#FridayFlash: "The Knife"

"The Knife"

by Tony Noland

The old house creaked and moaned. For fifty-two years, ever since the previous owner had built it with his own hands, it had been a solid, quiet house. Now, after half a year of being cold and empty, the house seemed to protest every move the new owner made. Doors stuck in their hinges, heavy old light switches resisted her fingers, floors noisily protested her every step. She'd begun her inspection with the upstairs; she knew that to make it livable for a single woman with a modern lifestyle, she'd have to tear out a lot of the stuff the previous owner had so painstakingly installed so many years ago.

Downstairs, in the kitchen, a long chef's knife lay on the dusty counter. Within a week after the funeral, workers hired by the lawyer for the estate efficiently cleaned the place out, disposing of everything the old man had ever owned. The handle of the knife was scarred and burnt. It was as old as the house itself and the old man had kept it sharp. Since there was a big chip in the blade, the cleaners decided it was worthless and had intended to put this knife out with the garbage, but it had been left behind.

Upstairs, the bedroom floorboards groaned as the woman inspected the closets, using a flashlight to peer into every corner and cupboard.

The knife twitched on the counter. Slowly, it turned, its blade making a soft skittering sound as it scraped on the worn linoleum. Then, as the woman's footsteps creaked through the upstairs hallway, the knife inched forward along the counter, worming back and forth.

The stairs began their individual protests as the woman came down. The knife moved more quickly. As she reached the first floor landing, her footsteps were muffled by the threadbare carpeting. She turned and headed toward the kitchen, wanting to see just how bad it was, if there was anything that could be saved or if it would have to be gutted entirely. The knife turned as well, orienting itself until the tip was in line with the doorway from the dining room.

The knife waited, as though gathering its strength as the woman stopped to look at something in the dining room. What little sunlight that came in through the single, grimy window glinted dully on the keen edge of the heavy carbon steel.

Step, step, step, turn and she appeared in the doorway. Her hand flicked on the overhead bulb and the old knife launched itself forward into the air. The woman fell back, screaming.


"Yep, look at that, completely rotten. The kitchen subflooring is bad, even the joists under the kitchen are bad. With nobody in the place to use the water heater, one of those old pipes must have sprung a leak last winter. It's a lucky thing you didn't try to go into the kitchen or you'd have ended up down here in the basement, maybe with a broken neck. I'll tell you, Miss Waters, your grandpa built this place to last, but a house has to be lived in, y'know? Cared for, if y'know what I mean."

The woman looked up at the rotted flooring, the crumbling beams riddled with insect holes and fungal growths. "Can you fix it?" she said.

"Oh, sure. We'll jack it up around the perimeter, tear all this stuff out and put in new joists. Actually, that'll make it a lot easier to redo the kitchen, if that's what you want. Save you a lot of money to do it all at once. I mean, if you still want to live in this old place. Just 'cause your grandpa left it to you, doesn't mean you have to live here."

She stepped forward and pointed her flashlight at the spot in the floor where her grandpa's favorite knife had plunged downward in front of her just as she started to enter the kitchen.

"Yes," she said, "I still want to live here."

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.


  1. Damn you, Tony! She didn't die! ;)

  2. Wow, you really created a hell of a lot of suspense there, but we ended up with a sweet ending. That was a good twist.

  3. You tricksy devil!!! I was expecting a gory ending and I got that...reminds me of one of the episodes of Hammer's House of Horror. Excellent stuff!

  4. I guess the knife is safely in the garbage now?
    Am in the process of buying a house, I think I will be bringing my own knives and getting rid of any residual ones...

  5. Clever twist there at the end! "Damn. Missed."

    Or was the knife there to protect her? "Don't come in the kitchen, you'll fall right through!"

    Either way, great suspense and clever ending!

  6. Red: Sorry, Red. Sometimes, I can't stop the love.

    Michael: Thanks! I was trying to ratchet up the tension here - glad it worked.

    Icy: You tricksy devil!!! I live to serve.

    mazzz_in_Leeds: Get the subflooring inspected, too. 8-)

  7. FAR: Interesting... I didn't intend the ending to be ambiguous, but I see now that it could be.

  8. Love the twisted way the house seems as if it's out to get the new resident, only to find her loved one is protecting her from beyond the grave!

