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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Luo

knock knock

Style: N/A

Statement: This short story is one of three vignettes which explore brief moments in my life, capturing an overarching theme of self-discovery in times of chaos. "knock knock" uses repetition and sensory details to examine the concept of being present or "in the moment" and the shared experiences of derealization felt by many of us during the pandemic.


There is someone knocking on the door.

tap. A set of knuckles brush the uneven surface of the glass, the sound hollow and distorted.

tap. I remove my right earbud, and half of my world becomes still. I glance towards my room’s closed door, and —

tap. The newfound stillness is shattered, like a pond interrupted rudely by a single pebble. 

My ears open up, waiting attentively for the next round of strikes. However, the door stays still, and instead a muffled voice sounds. I hear my name, and immediately my body freezes up, searching frantically through the endless corridors of my memory to identify the speaker.

There is someone knocking on the door, and my mind races through the infinite possibilities. Maybe my neighbor is here to — no, what if it’s a delivery — but I land on an ominous reality: My mom has forgotten her keys. The gaps fill themselves in automatically; she should be at the farmers’ market searching for the right mushrooms to bring home, but only a minute has passed since the door shut and locked itself, and the car engine never sounded in the driveway.

The air vibrates, crisp and staccato, like hammering a nail in next to your ear, but now the pace quickens. Five more raps make contact with the textured gateway, and a hand rattles the doorknob. My mother is knocking on the door, and her impatience becomes more and more apparent with every hit. The door cries out to me in a struggle, pleading for sweet release. 

I sit quietly on a chair too low for my ever-increasing height, in front of a desk too small for my escalating demands. I cannot open the door, because the knocking sounds are drowned out by the online class I am in the midst of attending. At least, they should be. On my laptop screen, a Zoom call hides behind multiple windows displaying YouTube videos, video games, and unfinished homework, and atop my unmade bed lies a half-open notebook with a pencil resting on its closed cover. The small window with my teacher’s face displayed moves along with his mouth, but no sounds crawl into my ear. Instead, I listen carefully to the sound coming from across the hall, as there is someone knocking on the door. My name again, this time with a hint of frustration, but it's hard for me to tell because it’s coming from behind a door my mother is knocking on.

The windows in my room hide behind closed blinds, preventing any light from seeping in even though it’s cloudy outside, the sun having slept in on this dreary Sunday morning. Rather, the blinds safeguard my privacy against the person knocking on the door as her frustration boils slowly. They yell, but I don’t get up from my seat. Instead, my hands move in a flurry across a small keyboard, while a poorly taped post-it note covers a vigilant computer camera. 

Suddenly, the fateful tolling of a doorbell resonates through the walls. As I sit cautiously, three notes in a repeated pattern reverberate joyfully like a cheerful jingle, itching my nerves, but I resist the temptation. I focus my attention back towards my laptop’s screen, where I control a small pixelated character as it jumps through a dark cavern into a horde of enemies, swinging its sword valiantly all to reach a chest filled with treasure. But my curiosity is forced to wait because the ringing of the doorbell stops. A sea of silence washes over me, and I suffocate in the serenity as I re-evaluate my situation.

I picture the code to our garage door being entered, one number at a time, as my mother makes a last-ditch effort to attain her keys. My hands’ excitement ceases as they slowly drift into a position on the keyboard far too familiar to me. Out of the corner of my ear, a doorknob turns, hinges squeaking. A few seconds, and it happens a second time, clearer — I see her in my mind entering the hallway. I hear fed-up footsteps tread in my direction, and my hands go into autopilot, closing all unnecessary tabs and removing the note covering the camera.

Keys jingle as the door to my room crawls forward, and a figure looms behind me. Pencil in hand, I watch the Zoom call floating atop the windows on my computer and see my mother, examining my screen closely. I scribble ostensibly as the droning of my teacher sends shockwaves of boredom throughout my body, urging me to just lie back and close my eyes. 

My mother turns around and leaves the empty room, keys in hand. Her steps grow quieter as she leaves the door a few inches open, crossing back down the hall. I hear the front door shut, the sound of a key clicking a lock into place lingering in the air like the last note of a triumphant song. 

Silence. There is nobody knocking on the door. 

In fact, nobody’s home.


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