Entry for the DBWI Writing Contest.
EXT. A COASTAL TOWN – DAY
*Traditional Asian flute playing on the background.
A middle-aged MAN in civilian clothing is standing on the edge of a coast; his eyes focused on the empty, blue ocean. The sun is shining brightly, as if it would never set. Coastal wind blows his headband aslant. One can hear the sound of waves splashing into rocks and the lively squawks of seagulls. THE CAMERA ZOOMS IN to his weary but resolute face, seemingly making him older than his actual age.
[VOICEOVER] August, 1945. It is the fourth year of the Pacific War. The Committee has declared independence shortly following the fall of Hawaii. The American counterattack was swift and effective in retaking their most important Pacific base after letting the Japanese occupy it for three and a half years; yet, I am worried that we might have underestimated the Japanese capability to reaffirm their stand in the Pacific. With the Americans closing in to Okinawa, the Committee is very confident with the success of the movement. But they seem to deliberately neglect the fact that the Japanese are approaching the outskirts of Chongqing, which means they will be able to divert some of their forces to fight us before delivering another strike to the Americans. I warned the Committee that this revolution… Their revolution was one that is unprepared and unripe.
He reaches his breast pocket, taking out a folded letter. THE CAMERA ZOOMS IN to view the black ink handwriting as he unfolds it, stares it with looks of rue, and begins to read.
[VOICEOVER] Dear brother, how are you? How are the people in the south? I hope everybody is fine. Our initial attacks were largely successful and the Northern Revolutionary Corps had managed to push the remnants of the Imperial Army to as far as Hyesan. I got sixteen on target last week, all heads; how about that? Now we are fortifying along the river, where we will face the Kwantung Army once and for all. After all of this ends, we will become fully independent again. Tae-chol will be coming to your place in a few days. Please take care of him while I am away. He is a diligent boy, he would be more than glad to help you with your business. Yours, Jae.
The man folds the letter, returns it to his pocket, and begins to shudder. His face, previously jaded but determined, gradually turns into an expression of rue and sorrow. THE CAMERA SHOOTS STEADILY to highlight the man’s anguishing visage.
[VOICEOVER] These people haven’t the slightest idea.
CUT TO BLACK.
No. Think again. He is right.
Who believed we were going to win that quickly anyway? If the Empire still exists, untouched, unblemished by any foreign power… Then our existence itself is in danger. There is no telling what they will do in the next two or three years. We would have no allies at that time. Something…
Something profound has to happen if our survival is to be guaranteed.
Something profound has to happen if our survival is to be guaranteed.
The Americans. They must achieve greater victory. And the Chinese. They must resist longer.
(The sound of crumpling paper and scribbling)
INT. A BAR IN DOWNTOWN HEIJO – EVENING
*Sound of a band playing joyful folk music.
THE CAMERA SHOOTS OVERHEAD on a bar. It is filled with cheering crowds; many in groups, some with their couples. Most of the men are dressed in standard-issue civilian uniform, while the women wear traditional or working uniform dresses. They dance, drink, laugh, and embrace each other in joy. One can see they keep the bartender busy behind his counter, taking out more and more bottles. Among the crowd, TAE-CHOL, a young man in his early twenties, raises his glass of soju and swallows it in one gulp. He is about 5’5” tall, wearing olive shirt and pants. His girlfriend, a pretty commoner of his age HYEON-AE, embraces him from behind. She sports a 5’2” height and wears a dark green civilian dress.
(cheerfully) Tae-chol! So what are we going to do after this?
(smiling) We go south. My uncle lives in Keijo; he allows me to work at his factory, where he produces cement. There’s got to be good demand for it after the war. (pauses) I’m sure the Americans would be heading here as soon as they make the Empire surrender, which means we’ll have the opportunity to rebuild this nation with their help.
(happy tears) I’m glad it’s finally over. Nobody is waiting for me at home. I will go wherever you will.
Don’t worry my love; we’ve been through the hardest moment together, we’ll make this to the end together.
