Disclaimer: While characters are purely fictional, events described are based on surviving witness testimonies recounting the Nanjing Massacre that plagued China from December 1937 to January 1938. Viewer discretion is advised.
Read part two here.
Short Recap: After the Japanese soldiers raided Mailin's village and killed of her neighbors, friends and family, she flees for the Safety Zone in spite of the danger that looms around every corner.
At the crack of dawn, we sprinted across the clearing toward the Safety Zone; my lungs burned as if they were filled with acid, and Brother panted heavily by my side. The fence was soon plastered with large yellow signs that screamed "DEMILITARIZED."
Footsteps thumped behind us. We were being followed.
Then, the torrent began. Pebbles showered from above as bullets splattered across the concrete buildings as we pressed forward.
Fifty feet away, the entrance was clear. Grabbing the gun, I turned and fired blindly at the following crowd of Japanese soldiers. One fell to the ground, a rose sprouting on his back.
Forty. I saw a white man dressed in trench.
Thirty. I narrowly dodged a jab from a bayonet. Brother barely missed a bullet that grazed his ear.
Twenty. Calloused hands closed around my braids, pulling away clumps of black.
My scalp burned as Brother and I sped through the deep brown arches toward the towering gates. Upon the iron bars, white banners with singular red crosses rippled with the wind, the monotonous tone drowning the shouts and gunshots that echoed among the rounded walls. I forced my legs to move faster, but I splintered like an unoiled machine. My mind lost the essence of time; I seemed to float away, watching my life fall apart.
Ten. Through the frenzy of black dots that swam before my eyes, I could barely register the explosion of orange that clouded the air. Among the fading shouts of the Japanese, I fell toward the gates, exhausted, only to be caught in the arms of a white, vintage-glassed man with a golden pendent nestled upon his chest. Another man in black trench hoisted Brother's now limp body across his shoulders.
"It's okay, you're safe now," he assured in a foreign language. My forehead was slick with sweat and blood as my eyes flickered across his face. He gently dabbed a cool rag to my cheek— a gesture of kindness that brought tears to my eyes. When he reached to grab another, I caught his sleeve, clasped his hand, and breathed a weak "xie xie."
The last I saw before drowning into oblivion was a shining symbol of red, white and blue that flew proudly in the sunrise and the closing gates that said "Welcome to Nanjing Safety Zone."