Saturday, December 27, 2008

Hideous Heart

It was a low, dull, quick sound – much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton.
- “The Tell-Tale Heart” by E.A. Poe

I know many things about the man who will soon kill me. I know he fears my left eye with its watery film. Each night when he thinks I’m asleep, he cracks open my door and puts his head into my room. The single spider-thread of his lantern’s beam searches for that eye. But I close it tight, and he can’t see it, can’t bring himself to murder. Of course I am scared, so scared I can’t breathe. If I weren't so weak I’d leave. But I can hear his breath in the hall like a winter wind through a filthy alley, and I know he’s terrified too. His own heart must be pounding like mine, only stronger of course.
I know how he will dispose of me when my last night comes. Each morning he arrives to greet me cheerily, and chat about whether I’ve rested, and he gazes idly about the room to this spot and to that, as if all of it and none of it matter equally to him. But he always stands in the same place, the one place where he does not look, which is the loose board over a hollow space beneath my floor.
I know he can hear acutely. Whatever disease he has has sharpened his senses to an unbearable edge. He starts at the sound of beetles in the wall or a single cough from the street outside. And I know he’ll notice that small clock, which I wind each evening before bed and bury beneath the linens in my dresser’s bottom drawer.

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