Originally Posted by ki11j0y
Good challenge. Don't know how to deal with this.
Years ago, doing a bit of touring on the cheap back in the 60's. I was staying in what had once been an old Army billet somewhere in Europe. Not that I know much of history but I knew tremendous tank battles had been fought around that area. Very early 1st of November, All Saint's Day, morning after Halloween. Went into a cavernous washroom for a shave. But before that, while I had some hot water running, rolled a smoke. Old Holborn, strong Old Holborn. The Zouave on the Zig Zag packet winked at me, I could swear he did. Strange time of year, Halloween.
Lit up, took a lung busting first smoke of the day drag, and exhaled a stream of smoke, watching it mingle with the steam, then noticed something to my left, a man of average height standing in front of an old concrete twin washbasin. Used to see those everywhere, now they can't be had for love nor money.
Stripped to his waist he was, and shaving. Couldn't see his face, but he must have had a good memory for it, for him to be using a cutthroat razor and no mirror that I could see. I wouldn't have cared to ask the origins of his soap.
There was a scrap of green towel over his left shoulder, and he'd fixed a razor strop to the wall in front of him. I thought of calling over to him but something made me stay quiet. Man was ripped, God he was ripped. Not modern 'roid rage ridiculous ripped but real hard man, don't rile me ripped. Tough too, didn't mind the cold at all.
Black trousers, old style waist with field grey braces dangling down either side and the legs tucked into black trooper's boots. Same sort as the California Highway Patrol still wear. Only difference is the originals were hobnailed. I'd have bet HIS were hobnailed, somehow. A bit scuffed and as scarred as a veteran's memory, I'd also wager, yet clean and serviceable, and not a sound did they make on the flagstone floor. Either he was mighty light on his feet or ... I didn't like to think about the "or."
Another drag, more smoke, and he, or his form, seemed to take on more detail. Every once in a while he'd wipe his razor clean on the scrap of towel, grab the strop with his left hand, lean back, and hone the blade. Back and forth, back and forth and not a sound from that, either. Then his hand would move back to the right. He'd test the razor's edge with the ball of his thumb and nod his severely crew cut blond haired head, a well satisfied man.
His shave finished, he half turned towards me, as though he'd just sensed my presence. I could see his face now, skin stretched tautly over it and it of a ghastly pallor like the Hussars Death's Heads he'd have worn as collar dogs. His skull like face wasn't the real horror though, that honour went to the gash under his chin. Only took a tiny shell fragment to do that, I knew. Poor bastard got the closest shave he'd ever had then.
No blood though. Nothing like that. He just dissolved as did the last of the smoke from my cigarette. Gone like a wisp of smoke from a rifle's muzzle you might say. He vanished back into the hell of 20 odd years before, whence he had come. I had my own shave, a somewhat shaky shave I might tell you, even if I wasn't using a cutthroat razor. Never talked about what I saw from then until now. Some folks would just tell you to change your drug dealer, or your tobacconist.