By Grace Guntharp
He’s a shy one, our resident ghost. In fact, I don’t think he’s spoken to anybody, ever. He mostly just stands in the various shadows of buildings and watches the world change faster than he can blink.
Of course, I think the noise disturbed him, even though he didn’t do anything about it. They were doing some restoration work on the hospital, you see. Lots of drilling, banging and general chaos— so much that it was enough to drive the ghost crazy. But it’s not that kind of hospital, so society is safe from mad spectral beings for a time, at least.
Our ghost now, he’s a young man, I’d say. Probably no more than 20 when he joined the phantom world. He’s dressed in his uniform, once spick and span, now spattered with red clay and brown blood. The light color of the material can still be seen. His right pants leg is ripped at the knee, the woolen fibers fluttering loosely when he walks. He limps, too; his death wound will not let him be. His cap is set back on his head and the various buckles on his belt jangle when he moves. Of course, those aren’t what you hear when he’s nearby. No, instead, you’ll know you stand close to him when you hear the melody. It’s very faint, but he hums it all the time. It was the last thing he heard before, well, you know, he departed his first life. Hopefully you would recognize it. “Amazing Grace” has a very distinctive tune. Some poor soul was probably playing it to comfort all those men that weren’t here long for this world, and it just stayed stuck in his head after he died. I hope it did some good for him.
From this description, I doubt you’d be afraid if you were to actually see him. Of course, I haven’t mentioned the rifle yet. It’s always slung over his shoulder, its bayonet stuck through a belt loop. Evidently, he didn’t have time to clean it after the battle— couldn’t with his going in and out of consciousness. But he held onto it ‘til the end. That’s admirable, if nothing else. I could mention his name too, though he’s never said it. But I’ll come back to that.
Then there’s the hospital. Of course, it’s not really a hospital; never has been. For a week or two back then, though, it served as one for hundreds of men. Or rather, it served as a place to rest one’s head before leaving life forever. I’m not quite sure how the young soldier managed to stay behind, though I have a few ideas. His name is not on his headstone, that’s for sure. Maybe not being tied down by a gravestone lets him continue to float around on the surface. Or perhaps he could have some purpose or mission he has yet to achieve here on earth, though he hasn’t shown the slightest inclination to do anything objective ever since I’ve known him. No, mostly our young soldier watches the modern life pass him by in a blur of technology and haste. It’s rather depressing, really, when you think about it.
If you’d like to keep him company for a while, or if you just really want to see our ghost soldier, my advice is to hang out around the old hospital, the “Dead House,” or maybe the cemetery. The best time would be around the middle of April. I’ll let you figure out the reason why. This time of the year, you probably won’t see much, even though I’ve always heard the ghosts come out at the end of October. But he doesn’t really pay much attention once those days in April pass. Then again, the young spectral friend and I don’t really see eye to eye on a number of things. October is my favorite time of the year.
I guess I should probably bring this little epistle to a close. He’s too private for me to say anything more. I just wanted to draw a little attention off the land of the living for a bit — give all you people something to think about besides your politics and your football.
That war he fought in might’ve been a long time ago, but he’s still here to remind you of it. That would be my guess for his purpose in staying behind, though there are a lot more reminders than him. But I don’t want you to take him or anything else the wrong way. And I wouldn’t be scared if you do meet him some dark night. He won’t hurt anybody. If anything, he’s just misunderstood. I don’t even think he wanted to fight in the first place — certainly not die. But we can’t all get what we want out of life. Look at me. Do you think I want to be here? You’re probably wondering exactly who I am and how I know so much about our phantom friend. Poor reader. You didn’t think he was the only ghost on campus, did you?