Eureka Station : Part Three

I couldn't go home, so I went to the park to think things through. It was too late to check into the hotel I'd booked. I was in the tunnel for nearly four hours. The bars were still trying to send everyone home as I walked past them. I wished I could've bought a beer. I wished I had a way to calm my nerves. I wanted to look up Kilroy, but my phone died.

Corona Heights Park was nearby, so I took my time walking over there, then hiked to the top of the hill to clear my mind. I stayed up there with the rocks all night, watching the flickering lights of the city around me and thinking. It was one of those rare San Francisco nights where the fog didn't come in, and barely a breeze swept by me. I could only see about 10 stars but that was comforting enough. Come to think of it, any light is comforting after spending the night in a dirt pit.

When the sun rose, I checked my watch and waited until 9am. My wife had a "Ladies Who Brunch" or something or other this morning and she'd be out of the house by then. I needed a shower and I had a date with my computer.

I snuck into my apartment, listening for noises. My heart jumped when the door squeaked; I chuckled to myself. It was all for nothing; the apartment was empty. I took a quick shower and the leather couch squeaked as I sat down with my laptop. Finally. Answers.

I searched for "Kilroy was here" and was surprised by the results: 1,170,000. Including photos, memorials and even tattoos. It was referred to as a symbol of courage, pride and encouragement for soldiers during World War II. It was found on trucks, tanks, bombed out walls, literally everywhere it could be, as a way for soldiers to show each other that they weren't the first in a given area, or the first into battle. It gave them comfort. This silly cartoon was found everywhere from Oakland, California to Vietnam: A symbol of the soldiers. I was fascinated. I read as many articles as I could swallow. But as for who was Kilroy? Nada. Nothing on who created the cartoon, or why. I read rumors of Hitler thinking it was a Super G.I. and rumors of Kilroy on the moon. How did this small cartoon become so viral? The cartoon found 'round the world. I realized quickly that searching for the black shadow graffiti was pretty much worthless, those searches brought up ghost stories and drawings. I gave up, closed my laptop and put golf on. 

I woke up to my wife coming in, er, falling in would be more accurate. She was rather soused after her champagne brunch and couldn't stop giggling.
"You're back!" she said gleefully, as she ran over and jumped on me. I groaned from her weight and she kissed me. "How was your trip?"
"Dull. I'm exhausted. Couldn't sleep." I yawned and she stuck her finger in my mouth. Little jerk of a woman.
"Well if I don't nap, I'll need another drink. Make a decision, Mr. Knight! The adventure begins, which path do you choose?"
She looked at me competitively and I laughed at her. "Mr. Knight." Her pet name for me was always my last name, it was only when we got married that she included the "Mr."
"Well, Mrs. Knight, I just took a nap, so a drink sounds nice."

Mrs. Knight distracted me from my troubles; she always did. The rest of the day I was consumed by her, we had champagne and tapas at my favorite restaurant, then walked around The Marina, glaring at the hipsters and the latest wine bar that opened.
"Can I punch the next person with a curled mustache?" she asked me with a deadly serious tone. Mrs. Knight always knew how to put a smile on my face.
We went home late, watched movies until later, and fell asleep wrapped in each other's arms. The next morning, she got up so early for work I didn't hear her leave. When I woke up I felt weird and unsettled. And hungover.

I called in sick. I realized halfway through my eggs that while there wasn't information on Kilroy himself, perhaps someone who was well-versed in World War II might know more. I looked online and found there was an old professor named Doctor Robert Caldwell, degrees from Stanford, who appeared to be one of the most well-known historians on World War II. Online it said he specialized in the "Kilroy was here" lore. As luck would have it, he lived in San Francisco. It was worth a shot. After dinner I called the number, my heart racing until the fourth ring ended. Thank God. A woman's voice came on the line, his receptionist, no doubt.
"You have reached the office of Doctor Robert Caldwell, please leave a message after the tone."
The beep was longer than normal. I took a deep breath.
“Hello Doctor Caldwell, my name is Will Knight. This may sound very . . . strange, but a couple days ago the subway shut down between stops and I heard a . . . noise. I ended up heading down the subway shaft when it shut down for earthquake repairs. I uh . . . I stumbled into an area that was blocked off and there were a couple things that drew my attention. There was graffiti of black figures and then that cartoon from World War II, the “Kilroy was here” man. When I was researching them online your name came up. I was hoping to ask you a few questions. Please call me back at your earliest convenience. Thank you.”
I hung up and sat down on the bed. It was done. I took my phone off silent and plugged it into its charger, then went back into the living room to watch some terrible TV show the wife was watching. I went to sleep that night relieved. It was the first time I didn't fall asleep with anxiety medication.

The next morning, I went to work.

