Where was I? Oh yeah, the third night I’d spent there.
I woke up early, it was around 0430 and cold as shit in the room. I got up, stretched, and pulled on my boots and BDU top. Curious, I took my lighter and lit it, then ran it around the edges of the windows.
Nothing, the flame didn’t even flicker.
It didn’t flicker near the vents either. There wasn’t any air coming in the room through the vents or the windows. Dammit.
Aw fuck, the furnace was out again. No. Hell no. I’m not going back in that room, ever. Not even with a gun. Not even with a rocket launcher. Not even with tank.
Coward bubbled up from my mind.
Against a man? No. Against a beast? No. Against a water heater that breathed and a furnace that was probably used to burn people alive? Fuck. Yes. It’s not like I’m the only one scared; these guys and girls were all people who had been in for years, and they abandoned their rooms because of this shit. No. I refuse to be afraid. There’s no such thing as the fucking bogeyman and no such thing as ghosts. It’s the nineteen fucking eighties, nobody is afraid of ghosts anymore.
I slipped out of the dayroom and into the CQ area. Carter was leaned back in the chair, fucking with the rabbit ears on top of the little television, trying to get Sesame Street to come in clearer. Another guy that I’d seen around but not really interacted with was reading a book. I waved to both and headed for my room. The hallway lights were on, but it still felt... dim.
I unlocked my room, retrieved another uniform and some underwear, grabbed a towel, and took a shower and shaved. I felt better in a clean uniform. I gathered up my laundry bag and headed for the laundry room. I’d memorized the barracks map that was in log book when I had assistant CQ. I tossed in my dirty laundry into the washer and added some Tide, then headed out to the CQ area.
“Sleep good, Private Monkey?” Carter asked, stretching and yawning.
“Yup, sure did, Specialist,” A moan drifted down the stairwell.
“Good morning, soldiers.” It was Captain Bishop, and he sounded way too cheery for a man who had just spent the night in this hell hole. I could hear Sergeant Vickers waking people up in the day room. Bishop walked up to the CQ area, and rested his elbow on the counter.
“We’re going to search the barracks today. There is twenty of us; we’ll break into teams of four. I want every locker, every room, every closet, every bathroom checked. If the door doesn’t open with the keys we have, kick the goddamn thing in,” Captain Bishop said. I could hear Stokes lurching into the CQ area. Her knee didn’t work worth a shit.
“What about the arms room and the NBC area? We don’t have keys for the locks, and they’re pretty serious locks,” Carter asked, bringing a ring of keys out of the desk door. “We have six master keys, and four keys for each room, unless someone is staying in the room, then we only have two or three keys.”
“We’ll figure that out after lunch. We’ll have breakfast, I’ll assign teams, and we’ll knock this out by lunch.” Captain Bishop looked totally in control. “We’ll go onto main post for lunch.”
I nodded, and waited while everyone came out into the CQ Area. The whole unit, all twenty of us, was smaller than my AIT class. I was getting familiar with everyone. Cobb looked like he hadn’t slept in a month, and I hoped someone had let Sergeant Vickers and Captain Cobb that he had been stuck here, by himself, for a month.
I was assigned with Mann, a woman named Stevens, and a black guy named Smith. We drew lots, and ended up with the far side basement. The water heater/furnace room, the war-stock storage, the tool room, a mailroom, a set of offices.
I didn’t say a word, but I could tell my companions weren’t too thrilled about the area we drew. I swore I heard a chuckling noise float up through the vents. We walked silently down the hallway, past the double doors, and then into the stairwell. When we opened it, freezing air poured over us, and I took my gloves out of my thigh pocket and pulled them on.
“Shit, I should have thought of that,” Stevens said. “Damn, Monkey here is the only one of us with a field jacket too.”
“Shut up, let’s knock this shit out and get out of here,” Mann said, and we headed down the stairs. When we pushed the door open, the small hallway at the bottom of the stairs was pitch black. Christ, this was turning out run already.
“This room first,” Mann said, unlocking and pushing open the doorway to that huge dirt floored room. I felt fingers tickle up my spine as I looked at the dark maw of the doorway. Was it just my imagination, or did our little hallway get darker somehow?
Fuck this. I’m a US Army soldier. There’s no such thing as ghosts, there aren’t any dead Nazis stalking around these barracks.
I pushed past Mann, snapped on my flashlight and dropped it into the pocket of my field jacket. The others followed me.
“Okay, spread out to double arm intervals,” Mann said. I scootched my way between Mann and Stevens, that way I wouldn’t be at the end, and wouldn’t have to touch the walls. I was a clever monkey.
