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by Paperback 

Posted: 19 April 2004
Word Count: 2032
Summary: 'H'.

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Content Warning
This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.

I was sat on my sofa, alone in my little apartment, when Hennrick first knocked at my door. I was all comfy and warm and right by the window, which is just where I like to pass most of my time.
Knock, knock, knock, went his hand on my door.
It made me jump.
I don’t get many visits anymore and I guess mine isn’t the kind of neighbourhood where you can just go and answer your door to anyone, you need to make sure you know who it is first. It’s best to check. That’s what the pamphlet said.
It just didn’t sound right though, that knock, it didn’t feel right. People just didn’t come around here, knocking up a noise like that on my door. It wasn’t the done thing so I stayed by the window, about as far away from the door as I could get, and shouted,
“Who is it?”
“It’s me,” replied a voice from the other side of the door. “It’s me, Hennrick.”
“Who?” I said. “Who’s Hennrick?”
Although I forget a lot, I was pretty sure I didn’t know anyone called that. You’d remember, surely?
“What do you mean, ‘Who’s Hennrick?’? I’m Hennrick. You must remember me, man. Long time ago. Me and you? Come on, buddy, open up. Open up and let me in.”
“I don’t know any Hennrick’s,” I shouted back. “You’re not coming in. Not in here. I don’t know you.”
I meant it. I mean he could have been anyone. How could I know what he was going to go and do if I went and let him in? He could have wanted to do anything, like rob me and mess up the place. He sounded like one of those types, you know, desperate and bad.
“Oh come on, man! Please, man! You gotta let me in, there. I’m in big trouble out here, man. There’s a coupla guys out here, big guys the both of ‘em, and they’re looking for me. If you don’t let me in, they’re gonna kill me. Do you hear that? They’re gonna fucking kill me! Please, just… you just gotta let me in.”
Hennrick started hammering on my door but not like when he first got here. He sounded different now, aggressive and not really the type of person I wanted about the place.
“I’m gonna die, man. I’m gonna fuckin' die if you don't open this fucking door, I know I am. Come on, man, just open up. I'm alright, y'know. Remember?”
Hennrick’s voice had gone really loud and then there was a big noise when I think he kicked my door. It was awful. It made the frame shake.
“No,” I said back to him. “You are not coming in here. No way. I don’t know who you are and I don’t like you. Can’t you go somewhere else? I don’t want any trouble.”
I didn’t. I liked that apartment a lot and felt that I was pretty lucky at having found such a place to keep, all to myself. I didn’t want a stranger coming in and spoiling things about.
“You can’t come in, anyway,” I carried on shouting, from the back of my home. “There isn’t enough room for you in here. It’s only small.”
I wasn’t lying, that was the first thing that attracted me to this place, the size. It was only one room big but everything that I needed was right there in front of me, all within easy reach. I had a trunk for my clothes, somewhere to sit and a table where I could rest all my things. I had a radio for the news, a sheet that I could sleep under, a big metal radiator that kept me warm, and I had a cupboard for a kitchen.
“What?” said Hennrick? “I don’t want to stay with you. I just need to hide out for a while. A few hours at the most. That’s all. I won’t be no trouble. I promise. You won’t even know I’m here. Just please, let me in.”
“No,” I said. “I’ve told you, you’re not coming in here. If you need somewhere to hide, go and lock yourself in the bathroom.”
That was the only thing I would have changed about the whole set up, the bathroom. It was down at the end of the hall but I couldn’t do anything about that.
“The bathroom???! Man, that’s the first place they’ll look. That’s too obvious, man. They’re smart guys, they’ll find me straight up if I go in there. You need to let me in. In there with you.”
He banged on my door again. It rattled about, real heavy like, but it wasn’t going to break.
“No, I’ve told you already. You are not coming in here with me. If you need to hide somewhere, go and lock yourself in the bathroom. It’s at the end of the hall.”
“Oh, man.” Hennrick said, though he sort of sighed it out. “End of the hall, you say? But there’s definitely a lock in there, right? I mean you’re not messing me about or nothin’, right?”
“There’s definitely a lock in there, Hennrick. It’s a bathroom.”
Hennrick went quiet on the other side of my door. I stayed where I was though, stood stock-still, next to the window.
“Hennrick?” I called, but only after a while. “Hennrick, are you still there?”
Silence. I waited a few more moments before venturing slowly over to my door. I tried to hold my breath a bit as I got nearer, you know, just in case he could hear me.
“Hennrick?” I said it quieter this time just so he wouldn’t notice the difference in my positioning. There was still no answer though. No noise, no nothing. I hoped he’d gone and locked himself in the bathroom that was at the end of the hall, just like I’d said.
This not knowing though, it was killing me.
