Christmas Island

Christmas Island

A Story by Confidential
"

A young soldier is part of a group that unknowingly becomes the subjects of observation by the government on the phys./psych. effects of experiencing nuclear weapons attacks. Based on a true story.

"

Christmas Island

          It was nearly 4 o'clock in the morning when I was awakened by the jubilant cheers of my shipmates, and after three solid weeks at sea surrounded by all men, a stir like this at such an hour could only mean one thing: land. I bounded up to the deck barely dressed to see what exactly everyone was on about, but before I got a word out I caught sight of the land in question and found myself speechless. I considered for a moment that I might still actually be asleep, or that my eyes were playing tricks on me; even in the tiniest amount of light during the last hour or so before dawn, one could see the entire length of Christmas Island (so named because of its discovery on Christmas Eve some years before) and the tall palm trees which were lined up all along it, swaying gently in the morning breeze. I smiled. I wouldn't be sorry to set foot on land again, and in fact, couldn't do so soon enough.

          In the following hours, soldiers and officers alike wasted no time getting all of their belongings in order and waiting on deck as the shoreline grew ever closer. Sergeant Davis emerged from the berths, in full uniform (of course) despite the blazing tropical sun, hands folded behind his back. It was strange to see such a usually bawdy man in such a serious mood, and on such a wonderful day. The excited men who had assembled on deck all began to fall silent, eager to hear whatever raunchy tale or dirty joke he had in store for them this time. They soon realized that he was in fact being quite serious. "As you all know," he stuttered, "The only reason for your going to Christmas Island," he paused. I raised my eyebrows in anticipation. He seemed to be struggling somehow, as to one speaking a foreign language and trying, but not quite knowing how to express themselves. I was beginning to think he had simply changed his mind about telling us whatever he had to say when he continued, "The only reason for your going to Christmas Island is to witness bomb tests." 

That much we know, I thought, Where are you going with this,sarge?

"Don't ask me what kind," he continued, "Just...know that they will be rather big. That is all." With that, he promptly returned below deck as the men were left to discuss just what the hell he was on about, and why he bothered making that speech at all, seeing as he told everyone the one thing they already knew, and not much else. Nobody thought much more of it after the boat docked.

          Still, I couldn't help but wonder what was going on in the Sergeant's head while he made his speech. What does he know that we don't? What does he wish he could tell us that he can't?  All that I, or anybody else seemed to know for sure was that the bomb tests we had all been brought to Christmas Island for were somehow a big deal. To tell the truth though, none of us really cared. Christmas Island was the absolute vision of paradise! The water surrounding the coral atoll atop which the island sat was beautifully light blue and perfectly clear. The tall palm trees all looked the same, each with a perfectly proportioned trunk and broad, deep green leaves which rustled at even the slightest provocation from the wind (actually, this made for quite a peaceful environment in which to go to sleep).

          Operation Grapple was in full swing, and yet none of the soldiers really had to do anything for the next few weeks, save wait around enjoying their free vacation and waiting for the 'bomb tests'. Discipline was pretty lax on the island. Oftentimes one could walk up and down the beach and see soldiers on 'guard duty' stretched out under a palm tree with a half-empty (or half-full, if you like) six pack next to him. The only thing any of us ever had to worry about was getting sunburned. And no one really worried about that. This was what the work day was like on Christmas Island. In the evening, all the soldiers took up the opportunity to take full advantage of the island's (admittedly limited) entertainment facilities. They were, for the most part, rather basic. The extent of entertainment available was an area (roped off during the day) that was lined with rows upon rows of 'seats' (wooden planks) set up in front of a large projector screen.

          The only duty that every soldier on Christmas Island consistently upheld was showing up at the makeshift cinema (every night it was open) at exactly 2100 hours. It didn't matter much what was showing; if it was even slightly decent, it was usually the highlight of the day. I remember one of the earlier films shown called 'Somebody Up There Likes Me' (boxing picture) that starred some nobody actor named Paul Newman, which was pretty good. I can also remember seeing a Marilyn Monroe flick during one of the hotter, more humid times, during the summer of '58. 10,000 sweaty and uncomfortable men, all in one place at one time, proved too much for the soldiers to handle when Marilyn appeared on screen wearing very little in the way of clothes. This of course inspired the usual rounds of wolf-whistles and such from everyone (myself included), however, one fellow was apparently too excited to see her. The explosive cocktail of intense heat, beer and Marilyn's projected cleavage broke the poor man's sanity completely. Jumping over every plank until he reached the front row, he took a final, stunning leap and dove with outstretched arms straight through the unfortunate actress' face, tearing the screen apart.

 

 


We were going to kill him.

 

  

The pictures got cancelled for a week as punishment. 'The leaper', as he came to be called, never lived it down, and everybody on the island (officers included) ribbed him about it for days.

..I think we were all secretly jealous.

