The knocking woke her! Dazed from the unexpected rousing, she checked the clock. The numbers looked hazy. Had she forgotten to place the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the door? Didn’t matter. She had examined the lock the required number of times. Even if hotel staff tried to get in, she had also bolted the door. Who could be bothering her?
Her mind raced to another place where there had been a knocking. It too had been a surprise. New in St. John’s, only the administrative staff at Memorial had been given her address. She had found a charming house on Water Street: one of the brightly coloured attached buildings. She was thrilled that hers was maroon, her favourite colour. She had been told that the name for them was Jellybean Row. The legend was that the luminous colours shone like a lighthouse. That way, fishermen could find their way home. And then she realized this legend was exactly the same she had experienced while visiting the Venetian Island of Burano in Italy, on another trip with Malcolm. There too, fishermen could see the vivid, different colours of each painted building even through thick fog and thus avoid crashing into the shore.
At that instant, the buildings were as clear to her as if she was walking on the very streets of the colourful row houses. Such fanciful folksy tales, so typical of both these friendly places. “Good morning to you!” greeted the voices of two young girls with their lilting accent. Everyone had that accent – except for Edwin. His was British. Like her, he too was a visiting professor. She was a little disappointed in him when he disclosed why the houses were really painted that way. The legend had been simply that ˗ he had told her ˗ a legend. In fact, the Jellybean houses were part of a 1970 heritage project to restore Victorian homes.
The knocking bothered her at the Water Street house. Her bedroom was upstairs on the second floor. Although she knew the front door had been triple tested, she couldn’t help wondering how safe the locks were on these old houses. The knocking persisted. Finally, she screwed up her courage. She pulled on her jogging pants and tee shirt and went down the stairs…. She remembered being terrified to open the door.
Her fear stemmed from another image ˗ a passage that floated into her thoughts of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Natasha was still in the room nursing the wounded weak Prince Andrei. He was dreaming that he was lying in a room with a closed door. He too had gone to the door to bolt and lock it. But had he been in time to secure it properly? He was in agonizing terror. Something on the other side was pushing against the door, trying to force its way across the threshold. With all his strength he thrust his suffering body against it – to no avail. The door opened. It was death. Prince Andrei was dead. That haunting story was as real to her as if she had stepped into the very pages of the epic novel.
Stirred to reality, she could not avoid the knocking that persisted at her hotel room door. There was nothing else to do but to see who was causing it. She found her glasses and pulled on her overcoat at the desk chair. Slowly, cautiously she peered through the peek hole but could not distinguish anything. The knocking continued. She unbolted, unlocked and slowly opened the door ˗ to darkness, to a black empty hole ˗ into which she fell with a thump ˗ and woke with a start, to the knocking!