I grabbed my flashlight and shined the beam around, the light catching the dagger. I scooted over to it, scooped it up, and hefted the weight in my hand. They didn’t teach knife fighting in the Army, but the first rule of knife fighting is that you will get cut. Expect it, accept it, and cut the other guy while he thinks victory is his. Don’t spin the knife. Don’t toss it from one hand to the other. Don’t do any lunges showing off. Keep it low, to the side, angled upward, for a slash across their body or arms, or a straight thrust under the ribs.
The Army didn’t teach recruits knife fighting. My father taught knife fighting.
I shined the flashlight around in the darkness, looking for whatever was in there. There were broken planks around where I’d landed, and the light shined off of puddles of ice and slush. Water was leaking into the sub-basement from somewhere, and shining my light above me, at the ceiling, showed icicle nubs and full blown icicles hanging from the steel beams that supported the concrete floor that was covered with dirt in the basement above me.
“MONKEY! WHERE ARE YOU!” sounded from above me.
“IN THE SUBBASEMENT! WATCH IT, THE HATCH IS OPEN!”
A light flashed down, and I moved over to stand in the puddle of the beam.
“You all right?” SFC Vickers asked. “I couldn’t get the door open, the wind was whipping down the stairwell.
“Yeah, that seems to fucking happen,” I swore, flashing my light around. “My fucking ribs and back hurt.” Hey, what was that?
“Just a second,” I told him, and walked over. It was a pack of Malboro’s, Tandy’s brand. I picked it up, opened it up, and lit one with shaking hands. I didn’t smoke.
I walked back into the puddle of light from SFC Vicker’s flashlight and looked up into the beam, squinting.
“I think he was down here. I found a pack of cigarettes. Malboros,” I called up. There was a pause.
“I think I dropped them. I smoke Malboros,” SFC Vickers called down. “Toss ’em up, I need a smoke.” I slipped three out and put them in my pocket, then tossed the pack up.
“Thanks. Are you all right?”
“Yeah, I said I’m fucking fine. It’s cold and creepy down here.”
“Can you hang on, we’re going to have to get a rope, the stairs are all fucked up,” SFC Vickers called down.
Fucker was going to leave me.
“I’ll be fine.”
“Here. Catch.” Something dropped from above, and I grabbed it, dropping the knife. It was one of our two .45′s. I stuck it in the belt of my parka and picked up the knife, sheathing it in my boot, and drew the .45.
“Look, you may have to shoot Tandy, can you do that?” Vickers asked.
“Yes, sergeant. I can utilize lethal force against Private Tandy if I deem it necessary,” I said, in formal, clipped tones.
“Good. I’ll be right back,” he told me, and the light vanished.
Fucker. I checked my watch, and sighed in acceptance. My watch was shattered, broken all to shit by the fall.
Something moved out in the darkness, and I realized I was in the middle of the room, without a wall to my back. I started backing up, figuring the left wall was closer. I could hear something moving, and I could hear the sound of breathing from somewhere in the darkness.
It’s just the fucking water heater. Be a goddamn man.
When I bumped into the wall, I jumped, and something dropped on me from above, enveloping me, grabbing my arms and legs, and smothering me. I fired the pistol three times in rapid succession, yelling and struggling. I managed to tear my way free of the grip of my assailant, and fired into its shape on the ground, hearing the bullet ricochet and whine off into the darkness to smash into something.
That Nazi flag wouldn’t fuck with me again. I’d kicked its fucking ass.
I picked up my flashlight from where the beam was illuminating part of the white circle and the red of the background, and shined it to my left and right. There were posters on the wall on my left, and a map on my right.
Aw fuck. This wasn’t just where the crates were stored, they used to do stuff in here. My brain summoned up the image of jewish men and women screaming as “approved torture” techniques were used, the faces of men smiling as they strangled victims to display their technique and skill, or to teach an audience.
Fuck this, I’ll go back to jail.
Well, I wasn’t going to get any un-lonelier down here. I went over and looked at the map. I wasn’t sure what the map was of, but I figured it was of part of Germany. There were markings and stuff I was unfamiliar with, but I did recognise the international symbol of a box with an X through it.
