A violent shiver zapped Timmy away from sleep. The sudden coldness that flooded his room forced him to put a jacket over his meager Power Ranger pajamas. It was 2:26AM, mere minutes away from the inevitable arrival of his recent but relentless visitor. The clock kept ticking as Timmy sat motionless on the edge of his bed. He knew exactly what was about to happen, but that didn’t keep the tears from running wildly down his cheeks. 2:27AM. His hands painfully clenching his bed sheets. 2:28AM. His eyes forcefully closed as desperation crept into his tiny body. 2:29AM. The last few seconds of silence. 2:30AM. A single, almost inaudible knock on his door.
Everything remained still for a moment, but then came the second knock, and the third. The fourth and fifth followed shortly after. Each time a bit faster, each time a bit stronger. The sixth made the entire door tremble as Timmy whimpered under his voice, still frozen in the corner of his bed. By the tenth knock, it was impossible to keep on counting. A barrage of strikes assaulted the door with deafening force as a thin stream of urine made its way down Timmy’s pants. He tried to scream, but by that point his voice had also abandoned him. The torment lasted for less than a minute but, to Timmy, it felt like ages. Then there was silence. As soon as he managed to muster the strength to scream, he wailed. His father came rushing into the room and turned on the light.
“Honey, it happened again,” said Timmy’s father to the woman walking groggily behind him.
“It’s okay, boy. You are okay,” he said as he held Timmy close to his chest.
“It... it ca- came,” Timmy whimpered.
Timmy’s father tried to hide the concern in his voice, but as soon as he noticed the small warm puddle on which he was standing, his fatherly tenderness was tainted by strokes of rage.
“You can’t keep doing this, Timothy. Not every night. You’re almost ten. This is not normal. This is not what normal kids do.”
Timmy tried to produce an answer, but only sobbing came out of his mouth. His father opened a drawer in Timmy’s night stand and took a couple of pills out of an orange bottle.
“Here, boy. Take these. We’ll go and see Dr. Zea tomorrow. We may need to change your prescription.”
Timmy was in no position to understand anything. His father lifted him up and changed his pants as the woman stared from the doorframe. He then put Timmy back in bed and lightly rubbed his head.
“You’re gonna sleep now, okay? No more games.”
Both adults walked out of the room and turned the lights off. Timmy remained motionless under his covers, staring blankly into nothingness.
Morning came, and Timmy was jolted out of bed by yet another knock on his door. This time, however, it was immediately followed by the comforting voice of his father.
“Breakfast’s ready, boy. We’ve got pancakes!”
For a moment, that familiar tone made Timmy forget about what had happened last night, but it didn’t last long.
It was one of those mornings where the sun was a bit too bright and the mood a bit too cheerful. The whole house smelled of pancakes, and Timmy could hear his father humming joyfully from the kitchen. Timmy put on some slippers and dragged himself out of his room. It was unusually cold, despite the sun bleeding in from every window. Still, he couldn’t be bothered to put on a jacket.
“Chilly, heh?” came his father as he served a platter of blueberry pancakes before sitting next to his son. Timmy nodded. “Listen, Tim. I’m sorry about last night, I shouldn’t have said those things. I love you. Don’t ever forget that, okay? You’ll be alright, I promise.”
Timmy nodded once more and started munching on his breakfast. His father kept blabbering about how they were going on a camping trip that weekend, and even the woman, who had been silently sipping coffee until that point, directed a couple of lines at Timmy with a smile on her face. Timmy did not say a word but, after his father cracked a bad joke about blueberries and elevators, a half-smile appeared on his mouth.
Perhaps he was going to be alright. Perhaps the new prescription from Dr. Zea would actually stop the episodes. Perhaps he would go on that camping trip and be happy again. Perhaps everything would go back to normal. Timmy still felt something broken inside him, but the pancakes were good, and the day was sunny, and his father loved him and, at that moment, he couldn’t have asked for more.
During the minutes that followed, there was only laughter and lighthearted conversation. Timmy was still weary, but even he managed to crack a chuckle or two. Then came the knocking.
Timmy instinctively shuddered, but his father quickly walked to the main door without losing his smile.
“Good mor-,” he started saying as he opened the door, but there was nobody on the other side. “Must be the neighbor’s kid playing a prank.”
Timmy’s father didn’t think much of it and started heading back to the table, but then the knocking was heard again. This time a bit faster, this time a bit stronger. They all quickly realized it wasn’t coming from the main door, but from Timmy’s room at the end of the hallway. Both adults looked at that door in disbelief while Timmy remained motionless as tears started rolling down his cheeks.
“It’s ok. It’s alright. I’m gonna check it out, ok?” stuttered the father before picking up a chef’s knife from the kitchen counter.
Timmy struggled to produce an answer, but it all amounted to a soft whimper. The woman stood alert near the edge of the table, holding her hand over her mouth without saying a word. Timmy’s father approached the door slowly as the knocking continued. He grabbed the doorknob, feeling the door trembling as if it was being struck not by one, but hundreds of hands. He took a deep breath and opened it violently.
There was nothing. But it was a different kind of nothingness. There were no shapes, no light, no movement or sound. It was a darkness so dense that it seemed almost solid. He froze.
The knocking had stopped and, for a couple of seconds, there was only silence. Timmy’s chair moved a few inches forward, even though his feet were not touching the ground. Then came a thump. Then audible crying. Timmy was being pulled into the darkness by some unseen force, by some unrelenting force that was in no rush. It dragged him slowly towards the room, completely indifferent to Timmy’s desperate kicks and tearful wailing.
His father jumped and tried to pull Timmy away from the darkness, but he couldn’t. The dragging was strong and steady. Strong to the point he felt his son would break if he pulled any harder. In the warm embrace of his father, Timmy was able to cry a single plea.
“Don’t let go, daddy. Don’t let go.”
His father held him even tighter and promised him that he wouldn’t.
“Find help!” he screamed. And the woman bolted out of the house almost immediately. “Stop!” he screamed again, as if the nothingness could hear him. “Please, stop...” his voice cracked. “Please...”
The dragging continued, pulling Timmy closer inch by inch. His father held Timmy’s face between his hands and tried to collect some degree of serenity.
“You’ll be alright, champ. You’ll be ok. I promise. I promise.”
Timmy buried his head on his father’s chest and whimpered. His father just held him with all the strength he could muster and looked intently into the darkness.
The longer he looked, the clearer it was. As he came closer, he began to see shapes, he began to hear sounds. He began to feel something way greater than himself crawling inside. Tears started pouring out of his eyes without him even noticing. He felt dread, a dread so tangible that it drilled under his chest like a bullet wound. The sudden warmth of urine quickly filled his pants.
His embrace got feeble. His hands grew loose. A potent shiver assaulted his body as he kissed his son on the brow. He looked at Timmy in the eye and whispered the one thing he could whisper without lying.
I really hope you enjoyed this piece. Please follow me if you did! @jean.racines
This short story was originally written as a practical example for my series of short essays titled “Footnotes the Craft of Horror in Fiction.” It has now been edited and formatted to be be read as a single piece. If you would like to check out the essays, please follow these links:
Image sources: Image 1.