From the Inside Flap
The perimeter lights flickered.
Those sneaky bastards, he thought. What are they doing in there? These scientists gave us nerve gas and the H-bomb, who knows what they might cook up next?
Pavel looked up at the castle. The soldier had heard the gossip in the canteen. He had done his share of staring into the woods, wondering if every movement was a 'ghost'. There were stories about the bloody battle for the castle in 1945, when the remnants of a Nazi regiment had been slaughtered by Russian troops. And there were older stories, the ones told by the Polish villagers, about the castle's dark, bloody history.
Pavel shuddered, took a deep draw on his cigarette. Then he hefted his rifle and set off again on his patrol.
Stories. Ghost stories. For old women and children. Nothing for a man to worry about.
The firing began away to his left, in the darkest part of the woods. At first, he heard single shots, interspersed with shouts. Then came bursts of automatic fire. He unslung his rifle and lay flat on the ground, peering into the night. All the shots sounding the same, he noticed. That meant all the guns firing were standard Red Army Kalashnikovs. Which left two possibilities.
Maybe the Americans use our weapons, he thought. Dress in our uniforms. Special forces trick.
The other possibility was no less worrying. It meant that Pavel's comrades were shooting at shadows.
Or at beings like shadows, he could not help thinking.
The firing died down as suddenly as it had started, but the shouting continued. Lermontov recognized several voices, including his corporal who was swearing profusely. The perimeter lights flickered again, then went out completely.
"Bugger!" hissed Pavel. "The silly sods have blown the fuses!"
He got to his feet and took out a flashlight, swept the beam around him. The weak light picked out tree trunks. Above were boughs heavy with spring foliage, below was the undergrowth. A thin figure was standing half-hidden by a tree. But as he swept the flashlight back, Lermontov saw that it was just a sapling.
A hand fell on his shoulder. He jumped, spun around, finger on the trigger of his rifle. His flashlight picked out the red star badge on the tunic of the newcomer.
"You bloody moron, I could have shot you!" said Lermontov.
He flicked the flashlight beam up to see which particular moron he was dealing with. The yellow light revealed a dead face, eye sockets sunken hollows, skin like parchment stretched taut over the skull, black lips pulled back from grinning teeth. Pavel staggered back, dropping his flashlight, as the dead soldier lunged forward. A dead face was pushed into a living one, and Private Lermontov felt a terrible coldness pierce his eyes, his heart, and his brain.
He heard the distant shouting turn to screams.