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From Somewhere, There Came a Knocking

by Morrigan

Eliza shifted in her sleep. A Picture of Dorian Gray lay open, print down, on her chest, moving up and down with her breath. The oven clock glared red through the kitchen doorway to the living room, illuminating a tabby cat slinking past the armchair with the sleeping woman.

This was Eliza's second night away from her husband; the first time was when she had slipped on the ice in her driveway and broken her wrist. The hospital, while uncomfortable, was better than being left alone all night in the huge four poster bed, its curtains fluttering with drafts.

The tabby cat stretched before it leaped to curl on Eliza's lap. “Hello, cat,” she muttered, opening her eyes. She blinked, plucking the book off her breast and marking her page. “How long did I sleep?” She asked the tabby. It purred in response.

From somewhere, there came a knocking. Eliza started, but then laughed at herself. “I can't handle one night away from Mark.” She rose from the chair and started for the kitchen, the tabby glaring after her with reproach.

The stove clock read one-thirty-four. Eliza stopped and sighed. She had wanted to finish that book before eleven so she could chat about it with her book club tomorrow. So much for that. She poured herself a glass of water.

From somewhere, there came a knocking. It was hollow, like the sound of a trash can being abused. Eliza pursed her lips. “That furnace is getting unbearably loud. Mark was supposed to call the furnace repair men. I'll have to remind him to call in the morning.”

The woman lounged against the counter, sipping her water and blinking sleepily at the rays of streetlight flooding the window above the sink. The cat, grudge forgotten, wound around her ankles like a fur mantle, purring. Eliza dropped the glass into the sink, steeling herself for the long night--

From somewhere, there came a knocking. A pattern of three, then a pause, then another three knocks. Eliza stared at the floor vent. She knew where the furnace was: it crouched in a far corner of the unfinished basement, bare foundation meeting red steel.

When the couple moved into the house, it had been for sale for a very long time. The roof leaked, the wiring was certainly not up to code, and its large, echoing rooms were far more beautiful without 1970's wallpaper covering the walls.

The neighborhood children made up stories about the old furnace in the empty house, and Eliza could see why they would fear it. The woman picked up a wrench, ghost stories in mind as she traipsed down the stairs to the basement, intending to stop the noises, somehow, so she could sleep.

From somewhere, there came a knocking. The noise was louder now, and bounced off the piles of boxes Mark and Eliza had stacked here. The cat mewed at the top of the stairs. “Hush, Sassafras, I'll be back up in a moment.” Eliza fumbled for the light at the bottom.

With a click, the bare bulb lit up, and the shadows from the boxes and old furniture made the basement into a replica of the set of The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, angles sharp and illogical, yellowed by the light of the cheap bulb.

From somewhere, there came a knocking. It was the sound of gnashing steel teeth, of heavy boots on sheet metal. Eliza tightened her grip on the wrench. “Perhaps I should wait--” she said, frozen at the bottom of the stairs. The sound of her own voice did not comfort her, as it had in the kitchen.

“I will not deal with this noise tonight,” she decided. Eliza stepped forward through the maze of boxes and mismatched furniture, both anxious and disgusted as her slippers conjured clouds of dust from the floor. “When was the last time we were down here?” She mused.

From somewhere, there came a knocking. It was closer this time, so she knew she was getting to the furnace, but the light produced from the bulb had faded. Eliza could barely see a thing. She reprimanded herself for not bringing a flashlight; she had forgotten that there was only one light.

Relieved, she turned around and headed back towards the golden circle of light, and climbed the stairs to where the cat was still waiting for her. “I'll just wear earplugs or something,” she told the cat and herself as she shut the basement door behind her.

Leaving the wrench by the basement door, she went to the kitchen, searching for earplugs. Sassafras the cat sat in the armchair, waiting for the woman to sit down. Eliza's search successful, the woman and the cat curled up like sisters on the chair, and went to sleep.

Eliza's sleep was fitful, filled with paintings and silent films. The cat, too, did not sleep well, fur rising on its back as, in its mind, it had become the prey.

From somewhere, there came a knocking. Eliza sat up, eyes open, heart pounding. “How did I manage to hear that?” She looked around, and saw that one of her earplugs had fallen onto the cat. She sighed with relief, then wondered why she was relieved.

From somewhere, there came a knocking. It was the sound of fist on wood, a demand of entrance. Eliza looked at the basement door. “No. I'm dreaming.” The knocking came again. It rattled the basement door, and this time, Eliza was silent.

The knocking came from behind the door. The woman stood and picked up her sleeping friend. “I won't open the door!” She whispered desperately.

As if hearing the words, the knocking stopped. Tears of fright wet Eliza's cheeks. The cat awoke and clung to Eliza, claws extended, ears back, eyes fixed on the plain basement door.

