The Knocking

Reads: 107  | Likes: 4  | Shelves: 2  | Comments: 5

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic

A short story written for Halloween 2021. | It always starts at three AM. Not one second late, not one before. Although, I will usually wake up five minutes prior...

It always starts at three AM. Not one second late, not one before. Although, I will usually wake up five minutes prior.

I know it’s going to be one of those nights because our landlady’s dogs start howling.

They always howl at twilight whenever it happens. The jarring barks echo over the fields and up to the mountains of this rural community when they do. It’s their way of telling us to get home before dark.

I always heed their warning without a second thought. So does our landlady, who shuts the doors and windows as soon as I’m inside. So does my roommate, who tucks her rosary beneath her pillow and keeps a small crystal bottle of holy water on her end table.

We sleep on the second floor of our landlady’s house, in a room with gleaming chestnut floors and dark wood walls. My roommate and I have separate single beds, each covered by crisp white sheets and topped with soft pillows for our weary heads. Their headboards press against the wall directly opposite a large cabinet that spans the width of the bedroom.

A large window with glass panes, covered by filmy cream curtains, exists between my roommate’s bed and her end of the cabinet. Between the cabinet and mine looms the door. Beyond that, a small landing connects our room to the stairs.

The staircase leads to an open living room and dining area. In the morning, you could look down from the landing and watch the landlady set the table for breakfast. At night, you could only stare into a dark void.

But I don’t look down at night. Instead, I lock our door and hang garlic from its brass knob. My roommate breaks a garlic bulb apart and neatly lines up its cloves on the window's wooden sill.

Once that’s done, we tuck ourselves beneath the warm blankets and say our prayers.

Sa ngalan sang Amay, kag sang Anak, kag sang Espiritu Santo. Amen.

And then we sleep.

And then it starts at three AM.

It starts as a whisper and a small squeak of the house’s front door. Then, it pads across the shadowed floor of the vacated living room. Then it climbs up the stairs.

It’s not like any footsteps you’ll ever hear. Each step is light and measured, and there is no weight to them. They sound like the click-click-click of a stapler.

Our landlady doesn’t have a working stapler.

Still, the click-click-click continues to echo against the walls. I always count the taps it makes to be sure I’m hearing right. I know that once the footsteps stop at twenty-four, it has reached the front of our room.

Only then does the knocking start, and it sounds the same as the footsteps. Except, I hear them against the other side of our door instead of the floor. Our door doesn’t move or shake, but it does let us hear the clicking from outside.

I sit up in bed and notice that my roommate is also awake. Her eyes grow huge, and her shoulders shudder from fear. This is only the second time she’s been through one of these nights.

“Go back to sleep,” I tell her even as my hands become cold. The knocking continues.

She compresses her lips into a flat line. “But Rosie—”

“Shush.” I wince as the knocking stops.

My roommate before this one did the same thing. She called me by my name while it tried to get into our room. And you don’t ever say anybody’s name while it’s trying to get into your room because…

The knocking doesn’t start again—but the calling does.

“Rosie?” it says from behind the door. My roommate and I both freeze as it calls me using my late mother’s voice. “Rosie?”

I take a deep breath, clear my throat, and hope that my heart doesn’t lurch through it. It’s pounding so fast that I might pass out if I don’t get a hold of myself. Cold sweat covers my brow as I talk myself into staying calm.

“Go away,” I answer it as I pull the covers back. “My mother is dead.”

The calling stops—and the knocking takes its place.

My roommate gasps, and I try to quiet her again. The horrified expression in her eyes tells me that she’s not going to last long here either. Tomorrow, she’s going to pack her bags and catch a bus back to the city.

I won’t be offended if she did. After all, I would do the same if I could. Unfortunately, teachers are hard to come by in this area of the mountains, and the kids at preschool would have no one to give them their lessons if I left.

The knocking stops again, and this time it calls me using our landlady’s voice. “Rosie? Rosie?”

Our landlady is always safely tucked in bed before dark. We know because she sleeps in the room beneath ours. When we press our ears to the floor hard enough, we could hear her snoring.

Sure enough, when I do it, I catch her rattling breath as it rushes out of her mouth. I get up from the floor and turn back to where my name is coming from. It’s still trying to get in our room.

“No,” I answer it again. “She’s sleeping.”

