Crawl Space (with thoughts of Halloween, Vampires, and Parenting)

I took off my sweater and handed it to my brother Aaron. There was no way I was going to crawl on my stomach under the crawl space of a house with it on.

“So tell me again why you can’t get the bodies out from under the building first?” I had to ask.

“They’re not quite dead yet and they might attack Austin. He’s human, a Regular Human,” my brother told me. Austin by the way is a Regular Human and sometimes Vampire Hunter and usually just a guy who does a great job restoring old buildings that seem to be filled with scary shit like ghosts and old musty Vampires.

And of course Aaron was wearing a $5,000 suit of course he couldn’t crawl under the house.

“You might know them”, added Austin, meaning the creatures under the house.

I almost gave him a fang filled snarl but I just gave him a weak normal girl smile.

Wearing garden gloves I crawled on my  hands and knees over bare dirt.Even in the dark I could see assorted bugs and cobwebs. Rat droppings were scattered around. Why the crap would any Vampire want to sleep under floor boards?

About 20 feet into it I was the boxes. OK they were coffins.

I thought back of when I was a kid and always the one to crawl under houses and into tight spaces. It wasn’t because I was small. It was because I pretend to be fearless and now it is because I don’t take any bull shit from Shadow Creepers and dusty old Vampires who can’t deal with the modern normal world. We’re not having a Nosferatu and Dracula Hoedown kids, this is the 21st Century.

The lids were on the boxes. I managed to kneel on my knees without banging my head on something and pushed one off. Inside was a male in a pinstripe suit. His face was waxy looking and pale. I noticed sunken cheeks and lips that seemed a little thin. He hadn’t fed in a while. The box next to him contained a female. Skin stretched over her face, a hint of teeth including fangs showed beneath parted lips. Oh come on, all Vampire girls know not to sleep with their fangs exposed. She wore some sort of black dress thing. The scent of rotted roses and cigar smoke came from her box. In the third box…nothing jumped out. It was another male. I recognized the face. His eyes open a bit, yellow green rolls to stare at me. I see recognition in his face; a fact that was once handsome and could be again, but he was so strange, so weirdly in the shadows and cold, not like Vampires I associate with, but like a dead fish.

Then my butt vibrates. My phone. I pull it out. Garrett, my darling son is calling from college. I’m a mom. I must answer.

“Hey mom, what do you call two ducks and a cow?”

“What?” I had to smile.

“Quackers and Milk.”

“Good one Garrett. What do you call an Englishman, two ducks and a cow?”

“Graham Quackers and Milk. Love you mom.”

I hear a groan from one of the boxes. I slap slap it hard with my hand and hiss at it. The noise stops.

I keep my eyes on the yellow green orbs that watch me as I talk to my son. Garrett rattles on about classes and girls he knows and sings me a song he wrote. He says he goes to the beach almost every day and is going to go surfing on Sunday. He says it is the perfect college for Vampires. He is so excited about school. My heart melts a little.

Then Garrett asks me what I’m up to.

“Sweetie, I’m under a building with three boxes full Shadow Creeping Vampires. You know me, everyday is Halloween.”

“How’d you end up there?”

“Helping your Uncle Aaron and a friend. Long story, but the short version is that I was the only one wearing jeans and I’m smaller than they are so I got elected.”

Old Yellow Green Eyes started to sit up. “I gotta go Garrett. I’ll call you back later today.”

“Love you mom.”

“Love you too sweetie pie.”

I looked at my old friend. OK he wasn’t a friend. I’d met him before, a long long time ago. “What are you doing here?” I said trying to keep myself from sneering at him.”You look like a fucking Zombie. What is wrong with you people? Have you lost all self respect?”

“Juliette,” he whispered my name in a dry voice, like old coffee grinds and gravel.

“Jasper. That last time I saw you was…1923, New Orleans. What are you doing here?”

He started to tell me something in French that I couldn’t quite make out when I stopped him. “Listen, you have three choices. The first is that you agree to live like Modern Vampires and stop this nonsense of lurking around like you’ve just come out of some creep show. The second is that I leave you to the Vampire Hunters. The third is that you let one of my friends, and I use that term loosely, take you to San Francisco where you can be with others of your kind. But you can’t stay here. We have enough problems in Sacramento without your kind.”

