The Knock

Do you remember that song, by Don MaClean, American Pie, with the line, the day the music died?

I couldn’t stop thinking of it , only in reverse as it were. The day that nobody died.It was in all the papers, first as a little by-line, but now it was on all the front pages, and it was making it hard for me to think. How could nobody die, in the whole f-ing world.

“Have you ever wondered about those doors?” She asked. I shook my head, what doors?

“Those ones you never go through?” She said reading my mind, and puffed manically upon on a dwindling cigarette.

“Can’t say as I have?” I replied, still no idea what she was talking about. I stepped back trying to avoid the noxious blue cloud that hung around her. It looked as if the smoke didn’t want to disperse, as if it were attracted to her; well she was welcome to it. I had never been a smoker, and the stuff the guards had found for her was a foul substance. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not implying it was illegal, it just smelt awful, probably French or something.

She stared at me, her long oily hair hanging in licks over her fringe hiding her eyes. It could have done with a wash, but still… I shifted uncomfortably in that gaze. They might have been blue, I caught the occasional flash but I wasn’t sure if it was a reflection of the blue sky above that intermittently peaked through the hurrying clouds, or the colour of her eyes. Maybe they hadn’t any colour. I couldn’t tell, except that I felt as if I were falling into them. Fool! I chided myself. What a sight I must have looked, in my suit and tie leaning against a wall trying to look nonchalant. The sweat trickling into my eyes would have been the give-away I must admit, but she wasn’t bothered. Not as bothered as me that is. The drab concrete wall, a nine foot box topped with razor wire made sure there was no chance of escape, for me or for her, if she decided to turn nasty. I here I was alone with her, well relatively anyway. Nine bodies they had found that morning, surrounding her in that drab litter strewn alley way, nine lifeless and peculiar corpses. And sat in the middle, blue eyes or not a glaze, her.

“Linea, your going to have to tell them something if you ever want to get out of here, out of jail.” I said sounding like her solicitor. She smiled and looked at the troubled sky, a wistful smile on her face. A gust of wind mussed her hair, which moved sluggishly into her eyes so she had to brush it aside, pasting it to her glistening forehead..

“Hmmm, still watching huh!” She said. I felt the heat in my cheeks, I must have blushed, but I couldn’t help staring, be it fear or, I might reluctantly say, attraction. But it wasn’t me she was talking to, she was still looking up, and for a moment it felt like she had addressed the clouds. Inside I shrugged, my face a lying mask of indifference.

“Linea, they think that you are responsible for those dead people, those five dead men and four dead women. And don’t think that the fact that they can’t figure out how you killed them matters…, how they died isn’t important. These people, the police, the courts, rarely care whether a person is really guilty, they just want some accountability, things to end up tidy.” I found my hanky and wiped my brow. She laughed, a sprite-ish and hollow giggle. How was I supposed to help her if she wouldn’t help herself. Court appointed psychologist or not I was getting nowhere, and although it was not my job to help her, it would help nobody if she didn’t give me some answers.

“The doors Simon… The ones you never go through, marked private or the like, or those doors on old buildings suspended halfway up a wall, any door really. Don’t you ever wonder, what’s behind them?” She asked. I shook my head. Of course I wasn’t being that truthful. I had wondered once, when I was a kid. My own little sordid past, but who didn’t have one, I hadn’t met many saints in my life and anyway, curiosity had burnt my paws. I’d nearly been had up for breaking and entry, the caution sat somewhere to this day on my record. The looks the prison officers gave me sometimes attested to that. How could she have known. She kept doing that, looking no so much through me, but into me. I shivered. Here I was the psychologist trying to figure her out, but without even trying she had me nailed. I thought I try a different task.

“What about them?” I said almost as a whisper, unsure whether the words forming on my lips were really mine.

“Well…” She said and looked at me, that smile again, her eyes twinkling with what I hoped wasn’t murderous intention.

“Would you like to know?” She asked. I nodded playing along, I suppose I had to now.

“Good, I thought you would. ” She said. No I didn’t, but whatever it took to get her talking.

