As I understand it, a great deal of time passed before my eyes and ears perceived any sights or sounds that my brain was willing to comprehend. To this day, I have no memory of my rescue from the mine, or of the days that followed. I’m told that I was found wandering outside in the aftermath of the earthquake that released me from my underground tomb. I was then brought back to town, and determined to be suffering from a complete loss of memory. Everything I was, everything and everyone I had ever known, was gone, left behind in the horrific lair of the flying beast. It was as if the darkness of the nightmarish world below had overtaken my mind, corrupted my very soul with terror.
Those who were there, Kiyo among them, have told me of the amnesiac state I was found in. They’ve told me of my refusal to speak, of my glazed-over eyes and blank expression. I must’ve appeared as a corpse to them, a hollow shell. A man who moved without living. A man who couldn’t even recognize the face of the woman he loved.
Even after all these years, thinking back on the pain I must have caused my poor Kiyo fills me with shame and sadness. I can only imagine how heartbreaking it surely was for her to see me in that state, how difficult it must’ve been to have lost both her brother and her lover in such short order. But through it all, she never lost hope. I later learned that she stayed by my side through it all, day and night, through every treatment and test. Even when told that the chances of my recovery were all but nonexistent, she refused to give up. She refused to stop loving me.
It was her face that greeted me when the darkness finally lifted. It was her voice that I heard, her touch that I felt, when my mind and my memories finally returned. I remember feeling as though I had awakened from death itself, drenched in sweat and terrified. I remembered it all. I remembered the hellish cave of giant insects, the massive egg, the demon that emerged to feast upon the insects like mere snacks. It all came back in a single, sobering moment that chilled my soul to its core. But when I looked up, Kiyo’s face was looking down at me. Tears streamed down her face, and for a few moments, the horror melted away in her loving embrace.
I soon found that I had awoken into a world gone mad. Although only a week or so had passed since my rescue, much had changed. The giant insects that had massacred my friends now had a name: Meganulon. They were revealed to have been the nymphs of giant Carboniferous dragonflies, ancient creatures thought to have been extinct for millions of years. But there was more. Unidentified Flying Objects were being spotted all around the world on a regular basis, flying at impossible speeds and maneuvering in ways that mankind’s machines could not. Something had taken to the skies, something huge and all-powerful. And worse, this something had already taken lives, including a JSDF pilot and a duo of Japanese honeymooners.
And I was the only man on Earth who knew exactly what this terrifying force was.
Upon my recovery, I was all too glad to aid both the scientific and military communities in their investigations of the situation. As it happened, the honeymooners had snapped a photo of the flying beast’s wing before their deaths, and a professor by the name of Kashiwagi was quick to recognize the wing as belonging to another ancient creature: a flying reptile known as the Pteranodon. When he showed me an illustration of the creature, I felt my blood run cold as the memories of my experience in the mine came flooding back. One doesn’t forget the face of a demon so easily. There was no doubt about it… I was looking at the same monster that had nearly cost me my very mind.
I could feel the terrible, paralyzing fear I felt in the creature’s presence returning. But despite the chill that crept down my spine, it was in that moment that I knew what I had to do. Regardless of my fears, or the memories of that dark and terrible place, I knew that I had to return.
When it was ultimately decided that a group of scientists and SDF personnel should attempt such a return to the mine, I quickly volunteered to lead them. In short order, I was once again descending into the shaft of Mine #8, following the path that would lead to the cavern where I had seen the monstrous egg break open. It was a descent I will never forget. The men and I acted as a group, but individually we were afraid. Fear was inside the minds and hearts of all of us. Fear of something we couldn’t see, of something too unbelievable to comprehend. We felt as if we were entering a giant grave, perhaps our own.
But despite our fears, we continued on. We had to find answers, even if those answers might be death to us all. We had no way of knowing if any of the giant insects – the Meganulon – still crept within the eerie darkness of the tunnels. There had been so many, perhaps numbering in the thousands. It was a thought that nearly froze me with fear. But I knew that I had to face that fear. And perhaps, to face my demons in the flesh.
When we finally found the cavern, I felt the breath catch in my throat. Memories came flooding back. I could remember the smell of the newly-hatched thing that once existed there, a cruel and evil smell that sent my flesh crawling all over again. I closed my eyes and refocused on the task at hand. I had a job to do, and no amount of fear was going to keep me from finishing it.
The men and I immediately began a search for evidence of the monsters that once resided in the cavern. However, aside from some rubble that had fallen where the giant hatchling had emerged, there was almost nothing left to indicate that, only a few days before, the space had been filled to bursting with man-sized insects. The flying monster had left no trace of them. The entire race of ancient nymphs had fallen prey to the ravenous demon, and now it seemed that the rest of the world was soon to follow.
Despite the lack of apparent evidence, I continued my search, desperately hoping to find something that would prove what I had seen. Finally, I found what I had been looking for: a massive piece of the monster’s eggshell, nestled among the fallen rocks around the nest. But I had little time to celebrate. As I held the shell fragment close to my chest, the ground began to shake around us. Rocks began to tumble down from the weak ceiling above, and we quickly fled the crumbling cavern. As the ancient tomb collapsed behind us, I breathed a sigh of relief. We had gotten what we had come for.