“My kind?” Jasper opened his icky eyes wide and showed his fangs.

“That is exactly what I mean, you giving me the evil eye and trying to scare me with your ugly mug. You used to be handsome and well, you were never charming, but you used to be, well, not THIS.”

I crawled back into the sunlight which was no cup of tea, believe me. I might spend time during the day but the sunshine, especially after the darkness under a house, always comes as a shock. I pulled out my sunglasses put them on then took a deep breath and brushed off my pants. Filling Aaron and Austin in on the situation I told them that I’d let them decide what to do with Jasper and his friends.

I had to go home and take a shower and scrub my skin off with steel wool, or at least that is how I was feeling. The image of his eyes stuck in my brain like Poe’s Tell Tale Heart story.

“It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me 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. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture –a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees – very gradually –I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.”
― Edgar Allan Poe, The Tell-Tale Heart and Other Writings

His eyes will haunt me for sure. Maybe I’ll check on him in a few months time, out of morbid curiosity. That is, if the Vampire Hunters or other creatures don’t get them first. There are Shadow Creepers who seem so vile, but then there are other Vampires who I don’t even dare name or ever seek out for any reason.

Like I said, Halloween is never far from my reality.

I called Garrett back. He listened to my story. I didn’t make it into some cautionary tale or anything like that. We just talked. He told me that I was the most awesome mom ever.

So anyway, that is what I did today. Halloween is here. Oh boy. Time to get a few more pumpkins and watch for things that go bump in the night (like my cats.)

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

vampire girls

This post is part of the Austin and Elizabeth series. Check out their adventures from the beginning (CLICK HERE)

Short Story Sunday: Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe

You might of already read Tell Tail Heart…
I’m honored to NOW feature a story of terror from dear Eddie Poe. My brother used to read this to me and we would scare ourselves silly! This story is best when read out loud! So please READ IT ALOUD to your friends and family and anyone you want to totally and completely creep out! 

 

 

The Tell-Tale Heart

by Edgar Allan Poe
(first published 1850)

poe

TRUE! — nervous — very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses — not destroyed — not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily — how calmly I can tell you the whole story.

It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me 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. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture –a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees — very gradually –I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.

Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded –with what caution –with what foresight –with what dissimulation I went to work! I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him. And every night, about midnight, I turned the latch of his door and opened it –oh so gently! And then, when I had made an opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern, all closed, closed, so that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my head. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in! I moved it slowly –very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old man’s sleep. It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed. Ha! –would a madman have been so wise as this? And then, when my head was well in the room, I undid the lantern cautiously –oh, so cautiously –cautiously (for the hinges creaked) –I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye. And this I did for seven long nights –every night just at midnight –but I found the eye always closed; and so it was impossible to do 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 him by name in a hearty tone, and inquiring how he has passed the night. So you see he would have been a very profound old man, indeed, to suspect that every night, just at twelve, I looked in upon him while he slept.

Upon the eighth night I was more than usually cautious in opening the door. A watch’s minute hand moves more quickly than did mine. Never before that night had I felt the extent of my own powers –of my sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. To think that there I was, opening the door, little by little, and he not even to dream of my secret deeds or thoughts. I fairly chuckled at the idea; and perhaps he heard me; for he moved on the bed suddenly, as if startled. Now you may think that I drew back –but no. His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness, (for the shutters were close fastened, through fear of robbers,) and so I knew that he could not see the opening of the door, and I kept pushing it on steadily, steadily.

I had my head in, and was about to open the lantern, when my thumb slipped upon the tin fastening, and the old man sprang up in 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 the meantime I did not hear him lie down. He was still sitting up in the bed listening; –just as I have done, 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 a groan of pain or of grief –oh, no! –it was the low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul when overcharged with awe. I knew the sound well. Many a night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it has welled up from my own bosom, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me. I say I knew it well. I knew what the old man felt, and pitied him, although I chuckled at heart. I knew that he had been lying awake ever since the first slight noise, when he had turned in the bed. His fears had been ever since growing upon him. He had been trying to fancy them causeless, but could not. He had been saying to himself –“It is nothing but the wind in the chimney –it is only a mouse crossing the floor,” or “It is merely a cricket which has made a single chirp.” Yes, he had been trying to comfort himself with these suppositions: but he had found all in vain. All in vain; because Death, in approaching him had stalked with his black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim. And it was the mournful influence of the unperceived shadow that caused him to feel –although he neither saw nor heard –to feel the presence of my head within the room.