Someone had been tracking military units in here.
The further I went down the wall, the stronger that musty smell began to be. I could hear bootsteps echoing around me, I could hear breathing, but I blew them off. If Tandy was down here, if he loomed out of the darkness, I wasn’t even going to warn him, I was going to blow his ass away. Fuck him.
I reached the corner, and discovered desks lined up against the wall. Shining my flashlight into the room itself, there were more desks, and I could dimly see something different.
If I’m gonna get eaten by cannibal undead Nazi reverse snow vampires, I might as well check some shit out before it happens. I walked over there, being careful at one point when I was walking across ice.
It was a podium, with the Nazi SS logo on the front. I was kind of disappointment that there wasn’t a book, or a speech, laid out. There was a riding crop (how fucking cliché) on the podium. Bummer.
I finished a circuit, weaving my way through boxed I really didn’t want to open. I wasn’t sure where the smell was coming from, or even what it was, and was kind of relieved. My curiosity had overwhelmed fear.
I brought up the .45 and spun slowly in place.
I could hear breathing, always behind me. I was breathing hard, my breath visible in the light of my flashlight. Nothing, but I could still here the breathing.
“PRIVATE MONKEY! Are you down there?” I heard. Flashlight beams lanced down through the opening, a good fifty feet away, and I ran into the puddle of light, looking up.
“Throw me a rope!”
“Did you find Tandy?”
“FUCK TANDY! THROW ME A GODDAMN ROPE!” the breathing was heavier, and I could feel the darkness closing around me. Those fucking Nazis had been holding a class on tracking us one by one through the building and killing us, to bring us down here and eat us while we screamed.
The rope fell from the opening, and I tucked the pistol into the belt of my parka, dropped the flashlight into the pocket, and climbed up the rope. Fear and desperation lent me a lot of strength, and I was up it in a flash.
“Did you find him?” SFC Vickers asked.
“No. There’s no-one down there,” I told him. He held out his hand, and I stared at it.
“The pistol, Private,” He said. I grunted and handed it to him.
“Let’s go, we’ll regroup at the CQ area, and see what anyone else found,” SFC Vickers was saying.
Everyone kept asking me what I’d seen, but I just mumbled as we walked up the stairs. As we headed down the hallway, the lights snapped off, and while everyone else cursed, I just stayed silent.
As long as it was just the lights, I couldn’t give a shit less anymore.
Everyone was gathered in the CQ area, and I took a quick headcount.
I counted again, came up with the same number, and sheepishly remembered to count myself. Nineteen. We were all here.
The search had turned up nothing. Captain Bishop and Stokes checked my ribs. Stokes was a goddamn 91A, a fucking medic, she shouldn’t even be in the unit, but she was here just like the rest of us.
I was wrong, this wasn’t Active Duty. The bus I had been on had slid out in the snow, and my body hadn’t been recovered yet. I was dead.
Those dark thoughts followed me when Cobb and I took CQ.
“You OK, Monkey?” Cobb asked. We both ignored the lights flicking on and off at the end of the hallway.
“Yeah, just hurt,” I replied.
The crashing came from upstairs, and a scream echoed down the stairwell.
“Have a slug,” he told me, holding out the bottle of Ausbach. Our breath steamed in the air, but I knew I’d reloaded the furnace. It was just... well... it just wasn’t getting to us tonight.
When the phone rang, we both jumped. Cobb dropped the bottle, and I just stared at the ringing phone while he scrambled after the bottle.
“Answer the fucking phone!” he yelled. I grabbed at, and then had to chase it.
“2/19th Special Weapons, Private Monkey, how can I help you, sir or ma’am?” I rattled off.
“Hello?” I asked. Cobb was staring at me.
It was low, gravelly, and liquid.
“It’s for you,” I said, holding the phone out to Cobb.
That’s it for the night. Sorry, gang.
There’s more, detailing the first week I had in Germany.
Complete with what happened to Cobb, what was in the sub-basement, and more.