 

          The highly secret "Operation Grapple" continued like this for some time, though the so-called 'bomb dates' drew ever nearer, the hype surrounding them increasing dramatically as they did, as did the fear and intrigue they inspired in all of us on the island. The day finally came on the 18th of April, 1958. I stuck my head out of my little squat tent along with the several hundred other servicemen participating and we all sensed a certain...tension in the air, which had been growing slowly over the previous weeks, and was now more evident than ever.

And we still didn't know what the hell was going on.

          As we waited around on the beach for the test to begin, I gazed up at the ugly cormorant sea-birds. As I stood on the burning sand watching them, I never guessed for a moment I would spend that evening shoveling hundreds of their corpses, eyes burned straight out of their twisted little heads, feathers fused together. Zero- hour drew nearer; all military personnel were rounded up and instructed to line up on the main beach. Sergeant Davis came out from an inland path, looking more worried than ever. "Sit down and relax for a while," he told us. We did. One soldier asked, "Sir, what are we doing out here?" The Sergeant walked over to the one who posed the question and stood next to him. Pointing out to sea, he said, "Thirty miles out there, there is a bomb. It's gonna blow up, and we're going to watch it." The young man looked confused. "Thirty mi...then..what are we doing here?" he asked. Sergeant Davis plodded off through the sand. "Shut up. Be quiet." he said. No one spoke again for a while  after that.

          A minute or so later a loud voice came through a set of speakers mounted on a large tower nearby where we had all assembled. "This could be a live run," it said. "I guess that means we're starting?" I thought. The voice began to count down: "Five...Four...Three...Two...One...Zero..."

After a moment's pause it happened.

"COVER YOUR EYES!" the voice roared through the loudspeaker.

I turned around so my back faced where the bomb went off, balling my fists up and covering my eyes as instructed. At the moment of detonation was a flash; in that instant, despite being turned around, eyes closed and covered, I was able to see straight through my hands. I could see the veins. I could see the blood, I could see all of the skin tissue, I could see the bones. But worst of all, I could actually see the flash. It was like staring directly into a second (brighter) sun.

          Next came the wave of heat. A heat surprisingly slow, but which was searing hot and seemed to eat its way through my very bones. It was the first time in my life I honestly didn't have the strength to hold in my screams of pain. I was barely aware of it, but the voice on the loudspeaker came back on just then, "Okay," it said, seeming to tremble slightly, "Look at the bomb now." I turned around and  bore witness to a living picture of hell. A tremendous, dirty-looking mushroom cloud (bigger than any building I had ever seen) was forming on the horizon. At the cloud's base: a horrible, enormous ball of fire, slowly curling up, deadly looking waves emanating from its base in a sort of ripple-effect.

          I stood there with my brothers on the beach, and looked around as each one of us realized there was nowhere to run. The waves of fire, visible even from thirty miles away, came steadily closer. The first gale of wind hit us; tents were blown away; the cookhouse collapsed and was blown to pieces; all of us were knocked off our feet, one or two of us flew ten feet back before landing. As we all stood up to brace ourselves for the oncoming waves of destruction, I managed to splutter out to one man, "Did you see all those trees snap in half?" Before he had time to answer, or even comprehend what I was saying, someone else said "A bloke over there has shat himself,"

          No one laughed at this. We were all frightened beyond imagining; in front of me, a younger looking soldier (probably just a Private) dropped to his knees and buried his face in his hands, crying. I noticed blood running down the sides of his mouth as somebody helped him to his feet. Even the bravest among the men on that beach began to feel a moderate level of panic set in. I looked at Sergeant Davis, who was staring at the monstrosity on the horizon and shaking his head in disbelief. The flurry of questions burning inside me suddenly died down. I assumed that the higher ranking officers would have had at least some idea of what to expect, but judging from his reaction, I think that Davis was just as shocked and scared as the rest of us. We braced ourselves for the last waves as they washed over us, and tried not to literally get blown away.

          This was the first of five nuclear tests my friends and I witnessed that year. Following the first one, people stopped following orders, started causing trouble on purpose- anything to get off of that damn island.

Anything.

Others just walked around in a trance-like state, day in and day out. Several would go for days, even weeks at a time without eating, sleeping, or talking to anyone, be it a commanding officer or a close friend. The bombs changed everything. Nearly a year after boarding our ship, the TT Dunera, bound for Christmas Island, I arrived back home again, at last! It was December 22nd, 1958.

          Two nights later I went to midnight Mass. I made it through about half of the service before I began to see flashes of light and hear loud noises coming from nowhere. I tried to say something to the person next to me but was already falling down on the floor as I turned to face them, shivering uncontrollably. I passed out and they had to carry me from the church. I spent the next weeks in the hospital, fighting to keep myself busy enough so that I wouldn't notice the almost constant, unbelievably painful spasms which rattled my whole body.

          One night,  I woke up to a most peculiar feeling...like I was damp. I got up thinking I had wet the bed and discovered I was lying drenched in a pool of my own blood. I was later told I that I had suffered some internal hemorrhaging. Soon thereafter I was discharged from the military, owing to the fact that I had "Failed to meet the health requirements". The first time I visited my doctor as a civilian after being discharged from the army, he was in the middle of examining me when I noticed him shaking his head...

