Gen Del Raye
How hard are you willing to try? This is what they want to know. You can circle I Don’t, I Do, or With Passion. They think that if you try hard enough, you can win something. Of course they do. Everybody does. Even your family, even your wife and children and the house that you have to go back to if and when this is ever over, think that way. This is why you circle With Passion. Because if you try hard enough, you think, if you put enough suffering on the line, you have to win something.
The next morning, as you strap into your aging plane, you know it is a lie. One glance from the flight instructor tells you as much. He’s old, almost thirty, and he knows more about the war than you ever will. In his eyes you can see the truth of all the rumors—that the F6F is faster than you are, that their engines are twice as powerful, that the steel plates against their backs are so thick not even a hundred 7.7mm rounds could pierce it, that they have skill and resolve and that you, a kid with barely a year’s flight training in a museum piece with fuel made from pine sap and low-grade gasoline, are nothing more than their toy. With or without passion, but with pain and sacrifice, you will be shot down. With or without passion, but with real blood, you will turn the inside of the cockpit red.
Not this cockpit, of course. This cockpit is just for training although other training planes, other museum pieces are being pushed into service even now on the Chiran airfield in Kyushu. A few months from now you will own one, your own personal plane bolted to your own personal bomb on the cratered tarmac, and that With Passion will give you one day and part of the night in a town you don’t know, with a girl you’ve never met, to live out the rest of your life. Your commanding officer will want you to make it look like bravery and loyalty. But when you run across that tarmac in the pre-dawn darkness you will do it out of love, and you will do it out of fear.
You will do it because people are dying. Because they die by the tens of thousands every day and they will keep dying that way for as far into the future as you dare to imagine. You will do it because something has to be done. Because if you put everything you ever had and ever will on the line, you can win something. Of course you can. You’re almost sure of it.
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 are forthcoming in Pidgeonholes, Petrichor Machine, Mulberry Fork Review, and others.