Death Knocks Three Times
by Aidan Lucid
|part 1 of 3|
Tim Roberts, a young man in his early twenties with broad shoulders and brooding good looks, sat in the waiting area of Dr Wilkins’ office. He wore Wrangler denim jeans, a grey T-shirt and Nike shoes. Tim tapped his right foot on the ground as he sat forward on his seat with a worried expression.
What if he doesn’t believe what I tell him? What if he thinks I’m crazy? Tim thought. Nah, he’d never think that, would he? Hell, even I’ve a hard time believing all that’s happened. Tim released a weary sigh. Hell, maybe coming here was a bad idea. I better go before...
It was too late. Popping his grey-haired head around the door, Dr Wilkins shouted, “Next, please!” He was the local psychiatrist in a small town in the west of Ireland. Wilkins smoothed down the striped tie on his white shirt.
Oh crap! Well, I guess I better get it over with. The office was painted yellow and had pine wooden flooring with a rubber plant in a maroon pot in the corner. A bookshelf stood beside the plant and it contained many tomes on psychology. The shutters blew inwards from the minutely ajar window. Tim received a strong whiff of Dr Wilkins’ Old Spice aftershave.
As Tim closed the door, Dr Wilkins jotted down some notes on his notepad. Tim sat directly opposite the psychiatrist. He relaxed in the leather seat that could be expanded into a couch. Tim also liked the colour of the seat. Surveying the room, he noticed that Dr Wilkins had a lot of trophies. Some were for tennis and soccer.
“You must like sports,” Tim said, gesturing to the trophies.
“Yes, I do. I won a lot of those trophies in college. You’re very observant; that’s good.”
Tim noted that the psychiatrist scribbled observations. Perhaps he thought Tim to be a good observer too. Putting the pad on the table, Wilkins turned his chair and took a cassette tape and tape-recorder out of the drawer and placed it gently on the mahogany table. Pointing to it, he asked, “Do you mind if I tape our session? Don’t worry it will be strictly confidential. It’s just that we have to tape our sessions these days for later reference, you know, just to keep a record of our patients.”
“Yeah, it’s OK. What I am about to tell you might find hard to believe anyway.”
Puzzled by this statement and with a concerned expression Dr Wilkins asked, “Judging by your phone call this morning, it sounded like you needed to get something heavy off your chest. What is it you wanted to say? I’ll turn on the tape now but before I do, you don’t have to call me Dr Wilkins all the time, just call me Jake, OK?”
Tim nodded and with a smile on his face, Jake pressed the record button. “Time of session is 2 pm. Date is the seventeenth of August two thousand and nine. Patient’s name is Tim Roberts. This morning on the phone you seemed very stressed and worried. What’s on your mind?”
“Well a lot of things really. Work, home. I guess I am just stressed out.”
It was a lie of course, but somehow Tim just couldn’t come right out with it. Leaning back on his chair and joining his two index fingers under his chin, Jake wore one of his famous “poker faces.” Tim guessed that the psychiatrist thought he was lying.
“Tim, I mean no disrespect or anything, but we’ve all got problems like that. I’ve been in this profession for fifteen years and in that time, I have dealt with people with the problems you state, but you don’t look like you have them. It’s something bigger than that. What is it?”
“Death.” The words were out of his mouth before he could stop them.
“What did you say?”
“Death.” Tim’s voice altered a little. It was low, accompanied by a slight quiver.
Immediately, Jake straightened his shoulders and sat upright in his chair.
“I hope you don’t mind me asking this but do you mean you have a terminal illness or someone is trying to kill you?”
Tim became fidgety and anxious. “No, I mean, well, I don’t know... I guess it was because...” Tim paused and tears welled up.
“You guess it was because of what?” Jake asked soothingly.
The strong, inner barriers that restrained the tears were now broken.
Jake, putting the tape on pause, went over to his locker and took out a box of Kleenex tissues.
Tim was embarrassed to be crying like this in front of Wilkins. Rubbing the tissue to his eyes, he regained his composure and stopped sobbing.
“Are you ready to continue?” Jake asked.
The psychiatrist approached his next question strategically. “Are you ready to tell me what will cause your death?”
“Yeah... it all began on this date three years ago.”
Three Years Earlier
The moon shone beautifully in the cloudless night sky and provided light for three drunken teenage boys on their way home from a nightclub. Tim, Sean, and Paddy were celebrating their Leaving Certificate results. As always, they’d take the road with the tall fir trees as their route home. Paddy had to take this road because the aroma from the trees helped him with his asthma, enabling him to breathe better.
In a semi-drunken state Paddy said, “Wait a minute lads, I must go for a leak.”
“Do you want my binoculars?” Tim asked, trying to restrain his laughter.
“Ha ha, very funny!” The urinating youngster in a green T-shirt and baggy tracksuit bottoms produced the right middle finger as his back was turned. The two boys giggled.
Opening his top pocket, Sean offered Tim a cigarette but he declined.
“You know, someday those things are going to kill you.” Tim said, as Sean was lighting his cigarette with his new Harley Davidson lighter.
“I know but hey, you’re going to die anyway so you may as well die happy.”
Tim and Paddy agreed that in a twisted way there was some logic to the answer. He exhaled blue smoke and the boys disproved of its stale smell.
Finally, the three friends arrived home at Tim’s house where they agreed to stay the night while his folks were away on a business trip. Tim took out a few bottles of Budweiser from the fridge.
“So, what are you lads going to do now that we’re finished school?” he asked while handing a bottle to each of his friends. Tim opened his bottle and took a swig from it. The cold beer slithered down his throat.