When I had waited a long time, very patiently, without hearing him lie down, I resolved to open a little –a very, very little crevice in the lantern. So I opened it –you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily –until, at length a single dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot from out the crevice and fell full upon the vulture eye.

It was open –wide, wide open –and I grew furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfect distinctness –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 by instinct, precisely upon the damned spot.

And have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over acuteness of the senses? –now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew that sound well, too. It was the beating of the old man’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. I tried how steadily I could maintain the ray upon the eye. Meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart increased. It grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder every instant. The old man’s terror must have been extreme! It grew louder, I say, louder every moment! –do you mark me well? I have told you that I am nervous: so I am. And now at the dead hour of the night, amid the dreadful silence of that 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! I thought the heart must burst. And now a new anxiety seized me –the sound would be heard by a neighbor! The old man’s hour had come! With a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room. He shrieked once –once only. In an instant I dragged him to the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him. I then smiled gaily, to find the deed so far done. But, for many minutes, the heart beat on with a muffled sound. This, however, did not vex me; it would not be heard through the 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 many minutes. There was no pulsation. He was stone dead. His eye would trouble me no more.

If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body. The night waned, and I worked hastily, but in silence. First of all I dismembered the corpse. I cut off the head and the arms and the legs.

I then took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber, and deposited all between the scantlings. I then replaced the boards so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye — not even his –could have detected any thing wrong. There was nothing to wash out –no stain of any kind –no blood-spot whatever. I had been too wary for that. A tub had caught all –ha! ha!

When I had made an end of these labors, it was four o’clock –still dark as midnight. As the bell sounded the hour, there came a knocking at the street door. I went down to open it with a light heart, –for what had I now to fear? There entered three men, who introduced themselves, with perfect suavity, as officers of the police. A shriek had been heard by a neighbor during the night; suspicion of foul play had been aroused; information had been lodged at the police office, and they (the officers) had been deputed to search the premises.

I smiled, –for what had I to fear? I bade the gentlemen welcome. The shriek, I said, was my own in a dream. The old man, I mentioned, was absent in the country. I took my visitors all over the house. I bade them search –search well. I led them, at length, to his chamber. I showed them his treasures, secure, undisturbed. In the enthusiasm of my confidence, I brought chairs into the room, and desired them here to rest from their fatigues, while I myself, in the wild audacity of my perfect triumph, placed my own seat upon the very spot beneath which reposed the corpse of the victim.

The officers were satisfied. My manner had convinced them. I was singularly at ease. They sat, and while I answered cheerily, they chatted of familiar things. But, ere long, I felt myself getting pale and wished them gone. My head ached, and I fancied a ringing in my ears: but still they sat and still chatted. The ringing became more distinct: –it continued and became more distinct: I talked more freely to get rid of the feeling: but it continued and gained definiteness –until, at length, I found that the noise was not within my ears.

No doubt I now grew very pale; –but I talked more fluently, and with a heightened voice. Yet the sound increased –and what could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound –much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath — and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly –more vehemently; but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent   but the noise steadily increased. Why would they not be gone? I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the observations of the men — but the noise steadily increased. Oh God! what could I do? I foamed –I raved –I swore! I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the boards, but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder –louder –louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly, and smiled. Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God! –no, no! They heard! –they suspected! –they knew! –they were making a mockery of my horror! –this I thought, and this I think. But anything was better than this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die! –and now –again! –hark! louder! louder! louder! louder! —

“Villains!” I shrieked, “dissemble no more! I admit the deed! –tear up the planks! –here, here! –it is the beating of his hideous heart!”

______________________________________________________________________________

More from Short Story Sunday

Click on the title to go to the story.

And if you get a chance read or listen to the audio version of The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl (it is one of my favorite books). A fun, romantic, smart book that will transport you back to the 19th century (but without Vampires.) It takes you back to a young man’s search for the real truth behind Poe’s death and on a journey with unique characters you won’t forget.

