Back in the year 2000, I was a combat medic with an Infantry battalion. While we still had to run around with the riflemen in the mud and the jungle during training, our lives while we were back at base were quite good. This was because the medical centre at our base served as the medical centre which supported the Ministry of Defence itself.
Now, being a medical centre, we ended up producing quite a bit of medical waste- contaminated sharps (needles), used dressings etc. All these went into yellow sharps boxes and these were supposed to be collected once a week and disposed of by a waste contractor.
With the usual efficiency of the Army, there was a screwup with the scheduling and they didn’t come in for a month. So far, this wasn’t an issue- the sharps boxes were piling up full of bloody needles, but honestly they didn’t take up much space so we stacked them discreetly at the back of one of the treatment rooms. Unfortunately, it was around this time that a newly incoming bigwig with too much time on his hands decided that he wanted to conduct a series of inspections of the medical centre. Sharps boxes piling up undisposed of wouldn’t reflect well on the staff sergeant in charge of the medics so he told us to get rid of them.
“How?” we asked. “I don’t give a fuck. Make them go away. Keep them in your bunk.”
We ended up piling the sharps boxes at the other end of our room, under the outside windows. A number of the Malay medics weren’t very happy about the situation because according to their traditions, blood and other bodily wastes in a living space invite unclean spirits in. Anyway, there was no choice as our Staff Sergeant would make our lives miserable if we didn’t get rid of the boxes and we couldn’t just dump biohazard waste in the trash.
The problems started that night.
A number of guys experienced sleep paralysis. Among them were the guys who had protested about the boxes so I dismissed it as mass hysteria initially. The second night I woke up to hear music playing. This wasn’t unusual because a lot of the guys would sit up smoking and playing cards until 1 am or so, most nights. Usually the buggers drifted off to bed without turning the radio off so more often than not I’d wake up at 3 am and go turn it off before going back to bed. So that night I woke up at 3, with the radio playing softly but irritatingly as usual. I was gathering the energy to sit up and get out of bed when I realised two things.
First of all the room was cold. Not cool, cold. There we were, one degree above the Equator, in June, in a room cooled only by fans and it felt cold. Secondly, the radio was changing channels. This wasn’t a set with a remote control or anything. It had a solid slider which you moved to change frequency. It wasn’t just moving up and down through the channels either- it was pausing on certain stations- not just the English language stations which we all listened to but oldies stations featuring classic Malay and Chinese songs from the 50s and 60s. Like an old man trying to find a channel he liked.
I still figured that it was one of the guys listening to the radio in the dark for some reason so I sat up and looked over. There was no one in front of the radio. It was dark but there was some light filtering through from the streetlamps outside and from the corridor. I would have been able to see at least a silhouette if anyone had been there.
Nothing. Just a frigid room and a radio which was changing channels itself. I noped the fuck out, pulled the covers over my head and went back to sleep.
The next morning at breakfast, the sound sleeper in the bed next to mine came up to me. He looked worried and tired. When I asked him about it he asked “You heard it too?” He refused to say anything else about it.