Knock Knock

Jacob knew that the girl shouldn’t have been hit—it wasn’t in his belief system. But if he said anything, he would meet a far worse fate.

He was still just a prospect in the gang, and being only seventeen years old, he had no say in anything. It was his friend’s idea to join. Jacob resisted at first, but his friend—being the good talker that he was—pressured him into doing it. “The worst part is the initiation. After that, it’s all smooth sailing. We’re gonna be kings,” Brian had told him. He believed it, they both did, but then again they didn’t know much about being in a gang. They didn’t know much until now, as Jacob stood there, watching the others beat an innocent couple.

One of the guys stepped back, catching his breath, and looked over to Jacob. “Hey, what the hell you doin’? Get in there!” At this, Brian joined in on the beating.

Jacob stood there, looking down on the man and woman, both of them a bloody mess and clearly unconscious. He was sick to his stomach. This was wrong, he knew that this was wrong, and he couldn’t go through with it any further. “No,” he said.

The man looked at him questioningly. “What did you just say? I know I didn’t just hear that, because I will personally f—”

“I said NO!” Jacob yelled, as his fist cannon-balled into the man’s jaw, sending him sprawling to the ground. Jacob kicked, punched, and wrestled the others from atop the couple, not fully aware of his actions, or the consequences that would follow. He hurt many of them, having caught them off-guard, and the others backed off, realizing that he was in an uncontrollable rage.

“Kid, do you know what you’ve just done?” said the man with most rank among them. “You just committed suicide. When word gets out, everyone will be looking for you, and I mean everyone.” They all ran off, appearing to have no specific destination. Brian lingered for a moment, giving Jacob a pleading look, before leaving to catch up with the others.

Jacob pulled out his phone and cried as he dialed 911. The police arrived, and Jacob said that he had come across the couple while walking to the store. They believed him, because he looked like a normal kid as far as they could tell. He didn’t know what to think at that point. He was in too deep, and he knew that the gangbanger meant what he had said—Jacob was a dead man.

He was leaning against the ambulance, quietly staring at the ground, when a paramedic approached him. “Hey, kid,” he said, “I just wanted to thank you for calling us, you did the right thing.” The paramedic looked over at the woman being zipped into a body bag, then back to Jacob. “She didn’t make it. It’s not your fault, okay? You did everything you could. The injuries she sustained were too devastating. Even if you’d have called us sooner, we couldn’t have saved her. I just want you to know that.”

Jacob shook his head and sobbed. He sobbed with all of his heart, and looked to the man, asking, “What if it is my fault? Huh?! What if it’s all my fault, because I was too much of a coward to do anything in time?!” He ran away from the paramedic before he could respond, leaving him with a puzzled look on his face. He ran, and kept running, until he arrived at his house. He went to his bedroom and locked the door. He didn’t worry about his father coming in, because he never did. His father’s drinking had gotten significantly worse after Jacob’s mother left when he was young, and his dad hadn’t been much of a father since.

Jacob paced back and forth in his bedroom, unable to cope with the cocktail of emotions that haunted him. He pulled out his phone and dialed Brian’s number, hoping that he wouldn’t be with the gang. “Hello?” someone said on the other end of the line.

“Who—who is this?” asked Jacob.

“Oh well hello, little friend. My name is Theo—we haven’t met. I’m sorry to hear that some of my idiotic soldiers here let you get involved in such a mess. They should have known better than to allow young sensitive folk, like you and your friend Brian, into a ruthless gang such as ours.” He laughed.

“Where is Brian?” asked Jacob, sternly.

The man laughed again. “Brian is dead. You really think we would let him live? Do you think we’re stupid? Do you think we’re just a bunch of jackasses running around doing God knows what for no apparent reason? Okay, well, I guess in a sense we are. But we do have rules, and you and your friend Brian don’t seem to like them very much. He wanted to leave the gang, so we did to him what we’re going to do to you.”

Jacob was silent.

“Hello? Are you there, Jacob?”

Jacob quickly hung up the phone, as the room began to spin around him. He stumbled to his bed and puked on it, then collapsed atop the mess, falling out of consciousness.

