Alex here.

Today’s been an absolute whirlwind from start to finish but for the first time since I left Osaka I’m starting to feel like this might have a happy ending.

We all awoke super early this morning to a distant boom, as if a thunderstorm were approaching. Risa whimpered a bit, but her folks held her close. I told Taro to stay put, that I’d go check it out. I grabbed my pack of Seven Stars’ and ventured out into the clearing. As I lit up, I could hear a faint whine that was unmistakably an aircraft. It was still before dawn, so visibility was poor, but after scrambling to the top of a small hill nearby I was able to spot what was clearly a C-130 – and it was coming down hard. Flames sputtered from her engines and the fuselage was burning violently. It was too dark to check for smoke trails, so I don’t know if it exploded mid-flight or if something brought her down. As I watched, she made her final descent into a valley, only a few kilometers south of our camp.

The impact was loud enough to get everyone awake and out of bed. I explained what I saw and told them I had to go check it out. Taro and Charlie began grabbing their supplies, much to Ayako’s chagrin. I stopped them, though. There was no way I could let them come with me. The amount of attention that would be attracted to that location would put it as arguably the most dangerous place in all of Wakayama at that point. Charlie wasn’t happy to be left behind, but I couldn’t risk everyone. I grabbed a single bottle of water, a knife, and my cigarettes. Everything else stayed with them.

I made my way down the mountainside on one of the bikes and into the valley below. It took me almost an hour to get down to the nearest road, but once I was there it only took me a few minutes to follow it to the nearest town, Hongu. Once there, I found a house with a car in the driveway and decided it would be much safer for me to have some wheels – both to get to the wreckage before the screamers did, and to escape when they eventually caught up. I checked the doors. All locked. I found a sizable rock and smashed the driver’s side window. Now, I’ve never hot-wired a car before, but I gave it a shot. As it turns out, it’s not as easy as it looks. I eventually had to move onto the next building, which was a small corner store with a small kei-truck parked out front. Fortunately, the window was down and I didn’t have to smash the glass to get in. The keys – bless your heart, Japan – were sitting in the ignition. All that effort, wasted.

By now the sun was up high enough to make visibility a bit easier and I could see the large, black cloud of smoke billowing from behind the hills, though the wind was starting to carry it away. I raced along the mountain highway as fast as the poor little bastard of a truck could go. The site itself was off the roads and the crash was on the side of a mountain with only a single access road in the valley leading up to it. I got right along the side of the crash at the bottom of the valley and parked the truck. I left it running.

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