« Photoshop | Main | Eighteen - Preparing For Invasion »

Clement's Corner: The Soldier

Owen Clement tells a disturbing Australian ghost story.

I knew Roger Kent for only a year but he is someone I will never forget.

*

Feeling hung-over from the night before, Roger was awoken as dawn was about to break. He soon realized that it was not his befuddled brain but a buzzing sound coming from behind him that grew steadily louder. The louder it grew the more he felt that someone or something was urgently moving towards him. He tried to turn his head but found that he could not move.

He began to panic when the sound became intense. Whatever it was seemed to be almost upon him. At the last moment he wrenched himself around and in that brief instant saw, or imagined he saw, the fleeting image of a soldier wearing the red and white uniform with cross braces and the high hat of early settlement days. The soldier was reaching out to him.

Suddenly the buzzing ended. The sense of menace vanished.

The spirit, if that is what it was, had not meant tp harm him. Just the opposite. It was seeking help, or perhaps release.

Believing that people would laugh at him if he told them of his experience, that they would put it down to his activities on the previous night, he was doubtful of telling anyone about the matter. However he became increasingly convinced that the soldier was not part of a dream or a creation of his own imagination. He decided to investigate the matter.

In the morning, after a cold shower and a cup of black coffee, he travelled by train into the city to visit the Mitchell Library, which is where I work.

Without mentioning his bizarre experience he asked me the best way to go about finding out about a murder in the early days of settlement in Parramatta, where he lived. Perhaps an unsolved murder. I assumed that he was a writer investigating material for a story or book. I selected a number of books and old documents for him to examine.

He came to the library every day for a week. Each time I supplied another batch of material for him to examine. His searches were fruitless. On my insistence he finally told me the reason for his quest, conveying the intensity of what he had experienced. He believed the spirit, the soldier, desperately needed help. Night by night he waited for the soldier to reappear, but he never did. Nevertheless he was determined to continue his investigations, but these would have to be suspended for a while.

Some time later I wrote to Roger telling him I had mentioned the matter to my mentor, Lewis Armitage, a former colleague now retired. He knew of two soldiers who in the early days had gone missing from a farm near Parramatta. They were never found. It was assumed that they had absc onded to the bush, as many men had done.

The following Saturday Roger drove me to Elizabeth Farm near Parramatta. We wandered around the garden hoping for some inspiration on what to do next. We stopped beside an ancient oak that would have been planted in those early days.

Roger suddenly bent over and patted a mound on which the tree stood. “This is where he is, I’m certain of it.” He spoke with such authority that I stood in amazement.

“How could you possibly know?”

“ Can’t you feel it?”

I shook my head. “No, I can’t! Describe what you are feeling?”

He screwed up his face before answering. “There is a vibration like –a – an electric charge, or that’s what it feels like. I don’t know how else to describe it. It is a powerful force of some kind. Sounds daft doesn’t it?”

I shook my head, again. ‘No, not at all.' I was convinced of his sincerity.

“What are we going to do about it, that’s the question?” He mused as he sat on the grassy mound with his back against the tree. Taking off his hat he began fanning himself in response to the blazing heat

“Come on,'' he said, “let’s go to my place. It's just around the corner. We’ll have a cold drink and talk it over”.

He stood up. “The sensation’s gone!” he exclaimed

We retired to his flat, and nursing a couple of ice-cold stubbies sat trying to come up with some sort of plan.

“It will have to be a clandestine business, carried out in the early hours,” I said.

He nodded. “It’s going to need heavy equipment and it will take time. We could not possibly do it on our own without the whole neighbourhood knowing about it. Besides, who is going to believe us? We’ll have to forget about the whole thing. I am convinced that there is something weird about it and that whoever he is, he is well-and-truly dead. In the meantime I’ll carry on researching. Until we come up with a conceivable plan we will have to leave it.''

“Don’t give up,’ I implored him, “you never know it might be one of your ancestors or a family member and that’s why you were chosen.”

He had not thought about it in that way. ‘Somewhere in the house,’ he said, ‘there’s a copy of a family genealogy chart.'

He had to think awhile before remembering that it was rolled it up and placed it in a cardboard tube in the back of his wardrobe. We stretched he chart out on the dining room table and closley examined it. There was a young man for whom no details of death were recorded, though the deaths of his siblings were listed.

“That’s got to be him!” Roger exalimed, tapping his finger on the name Daniel James Kent.

“May I borrow this?” I asked.

“Of course.”

He rolled up the chart, put it back in the tube, then handed it to me.

I contacted Lewis Armitage who confirmed that Daniel James Kent was indeed one of the two men who had gone missing.

I was ecstatic convinced, that we now had a place, a date and a person. I immediately contacted Roger with the news and added, “Okay, each time the fellow tried to touch you, you pulled away, next time let him actually make contact.''

*

A year to the day after the appearance of his mysterious visitor Roger was found dead facing the window with one hand reaching out.

Categories

Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.