After Jacob awoke that night, he stayed in his room, awake for days. He thought about everything, and mourned the loss of Brian, and the loss of his own life which he was sure would come. His father banged on the door occasionally, bothering him to get a job, saying that he wasn’t some kid he had to take care of anymore and he’d be on the street if he didn’t start acting like a man. But Jacob wasn’t concerned with his father. The image of the dead woman kept flashing across his mind, forever engraved in his memory, creeping into his every thought and action. He was without relief, paralyzed by grief, and became very bitter. He became the type of man that he despised, that he never thought he would ever be. He became obsessed with the gang that had killed his friend, and had killed the woman in the street. He became a man of revenge.

Unable to handle it anymore, Jacob left home, bringing with him only a backpack of clothes, and his father’s hunting knife (which he’d stolen while his dad was passed out drunk on the couch). He had no intent to return, but only because he didn’t know if he would survive.

He roamed the streets aimlessly that night, wearing a hooded sweatshirt, hoping that he wouldn’t be recognized. He knew the places that the gang usually congregated, but he couldn’t possibly take on several of them at once, especially because some of them carried guns. He thought that if they were smart, then one person from the group he had been with would be placed in every other group, so that no matter who he ran into, someone would recognize his face.

After walking around awhile, he heard noises from the street he was approaching. He glanced over the corner and saw a liquor store being raided by a group of men, who he couldn’t clearly make out in the darkness. It must be them. His heart raced as he braced himself for what he was about to do. He set down his backpack, pulled out the hunting knife, and silently charged into the liquor store. He stabbed the back of the first man he saw, the sharp blade sliding in with ease. The man screamed, causing the others to look over. They jumped on Jacob, beating him to the ground.

Before he passed out, he heard someone yell for them to stop. “That’s him,” the man said. “We’re gonna need this one alive.”

Jacob woke up screaming, his entire body jerking uncontrollably. He looked down at his hands, which were tied to the arms of a chair, as pliers peeled off his last fingernail. He was still screaming, so someone punched him in the mouth, making him stop. “About time you woke up,” said a man, as he hunched down in front of Jacob’s face. Jacob recognized the voice. It was Theo’s. He glared at him, and spit in his face. Theo laughed and wiped it off with his shirt, while standing up straight and turning to the others. “Why do they always do that?” he said. Everyone laughed. Jacob hadn’t noticed the others until then. He looked around, realizing that he was completely surrounded by thugs as they mocked his pain. He looked down at the floor and whimpered. He knew that it was the end. He would be tortured until they were satisfied, and then they’d kill him.

“Aww, don’t cry, Jacob,” said Theo, getting in his face again. “We’re far from finished with you. If you just give me a few more minutes, my friend is going to show up with a little gift.” Jacob was silent, so Theo flicked the top of his head. “Did you hear me, Jacob?”

Jacob stopped crying. He stopped thinking, and he stopped breathing. He felt a knot in his forehead, where Theo had flicked him. It traveled down to his throat, cutting off his airflow and throwing him into a fit of convulsions. He shook violently as the knot slipped farther down, and down, into his heart, where it stayed. Jacob quit shaking as a cloud of darkness draped over his mind and heart. He felt his mind cave in on itself as it spun, falling through different shades of black. He wasn’t in his body anymore, and he knew that, but he wasn’t afraid.

A door slowly appeared in front of him, being drawn in line by line. Just as quickly as it had formed, Jacob could hear a gentle knocking on the other side of it, as a delicate voice said, “Knock knock.” He approached the door and looked through the peephole, but saw nothing. The same voice whispered in his ear, “Can I come in now?” Jacob backed away from the peephole, and nodded to himself, knowingly, as he turned the deadbolt on the door and opened it. It creaked open just a bit, as an evil and hateful cackle filled his ears. He wasn’t given enough time to see what was on the other side before he was thrown back into his body.

Jacob chuckled menacingly and raised his head, revealing a wicked grin that could only be described as demonic. His eyes were dark, and displayed a clear message: Jacob wasn’t home anymore. His chuckling lapsed into hysterical laughter, and Theo backed away from him, shocked by his sudden change. “You know what, forget it,” Theo said. “Kill this asshole.”