“I’m not near a wall,” Smith said. Mann went by me, and I heard some movement. “Shit, where is the wall?” Mann asked. I suppressed an urge to run for it. I heard Stevens breathing heavily, and squeezed her hand. She squeezed back.
“Okay, damn, this fucker is about eight people wide,” Mann said. I ran the numbers in my head. The room was damn near the size of the barracks, but the doorway opened up against the far side, and it was right down the stairs.
The dimensions didn’t fit.
Mann came back and grabbed my hand, and I realized that it was because it probably went underneath the lawn. Duh.
We walked forward, shining our flashlights on the ground, Smith had his pointed at the other wall. We saw several rats slither into the holes in the concrete, and the water-heater looked more sad than menacing. It must have been around twenty years old, and wasn’t holding up well.
We finally reached the far end.
“I’m gonna reload the furnace,” I told them. Mann told me to go ahead, and the three of them talked while I sweated through reloading the feeder-chute and starting a new fire.
“Ready? Let’s get out of this fucking room, it’s creepy,” Mann said. We all nodded in the light from the furnace, and then we got the fuck out of that room. In the hallway, Mann kicked the lantern I’d left there god knows how long ago, and it bounced off the wall and shattered.
“Nice going, Mann,” I said.
“What the fuck was that?” Smith asked.
“An oil lantern. I used it the other day when I refilled the fucking furnace,” I replied.
“No fucking way, there’s nobody that would go through that fucking room by themselves,” Stevens said.
“At ease that shit. Let’s hit the war-stocks room.” The calling me out on reloading the furnace the other day stopped, and Mann unlocked the war-stocks room.
“What the fuck is war-stocks?” I asked.
“Well, our unit has to have up-to-date stocks to roll out in case the Soviets or the East Germans jump. So it’s stored in this room... What the fuck?” I looked over Mann’s shoulder.
Nothing. The room just stretched out into the darkness.
“This is bullshit! Cobb and I loaded this shit off of five-tons! I goddamn know this fucking room was full!” Mann swore, stepping into the room.
The wind grabbed the door out of Steven’s had and slammed it shut.
We could hear Mann yelling and trying to open the door, and we tugged on it hard. The handle was ice cold, and the wind was swirling around us, making an unearthly banshee wail the whole time.
The wind quit, and the door flew open. Mann fell on the floor and scrabbled away from the empty gaping door. His eyes were huge, and it was probably the most frightened I’d ever seen someone. He kicked the door shut, and scrabbled to his feet.
“What?” I asked.
“There’s someone in there,” Mann said.
“Bullshit,” I said. I pulled the door open and stepped in. I expected it, I knew it was going to happen, but the wind shrieked and the door slammed shut behind me.
The floor was concrete, and I began walking the length. Fuck this, there’s no such thing as ghosts, there’s no such thing as monsters. I found the two huge double doors that opened onto the loading dock according to the map I’d memorized. The doors were chained shut from the inside.
There were a few wooden chunks, but that was it.
I ignored the breathing noise on the inside wall. That was the water heater. I ignored the low chuckling laughter; that was the furnace. I ignored the footsteps; those were the echoes of my boots on the concrete.
As I started walking back toward the door, I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. A warm puff of cold air hit the back of my neck and bald head.
I must have passed under a vent or air leak.
one step. two step.
It’s just the air.
one step. two step. three...
I hit the door with my shoulder, like I’d just plowed the Tumwater quarterback. My shoulder slammed the bar nearly flush with the door, and the door crashed open. Stevens and Smith went reeling away, and I turned around and kicked the door shut, putting my back against it and holding it.
“Someone in there?” Mann asked. I straightened up and adjusted my BDU top.
“No, just my imagination.” I stepped over by him. Smith locked the door.
“Did you find any of those pallets?” I shook my head. “The pallet jacks?” No again. “Where the fuck did it all go?” he asked.
“Maybe another unit stole it? Or black marketers,” I said, rubbing my hands together. Damn, they were freezing. Everyone nodded. That’s what happened.
We’d tell the MPs, and CID would investigate.
The MREs, uniforms, TA-50, concentina wire, body bags, tents, and camou nets would never be found.
The tool room was empty, and I stood in the hallway “warming up” while Stevens and Smith checked it. No tools, but Mann assured me that the trucks with the tools had not arrived yet.
He told me that he and Cobb had spent the first three days moving the beds, dressers, desks, and refrigerators up into the rooms and the offices on the other side of the basement.
While he talked, he opened the mailroom door, and we swept our flashlights around inside. Nothing.
