I don’t usually post excerpts from a story that hasn’t yet found a home, but this year’s Araw ng Kagitingan resonates with me in a special way. For most of March, I was working on a short story that required research on the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines, and that led me to accounts of the Fall of Bataan and Corregidor, as well as the infamous Death March. It’s hard to imagine now, a short sixty-odd years later, the atrocities faced by soldiers and citizens, Filipinos and Americans, during that dark period in our history. Some of the accounts I read were detached reports, others transcriptions of first-hand experiences–each of them reached across the gulf of time and space to make me feel horror, and anger, and an immense relief not to have experienced war in my lifetime.
I finished the story, but while it lies in my hard drive pending a rewrite, I figured there were worse ways to commemorate Araw ng Kagitingan than posting an excerpt on the blog. I wish there were more spec fic (especially alternate history stories) out there dealing with this particular timeframe, but in the meantime I’ll certainly do what I can to explore it.
To everyone who fought for us (and living through the occupation counts), those who fight for us still, and those who believe we are worth fighting for… thank you.
Now, here’s the excerpt:
The symbolism of each candle is bestowed by its position on the table. The leftmost candle represents Habagat, the south wind, and the Hunab, the wind of malice that seeps up from the lower world. The candle also represents Birth, a fact which some find puzzling. It shouldn’t be. A great number of things are birthed in desperate, stifling darkness. Our world, this new world, is one of those things.
I can never remember exactly who first proposed to bring the Old Gods back, but I know that in the trenches of Bataan, choking on dust and clots and hunger, it seemed preferable to the alternative. Not for ourselves–we knew that we were the walking dead, even before word reached us that ‘Dugout Doug’ MacArthur had abandoned us–but for those who we would be leaving defenseless.
I remember that Emilio, the slim, effeminate alopagan, was the one who made first contact. I remember how the ground shook that night–the rest of the camp thought it was an earthquake, but it had simply been the Gods laying down their demands, imposing conditions before they would defend the peoples who abandoned them. We did not balk at the number of sacrifices they desired… we knew that before the month was out, many of us would be dead anyway.
We just didn’t realize how many.
[Image source: Wikipedia]