She was gone. Gone.
Chizuko sat, stunned into silence. Her mind, previously racing at the implications of her teacher's tears, was now empty and black, like the City had been ten years ago. Time made no sense to her - was it seconds, minutes, hours, days, years, before she registered the gentle touch on her shoulder?
She turned, trying to focus on the figure and found that she couldn't. Her vision was blurred, cloudy. She blinked. Tsutomu, her other best friend, was standing beside her, his eyes bloodshot, one hand on her shoulder and another tugging something from her tightly clenched fist. "Leave it", he whispered, "or you'll tear it."
Chizuko laid her palm open, and to her horror, found a scrunched ball of golden paper lying on it. Her shaking hands smoothed it out, and she stared at it.
It was only today morning that she'd visited her best friend in the hospital, before rushing to school. Chizuko hated seeing her best friend pale, weak and battle-weary - this new best friend was a gruesome distortion of the old bubbly girl with a zest for life. But the girl had fallen victim to the Little Boy's terrible power, and ironically, was on the doorstep of death. Correction: She had just stepped over the threshold, and had left only 644 origami shapes behind. "I feel tired, don't think I'll do the origami today", she had said in the morning.
"How much have you made already?" Chizuko had asked, to get the reply, "644."
356 left, Chizuko's mind had automatically calculated. She won't make it, the ice-cold voice of reason had said, crushing the warmth of hope.
The unusually bright, clear memory galvanized Chizuko into action. With a new-found vigour, she folded and twisted the golden paper in her hand, and a minute later, a beautiful bird sat on the desk.
A golden paper crane.
355 left. She took the next paper, and barely saw Tsutomu joining in. 354. She didn't see the rest of the students retrieving golden papers from their desks and start making the cranes. 353. Memories flashed before her eyes, like a fast-paced movie. 352. "Don't cry, don't cry", her mind chanted like a mantra. 351. "Focus - don't tear the paper." 350...
The morning wore on, and around afternoon, 1000 paper cranes were ready. Tsutomu, who had the lucky honour of making the final one, handed it over to Chizuko. She paused, and then took out her pen. She might not have been able to save her best friend, but she had to make sure her death had not been in vain. The message had to be spread, future disasters had to be averted.
On the last paper crane, in blue ink, were written the words: This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace on earth.
Yes, Chizuko thought, her best friend would've been proud.
Her best friend - Sadako Sasaki.
*************On August 6th, 1942, the Japanese city of Hiroshima became the first ever prey of the atomic bomb (named Little Boy). Sadako Sasaki, a Japanese girl who'd been two years old at the time, was diagnosed with leukaemia in 1955, due to the persistent radiation. She began fashioning cranes out of paper, in accordance with the Japanese legend which said that if a person made thousand paper cranes, he/she would be granted a wish. But her endeavour was unsuccessful, as she died of her disease before she could complete thousand cranes. (For the full story of Sadako, visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sadako_Sasaki)
This story is my version about the reaction of Sadako's best friend Chizuko Hamamoto when she heard the news about Sadako's death. All characters, except Sadako and Chizuko, are fictional; and so is the plot.