Today is Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday. To “celebrate,” here’s the sequel to one of his best-known tales of terror, which appeared in my newsletter in October.
“The Tell Tale Heart II: Aftermath”
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!”
The three officers all stared at me. “I beg your pardon?” asked the first.
“It is…” I trailed off, realizing I’d made a severe tactical error. “Sorry. It’s been a long day. What were we talking about again?”
“Did you say it’s the beating of his hideous heart?” asked the second officer.
I violently shook my head. “Oh, no, no, no. You can’t hear somebody’s heart when they’re buried under the floorboards. That would be ridiculous. My ears are good, but they’re not that good. Anyway, if he were buried under the floorboards, he’d be dead, and he’s not dead, he’s away in the country, as I said earlier in our conversation.”
“Then what did you say?”
“I said…it’s the…bleating…of his…piteous…chart. It’s the bleating of his piteous chart.”
The third officer frowned. “That’s a perplexing thing to say.”
“I know. But please do not think that I am mad.”
“Why did you ask us to tear up the planks?”
“I don’t remember saying that.”
“You said, ‘Villains, dissemble no more! I admit the deed! –tear up the planks! here, here! –It is the bleating of his piteous chart!’”
“Right, right,” I said. “I admit that I’ve been careless with the maintenance of this home, and the floorboards have warped most badly. I slept fitfully last night, and so I briefly forgot that you were police officers and confused you with home improvement professionals, who would tear up the planks and replace them with straighter ones.”
“Being careless about the upkeep of your home isn’t what I would call a ‘deed,’” said the first officer. “It’s more like an ongoing state.”
“I agree with my associate,” said the second officer. “And why would you call them villains? They’re providing a necessary service. If I was here to replace your floor and you insulted me before I even got started, why, I’d march right back out the door.”
“I’m not going to lie,” said the third officer. “I think you murdered the old man, chopped him up, buried him under the floorboards, and then thought you heard the sound of his beating heart.”
“Ha ha ha,” I chuckled. “How could such a preposterous scenario even enter your mind?”
“Well, you’re clearly a whack-a-doodle. I bet you killed him because he had a weird ear or a weird nose or a weird eyebrow or something.”
“Liar!” I shouted. “I did no such insane psychotic thing! Vacate my home at once!”
“Actually,” said the first officer, “now that you mention it, I did hear the sound of a heart beating before his outburst. I didn’t think much about it at the time.”
“Me too,” said the second officer. “I just figured he had a metronome.”
“I did hear a thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump,” said the third officer. “I assumed it was all in my head.”
Everybody looked at the spot underneath my chair.
“Oh, yeah,” said the first officer. “There’s totally a heartbeat coming from under there.”
“I admit the deed!” I shouted.
“We were totally making that up to see what you’d do,” said the first officer.
“Fudge!” I said.
The officers pried up the floorboards and removed the chunks of the old man. The first officer looked at his severed head and recoiled.
“Look at his eye! It’s a pale blue eye with a film over it—the eye of a vulture! It’s making my blood run cold!”
“That’s the worst eye I’ve ever seen,” said the second officer. “How could you stand to be around him with that thing looking at you all the time?”
The third officer choked back some bile before he spoke. “I would absolutely murder an old man who had an eye like that. That’s just plain wrong. It’s like it’s following me around.” He shuddered.
“I think we’re done here,” said the first officer. “It’s safe enough to say that you won’t claim any other victims, because nobody else’s eye could be that messed up. Just try to keep the noise level down so we don’t have to come back, okay?”
“Okay,” I said.
The police officers left. That encounter would’ve gone better if I hadn’t confessed to murder, but still, it worked out okay in the end. So, dammit, stop saying that I am mad!
Copyright 2019 by Jeff Strand.