When They Come Knocking
I was fifteen years old when my father and I moved to that old trailer down in the valley. it was almost non-functioning to the point where the bathroom was also the kitchen and there also wasn’t a shower. The pipes would freeze in the winter and the tiny room my father and I shared was barely kept warm by a space heater.
As cramped as it was, I still enjoyed spending time with my dad. Well, until the incident.
The trailer was full of stuff (which is why our space was so confined) and there was only a narrow path from the front door to the back room. The kitchen/bathroom was blocked off by a curtain that helped maintain a relatively tolerable temperature even when it was freezing outside.
One morning, my father opened the front door and just stood still. He was looking down at the ground near his feet and I asked, “What’s up?”
He shook his head as if brushing away some intrusive thoughts before saying, “it’s nothing, boy.”
I hated when he called me that. You see, in those days, years ago, my father was a heavy drinker. He would usually refer to me as ‘boy’ when he was between the depressive and lighthearted states of drunkenness. That was really the only thing I didn’t look forward to when it came to staying with him.
The footprints outside changed everything.
Although he had told me nothing was wrong, I still tried to find out what had him so entranced. As I stepped outside that day, I noticed a collection of footprints of various shapes and sizes in the freshly fallen snow. From what I can recall they were definitely human but I figured they belonged to the man who owned the property we were staying on. I assumed my father thought the same thing.
How wrong I was.
That night, dad was laying on his couch that doubled as a bed, and I was on mine. Our space was so small we could reach an arm out and press our palms together if we had the mind to do it. He was watching TV and (fortunately for me) the valley still had cell service, so I was scrolling through an app on my phone when suddenly, I heard knocking.
It had to have been at least 10:30 at night and my father turned his head in the direction of the sound immediately. He didn’t get up right away, he only stared at the bedroom’s closed door. “I wonder what that was?” I asked and he held his finger to his lips to silence me.
I complied as I always had and intently watched his sunken eyes. The knocking came again, but now it wasn’t from the door, it was by our heads. My father jumped up with a certain sense of anger and irritation before storming out of the room. I poked my head out so I could see down the narrow path leading to the front door and saw my father open it.
There was a vocal exchange between him and someone, or should I say something because who or whatever it was had a voice like pure malice with each word dripping off their tongue with a foul heaviness.
My father asked, “Can I help you?”
The individual he was speaking to responded with that vile tone, “Your time has come.” I shudder to think about the way he sounded to this day.
My father, being a rather stoic man, slammed the door in the mans face and shouted, “You stay the fuck away from me!” Before marching back towards our room.
“Who was that?” I asked quietly, whenever he yelled, my nerves would get shaken up. I could tell my words pierced the defensive layers he had built around himself.
“Don’t worry about it.” He said while returning his gaze back to the TV.
He was my father, so I didn’t want to press or question him further. Things were hard enough as it was and a constant barrage of conversation from me wouldn’t do anyone any good.
I managed to fall asleep shortly after that.
I was awoken later by the sound of heavy knocking once again. It was more like pounding now as if someone was desperately trying to get our attention but no words accompanied the intrusion. All lights were off in the trailer but even without them, I could see that my fathers eyes were open.
“Ignore it.” He said; I’m surprised he knew I was awake.
“Okay…” I said before turning over and burying my head into the couch. The pounding continued unabated and it was beginning to sound like more than one person was outside our thin trailer walls. Everytime I felt the vibration of the knocking, my heart would flutter in a bad way. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well that night.
The next morning I went outside with my dad to drive into town. There appeared to be several sets of footprints scattered in the snow almost as if an entire crowd had gathered there the night before. The trailer even had small dents where I imagined their fists were pounding relentlessly.
I couldn’t peel my eyes away from the remnants of chaos that clearly ensued while we slept and my father noticed, “Pay it no mind, boy.” He said in his low, assertive voice. He hadn’t been drinking so I was curious as to why he had stuck with calling me that.
“Who are they though? Doesn’t it scare you?” I asked while pressing my fist into one of the dents.
“They are not your concern. Ignore them and all will be well.” His answer remained ominous to this day. Was it something he was running from? Or someone? SOMEONE’S even? My father was often a mysterious person and it wouldn’t be unlike him to have malevolent pursuers.
But why would they come at night? My young curiosity was getting the better of me and I knew my father sensed it.
