Flash Fiction #126
This is a true story but I used fictional characters and a fictional location–somewhere in East or Southeast Asia.
Let’s just imagine a group of people have historically lived around Lake Mashawa peacefully, with quarrels and skirmishes here and there, but all in small manageable scales. However, during WWII, the village to the north of the lake, Zaville, fared much better than the village to the south of the lake, Waville. Zaville was almost untouched by the invading army due to the fact that two of its residents served as translators, who in turn did their best to protect their own folks. On the contrary, Waville suffered huge losses–their grain reserve was pillaged, their temple was smashed etc. Although their northern neighbor was not directly linked to the atrocity, villagers in Waville always suspected foul play and developed a hostility towards Zaville.
After WWII, invisible borders were erected. Suddenly, people in Zaville started to realize that their southern brothers in Waville had a vulgar accent, while people in Waville started to detect uptightness and rigidity in their northern neighbor, who enjoyed prosperity during and after the war while everybody else suffered unimaginable loss.
The animosity started to grow and Lake Mashawa became the focal point. The lake has a natural flow from north to south. During the height of the summer when the rain was scarce and the water level was low, the southern part was still very much a lake while the northern end became like marshland. In the past, Zaville people in the north could come to the southern part to do their fishing, navigation, trade etc. during the summer without a problem, but after the arbitrary border through the center line of the lake, Zaville people were not allowed to come to the southern half of the lake. What can they do? They came up with an idea. They built a dam that stopped the natural flow of the water and kept the water in the northern part.
This solved the problem for Zaville but it created problems for Maville–their part of the lake became a marshland during the height of the summer when water was in high demand. What can they do? They started to make dynamites and organize a militia to bomb the dam.
Tiki was a young villager in Maville and a member of the militia. He was a nice young man with no intention of doing anything harmful to anybody, but in the village, there was an unwritten rule–men like him had to be recruited. Tiki was married with a wife and a son, but he was not very responsible–married life was unsuitable to him. He liked to gamble, ramble, and be idle. He didn’t bring much income home. He’s very good natured, but unfortunately he’s also unschooled in diligence, uninterested in repetitive labor that’s devoid of excitement.
“Tiki, you owe gambling debts to at least five villagers. You stole alcohol from three villagers. And your house is in disrepair and your roof is leaking. Your neighbors are complaining. Our houses are close to each other and your mold can spread to other houses. How about this? You join the militia and help the village to bomb the dam at night. If you make such contributions to the community, your debt will be forgiven and your house will be fixed. If you sacrifice your life, your family members would be taken care of by the village.” The village elder said to Tiki.
Tiki didn’t say anything. He didn’t want to but he had no choice but to acquiesce. When he went home at night, his wife didn’t yell at him as usual. Tiki thought that maybe she already knew. She knew he was recruited. And probably she was even relieved–to sacrifice him so that the house can be fixed, debt forgiven, child brought up.
“Women are so practical.” Tiki thought to himself. “I married her when she was wandering into our village as one of those homeless migrants–so many after WWII. I saved her life. She was grateful at the time, but not for long. When she had the child, she started to want everything for the child and started to compare herself with other women in the village. The relationship deteriorated. She yells at me all the time and I think she really wants me dead.”
Tiki’s family ate dinner in silence. Tiki pondered on the situation and looked at his wife with suspicion and hatred.
“Why are you stare at me like that? Have more rice wine here.” She said and smiled at him while pouring a bit more rice wine from the pot. Although they were poor, she knew how to scrape up things to eat and to brew in the most unlikely place and eked out a living when nobody else could. She was very diligent. An aspiring woman.
“If it’s not for WWII, in which she lost both her parents and her home, she wouldn’t have ended up with me.” Tiki thought to himself. “And we used to love each other. She’s such a pretty girl when I helped restore her strength. She used to smile at me with love, but now she smiles at me, knowing that she will probably get rid of me soon. And other young men in the village would most likely marry her when I am gone. Yes, probably as early as my funeral. I can just imagine they come to fix the roof while flirting with my wife.”
Tiki glared at his wife while emptied another cup of rice wine. “I have to do something. I don’t want to be the sacrificial lamb.”
(The second part of the story is here.)