THE CAMERA ZOOMS OUT from the couple as their faces get close to kiss, REVOLVES around the bar, and ZOOMS IN to a Revolutionary Force pamphlet lying beside bottles and cups on the table. The date is August 4, 1945. It reads:
KYUSHU FELL! IMPERIAL NAVY SUFFERS SETBACKS IN VARIOUS FRONTS! AMERICANS HEAD STRAIGHT TO THE HOME ISLANDS!
Suddenly, the bar door is knocked open. A YOUNG MAN in traditional outfit, his hands holding his Arisaka rifle, enters hastily and shouts.
(gasping) They are here!
*The band stops playing music. Silence.
Rifle shots suddenly pierce the wooden walls of the bar. Several people are hit, including the Young Man. Tae-chol grabs Hyeon-ae’s arm and flings her behind the bar. He then takes cover behind a table. He brandishes his stolen Nambu pistol, cocks the firearm, and begins firing back. Several men are also taking out their sidearms while the women evacuate. The bartender draws his shotgun from the counter, successfully fires it on a charging Imperial soldier.
The gunfight continues wildly. Bullets pass through soju bottles and cups, leaving cheap broken ceramics and glasses all over the place. Some of the attackers begin using submachine guns, tearing the wooden entrance apart. More men inside the bar are shot. Tae-chol maneuvers behind fallen tables, and shoots a submachine gunner through the window. A rifle bullet then grazes his left shoulder. Hyeon-ae, witnessing the entire event from behind the counter, shouts to his lover.
A grenade is then thrown inside the bar. It explodes with loud bang.
CUT TO BLACK.
A wounded Tae-chol awakes in midst of a rubble which is previously a bar counter. There is blood all over his face and hands. Bodies of revolutionaries and Imperial soldiers are all over the place. He observe many familiar faces, eyes wide open. But he just starts to tremble as he find out that beside him lays the soulless body of Hyeon-ae, cold and unmoving. Tae-chol shatters.
CUT TO BLACK.
I can’t believe it. This doesn’t sound right.
I have seen this divergence someplace! It was Shimamura... Or Okabayashi. The Empire surrenders and then our independence. A challenging premise: most of them had the divergence centered on Hawaii. If the Americans could go beyond Eastern Pacific, they might as well go as far as making the home islands within reach of their bombers. But hell, they couldn't even retake Hawaii back then. Weaklings. I thought the Americans outsized our industrial might ten to one. Perhaps the occupation of Pearl Harbor was indeed the major turning point.
And what about that fantasy-bomb they thought won the war? Although I have to say Okabayashi’s premise is interesting; with Einstein surviving his assassination attempt in Antwerp, he could renounce his citizenship and return to America anytime he wanted. Still, I doubt he could be of any help to the Americans more than Heisenberg was to the Germans.
Or better yet, more than Nishina was to the Empire.
Well, maybe I’m apathetic, but I’m a realist nevertheless. I can’t go on with this. Here’s my point: suppose the Americans managed to fantasy-bomb the home islands, the Kwantung Army would still be intact. Given the battle-hardened fervor of the armed forces, there is no way they are going to surrender that instant. The peninsula in particular would still be in their possession. Most importantly, any of our revolutionary efforts would be met with force. Heck, those revolutionaries might get slaughtered before the Americans are even finished with the bulk of the Imperial Army and get to the peninsula. Honekawa-san wants me to make something original, something appalling, something stronger and more convincing.
So, what’s worse than fighting a great power? Fighting two great powers at once, of course. From two different directions.
Alright. Let’s pull the divergence far, far beyond, beyond any of them has ever thought before. I’m going to take this to Europe.
(Another sound of paper crumpling and scribbling, this time steadier)
INT. COUNTRY HOUSE – EVENING
One can see a calendar hanging aside an old family photo. Every date on the calendar has red circles, ending on August 31, 1945. Suddenly a ceramic teapot is thrown to the wall. It breaks IN SLOW MOTION with a loud crash, splattering the tea within it all over the wall and the surrounding floor. THE CAMERA PANS to shoot TEENAGER, who is about to exit the house, stops at the moment the teapot hits the wall. He turns to face his FATHER, a middle-aged man, who stands in anger. One can see the MOTHER and the YOUNGER BROTHER on the corner of the room, looking frightened.
