comes a knock


Legend of Characters:

  • Mrs Vivant:   ~Speaking~
  • Mr Jones:        “Speaking”
  • Mr Smith:        -Speaking-


“Madame Vivant?”

~Yes, gentlemen, how can I help you?~

“May we come in? We won’t stay but a minute. It’s important.”

~This really isn’t a good time, gentlemen. I’m sorry.~

“Just a moment of your time, and it is important.”

~My apologies, but there’s been a death in the family. Perhaps you can come back another time.~

“We know, madam. The timing is awkward, but that’s why we’re here. We’re here about your husband.”

~Then I’m sorry, gentlemen, you’re too late. Mr Vivant passed away last week.~

“In a sense, yes. That’s why we’re here.”

~I know where I’ve seen you before. You’re the men who’ve been sitting in a parked car out front since my husband died. You are, aren’t you? You were at the funeral.~

-Yes. Yes, we were. We are. Your husband is an important man, Madame Vivant. We’d like to talk about that.-

~You pronounced it correctly, as the French do. I appreciate that, but I am an American. I am Mrs Vivant. The widow Vivant.~

“Yes ma’am. It is about your husband. May we come in?”

~Yes, of course. I’m sorry. Please do. And your names? I don’t believe you said.~

“Mr Jones. And this is Mr Smith. Interesting décor here. Your influence, or his?”

~Ours, actually. May I ask what your interest is in my husband? He was not an important man, you know.~

-Not an important man, but a rare one, wasn’t he?-

~I’m sorry. What did you say your interests were regarding my husband? Who are you, Mr Jones?~

“We are going to speak freely, Mrs Vivant, because no one is going to believe this from a grieving widow. Do we have your permission to speak?”

~I’m beginning to have doubts about letting you in at all, but we’ve gotten this far, haven’t we? Yes, go on.~

“You were married a long time, were you?”

~I thought you were going to tell me something, not ask more questions.~

“Yes, of course. Where to begin? Mr Smith, perhaps you…”

-Right, well…?-

~So, between the two of you, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Really, gentlemen, this is not a good time, so if you’ll excuse me…~

-He was a poet, wasn’t he?-


~Yes, among other things.~

“Other things?”

~He dabbled in music. Composition mostly, cried with a pedal steel. Loved history, new places, working with wood … books most of all. Now, if you’ll excuse me…~

“Just five minutes. Please?”

~Okay, five minutes. Let’s start with who you are.~

-Okay, we’re with a research group, an agency outside other agencies. I suppose that would make us agents, wouldn’t it?-

~You’re rather too old to be agents, aren’t you? They should have retired you years ago.~

“Old, and not much time left, either of us. We’re retired agents from different agencies brought in, I believe, because we know how to keep secrets.”

~What’s this about, please?~

-The strides in science are leagues long now, where we used to be measured in inches. You’re familiar with the terms, dark matter and dark energy?-

~Two of the great unknowns in science, I believe.~

-Indeed. In the universe, actually. Approximately 25% of it is clumps, or clouds, of dark matter, 70% of it dark energy, a repelling-force-gathering, like an entity both of and against itself, uniform in density. Both dark, and we don’t know what they are.-

~And the remaining 5% is what we see, and who we are, if my reading is current.~

“Yes, ma’am.”

~And my husband?~

-The instruments of science have gotten to be so … so precise, they’re miracles, actually. Especially their refinements in measurement.-

“You’ll have to excuse him. He gets excited about this.”

-Yes, yes I do, and now we’re able to measure dark matter locally, and very precisely.-

“And once in a while there is a very microscopic, impossibly small spike in local density.”

-And we’re just now correlating these spikes in dark matter to the passing of certain people.-

“Or the release of certain people into this density.”

-Like filled capsules or solid pellets, small nuggets of self impacting this field, nudging their way in, making room for themselves.-

“People with an abundance of life-force, shall we say.”

-Or an excess of it.-

“…and they add to it,”

-…or merge,-

“…or ‘embed’ in it, as one of our colleagues suggested.”

-At a level that can be measured now.-

~And my husband?~

“Yes, ma’am. You were married a long time, weren’t you?”