The doorknob rattled.

Panicked, Eliza fled without her slippers to the front door, where she ran out of the house into the pre-dawn light. Her hair disheveled, her pajamas dusty, and with a panicked cat in her arms, she rang her neighbor's doorbell.

Knocking was out of the question.

Is this a review?



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223 Reviews

Points: 9181
Reviews: 223

Mon Sep 18, 2023 11:28 pm
foxmaster wrote a review...

Hi there! I'm reviewing using the YWS S'more Method today!

ooooooh what a story! I absolutely loved this! The beginning didn't seem that scary, but the ending practically made me jump! The plot here and the idea was chilling, and, overall, an amazing job!

Top Graham Cracker - What I Know
What I know here so far is that a woman named Eliza spends the night away from her husband, with only her cat to keep her company. After a while, she begins to hear knocking from the creepy furnace in the basement, which is the subject of children's spooky stories.
After a while, the knocking begins to get more frantic, and she begins to get freaked out. After the basement door begins to open, Eliza gets out of there as fast as she can- and the takes the cat with her!

Slightly Burnt Marshmallow - Room for Improvements
I found this very well written, but however, I did notice some things. First of all, It seemed to me like, while you gave the cat a name, you continued to call Sassafras just "the cat" too much, which seems kind of unnecessary to me. Also, Some of your paragraph splitting seemed kind of uneven to me.
In addition, the part with the four-poster-bed I didn't really get, and it seemed, once again, unnecessary.

Chocolate Bar - Highlights of the Piece
I particularly loved the moment where the doorknob opened, near the end!It literally gave me chills, and especially the part where Eliza yelled that she wouldn't let whatever it was out was amazing. Your descriptions here were very good, and the questions left at the end! Wow!

Closing Graham Cracker - Closing Thoughts
Overall, this was a chilling, well-written short story, and I would absolutely love to know what was really doing the knocking.
happy writing,

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208 Reviews

Points: 13179
Reviews: 208

Thu Oct 03, 2019 6:55 pm
WinnyWriter says...

The suspense used here is great! A reader really gets anxious to discover what is causing the knocking. You've woven in an element of mystery, and that really catches me.

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52 Reviews

Points: 30
Reviews: 52

Sun Jun 09, 2019 12:06 am
ToxicAnglerFish wrote a review...

I really liked this story and found it to be an interesting concept of how knocking and something getting closer can really be anxiety-inducing. Although I don't if it's just me, I kinda wish there were some more details in the story? There was just enough to understand what was going on and to get some suspense going but to me what really makes a great suspense/horror story is when I get all the small details, maybe something like this?

"The doorknob rattled"

Maybe something like this instead

"The doorknob rattled as it sent a cold shiver down the panicked Eliza's spine. She rushed towards the front door running like something was about to jump out and get her"

See what I mean? I think, at least in my opinion, it might make the readers understand these characters emotions at this moment and add in more suspense and uncertainty

Morrigan says...

Hey, thanks for your thoughts! I honestly forgot that I wrote this, so thanks for putting it in my head again. Maybe I'll revisit it!

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116 Reviews

Points: 5240
Reviews: 116

Tue Mar 07, 2017 12:34 pm
RoseTulipLily wrote a review...

Obviously, I am very late to this party, but I still wanted to review. I felt the exact same unease and fright that Eliza and her cat did throughout the story. I almost jumped out of my seat when I read that the doorknob rattled and easily found myself able to share Eliza's panic. Even if we didn't get to know her too well as a character in my opinion, I still found it easy to feel her emotions. You definitely succeeded in creating real suspense into this story. Keep writing ;)

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21 Reviews

Points: 794
Reviews: 21

Wed Jun 25, 2014 12:23 pm
Baesch wrote a review...

Wow! At the beginning, it felt somehow icky - but I've contented myself with the knowledge that that must simply have been that slightly uncomfortable feeling you get when you're settling into a writing style slightly different to what you are accustomed to.

If I was to pinpoint it, I would say that it probably derived from the direct introduction - there is no real setting of the scene, and Eliza is just plopped into existence in front of us. However, I found a more gradual introduction in the following lines - we get to know the characters Eliza and her cat more gradually.

I loved the repetition of "From somewhere, there came a knocking."

-After a while it became an impulse of fear, like a Pawlovian bell. "From somewhere, there came a knocking" - be frightened!

I found the ending to be slightly too abrupt. The build-up to her flight of the house is very good, but the last sentence somehow caps the climax for me. "Knocking was out of the question." - well, yes, that does convey her fear, but it is also slightly too humorous to be a lightning rod for the tension that has built up.

Anyway, I loved it!