I’ve got one of those little round pieces of glass that you can see out of stuck in my door and I tip-toed up to this to get myself a better view. It’s hard you know, to tell what’s going on when you’ve only got a little thing like that to look through. You don’t really get to see much and the stuff you do, well that goes into a funny shape. Everything’s kind of round like a circle and it makes things stunted and difficult to judge and if you were to come ‘round here and stand right outside my door, you’d probably look like a round shaped dwarf, with a big, thin, head and silly, small, legs. There was no-one there now though, but like I said, it’s pretty difficult to tell through one of those things.
I checked again, just to make sure. I felt real relieved that Hennrick had taken my advice and gone and locked himself in the bathroom. I mean, I know I told him that I didn’t want him in here and all, but I didn’t want him to go and get himself killed or all bashed up or anything like that. I don’t wish harm on anyone. Well, not unless they’ve done something really bad or it’s drugs.
Feeling relaxed a bit, I started back over to my sofa to get my sheet. I needed a rest after all that commotion and I fancied a lay down on my floor. That’s where I slept normally and nobody could ever tell me any different. I’d almost got there when I was disturbed by a shout.
“Hey,” it went. “Hey, there’s someone in there. It’s a woman. She says she’s having a bath.”
“What?” I said. “Who’s that? Is that you again, Hennrick?”
There was a pause, not too long though. I still knew he was there.
“Yeah, it’s me,” he said, and he sounded properly disappointed. “That bathroom you sent me to. There’s a woman in there. She’s having a bath. Says she’s gonna be some time, too. Fuck man, I don’t know what else to do. You gotta let me in. I can hear them coming.”
“Hear who coming?”
“Those guys I said about. Man they’re mean. You gotta let me in there. They’ll rough me up you know. Real bad, they don’t care what they do.”
“Why not? Why won’t they care? What have you done, Hennrick?”
There was another pause.
“What do mean, ‘What have I done?’?”
“I mean, Hennrick, what have you done that’s so bad that these guys want to smash you up. Are you a criminal? Is that it? If this is one of those gang things, you best get away from here right now. I don’t want any part of it.”
Hennrick went quiet again.
“It’s not a gang thing,” he said, pretty low. “I, err… I took something from them. I took something and they want it back. That’s all.”
Now, this wasn’t my style at all. I didn’t want anything to do with any of it. I don’t deal with crooks and conmen. Never have and I wasn’t going to start now.
“So you’re a thief, then. Is that it?” I said, all morally.
“What?! No way, man. I’m no thief, man. No way, that’s just not me. You got me all wrong in there, mister. All wrong. I… err… They had something of mine and I took it back. I didn’t steal nothin’. Honest. It was mine in the first place so I…. Oh fuck!”
“Hennrick?” I said. “Hennrick?”
He didn’t have the time to answer before I heard some heavy footsteps. Lot’s of them, like they were all running about. There was some shouting too. Real loud, with lot’s of names and curses but no-one ever said Hennrick like I’d just done.
I didn’t want to but what else could I do other than keep on listening? I stayed there right through to the end. I stood in that same spot and listened right through all that noise. I heard all that running and crashing and that banging and swearing and that crying and begging until all I could hear was nothing. Nothing but quiet, silence, and still.
After it all had ended, I let out my breath and then there was a gun shot. It was loud, for part of a second, and then there was nothing again.
“Hennrick?” I said, automatically. “Hennrick? Are you still there?”
No-one answered at first but I knew that someone was still there. Outside my door, murdering people I didn’t even know.
“Who’s Hennrick?” a voice finally said, from the other side.
I didn’t recognise this voice. It was deeper and sounded different to the one I’d just been speaking to. It took him a long time to speak up as well.
“I said, who’s Hennrick?” that voice went again. It was angrier than last time. And quicker.
I was scared now. I mean really, properly, scared, I don’t mind telling you. I should have known something like this was going to happen when someone I didn’t even remember turned up at my door, wanting to be let in. I moved to the back of my room. Back towards the window and away from the door. I moved away from that new voice and away from what had happened out there. I was so scared I could almost see it all. You know, walls bloodied up, grey bit’s of slimy brain, broken teeth everywhere, all that kind of stuff, littering up the hall.
I was nearly crying tears when I got to the back of my apartment, I was that frightened. I’d got to the window and had nowhere else to go. I lived on the 16th floor. That’s pretty high up and when I turned and looked out of my window I could see the red brick wall of that other building straight across. It was all shiny and smooth and when I looked closer I realised something that I’d never even noticed before.
That wall, it was so close I could almost touch it.

