Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Barracks Shadow Man

     So many of the ghosts I’ve seen I didn’t get a good look at. They look like regular people, and unless they’re wearing period clothes it is usually impossible to spot them. Fort Ord evens the playing field somewhat because most of the ghosts there are wearing a uniform and the style of uniform gives away their age. I’ve told you about the African-American in the OG (pickle-suit), and the guy sitting in my truck wearing an Army orderly’s uniform.

     There was also the Captain who almost knocked me over one morning. I was on the alley between the 2-27 barracks, and I was reading the stickers still on the windows of the upper floors. As I turned I had to jump to one side as this man wearing the old khaki uniform, and captain’s bars on his shoulders barreled past me. In a step and a half he vanished. I can still see him. He wore the old bus-driver hat, and carried a brown leather briefcase. He had a determined look on his face. The cut of the uniform placed him in the late 1950s to early 1960s.

Charlie 3-9 Barracks. He sat at the far entrance.

     A year or so later I was simply out for a walk. Fort Ord is at the halfway point between my home, and the peninsula. It’s a great place to walk because the distances are marked, and you can keep track of who far you’ve gone. I was finishing up a three-mile loop, and decided to cut up through the alley between the Machu, 3-9 barracks. The end I approached from is almost blocked by a pair of Monterey Cypress trees. Their long branches reach across the alley entrance, and they make it impossible to see through to the other side.

     I came up at an angle which allowed me to walk under one tree, and out onto the alley way. As I rounded the corner of the neighboring building I saw movement on the steps of the opposite barracks.  I stopped as this place can be tricky with gangs, and homeless folks sometimes hanging out. What I saw blew my mind.

The tree I stood beneath as I watched him.

     Sitting on the steps of the barracks was a man. He wore the camouflage pants, and the black Corcoran combat boots. The upper half of his body was a shadowy outline. I could see enough definition that I could tell he was smoking a cigarette. I stood there looking at him - really looking at him in detail. There was no question about what he was. He didn’t react to the wind blowing through the trees. He just sat on the steps, head hunched just so, and every once in a while taking a drag from his invisible cigarette.

     I marveled at his lower half. The sun reflected from the shine of his boots. I could see his laces tied at the top. He had something in the thigh cargo pockets of his pants, and the brass buckle glinted. I wondered what might happen if I touched him. Would I feel anything?

     The shadowy upper half was interesting too. It resembled a garden variety shadow in its consistency. It was solid, and I couldn’t see through it. I could make out the fingers on each hand as they rested just above his knees.

     His head turned my direction, and he sat up straight. He took one last puff, stood up, and turned to walk inside. He vanished as he went through the door. He had seen me. I assumed he was a residual vision; a recording in space time. I was wrong. This guy posed a bunch of questions about how things work on the other side. Why stay there? Do ghosts get cigarette breaks? Why not wear comfortable shoes? Why keep your boot s shined?

     I walked up those steps, and pulled the door open. Standing just inside I stood listening for the sound of boots. It was silent. I apologized in a calm voice, and I left. Of all of my ghost sightings this one remains the most interesting to me. I know there were two suicides in the building during the time-frame of the ghost’s uniform. Maybe he feels a sense of duty to the men he left behind. Maybe he feels like a failure, and cannot move on.

      I hope he finds a way to let go.

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