The knocking had begun some months ago. At first it had freaked him out, that quick
Bang. Bang. Bang.
But after the first few times it just became part of the everyday normal background noises of the house. It was just a pipe banging and really, it didn’t cause too much annoyance. You barely remembered it was there until it banged again and, by the time you realised that damn pipe was banging, it already stopped. There was so much more they needed to worry about, Stephanie needed braces soon, Mike wanted new runners, though the old were perfectly fine, and Janine wanted the sitting room painted along with a list of little things at least a mile long. So it was added to the bottom of the list, something he would get around too and he would, eventually.
It wasn’t too worrying really, there was no leaking or anything and they mostly forgot about it and got on with their lives. Every so often, Janine would hear it and frown, maybe shoot him a knowing, accusatory glance, sometimes she would make a remark, but that was getting less and less. She seemed to favour the withering glare as she got older. It was easier to play the victim that way, all innocent hands up, “I didn’t say anything.” “No, but you gave me that look.” “You’re imagining things, I didn’t even glance at you.” and so on. It had annoyed him at first, but now he took solace that, in a few years, she would have a few deep wrinkles across her face. She who was always so concerned with how she looked was making it worse for herself.
He felt guilty for thinking like that sometimes, after all, they were married, they were, are, in love, surely something of what was there must remain. Yet the thoughts still came, mean and snake like, twisting their way deep into his mind and after a brief flare of hateful glee, it would slither back to whatever nasty hole it had come from and they would continue on with the day. He did still feel those occasional bolts of love for her, those sudden, out of nowhere, need to take a second bolts that took his breath away when he looked at her and the kids and realised just how much they truly meant to him, but that feeling was starting to get less and less as he realised that they didn’t really need him now. Not as a father, as a thousand other things, a driver, a handyman, a teacher, but not a father. At first he thought it was all the same thing, that every father fulfilled these roles and, while most do, he found it was different. They treated him like these things, but never like a father. They told him they loved him, but it seemed almost mechanical, a learned phrase bandied about at the correct time. They were moving away from him, as children should, but they were doing it too fast for his liking. Besides, they seemed to be only moving away from him. They still treated their mother like a mother but maybe that was how it was supposed to be. Did children ever really outgrow their mothers after that bond they shared in the womb? Nine months connected to one another must create some kind of bond, one that a father could never be privy too. Sometimes he resented her for their love, but, these thoughts were quickly shut away into the dark place and replaced by shame.
It seemed that the knocking was increasing, before it was only once in a while, but now it seemed to occur every few days, then every day. Janine was starting to annoy him about it and he agreed that something should be done. They’d get in a plumber soon, just as soon as they could afford it. She often bitched at him now, about random things, things of no consequence but still, there was that same high pitched voice, nasal and whiny. They argued but they tried to do so quietly, so the children wouldn’t know, though children always know. He could see it on their faces after he and Janine had a fight. They knew and they blamed him.
He knew he should get the knocking checked out soon, after all, it would be cheaper to fix it now than if a pipe burst or it caused a problem down the line but really, it gave him a perverse pleasure every time there was those three quick darts of noise
bang bang bang
she’d stiffen slightly, then shoot him a glance and he’d try to hide his grin.
It seemed to be spreading too, there were more places that banged, the same quick rhythm. In his opinion it wasn’t a bad thing. He needed something in their marriage, something to lord over her and that banging was it. It was small, trivial, a piddling little thing that she could sort out herself but she wouldn’t because “I told you to do it.” the excuse for everything she never did. All those simple little things she would never do herself because she told him to do it. So this was his little revenge. He could live with the noise, the kids didn’t seem to mind it. There were no leaks so nothing to worry about. It was just a noise, one that would become, he hoped, part of the background music that made up their lives.