We went into town and did our shopping. We needed groceries and other necessities as well. This cloud of rue hung over my fathers head the entire time, I could feel the negative energy radiating off him; it was palpable. Whoever was coming to the house at night, they really got on his nerves but the lack of information he gave me made it nearly impossible to sympathize.
After we returned home, we settled in for the night. I had some poorly cooked microwave ramen noodles (because we didn’t have a stove) and a sandwich that consisted only of toasted bread with pickle slices and mustard. I only spent three days every other weekend with my father, so I was able to deal with the way in which we lived while I was there.
My dad had clenched fists the entire evening as if he anticipated trouble, but after night fell, no one came knocking. I fell asleep listening to the TV and laid facing in the direction of the only window in our tiny bedroom.
Some time later, I was once again awoken by the sound of loud pounding.
It was coming from the front door, and from the walls. The trailer felt like it was surrounded with individuals of varying size striking their violently balled fists against the fragile trailer. My father was sitting up in his bed and it scared me like one of those, ‘What the fuck is that in my room’ kind of moments. But this was a full grown man and not an oddly placed coat on a chair.
My eyes struggled with adjusting to the darkness in the bedroom but when they finally did, I could see my dad was looking towards the window. When I turned my head to look at what had him so fixated, I saw a hooded figure staring into the room. The window was at least eight feet off the ground and the figure was bending down to peer in.
I sat up and gasped, my father shot his head in my direction and held his finger to his lips. “They are begging for my soul.” He said in a low whisper.
“W-what?” I asked quietly while the rate of my breathing became rapid.
“Hush, boy or they will know you’re in here and they’ll want yours too.” He answered quickly.
“Who are they?!” I questioned while the hooded figure’s face seemed to light up and make direct eye contact with me. It must have been holding a torch or something because a dull light illuminated its elongated chin and blackened eyes. I watched in horror as a gaping void opened where its mouth should be, you could say it may have been smiling.
My father covered the window in one swift motion with a blanket before gripping both sides of my face. “Listen to me! It is by unfortunate circumstance that you find yourself here at this moment. You must do as I say or else your soul will be reaped. They are begging for it boy! Can’t you hear?”
I didn’t understand a word of what he was saying, I was terrified and the pounding outside wasn’t letting up. However, I did begin to notice quiet chanting amidst the obnoxiously loud knocking; they were saying, “We have come” Over and over.
But I was also hearing a different set of words, “The young feed the old.” And the rattling of chains accompanied much of the pounding as the cacophony of sounds was becoming unbearable.
I turned to my father and asked, “Who are they?”
He held me tightly and whispered into my ear, “They have always come. You’ve just never been here when they do. There’s a reason your mother left me, and it wasn’t just to protect you. It was because they are after me as well!”
“Why don’t they come to my mom’s house then? If they want my soul so badly.” I asked, pulling away from him.
“Because I am the center of the curse.” Was all he said in response.
“The curse?” I wondered aloud.
“Enough.” He snapped, “Ignore them and they will go away.”
Even though I was incredibly scared, I still had to take my fathers word as law. So I laid back down and tried to rest my nerves.
That was until glass shattered at the other end of the trailer.
“Stay here!” Commanded my dad as he stood up slowly and reached for the old sword he always kept by his bed.
“What was that, are they inside?!” I asked hysterically.
“Quiet!” He snarled, “They will not get past this door and if they do, I will make them wish they hadn’t.” I had never seen my father so battle-driven; it was awe inspiring at the moment, but now I realize it was simply a reflex to fear (although that was enough for me.)
Dull thuds began ringing out in unison and I surmised it was from the people climbing into the trailer and falling on the ground. Their chants were ear piercingly abrasive and the knocking continued despite my belief that they had all filed into the trailer. What kind of a curse was this and how had my father acquired such an awful thing?
Throughout the rest of the night the entities desperately tried to get into our room. Fortunately they were unsuccessful and as the first rays of light began shining through the trees, they left.
I was exhausted and my father was falling asleep standing with his back against the door but the moment he realized the commotion was done, he told me we were going to leave.
I didn’t question him, I got up, grabbed some of my things and walked with him out into the other half of the trailer. It was in even worse disarray than what it had been prior. Deep claw mark gashes were raked into the floor and the smell of burning wood was lingering in the air. My dad didn’t stop to study them, he just kept going until we had stepped out of the trailer into the light of the new day.
Something else was awaiting us though.
