Microfiction #writephoto: Not so funny

This is for Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt.


He’d bought the eccentric doorknocker on the flea market.

“I’d like to see the Jehovah’s get past that,” he’d laughed.

They didn’t, of course, but nobody else did either. In the end, he had to reconnect the doorbell faced with the obstinate refusal of anyone, from the postman to the neighbour looking for her cat, to touch the nasty-looking horned thing.

The joke had worn thin and even he began to find the sneering demonical face unsettling, almost daring him to open his own front door. He decided to get rid of it, but somehow he couldn’t find the right screwdriver and the DIY warehouse was out of stock. When he finally did get hold of one, the screws wouldn’t budge. He called in a professional.

“Fused with the bronze,” the handyman said. “I could wrench it off but you’ll need a new door afterwards.”

He was almost tempted to agree, but the house was a listed building. A new solid oak door, made to measure in the original style complete with brass studding would cost an arm and a leg. He started to use the back door instead, pushing through the overgrown privet hedge down the side of the house to the kitchen entrance. He stopped getting mail altogether and the electricity meter reader always denied there was anyone there when he called. When he tested it, he discovered the doorbell didn’t work.

He fell out of love with the house, found it cold and uninviting. The privet along the path to the back door wouldn’t stay trimmed and always seemed to be drenched in rainwater. Autumn was wet and grim, and he decided he couldn’t face another winter in the house. He put it on the market hoping for a quick sale on the strength of it being old and ‘interesting’.

In the darkest hour, as October rolled into November, he woke to a strange hush, a stillness in the house that usually creaked and wheezed to itself all night, a stillness that was broken by the hollow, rhythmic pounding of the door knocker. And he knew that the house would let the visitor in.

Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

46 thoughts on “Microfiction #writephoto: Not so funny”

      1. True, and if you’re thinking of Cernunnos, then I’m with you. I imagine that this image is the character distorted by Christianity to become the symbol of evil, so arguably not the same as the pagan deity at all. Much more like the devil in Goya’s painting.

  1. Oh, I like this. Like the slow build, the way he gradually becomes trapped, the way the house cuts him off from people and all the small instances that could be explained away by rational thought. And the ending – chilling, Jane. Just loved it. Reminded me of a Tales of the Unexpected, or a story from one of those British portmanteau horror movies they used to make in the sixties and seventies.
    Love that door knocker, I have to say, though it does look like it’s been lifted from a Haunted House!

    1. There was a series of scary plays on TV in the 70s that I wasn’t allowed to watch (but did when my mum was occupied elsewhere) with those kind of themes, being trapped by something old and nasty in very prosaic surroundings. They were probably very unfrightening but obviously scarred me!

      1. I remember something similar from 1981 called Christmas Spirits. Elaine Stritch in a very old house, a couple of very sinister waxwork children and a cut throat razor … Very, very nasty. There’s a very dodgy version of it on You Tube. It features the Coventry Carol a lot too, the most melancholic of carols. They don’t make them as nasty as they used to!

      2. Sounds like the same tone. Did you see The Stone Tapes? That was one not even my dad would let me watch, so I looked it up on you tube recently, and couldn’t get past the flared trousers (men) and the awful, cringe-making misogyny of it all. The scariness was completely overshadowed by indignation. The acting was also incredibly dated. Shame because it’s a good story.

      3. The Stone Tapes is one of those legendary stories I’m surprised no one has remade yet. Though I usually hate to trample on classics, you’re right, it is dated. Such a terrific idea, though – very creepy

      4. I was so disappointed! A modernised version without that awful laddish behaviour and a few more women who weren’t just considered as hysterical bits of stuff would be terrifying.

      5. It’s definitely due a remake – perhaps you should write one with three dimensional men and women and send it to the Beeb?

  2. I loved the way you built this story, adding momentum to that climactic last line which though anticipated was still a delightful shocker. Love your writings, Jane.

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