(furiously) No! I’m saying you won’t go! You stay and we wait for the Americans!
What else, father? Are you going to wait for them to come and have all of us rounded as slaves? I am a proud soldier of the Empire, father. My loyalty lies with the Emperor. To the north I shall go, to fight with my brethren and halt the Soviet onslaught from defiling our lands. To die for the Emperor is the greatest honor for an imperial subject!
You are not even born in their lands! How could you call yourself a subject of that goddamned Emperor? Didn't you remember how they slaughtered your cousin in Heijo? They murdered him in cold blood!
The Mother begins to sob in the corner. The Younger Brother, looking confused, hugs his mom in consolation.
That treacherous fellow resisted! I knew he had ties with the Revolutionary Committee. He has been operating with the Heijo Underground all these months, communicating in secret with the Americans and the Soviets. He deserved to get what he got along with that disloyal woman of his!
The Father can no longer withstand the insolence. He steps forward and hits the Teenager on the face. The Teenager stumbles.
You step outside this house (pauses, hesitates), you are no longer a member of this family.
The Teenager quickly returns on his feet, stares his father on the eye for a second, and then exits the house with a loud slamming on the door.
CUT TO BLACK.
Wait. If the Soviets made it through Moscow and had the Germans pummeled all the way to Berlin, it should be inevitable that they shifted their attention to the East. Given the situation in Europe, Moscow should have been the most decisive campaign of all. The Germans were bullseye when von Bock went all the way to Moscow. There should be something... (Sound of books being rummaged, pages being whirled) A-ha!
The Germans must be delayed from reaching Moscow. There is a good possibility that they went for Ukraine at that time, and I’m going to make exactly that... Perfect. Now if the Red Army managed to withhold and subsequently crush the Wehrmacht with sufficient defense in Moscow, they would be able to drive the Germans completely away from Russian land by, say, autumn of 1944.
Then they will turn east.
What was I thinking? Why stop at helping the North create their own government or establishing a client state? If the Americans cannot even pass through Hawaii by 1945, the Soviets would find it a walk in the park to sweep the entire peninsula at one stroke. I think they could even reach the southern tip by September, no, August 1945.
I think I might be close to a possibility none of them ever been before.
(Sound of papers being crumpled and thrown away)
INT. PYONGYANG METRO SAMHUNG STATION – MORNING
*Sound of underground train passing. Railroad creaks.
THE CAMERA SHOOTS on an arriving train. Hundreds of people, men and women and children, exit the carriage as its doors open. Among the commuters is NAM-SE, a 19-year old student of Korean State University. He has a clean, round face covered with curly black hair. Unlike most of his people, his eyes are moderately slanted and his nose firm. The 5’9” figure walks briskly towards the exit, wearing a brown coat over his checkered white shirt and black pants, his left hand carrying a leather bag.
EXT. STREETS IN FRONT OF SAMHUNG STATION – MORNING
*Sound of morning traffic and pedestrian busyness.
One can hear the approaching winter through the autumn winds as Nam-se takes the staircase to the surface. Falling leaves are being blown away. He goes across the road in front of the metro station and turns left, walking along the sidewalks. As he walks, THE CAMERA HIGHLIGHTS the skyline of the city.
[VOICEOVER] Pyongyang. Sometimes I still can’t believe I made it here.
Nam-se passes a park with statues as he heads to a student apartment complex, where he enters one of the brown, brick edifices.
INT. GWANGGURYEO STUDENT APARTMENT – MORNING
Prior to boarding the stairs, Nam-se greets OLD MAN HO in the reception.
Good morning Mr. Ho!
OLD MAN HO
Good morning! Nam-se, there were several boys looking for you just now. They left just a while ago and didn't leave any names. You made any appointment?
Well, that’s strange. I don’t recall having any agenda with anybody today.
OLD MAN HO
(shrugs) Well, I hope there won’t be any problem then.
No worries Mr. Ho. Thank you for keeping me informed.