It was definitely getting worse, spreading throughout the house. Now it happened multiple times a day, in different rooms with seemingly no patter at all. One day it would happen entirely in the kitchen, the next it would spread out, the next entirely in the living room. He was starting to get worried himself, because something could be seriously wrong with their pipes and still he kept putting off a plumber, partly because he liked how the noise annoyed Janine, partly because he was worried what the plumber would say. “Oh ayuh. That’s gotten real bad, coulda fixed it up no problem had ya got me in sooner, just tighten a few things here, nail down a few things there, but now your lookin’ at replacing’ the entire system.” and Janine would blame him and only him. She wouldn’t wonder why she herself hadn’t called a plumber, instead it would be his fault and his fault alone.
It was moving around the house now. It wasn’t just contained to the pipes. It was happening in the walls too, against wood, against the windows. There was no cause for it they could see, just that quick
He had kept track of it, before, for an hour and counted 60 before he gave up. Now he didn’t know what to do, who could he call. It obviously wasn’t a problem with the plumbing, it was the whole goddamned house. It was starting to annoy him now too, starting to annoy everyone in fact. It put them all on edge, no one could relax because the moment they did that knocking came, frightening them. It was in the walls, the ceilings, even the furniture. It was everywhere.
The banging woke him, or at least, that’s what he thought. It hadn’t before, though it was getting worse. The house was silent, no noise, nothing. He turned over to try to go back asleep and noticed the other side of the bed was empty. He sat up slowly, trying to see through the dark. The beside clock face provided a little illumination, the dark red numbers flashing at 3.30.
There was a muffled thump somewhere in the house, he couldn’t tell exactly where. A thin sheen of sweat coated his upper lip, he glanced around the room again and, though it was shrouded in shadow he knew it was empty. He couldn’t explain the deep fear he was feeling, it was ridiculous. Janine was probably in the bathroom or getting a glass of water. He told himself this and a thousand other banal explanations but still that fear remained.
Standing, he moved carefully on the carpet, trying to be as quiet as possible. He would probably startle Janine on her way back and they would share a laugh about it all.
A thin beam of moonlight shone through the hall window, casting everything in silver shadows, something was huddled at the end of the hall, though he couldn’t tell what. His mind went blank as he rushed to the figure, “Oh god oh god oh god oh god.” he grabbed the figure and shook, it was one of the kids, the head lolled to the side, strands of long hair shining in the moonlight. It was Stephanie. Her head fell backwards, braces glinting. He turned and vomited as what was left of his daughters face started blankly at him. Her cheekbones had been shattered, her face cracked and broken, streaked in blood. There was a trail leading from her room, black in the low light. He checked for a pulse, knowing she was dead, but checking anyway, then, leaving her, he went to Mikes room.
His son’s bed was empty and at first, it was a relief. There was no blood here, maybe Mike had escaped. He needed to know. He left the room, trying to think, what should he do. Janine and Mike were missing, Stephanie was dead. Her face flashed through his mind, smiling, happy, then it was replaced by the grotesque horror she had become. In the silence his movements seemed thunderous, his heart was deafening. He needed to call the police, they would know what to do. The kitchen. The phone was in the kitchen. He made his way downstairs without stopping, he knew that to stop would cause him to freeze in terror.
That banging again,
Bang, Bang, Bang.
So loud it thundered through the entire house. It didn’t stop, that steady rhythm, filling the house, his mind, everything with that damned sound.
He didn’t see the bat as it swung at the back of his head, he nor did he feel the impact. It shattered through his skull, driving shards of bone deep into his brain. He fell to the ground dying, as Janine raised the bat again and brought it down as hard as she could. There was a deep, satisfying crack as the bat struck, then a muffled whump as it hit again. One more and it would be over. One more. She swung that bat again and as it landed, the knocking stopped.
Janine smiled, then dropped the bat, it fell with a hollow clang. She moved backwards, resting against the cupboards, then she slid down them wearily. It was over. That banging noise. It had finally stopped. She breathed deeply then exhaled slowly. Her face was spattered in blood and sweat, she closed her eyes slowly, allowing herself to finally relax.
Bang. Bang. Bang.