The calling dies down. Then the knocking starts back up. My roommate whimpers in distress.

“Shush,” I tell her. “Go back to sleep. Ignore it.”

She wipes the tears from her eyes and wraps her blanket around herself. She curls her body and presses her face into the pillow. Her hand slips beneath it and clutches at the rosary she had hidden there.

She starts praying, but her voice wavers when the knocking stops and the calling begins again. This time, it’s using her voice.

“Rosie?” Unlike my roommate’s usually cheery tone, it utters my name flatly. It stretches out the ‘o’ long enough that it almost sounds like it’s moaning. “Rosie? Rosie?”

My roommate has stopped praying completely. Instead, she shivers like a cat left out under the rain. Meanwhile, I’m quaking in my bedroom slippers and thin pajamas hard enough that my teeth rattle.

I glance at the clock that hangs over the cabinet. Only a few minutes more. As far as I know, it doesn’t stay for longer than five.

I gather every shred of courage I have and ball my hands at my sides. My fingers are, as expected, ice cold. I work my throat until I’m sure that I can speak firmly and clearly.

“There’s garlic on the door. There’s garlic on the window. If you try to come in, I’ll douse you with holy water.” My voice is barely a whisper, but I hope it’s enough. I hope that the wards we put in place will make up for the fear that’s coloring my words. “Go. Away. You’re not welcome here.”

The clock’s long hand strikes the fifth minute, and the calling ends.

The knocking moves down, down, down the door, then back to the landing. It changes into the click-click-click of footsteps as it descends the staircase. Always light, always measured, always adding up to twenty-four.

The click-click-clicking carries across the living room floor. Never in a hurry, never slowing down. Like the tapping of a stapler, except there are no staplers or reasons for anyone to staple anything in the darkness.

As soon as the last step has sounded, the whisper echoes one last time before fading into the night.

I sigh and slump on my bed.

This time, it’s a close call. It’s a good thing that I don’t give out my whole name when new tenants ask me. It would follow me wherever I went if it knew who I was.

As things stood, it only understands that I live here from time to time. Except on Sunday when I would walk to the nearby town and shop around after church. The landlady says that it never shows up on Sundays.

I roll back into bed, close my eyes, and thank Heaven that tomorrow is Sunday.

As expected, my roommate stuffs her things into her backpacks first thing in the morning. By the time I’m awake, she has already taken a shower and made breakfast for herself. Our landlady is going to wonder where her spare eggs and extra cuts of bacon have gone when she steps into the kitchen.

On the other hand, my roommate is happy to eat her last meal from this house before returning to civilization and hopefully finding a new job there. She cleans the last bite of bacon off and sets her plate on the end table. Then she ties her hair in a ponytail before hoisting her pack behind her.

“Can you do me a favor?” she asks. “I really wanna get going. So if you could just bring the plate down—”

“Yeah, don’t worry,” I say as I swing my legs down to the floor and reach for the china. “And I’ll tell the landlady that you left once she’s up and about. No need to wait around when you’re raring to go.”

My roommate, or should I say ex-roommate, lets out a deep breath once she hears my good news. I could tell how ecstatic she is to leave the place and never come back. “Thanks. I’ll send the money over once I can find a bank. It’s gonna be enough to cover my stay this last week.”

“Sure,” I say before escorting her out of the room, down the stairs, and up to the front door.

Once she’s past the threshold and walking to the front gate, I lean against the wooden jamb. I watch as she waits for a pedicab that will take her to the bus terminal. After only a few minutes, a middle-aged man with a weathered face comes peddling down the road on that vehicle.

My former roommate hurriedly piles her things on one of the pedicab’s two vacant seats before sitting on the other. Then, after she hands the peddler enough money to take her to the terminal, she looks at me for the last time.

There’s a question in her eyes that I’m very reluctant to answer. “You… you never really told me what that was. So… what was that?”

I bite my lower lip and shake my head. Telling her would only make it want to follow her to where she’s going. Judging by her reaction last night, she wouldn’t be able to sleep anymore if she heard it a third time.

My stomach grumbles as I think about what to say to her. Eventually, I shake my head and signal for the peddler to take her away. He nods his head before leaving.

I contemplate whether I should wait for the landlady to get up before making our breakfast or if I should just start prepping it. As I’m thinking, I hear the peddler speak to my former roommate while carting her off. I turn my head and strain to pick up the man’s fading voice.