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Comments by other Members

Becca at 22:03 on 20 April 2004  Report this post
Matt, this is interesting. At the end is the implication that he might try and climb out of the window and get on the wall, or that he'd never get away because the wall was blocking him in?
It's interesting because nobody else except the MC is seen in the story. I liked it. It could do with a bit of tightening, I know it's written as if the MC was speaking normally, but that involves some repetition which tends to slow the reading down a bit. Just a bit of judicious pruning would keep the tension up.
Oh, and I wondered about the MC. At first I thought him an old man, then later decided he could be a slightly paranoid guy who is trying to preserve his own tiny place somewhere where the outside is alien.

Paperback at 08:40 on 21 April 2004  Report this post
I'm glad you mentioned that about the end. I wanted to leave people guessing and wondering whether he was as safe as he liked to think in that little flat of his. I also wanted to imply that maybe he wasn't in as much trouble as he thought, maybe these other guys would leave him alone. On this, i fear i have been unsuccessful.
With regards to the MC's age, i understand why you thought him to be an old man. This is what old people do when they answer doors (and probably rightly so) but my MC is most definitely a younger person. 20's-30's i thought. Although being this specific doesn't truly bother me, i would like the reader to understand he isn't old. How would i do this without being too obvious?

Becca at 15:45 on 21 April 2004  Report this post
Well, It's probably only that I work with elderly people so they are on my mind a lot, but if other people wonder about his age as well, you could just slightly change his way of talking, or inject an expletive somewhere. He talks in a more refined way than the man at the door, which was another thing that made me think he might be older. But how much does it matter?
Or, your MC trying to remember where he might have met Hendrick, in a bar somewhere, or had he done some shady deal with him sometime in the past, so that they become more like contemporaries.
Or, some remark your MC makes about his paranoia, a common thing in 30 years olds these days.
It only needs about 3 or 4 words to establish his age if you want to do it. Other people might have some better ideas about how to do it.

Grinder at 14:53 on 22 April 2004  Report this post
I had him pinned as a young man, if you reference his stash of porn mags (or some other suitable reading material) this might cement the idea.
Not sure about the ending, for some reason I wanted him to be so scared that he’d jump. But I'm not sure what that means?

Elkman at 22:18 on 26 April 2004  Report this post

Even though you didn't use a lot of description in this piece. I got a really strong impression of place. Inner-city block of flats, graffiti etc. There was a total sense of tension and danger coming through the thoughts and dialogue.

The MC's age did seem indistinct to me. He appears to be quite well-spoken and respectable in comparison with Hennrick, which is probably why he comes across as an elderly gent. I would like to find out more about him though - maybe a few more clues about his past/personality?

I also liked the open-ending. Wasn't sure if it was supposed to be metaphorical or literal, but made me go back and look at the piece again. Top stuff.


dr_mandrill at 13:49 on 01 May 2004  Report this post
This one really creeped me out. The fitful, frightened lonely character in the flat, the dark and dangerous world outside viewed only through a distorted lens. It has a distopian kind of feel, although it’s all too believable that the central character is barricaded in a dingy bedsit in one of our major cities right now. Especially well done are the details- I like the character having a preferred corner where they sleep under a sheet. It really rounded out the character by hinting at a troubled life.

Cheers for this,


Jumbo at 23:25 on 14 June 2004  Report this post

This had a real feel of fear and repression - your man trapped in his room with these lunatic happenings going on just outside. You caught the mood of the event very well, and described the feelings of your character in such a way that I knew what he was going through, and how he felt,

Must admit, not too sure about the ending and that wall. That line seemed to come from nowhere and not have enough relevance to the rest of the piece to wrap it up succesfully. But, of course, that's only my opinion!

All the best


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