A lone soldier makes a chilling discovery in the woods… the first part of an ongoing series: The Veil.
He shouldn’t be here. It was more than just a sense, it was a crystal clear certainty ringing in his head. There was nothing good about this place.
Maybe he could return to his unit and pretend he’d never seen the bunker, but sooner or later someone else would patrol this route, they would find the bunker, and they would ask why he hadn’t reported it. Nor would it do him any good just to go back and report what he had discovered in the woods. His commander would demand further information: was it an enemy bunker? what was the strength of the opposing force? had their position been compromised?
At this moment he could answer none of those questions. The only thing he was certain of was that the strange metal structure hadn’t been there a few days earlier. Like the rest of his unit he was conducting a routine patrol, in the wake of last night’s air raids, to check for enemy incursions. So far he hadn’t encountered a soul, living or dead; the only thing he had found was this bunker – a bunker that had seemingly appeared out of nowhere, jutting about six feet out of the ground and embedded an unknown depth below the surface.
Two hour’s surveillance hadn’t revealed any signs of life. It would have almost been easier if someone had come out and attacked him, at least that way he could retreat and report enemy forces. Instead he had no clue what this place represented and, consequently, no choice but to proceed inside. He had already identified an entrance of sorts: a small door, or perhaps just a loose panel, on one side – but whatever it was he was able to pull it aside and enter the bunker.
That was when he started to get the feeling that something was very, very wrong. The bunker had been at angles to the ground. At first he thought it was an attempt to disguise the structure: a typical square building would be very easy to spot, an unnaturally shaped one perhaps less so. The door, or whatever it was, had likewise been askew.
What disturbed him was that the interior should have been at the same angle – he had already surveyed it through the door, he knew nothing was straight inside – the floors should have been sloped but here he was walking perfectly level. He should have been steadying himself every few paces, but other than a faint dizzying sensation he was walking unaided.
Step after cautious step, rifle at the ready, he proceeded inside. At one point he put his hand on the wall, expecting to feel cold metal but the sensation had been more akin to touching bricks that had been left to warm in the sun. The corridors were filled with an overwhelming silence punctuated every now and again by a sound like a gentle breeze, but there were no other sounds travelling in from the outside; no birdsong, no planes, nothing.
There was nothing right about the place. It had the sense of being old and disused, even though it had only appeared in the last day or two. He could detect a slight smell of burning, but no smoke. It was unnatural.
He imagined that he would return to his unit and recommend that the place be bombed into ash. He had almost no useful intelligence to offer but he imagined that his commander would accept his recommendation given the circumstances. He imagined one day returning to his comrades. He imagined all of these things because it helped him avoid thinking about the one thing that above all else that he didn’t want to think about.
He was lost.
He didn’t think he’d wandered that far into the bunker, but he knew that finding the way out would involve more than simply turning around. Every corridor looked identical, and he had no idea how many of them he’d walked down or how many corners he had turned. He could have walked only a hundred meters, or maybe a thousand, he didn’t know. More than anything he didn’t want to panic and if he tried to find the exit and failed then the fear would take him, and once that happened he would be finished.
So he avoided thinking that he was never going to make it out of the bunker, just as he avoided thoughts of seeing his wife again, or of making it through the war alive. No one wanted to die in this war, but if you had to die the least you could hope for was to die serving your country, among your friends and comrades. Never to die alone.
There was something different ahead: cubicles, but made of darkened glass that appeared to suck the light in. Some were still intact, others were broken, bearing deep, shattered cracks across their surfaces. They seemed large enough for a man to fit inside, yet were entirely the wrong shape. Maybe they were for weapons storage. As he watched the surface of one seemed to shimmer. He reached out a hand, compelled to know the sensation of touching them.
Then he realised that what he was seeing in the glass was a reflection.
He turned. At first he saw nothing. Then the shadow of something rose before him, he knew in that second he was about to die, even though he couldn’t see what was about to kill him. At the same moment he saw the door, bright daylight gleaming through it, a lifetime away just at the end of the corridor. He struggled for some words, for anything to save him from dying in silence. Finally they came, bringing nothing profound, but something true: “Tell my wife I love her very much.”
He felt something terribly cold piercing his flesh, and then there was nothing.
The shadow turned and saw the light, and the light was good.
And slowly, and surely, it made its way towards it…