He waves to Old Man Ho as he heads to his flat on the second floor. He lives in a 5-floor small student apartment with four flats each floor. He inserts the key to the third door from the stairs, which opens after two clicks.
INT. NAM-SE’S FLAT – MORNING
Nam-se puts his leather bag on a small table by the window, on which lays a photograph of his family; his father, mother, and older brother. THE CAMERA SHOOTS on the picture, taken fourteen years ago in front of his father’s cement factory. Suddenly HYO-RI, a shadowy figure, greets him from behind.
You seem to have a nice, memorable childhood.
Nam-se turns his back on reflex to find a girl of his age standing in front of him. She wears dark green short-sleeved shirt on top of his blue skirt.
(calmly) Memorable, yes; nice, not necessarily. Who are you? How did you get in?
(giggles) You answered coolly. We always find some way. My name is Hyo-ri. I need you to listen to this important proposition I’m going to make.
What is this all about?
What are you?
What kind of question is that? What do you suppose me to answer? A student?
Well, so am I. Though I need a cooler answer than that (giggles). Let’s show each other our IDs.
Why should I trust you?
Oh come now, what’s so troubling about fellow students showing each other their IDs?
The two of them, both being students, flash their student IDs to each other. Nam-se’s ID reads:
KOREAN STATE UNIVERSITY
NAME : JI NAM-SE
ID NUMBER : 119 21058 0024
NATIONALITY : SOVIET
DEPARTMENT : KIM SONG-JU SCHOOL OF POLITICAL SCIENCE
(continues) Let me ask you one question. Are you really a Soviet?
(puzzled hesitation) What do you expect? I was born in the Korean SSR.
So was I again. Gosh, we had a lot in common. Do you have any relatives in Korea?
If by Korea you meant the republic in the south, my brother went there during the war to help defend the peninsula against the Americans. He never came back and I never heard from him since. What does he have to do with this?
I see. Well, that’s why I think you will be interested with our proposition. I’m talking about reuniting you and your brother. And many other families separated after the war. I’m talking about sec…
Before Hyo-ri can finish her sentence, there are sounds of hasty footsteps on the corridor outside. There seems to be several people heading to his flat. Hyo-ri, aware of the sounds, becomes alerted.
Bad luck. They are coming this way. Come, you have to follow me!
* * *
Crispy. This is fun! I can make this an espionage thriller. Young Nam-se wants his family to be one once again. Far within his heart he knows he is a Korean, not a Soviet! I think this is going to sell amidst the ongoing sentiment that we are Koreans, not Japanese!
“Oi Shuichi! Why are you talking to yourself?” a voice alerted the scriptwriter.
“Motaro! What the hell are you doing in my flat?”
“Calm down! I was here since afternoon, remember? Went out to buy some bento from nearby konbini. You told me you are going to write something big today. Figured out you might want to be undisturbed so I took home some food to eat. I hardly believe somebody like you can fill your stomach only by writing.”
“I can,” argued Shuichi. “Honekawa-san is going to pay big for this.”
Motaro rummaged through the scraps of paper Shuichi threw away, skimmed them one by one.
“What’s this? You scrapped all these altogether? Americans retake Hawaii, Korean independence; Americans strike to Kyushu, Korean independence; Soviets invade Manchuria, Korean independence; these are hell of a timeline. You’re politically Korean now? You going to make use of next week’s Co-prosperity Day demonstration to pitch your writing to Honekawa-san?”
“You know as well as I do I’m never really into politics. But I’m well into anything which can turn my writing into yen. You’re free to comment.”
“Speaking of which, you really think the Soviets can make it through Moscow? If I show this to Franz he’s going to laugh his ass off. You remember that Nazi drunkard? Wow! The Empire under attack from two directions? I can’t even imagine the Americans could retake Hawaii with the death of Nimitz. Hey, what about that one you’re currently writing?”
“Anything can happen, Motaro. In alternate worlds, even the unthinkable can happen.”
* * *
Dimas Aditya Hanandito is s junior ucroniador from the Far East currently in his final years of college who sometimes delves into the alternate past out of boredom of the present reality.