Knock. Knock. Knock.
by J.E. Anckorn
This Halloween, Curiosity Quills authors are spreading the spookiness by sharing their own personal paranormal experiences. Get haunted with these bone-chilling blogs, or post your own! #myghoststory.
My bedroom. The early ’90s. I’m fourteen. Normally I’d paint you the scene using subtler brushstrokes - Hey! I’m wearing a bucket hat and a baby doll dress, listening to some rad Nirvana, seated in the inflatable chair that signifies both the rise of British rave culture, and the impracticality in choosing soft furnishings that only a teenager possesses.
In actual fact I’m wearing some sort of regrettable velvet waistcoat, listening to Edith Piaf, and trying to replicate an oil painting from my “History of art” book of the “Pre-Raphaelite woman floating in pond is unhappy about it” variety. Yes, I was that girl.
This is the first time I hear the knocking. Not on my chamber door, but on the floor beneath me. The carpet is the sort of apologetic not-quite-blue even the Canterville ghost would disdain to stain, so the last thing on my mind is the supernatural. Oh hell, this is Halloween; let’s give it some Stephen Kingian caps: The Supernatural. That’s better.
There are three loud bangs, hard enough to shake the floorboards beneath me. I pause for a second, then shrug (I probably didn’t shrug. Who shrugs in real life? “I perform a visual shorthand for being unperturbed by current circumstances” takes too long to write though) and go back to my painting.
The next day the same thing happens; three hard raps on the floor where I’m sitting. Yesterday my family was home, and I assumed one of them was banging on the ceiling of the room below to communicate a cup of tea or a bollocking is in the offing- such is the way of my people. Today I am in the house alone.
I frown, sloshing my brush clean in the jar of white spirits. I don’t recall what color I was using, but let’s say the jam jar acquired a sinister sanguine air, as red paint spiraled up through the liquid, like fresh blood. This is called foreshadowing. Or it would be if I ended up pureed and decanted into a jam jar, which - SPOILER ALERT - I don’t. There is a jar later on though. Beat that, Ramsey Campbell.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
Well, it isn’t coming from outside the house. I can feel the floorboards shiver beneath me with each blow.
I run downstairs, expecting to see my dad come home early, but the room below- my parent’s bedroom- is empty.
Upstairs I crank the Piaf louder, and load my brush with titanium white. The jam jar of swirls Barbara Cartland pink in defiance of the situation.
That’s when the something - sorry, Stephen King - The Something knocks again.
I don’t believe in ghosts, not really. I go through the options. Water pipes, settling wood, a mouse under the floorboards.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
It could be… something to do with magnets. Deathwatch beetles. A very localized earthquake.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
So of course I do what any teenage girl of chainsawable age would do in that situation. I knock back.
Shave and a haircut.
There’s a pause, then “knock knock.”
Unless the mouse is named Jerry, things have taken a turn for the weird. If not The Weird.
I try again, four short fast raps this time, followed by two long ones.
A pause, then the same pattern is repeated back to me. The carpet ripples with the force of the blows. Whatever is bashing on the underside of my floor is strong.
A shiver prickles up my body. I stub out the paintbrush on a wad of paper towels and scamper downstairs, to stand in the room below mine. The dog pads through from the kitchen, and I can’t help but notice the way her eyes are fixed on the stairs and the fur on her back is beginning to bristle.
“Hello?” I call.
Nothing, and then a stealthy noise above me that sounds like someone shifting from foot to foot, right in the spot where I had been painting minutes before.
The dog whines nervously, tail wagging down low.
Above me, there’s a thud, like a footstep, and then another. My brain runs a nervy obstacle course: Could my parents have gotten home and gone upstairs without me noticing somehow?
“Hello?” I call again.
The footsteps - definitely footsteps - are louder now. Whatever is up there is BIG. And they’re speeding up too. I hear them stride over my bedroom floor, and a second later a door slams overhead.
The dog starts to growl.
The footsteps kick up from a walk to a jog. They’re turning the corner of the corridor above me, and I know than in a second whatever is up there is going to appear at the top of the stairs.
The dog is the first one to act. Maybe this is why the dog is always the first one the author offs in horror novels? They are plot killers; they don’t stand about waiting to be turned inside out by poltergeists, they get while the getting is good.
She sprints towards the backdoor, me close on her… whatever the dog equivalent of heels are.
I get the door open just as the footsteps start thundering down the stairs, the whole house seems to shiver with the noise of it.
The dog and I fall out into the yard in a tangle of paws and regrettable velvet waistcoats.
The two of us stand in the porch for the next hour until my family comes home.
Several other weird things happened in that house. Black shapes of animals and small figures dashing around at night. One time three eggs sitting on the countertop exploded one after the other, and a jar lid shot across the room, smashing against the wall. Either the spirit hated cholesterol or was a big fan of Ghostbusters.
I still don’t really believe in ghosts, but I still can’t explain what happened that day.
How does a water pipe knock back in perfect sequence, and more chilling still, what kind of fourteen-year-old wears a velvet waistcoat?
About J. E. Anckorn:
J. E. Anckorn has been an artist and writer ever since she began to surreptitiously doodle on school supplies instead of learning about practical things, like osmosis and mathematics.
After barely surviving a freak mathematical osmosis disaster, she set out to travel the world, living in New Zealand, Australia and Hong Kong before returning to her native Britain- just in time to marry an American and leave for the U.S.A.She still failed to learn anything about osmosis, but did manage to cultivate an accent that is unintelligible to almost everyone. (It happened through a mysterious net movement of information from the outside environment into her brain. If only there was a word for that!)
This led to her development of a new language, based almost entirely on polite yet uncomprehending nods.In between these adventures, she has worked as a toy designer, copywriter, and freelance illustrator.She lives in Boston, with a small grumpy dog, and a large, slightly less grumpy husband.