Tall And True Short Reads

A Knock at the Door

Episode 86 (18 January 2024)

“In space no one can hear you scream. But what if you’re deep in the backwoods, in an isolated cabin on a dead-end trail?” Karen set aside the book. A horror story was not ideal reading for the off-grid log cabin Peter had booked for their thirtieth wedding anniversary weekend, especially as she was alone in bed, listening to wind from a storm whistle through cracks in the doors and windows.


A Knock at the Door

Show Notes

Season Four: Episode 86 (18 January 2024)

A Knock at the Door is a short story from the Tall And True writers’ website, written and narrated by Robert Fairhead.

Read the story on Tall And True: https://www.tallandtrue.com.au/fiction/short-stories/a-knock-at-the-door

Podcast website: https://www.tallandtrueshortreads.com

Support the podcast: https://supporter.acast.com/tall-and-true-short-reads

Buy Robert’s short story collections online:

Story Insight

A Knock at the Door was my November 2023 entry for Furious Fiction, the monthly 500-word short story writing challenge run by the Australian Writers’ Centre. Their brief was:

  • The story must be set at a remote house or cabin
  • Include three different three-word sentences in a row
  • And the words SPACE, KNOCK, WHISTLE, and MYTH (or longer, retaining the original spelling).

SPACE gave me the opening line, a homage to the Alien movie, “In space no one can hear you scream”, and the KNOCK could only be at the front door in the middle of a stormy night. From there, I set about writing my first horror story.

I also wanted another thread to run through the story: Karen’s dissatisfaction with her marriage and Peter’s self-centredness. And for these to combine and leave the knock at the door unexplained and spooky!

Although the Writers’ Centre judges longlisted A Knock at the Door for November’s Furious Fiction, I wanted to change its ending from the moment I submitted the story. In the original version, Peter arrived the next day. There was no sign of Karen’s car (he assumed she’d parked around the side), and the storm had cleared. Feeling pleased with his remote getaway choice for their anniversary, Peter entered the cabin, and the story ended the same as in this version, with Karen missing and a knock at the door.

As I commented in a 2020 blog post about my first Furious Fiction, A Song on the Radio (Episode 4 of Tall And True Short Reads), by its name and nature, the challenge doesn’t afford writers time to reflect on their writing. And returning to share my stories on Tall And True or to narrate them for the Tall And True Short Reads podcast, I’ve always done edits, generally tweaking a word here and there. But in addition to rewriting the ending, A Knock at the Door wins the prize for the most tweaks!  (I’d like to thank Amanda from the Not Quite Write Podcast for suggesting one of the tweaks.)

It’s also the first story where I’ve had the chance to use an adjective I learned reading the fantasy writer Steven Donaldson’s trilogy, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, as a twenty-one-year-old in 1983, “preternatural”. Perfect for describing the dark, stormy night outside the log cabin’s front door!

I’m also proud of the three different, three-word sentences, the mantra Karen taught her adult children when they were young and woke from nightmares, none of which needed tweaking from the original version: Take a breath. Let it out. Don’t be afraid.

I hope you enjoyed my spooky tale. You can read A Knock on the Door and all my short stories, blog posts and other writing at TallAndTrue.com. You can also buy my short story collections, including my latest Tall And True Microfiction anthology, from the Amazon Kindle, Apple Books, and Kobo online bookstores — links are available in the show notes.

The next episode of Tall And True Short Reads will be in your podcast feed shortly. In the meantime, please check your feed or the podcast website for earlier episodes from all four seasons, and follow or subscribe to the podcast and rate and review it via your favourite podcasting app — doing so helps me share my storytelling.

You can support the podcast financially by making a small one-off or regular donation via the Acast Supporter Page.

Finally, please share this episode with your family and friends and tell them about Tall And True Short Reads and the Tall And True writers’ website.

Podcast Theme and Sound Effects

Royalty-free music from Pixabay.com: Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 15 in D major, Op. 28 ‘Pastorale’ – IV. Rondo. Allegro ma non-Troppo, performed by Karine Gilanyan.

Sound effects licensed under Creative Commons 0 from FreeSound.org:

Production Notes

Tall And True Short Reads produced using Audacity.

Podcast episodes are recorded in Sydney, Australia, on the traditional lands of the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation.

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