  9. I also thought she was dead - great curve ball. My favourite part of the story, though, was at the beginning when you say that the house "seemed to protest every move the new owner made," and the "old switches rested her fingers." It made the place take on the character of a grumpy old woman or a petulant child.

  10. With that little twist, you turned her from a nameless victim to a very interesting character. Nicely done!

  11. She's braver than me! I'd be rather nervous hanging around with a knife like that. Or, she could use it as some sort of compass, to check whether her decisions are in accordance with Grandpa's views.

  12. Love that twist. That was really well set up, and makes me feel good.

  13. That's not fair! You set it up like that and then twist it!
    I'm a tad jealous really :)

    Nice job.

  14. So it was protecting her from the damage in the house, not trying to kill her, right?

    GREAT twist, Tony! Well done.

  15. janellerjensen: I'm glad you liked the twist!

    henriettamaddox: "Curveball"... great description!

    Shelli: Thanks! This was having a bit of fun with the old haunted house theme. 8-)

    flyingscribbler: Oh, I'll bet she and Grandpa's ghost will get along fine.

    Raven: Thanks, Raven - I'm happy to start your weekend off right.

    Anthony: That's not fair! You set it up like that and then twist it! I'll do better next week. ;-)

    Janet: Exactly! Thanks for reading, Janet.

  16. Woe be anyone who tries to break in and attack her!

  17. I get the feeling some of Grandpa's spirit is hanging onto the knife?

    The first part was very intense I like it.

  18. I thought it was as if the house had been trying to resist a makeover, guess it lucked out. Nice twist racking up the tension like that only to have the blade get stuck in the lino.

  19. saved by damaged flooring! LOL The house was protecting her after all. Great twist!

  20. Tony, this reminded me of Trilogy of Terror. You pretty much creeped me out. Cool.

  21. Ho ho you master of misdirection! The tension was created at just the right pace, the execution of the knife flying of the top towards her, caused the reader (well it did me) to gasp!

    Then she goes and lives Ha! Excellent stuff — really enjoyed it!


  22. D. Paul: Yeah, the ghost of her loving grandpa is probably a better security system than a rottweiler.

    Craig: Thanks for reading!

    Adam J. Keeper: I'm glad you liked it, Adam. 8-)

    storytreasury: Thank you!

    Ezzy: I had to go Google "Trilogy of Terror", only to find that I remember that movie. Good company to be in!

    Helen: Ho ho you master of misdirection! I do what I can, Helen. 8-)

  23. Either the house has a soul of its own or Grandpa is still hanging around. After all, he poured his heart and soul into building it. I, like the others, loved the ending. It seemed appropriate that the house would want to save the one who actually wanted to live in it, care for it.

  24. I love that ending and I totally didn't even see that possibility coming. Great job, Tony!

  25. We'll make you liveable, you stupid house! I'm glad you didn't go with the typical killer-house ending. Maybe they can win it over?

  26. At first I thought of a story I read with sentient assassin knives... thought she was a goner. It was only through reading the comments that I picked up on the knife stopping her from entering the kitchen. Very cool idea!

  27. That was a great twist! Usually we look for death, but I liked this so much better.

  28. Brave woman! Yes, a house must be cared for. Cool ending ,Tony. :)

  29. Stephen: I'm glad you liked the ending, Stephen - I tried to give it a twist. ;-)

    Chuck: Thanks, Chuck!

    John: Me? Do a typical ending? I should hope not, John!

    foregoreality: The haunted-knife-as-protector was the kernel of this piece. Glad you liked it!

    daniellelapaglia: Thanks, Danni! Another happy ending... I hope this doesn't thrown off Wiswell's calculations.

    Mari: Thanks for reading, Mari!

  30. Very well written, and quite enjoyable. I was expecting a much different ending here. Like the twist.

  31. And with one twist, he sweeps the rug out from under the reader's feet!

    Excellent misdirection, Sir. You built the tension well. The revelation of the relationship between the old and new owners was the perfect detail at the end.

    Excellent stuff.

  32. Clever tricksies and sleight of hand.
    Adam B @revhappiness


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