This is the fourteenth part of a serialized giant monster story published in weekly installments on this site.
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14. The Survivor’s Tale
~ Fukuyama Hospital – July, 1966 – Afternoon ~
“So,” Doctor Shimura said to the man lying in the hospital bed, “you saw the monster my reporter friends are calling Goragon.”
It galled Akiko that the great scientist was using the name that Shindo had come up with for the creature. After all, she’d seen it first, and she was the one who had suggested that it looked like a dragon. But Aki doubted that her ex would give her any credit for the idea. Shin probably wouldn’t even mention her in the article—unless the military gave her back her pictures.
Aki clutched her camera protectively, though Captain Koizume had confiscated all her film before allowing her into the hospital ward. So at present, all she could do was watch along with Shindo and Burr as Dr. Shimura talked to the patient.
Koizume kept a careful eye on the newspapermen, as though they might somehow smuggle military secrets out of the room.
“You bet I saw him,” Captain Adam Nixon, the man in the hospital bed, said to the elderly scientist. “And let me tell you, he was one ugly mother’s son.” The soldier adjusted the bandage wrapped around his skull and scratched his blond head. “I never saw anything like it.”
Nixon looked remarkably well for a man who’d been in a helicopter crash the previous day.
The gods of luck smiled on him¸ Aki thought.
“Did the monster look something like a dragon?” Shindo asked, taking notes. Koizume hadn’t confiscated his pen and paper, it seemed—nor Burr’s. Shimura’s assistant, Emiko Murakami, was also scribbling furiously in a notebook. Only Akiko had been deprived of the tools of her trade by the military. She couldn’t help but feel singled out.
Worse, she didn’t even seem to rate Captain Koizume’s attention. When he wasn’t watching Shindo and Burr, he was busy staring daggers at Miss Murakami.
I’ll teach them to ignore me, Aki thought, vowing to notice some vital detail that her colleagues had missed.
“Like a dragon?” Captain Nixon repeated. “Kinda, I guess. More like a cross between a dragon and King Kong.”
Aki seized the chance to pipe in. “That’s what I thought as well.”
“What?” Nixon asked, sitting up straighter. “You saw the beast, too?”
“Uh huh,” Aki replied, nodding. Nixon’s eyes upon her made her feel slightly warm; even with a bandage on his head, the American flier was quite a handsome man.
“Well, that’s a relief,” he said, relaxing back into his propped-up pillows. “For a moment, I was worried the whole thing might have been some nightmare I dreamed up after getting hit on the head.”
“It’s no figment of your imagination, Captain Nixon, I assure you,” Shimura said. “I, also, have seen such a beast.”
Even Miss Murakami seemed surprised by that statement. “What?” she blurted, voicing the question on everyone’s mind.
“Yes,” Shimura continued. “I believe the creature to be responsible for the sinking of the squid-fishing fleet in the Sea of Japan. I witnessed the attack during my flight home, but did not understand what I was seeing at the time. Tell me, Captain Nixon, what you observed of this … Goragon.”
“Well, it was huge…”
“Would you say it was as tall as a forty-story building?” Burr interjected.
“Maybe not quite that big,” Nixon replied, “but it definitely didn’t look like a midget next to the experimental reactor’s cooling towers.”
“Those towers are more than three hundred feet tall,” Captain Koizume noted.
“Closer to four hundred, if I remember the specifications correctly,” Shimura said. “Go on, Captain.”
“The thing looked like it was made out of molten rock,” Nixon said. “But it was alive. I didn’t think anything living could get so big. It was tough, too; smashed that cooling tower like it was nothing, and shrugged off every round I shot at it—even the missiles. And it breathed fire.”
“Like a dragon!” Aki said.
“Or like the daikaiju,” Miss Murakami added, “the giant monsters of legend. Some of them breathed fire, as well.” Shimura’s assistant seemed quite excited by the whole prospect—though she kept glancing nervously toward Captain Koizume.
Clearly they have some history together, Aki thought. I wonder what it is.