A few of the men flicked their knives, and crept toward Jacob with grins on their faces. As one of them was about to stab Jacob in his gut, the chair burned into ash beneath him and he fell to the ground. He kicked the man’s legs out from under him, and caught him by his face as he fell on top of him, and he squeezed so hard that it crushed his skull.

Theo backed away, as well as some of the others, horrified at what they’d witnessed. Jacob got to his feet, silent. His mocking and demonic laughter were now gone, replaced by a genuine feeling of hatred emanating from the stare of his eyes, piercing through the souls of everyone who looked, turning them to ash.

The remaining couple of men averted their gaze and stood motionless. The room was so quiet that if you had your ear on the door, you wouldn’t even know they were there.

Jacob walked over to Theo, who was backed into a corner cowering in fear, clenching his eyes shut with all of his strength. “Who—who… who are you?” asked Theo, his voice trembling, resembling that of a child’s.

Jacob smirked. “Oh but we’ve met, Theo,” said Jacob—only it wasn’t Jacob’s voice at all, it was Brian’s. “You really don’t remember me?”

Theo began to sob, trying to clutch at the wall behind him. “This isn’t real, this isn’t real, this can’t be happening, this is impossible . . .”

Brian leaned in close, breathing on Theo’s face. “This is all very real, Theo. Do you remember your friend downstairs? The one that you pray to? The one that you worship? I’ve met him, and oh, is he eager to meet you. He made me a little deal. He said if Jacob will let me in, then he will let me out, so that I can have my revenge and bring you to him myself. We’ve grown rather close, him and me. I feel like we’re almost a part of each other.”

Theo didn’t respond to his words, so Brian grabbed him by both sides of his head, and twisted Theo to face him, ripping the muscles in Theo’s neck as every ounce of him defied Brian’s strength. “Look at me,” he whispered. Theo opened his eyes, and everyone crumbled to ash.

Jacob was found in the room the following Monday. He had originally been taken there Saturday night.

It had been the basement of an abandoned house, and he was discovered by squatters who were seeking shelter. When the police arrived, he was in a daze and didn’t seem to know who he was, or why he was there. His entire body was bruised severely, as if he’d been used as a professional boxer’s punching bag, and there was no evidence to be found at the scene, just piles of ash.

When the police and a child protection services agent visited Jacob’s father at home, he was drunk and obnoxiously disrespectful. They arrested him on the charges of child neglect, child abuse, and child endangerment. Jacob was handed over to a mental care facility, and they agreed to take care of him as long as he needed.

Jacob was sitting at a table in his room at the facility, scratching at it with an unbent paper clip, when a woman appeared in the doorway. “Knock knock,” she said, as she rapped the door twice. “Can I come in?” It was the child protection services agent.

Jacob stopped scratching at the table, and nodded. She walked up behind him and touched his shoulder, leaning over to see his face. “How are you? It’s been a couple of days since I’ve seen you last.” She set her purse down on the floor and sat in the chair beside him. “Have you left the room at all?”

“No,” said Jacob.

“You know you can leave if you want, okay, honey? You don’t have to stay cooped up in here.”

Jacob reached for a container of markers and pulled it to him, opening it. “Which one is black?” he asked.

She looked at him curiously and pulled out a marker, handing it to him. “This one.”

He took it and colored on the table where he had been scratching. She looked at it, and saw that it was a rectangle with a circle to the left of the center, and she thought that it looked like a door. She looked closer at his eyes, but his hair fell over his face, covering them. “Honey, what is that? That you scratched into the table.”

Jacob set down the marker. “It’s what I see. It’s all I can see, everywhere. Ever since that night.” He rubbed at the table gently with his thumb. “Jacob,” said the lady, “are you blind?”

Jacob chuckled menacingly, and she pulled away, frightened. “No, I am not blind. It’s much worse than blind. Actually, you reminded me of something, when you came in just now.” He turned to face her, his head hung low. “Do you want to see?”

She started to stand up, her heart racing, the hairs on her body going stiff. Jacob stood up first, grabbing her arm. “Wait, please, just look at me.” He raised his head, turned the deadbolt, and opened the door.