Nothing was out of the ordinary. Or what was now considered ordinary. The sounds were their stable low rumble. I heard them at Van Ness now, so they must be getting louder.

When I got home, I noticed I had a voicemail. I picked it up and there was a gruff, older man's voice crackling through the phone, he coughed before he spoke.
“Hello Mr. Knight, this is Doctor Caldwell. I received your message and would very much like for you to come to my office to chat. Please meet me at my office at 2942 Chestnut Street at this evening if you can make it. Ring the buzzer for #5. Or call me back with a time more suitable to your schedule."
The voicemail prompted me to save or delete the message and I simply hung up. It was 6:00pm, I could make it across town in twenty minutes.
"Babe - I'm going to meet Jordon for a drink," I called to her calmly. I'd never lied so much to my wife than I had in the past few days.
"Where?" she hollered from the living room.
"That sports bar he likes by his place. Back around 9."
"Kay!" she yelled back, unaffected.
I hopped in a cab over to Chestnut Street. The building was smaller than I expected. It looked more like a big townhouse. I pressed the buzzer for #5 and a chipper female voice came through the speaker.
"Doctor Caldwell's office, do you have an appointment?”
"Yes, my name is Will Knight."
I didn't hear another word out of the speaker, but instead the electrical buzzing of the door to let me know she’d let me in. The elevator was closed for repairs so I walked up the creaky, burgundy carpeted stairs to the fifth floor. There was a gold plated sign outside the door that said in all caps:


I tapped on the door and a brunette in her mid-twenties opened it. She was cute. I noticed her perfectly coiled hair and how her dress hugged her hips.  A younger, single version of me would have tried to find a way to hit on her.
"Hello Mr. Knight.  Sorry about the elevator. Please follow me." She flashed a smile and turned. Her vanilla perfume followed her down the hall as she took me to a room at the back of the building. She opened the large door at the end of the hall, and then closed it softly behind me. I heard the clicking of her heels back down the hall.
No introduction.
I glanced around the room and it looked like an old library. It was a dusty office with bookshelves on every wall. Thick burgundy curtains covered the floor to ceiling windows, dark floral wallpaper surrounded me and stacks of books lined the floor. In the center of the room was a large carved wooden desk that dwarfed the old man that sat behind it. He was wearing a full suit that seemed a little too big for him. It looked like it might have fit perfectly once, but now he was shrinking with age. He was wearing round reading glasses. In front of him lay a pile of open books, but he seemed only interested in one. He was busy, peering over a leather-bound diary.
“Doctor Caldwell?” I asked uncertainly.

The old man closed the diary he was reading and looked up at me, “Mr. Knight, I presume?” Doctor Caldwell set his reading glasses down on his desk and held out his withered hand out for me to shake. “Please take a seat.”
“Thank you,” I responded and sat down in the red velvet chair that was as weathered as the man who owned it.
“I’m glad you contacted me. Would you like some water?" he asked kindly, and pointed at a glass by the window.
"I'm fine, thank you." I don't know why I said that, my throat was parched and my heart was pounding from the five staircase hike.
"Well, then I suppose let’s dive right in. Tell me your story." He sounded calm and serious. It reassured me. 

I told Doctor Caldwell everything. From the first time I heard the sounds, to when I was walking alone in a tunnel. He listened intently and did not comment or ask a question until I was finished.
"Mr. Knight, what do you know about the cartoon, ‘Kilroy was here’?” Doctor Caldwell raised his eyebrow at me and tilted his head.

“Only what I read online. I couldn’t find anything reliable until I came across your name. You’re a doctor after all.”
Yes. I am." It came across as factual. "Did the graffiti in the tunnel have any features, or simply black shadows?” I had no idea who this man was but the way he spoke made me feel like a child.
“There was more, but I didn’t want to say it over the phone.” I felt sweat start to form on my brow. I had never spoken about this out loud and it felt wrong.
“Yes?” Doctor Caldwell prompted.
“The black figures had no nose, no mouth or ears, but they all had yellow eyes. It was very disturbing. Especially by flashlight.”
Doctor Caldwell nodded before narrowing his brow, asking, “What brought you into the subway shaft? I can’t imagine pure curiosity would lead a man to travel down those black tracks?”

“I heard a noise I couldn’t place in the subway. I didn’t trust it. It sounded like a gong, or a clock tower going off on the hour, only it wasn’t like a clock. It came in random intervals, 10 seconds, then 15 seconds, 18 seconds. I went to go check it out.”
“And that’s when you found the graffiti?”

Doctor Caldwell furrowed his brow. He stood up, put his hands on his hips and leaned to stretch out his back, then put his reading glasses back on. He grabbed the leather bound diary in front of him, flipped to a page in the center and handed it to me.

