Everyone was asleep in the day room. Mann had given up trying to get TV reception through the snow and was reading a porn mag. We were passing a bottle of whiskey back and forth and sipping off it now and then.
There would be an eerie moaning down the hallways and behind the stairwell doors. The front outer doors would shake now and then, and my imagination always painted the LT, his skin white and waxy, pawing at the door with frozen hands. It had been over six hours since he had left.
The fact he hadn’t returned didn’t seem to bother anyone, and I’d be goddamned if I was going to show that it bothered me.
I jumped at a loud howling noise echoing down the hallway.
“Relax, Monkey, it’s just the wind,” Mann said, closing the porn mag and setting it on the counter.
“Why didn’t we call in a search and rescue?” I asked, pointing at the large bank of phones. There were over twelve of them, all them plugged in with big old-style sockets.
“Only one of those works, and that’s to an office at Corps. Right now, nobody is there because we aren’t operational,” Mann told me. Another moan drifted down the hallway and I shivered. Down the hallway, the lights flickered, and some stayed off. Mann looked down the hallway.
“I hate this fucking place,” he grumbled. “We’ll call Fifth Corps tomorrow and let them know we’re down an LT.” he saw me shiver again as a full blown shriek roared down the stairwell. “Look, just follow Cobb’s advice, Private Monkey, he used to be an arctic environment trainer before he got busted for selling crack.”
Mann went back to reading his porn mag, and I began going through the drawers looking for something to read. I found the CQ logbook, and began reading it. There was only two months’ worth the entries there. Apparently Cobb had been here, by himself, with just the construction workers coming in during the day, for nearly a month. The log held records of screaming, and a few times of hearing sobbing coming from the third floor bathroom. About a week into it, Cobb had stopped walking a patrol of the upper floors.
The eighteen of us had only arrived in the last month. I was the first new person besides the LT to arrive in a week. They’d logged when I’d arrived, that I’d received my initial TA-50 issue, and had received linen and been placed in my room.
Mann had logged that the LT had gone outside, without protective gear, into a blizzard despite being warned, and had not returned after one hour and was presumed dead. He wasn’t the only one. Apparently, an E-5 had gotten drunk and had gone outside, and had not returned. He too was presumed dead.
*BANG BANG BANG*
The noise came from upstairs, right above us. I jumped, and Mann jumped too. I didn’t feel so bad.
“What the fuck was that?” I asked.
“We don’t know,” Mann admitted. “It happens now and then. Fuck, I hope you’re not a chickenshit, Monkey.” Mann unlocked a desk drawer and pulled out two M1911A1 Colt .45s in holsters.
“Put this on, son,” Mann told me. Man looked to be in his mid-30s, and I responded by nodding and copying the way he belted it on.
“Why are we...” Mann shushed me. I opened my mouth to ask why, and a loud shriek came boiling down the stairwell and out of the vents. Following it was a sound like a woman sobbing loudly. The hair on my neck stood up.
Mann handed me a flashlight, and I saw the day to the day room shut, and heard the click of the lock.
My whole body was covered in goosebumps; hell, I had goosebumps on my balls, and my asshole felt like it was puckered shut. The sobbing sound was overlaid with shrieks.
*BANG BANG BANG*
Mann was grinning, but it was sickly looking. His face was pale.
“It’s one of those nights,” he said. I pretended not to notice the tremor in his voice. I heard what sounded like doors opening and slamming from upstairs, and another shriek came ripping down the hallway.
Then, like it was a fucking movie or something, the lights shut out one after another, marching down the hallway toward us, and then the lights in the CQ area cut out.
I could hear footsteps above us, and suddenly the emergency lighting kicked in. Red light spilled out from above me, painting me and Mann like brutalized corpses.
“Thank God,” Mann breathed. I looked at him. “Last time they didn’t cut on. Want to see something trippy?” Our breath was visible in the red light. I nodded, and he turned on a flashlight and stood up.