Not more than five feet from the door was an ‘effigy’ of sorts. It was crudely constructed with wood and another material that looked like bone. However, on top of it was the head of the man who owned the property. The expression on his face was pure terror. An image of death and despair had been left at our doorstep and all my father could do was strike it down with one swing of his arm.
“God damn you!” He shouted into the sky as the head went tumbling, “When will it be enough?!”
My stomach turned at the sight of the decapitated head and I asked my dad if he was going to call the police. He said no because now that the man had been killed, he had been replaced by one of those ‘things’ that seeks us in the night.
There was still so much I wanted him to explain to me but I just couldn’t bear to be around the severed head any longer. If I were a little less perceptive, I wouldn’t have noticed the scrawled note on the ground. I still wish I hadn’t.
I reached down and picked it up, “What does it say?” Asked my dad in a monotonously droll tone.
I read it aloud to him, it wasn’t very long. This is what it said, “Tonight, you will relinquish your souls to us. You will become a part of our congregation. You will not be successful in preventing our intrusion. The nightly reaping must be performed.” The note appeared to be written in blood.
I wondered as to how many people had been killed for the sake of us remaining alive. Two people already and I wasn’t (and still am not) sure who the first victim was.
My father wouldn’t delay any longer. “We are leaving, let’s go.” He said, snatching the note from my hands and tossing it on the ground. There were so many footprints in the snow almost like a trench. It was as if they were circling the trailer all the way up until they forced their way inside.
That night we stayed with my grandma. She didn’t seem indifferent about the situation or the random imposition of our request for shelter. My dad and I stayed up by candlelight, he seemed lost in deep thought and I knew it was because I had questions that he didn’t want to answer.
“How long has this been happening?” I asked quietly so that my voice wouldn’t disturb his tranquil state.
“Long before you were born.” He said, looking up to face me.
“You really have no idea what they are?”
He took a deep breath before succumbing to my questions, “They are the embodiment of death. They are a manifestation of evil and they are hunters, lurkers, chasers for the sweet taste of human souls. The grim reaper you could say.”
“That’s fucking terrifying!” I exclaimed.
“Watch your language, boy.” He snapped.
“I’m sorry, I’m just… scared. I don’t know what’s going on.”
My father sighed, “I know you’re scared. I have always been scared from the moment this started. All you need to know is that they or ‘it’ can be thwarted, avoided even. We were just unlucky this time. You especially.”
“You said the curse was centered around you… what does that mean?”
“It means, boy, that if you’re around me when they come knocking; they may devour your soul as well. If they were to get inside that is.”
“Like last night?” I asked subtly.
He froze for a moment and then said, “Yes… that was unfortunate.”
I was so tired from the night before that I wasn’t able to stay awake much longer after the conversation. I ended up passing out but luckily no obtrusive sounds woke me. The next day we went back to the trailer to get more things. My father decided we had to move again and was already inquiring about another place to stay. When we reached the trailer, we were met with a tremendously frightening sight.
The trailer had been ripped to shreds.
It was like a massively clawed beast tore into its frail walls with ease. Our entire room was swiped clean from the trailer and we never found the pieces. We ended up having to accept that whatever we had in there was lost and that it would be better to move on from the terrible happenings. When I asked my father if he had ever tried to seek help, he said, quite solemnly, “There is no help.”
Years passed and my father moved into an apartment. All this time had gone by without a single incident of what we’ve grown to call ‘The Nightly Reaping.’ I’ve tried to do research on curses, even going as far as to ask if anyone else was experiencing something similar on various forums, but to no avail.
I’ve grown accustomed to spending less time with my father and I NEVER stay the night. However, just today he texted me and this is what it said;
“I’m sorry son. I’ve spent half a century on this earth and for more than a quarter of that I’ve been running. This morning, I walked outside and saw footprints. Not one pair, not even two, but many and you know what that means. They’ve come knocking. I’m apologizing because I’m not going to fight it anymore. I suppose, I just wanted to say I love you and that I hope you realize the effort I went through to be here for you. However, you’re a grown man now and therefore my struggle can find its end. Even if it is by the hands of that damn congregation. Do well with yourself and never forget how proud you’ve made me. The Nightly Reaping must be performed”
I have an uncontrollable amount of tears in my eyes now. You understand why, but it’s not just from the disheartening message; it’s because I’ve just realized that something went wrong with my phone and this message is from two days ago.
I’m sorry father, I love you too.