“Don’t go about asking questions like that, young lady,” he says. “You might think you want to know, but trust me, you don’t.”

I shake my head again, and with a final wave to my former roommate, head back inside to prepare breakfast. I can’t help but think how right he is. Nobody should want to know.

Nobody’s supposed to.

END

 

Author’s Note

This was inspired by an incident that happened when I and my schoolmates had to stay in an old house at a mountain province. We heard the same clicking sounds I described in this story that night. Fortunately, it lasted for only about a minute, and nothing happened after. Still, better to be safe than sorry. Thank you for reading, and Happy Halloween!

Facebook  www.facebook.com/asepinobook

Website  annsepino.mystrikingly.com

Previous Story  www.booksie.com/posting/ann-sepino/childish-fancy-660009


Submitted: October 31, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Ann Sepino. All rights reserved.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Add Your Comments:

Comments

D. Thurmond aka JEF

Ak, Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh ! I wanted to know! I love the creepy crawlers. Didn't you know? LOL :)

Sun, October 31st, 2021 6:02pm

Author
Reply

Lol! Thanks for the comment. I wanted to know too, but Rosie didn't wanna tell anyone. XD You can search up the Tiktik of Philippine Mythology though. It's the inspiration behind the mystery creature in this story.

Mon, November 1st, 2021 7:10am

Vance Currie

Excellent story for any time of the year, Ann. A spooky story in which nobody actually dies is good.

Sun, October 31st, 2021 8:02pm

Author
Reply

Thank you for commenting! I'd feel bad for the schoolchildren if Rosie died, so yeah, she gets to live. :)

Mon, November 1st, 2021 7:12am

Poetshri

Very entertaining. :) I liked the story, especially I loved the description of the room. Just tell me, what it was. I'm very intrigued. :D I wonder how the villages in Philippines look like. Must be very beautiful. :) Thank you for sharing. Wish you a happy Deepavali. :)

Mon, November 1st, 2021 10:38am

Author
Reply

The closest recorded Philippine Mythical creature to the one in this story is called the Tiktik. You can read about it online if you want. Thanks so much for reading! And Happy Deepavali to you too! I hope your new beginnings shine bright with the light of good luck. :)

Mon, November 1st, 2021 7:17am

FromBlackToViloet

Ooh this was so creepy. Wait you’re saying it was based on like a true story from your experience? Yes, I noticed that, even in horror films it’s always at like 2:30 or 3:00 am when some freaky stuff happens. Some people say at like 3:00 am it’s kind of like the witching hour in a way. It’s the most time if people believe in ghosts, spirits walk btw realms, and the most in your rem cycle of sleep your body is the most unconscious and vulnerable. I don’t know if that’s all true, but I believe in some part that there might be things we can’t see. Anyways, I really liked the tone of voice you set in the prompt, it had like the edge of the reader to make us feel afraid and puzzled of what on earth that sound could be? I really like the imagery you put by describing the creepy sounds, I felt like it flowed with the creepy tension of the story and moved fluidly like clockwork. Very wise words, sometimes we have questions, but sometimes it’s better left unsaid. I’ve had a few experiences that were sort of creepy. But I didn’t ponder further cause I was like maybe that might be better to never find out. The old saying curiosity killed the cat. Really well, done:)

Tue, November 2nd, 2021 1:17pm

Author
Reply

Thank you very much for reading and for the encouraging comment. I rarely write Horror, so it takes me twice the amount to time to finish even this.

Yep, there's a lot of stories about the so-called witching hour. And yep, this did sort of happen to us. But nobody got hurt, and it's all good. It might have been nothing but water pipes that need to be cleaned out, but we really didn't wanna press the issue. Small mountain towns here are stifled in superstition, so experiences like ours could easily lead to panic and hysteria. We didn't want to cause trouble like that.

Tue, November 2nd, 2021 6:28am

Rob73

A scary horror story that grips the reader from the start to the end.

Wed, November 10th, 2021 2:35am

Author
Reply

Thank you very much! So glad you could read this piece. And belated Happy Halloween. :)

Fri, November 12th, 2021 8:05pm

Facebook Comments

More Horror Short Stories

Other Content by Ann Sepino

Book / Romance

Book / Fantasy

Book / Poetry