“Check it out, fully charged, right?” I nodded. I’d seen him open the package of OD green batteries and put them in less than twenty minutes ago. He got up, walked around the counter, and opened the doors to the hallway. Cold wind slapped me in the face; somewhere the wind was getting into the building unhindered. Mann slid the flashlight down the hallway, the spinning beam looking surreal.
He let go of the doors and ran back to me.
“Watch the light,” he told me. I nodded silently, my mouth dry. Above us, it sounded like someone was stomping around in boots. There was another shriek, this one through the floor vents.
The light stayed nice, bright, and white, and I was just about to ask why we were watching a flashlight beam when it happened.
The beam dimmed, then came back, then it flickered, then it came back. Suddenly it dropped to extremely dim and stayed that way for moment before going out. It flickered back on, then slowly dimmed away.
“Trippy, ain’t it?” Mann asked me. “That’s why Cobb quit doing the rounds, and why we don’t do them either. You never know when it’s going to happen.” His face was painted surreal by the red emergency lights.
We sat there in silence, looking at each other once in awhile when a shriek was particularly loud. When banging sounded from the door behind us, from the tiny office behind the CQ area, we both jumped.
“FUCK THIS!” I yelled, standing up. My nerves were stretched too tight. I wasn’t going to just sit here. There was NO FUCKING SUCH THING AS GHOSTS! This was someone fucking with us or an effect of the blizzard top outside.
I walked over to the door and snatched it open, telling myself that a window must have blown open. The musty air was pushed back by another shrieking breeze, and in the red light I saw that the only things in there was cot, a sleeping bag, a desk, and a chair. No windows. No vents.
“Cobb spent the last week he was here alone in there with these pistols at night. You watch, he’s a little twitchy nowadays,” Mann said, standing up behind me.
I slammed the door and turned back to Mann. “Look, this is bullshit. There’s someone in here fucking with us.”
“Who? Who the fuck is out here to fuck with us? There’s not another fucking unit out here within five fucking miles! They’re on the other side of the fucking mountain! We’re above the goddamn ski resort for Christ’s Sake!” Mann looked pissed, but I didn’t care. This was bullshit. This was a US Army barracks, for fuck’s sake, nobody believed in ghosts.
“Give me the fucking keys, I’m going upstairs,” I told him. I grabbed another flashlight and put new batteries in it, then shoved the rest of the batteries from the package in my pocket.
“You realize, we won’t be able to hear you scream above the ‘wind’,” he told me, placing a strange emphasis on wind. I nodded and took two steps before Mann grabbed my arm.
“Look, kid, I realize you’re all bad ass hell from AIT and Basic, but listen to me.” He sounded urgent, and I stopped.
“Look, there are some posts in the US that are haunted. I’m not making this up, kid. Madigan Army Hospital at Fort Lewis is haunted, the parade ground at Fort Riley Kansas is haunted, Darmstadt is haunted, the whole fucking post. Don’t go fucking around in here.” I could see the earnestness in his voice, and reminded myself that he had been in the Army for eight years before getting busted to his current rank. He’d been a Drill Instructor at Red Stone, training ChemCorps troops, and got caught fucking one of the students.
I sat down, then nearly jumped out of my seat at what sounded like cackling laughter coming from down the hallway.
“Just the wind, kid,” Mann told me. He didn’t sound convinced, but I decided it was better to just stay here with him.
The night passed, but only an hour or so was filled with strange noises. The lights came back on at 3AM, and the wind died down. I was glad I’d refilled the coal chute on the furnace before dinner.
We ate MREs for breakfast, and Stokes and Cobb took the only vehicle we had to the chow hall on main post and got us some food. According to Mann, out in the snow, was a building that would be our mess hall. The cooks were all due sometimes.
We called in what happened to the LT, and the guy on the other side of the line didn’t sound surprised, or even worried. Just asked if we had any other casualties to report.
I went to bed.
The chair was uncomfortable, but the sounds of the rest of the company were comforting.