A Play on "A Tell-Tale Heart"

A Play on "A Tell-Tale Heart"

A Story by Z

This story is based on "A Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe; however it is written in the point of view of one of the police officers. The story starts off with the shriek of the "old man."


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I heard it �" a shriek �" a blood chilling scream of gruelling torture that echoed in my ears and terrified my soul; it was a dreadful sound that groaned through the night but deep down in my heart, I wished that it would be a certain old man.

Now why do I detest this senior so? He is cursed; I say �" cursed �" for he brought death to my four siblings on four different nights. Innocent �" others may call him �" but I do not. Given, these mysterious incidents that killed off my family members one after another seemed to be pure accidents; no matter how hard one searched, there was not a single clue leading to a motive or a culprit behind them. However, on every sombre night of mourning, I would see him �" the old man with his disturbing blue eye that glinted evilly under the moonlight �" at the scenes of crime, where he did nothing but stare upon the tormented motionless bodies of my most beloved ones, almost as if he was stealthily stalking the shadow of death that enveloped my family. My hatred towards this aged mortal was most likely what convinced me to become a police officer, back in the day when I was young, passionate, and aspiring.

Four hours after midnight and less than three quarters of a minute after I started my train of thoughts, I heard the shrill ringing of the antique phone in my office at the police station where I worked. As I walked towards it, I heard the worn-out wooden floorboards creak under my weight and I could feel that something was amiss tonight. As I answered the call, the speaker on the line began talking in a hushed and muffled tone filled with suspicion and fear. This anonymous sir who refused to give his name spoke in a trembling tone of a horrendous howl that came from his neighbour’s house. Being the only jaded team leader at the station at this ghostly hour, it was no surprise that my team �" Rob, a tall arrogant man that never once smiled, and Norman, his mediocre partner who spoke with gravity but laughed at the most unsuitable times like a madman, and I, Johann �" was sent out.

Upon arrival at the address indicated by the anxious caller, I had a sense of unease. I breathed in without trouble, but when I tried to let the air out, the breath caught in my throat. A metallic smell in the air made my nose tingle, but it excited me for some unknown reason. I felt as if the butterflies in my stomach began to tremble and laugh in expectation instead of fear. I wanted to cackle, to roar, and to gale! �" But as the slightest sliver of a sound escaped my dry lips, I swallowed to supress it.

From the vehicle, I observed the untreated stone building with moss growing from cracks in the wall and prickly vines suffocating the mansion. A faint beating noise pounded against my skull and grew in strength until it was so thunderous that I almost groaned aloud. Nonetheless, I proceeded to ring the doorbell of this mysterious structure. A gaunt man opened the heavy metal portal and the hinges creaked, as if whispering dreadful secrets too quiet for the human ear to perceive.

I knew �" the second I lay eyes on him �" that he was a murderer; for there was something spooky or simply “wrong” about that haggard young man, though I could not quite put my finger on it. I looked to one side and saw Rob’s eyes wide open and alert with sweat trickling down his forehead; he could sense strangeness in the air as well. On the other side, Norman cackled under his breath.

Nevertheless, my team and I entered the door and introduced ourselves calmly like we were trained to. “We have been deputed to search the premises as suspicion of foul play has been aroused,” I said sternly. Surprisingly, the man who opened the door agreed to the search and welcomed us inside. Through the candlelight, I could see his face frozen in a frantic grimace.

When we asked for the owner of the house, the youthful servant explained that his master was absent in the country. With remarkable enthusiasm, he showed us around the building vividly describing every room, “…in the living room. This blue couch with its comfortable cushioned seats is an antique and, to the left, there is a cozy fireplace with embers that burn ever so bright. In my master’s bedroom is a stainless steel safe in which he keeps his most prized possessions that even I know not of.”

Ensuing the tedious explanations, the lad offered us seats and drinks; though out of fear of being poisoned, no one took in a sip. He himself sat down precisely four paces away from the fireplace, which no longer seemed so cozy as the swelling blaze reminded me of Hell’s Inferno. 

This fellow was mad, and this madness blinded and deluded him. I was terrified of this madness and the extent to which it may drive the youngster. I did not want to get involved, so I smiled as if I was convinced by his kind demeanour; almost immediately, I could see a few of the many tensions in his shoulders relax.

Just as we were about to leave after a simple chat, the servant began to pale. Cold sweat dripped down from his hairline onto his eyebrows. He stumbled backwards, grabbing the chair to support him. His expression changed from calm, to nervous, to horrified. He spoke too quickly and too vehemently to comprehend and his voice rose five octaves to a shriek! He began gasping and arguing with himself, pacing with heavy strides, raving, roaring, swearing, and finally swinging his chair down towards the floorboards! He turned around and glared at us and screeched at the top of his lungs, “Villains! Dissemble no more! I admit the deed! �" Tear up the planks! Here, here! �" It is the beating of his hideous heart!”

Rob, Norman, and I gaped at him, though none of us were surprised; for we had long ago realized the truth of this case. The young lad was handcuffed and brought to the police station by my colleagues and I alone stayed behind at this dreadful building.

Now, I am afraid the rest of this story is rather dull. Chicanery, there is none. Matter, there is none. I now speak of myself and only that.

In the living room in which the culprit had confessed to his crime, I lowered myself down to the ground and pulled apart the floorboards revealing the body. Oh, how cruel! How vile! How despicable indeed! The limbs were torn apart beyond recognition and the body separated into a dozen pieces. Viscous scarlet liquid pooled on the dark damp earth under the house. Mortal terror and shock twisted the deceased face with its eyes and mouth wide open!

My vision blurred and I felt faint. Blood rushed to my head and my eyeballs rolled back revealing the white sclera. My heart pounded in my ears, but a deep raspy guffaw welled in my chest. As I regained clarity in vision, I recognized the face. It was the old man! The bedevilled old man with the eerie eye who tainted my innocent charitable mind and replaced my feelings of love with those of retribution!

Suddenly, I felt sympathy towards the criminal. I understood his apprehension of the old man and I was thankful that he had done the deed that I was never able to do. I pitied him as well, as I imagined the road that lies in front of him: a lifetime of imprisonment or death by a lethal injection of potassium nitrate.

My breathing slowed to four breaths per minute and I felt a certainty and satisfaction with this world. At last! �" My mind was at peace; but at the same time, the world abruptly paled in colour before my eyes. I became stultified, fatigued, and spiritless. I lost interest and desire in life and I felt as if I had lived for ever and a day. I had no sense of self, as if I was peering at the world through another man’s eyes. My hand travelled down my limp body and it touched the wooden floor, landing on a glutinous wet substance. It swished from right to left until it contacted a sharp silver blade. It moved towards my wrist, towards my chest, and towards my neck, and stabbed inwards. I felt the most bizarre and pleasurable sensation as warmness bloomed across my body like a flower in spring or like a butterfly piercing out of a cocoon.

Pain! Sudden, unexpected pain attacks me! Shadows danced before my eyes and I knew that I was dying! Vulnerability overcame my remaining snippets of strength and I fell into a  darkness so deep and so dreadful, that not even a strand of spider’s web remained to guide my path. As I opened my eyes for one last time, I glanced at the bleak living room of this ominous house and I realized: the murderer was not mad nor was the old man cursed �" no �" it was the house! The house drove us insane!

© 2015 Z

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Added on November 5, 2015
Last Updated on November 13, 2015
Tags: Horror, crime, rewrite



Richmond, British Columbia, Canada

Bystander Bystander

A Story by Z