Heard it from one of ex NCOs when I was in NCC. This was what his instructor told him while in camp.
(all names are changed) Here goes:
“120 men sir!” “What? Do the head count again!”
I did the head count again. Still there were 120 heads. One guy was missing. It was a wet and cold Thursday night, lightning flashed across the dark and pregnant sky. The whole platoon had just done a route march in the rain and we were all extremely tired after a days training. I knew that each of them was thinking off getting back to camp ASAP to get a warm shower and bed.
“Still 120 men sir!” *Incoherent grumbling* “Who is the missing idiot?”
I didn’t take long for me to find out?he was in my squad.
“Recruit Sean sir!” “Okay! Everybody listen up! Nobody is to return to camp until he is found! Each squad is to spread out to look for him.”
I returned to my squad and asked if anybody saw him leave. Nobody did, it was too dark to make out any faces. I lead my team out into a wide arc search. We walked around tripping over roots or rocks while calling out his name. There was always something wrong with every Thursday night in Pulau Tekong. After a few incidents of recruits getting lost and never to return alive, training on Thursdays were forbidden. It seems that now after years nothing has happened, training resumed as normal. It was okay the previous nights but tonight I felt as if the old ghost stories from my Encik were coming true. Legend has it that, a ghost wanders the island on Thursday nights looking for a human soul. It would only prey on those of who were spiritually weak or who were depressed. Recruit Sean was a cool guy, he was friendly and did as he was told to, and everybody liked him, including I. Recently, his girlfriend dumped him for another guy and he was feeling quite depressed. Everybody in the squad knew that he was deeply affected and we pitied him. Each one of us jokingly swore to beat up the guy who stole his girl. DAMN! Why did it have to be him? Why not some other asshole who can’t give a damn about life on earth?
After a long search, the whole platoon was together again. It was getting late into the night. It was pouring much more heavily now. I could here some of the men starting to sneeze. The CO called all the officers over.
“This is getting bad. We have alerted Alpha, Bravo and Charlie platoons and they have reported of no sign of Sean.” “Sir!” I asked “The men are getting tired and if they stay on any longer they are going to get sick.” “All right. Get them to their bunks but you guys have to stay out here with me.” “Yes Sir!”
I got my squad back to camp and ordered them to go to sleep. Some how they disagreed.
“Corporal! Sean is still out there. We refuse to sleep until he is found sir.” “Just go to bed soldier.” I commanded. “We refuse sir!” Anger started to swell up in me with this open defiance I understood their reasons but orders were orders. As I was about to give them a tongue-lashing when the CO came over.
“Sir! They refuse to go to bed.” “Its okay corporal. Let them come.”
My stern visage softened at once.
“Come on guys lets go find Sean’s ass.”
The whole squad got assembled in seconds, a time I did not expect them to achieve when they had to get up at 5 everyday for morning exercise.
We officers from Alpha, Bravo and Charlie platoons we again set up to search for the missing soldier. We marched on and on. Hours later we still could not find him. It was already three in the morning by then and the rain had lessened to a small patter on leaves. Recruit Poh who was walking beside me and the CO suddenly had a idea.
“Sir maybe we should go and consult the Buddhist medium in the temple on that hill.” Stories told of officers going to see that medium everytime a recruit was missing and everytime the medium would point to certain locations of the island that nobody thought of searching. Usually at those places they would find the recruit but he was by then long gone. The CO agreed. He knew of those stories too, he served the army at the same time as I did and we were great friends. We walked towards the temple. It was a small temple that was meant for praying to the dead. We knocked on the ancient and heavy wooden doors. No answer. We tried again. Still no answer.
“What if the ghost got him?” “Don’t be stupid recruit. Evil spirits cannot enter such places.”
Finally the doors opened and an old and skeletal like looking old man looked at us. The CO talked to him in Cantonese.
“Erm ” sir we need your help to find this?” “You green guys just never listen. I told you so many times not to have training on Thursdays but you guys never listen. So many young man have already died because of this.” The medium scolded. “Come in, you will not be able to find him no matter how hard you try.”
We went in and sat down while the medium began burning some incense and chanting.
“What’s he doing?” Poh whispered. “He is communicating with the spirit world.” I replied “Shssh! Quiet!” The CO hushed.
Finally the medium got up, bowed once and turned to us.
“You will find him near an unmarked grave near the northern part of this island where there is an old dilapidated and abandoned house.” “Let’s hurry then” Poh jumped up. “You can take your time, it is very unlikely that he will be alive.”
I quickly thanked the medium but he just shook his head sadly and closed the doors. We contacted the rest of the search teams and were making our way there quickly. It was not too soon that we found a canteen.
” Sean must be leaving us a trail to find him.” Poh remarked
Nobody disagreed and we carried on. We began to find more things along the way. We have found his helmet, backpack, rifle and torchlight. Each time we found an item belonging to him, our spirits brightned
“He must be getting tired, throwing all these down for us.”
Suddenly I picked up a strange scent. My buddy looked at me with a curious face too. Poh did not seem to notice.
“You smell that Huat?” The CO asked. “Yeah! Smells like, like something familiar.” I replied “Huh” Smell what?” Poh queried.
I shrugged. Sergeant Cheong had no idea too. We carried on and the stench became stronger and stronger as we got nearer the house. By then the sky was beginning to brighten. We looked around the place for the grave until Poh accidentally fell into a deep hole. We pulled him out and noticed an unmarked gravestone beside it which was hidden by some bushes. Poh had accidentally tripped over the gravestone and fell into the actual pit. Poh was a strong guy mentally and physically. When we told him that juicy bit of news all he said was,
“Cool! Now I have a great story.”
Cheong and I looked at him disapprovingly. By then the rest of the search party had arrived. We scoured around the area until I found one of Sean’s boots.
“He is here!” Came a shout.
The 3 of us turned and ran towards the source of the voice. We finally identified the stench. It was blood! It got stronger as we went. There we found a recruit white with fear and shivering. An officer beside him began to vomit. We pushed some bushes away and stumbled upon Sean suddenly. By then the sun had begun to peek over the horizon and we could make out some details. The surrounding bushes were splattered with blood. Sean’s face was sickly white. His eyes and mouth were wide open and his face, contorted with agony. Blood dried where it used to run from his nose and mouth. From the way his hands were we could see that he was in great pain. His chest and stomach were just “horrible” too horrible to imagine. It looked like someone had plugged a grenade down his throat and it exploded in his chest. Cheong just stood there, his face turn pale too and he was shivering. I could feel last night’s rations filling my throat. I turned around and let it all out. I turned back and looked at Poh. He nearly slumped to the ground but recovered quickly enough and looked away. I looked at poor Sean again. I could not take it and had another round. I recovered quickly and looked at my best friend Cheong. He was a greater man than I was. He took charge immediately and called for backup. I mustered my courage and looked at Sean again. In his shirt pocket he had a letter for his ex. I didn’t read it. We sent all of Sean?s belongings to his family, including the letter. A days later, the news reported of a girl committing suicide.