Monday, September 30, 2013

Reader's Diary #1070- Fredric Brown: Knock

Knocker A couple of weeks back I was reading "Short Horror Stories" at Dafuq Did I Just Read? .Net and when they say short, they mean short. Like 2 sentences short. While it wasn't a featured story, one of those added in the comments went simply, "The last person on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door..." but the commenter doesn't credit it and I mistakenly assumed it was his own creation. But coincidentally, I just happened upon the original a couple of days ago.

Interestingly, Frederic Brown quotes this short, short story in the opening of his short story "Knock" but it doesn't appear that it in itself was every really a standalone story. According to Wikipedia, it comes from a paraphrase of three lines from a much longer essay by Thomas Bailey. The original lines went, "Imagine all human beings swept off the face of the earth, excepting one man. Imagine this man in some vast city, New York or London. Imagine him on the third or fourth day of his solitude sitting in a house and hearing a ring at the door-bell!"

Whether or not you'd agree that Brown's paraphrase could work as a complete, albeit incredibly short, story is moot as Brown uses it merely to begin his own story. Why was he the last man on Earth? Who was at the door? And wouldn't answering these questions destroy the charm and mystery?

Perhaps, but Brown's short sci-fi tale has a trick or two of its own. It's as implausible as an M. Night Shyamalan movie, but if you don't think about it too hard, it's enjoyable in its own right.

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.)


Barbara Bruederlin said...

That two sentence short story is quite compelling. Now I am curious to read the rather longer one, although I suspect that the lack of brevity will diminish the charm.

Eric P said...

Too implausible for me to enjoy. I guess this is from the Golden Age of Sci-Fi (1948), but an awful lot of those short stories back then were actually quite corny.