note.gif "Darkness"



1) The Pit
Mournful, heavy with pain, and torment, this sound came drifting over the moon-lit deck from the elevator pit. Shivers ran up my spine, the hairs on my nape rising. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. The moanings continued for several minutes, and then stopped as suddenly as they began. "This is ridiculous.' I thought to myself, removing my hand from my side-arm's holster.
Never before had I ever instinctively reached for my "45". I shook my head. It was an hour or so past midnight. I was on and games they put young recruits through, though I was months out of awaiting assignment to a ship. The ship I was "guarding" was an old World-War-Two "jeep" carrier, or CVE...the smallest of aircraft carriers, some converted from C-3, and T-3 merchantmen...this ship having already been stripped, and ready to be towed to the scrap yard. She was a "dead" ship in the strictest of terms. Nevertheless, she was a large structure with lots of dark forboding spaces within...places I dared not go...not alone anyways, especially at night. Of course there was no power on the ship, the only light being my flashlight, and the dim bulb in the wooden make-shift guard house set up on the flight deck near the accomodation ladder, the only way on, and off the ship. The nearest phone was up the pier, and we weren't issued a walky-talky, as I said this was more for "training" than anything else...though it could be classified as a fire-watch. There was certainly nothing here worth stealing, any ways the hulk was within the confines of the Norfolk Naval Ship Yard, but moored way off in a remote, lonely corner. 
I probably wouldn't have payed much attention to the sound emanating from the now useless elevator pit, the elevator platform being down a foot or so from deck level, if the fellow I relieved hadn't been so upset. In fact, I found him waiting for me on the dock, at the foot of the accomodation ladder, literally shaking. He told me of the moaning in the elevator pit, and of some creature slowly ascending the old oak accomodation ladder, and peering over at him from deck level, and then disappearing. "Stomp, stomp, stomp.' he dramatized the foot steps up the ladder. "It was grotesque.' he said. He had locked the guard shack, turned out the light, and put a clip in his gun.He advised I do the same, as he ran off towards the barracks. "Stomp, stomp, stomp.' I said to myself...laughing. "What an imagination that fellow had.' I thought as I went up, and aboard. I found the shack dark...the lights out, the windows up. I might have, just to assuage my confidence, actually toured the decks, but that would have been foolhardy with only a flash light, and being alone with no communications. I had a good book to read, and I didn't believe in spooks, or monsters. That of course was up until a few minutes ago, just before the "moaning". Now all we needed was some foot steps...heavy, and ever so slow. Ha ha ha...wha'....
Stomp, stomp, stomp...."What the hell?" Strong, heavy foot steps began coming from the direction of the gang-way...just minutes, or less. after the moaning sounds. Fumbling, I un-snapped the flap to my holster, my fingers refusing to function properly. I was like paralysed. My useless fingers dropped the 45 to the deck, as I managed to fling out my right arm to hit the light switch to off, the stool I was sitting on slipped out from under me, crashing me to the deck. Stomp, stomp, stomp, and then the low mournful groaning from the pit joined in. I groped in the dark for my useless gun, my still useless fingers trying their best to open the clip-pouch on my belt. Shaking like a leaf I grasped the 45, and rammed home the clip. My rubbery legs quivering as I raised myself high enough to peer over the window sill and gaze onto this monster that should be at the gang way. 
Nothing!  All was still. The waning moon just about deck level now, its silvery path down the flight deck almost gone, leaving the recess of the pit in darkness. Literally shaking, I kept my eyes on that gangway. Forgetting to lock the door, I jumped for the knob, and flipped the lock, realizing I could be ambushed from behind.
The shack was out in the open more, or less. It had windows all windows. What kind of a chance would I have against whatever was out there? As trees in a forest at night can take on ghostly features, the same thing was happening with the various pieces of deck gear lying about the deck...the simple "island", or conning tower taking on the shape of an immense troll. I braced myself for the worst. Chancing a glance to port, or across the ship, I saw it behind me, in reflection, in the direction of the gangway. My whole body turned into goose-pimples. I spun around to face this thing head on...there was nothing there. Now I knew I was halucinating, this was getting the better of me. I had to get out of this cage I confined myself to...get out and fight to the end. Mustering all the strength I had, and working myself up into a frenzy like the marshal arts types do, and with loud hollering like a bonzi warrior, I slung open the door, and charged towards the gangway, pistol in one hand, light in the other. I fetched up against the safety chains on the platform of the ladder. If I had been travelling a little faster I would have gone right over...down to the dock thirty feet, or more below. The sudden realization of how close I had come to doing just that, shook me back to reality.
