The Devil Never Knocks Twice

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I pulled the curtain aside with a shaky hand and gazed outside, and as I had feared he was still there. He was standing on the sidewalk with the god damn sign, the one that said the end is near. The batten he had stapled it to was resting against his shoulder, while the brown rectangular cardboard with the cheery, feel-good message was hovering just above his head. He was staring straight at me as if he had known that I was hiding behind the thick cloth. The free hand was waving at me, like a window wiper on a car only capable of swinging fifteen degrees in each direction. And on his face was the most bone-chilling smile I’d ever seen. I quickly closed the curtain and he disappeared from view. Then I leaned forward and took half a dozen deep breaths to try to calm myself. God, it couldn’t be long now. I just hoped it would be painless and over and done with quickly.
I tiptoed over to the kitchen on legs that felt like they were about to give up on me at any second, and managed to pour myself a cup of coffee. But the hand that lifted the cup was shaking so badly that I had to put it back down again and let it sit for a few minutes before I made a second attempt.
Cathy had already left, and I was the only one remaining in the house. Her shift started at seven, and she had got up early in order to beat the rush hour traffic. I had been standing by the window in the exact same spot when she walked over to her car, peeking out through a tiny gap in the curtain. And the old man had been standing where I saw him less than five minutes ago, doing the exact same thing. Holding the sign, waving his hand and smiling at me. The thought made me shudder.
Cathy hadn’t noticed him, despite having walked right past him to get to her car that was parked out on the street. I had to admit it wasn’t all that strange, given that I was the only one who could actually see him.
He was thin and extremely tall. If I had to venture a guess, I’d say close to seven foot. His complexion was that of an albino, and his silk-like straight hair that clung to his scalp like glue was as white as the snow that still blanketed the little patch of grass next to the footpath leading up to the house. And then there was the grin, the uncanny grin that made him look like a psycho that had just escape from a lunatic asylum. It covered almost half of his face and made him look like the devil himself.
It had started two weeks ago when I opened up an email and watched the fifteen-second video clip attached to it. It was shot at some cemetery god knows where. It was dark, but the flash on the camera was turned on, and I could clearly see the big hole in the ground and the dirt that had collected in two large piles on either side of it. But I had quickly pushed those images aside, and my attention had been drawn toward the black tombstone just beyond the hole. It had a name written on it, but it had been blurred out and I was thus unable to read it.
After having watched the clip twice, I had called out to Cathy to come and check it out, but she had just shaken her head and given me a quizzical look.
“It’s just static,” she said. “Why on earth do you want me to look at that?”
I had stared at her open-mouthed, wondering if she was pulling my leg, but stopped trying to convince her that there was actually something there when she got angry a couple of minutes later, slammed her hand down on the table and stormed out of the room. Subsequently, I didn’t mention the other clips I received, one every evening at exactly eight o’clock. Nor did I mention it to her last Wednesday, when the old man appeared in the clips, standing behind the tombstone, waving the sign and flashing me his eerie, sick grin.
My hand had finally calmed down enough for me to lift the cup up to my lips. But I immediately dropped it when I heard someone starting to thump on the front door. It hit the floor with a loud bang and hot coffee sprayed all over the linoleum and onto the bottom of the kitchen cabinets. I didn’t move I just stood there looking at the opening leading out of the kitchen like a deer caught in oncoming headlights, praying that the thumping would stop. But it didn’t. It continued with an almost rhythmic like precision. Thump, thump, thump.
A full minute must have passed before I dared to take a step forward, and as I did so I felt a sliver of ceramic sink into my foot. I swore out loud, looked down and saw blood oozing out from underneath it. Then I felt the sharp pain as the nerves began sending their signals to the pain receptors in my brain. I grimaced and lifted it up, and slowly pulled out the white, pyramid-shaped piece embedded there. Then I removed the sock, reached behind me and grabbed a tea towel from the countertop and pressed it against the wound. And all the while, I could hear the loud thumbing drifting in from the front of the house.
I managed to wrap the towel around the foot and started limping out into the hallway. The pain was shooting up my leg, and my heart was pounding out of control in my chest. When I saw the door vibrating in its frame like a massive diaphragm in some oversized loudspeaker, I almost collapsed. What the fuck would I do if he managed to get inside?
But I was able to move on, despite being convinced that the door would fly open any second. When I got there, I put my eye up against the spy-hole and looked outside. It was the old man. The sign was still resting on his shoulder and the grin was stretched across his face, just as big as it had been five minutes earlier. I could see his hand slamming the door like it was his best buddy and he was handing out free high fives.
I stepped back like I’d been hit by an electric current, not knowing what the fuck to do next. But as I was standing there, watching the door being pounded, a thought eventually entered my mind. I threw myself around and hobbled into the master bedroom where I got the gun out from the drawer on the bedside table. Why hadn’t I thought of the gun before? It was the first thing that sprang to mind whenever I thought I heard strange noises in the house at night-time. I quickly established that it was loaded and made my way back to the front door again. And that’s when the thumping stopped.
I tensed and raised the gun, moving slowly toward the door. To say I was on edge would be the understatement of the century. I was sweating like a pig and shaking like a junkie in need of a hit. Then when I was five feet away, I stopped and listened. But the only thing I could hear was my heart racing away, and my breath going in and out of my lungs at lightning speed. Had the old man decided to leave? Had he figured out that I wouldn’t give up without a fight? The sweat had started to drip into my eyes, and I quickly wiped it away with my sleeve. The gun was shaking in my hands, but I was able to keep it aimed straight ahead. How long I stood like this for, I don’t know, but it must have been for a couple of minutes at least.
It was still dead quiet outside the door, so I decided to head back over to the window and see if the old man had returned to the spot on the sidewalk. I lowered my gun and turned around, careful not to make any sudden movements. But as I was about to make my way over, the thumping started again, and this time it sounded like he was using a god damn battering ram. I reacted instinctively. I spun around, aimed the gun straight ahead and emptied the entire magazine through the door.
The shots sounded like firecrackers going off right next to my ears, and after it was over, I thought I could hear church bells tolling inside my head. Then I stood absolutely still and stared at the ten pencil sized holes that were now adorning the door.
It wasn’t until I felt my phone vibrating in my back pocket that I lowered the hand holding the gun, and watched the weapon drop to the floor. I turned my head, got the phone out and saw I had just received an email. I stared at the screen wide-eyed and barely registered that my right thumb had clicked on the attachment. It was another clip from the cemetery. The old man was standing behind the tombstone, but unlike the other times, I could actually read the name imprinted on it. My heart skipped a beat when I read it. It was Cathy’s name, and below it written in golden lettering was the date of death.
It was today.
I was completely dumbfounded and felt nausea hit me like a pressure wave. Had all this been about Cathy? Was she the one that was going to die today, and not me?
Then my phone started vibrating again and I looked down at it. I had just received a new voicemail message. I lifted the phone slowly to my ear and listened to it. It was from Cathy.
“Hi Tim, I’ve just come down with a nasty headache and I’ve decided to come back home. I forgot to bring my keys, so you’re gonna have to let me in. See you soon.”
The message had been recorded thirty minutes ago, but somehow just showed up on my phone. Then a horrible thought entered my mind, and I felt my blood rush down from my brain to my feet. If the message was sent thirty minutes ago, she should’ve been home by now. The phone slipped out of my hand and landed on the carpet with a soft thud. Then I sprang forward, jerked opened the door, looked down and screamed.

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