Archive for the ‘Ken Brady’ Category

End of the Line

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

We stood in line because that’s what we do. There was a good-sized queue already formed in front of the dark entrance, so there must have been something worth waiting for.

The people who lined up behind us were clearly thinking the same thing, occasionally craning necks to see what was happening up ahead. Nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd.

After a few hours, with only inching movement forward, we started to wonder. What the hell were we doing? Was there really anything up ahead?

“I could go look,” I said. “See what it’s all about.”

“You could do that,” said the jovial looking bald grandpa with an impressive paunch and thick glasses standing behind me.

I nodded my thanks and moved to leave the line.

“But he won’t give you your place back,” said the pimply hat-on-all-stupid-sideways teenaged kid in front of me.

“What?” I said.

“Nothing personal,” old dude said, and smiled. It was not a nice smile.

“You don’t even know what you’re waiting for.”

“Neither do you,” the kid said. “Maybe you should go find out, huh?”

I didn’t leave the line.

I almost left a dozen times, but each time the line would move a few feet, the kid would shuffle forward, and I’d decide to stay. Maybe we were close. To something. It’s not like we had anything else to do. I’ve stood in lines for cheap clothes, bought fantastic gadgets I hadn’t known I wanted. Got great deals on stuff I didn’t need that looked cool when I got it home, making me wonder how I’d ever lived without it. The kid had won tickets to concerts from bands he’d never heard of. Once the old dude got half-price coupons for a year’s worth of gasoline. Then he only had to stand in line at DMV and hope they would reissue him a license.

Lost in thought, suddenly we were through the entrance, all three of us, and it was dark. Cue spotlights on three doors, cleverly labeled: beginning, middle, and end.

There were no lines at any of the doors. We hesitated. We looked at each other. It felt like a trap.

“It’s a trap,” said the kid.

“Probably more lines behind the doors,” I said. “More of the same.”

“Fuck it,” said the old dude. “What do we have to lose by shaking things up a bit?”

I hadn’t a clue. Not even a hint. We shrugged in unison, swapped places, and opened the doors. No idea what we’d find.

We couldn’t wait to find out.

The Cost of Doing Nothing

Friday, June 18th, 2010

You’re not supposed to do anything to stop what’s happening. Just observe, collect historical data, dispel myths, report facts. The person whose body you’re occupying did nothing on this day in 1941, and if you act now you could change the course of history. At the very least, you’d lose your government grant.

This would be your last research trip to the past.

But the howling scream of pain from the naked woman strapped to the operating table makes you clench the clipboard tighter, grit your teeth to hold back a scream of your own. This isĀ  worse than expected.

Lieutenant General Shiro Ishii watches, arms crossed, as the doctor makes another incision, peels back flesh to expose diseased organs. The scream grows louder.

You look away, noting the other staff and visitors watching the vivisection. Most seem enrapt by the display, approving even. They’ve seen this before. The Epidemic Prevention and Water Purification Department of the Kwantung Army has been doing this for years. Untold tens of thousands of times. You want to slash your clipboard across Ishii’s face, stop the madness.

But you don’t. Ishii isn’t the only one in charge of such a facility. There’s Unit 543 in Hailar, 100 in Changchun, 1644 in Nanjing, 516 in Qiqihar. Many more.

But Unit 731, just outside Harbin, is the headquarters. And today, several of the men who will continue Japan’s wartime biological weapons research are in attendance. Ryoichi Naito, who will go on to head up Unit 9420 in Singapore. Masaji Kitano, next in line for Ishii’s job. You note the details of their faces, matching demeanor with the books and interviews you’ve read.

For history’s sake.

You make eye contact with a young man you recognize as Yoshio Shinozuka from his testimony about crimes he committed here. He’s watching you, as if he knows you don’t belong. You tense. He just shakes his head.

Then he pulls a pistol and shoots Ishii, Naito, and Kitano. Two shots each. The room erupts in confusion and people scatter. Only you and Shinozuka remain, along with the screaming subject on the table. Shinozuka walks to her side, places a comforting hand on her shoulder, and shoots her once in the head.

He turns to you, eyes much older than belong in his young face.

“I know you would have done something,” he says. “But you still have research to do. A career and a life ahead of you. Make it count.”

He puts the pistol to his head and pulls the trigger.

You go ahead and scream, then quickly disconnect, watching the scene around you fade. As you return to the future, you know you’ll reflect on this event for the rest of your life.

And the next time you visit that operating room you know how you must act.

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