According to him, they’d just finished loading the furniture into the rooms the day I arrived.
“Hey, I have a question,” I said.
“Shoot,” he answered, holding open the door while Stevens and Smith left the tool room.
“Well, if the only phone that works is the one that is a locked line to Fifth Corps, how the fuck did you know to come get me?” I asked. It had been bothering me since the night before.
Mann laughed, and explained. Apparently, the number they had for my unit at the reception center/rec center was the number to the Fifth Corps office, and they’d call the unit on the locked line. Duh. I should have figured that out myself.
We pushed at the door to outside, but only managed to get it about two inches open. We could see packed snow around the edges, and gave up.
“Where do you suppose the LT ended up?” Smith asked, as we entered the stairwell.
“Fuck him, he got what was coming to him,” Stevens swore.
“He’s probably in the back parking lot. If he went around the building, he would have got lost behind us. There isn’t shit behind this building but snow, trees, and eventually the ski resort,” Mann answered. We pushed into the hallway and ran into the group searching the first floor.
They hadn’t seen jack, so we helped them sweep the rooms on the first floor.
“Captain Bishop and Sergeant Vickers are checking the third floor,” Stokes told us from the hallway while Mann and I searched another barracks room.
“What the fuck are they doing up there?” Mann asked. “There isn’t shit up there but empty rooms and the attic access.”
“They think whoever it is that’s fucking with us is hiding on the third floor,” Stokes answered. Mann laughed.
“What’s so funny?” I asked.
“The box-heads who were doing the construction refused to refurbish those rooms. They wouldn’t even repaint the offices. The two of them are in for a shock,” Mann told me.
“What’s the surprise?” I asked. Hell, asking this kept my mind from putting monsters under the beds to jump me.
“The walls still have all the old Nazi paintwork. We’re talking swastikas and lightning bolts and eagles,” Mann replied. “It’s like something out of a World War II movie.”
“Why is it that fucking Nazis are creepy?” Stevens asked. “I lived in the South, and we had the Civil War, but you never hear tales of dead Rebels killing people.”
“They weren’t evil,” Smith said, stepping into the hallway. “They may have been slave holders and the like, but they weren’t evil like these assholes were.”
We stayed silent while we checked the laundry room, the broom closet, and finally ended up back in the day room. The other groups dribbled in, and finally Sergeant Vickers and Captain Bishop showed back up. Both of them looked disturbed.
“Get everyone together. We’re going back to main post. You guys have a hot lunch,” Captain Bishop told us.
Did you know, that if you really need to, you can fit 10 people in a Chevy Blazer?
We pulled up to a mess hall, and we all bailed out. Lunch wasn’t great, but it was hot, it was fresh, and that made it good.
“Hey, Monkey, you still got that bottle I gave you?” the person I’d first met, Specialist Thompson, asked me.
“Yeah. I left it in my room. I kind of forgot about it,” I answered.
“The CO told me to take the CUC-V to the Class VI. He pitched in, we’re all going to sit in the day room and get drunk tonight. You want anything?”
I dug in my wallet and pulled out a twenty-dollar traveller’s check. I signed it, and handed it to him. “Grab me a bottle of Wild Turkey; use the rest to make sure everyone else has a bottle,” I told him. He looked surprised.
Cobb lit two cigarettes and handed me one absently. I took it, even though I didn’t smoke, and leaned back in my chair to belch. Everyone laughed, and Smith cut loose with a belch louder and more abrasive than mine, which I laughed at.
“Say, Monkey, have you figured out why the barracks are haunted?” Smith asked. I shook my head and coughed from a drag of the cigarette. “Well, this post wasn’t even discovered till after World War II was over. It was found by some guys who got lost.
“This is one of the SS training grounds. The welcome center is featured on a few old documentaries as having Hitler inspecting SS units in front of it. Our building, however, wasn’t discovered until the early 1960′s, and even then, it wasn’t really examined until close to the 1970′s.
“Rumor control says the first guys in it vanished, and the area was listed as restricted.” I nodded. I’d heard the Major bitching about the fact the area was listed as a restricted area on the map. “Here’s the fucked up part, Monkey.
“The place was where the SS cadre, the trainers, were barracksed. It was also there they practiced new techniques and kept their skills sharp.”
“Torture,” I said. The heads around the table nodded. “You mean to tell me that the Army, the U-fucking-S Army is making us live in a place where motherfuckers who are the standard for evil tortured people to death?”
Everyone nodded, and I spent the rest of the time till Captain Bishop and SFC Vickers picked us up trying to figure out who I’d pissed off to end up there.