...I remember how...sorry...he looked.

"What's wrong, doc?" I asked. A tear rolled down the side of his face. "You're all such young men," he said grimly, "And you'll always regret the day that you ever set foot on Christmas Island..."

And you know what? He was right. I do.

The bombs changed everything..


© 2011 Confidential



Author's Note

Confidential
Please be as harsh as possible when reviewing, tell me the absolute best and absolute worst part(s), and how I could fix/improve them. I want to know!


Gratitude,
-Confidential

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Featured Review

Overall, I thought this was a very good piece. Your thought it clear from the beginning and it keeps the reader caught up. That, in itself, is a very good thing to have. I think the story runs just fine, but I think you could only benefit for a bit more fleshing out. Perhaps adding some more of the horror of the bombs going off. Other than these few things I had trouble with, it's a very good story. I made up a list of a few items that could be changed to make the story an easier read for your audience.

“The pictures got cancelled for a week as punishment. 'The leaper', as he came to be called, never lived it down, and everybody on the island (officers included) ribbed him about it for days.” Again, take out parenthesis.
In your next paragraph, if you are going to put Operation Grapple into quotations be sure to do the same for earlier in the story in order to keep the story consistent for your readers.
12th paragraph: When you have more than one person speaking, you need to make sure that there are separate paragraphs so the reader does not get confused about how things are being said.
13th paragraph: Again make sure thoughts are italicized rather than with quotations.
17th paragraph: When talking about the second sun, don't put brighter into quotes.
19th paragraph: Again with the parentheses...
23rd paragraph: “Two nights later(,) I went to Midnight mass.” How many weeks did he spend in the hospital? It's not specified.


Posted 6 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

you did a wonderful story i really loved it!!!

Posted 5 Years Ago


0 of 1 people found this review constructive.

you did a wonderful story i really loved it!!!

Posted 6 Years Ago


-The first sentence is a run on sentence. Chop it up.

-You seem to use , and ; in place of periods.

-Don't need to put so much space in the gaps.

-Besides that the story is good. Cleaning up the first half will make the second half have a better impact.

Posted 6 Years Ago


0 of 1 people found this review constructive.

All in all this was original with a touch of realism. Actually it reads like real life and for me can easily be considered a true tale based on your real life experiences. I have nothing else to say in way of advice. I believe this is a pretty good piece.

Posted 6 Years Ago


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xx
I love the originality. You say that this is based on a true story, but I see so little of this kind of storyline that it feels entirely fresh.

Just remember that numbers should be written as words if the value is small enough. 4 o' clock might be better written as "four o' clock."

I saw another thing; you use parenthetical expressions throughout the piece. The narration is delivered from a first-person perspective, so there will naturally be asides and other on-the-side comments about happenings, but in some of the instances present in this chapter can be edited by replacing parentheses with dashes or commas.

Remember to present thoughts as thoughts. Using quotation marks indicates that the piece was spoken aloud. Italicizing or simply not using any punctuation at all works better. For instance, you could write -

(Italicized) /I hate him,/ Jack thought to himself. OR -

I hate him, Jack thought to himself.

Also, remember to separate dialogue spoken by different people. Captain Jack speaks in one paragraph, and then you must make a new paragraph for when his first mate answers him.

You'll find that you'll benefit greatly from going over this chapter a few more times, just to get the kinks out. Keep up the good work!

-Mina

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Overall, I thought this was a very good piece. Your thought it clear from the beginning and it keeps the reader caught up. That, in itself, is a very good thing to have. I think the story runs just fine, but I think you could only benefit for a bit more fleshing out. Perhaps adding some more of the horror of the bombs going off. Other than these few things I had trouble with, it's a very good story. I made up a list of a few items that could be changed to make the story an easier read for your audience.

“The pictures got cancelled for a week as punishment. 'The leaper', as he came to be called, never lived it down, and everybody on the island (officers included) ribbed him about it for days.” Again, take out parenthesis.
In your next paragraph, if you are going to put Operation Grapple into quotations be sure to do the same for earlier in the story in order to keep the story consistent for your readers.
12th paragraph: When you have more than one person speaking, you need to make sure that there are separate paragraphs so the reader does not get confused about how things are being said.
13th paragraph: Again make sure thoughts are italicized rather than with quotations.
17th paragraph: When talking about the second sun, don't put brighter into quotes.
19th paragraph: Again with the parentheses...
23rd paragraph: “Two nights later(,) I went to Midnight mass.” How many weeks did he spend in the hospital? It's not specified.


Posted 6 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.


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381 Views
9 Reviews
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Added on July 12, 2011
Last Updated on July 21, 2011
Tags: War, nuclear, bomb, tests, military, army, USA, US, government, secrets, secret, top secret, political, historical nonfiction, world war 2, world war II, WWII, sad, dark, death

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Confidential
Confidential

Maumelle, AR



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