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September 13, 2018

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Knocked

Friday, July 28, 2017

Don walked into his favorite bar just a few minutes before five, as he did every Friday for the last three years. The bar, the Flying Saucer, was an old bar that’d been around since prohibition. It was one of the few buildings in town that still had a good deal of the original materials in place, and the old-school atmosphere was something he’d come to enjoy. Stepping up to the bar, he greeted Horace, the bartender, and owner, as he always did.

 

“How’s your hammer hanging Horace?”  Don asked as he slid onto a bar stool, loosening his tie. His suit was stuffy and uncomfortable from a busy day at his business practice. As one of the only accountants in the firm, he had a decent sway over his hours, but they worked him like a dog for it.

 

He needed a drink.

 

“Oh, things are fine Don, things are fine,” Horace said, wiping his bald head free of perspiration. He was an overweight man with a heavy gut that hung well past his belt, concealed by an apron that he always wore, even when not in the back cooking up some of the bar’s greasy food. “You going to want the usual?”

 

“Chili cheeseburger with onion rings? Of course!”  Don exclaimed, slamming a twenty on the old polished bar top. “And if I could get a beer, I’d love that too.”

 

“Shiner still your poison of choice?” Horace asked with a knowing grin.  Don always ordered a Shiner, every Friday for the last three years.

 

“Sure thing, but leave the cap on, I have to use the bathroom,” Don said.

 

“Okay, but don’t leave a mess in there. And wash your hands afterward!” Horace said.

 Don laughed. “Sure, thing Dad, I’ll make sure to wash my hands nice and clean!”

 

Sliding off the bar stool, Don walked across the wide bar, past the section of round tables and under the televisions built into the walls showing various sports channels, all muted with the closed captioning on. Someone had just started the jukebox to an old David Allen Coe song, something that made Don shudder.

 

“God, I hate country…” he muttered, pushing the bathroom door open.

 

The bathroom was clean, if not a little old. Flipping on the light, waiting for the overhead to flicker on to reveal the faded wallpaper and old fixtures that he’d come to know. The one sink had chips in the ceramic and was an off white instead of a clean pearly one. The mirror above it, a large rectangle of glass, was cracked in the corner where a piece had fallen free, revealing the chipped plaster beneath it. A sign above the mirror, but just below the metal piping that lined the ceiling, had a picture of soapy hands with a cheerful message written in bright orange lettering.

 

“Cleanliness is next to godliness?”  Don read out once more, as he had every time he used the bathroom. He never understood the phrase, but just shook his head. Walking to the to the last stall, the only one with a working lock.

 

Stepping into the dingy stall, Don closed and locked the door and examined the toilet, to make sure it was clean enough to sit on. Free of the trademark urine usually left by drunken bar patrons, he undid his belt and pulled down his pants before sitting down to do his business. Looking around at the various etchings in one the panel sidings of the stall, Don smiled at the dirty limericks and slutty girl’s phone numbers. A carved swastika had a going conversation under it between someone who apparently carried a permanent marker with them, while the other used a blade of some sort.

 

Grunting as he felt a gurgle in his stomach, he raised an eyebrow when he spied a new addition to the bathroom graffiti. A simple phrase, carved into the back of the door.

 

“Tap your shoe three times at five o’clock and you’ll get a visitor?”  Don read aloud. Chuckling, he checked his wristwatch and saw that it was five o’clock on the nose. Feeling playful, he lifted his shoe and tapped it on the laminate flooring three times.

 

As expected, nothing happened.

 

“Oh well, guess you can’t believe what people write on bathroom walls,” Don chuckled.

The lights flickered for a second and the door to the bathroom creaked open, surprising Don. With a rattle of what sounded like a chain and heavy, labored breathing, a pair of large black boots slowly walked into the bathroom, stopping in front of the mirror. He heard the tap turn on, and water splash for a moment, before the tap was turned off. The boots stood still for a moment before turning.

 

They then started to walk towards the stalls, the breathing heavy and wet while the chain rattled with every step.

 

The man stopped at the first stall and stood in front of it for what must have been a minute. Long enough to make Don wonder what the drunk was doing.

 

Probably going to pee on the wall thinking it’s a urinal, Don thought with a smirk.

 

But no. The man turned and walked a few steps towards the stall Don was in and stopped, his feet turning to face towards the door.  Don examined the boots and cringed at the sight of them.

Caked with mud and crusty with age, the boots looked as if they’d been buried for a few years before being pulled from the earth. The leather was split in certain places while cracked in others. A broken seam on the left boot showed that they were steel-toed and that they’d walked a hundred miles, or more.

 

The man stood there and breathed for a few seconds before the strangest thing happened.

 

Slam!

 

Slam!

 

Slam!

 

A meaty fist hammered on the door to the stall, making the entire flimsy structure rattle and groan. Holding his hands out to the stall’s sides, Don cleared his throat and did his best to keep a level voice.

 

“Occupied!” He called out, his voice echoing throughout the tiny room.

 

The man’s breathing didn’t hasten or cease merely continued like a heavy smoker after a long run. Don leaned to the right to peer through the crack between the door and the rest of the stall, only to see a beefy arm in a frayed long-sleeved shirt, dust coming off the man's clothes as he stood still.