And because I couldn’t resist…

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Crawl Space

I took off my sweater and handed it to my brother Aaron. There was no way I was going to crawl on my stomach under the crawl space of a house with it on.

“So tell me again why you can’t get the bodies out from under the building first?” I had to ask.

“They’re not quite dead yet and they might attack Austin. He’s human, a Regular Human,” my brother told me. Austin by the way is a Regular Human and sometimes Vampire Hunter and usually just a guy who does a great job restoring old buildings that seem to be filled with scary shit like ghosts and old musty Vampires.

And of course Aaron was wearing a $5,000 suit of course he couldn’t crawl under the house.

“You might know them”, added Austin, meaning the creatures under the house.

I almost gave him a fang filled snarl but I just gave him a weak normal girl smile.

Wearing garden gloves I crawled on my  hands and knees over bare dirt.Even in the dark I could see assorted bugs and cobwebs. Rat droppings were scattered around. Why the crap would any Vampire want to sleep under floor boards?

About 20 feet into it I was the boxes. OK they were coffins.

I thought back of when I was a kid and always the one to crawl under houses and into tight spaces. It wasn’t because I was small. It was because I pretend to be fearless and now it is because I don’t take any bull shit from Shadow Creepers and dusty old Vampires who can’t deal with the modern normal world. We’re not having a Nosferatu and Dracula Hoedown kids, this is the 21st Century.

The lids were on the boxes. I managed to kneel on my knees without banging my head on something and pushed one off. Inside was a male in a pinstripe suit. His face was waxy looking and pale. I noticed sunken cheeks and lips that seemed a little thin. He hadn’t fed in a while. The box next to him contained a female. Skin stretched over her face, a hint of teeth including fangs showed beneath parted lips. Oh come on, all Vampire girls know not to sleep with their fangs exposed. She wore some sort of black dress thing. The scent of rotted roses and cigar smoke came from her box. In the third box…nothing jumped out. It was another male. I recognized the face. His eyes open a bit, yellow green rolls to stare at me. I see recognition in his face; a fact that was once handsome and could be again, but he was so strange, so weirdly in the shadows and cold, not like Vampires I associate with, but like a dead fish.

Then my butt vibrates. My phone. I pull it out. Garrett, my darling 18 year old son is calling from college. I’m a mom. I must answer.

“Hey mom, what do you call two ducks and a cow?”

“What?”

“Quackers and Milk.”

“Good one. What do you call an Englishman, two ducks and a cow?”

“Graham Quackers and Milk. Love you mom.”

I hear a groan from one of the box. I slap slap it hard with my hand and hiss at it. The noise stops.

I keep my eyes on the yellow green orbs that watch me as I talk to my son. He rattles on about classes and girls he knows and sings me a song he wrote. He says he goes to the beach almost every day and is going to go surfing on Sunday. He says it is the perfect college for Vampires. He is so excited about school. My heart melts a little.

Then he asks me what I’m up to.

“I’m under a building with three boxes full Shadow Creeping Vampires. You know me, everyday is Halloween.”

“How’d you end up there?”

“Helping your Uncle Aaron and a friend. Long story, but the short version is that I was the only one wearing jeans and I’m smaller than they are so I got elected.”

Old Green Eyes started to sit up. “I gotta go Garrett. I’ll call you back later today.”

“Love you mom.”

“Love you too sweetie pie.” I looked at my old friend. OK he wasn’t a friend. I’d met him before, a long long time ago. “What are you doing here?” I said trying to keep myself from sneering at him.”You look like a fucking Zombie. What is wrong with you people? Have you lost all self respect?”

“Juliette,” he whispered my name in a dry voice, like old coffee grinds and gravel.

“Jasper. That last time I saw you was…1923, New Orleans. What are you doing here?”

He started to tell me something in French that I couldn’t quite make out when I stopped him. “Listen, you have three choices. The first is that you agree to live like Modern Vampires and stop this nonsense of lurking around like you’ve just come out of some creep show. The second is that I leave you to the Vampire Hunters. The third is that you let one of my friends, and I use that term loosely, take you to San Francisco where you can be with others of your kind. But you can’t stay here. We have enough problems in Sacramento without your kind.”

“My kind?” He opened his eyes wide and showed his fangs.

