Thursday, June 16, 2016

Friday Flash Fiction: Knock, Knock

I'm beginning to conclude I work best under pressure. Every week I read Chuck Wendig's writing prompt, and think I'll jump right on that, have the story written by Monday, and for once have time to post it early. And every week I realize Thursday morning that I've not quite finished a draft (if I've even begun it), and every Thursday evening I end up editing the story at 9 or 10 p.m., barely making my deadline.

This week is no exception. We were to start with a knock at the door. Here's the result, another bit of fun for JJ MacGregor of the Pismawallops PTA as she sits working upon a midnight dreary. I ran a few words over my 1000.

Knock, Knock

Rap-a-rap-a-rap! Thump!

I practically crawled out of my skin when the knock—more like a pounding—sounded on my door. I was working late, trying to finish a short story, and the house was both empty and dark, aside from the light over my desk. Brian was at Justin’s house for the night so I was alone.

It wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t been trying my hand at writing horror. But I was, so when the hammering on the door echoed down my front hall, I jumped about a yard in the air, and then sat a moment staring at the line I’d just typed: “Juliet opened the door and screamed.”

This wasn’t a horror story. This was Pismawallops Island, where a knock on the door at—I looked at the clock—one a.m. probably just meant…what? None of my friends would be out at that hour. The only thing open was The Club, a dive of a bar that still felt smoke-filled despite years of no-smoking laws. It was that kind of place. Not where you’d find members of the PTA in the wee small hours.

I got up and went to the door. What if it was Brian? Maybe he and Justin had been displaying the lack of good sense 16-year-old males were said to possess in excess. They never had before, but there’s always a first time.

There’d been enough disconcerting disruptions to my quiet Island life lately that I didn’t fling wide the door without looking. I peered through the peephole Ron insisted I install, but could see nothing in the darkness.

“Who’s there?” No answer. I called three times before opening the door cautiously, a foot planted to prevent it being pushed open wider. There was no one on the porch.

I rather belatedly turned on the light, but it didn’t change anything. There was no one on the porch, nor on what I could see of the yard and driveway. I shouted a few more times before retreating and locking the door. For good measure I checked the lock on the back door as well.

Then, insane as it may sound, I went back to my horror story. The hapless Juliet flung wide her door without fear or precaution, and was grabbed from behind. I realized she must have been grabbed by someone in the house, and was wondering how I’d resolve that, when the knocking began again.

“Jehoshaphat!” Juliet’s plight fresh in my mind, I considered barricading myself in the den and ignoring the pounding.

I also considered calling Ron. He was chief of police, and a friend, and I knew he’d want me to call. But our relationship was, as they say, “complicated” and asking him to come over in the middle of the night was more than I could handle.

Someone must be in trouble. The hammering was loud and desperate. Had something scared the person off the first time? I’d left the front porch light on, but now the visitor was at the back door.

This time I flipped on the light at the same instant as I pushed aside the curtain and peered out through the window. There was no one there. The knocking had stopped as I entered the back hall, and the knocker was gone. I’d more or less expected that.

As I saw it, there were three possibilities. The least likely was that someone I’d upset was looking for revenge, either by frightening me or by luring me out where they could do me actual harm. Unlikely, but frightening, and not beyond the realm of possibility.

The second most likely case was that someone was out there who needed my help. I’d gotten a bit of a reputation after helping to solve a couple of murders. I supposed that a person in trouble might think I could help.

But what I believed was that Brian and Justin, or a similar set of young people, were pranking me. They’d run me back and forth between the doors until I got visibly angry or frightened, and then there’d be laughter. I hated being made the butt of a joke.

I stood in the dark kitchen and thought. If it was either of the two less likely cases, calling the police made sense. But if it was a prank… I was still thinking when the knocking started up again at the front door.

I’d left the light on there. If I could get there fast and quiet enough, I might catch the miscreant. I slid out of my hard-soled slippers, and in my stocking feet ran tip-toed and silent down the length of the house.

It almost worked. They must have been counting seconds and judging how fast I could get there, because the knocking stopped just before I reached the door. I sprinted the last yard, plastered my eye to the peephole, and peered out.

They almost made it. I just caught a glimpse of a shadowed form disappearing around the corner of the house, the reflective stripes on their running shoes gleaming in the porch light.

I knew those shoes and that way of moving, and considered my options, grinning. I could go back to writing my story and let them hammer away until they gave up in disgust. I could call Ron and see if he could catch them and scare the devil out of them.

Or I could prank them in my own turn.

I slid out the door, closing it silently behind me. My porch offered no hiding place, being just a landing at the top of the steps, but the stairs made a deep shadow opposite the light. I crouched in that pool of darkness and waited.

The boys were back in a minute. I let them get within a few feet, then lunged to my feet, roaring like a madman.

Then I sat on the bottom step as the boys screamed and sprinted up the driveway, pursued by my cackling laughter.


©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2016
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!

Like JJ's style? Check out her murder investigations at great summer-reading prices!


  1. I'm grinning all the way to my next story :D

    1. I could see this incident making its way into the next book :)

  2. One good prank deserves another!

    1. And any day you can get the better of the teens is a good day :D


We want to hear from you! Tell us your reactions, or whatever's on your mind.