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637 Reviews

Points: 8495
Reviews: 637

Wed Feb 12, 2014 1:14 am
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Messenger wrote a review...

oh my word my mom started knocking on something halfway through reading this. I nearly jumped it scared me so bad. :D.

but this was really good. I loved how you used that one phrase about the knocking, over and over again. I have to say that the whole story was rather chilling and creepfying (Yes I know that isn't a word but I made it up :P)
I don't really have anything bad to say about this story. Every grammar and punctuation mark seemed to be in perfect order. I'm giving you a like because I think you deserve it. I am actually surprised that it is the first like you are receiving for this piece. It was written with clarity.

Detail: excellent. Not too much to distract me from the story, but enough to understand what was going on.
Characters: The character seemed very really with well-written emotions. I also liked you having the tabby their. It added a something to the story. I can't pinpoint it, but i did help.
Plot:As a reader we actually never find out what the knocking is, or what in the world is going on. But that is fine. It may have just been something simple like the furnace, but it was still creepy.
Horror: Well dome. Your idea of never actually revealing the "monster" is great! We never actually find out if there was some burglar or . . . worse in the house.

The last sentence is a perfect cap to a great short story.!
Keep it up!

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18 Reviews

Points: 330
Reviews: 18

Wed Feb 12, 2014 1:02 am
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cmueser wrote a review...

OH cool!!! I love me a good scary story! I've been home alone at night with my dog before!
And I know all too well about hearing strange noises in the nigh time!! I like how you didn't explain what the knocking was! It makes us really guess! And it really was suspenseful!! I love the cats name!
"They curled up like sisters" was my favorite line! Animals really are like family!! It reminded me of the Tell Tale Heart story!! Nice work!

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54 Reviews

Points: 524
Reviews: 54

Fri Feb 07, 2014 4:15 am
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StupidSoup wrote a review...

This was a very good story! I liked how you repeated yourself to show suspense and how you showed the back story. It all went so smoothly! I like how you fit the back story in smoothly with the rest of the story. I liked how you exhibit the characters unbelief at the noise and her denial in thinking that this noise will actually break into her house. Again, very good.

The only complaint i have for this story is that there are a few spelling errors and a number of structural errors. For example, "the woman and the cat curled up like sisters on the chair, and went to sleep." I know you intentionally used the words, "the woman" but i don't think that is proper transition and even if it is i don't like the flow it has with the rest of the story. You may see this as a suggestion not a reprimand.

Keep writing Magpie your quite good!

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933 Reviews

Points: 4261
Reviews: 933

Fri Feb 07, 2014 2:56 am
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Iggy wrote a review...

Hey magpie!

Alright, so I liked this very much. I liked the repetition the most. When I first read this, I didn't like it so much, but after a revise, I decided that it was essential to the story and made it better. You didn't overdo it, and you spaced it out fairly.

I like that you didn't overdo the entire story and the horror/suspense behind it. You took a simple idea, an alone and easily frightened woman, and an empty house and made a story out of it. I like how you left the ending as vague as you can. You say that Eliza assumes the knocking came from an intruder, but you didn't make it certain. It could have easily been haunted.

Overall, it was a pleasure to read and it did give me a bit of a chill, but that might be because I'm easily scared. x)

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46 Reviews

Points: 467
Reviews: 46

Fri Feb 07, 2014 2:34 am
Astronaut wrote a review...

Hello magpie!

What drew me in was your title. At first I thought it was just that I had been reading too much Poe, but then I saw that rhiasofia thought the same thing. The title is very similar to that line in "The Raven." What I think would be really interesting is if you quoted it directly. "While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping." After all, Eliza was taking a nap right before the first knock came. I don't know, just a suggestion.

Also, you built up the suspense quite well. However, you brought the suspense down by the end. "There would be no more knocking for her today," is a clever line, but not good for keeping your readers scared. She seems safe. She's at her neighbor's house, and there is no more knocking. If you use suspense, keep it up. Unless you are writing a full story, it's best not to let the main character be safe.

Hope this helped!


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208 Reviews

Points: 830
Reviews: 208

Fri Feb 07, 2014 2:00 am
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rhiasofia wrote a review...

Oooh, spooky! I liked the way you worded the "something came knocking" reminded me of that line in The Raven by Poe. I could definitey compare this to a more modern day Poe. You did a very good job of showing and not telling, which I see so many people struggling with with short stories here, but I suppose that's only expected, with the lovely descriptiveness you always have with your poetry.

My one thing to pick at is this line
"The knocking came from behind the door. The woman stood and picked up her sleeping friend. 'I won't open the door, I won't open the door, I won't open the door!'"
I just feel like the dialogue here is kiddy compared to the rest of the dialogue and other wording. I know it conveys fear, but I feel like the fear could be a much more mature, startling, dreadful suspense if you word this differently.

Otherwise, really good, as usual!

The only person I know for certain I am better than is the person I used to be.
— CandyWizard