“It was like being hit by a flame thrower the size of the Titanic,” Nixon continued. “Knocked me right out of the sky. Lucky I still had on my flight suit from my trip in the Chinook, otherwise, I’d have been cooked.”
“You’re lucky you didn’t get killed a half-dozen different ways,” Koizume noted. “That landing was nothing short of a miracle.”
Nixon grinned. “Guess I’ve got nine lives. I just wish I could have saved the reactor—or, at least the Cobra.” He laughed self-deprecatingly. “Not my best day ever, I guess.”
Just at that moment, a military courier came in, accompanied by a medical doctor wearing a white coat with an X-Base insignia. While the doctor checked Captain Nixon’s vitals, the courier handed a thick envelope to Captain Koizume.
“The material you requested, Captain,” the courier said. “Along with some bad news, I’m afraid. The rescue ship sent to search the Sea of Japan for survivors of the fishing fleet disaster is missing, believed lost along with any chance of finding survivors.”
“Terrible news,” Shimura said. Miss Murakami looked stricken, as though she’d just seen a ghost.
“Do they know what happened?” Shindo asked.
“Was the rescue ship sunk by the same monster that attacked the fleet?” Burr added.
“Don’t jump to any conclusions, you two,” Koizume warned. He nodded at the courier, who saluted him and then left the room.
“Are those my pictures?” Akiko asked, hopefully.
Captain Koizume didn’t reply, but merely opened the envelope and slid out a sheath of documents, which—though he kept the contents hidden from view—Aki immediately recognized as photo paper. Shindo and Burr noticed it, too.
Koizume looked at the photos a moment and then said, “What do you think, Doctor Shimura?”
The scientist came to the officer’s side and examined the pictures. The rest, even Miss Murakami, crowded around and looked over Shimura’s shoulders. Koizume didn’t bother trying to stop them.
“Hey,” Nixon complained from his bed, where he was still connected to an intravenous tube and several other medical devices. “Don’t leave me in the dark. What do the pictures show?”
“They show precisely what Miss… what Akiko said they did,” Shimura replied. “A monster.”
“Great job, Akiko,” Burr said. “These will be on the front page of every paper from here to Paris.”
Shindo nodded—which was more acknowledgement from him than Aki expected.
“Only when we clear them for release,” Koizume told the reporters.
“But you have to release them,” Aki said. “They’re news.”
“The biggest news since the atomic bomb,” Burr added.
Aki looked at the military man, pleading. “Please, Captain Koizume.”
All eyes in the room turned to the captain; he didn’t look very comfortable.
“Well…” he began.
“Hey, Doc,” Nixon said, breaking the tension, “when can I get out of this place?”
“Almost immediately, I think,” the white-coated doctor replied. “You have remarkable powers of recovery, Captain Nixon. I can barely find anything wrong with you, other than a few cuts and bruises.”
“That’s ’cause I bathe in broken glass every morning, Doc,” Nixon quipped. “And then I gargle gasoline.”
“Adam, you’ve been through a lot,” Koizume warned, clearly grateful to have changed subjects. “You should take it easy.”
“Take it easy? When the world’s falling apart around us?” Nixon countered.
“I hope that you’re exaggerating, Captain,” Shindo said.
Shimura stroked his chin thoughtfully. “Perhaps,” he said. “Or perhaps not.”
Despite herself, Akiko shivered.
Just then the courier, red-faced and out of breath, burst back into the room. “Captain,” he blurted, throwing a quick salute, “a monster has been sighted off the coast of Tottori!”
“But, how is that possible?” Aki asked. “How could anything that big travel from one side of Japan to the other overnight?”
Professor Shimura looked grim. “There can be only one explanation,” he said, “and I’m afraid its implications are terrible: There must be more than one monster.”
The entire group stood in stunned silence.
“They say it’s attacking the beach festival!” the courier added breathlessly.
Miss Murakami went deathly pale. “B-but,” she stuttered, “my sister is playing at that festival!”
Thanks to Vicki, David, Edward, and Kiff for beta-reading.
All contents, copyright 2013 Stephen D. Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.