nodded and gave him a weak smile. He was about to stand when she reached out and touched him. It was a gentle resting of her hand on his.
The second thing Masayoshi wanted to do in his new apartment was hang up all the awards he'd received as Samurai Flamenco. (The first thing, obviously, was to start building another tokusatsu museum, but it didn't take long considering his old collection was lost in his previous apartment's explosion.) (more) Goto helped him hang a couple of shelves next to the dining room table, and Masayoshi lined everything up, beaming the whole time.
When he got to the ribbon at the bottom of the box, the smile dropped from his face entirely.
He was frozen there for a good three minutes before Goto came over and rested a hand on Masayoshi's arm. "Something wrong?" He peered down into the box himself and a cold weight dropped in his stomach. Of course -- it was the Chief For A Day ribbon.
"I should just throw it out," Masayoshi said quietly, closing his eyes and biting his lip. "I don't know why I ever kept it."
Goto's hand slid up Masayoshi's arm to rest on his shoulder as he sidled around to look into Masayoshi's eyes. His other hand moved to the other shoulder for good measure. "We've been over this, Yoshi. You know that it wasn't your fault."
"But it WAS," Masayoshi wailed, and the anguish on his face ripped through Goto like a serrated blade. "I wished for it, it happened because I wanted it to! Those officers died because of me!"
Goto slid his thumb beneath Masayoshi's chin, tipping his head up to look into his eyes. "If you really think that," Goto said, "then you're a bigger idiot than I thought."
With a miserable cry, Masayoshi buried his face in Goto's shirt and started sobbing.
Goto rubbed slow circles on Masayoshi's back. "We'll throw it out," he said.(less)
I'm not even a Man, or they told me when I wrote my name on the list. "Conscientious Objector." They might as well have labelled me "war villain."
(more) That was how I felt for months after: the coward letting down the country, the half-man who stayed at home while his betters fought and died across the Channel.
One day, I decided I'd been called "coward" one too many times. I signed up for the Ambulance Corps. Soon I was on my way to where the Men had dug themselves into the ground again, to sit, wait, and die. There I would save lives; there I would be called a war hero for the first time, and hate it. I worked not for war, but peace.(less)