~Not really. We met later in life. But he was made for me, and I was meant for him. We were ‘soul mates’,  I believe is the term. It’s out of fashion now, I know, but we were … we are.~

-Yes, he would have had to love deeply, or even desperately, to cause a spike like that. This is massive with implications, you realize this.-

“Imagine all the stellar civilizations of the last 13 billion years that have migrated or recycled back to this plane of dark matter. No wonder there aren’t signals out there. They aren’t needed.”

-Somehow, maybe, these races become as whole, entire beings that cross over. Their new energy level no longer requires the technology, as it were.-

“Or maybe they die off. We don’t know.”

-Yowza! We’re what’s on TV for the universe! This makes Earth the current tourist stop for 13 billion years of viewers. There are no secrets. Our secrets are useless! It’s priceless!-

“You know, you really don’t help with these comments.”

-Hey, if we can’t laugh at this, who’s going to? But he’s right. It’s all a mind game right now, phantoms, conjectures. We don’t know.-

“We’re not comfortable with this. We don’t like it, frankly, but we have to consider it.”

~I can see that. So why have you come to me with this?~

“Your husband seems not to have accomplished much according to our records, but he had enormous ‘life-force’, for want of a better word.”

~Yes he did. He would have laughed to hear you say that, then he would have thrown you out. What do you want?~

‘We think your deep attachment in life continues to mean something. There are a a good half-dozen theories about how the individual is absorbed into this matter…

-Or even that it leaks into dark energy as the universe expands.-

“No, we do not think that.”

-Anyway, we think your husband is waiting for you to join him.-

May be waiting for you.”

-Yes, may be waiting for you. We would like to establish a connection somehow based on the strength of that bond.-

“Even the most rudimentary connection would bring us vastly closer to understanding our place in the universe. We have theories we want to test.”

~So, you want me to participate in a séance. Is that really the best your brightest have come up with?~

-There are new techniques we’d like to try.-

~He won’t, you know … respond, let you contact him.~

“No? Really? I would have thought him the pioneering sort, willing to be first to cross the great divide.”

~Yes, a pioneer, a fearless man, but deeply traditional. He believed in things. It wouldn’t be like him to break the silence arranged between worlds. Wouldn’t feel it was his place. Not without ‘permission’. And he didn’t like agencies.~

-We’re trying to understand our universe, Mrs Vivant. We’re only human. We can’t help it.-

~I appreciate that. And I thank you for adding to my hope that he’s waiting for me. But I know my husband, and I won’t be able to help you. I’m sorry.~

“Thank you for listening then, for your time. Here’s our cards, just in case, you know … he lets you know he’s been given ‘permission’.”

~You never know. I’ll hold onto them. Nice picture on the front, by the way.~

-Yes. Eye-catching, so you don’t forget about us.-

“It’s embossed on our badges. Some bureaucrat in the early days of the agency chose it for our emblem. The picture hangs in our office. An Eye on the Universe, it’s our motto. Something looking at us, or some One watching over us. They still argue that at the agency. Most agree there’s Nothing.”

-Eye’m Watching!, is scribbled in one corner, Eye luv U in another, in pink. There are others. It’s become a joke.-

~I would have thought a door of some sort. A gate would have been appropriate.~

“Except that’s not who we are. That nebula is our emblem.”

~You’re like those two guys, those Men In Black, aren’t you?~

-No ma’am. They worked with aliens. We do phenomena and after-life.-

“Why do you confuse her like that? No ma’am. They were entertainment. This is real.”

~I’ll keep that in mind. Now if you’ll excuse me, gentleman, this has been more than enough for one day.~

“Yes, of course. We’re leaving now. I want to thank you again … for listening, for your time. Just keep us in mind.”

~It’s not likely I’ll forget, is it?~

“No ma’am.”

-Oh, I just wanted to say, I like your idea of the door better than the eye.-

~I do too. Have a good day, gentlemen.~

~ . ~


The original of this was given to me by a cherished friend as she smiled from her deathbed. She was sitting up, the head of her bed raised; the papers lay on her lap as I came in. She was a journalist, a novelist and essayist noted for an eidetic memory and the conciseness of her reporting. Her love was for the language of life itself, and the success of her work was in capturing the rhythms of it in conversation. This one was scribbled out in longhand, as tho hurriedly.

