short story phantom soldier

The Phantom Soldier

I’ve been working at the base for the last ten years. I’m just a mail clerk. Everything’s been cool so far. Great job, interesting people, even better food. But then, last week, something strange began to happen.

People have gotten secretive lately and don’t talk to me anymore. Everyone used to greet me warmly and answer my questions when we made small talk. However, when I ask them about their day or their job now, they all just say, ‘Its need to know only’, sorry. And then they move on.

It’s really strange that a bunch of fun loving people would become so somber and silent all of a sudden. Maybe I’m just going crazy. It is a military base and there are bound to be more than a few secrets here. I’m just a mail clerk after all. If there was something important to tell me, then they would.

Yesterday, a man passed me, but his uniform was different, and it seemed out of place. I called out to him, but he didn’t answer me. It was like he didn’t even hear me. But there was something strange about him. Something didn’t feel right. I followed him, just to see what he was up to. But, he just kept walking. I tried to keep up with him, but he’d always disappear by the time I turned the corner.

I’ve told others about him, but they think I’m just seeing things. I told them about his uniform and asked if he was on temporary duty assignment here. But they tell me I’m overworked and that I just need a rest. Since then, I’ve had two employee reviews and one psychological exam. I passed both. I think I’m fine. I KNOW I’m fine. Plus, they’d boot me if they really thought I was crazy. I’d be out of the door and out of a job. The problem is…I keep seeing him; and yet no one else seems to.

Today, I’m going to do it. I’m going to catch him and question him. I followed him everywhere. I didn’t let him out of my sight. I followed him down the hall, down the stairs, up the stairs, and out the door. Somethings different. Something feels different. Before when I followed him, he seemed to disappear on me. But today…today I even followed him into the woods. Today, it like he’s letting me follow him. I shiver with cold and blow on my hands. It’s cold out here. But I will not turn back. He’s up to something. I just know it. The question is what. Then, he just stopped, turned, smiled, and gave me his jacket. I was reluctant at first, but it was too cold to say no. Thank you, I said, and then I put it on. I was surprised. I was a very warm jacket. I smiled at him and he smiled at me. And then he just disappeared right before my eyes.

When I finally stopped staring, and was able to start moving again, I questioned everything. Who was he? Why did he lead me here? Why did i follow him? And if he was…is a ghost, how am i wearing his jacket? Would it not have disappeared too? I had way more questions than answers and it didn’t look like any of them would be answered today.

So, I took a deep breath, let it go, and I started to go back towards the base. Suddenly, in the still predawn air, I heard it. It was a loud whistling noise. It was the whistle that a bomb or missile makes before it hits the ground. I looked up and there I saw it. Streaking through the sky and towards the base. I had to warn them. I had to run. I forced my feet to move.

It was then that I saw the base get hit by a bomb. I saw it happen. In the flash of a great light, the base was no more. Smoke and fire filled the air. I was stunned, too stunned to move. I wanted to call out and warn them, but I had followed the … ghost soldier so far into the woods, that I would never have gotten there in time to warn them. All I could do was watch the base go up in smoke and fire. The base was completely destroyed. I fell to my knees.

“If I hadn’t been so determined to follow that …guy. Then I too would have been killed. I would have been in there.” I pondered to myself. But even verbalizing it, didn’t make it seem any more real. “It’s…it’s…mind bending.” I know what I just saw and yet it seemed more unbelievable than the ghost that I’ve been chasing. I look down at the name tag on the jacket that I’m now wearing.

“Sgt. Jones, C.”

I take the jacket off and examine the jacket’s patches. It’s an emergency medical team jacket. It has the insignia of 55th General Hospital, and it smelled like formaldehyde. I tore my eyes away from the jacket and I look at the base again. Nothing but burning rubble and black smoke. Not a sound to be heard. I was saved, but I start to cry.

“So many people just died. But if I could see him, then why couldn’t anyone else? I told people about him, and yet they treated me like I was crazy. But I wasn’t crazy. I saw him. I followed him, and I was saved.” I still can’t believe it. But there was no use avoiding it. I need to find help. I need get out of this cold. I need to find Sgt. Jones, C., give him back his coat, and thank him for saving my life.

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