Scrabbling in the darkness of the locker room; muttering in the furthest corner. Who is there? I enter and flick on the light.
Rear Gunner Harrison has high locker emptied almost entirely, his impatience clear. Cursing profusely – he has lost something.
- Lost my fucking gloves, he says. – Can’t fly at that height without them or your hands will freeze off.
- Well, I haven’t seen them. Sorry.
I gather the cigarettes I had come for and leave, leaving Harrison alone with his panic.
Sombre faces in the NAAFI. Friendly faces look grim. My absence has only been brief, but something has changed here for the worse. I am greeted curtly.
- What’s up?
- Bad night on the Ruhr. B squad took a hit. Reconnaissance was shot. Ack ack coming at them from south of Duisburg. Never stood chance.
I am startled. Harrison flew in B223.
- Harrison…he had a lucky escape.
- Harrison? He went down as well.
Then I realised. Harrison was searching for his gloves in darkness. Yet I spoke with him. I saw him.
- Funny thing…he almost missed the sortie…he couldn’t find his flying gloves. Poor bastard.
I leave in confused silence. Whatever I saw and spoke with was solid enough to open and empty a locker. He seemed real.
I now left wondering; how many of these people I see around me are really people, and how many are ghosts? You cannot tell.