When It Knocks
By Matthew Rush
“Pizza’s here!” I yelled as I walked into the white stainless kitchen, holding the large pepperoni-scented box.
The sound of small feet rushing along wooden floorboards became audibly louder. Seconds later a small pale boy with light blonde hair and green eyes rounded the hall corner and swiftly turned to face me, standing in the kitchen archway. He was wearing dinosaur-themed pyjamas with small brightly coloured dinosaurs covering the blue cotton material.
The boy exclaimed, “Yum pepperoni, I love it when you babysit!”
He ushered me towards the kitchen’s large rectangular oak table and sat down in one of the large brown oak chairs. He eyed the pizza box in my hands as he waited impatiently for me to place the box on the table.
“Hey, you remember the rules, don’t you?” I raised my hand and pointed towards the hall entrance.
“Go wash your hands first Charlie, then you can have pizza.”
Charlie frowned then slumped out of his chair and trudged into the hall, towards the bathroom. From my experience, Charlie was like most six-year old’s: loud, energetic, slightly spoiled, incredibly naïve yet sweet and too curious for his own good, though I didn’t mind. The job was generally hassle-free so long as you know how to manage kids properly. I grinned slightly and placed the pizza box down on the table and proceeded over to the cabinets to grab the plates.
Was someone at the front door? It was faint but I thought I heard someone. It must be the delivery guy. I turned away from the cabinets and walked into the dimly lit hallway, making my way towards the large dark oak front door. I turned the brass knob and pulled the door open to the chilling winter air only to be met with nothing. The porch lights illuminated the rough stone pathway all the way from the door to the metal gate, the gate was closed, no note or anything just…nothing.
I pushed the door shut. The wind probably blew something against the door but still it was unsettling, just like this whole house. It was the only thing I detested about babysitting Charlie. Charlie was easy enough to manage, the job fitted into my schedule and the extra cash was nice but still…this house. The long narrow hall that turned sharply through the home, the dim lighting, the black painted doors that creaked, the gravel paved sideway that lead from the front yard to the backyard and finally the large square, wall-sized window in the lounge that faced towards the pitch-black backyard. It was shadowy and creepy.
I walked back down the hall and turned into the kitchen to be welcomed by Charlie. He had already set the table while I was answering the door.
“Who was at the door, Jessica?” he asked, curious.
“Nobody, just the wind.” I sighed and sat down on the chair opposite him.
“Anyway, I’ve kept you waiting long enough, let’s eat,” I suggested. I opened the box and plopped a slice of pizza on his plate.
After dinner we sat quietly on the couch and watched cartoons together until I noticed the digits on the digital clock above the television.
“Oh wow, 9pm already, alright time for bed.” I yawned as I pulled myself off the couch and onto my wobbly legs.
He frowned, “Can’t I stay up a bit longer?”
“I’m sorry but I could get in trouble with your parents if they found out that you’re still bouncing around this late. We wouldn’t want that now, would we?”
He sulkily shook his head side-to-side in response. I smiled and led him down the hall to his bedroom. After reading him four short stories, I pulled up his covers, turned off the light and quietly closed the door on my way out into the hall.
Once I reached the lounge, I reluctantly flicked the switch and the last light in the house went off. With no lights left, I was enveloped by the dark from all angles except the direction of the television which emitted blue light. I used the light to guide myself over to the couch before sinking into the soft red leather with my back towards the window. Finally, the tension was gone, I faced the television, away from the shadows, away from the dark and…away… from the glass. My eyelids grew heavy and my vision blurred as I drifted off to sleep alone in the lounge.
My eyes opened wide as the clock on the mantle beeped rapidly. The time 10 o’clock flashed repeatedly. They must have set an alarm up to keep me from falling asleep. I forced myself off the couch and stumbled over to the light switch and flicked the switch. The bright lights forced me to squint in an attempt to regain my vision. Once I got used to the light, I made my way back to the couch, grabbed the remote, aimed it at the television and switched it off.
But something wasn’t right.
My body tensed as I stared at the screen, or more accurately the reflection on the screen. Within the reflection I could see myself, the couch and the glass wall but right over my shoulder, behind the glass stood what looked like the silhouette of an absurdly tall and lanky person.
My chest tightened as my heartbeat thumped erratically against my chest and in my frantic state of shock I leapt off the couch to face the glass, holding the remote over my head in defence.
But now I couldn’t see anything. Nothing but the pitch black.
I slowly tip-toed my way over to the spot where the figure was in the reflection and brought my face slowly towards the glass to peer outside. My breath slowly fogged up the glass as I got closer and closer. I pressed my hand to the cold glass and wiped it but even so, nobody was there.
I sprang back in alarm, toppled over the couch, and hit the cold hard floorboards with a thud. My back ached but I was too pumped full of adrenaline to care. I got to my feet and looked towards the screen again, but nothing was there. Someone knocked twice right? If someone was outside, they probably used the sideway. I tip-toed my way down the hall, each step caused slight creaks from the wood beneath, but I ventured forward, towards the front door.
Once I reached the entrance, I quietly pressed my ear against the smooth wooden door and listened…it was silent. I cautiously pulled the door ajar, braced for the drop in temperature and looked through the gap.
Once again, nobody was there.
However, the gate was wide open. My skin crawled as it interacted with the harsh cold air but I built up the courage and ran barefoot down the stone path. I slammed the gate shut, put the latch on and ran back inside.
I slammed the door shut and hastily locked it by turning the knob. We were safe right? I walked down the dimly lit hall but stopped dead in my tracks.
Light shining through the kitchen into the hall, I hesitantly made my way to the archway and peeked around the corner to see the light protruding from the fridge door left open. I couldn’t have forgotten to close the fridge; I would have seen the light, right? Maybe Charlie left it open…
I hurried towards his door and pushed it open, my heart lurched at the sight of the empty bed. I hastily looked around the room to find a weapon in case there was an intruder lurking, eventually I settled on an old, splintered T-ball bat. I peeked into the hall but before I decided which way to go strange voices echoed through the halls, it was coming from the lounge. My heart pounded against my chest, sweat dripped down my forehead as I stepped into the lounge only to be greeted by the sight of cartoon characters arguing on the television and Charlie, who turned around upon my entry into the room. Realisation sank in and I breathed a sigh of relief.
“Why aren’t you in bed?” I questioned.
He sputtered, “I heard banging and got scared”.
I placed the bat on the ground and picked him up from the couch.
“No more telly tonight, you need to sleep.”
I carried him back to his room with ease, closed the door behind us and tucked him into bed. I was just being paranoid; nobody was in the house; it was just Charlie walking around. I sat on the edge of the bed and placed my hand on his side.
“It’s alright, it was just the wind, this old house of yours makes all kinds of noises on nights like these,” I assured him.
He turned to face me, he stuttered, “Are you afraid of the noises?”
“Yes, many adults won’t admit it but we’re just as terrified as when we were as little as you, the creaks, the groans, the dark and— “
“The knocks?” He cut me off.
“Yes…even the knocks, just like this…” I exclaimed before I gently knocked on his forehead with my knuckles, making him smirk.
“I think I’m ready to sleep.”
“Then my work here is done.”
I stood up from the bed and walked over to the door but remembered a small warning was in order.
“Oh, before I forget, television is one thing…but don’t tell your parents that you got a midnight snack alright?”
He starred at me wide eyed and stuttered “B-but I…didn’t.”
“I didn’t go to the kitchen!”
My heart stopped but before I could say a word…the dreaded noise returned.
Knock Knock Knock!