Old boots

3.20 A.M. I was roused from an uneasy sleep by the insistent call of nature. Something in me urged me to use the cleaner toilet bowls on the unused 4th floor. Something in me also urged me to disregard army policy of going to the latrine after lights-out in a pair – my buddy and me.

I lumbered up the stairwell in a dream-like state of partial consciousness. It was there at the landing when I felt a frigid pair of eyes gazing aimlessly at me – it was another recruit. He was, well, grey. It didn’t strike me then as particularly odd that his skin was colourless, and that I couldn’t really see his feet. Now recalling that moment, I can’t be sure if I even saw eyes, just a blankness of a face.

He was the permanent resident of the empty 4th storey.

There he stood facing me motionlessly, exuding a muted but tormented melancholy. In his right hand, he held from the laces, a pair of combat boots – mud-caked and wrinkled with age. He didn’t seem to have a left arm, just a stump ending at the elbow. I stared into his eyeless face and he stared back with an equal measure of lethargy and despondence. Soundlessly, we stood there for what seemed like an eternity.

At 5 A.M, the shrill klaxons of my watch alarm tore into my sleep and I found myself nauseated and shivering in bed. My boots had gone missing.

A pair of boots – mud-caked and wrinkled with age, with my name scribbled at the bottom was later found at the 4th floor latrine.

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