Normally a vital woman, she lived quietly since her husband passed. She said I could do with this as I liked, that the secret was out. At first it was like finding the first exoplanet, then the first rare few. Now they’re everywhere. It didn’t matter if I believed.

She is gone now. I don’t know what to think, so I give it to you as she gave it to me, transcribed from her scrawl.

~. .~

5 comments on “comes a knock

  1. Allen says:

    Quietly profound as it slips in the back door.

  2. smzgreenie says:

    An intrigue. Mind racing with the possibilities of what would follow, and is not written. Creates a hunger and opens a window.

  3. Diana van den Berg says:

    Just some thoughts as I read through your story (I am very tired, so I hope it isn’t in Outer Mongolian or Inner Peruvian):

    Displaying the Eye-catching photo on the back of the business cards I thought was very apt – originally and until I got to the business cards, I thought it was the blue of the sky/Heaven/Infinity – with a black hole (of Death? – and when I got to the dark energy I thought it was possibly of dark energy?) to fall into perhaps. However, I was mostly wrong about that.

    It is interesting that Mr Vivant, despite his “enormous ‘life force’ “, he is no longer vivant parce qu’il est mort maintenant, yet perhaps he is more vivant than Mrs Vivant though her lack of vibrancy must be at the very least largely because she has lost her husband, though it is strange that she isn’t interested in communicating with him, especially given that they were very close as is indicated by the fact that she said they were soulmates and she corrected herself and said they still are – and they did things together like choosing and/or creating the décor – and the fact that the dark energy spike impressed the 2 men, and her “deep attachment in life” (I assume to her husband) and how well she knew her husband’s thoughts, morals and ethics. (I talk to my animals who have passed on in the last 16 years and it makes me feel better about missing them.) However, she hasn’t ruled it out completely yet.

    I love the surnames of Mr Jones and Mr Smith – an analogy for Everyman. At first I had wondered if they were Death, but I see they are not.

    I like how you meticulously used the punctuation of separate sets of inverted commas and formatting of a new paragraph for the beginning of each piece of direct speech, but didn’t specify who was talking because it was obvious when Mrs Vivant was, and it doesn’t matter to the reader whether it was Mr Jones or Mr Smith showing that they were nebulous beings to Mrs Vivant.

    I love the pondering, the paradox and the slight touch of cynicism – the pondering of the characters about Mr Vivant, and the superficial and frustrated pondering of Mrs Vivant as to who the men were and what their purpose was and when they were going to leave, and the pondering in the office about their emblem, and of the narrator at the end. It all has the reader pondering. Whilst I don’t take much interest in astronomy (I like my stars to be little twinkling sparkles dotting a black or navy velvet sky), I certainly was a pensive fly on the wall.

    The seemingly meandering conversation, very cleverly led the two parties from strangers at odds with each other in the beginning to a gentle warmth of almost togetherness at the end.

    The epilogue is a magnificent dénouement to your story. The gentle warmth when the two parties part, along with its credulity and paradoxically the enhancement of its mystery, increases. The fact that there is no mention of more, leaves the reader hungry to know whether there was – and if not, why not . . .

    This story, in my not so humble opinion, is a masterpiece and superbly painted with the brush of a true artist and not a mere recorder of words. You certainly know the art of every word being le mot juste.

    The reader is left with a sense of it being as credible as it is incredible and the story is left indelibly imprinted in the mind of the reader long after the metaphorical page has been turned. Thank you for the pleasure i had in reading your excellent story.

    • I want to thank you for your generous response to my story. I am so sorry I did not see this sooner, but once I posted it I began a book-length project, and have not returned to it since. I missed notice of your reply, and must have deleted it unintentionally. For this, again, I am sorry.

      I don’t know if your reading of “comes a knock” would have benefited from knowing this, but the agents, Mr Jones and Mr Smith, were patterned after the characters played by Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith in, “Men In Black”. I imagined Meryl Streep as Mrs Vivant.

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