“That is exactly what I mean, you giving me the evil eye and trying to scare me with your ugly mug. You used to be handsome and well, you were never charming but you used to be, well, not THIS.”

I crawled back into the sunlight which was no cup of tea, believe me. I might spend time during the day but the sunshine, especially after the darkness under a house, always comes as a shock. I pulled out my sunglasses put them on then took a deep breath and brushed off my pants. Filling Aaron and Austin in on the situation I told them that I’d let them decide what to do with Jasper and his friends.

I had to go home and take a shower and scrub my skin off with steel wool, or at least that is how I was feeling. The image of his eyes stuck in my brain like Poe’s Tell Tale Heart story.

“It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me 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. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture –a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees – very gradually –I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.”
― Edgar Allan Poe, The Tell-Tale Heart and Other Writings

His eyes will haunt me for sure. Maybe I’ll check on him in a few months time, out of morbid curiosity. That is, if the Vampire Hunters or other creatures don’t get them first. There are Shadow Creepers who seem so vile, but then there are other Vampires who I don’t even dare name or ever seek out for any reason.

Like I said, Halloween is never far from my reality.

I called Garrett back. He listened to my story. I didn’t make it into some cautionary tale or anything like that. We just talked. He told me that I was the most awesome mom ever.

So anyway, that is what I did today. Halloween is in one week. Oh boy. Time to get a few more pumpkins and watch for things that go bump in the night (like my cats.)

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

vampire girls

Short Story Sunday: Guest Writer Edgar Allen Poe – The Tell Tale Heart

I find myself somewhat out of words… without a Sunday Short Story – so I’m honored to feature a story of terror from dear Eddie Poe. My brother used to read this to me and we would scare ourselves silly!  This story is best when read out loud! So please READ IT ALOUD to your friends and family and anyone you want to totally and completely creep out! 

For more great gothic, horror and romantic fiction with a twist stories go to the bottom of the page for links.

heart

The Tell-Tale Heart

by Edgar Allan Poe
(first published 1850)

poe

TRUE! — nervous — very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses — not destroyed — not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily — how calmly I can tell you the whole story.

It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me 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. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture –a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees — very gradually –I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.

Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded –with what caution –with what foresight –with what dissimulation I went to work! I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him. And every night, about midnight, I turned the latch of his door and opened it –oh so gently! And then, when I had made an opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern, all closed, closed, so that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my head. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in! I moved it slowly –very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old man’s sleep. It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed. Ha! –would a madman have been so wise as this? And then, when my head was well in the room, I undid the lantern cautiously –oh, so cautiously –cautiously (for the hinges creaked) –I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye. And this I did for seven long nights –every night just at midnight –but I found the eye always closed; and so it was impossible to do 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 him by name in a hearty tone, and inquiring how he has passed the night. So you see he would have been a very profound old man, indeed, to suspect that every night, just at twelve, I looked in upon him while he slept.

Upon the eighth night I was more than usually cautious in opening the door. A watch’s minute hand moves more quickly than did mine. Never before that night had I felt the extent of my own powers –of my sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. To think that there I was, opening the door, little by little, and he not even to dream of my secret deeds or thoughts. I fairly chuckled at the idea; and perhaps he heard me; for he moved on the bed suddenly, as if startled. Now you may think that I drew back –but no. His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness, (for the shutters were close fastened, through fear of robbers,) and so I knew that he could not see the opening of the door, and I kept pushing it on steadily, steadily.

I had my head in, and was about to open the lantern, when my thumb slipped upon the tin fastening, and the old man sprang up in 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 the meantime I did not hear him lie down. He was still sitting up in the bed listening; –just as I have done, 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 a groan of pain or of grief –oh, no! –it was the low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul when overcharged with awe. I knew the sound well. Many a night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it has welled up from my own bosom, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me. I say I knew it well. I knew what the old man felt, and pitied him, although I chuckled at heart. I knew that he had been lying awake ever since the first slight noise, when he had turned in the bed. His fears had been ever since growing upon him. He had been trying to fancy them causeless, but could not. He had been saying to himself –“It is nothing but the wind in the chimney –it is only a mouse crossing the floor,” or “It is merely a cricket which has made a single chirp.” Yes, he had been trying to comfort himself with these suppositions: but he had found all in vain. All in vain; because Death, in approaching him had stalked with his black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim. And it was the mournful influence of the unperceived shadow that caused him to feel –although he neither saw nor heard –to feel the presence of my head within the room.

