I heard all things in heaven and on earth. I heard manythings below the earth. How, then am I mad? Harken! and observe how healthily, how calmly I can tell you the wholestory. It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it hauntedme day –and night.
Object—- there was none. Passion——-there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire.
Ithink—–it was——–his eye. Yes! it was this! One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture. —–apale blue eye——with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold. And so, bydegrees——very gradually—I made up my min to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myselfof that eye——-forever. Now this is the point.
You fancy me Mad. Madmen know nothing! But you should haveseen me! You should seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded—–with whatCaution—with what foresight—with what dissimulation I went to work. I was never kinder to theold man than during that the whole week before I killed him.
And every night—–Aboutmidnight—-I turned the latch of his door and opened it—Oh so gently. And then, when I hadmade an opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern, all closed, closed, so that no lightshone out, and then I thrust in my head. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly Ithrust it in! I moved it slowly-very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old man’s sleep. Ittook me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he layupon his bed.
Ha!-would a madman have been so wise as this? And then, when my head was wellin the room, I undid the lantern cautiously-oh, so cautiously – for the hinges creaked. I undid itjust so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye. And this I did for seven longnights-every night just at midnight-but I found the eye always closed; and so it was impossible todo the work; for it was not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye. And every morning,when the day broke, I went boldly into the chamber, and spoke courageously to him calling himby name in a hearty tone, and inquiring how he had passed the night. So you see he would havebeen a very profound old man, indeed, to suspect that every night, just at twelve, I looked in uponhim while he slept.
Upon the eighth night I was more than usually cautious in opening the door. A watch’sminute-hand moves more quickly than did mine. Never before that night had I felt the extent ofmy own powers-of my sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. To think thatthere I was, opening the door, little by little, and he not even to dream of my secret deeds orthoughts.
I fairly chuckled at the idea; and perhaps the heard me; for he moved on the bedsuddenly, as if startled. Now you may think that I drew back-but no. His room was as black aspitch with the thick darkness, and so I know that he could not see the opening of the door, and Ikept pushing it on steadily, steadily. I had my head in, and was about to open the lantern, when my thumb slipped upon the tinfastening, and the old man spring up in the bed, crying out-?Who’s there?I kept quite still and said nothing. For a whole hour I did not move a muscle and in themeantime I did not hear him lie down. He was still sitting up in the bed, listening: just as I havedone, night after night, hearkening to the death-watches in the wall.
Presently I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of mortal terror. It was not agroan of pain or grief-oh,-no!-it was the low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soulwhen overcharged with awe. I knew the sound well. Many a night, just at midnight, when all theworld slept, it has welled up from my own bosom, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrorsthat distracted me.
I say I knew it well. I knew what the old man felt, and pitied him, although Ichuckled at heart. I knew that he had been lying awake ever since the slight noise, when he hadturned in the bed. His fears had been ever since growing upon him.
He had been trying to fancythem causeless, but could not. He had been saying to himself- ?it is nothing but the wind in thechimney-it is only a mouse crossing the floor, ?or ?it is merely a cricket whack has made a singlechirp. ? Yes, he had been trying to comfort himself with these suppositions; but he had found all invain. All in vain; because Death, in approaching him, had stalked with his black shadow beforehim, and enveloped the victim. And it was the mournful influence of the unperceived shadow thatcaused him to feel-although he neither saw nor heard—to feel the presence of my head within theroom. When I had waited a long time; very patiently, without hearing him lie down, I resolved toopen a little – a very, very little crevice in the lantern.
So I opened it-you cant imagine howstealthily-until, at length, a single dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot from out the creviceand fell upon the vulture eye. It was open–wide, wide open– and I grew furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfectdistinctness-all a dull blue, with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my bones;but I could see nothing else of the old man’s face or person: for I had directed the ray as if byinstinct, precisely upon the cursed spot. And now have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over acuteness ofthe senses?-now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, much such a sound as awatch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew that sound well, too.
It was the beating of the oldman’s heart. It increased my fury, as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage. But even yet I refrained and kept still. I scarcely breathed. I held the lantern motionless. Itried to see how steadily I could maintain the ray upon the eye.
Meantime the demonic tattoo ofthe heart increased. It grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder every instant. The oldman’s terror must have been extreme. It grew louder, I say, louder every moment!-do you markme well? I have told you I am nervous; so I am.
And now at the dead hour of the night, amid thedreadful silence of the old house, so strange a noise as this excited me to uncontrollable terror. Yet, for some minutes longer I refrained and stood still. But the beating grew louder, louder! Ithought the heart must burst. And now a new anxiety seized me-the sound would be heard by aneighbor! The old man’s hour had come! With a loud yell I threw open the lantern and leaped intothe room. He shrieked once-once only.
In an instant I dragged him to the floor, and pulled theheavy bed over him. I then smiled gaily, to mind the deed so far done. But, for many minutes, theheart beat on with a muffled sound. This, however, did not vex me; it would not be heard throughthe wall. At length it ceased.
The old man was dead. I removed the bed and examined the corpse. Yes, he was stone, stone dead. I placed my hand upon the heart and held it there for manyminutes.
There was no pulsation. He was stone dead. His eye would trouble me no more.Creative Writing