“Of course Linea, whatever you say.” I said. She frowned, I hadn’t meant to sound flippant, it had just came out that way, but she smiled again puffing on her tatty cigarette. She dropped the still smouldering butt and crushed it below her prison issued slippers. I took a breath and waited, staring almost hypnotised into her eyes, again. She looked troubled for a second, biting her lip, but the relaxed, as if she had made a worrying decision. At last! I hoped innocently.

“It’s easy really, behind every door lies heaven and hell, I think, or heaven or hell I should say, or somewhere else, the after life, Eden..” She looked back up at the sky squinting.

“You know I’m not even sure myself. Anyway, all you have to do is knock at a door, knowing that and when the knock comes back you have to open the door. But this is important, don’t go through, not unless you want to end up like…” She gestured over her shoulder at the invisible nine corpses.

“And that door has to be opened every night or day, I had to open that door, to let out the old, It has to be done, or it all goes to shi*, it’s important, it’s our…It’s my job, that’s what the women did. I’m not sure what the guys did, but it was something similar, or different. Oh there’s more to it than that, but considering the headlines I thought this would grab your attention. But they, us, we were tired and didn’t want it anymore, you can’t imagine how tired… “ She looked old then, twenty something but also ancient. That’s what was odd about her eyes. They were an old persons eyes. Colourless, with that empty bluish tinge that reflects rather that radiates colour. I could see it now. I felt my soul quaking, unsure but knowing that she was not lying. Deluded perhaps, but lying, no.

“ Isn’t that naive… We thought we could just quit.”

She sucked on the cigarette again.

“Some of us, most of us , or rather them, succeeded. Rather more dramatically than they had expected I imagine… I might try again, later, perhaps.” I sighed as she looked down, Oh good god, a nut job! At least I hoped she was.

“Really Linea, a doorway to heaven and hell, that makes perfect sense.” I must have sounded un-amused, because she frowned, pouting thoughtfully . I must have looked as if I weren’t paying attention because in a flash she was at me her arms and fists raised. As quick as I could d raise mine and expecting some episode of violence I started to fall into a crouch. But not before she had surprisingly planted her lips firmly on mine, her tongue probing my mouth, tasting of stale cigarettes, general bad breath, and something else. It was almost as if her mouth, her tongue tasted of everything, death, life, flowers, the laughter of children, squealing tyres, and more. I found myself, in shock kissing back as my brain spun, and in retrospect, something else passed into me.I can’t say much more. There I was a grown man, my profession at risk, my marriage at risk, swapping spit and who knows what else with some inmate in an exercise yard, in-front of who knows how many guards and umpteen cameras.

Suddenly there were hands every where and she was pulled off me, or me off her, I couldn’t say. My heart beating like a shrew, I was ushered away and found myself in the wardens office. He was not amused, with me, and Linea, and was unsure as to how proceed; but for now I was off the case pending an investigation. My mind still reeling I found myself in the prison car park, without case or notes, and a firm invitation not to return to the prison until the Warden permitted. Some of the nonsense she had said, in the light of recent events made an insane sense. Nobody was dying after all, except for her nine so called colleagues. It was a world wide mystery, and this should have been the case that would make my career, but now, oh shit. What could I even begin to say. Was it all down to her, and the doors. And what else was amiss. I had a horrible feeling in my stomach, nausea, and yearning as I crossed the car park. I may not be mad, but at that moment felt as if I may as well be. It would be easier to explain. And anyway, who could I explain it to.

That night was the oddest of my life. Still confused I could do nothing else but go home, and blank to my wife and children, guilt and confusion hanging over me like a cartoon anvil, I planted myself in front of the television and watched yet more of the weirdness unfold. Apparently that day nobody had died, again. But something told me they were missing something. I sat all night watching Sky News, becoming numb to the silent and polite hysteria. The next morning the light through my window seemed second hand and stale, and still it continued. Still no deaths, shouldn’t we be celebrating? Scenes of panic on the streets now, and worried looks on the faces of the televisions reporters. Outwards I remained unmoved but inside I tumbled. I could feel it, could feel them, pulling me, like an electric cord to my intestines. It continued all day, and into that night. At some unearthly hour I couldn’t take it anymore, and like a foolish love struck teenager I paced the front room floor, wearing an invisible rut in the carpet think of Linea, and her words, and the doors. Family life, somewhat tenderly continued, looks were casts, but questions never asked. Which was a good thing as I was beyond idle chit chat.