“Well, I’m going to work with my old man in his garage. He says that he needs help in fixing the engines and he reckons that I’m the man to do it,” Sean said as he was very skillful as a mechanic, almost as good as his dad. Paddy didn’t know what he wanted to do but Tim on the other hand, did. He was going to study law.
After watching T.V. for a while, Tim suggested that the boys play a game of cards. That was an inappropriate idea since they were too drunk to play and there were no girls around for strip poker so they had to do something else.
Out of the blue, Tim made a wild suggestion. “Hey I know, why don’t we play the Ouija board? I read a book on it last week that my aunt bought in America and it showed me how to make one.”
For a few moments there was silence in the room then Sean broke it by agreeing for the other boys to join in.
Tim departed from the room for a few minutes and returned with a glass and a self-constructed Ouija board that he had made the previous week in preparation for tonight. He explained to them how it worked. Positioning the board down on the floor, they began.
“Right, boys we need to lose the lights, light candles in the four corners of the room. We must then form a circle around the board and place a finger on the glass. Then concentrate on it and I’ll say a few words.”
Tim said a few words which the boys couldn’t understand as he mumbled to himself. He looked at the boys and said jokingly that if they heard a knock on the door three times, the Grim Reaper would be prompted to some day take their souls. Reading a statement aloud from the book beside him, he quoted the icy warning.
“If the party who plays with the board hears three loud knocks on the door and accepts a gift from the Grim Reaper, then that person who accepts that gift will be the last to die a certain death of the party involved. But beware, the Grim Reaper can come in any shape or form and can trick the most cunning of minds.”
Upon hearing the advice, everyone swallowed hard. All focus was on the glass.
“Are there any spirits present? If so, make yourself known to us. Do something. If you have a message for us, then give it,” Tim said. Silence was everywhere. Nothing could be heard but the sound of their breathing.
Suddenly, the glass moved to the letter “D.” Sean jumped up and shouted,
“All right, who the hell moved that glass?”
Everybody looked at each other for they all knew that no one moved it. Again there was silence; palms were moist with perspiration and hearts pounded faster. Breathing became stronger.
The quietness was disturbed by Tim. “Look, it couldn’t have moved by itself. Our hands must have slipped or something. C’mon Sean, sit down and let’s carry on with this. Sure, it’s only a bit of craic. No need to be scared.” Staring directly at Sean’s eyes, Tim teased him by saying, “You’re not scared, are you?”
Sean, being the strong-willed person that was always associated with his character and of course the “image” he had to keep, denied that he was afraid and rejoined the group.
The glass was replaced in the centre of the board and fingers were placed on it again. For a few moments nothing happened.
In a trice, the object moved to E, A, T, H and three. The boys’ eyes widened. Everyone recoiled in horror. Hearts began to beat faster.
“What just happened? Did you see what it spelled?” Sean said almost crashing every word into one another.
Paddy was worried but, like Tim, tried to keep everybody calm.
“Take it easy, lads. It’s only a game. Just because it spelled ‘DEATH three’ doesn’t mean we are all going to die!” Tim said, attempting to soothe their nerves.
One of Paddy’s asthma attacks occurred. The panic-stricken individual sucked the air from the inhaler feverishly. Sean accompanied him to the bathroom. By now all the boys were sober, too sober.
They heard a knock on the door. Not one knock, however, but three. Three loud knocks! Consternation was rife amongst the boys in the room. Arguments broke out about who was going to answer the door.
“Hey don’t look at me, I’m not answering it!” Sean barked.
“Well Sean, you’re always saying you’re the tough one so prove it,” said Paddy.
Tim, acting as a mediator, stood between the two boys and intervened in their verbal tennis match.
“Paddy, Sean, cool it. Since it was my idea to play this stupid game, I’ll get the bleedin’ door, all right?” Tim approached it taking each step with care. His heart was pulsating rapidly. He placed his hand on the brass, shiny door handle and gently turned it. They held their breath. Tim slowly opened the door... a sigh of relief was exhaled.
“It’s fine, guys. It’s only Sandra.”
Sandra was Tim’s girlfriend. She had curly brown hair, which always smelled wonderful from the coconut shampoo. Those blue eyes that Tim could spend eternity staring into, always seemed to fill him with awe and her face was angelic.
“Hi Tim. How are you, hun?”
“I’m fine... I was just expecting someone else,” he replied, his laugh bore much more trepidation than he had liked.
“Not another girl, I hope.”
The two boys chuckled.
“No, not another girl. I see you have my jumper.”
“Yeah that’s why I came over. I wanted to give it back. Anyway, here it is. I better be off. ’Night.”
They kissed and she parted.
“There you go. It’s only a game. I can’t believe we thought we were going to die!” Tim said, wearing a smile of disbelief. The phone rang and he picked it up. “Hello.”
“Sandra? That was quick. What did you do, fly home?”
“What do you mean?” Sandra said.
“You were just here a minute ago.”
“No, I wasn’t.” Sandra laughed.
“Yes you were. Sure if that wasn’t you then who...” Tim’s face was now ashen. He realized what happened. The macabre passage he read out of the book played in his mind, The person who accepts the gift will be the last to die... But beware, the Grim Reaper can come in any form and can trick the most cunning of minds.
Fear overtook him as he dropped the receiver. Sean ran over and asked what was wrong. Tim explained the problem and the room was now brimming with trepidation. The dilemma was that Tim had accepted the jumper from Sandra, or who he thought was Sandra, but was actually the Grim Reaper. All three swore never to repeat what happened in the house that night... an oath they would take to their graves.
One thing was uncertain, however. Tim knew he’d be last to die, but who would be first?
Copyright © 2009 by Aidan Lucid