 

Don waited, his gut still clenched, and waited for the man to leave so he could do his business, but he was more than a little annoyed when after a minute of standing there breathing like some sort of panting dog, the man had the audacity to hammer on the door again.

 

Slam!

 

Slam!

 

Slam!

 

Don’s patience, strained as it was from a long day at work, had reached its end. “Dude, I’m in here and I’m trying to hurry up! Just use the other stall or something, but either way get the hell away from me!”

 

The heavy breathing came to a crashing halt, and the jingling chain started up again. The boots turned, and began steadily, albeit slowly, marching towards the door. The jingling metal links rang out with every step, and the man opened the door to the bathroom, allowing some of the country music to spill in from the main bar.

 

And then, without further provocation, he flipped the lights off, plunging the bathroom into darkness.

 

“Oh, dick move! Turn the lights back on you jerk!”  Don called out, but the sliver of light died as the man exited the bathroom without a word.

 

Left in the darkness, Don grumbled over the stupidity of drunken fools when he heard it.

 

Jingle-jangle…

 

Jingle-jangle…

 

Jingle-jangle…

 

The chain noise the man had been accompanied with was clinking around outside the stalls again. In fact, Don would swear they were jangling outside his stall…

 

“Hello?” He ventured, hoping to at least hear the heavy breathing of the strange man.

Nothing. The chains had even stopped.

 

 Don had been so disturbed by the sudden noise that he’d relieved himself, and with a shaky hand, he reached for the toilet paper, when he heard it again.

 

Only this time it was inside the stall, just in front of him.

 

Jingle-jangle…

 

Jingle-jangle…

 

Jingle-jangle…

 

Standing up with his pants around his ankles, Don gasped as two meaty hands landed on his shoulder from behind where a wall should have been. Gripping painfully hard, they attempted to lift him but only managed to tear his jacket as he struggled to break free. Falling to the dirty bathroom linoleum, he breathed in the stench of beer-scented urine and old disinfectant before letting out a shrill cry.

 

The chain was behind him now, as was the heavy breathing.

 

Crawling on his belly, he made to exit the stall through the gap between the door and the floor, quickly moving as if he were a soldier crawling beneath barbed wire during a training exercise.  Don was hallway out of the stall when he felt the meaty hands grab onto his ankles, their grip as cold as ice. Scrabbling at the floor to no avail, he cursed as he was slowly dragged back into the stall, the sound of the clattering chain growing louder and louder with every passing second.

 

“Help!”  Don screamed, hoping someone, anyone, would hear him. “For the love of God help me!”

 

“Help?” A raspy voice asked, deep in the tone of a bullfrog on a lonely summer night. It was just behind his ear, and Don could smell the putrid breath as cold, moist air washed over the hollow of his ear. “Why would you need help? You called for me, didn’t you?”

 

“Oh my God, just go away! Please, I’m begging you!”  Don begged. “I don’t know why you’re doing this, but please, just leave me alone!”

 

“Leave you alone? I came a long way to meet you, and all you want is for me to leave you alone?” The voice whispered harshly as he was slowly lifted by his ankles until he was upside down, staring into the baleful yellow eyes of what he could only guess to be a demon. The horrible breath rolled over his face like a fog, eliciting coughs from him as he fought to contain the contents of his stomach.

 

“I didn’t mean to call you, I’m sorry!” Don cried, reaching out to push away from the man’s face, only to find there was nothing there but a cold, foul smelling mist. The grip on his ankles grew painful. The chill of the hands soaked through his pant legs and into his skin, causing his goosebumps to crawl up and down his skin.

 

“Didn’t mean to call me?” The voice sounded confused. “Well, that won’t do at all!”

 

Don screamed as the rattle of the chain filled his ears, the sudden snaking of the metallic links around his neck clenching painfully. The chain, thin yet strong, coiled around him as if it were a serpent before fastening at the nape of his neck.

 

Then it started pulling him up, as the heavy breathing and yellow eyes narrowed into slits, dark laughter spilling out between rotten breath as the chain doubled Don over. The monster let go of Don’s leg, dropping him fully to the point where he was being hoisted from the chain, which seemed to be looped over the pipes in the ceiling. Reaching up to the chain, Don struggled against the unyielding chains as they sank into his neck, cutting off his supply of air. Choking, the yellow eyes drifted up one at a time to float in front of his face, the chilling rancid breath spilling over his face.

 

The demonic entity continued its laughter as Don slowly blacked out, his throat swelling in pain as he clawed at his neck in vain. His arms finally fell limp, and his body swung back and forth in the darkness, pants around his ankles and feces dripping down his thigh.

 

Horace entered the bathroom and turned on the light, waving his hand at the foul stench.

“Damn Don, this is foul!” Horace laughed. “You sure you want this chili cheeseburger? Your bowels seem to be in enough agony as it is!”

 

Clink-clink-clink…

 

“What in the world?” Horace said, pulling up his pants over his low-slung gut as he walked over to investigate the noise. He saw a chain hanging taut from one of the overhead pipes into the far stall and moved to investigate.

 

Turning and opening the door to the stall, Horace gasped at what he saw.

 

Don, blue-tinged fingers and swollen red face, hung from the pipes by the chain, naked from the waist down. Written on the wall of the stall in the fecal matter were two large, scraggly words.

 

I KNOCKED

 

 

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