A Retelling of “The Tell-Tale Heart” (First installment)

It is unusual to get such a quick rejection on a piece. It appears that I read the guidelines wrong, and they only wanted retellings of “The Black Cat“. Unfortunately, without the backdrop of a contest, this borders on plagiarism. While I am not trying to pass it off as my own, I also used the dramatic final line Poe wrote rather than my own. I also feel it is very good. As such, I will post it here for my readers’ enjoyment in three installments. This makes reading easier on your busy schedule. Be sure to like and share if you feel others would enjoy this.

I (Vivandi Script, MS Office))
Read the original story “The Tell-Tale Heart”.

owe my present condition, for better and worse, to a madman. He was a normal young man at first, and I depended upon him to help me with my daily needs. I was never unkind to the boy, and I paid him well for the services he provided. At first, he was almost as the son I never had, but there came a gradual change in his demeanor. I was unwilling to admit the truth at first, and told myself it must be the paranoid fancy of an aging mind.

As the months went on, my lodger’s use of smelling powders and that cursed green liquor grew quite alarming. At length, he had taken to staring at me when he thought I was not looking. The young always assume the old are as feeble in mind as they are in body. Not so! For my mind was much sharper in my last few years than it had been in my youth.

I was afflicted with blindness in one eye in my fading years, and it was clear that my lodger found the matter increasingly unsettling. What drug-induced fantasies he held, I know not. It was clear that he thought the eye more than useless. He would often shudder as his sanity slipped, and leave the room if I turned upon him the wrong way.

My lodger had become recluse, and saw me only when duty required. With the knowing wisdom of the old, I was assured he was slipping into madness. At times, I would find him sitting in our drawing room staring. What horrid fantasies he imagined I cannot know, but his actions began to unnerve me. It length, I decided I must confront him.

“What are you doing?” I yelled crossly. I fear that my reaction may have made matters worse, but I was truly alarmed at his slipping sanity.

“There is a mouse in the wall,” he said absently. “I can hear its feet scraping as it climbs.”

“Nonsense. I would have seen droppings. We have no vermin in this house,” I scolded him like a child. I saw then the knife in his hand, and asked, “Why do you have my kitchen knife?”

“I mean to impale the horrid creature when it dares to show its head,” he said with a smile that made my blood run cold. He looked as if he wanted to say more, but he suddenly shuddered when he looked at me. Gazing directly at my unseeing eye, he dropped the knife and backed from the room.

His horrors and madness did not manifest only in the daytime. At night, I would hear him awake screaming. I would hear the shuffling of his feet, or the moving of furniture. I assume he was blocking the door to his room to keep his imagined horrors away. This unnerved me, but his room was always in the same, clean and orderly state in the morning. Upon seeing his well-kept dwelling, I would convince myself that it was simply the nightmares of an intoxicated but otherwise normal man. However, each night I feared that he would find the surcease of his madness at the cost of my blood.

In the weeks before my brutal murder, I watched for nearly an hour—though I cleverly pretended to be ignorant of his actions under the guise of reading some book—as he gazed at the clock. I could see a great malice in his eyes as if the machine’s steady tick-tocking was a personal injury to him. In one hand, he had a vile of that horrid, green liquor which I blame for his madness. With the other hand, he tapped his finger in time to the clock. His breathing seemed labored and rapid as if he saw some hideous evil taunting him in the inevitable sounds and movements of the great timepiece. I do not think he knew that his hand was moving, and it began to annoy me after a time.

I fear my reaction was disproportionate to his crime, but I veritably yelled at him, “Stop that infernal tapping!”

For a second, he paused, and turned to gaze at my chest. I thought he was simply avoiding my blinded eye that seemed to give him horrid fantasies until he began to tap his finger once again. It was out of time with the clock, and I wondered what his actions meant. With near-crippling fear, I realized he must be trying to copy the beating of my heart. Although I told myself this was simply his insanity wearing off on me, my heart raced all the more. I could hear it pounding now in my ears, and the tapping of his finger matched its time. A smile of pure evil spread on his face, and it was I who left the room fearfully.

That night, my lodger did not repeat his normal night terrors. He appeared to have slept quietly, though I tossed and turned. When morning came, he greeted me joyfully as if we were old friends, and as if his madness was an imagined fantasy. For a moment, I was hopeful that he had given up his powders and drink, and his insanity would therefore vanish.


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