Once we returned to the surface, things began to happen very quickly. Professor Kashiwagi’s analysis of the eggshell fragment, the gathering of data on the flying monster, a conference of scientists and military officials on the nature of the beast… it all passed in a blur of words and figures. The Professor spoke of massive wingspans and ancient food chains, of supersonic flight and radiation-born resurrection. And through it all, a single word – a name – bore itself into my soul and chilled my blood to ice: Rodan.
Yes, Rodan. It was the name given to the demon whose birth I’d witnessed. The name bestowed upon the flying beast who now held the world in a grip of fear. I don’t remember how or why the name was chosen, only that it somehow seemed an appropriate moniker. Rodan, the giant monster of the skies.
It was almost too much for my weakened mind to fully grasp. Kashiwagi claimed that the creature came from a family of ancient reptiles long thought extinct. How, I wondered, could prehistoric monsters such as Rodan and the Meganulon hordes stir from their long death to move about upon the earth again? It’s a question I’ve pondered for many long years. I suppose that the only possible answer must be that they never really died at all. They only slept, waiting in their deep caverns and caves where the light could never reach them. Perhaps their resurrection had been our fault. Perhaps we had dug too deeply for our coal, and had awakened them to destroy us all. Perhaps, as Kashiwagi postulated, the radiation from nuclear testing stirred them from their slumber. The true answer may never be known. Perhaps that is for the best.
In any case, discovering the origins of Rodan was soon to be the least of our concerns.
Not long after Kashiwagi disclosed his findings, the beast made its terrible presence known again. But this time was different. No longer was the demon a mere blip on a radar screen, or a white trail seen moving through the sky. While we postulated and planned, the Rodan roosted right under our noses. The monster had come back to its nest, to its home. To my home.
As I remember it, the day was clear and sunny. Blue skies covered the town of Kitamatsu, and all seemed well enough. But the serenity of a peaceful day is a fragile thing. I remember the ground shaking beneath my feet, a rumbling sound echoing across the landscape. I had joined Kashiwagi and a group of SDF personnel in a search of the immediate area, owing to the professor’s theory that the Rodan might return to the place of its birth. I must admit, I hadn’t been expecting to find anything, much less the monster itself.
But as the ground seemed to split under us, we all saw the long neck and pointed face of the creature rise from the Earth nearly 100 meters from our very eyes. It was mankind’s first true look at the creature known as Rodan.
Their first look, and my second.
The beast had grown so large in so short a time, transforming from a mere hatchling into a true titan in only a few weeks. It stood nearly 50 meters in height, its thin body draped in brown, leathery skin and punctuated by sharp spikes on its chest and abdomen. The creature’s wings stretched out from its massive form, faint accents of tans and even blues highlighting the flesh that stretched from its body to the tips of its winged fingers. The same dead, black eyes that greeted me in the cavern now stared with cruel intent on the tiny beings that stood beneath it. The sight of the monster was almost too much to take in. I felt my mind race between awe and fear, curiosity and apathy. I struggled to comprehend the truth of what I was seeing. To this day, I still find it hard to accept the truth of the beast’s existence.
But in that moment, my proof stood before me, powerful and larger than life itself.
As we watched, the creature took to the skies, its mighty wings slicing through the air with such force that we were nearly blown off our feet. I watched helplessly as an SDF Jeep was propelled from the road and smashed like a mere toy against the rocks of a nearby hill. I watched the sky itself split before the monster as it disappeared into the distance, leaving our village behind. A few seconds later, there was nothing left of the demon to see.
The following hours passed in a nightmarish haze. The next part of the story, it seems, was not mine to tell.
From the safety of my home in Kitamatsu, the tragedy of what happened next came through radio updates and panicked officials running from building to building, reacting to the carnage that was unfolding some distance away. Rodan had easily withstood the attack of the JASDF, taking the lives of every pilot with sickening ease. The beast had landed in Fukuoka, and in less than an hour had reduced the city to rubble. As I understand it, the monster had done little more than simply fly over most of the structures in the city to destroy them. In essence, the very weight and size of Fukuoka turned against it as Rodan’s powerful wing-produced winds tore them down. A city destroying itself. And looming above it, a demon with the might of a typhoon at its disposal.
And then… another. Two demons of the skies. Two nightmares become one.
In a moment that stunned the nation, a second Rodan seemed to appear from nowhere, perhaps lured to the city by the cries of its partner. It was a revelation as unexpected as one could imagine. Another of the ancient species had survived the ages, and now stood ready to aid the first in its conquest of the modern world. The mystery of the simultaneous UFO sightings that followed the emergence of the first monster was suddenly solved. There had always been two. Perhaps the second had hatched within a cave not too far from the one I had fallen into. Perhaps millions of years of underground movement had split their nest in half, separating them from each other.
But as Japan watched Fukuoka burn, such questions mattered little. What mattered was what we decided to do next.