“Do any of these drawings look similar to what you saw underground?”

The drawings were a match: The shadowy, humanoid figures and empty soulless eyes. Underneath the drawing it said in script, Schatten Menschen, 1939. I turned the page of the book but that was the only drawing, the rest was handwritten in German.

“The graffiti was nearly identical to this . . . Schatten Menschen?” I looked up at Doctor Caldwell skeptically.
“Yes. It translates from German to shadow people."
“Shadow people?"
 “And then the ‘Kilroy was here’ was beside it?” I nodded and Doctor Caldwell paused in thought. 
“It said online the cartoon was very common during World War II, that’s why I contacted you. What does it have to do with shadow people?” I asked him before I set the diary down on the desk again. The drawing was creepy. I didn't want it near me anymore.
Doctor Caldwell didn't answer. He stood with his back to me and asked another question, “Where did you begin your journey into the subway?”
“Well I researched it. The subways were closing for repairs at 10:00pm, I saw there was an old subway station that was closed down - Eureka Station --"
Doctor Caldwell turned to face me and raised his eyebrows in surprise, “Eureka Station? After 10:00pm? You’re a far braver man than I, Mr. Knight.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
Doctor Caldwell placed his hands together behind his back and began pacing the length of his office before he began, “When I was young, Mr. Knight, I was fascinated by war. World War I grabbed my attention but World War II took hold of me and didn’t let go. One of my favorite topics was the cultural phenomenon ‘Kilroy was here.’” He walked over to the north-facing bookshelf, ran his finger along the edge before blowing the dust off and continuing. “A cartoon that was reproduced all over machines, stations, and large monuments during World War II. It was so common it was associated with the G.I.’s. in the 1940’s, but the cartoons showed up everywhere. Places they should never have been able to reach. It’s said that this cartoon is at the top of Mt. Everest and on the underside of the Arc de Triomphe.”  He was standing over a colorful globe in the corner, and he put a finger on Nepal and then France, respectively. He shook his head in amused disbelief, then frowned. “The more implausible sightings were ruled out as legends, and the stories became those of folklore; a cartoon commonly used by all G.I.’s to inspire each other. But my experience, my knowledge is far more sinister. Have you heard of shadow men outside of this room, Mr. Knight?” 
Doctor Caldwell walked back over to his chair, sat down and leaned in towards me. I shifted uncomfortably and coughed, “I think I saw movies about them --”
He waved his hand for me to stop.
“-- The movies are fluff; a writer’s imagination. There was a hum throughout the second World War of a cover-up. A legend of sorts that there was almost a war on U.S. soil, but not between the Nazi’s nor the Russians. You see, when we were a young country, we were an arrogant country. We built underground rails for safer and faster travel!” His bright enthusiasm turned dark as he crossed his legs, resting an ankle on his knee. “Yet, as we dug into the earth, the workers began to mention shadows. Of course, like all urban legends, it was blamed on Indian burial grounds and curses. Back then the news stories ended almost as soon as they began; a blip in the radar, before they were erased from history. A few stories survived - word of mouth kept them alive. Workers told their friends and families; but anyone who spoke of them publicly were taken to asylums.”
“Geez," I responded. I sounded like a teenager. I felt so out of my element. Doctor Caldwell walked over to the window again.
“Back then, these stories of shadows intrigued me. I was curious why they disappeared from history, as I imagine some feel about those pilot UFO sightings from the 50's . . .” He peered up into the sky like he was checking for one now. I stood up and walked over to the window with him. “Over the years I was able to hunt down a handful of diaries. Mr. Knight, I hope you don’t find this next part farfetched. These diaries contained horrifying experiences the workers had while they built the rails. The workers kept disappearing. One minute they would be installing tracks with a hammer like the rest, the next they would vanish, seemingly into thin air. Others seemed to go insane, run around screaming about "The Eyes," only to choke on air and fall down dead. It spooked the workers and local law enforcement, so the C.I.A. was sent to check out the problem. After that, there was never a word on the shadows again."
Doctor Caldwell paused, took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose with his fingers. I stood and walked over to the water pitcher, “Do you mind if I –“
“Go ahead.”
My hands were sweating as I chugged the ice cold water. I realized I didn't know to respond to anything Doctor Caldwell was saying. Was he serious? He looked deadly serious. I asked the only question I could think of, “What’s this got to do with Eureka Station?”
He put his glasses back on and looked at me soberly, “Mr. Knight, the tunnel written about in this diary is Eureka Station.”
“What?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
"Mr. Knight, the diaries implied that the subway tunnels were not dug by man, but that we stumbled upon them. We built the tracks into their living space. One of the most informative I found, was the diary of a man who had seen what he described as ‘creatures of the underworld.' He produced drawings of what he saw." I pointed to the diary on the table, and the doctor nodded. "His name was Arman von Zastro. A first generation German-American who worked in Eureka Station. He wrote about these experiences in his native tongue.” He picked up the diary and thumbed through it thoughtfully, then placed his finger on the page, “Here he described them as black shadows that had the silhouette of man, but with the glowing yellow eyes of the devil himself. Later this diary tells of a terrifying encounter. A huge amount of these shadows came out of the tunnel, flooding the workers in the station. The workers panicked and filled the tunnel with concrete to block the stampede of shadows under the earth. Many shadows escaped, and many workers died. These shadows were described as solid, otherwise they would not have been able to keep them in. I think, Mr. Knight, that you stumbled onto the concrete walls that hold the shadows underground."