The next morning I made a few phone calls to a couple of old college friends, doctors and nurses and it didn’t paint a pretty picture, but at least the picture was now whole. A phone call to the prison revealed that there had indeed been one death that day, Linea. And the police of the world had descended on that place, as was I, summoned to the prison as if I were some naughty child to see the headmaster. But I never got there. I stepped outside of our flat, and passed the faded pine front door, with every intention of attending the summons but I felt a greater pull, and quite literally lurched backwards, as if by that cord, only it had become real. I stopped. I couldn’t see it or feel it, but knew it was there. Turning back I stared at the door.

The door, a simple B&Q affair radiated purpose at me, as if it were some ancient relic, tied in with the destiny of our world. I had bought that door, £11.99 I remember, a bargain. But now it was something else. I reached out tentatively and knocked. I half expected Jean to open it, blank faced and question less, to let me back in, but I had also knocked, at least half knowing otherwise. It was a door that had to be opened every day or night to allow let out the old, and… something else. Linea had said she wasn’t sure what the men had done. My sanity was that close to snapping, but a smile rose to my lips, a borrowed smile that reminded me of Linea. The knock came back, a deafening crash that almost shattered the door and frame where it stood. The timber bulging with each crash, as if by the fist of an immense giant.

My hands shook so that I could barely hold my key, but slowly and purposively I inserted it into the awkward and sometimes sticky Yale lock and turning the key, pushed the door open. Beyond the frame was nothing, but it was a very physical nothing, a smoky depthless darkness. I held my breath for what felt like an age, and when I could hold it no longer I felt the breeze, tugging at the sleeves of my jacket. I stepped back briskly as it built to a howling smoke filled gale that poured through the orifice, nearly taking me with it. I felt it choking me, that vile blue smokiness of a billion cigarettes and cremations, filling my lunges like crawling misery, writhing inside my chest like a oil slick of maggot infested corruption, , and just as quickly, while I coughed like an old hack, it stopped. My ears ringing with the silence. The current then changed, and all at once the breeze, the gale was pouring out a beautiful glittering fog of light. Filling the world with a new hope. In that current I was cleansed, cleaned, forgiven, pardoned and welcomed. And the most bizarre of all the bizarre is that in a second I knew. Knew something that I could never explain or share but would have to live with for as long as I so wished. The winds that passed through that doorway, was my breath. It had been me that inhaled the dead, and now it was me that was exhaling life.

What had I known? There had been something that had been overlooked, and that was that while nobody had been dying, and after those hurried phone calls to various maternity clinics I had made it had become clear, to me at least that nobody had been born either. The midwives and doctors hadn’t noticed because it wasn’t unusual for the odd dry day when it came to births and they were preoccupied like the rest of us anyway. But that point was moot now. The door had been opened anyway, and I knew all around the world that last breaths were being rattled out as new screams were rending the wards, and welcoming the new.

What had I become. And just because of a smile and a kiss.

Bang!

The door slammed shut, rattling and shaking the frame.
“No need to slam the door.” I heard jeans whine form the other side.

Well that was that, the day I took on another job, moonlighting I think they call it. I can’t say what it is really, the job, or what I am, for who would I tell anyway. Perhaps I’m an angel or sorts, while I’d be the first to admit I’m no sort of angel. Or perhaps I’m god, now that’s a worrying thought. In my more sombre moments I wish I’d had the opportunity to ask Linea some more, and well perhaps one day I shall, when I to grow tired and pass through that doorway, but until then… Well I’d have to be careful about who I kissed.

The Knock

JohnG

Westcliff One Sea, Southend, United Kingdom

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spooky, horror, sc fi, what if, fantasy

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