Actually chastising myself outloud for being so stupid, I caught the lights of a harbor tug dashing past the piers, no doubt heading for a docking or undocking elsewhere. The only sign of life so far that night, it was conforting to know I was still in the real world.
Shaking my head in unbelief to my behavior over the past few minutes, I walked back to the guard shack, holstering my 45 as I went. I broke out in an audible laugh. "What a jerk I am.' saying to myself. As I was just about to step into the shack....
Ooooooooh, oooooooh, ooooooh,came this mournful cry again from the pit. I jumped into the shack, slamming, and locking the door behind me. I didn't know which way to turn...this was for real. Someone, or thing WAS down there, this is no imagination. Gun up, lights out, I gathered my shoulders together, tightening my chest, flexing my arms, fashioning myself into some lethal spring...ready for anything. I let the sliding window come crashing down - open. I peered out, eyes wide open, pupils dilated to gather every bit of light possible as I swept the dark, flat, empty deck...stopping at the gaping pit. I caught a glimpse of the receding tug as it came out from under the bow of the ship, fully visible once again. I sensed a slight movement, no doubt caused by the wake of the tug, but paid no attention to that. The moaning slowed, then diminished. In a mad dash out to the door of the shack to confront whatever was down in that pit, I was met foot steps...foot steps off to my right. I stopped my advance towards the pit. Listening intently now, I could definitely heard, almost feel these slow, purposeful foot steps - stomping, heavy steps. "You've had it buddy.' I yelled as I ran towards the gangway, pistol extended, flashlight steady one the opening.
Stomp, stomp, stomp...closer, and closer they got. Closer, and closer I got to the gangway. If I had a sword, I would have been slashing, one side to the other. It might have seemed to have more effect as I ran to challenge the monster. stomp. Then another, but slowing, the next stomp almost inaudible, its stopping before getting to the top. It knows I'm coming. "I'll get you.' I cried out as I jumped onto the platform to face this thing head-on. I swept the ladder...nothing. Not a thing, person, nothing. I swept the dock from above...nothing. I ran down the ladder...nothing. Then, clearly audible a faint foot step, like in its death-throws.
There was the monster. Dark, and gnurled, covered with a black ooze, it's head flat like Frankenstein's. It wavered there, standing out of the dark water. I jumped onto the string-piece, the heavy-timbered facing for the concrete dock. I kicked the monster in the head, and it fell back, hitting the ship - boom
( stomp ), coming back at me, I kicked it again, it fell away again, striking the side of the ship - boom - stomp...again. The water was calm, but wouldn't be for long....A tug was going by again. Three hundred, so feet ahead, the wake, or waves from the tug was beginning to reach the bow of the ship, the ship ever so slightly beginning to rise, fall, and roll. I couldn't hear it from the dock, but I bet the mournful soul in the pit was beginning to moan.
Before long, the waves started to move the monster, it's head striking the hull plating of the ship - stomp, stomp, stomp - heavy, slow footsteps began. Leaving the monster, I raced up the ladder, across the deck to the "haunted" pit, getting there just in time to catch the last of the moans as the ship settled down.
I had to see this poor soul, I had to get down there, and see for myself. Quick to the side of the flight deck, down a short ladder, and a jump through an open water-tight-weather door. The beam of my light leading the way, I made it to the area under the slightly lowered elevator platform above. A look down the pit...guides, and slides, and heavy springs, and cables...all candidates for spooky sound-effects. The next tug that passed confirmed all this as I again raced down there to catch the symphony of the dead.
The above account is true. The dramatization poetic license on my part.
Quartermaster Signalman - Cox, a navy ship mate of mine on the USS
Arneb AKA-56 was the brave ghost-buster. He told me this story on a dark, calm night at sea in convoy while we stood signal watch in 1953.
Below is a few samples of what these CVEs looked like, before, and after conversion. Search Altavista for "aircraft carriers" &link:cve , and find loads of information.

Conversion from T-3 type tanker above to Escort Carrier ( CVE ) shown on the right.
Conversion from C-3 type freighter above to Escort Carrier ( CVE ) shown below.

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