The plane was thoroughly destroyed. The wings – or rather, what was left of them – were scattered in a trail leading back a hundred meters or more along the side of the valley. Trees were down along the long, gutted trench the poor bird had carved during her crash. The tail of the aircraft had broken off and rolled down the hill slightly, stopping against a few particularly stout trees a few meters above the roadway. The cockpit was smashed in, like a pug’s nose. The right side of the fuselage was covered in pock marks that bent outwards, almost as if shrapnel had punched a dozen holes into her from the inside – ala an internal explosion – but when I made my way to the rear of the craft, I could clearly see that almost the entire left-hand side of the fuselage was burnt, twisted – and bent inwards. If I had to guess, she was hit from the outside. Something brought her down intentionally.

Before I could make my way in, I heard the rumbling of an engine echoing through the valley. I took one last look inside the wreckage but the chaos was catastrophic. Nobody had survived, clearly. Whether or not anything was salvageable was questionable at best, if it even was carrying anything worth taking. I looked back down the road, preparing to make my sprint down the hill towards the truck. That’s when I saw it come around the corner, with the familiar matte green paint, the wide stance, and the beautiful sight of a .50 caliber machine gun sitting on the roof. A military humvee. Japanese-spec, with the long antenna coming off the rear. I debated my options. Do I approach them? What if they see me coming towards them and open fire? That .50 would rip me to shreds before I got close enough for them to realize I wasn’t dead. Do I stay put and hope for the best? I frantically looked around and found a long stick. Ripping off my coat and my shirt, I took off my plain, white undershirt and tied it to the end of the stick before replacing my clothing. I watched as the humvee stopped and four troopers jumped out, bringing up their rifles and securing their position. One of them ventured over to my kei-truck and noted that the engine was still running. That’s when I made my move.

I stepped in front of the smoldering ruins with my stick-turned-flag waving rhythmically back and forth in your standard “PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DON’T KILL ME!” pace. They noticed me immediately and the first soldier that saw me instantly raised his rifle at me, but didn’t fire. So far, so good. They began shouting in Japanese, but with four people screaming and pointing guns at you, you tend to forget some things – like your second language. So I just started shouting “American!” in Japanese. They made their way up the hill, never taking me out of their sights. I continued to wave the flag and look at non-threatening as possible. Once they were within a few meters, their leader lowered his rifle and asked me, much more clearly, if I was sick.

“No,” I replied. Fortunately, I began to recollect my thoughts and my Japanese returned to me.

“Who are you?” He demanded.

“I’m from Osaka. I saw the plane go down and came to investigate. I’m traveling with another foreigner and a family of three Japanese.”

“Is that your truck?”

“I took it to come here. I don’t know who the owner is. I haven’t seen anyone else alive for… for a while.” I admitted. The other soldiers by now had began to move around the wreckage. One kept watch out front while the other two entered the fuselage.

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