Ah Hua was thrown to the floor and before he could even reset himself, more kicks and punches were delivered on him. He yelped in agony as blood oozed out from his mouth. Nonetheless, that did not stop the savage attack. In fact, his captors seemed to take pleasure in his pain and laughed at him. Shutting his eyes, he tried to detach himself from the harsh realities of war, in a distant place with Mei Xiang, the love of his life.
15 February 1942 marked the beginning of the darkest days in Singapore’s history. Military forces of the Empire of Japan occupied the tiny island after defeating the British troops. Many innocent Chinese who were suspected of being anti-Japanese were subsequently detained by the Japanese Secret Police known as the Kempeitai and thrown into prison, where they were subjected to brutal punishment for acts they never remembered doing.
Ah Hua, a reporter with the Nanyang Daily, was one of the victims. He was arrested because he had previously written an article on the Japanese invasion of Nanking. However, that was not the worst thing that happened to him. It was the fact that he had to be separated from his beloved wife, Mei Xiang. The couple had just tied the knot but before they could even indulge in each other’s love and comfort, they were torn apart.
The four bitter years behind bars were a total nightmare for Ah Hua. The prisoners of war suffered dreadfully and many died a slow and painful death. Ah Hua was often beaten by numerous men and put through all kinds of experimental torture that never failed to surprise him. Cruelty was no match for the barbarous treatment that those heartless creatures had prepared for him. His battered body cried in pain and exhaustion while his mind played tricks on him. Nevertheless, he endured everything with stoicism, mentally fighting to stay alive. The reason was simple: Mei Xiang was waiting for him. The couple had made a promise to stay faithful and committed to each other forever and Ah Hua could not bear the thought of making Mei Xiang a widow.
Then, the moment that Ah Hua had been hoping for arrived. The war ended and the colonial masters were back to reclaim their ‘property’. With the Japanese gone, all the prisoners of war were set free. Still bearing the scars of his four-year captivity, Ah Hua was not quite familiar with the freedom he had suddenly regained. Nonetheless, he was overwhelmed by happiness that his ordeal was finally over.
Immediately, he search everywhere for Mei Xiang. Bombs had devastated much of the island, making everything almost unrecognisable, but that did not deter him. He walked miles and miles, scanning his eyes around all the unfamiliar places. Weariness pulled him back but the thought of his beloved wife kept him going.
Night fell. The full moon looked like a shiny dime in the dark blue sky, casting its pale light over the quiet neighbourhood. Ah Hua was walking along a narrow alley when a little boy bumped into him. As he bent to help the child up, a couple who seemed the child’s parents rushed over and apologised profusely. One of the voices struck Ah Hua. He looked up and recognised the mother of the child at a glance. She was none other than Mei Xiang.
“Ah Hua!” Mei Xiang gasped in astonishment.
The moment was frozen as the two stood still, speechless by the awful truth that lay ahead of them. Before Mei Xiang could utter another word, a crestfallen Ah Hua turned around and limped away. Tears stung his eyes as all his hopes began to crumble away. He felt betrayed and saddened that Mei Xiang had forgotten their promise and moved on with life. Nevertheless, he could not bring himself to blame her, knowing that it was a love not meant to be, a love destroyed by war.
GCE O-Level, 2010, English Tuition