The beginning of Chapter 1 "Survival"

The bayonet blade made a crunching sound as it pierced her father's body and narrowly missed the twelve year old girl as she lay petrified in the sack he had carried over his shoulder. Her father's body arched upward, creating a small window of light which revealed his bright red blood running in riverlets down the shiny blade of the bayonet, then narrowed to a thin line of grey light as the blade withdrew and his body relaxed, pressing her down into the muddy rice field.

Sook Cha continued to hear the 'pop pop' of gunfire that had heralded the arrival of the North Korean soldiers who had overrun this small band of sixteen children being led South by her father, a Seoul Policeman who had remained at his post until the very last minute. After he despaired of stopping the looters, he gathered together this collection of abandoned children and, carrying his small sleeping daughter in a cloth bag over his shoulder, he herded them through the rural areas to avoid the North Korean invaders who marched together with clanking mechanized armament down the main thoroughfares.

The 'pop' of gunfire diminished as the screams and pleas of the children increased. The most distinguishable sounds to Sook Cha were those of her closest friend, Ling, who lay only a few feet from her and, from the painful entreaties Sook Cha could hear, was being raped. Only a few months earlier, Ling had celebrated her thirteenth birthday and privately and proudly revealed to Sook Cha the budding of her womanly breasts. At that time they had discussed the future possibility of marriage and the mystery and anticipation of offering their virginity to their future husbands. Now Ling screamed in agony as the soldier savagely entered her virginal opening, laughing and verbally deriding her in the process.

In what seemed like an eternity, but was actually less than an hour, the cries for mercy and sounds of agony reached a crescendo and then diminished. The multiple rapes progressed to multiple murders, and, one by one, 'pop' by 'pop,' crunching bayonet by crunching bayonet, the voices and lives of the youngest to the oldest children were extinguished.

Sook Cha lay in trembling fear stricken silence, afraid that the sound or movement of her breathing would reveal her presence beneath the dead body of her father. She was also paralyzed with guilt, feeling obligated to rise up and defend her father and Ling and all the children she had come to know in their three day journey South of Seoul. But she knew that gesture would be futile and fatal, and she tried to estimate the time since the last scream and whimper subsided, since the last soldiers boot made a sucking sound as it pulled out of the mud and they retreated from this field of horror. And still, Sook Cha waited; waited until the last light from the cloudy overcast sky began to fade.

With apologies to her father and a sustained sense of guilt that she had not come to their rescue, Sook Cha pushed her father's body to the side and crawled out of the slit in the blood filled bag made by the bayonet. She cautiously peered around the horizon for any lingering North Korean soldiers, then respectfully rolled her father's body onto his back. The blue of his usually scrupulously clean uniform was almost entirely obliterated by mud and blood. The chest pocket where his silver Policeman's badge had been was ripped open, probably by the soldier who murdered her unarmed father and wanted a trophy to go along with a bogus story about defeating him in a fair fight. She tried in vain to count the number of bullet holes in his body, and marveled that none had penetrated his body to reach her. She hoped he was aware that his body had shielded her and that, because of him, she had survived.

A light snow began to fall as she stood up and surveyed the carnage around her. A few feet away Lings nude spread eagled body was turning blue white, exaggerating the contrast of the bright red blood that still oozed from her crotch and the bayonet wound in her small chest. Three other girls and two boys, all between the ages of ten to thirteen, were displayed in nude postures of rape and bearing bayonet wounds. One kneeling boys head was completely buried in the mud, his upended posterior feeding a trail of blood down his legs and back. Sook Cha pushed his body sideways to destroy the obscenity of the tableau. He had been shot in the back of the head and part of his face destroyed by the exit wound, but she recognized him as Kim, the boy who had always tried to help her and of whom her father had said with a smile, "He likes you."

Finally, tears welled in Sook Cha's eyes. She ran to Ling's body and threw herself across her chest, clinging to her and sobbing into her frozen hair as Ling's open eyes stared at the darkening sky. After a long time, Sook Cha's sobs softened into labored breathing. She rose on her elbows, stared at Ling's face, and vainly tried to close Ling's frozen eyes. Sook Cha moved closer, gently kissed Ling's lips, then breathed warm air on her eyelids and closed them.

Sook Cha rose, noting that Ling's blood now stained Sook Cha's clothing at her crotch and her chest. A laugh began to form in her chest, but, somehow, could not arrive at her mouth. Instead she looked to the night sky and then to the horizon, and said aloud, "Not today. Not today." She criticized herself for not observing where the sun had set so she could determine South, but decided that, since the children had all walked behind her father, a line drawn through their collection of bodies towards him would point South. She cautiously crested the first ridge, surreptitiously surveyed the terrain around her, and headed toward whatever remained of her native South Korea and civilization and sanity.


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