After the smoke of Fukuoka cleared, the situation was once again analyzed. The two monsters had fled from the scene of their slaughter, returning to the underground caves that bordered our village. The decision was made to take advantage of knowing their location. While our modern weaponry had no effect on the Rodans, it was reasoned that nature itself just might. The Rodans, it seemed, had sealed their fate, for Kitamatsu lay in the shadow of the mighty Mt. Aso. Perhaps the volcano could be turned into a weapon. Perhaps, by creating an eruption, the monsters would fly no more.
It was a heartbreaking decision. While I supported the military in their efforts to defend our country and perhaps save the entire world from the Rodans’ wrath, that support came at a cost. To destroy the monsters, Kitamatsu was to be sacrificed. The town I had called home all my life was to be evacuated, abandoned, and left to the mercy of the volcano. Never again would I walk through its green fields, work within its mines, or visit the places I had run and played as a child. It was a decision I accepted through crying eyes.
The operation to evacuate the town was a quick one. The military refused to waste any time and risk the Rodans fleeing the area. In a single day, the men, women, and children of Kitamatsu were out of harm’s way. As far as I knew on the morning of the attack, Kiyo was among them. With a final look and a deep breath, I left the town I loved so well for the last time, retreating through the green fields and joining the rest of the operation on a nearby hill.
I was grateful to have been afforded the opportunity to aid the scientific and military personnel in their countermeasures against the Rodans. I was certainly no scientist or soldier, but fate had nevertheless given me the chance to face the demons that had nearly robbed me of my sanity. I hoped that this day would finally see an end to my journey.
It would, of course. But that ending would come in a most unexpected and resonant way.
It began when I spotted a shape moving across the green landscape. As it got nearer, I felt my heart leap into my throat. It was Kiyo. I quickly raced down the hill to her side, asking her why she had risked coming so far and so near to the beginning of the operation. Her response was simple, but touched my heart: “I wanted to be with you.” She apologized, tears beginning to well up in her eyes. But I wasn’t angry. I gently took her in my arms and led her up the hill to safety. Despite the danger, she had refused to leave without me. One way or another, we were destined to finish this story together.
It was only a few more minutes before the attack began. Shell after shell was launched into the side of Mt. Aso, each attempting to stir the volcano into an eruption. Explosion followed explosion, with plumes of dirt and rocks shooting tens of meters into the sky in all directions. The shelling seemed to last an eternity.
But finally, success.
As we joined the gathered officers and scientists on the edge of the hill, the first glowing streams of lava appeared from the weakened rim of the volcano. Plumes of thick, dark smoke billowed into the air, blotting out the sun and staining the blue skies black. Bright sparks flew skyward, lighting up the darkness as lava continued to pour down the side of the mountain. And then, the roar of Rodan echoed across the open fields. From out of the smoke emerged the form of one of the monsters. And then the second appeared. Both seemed to hover above the erupting volcano, as if in shock at what was happening to their home.
Finally, one of them began to struggle. Flapping its wings to no avail, it began to fall. And as it fell, I heard a sound of sorrow in my ear. Not from the monsters, but from the woman I loved.
As Kiyo turned to weep on my shoulder, I realized the Rodans were doomed. The heat, the gasses, and the bombardment added to their bewilderment. Like moths in those rivers of fire and skies of smoke, they seemed almost to welcome the agonies of death. And when, still calling to each other, one of them fell at last into the molten lava stream, the other still refused to save itself. We watched as the second Rodan, still flying and able to escape, instead glided down toward its partner. It was a sight I’ll never forget. The last of their kind, masters of the air and earth, the strongest and swiftest creatures who ever breathed… now they sank against the earth like weary children.
I now knew way Kiyo wept. In the end, were we not like the creatures we now watched burn to their deaths? Had she not braved the dangers of the area to be with me, as the monster before us had done? This revelation brought about an emotion that I still, even after all these years, cannot put to words. It was a kind of understanding, a sympathy. It was as if something human were dying before us. As the flames consumed them in a fiery holocaust, their last agony wails echoing in a mournful cry, the fear and horror of the past few days melted away. In its place, empathy. And perhaps, even respect. I was watching a cruel and tortuous death, but an undeniably noble one. In the end, each had refused to live without the other, and so, they were dying together.
I wondered whether I, a Twentieth Century man, could ever hope to die as well.
I realize now that by the narrowest of margins, in a primal fight between man and beast, man had proved himself the stronger. But will it always be so? May not other, more terrible monsters even now be stirring in the darkness? And when at last they spring upon us, can we be certain we shall beat them back a second time?
The answer, I suppose, lies in the future. I couldn’t pretend to know what fate awaits humanity, or how much of it I will be there to witness. Perhaps my own part of the story has already been told. Perhaps the next tale will be yours to tell. For now, however, the fears of many have gone up in flame and smoke, buried with the Rodans in a grave of ash.
Whether or not my own fears – my demons – will join them in that grave remains to be seen. But for the moment, at least, I have found enough of the closure I’ve been seeking to finally quiet my mind. To rest. To move on. While the memories of those horrifying days will never fully leave me, for the moment at least, I have finally found my peace.
I hope and pray that I may be permitted to keep it.
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