When I had waited a long time, very patiently, without hearing him lie down, I resolved to open a little –a very, very little crevice in the lantern. So I opened it –you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily –until, at length a single dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot from out the crevice and fell full upon the vulture eye.

It was open –wide, wide open –and I grew furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfect distinctness –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 by instinct, precisely upon the damned spot.

And have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over acuteness of the senses? –now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew that sound well, too. It was the beating of the old man’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. I tried how steadily I could maintain the ray upon the eye. Meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart increased. It grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder every instant. The old man’s terror must have been extreme! It grew louder, I say, louder every moment! –do you mark me well? I have told you that I am nervous: so I am. And now at the dead hour of the night, amid the dreadful silence of that 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! I thought the heart must burst. And now a new anxiety seized me –the sound would be heard by a neighbor! The old man’s hour had come! With a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room. He shrieked once –once only. In an instant I dragged him to the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him. I then smiled gaily, to find the deed so far done. But, for many minutes, the heart beat on with a muffled sound. This, however, did not vex me; it would not be heard through the 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 many minutes. There was no pulsation. He was stone dead. His eye would trouble me no more.

If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body. The night waned, and I worked hastily, but in silence. First of all I dismembered the corpse. I cut off the head and the arms and the legs.

I then took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber, and deposited all between the scantlings. I then replaced the boards so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye — not even his –could have detected any thing wrong. There was nothing to wash out –no stain of any kind –no blood-spot whatever. I had been too wary for that. A tub had caught all –ha! ha!

When I had made an end of these labors, it was four o’clock –still dark as midnight. As the bell sounded the hour, there came a knocking at the street door. I went down to open it with a light heart, –for what had I now to fear? There entered three men, who introduced themselves, with perfect suavity, as officers of the police. A shriek had been heard by a neighbor during the night; suspicion of foul play had been aroused; information had been lodged at the police office, and they (the officers) had been deputed to search the premises.

I smiled, –for what had I to fear? I bade the gentlemen welcome. The shriek, I said, was my own in a dream. The old man, I mentioned, was absent in the country. I took my visitors all over the house. I bade them search –search well. I led them, at length, to his chamber. I showed them his treasures, secure, undisturbed. In the enthusiasm of my confidence, I brought chairs into the room, and desired them here to rest from their fatigues, while I myself, in the wild audacity of my perfect triumph, placed my own seat upon the very spot beneath which reposed the corpse of the victim.

The officers were satisfied. My manner had convinced them. I was singularly at ease. They sat, and while I answered cheerily, they chatted of familiar things. But, ere long, I felt myself getting pale and wished them gone. My head ached, and I fancied a ringing in my ears: but still they sat and still chatted. The ringing became more distinct: –it continued and became more distinct: I talked more freely to get rid of the feeling: but it continued and gained definiteness –until, at length, I found that the noise was not within my ears.

No doubt I now grew very pale; –but I talked more fluently, and with a heightened voice. Yet the sound increased –and what could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound –much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath — and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly –more vehemently; but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent   but the noise steadily increased. Why would they not be gone? I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the observations of the men — but the noise steadily increased. Oh God! what could I do? I foamed –I raved –I swore! I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the boards, but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder –louder –louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly, and smiled. Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God! –no, no! They heard! –they suspected! –they knew! –they were making a mockery of my horror! –this I thought, and this I think. But anything was better than this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die! –and now –again! –hark! louder! louder! louder! louder! —

“Villains!” I shrieked, “dissemble no more! I admit the deed! –tear up the planks! –here, here! –it is the beating of his hideous heart!”

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More from Short Story Sunday

Click on the title to go to the story.

And if you get a chance read or listen to the audio version of The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl (it is one of my favorite books). A fun, romantic, smart book that will transport you back to the 19th century (but without Vampires.) It takes you back to a young man’s search for the real truth behind Poe’s death and on a journey with unique characters you won’t forget. Matthew Pearl is did his research with this one. The guy is brilliant. The guy rocks at historic fiction.

And because I couldn’t resist…

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