So the other day I was talking about how certain conflicts surround the characters in my novel. I shared an excerpt from a previous chapter in which Hauptmann Wadel and Cardinal Marcel Poldi finally recognize each other as enemies, and I thought it would be fun to share another conflict that takes shape in the next chapter. This is Captain Hitomi Chiyoko vs. Private Maki’s camera:
“Jungle rot, that was putting it mildly. People rot, now that characterized the landscape, the smell, the churning in Captain Chiyoko’s stomach. Maggots made homes out of their dinner, breaking the primary rule of sanitation: don’t shit where you eat. But within the jungle, under its crisscrossing canopy and upon the decaying underbrush, sanitation was a foreign concept. Its effects were obvious both near and far, and from a distance Captain Chiyoko could not even distinguish between the dead and his own men. His platoon of soldiers were bent over with exhaustion and covered in so many layers of crusty mud that the dragging of their feet was a characteristic that had once belonged to dead men walking, but this was not the gallows this was the jungle. The world was holding hands with the Angel of Death, and Captain Chiyoko had to sidestep around its presence every few meters. Death was the universal god. All of us are just narcistic personifications of the universe, struggling with the same greed and fears as the bulk of mankind. This natural order was a revelation Captain Chiyoko would learn one day, but for now he marched with his head down trying to remain invisible to the one who loomed above. But someone was always looking at the propaganda puppet, Captain Hitomi Chiyoko, Warrior of the Rising Sun, because he had photographs to pose for, courage to articulate, war to romanticize. Every frame, every release of the shutter, stripped away his valuable disguises and replaced them with frivolous ones. Hitomi Chiyoko was naked under those photo negatives – each one having framed his identity and marked each checkpoint of the campaign. He was in the light, and certain eyes were always focused. Captain Chiyoko’s frustration from the constant stage direction, the frivolous parading and the message it relayed to the men showed in every photograph. His tight lips, hardened jaw, sideways glance, uneasy posture, stiff chin, and stinging eyes all frightened Private Maki, but damn did they make for a good war photograph! “The Dragon” was coined, but no one knew who circulated the epithet or how it made its way into Gorudo Company. The name was built from his sharp features, so sharp that the company had trouble adulterating the new title with foolishness. No one realized that The Dragon’s fierce gaze was not focused on the future, or the demoralizing present, but on Private Maki’s camera. Captain Chiyoko had not fired his rifle once since arriving in the Phillipines yet he had found a nemesis. The shroud that was supposed to protect him could not do so as long as that device remained functional, he rationalized. Could it be Gossip? Did those iridescent eyes possess Private Maki? The way he focused the lens was not human. The way he set the tripod was not human. The smile before the flash was not human. It was a straight path to the conclusion.
There were two finish lines, however. Kill Private Maki or break the camera. Colonel Miyamoto would judge them equally treasonous. The thought kept him up at night. Nevermind the heavy air that made him struggle for each breath, or the mosquitos that never rested, or the mud that was forever caked to his uniform, the camera reigned supreme. He knew the camera to be demonic. It changed his personality, limited his functioning, and subdued his true character, but with it gone there would be no more eye recording his every action. He would be free from the blight of propaganda, finally able to control his new rank as Captain and leader. The epiphany seemed so appropriate…”
And the conflict is sealed…
“It was hard concentrating with a wet ass, yet Captain Chiyoko focused on the Lieutenant’s essence of certainty when he predicted his suicide. Perhaps he was right. Turning off the light would solve a lot of problems, not only for every one else but for him as well. All his life he had defied the faceless caretaker by conforming to the character and appeal of the Imperial Army. Conforming to defy – what a joke! The ultimate form of defiance would be to kill himself and deprive the faceless caretaker of the one thing she truly wanted. He was walking down that path, envisioning the tranquility of death and inviting Sergeant Endo to revel in his resurrection. If it was death he needed to see then it should be his own. Who would win the most out of his death, he thought. It was an important question – all questions are important when the death is something meaningful. The verdict he arrived at, however, was Private Maki’s camera. Seppuku: the most prized war photograph of all. The camera had to die first.”