Editor’s Note: The editors at FewerThan500 are pleased to announce the winners of our Alternate History Flash Fiction Story contest. The contest attracted almost 50 entries from all over the world. The editors reviewed the entries based on a set of eight carefully chosen criteria and selected the top three stories for cash prizes. We welcome reader feedback on our selections.
By Cole Downey
I missed stories. I missed the part of my day that used to be filled with tales. ChiChi (Father) would always take time before putting us to bed to tell us a story. Most of the time he would tell us about another shujin (prisoner) that had once lived within the walls. Some courageous man or woman that took the chance to stand up to the guards, or find their own small form of rebellion.
But on rare occasions, he would tell us about Jiyuna hitobito (the free people). Families that lived outside the walls. They would practice their traditions in the middle of the day, and never had to worry about sand in the food that they ate. I would tell my father I wanted to be those people, but he said no. He said I would be the ChiChi for my own son, who would have to grit his own teeth when he ate the rations.
The story every boy is told in the camp is that we are part of a bad people. We dropped bombs on the harbor many years ago, and we all must pay. We must pay with our lives, and the lives of our sons and daughters. My sofu (grandfather) once knew the outside world, but he disobeyed an akuma (officer), and they sent him to the yard. Sometimes I wonder if some of the blood on the block is still his. Now we live our lives thinking about what work will come tomorrow, and what rations may or may not come.
Outside this place is called America. Sometimes the akuma will talk about their holoshows, or their family game night. But when they find out you’ve listened, then they make your head sore. I will have to teach my children not to listen. Maybe I should not tell them stories, or they may also listen to the outside world.
There was only one rule in the camp: Don’t ask. Whatever the question was, you never said it to the akuma. The first time you did, they would point to their uniform which said “Executive Order 9066”. The next time you asked, they took you to the yard.
One day my father set down his shovel. It wasn’t time for rations yet though, but maybe he forgot. When I told him, he didn’t pick it back up. Then he walked towards the nearest akuma, and said something. The akuma pointed towards his chest, but my father didn’t ask again. He grabbed the curved shape at the man’s hip, and pushed it into his chest. There was a bright light, and the man disappeared in front of me.
Now I’m by myself. I’m the generation that must pay, and my son will pay as well. Maybe one day he may become part of the Jiyuna hitobito. But until then, he must see his Sofu’s blood in the yard, and grit his teeth when he eats. He will stay silent under EO9066.
Cole Downey is a student at Monmouth College.