The way he looked at me, I couldn’t tell what he was thinking anymore. A blank page. He handed me the diary to look over with my newfound knowledge and I stared at the drawing.
“I've been hearing shadow people?" I asked steadily and looked up at him.
"They’re a scary story! To frighten the gullible! You're telling me it's shadow people and C.I.A. cover-ups? Please, enlighten me, Doctor Caldwell, how does Kilroy fit in?" I was stuck somewhere between terrified and the uncomfortable feeling you get when you think someone is making fun of you. It was like he was trying to convince me that unicorns were real. Deadly, horrifying, 'eyes of the devil', unicorns. Doctor Caldwell’s face did not change. He was calm and collected as he spoke.
“Mr. Knight, they continued building the subways after they found the shadows, but when they were attacked by them, in the second tunnel, they abandoned construction of Eureka Station. Now let me explain, I began to suspect a few years ago that these ‘Kilroy was here’ cartoons, were not created by the G.I.'s. Furthermore, I believe that workers left those images of the shadows -- A warning of what lies ahead. My theory is that the shadows locked above ground took over the Kilroy cartoon.” He reached into his desk, unwrapped a peppermint, and tossed it in his mouth. “They used that cartoon to display their presence; a reminder to the humans of sunlight. We were not here first. Mr. von Zastro believed we were encroaching on their city -- for the shadows were becoming violent. The diary talks of how when they filled the first tunnel, the workers began to hear sounds from behind the concrete. Their description similar to yours. You were not the first to hear those sounds in the subway, Mr. Knight.”

“Have you heard the sounds?”

“Not in many years, but yes, I’ve heard them. Based on Mr. von Zastro's diary, what we were hearing were sounds of the shadow people. He wrote that when they ceased construction, he never heard the sounds again. He was convinced they had filled it enough and we were safe. My concern is . . . If you can hear them and the tools they are using to break through the concrete . . . They must be getting close to the surface.”
"Tools to break free? Those are the sounds? What will happen if they come out?”

“I’d imagine they wouldn’t be very pleased with us.”

“What can we do?”

“Wait for them.”

My blood ran cold. I looked into Doctor Caldwell's eyes and began to wonder if he was insane, "That's it?"

He leaned back in his chair and looked at me as if he was deciding something, "Well there is one thing that you personally could do. I spoke of those that were brought to the asylum with psychiatric fits about the shadow men?" He asked as though he couldn't remember.


"Well, I went to visit them and against the other physicians’ advice, I spoke to them. I listened. The patients told me that the shadows were feeding on their fear. Fear made the shadows stronger. Something I highly suspect as the reason why when you went down there, the noises got louder."

"What happened to the patients?"

"A few months after my visit, I was told they died."
"So I'm supposed to just quit being afraid of them? How the - How on earth would I do that?" I was scared now. Scared of believing him and scared of not believing him.
"Ignore the gongs. Go on with your life. One day they will break free and then they will feed on the frightened. Stay stoic."
"That's my prescription?
"I'm afraid it is."

I stood up. Doctor Caldwell was looking at me gravely. I thanked him and walked out of the office numb. I barely heard the brunette calling after me to take care. It was only when I got to the street that I realized I hadn’t said anything back to her. I never wanted to take the subway again. I grabbed a cab home that night, pretending to be calm when I was anything but. How do you stop fearing what frightens you? Especially when you know fear makes it stronger?

Over the following days it felt like the gongs were getting louder. There was no other explanation. I did what Doctor Caldwell said and pretended not to notice them.

On the subway one morning three weeks later, I was actively ignoring the thrumming gongs, when a man across the train from me looked up puzzled. It was early morning and everyone around us was either asleep or with headphones in. I ignored him and closed my eyes to sleep, but I had the feeling he was looking at me. I didn't want to look up at him, but I couldn't stop myself. I made eye contact and he seemed relieved. He cleared his throat, "Did you hear that sound too?"
I looked at him, frowned and forced my face into a look of blank confusion.
"What sound?"