In Poe's origianl story Montresor uses a Cask of Amontillado to lure his traitorous enemy to his home and walls him in. This story, written and recorded by our own Michael R. Helgens carries on the tale in the style of Poe. We hope you enjoy it.
Copyright 2014 Michael R. Helgens & Media Adventures Publishing
I have been now countless hours in the dark. The walls already unfortunately near have, with the help of my unencumbered imagination, grown closer still. My breathing slows as I feel the coarse stone press against my sides. The air thick with dust and dampened by the heat and closeness of the place leaves me to endure a sensation not unlike slowly drowning.
The quality of the darkness is such that I see only imagined phantoms flitting across my vision as my eyes dart from one extreme to the other, left to right and then back again like the pendulum of the clock which must somewhere be counting those moments which remain until I am slated to die. I strain to see more in the perfect darkness, but my reward is a pain that first presses against my eyes and then moves along to caress every gentle valley and ridge that my brain has to offer. My skull is racked by the throbbing pain that is, at present, my only means for marking the passage of time.
I scream first using words to cut through the dark and my fear. My screaming only strengthens the pounding of the blood against my brain. My voice grows horse and then fails me altogether thus rendering me silent. Now the silence has become unbearable. True silence is never as silent as we are led to believe. This silence, as others I have briefly endured, began as a ringing in my ears—like a fine bell unfettered by the limitations of regular sound and allowed to resonate its singular, clear, maddening note without ceasing. The ringing of the bell grows louder—soon the silence overcomes and deafens beyond the hope of hearing even so much as your own breath or some lessor thoughts.
This then has become my existence. I am tortured by the ever tolling bell that rings for me and me alone in a world where my only companions are the shapes in the unfathomable darkness created by my tormented brain’s attempt to give meaning to the lack of all light.
I try to control my breath—I may not have access to an unlimited supply—but the interminable tolling of that aforementioned bell prevents me from hearing even that sound which would serve as a comfort in this place. I must be breathing for I am thinking and alive, but the air outside of me is the same temperature as that inside and so I do not even feel it enter my nostrils. The only method I have to assure myself that I am breathing is the constriction that I feel as my chest fills with air and presses against the walls which are seemingly ever closer in their proximity.
My prolonged agony is only made more bearable by those precious few moments when my body, overcome by my predicament, has allowed me to pass into unconsciousness. These islands of respite are, in so much as I can tell, only brief sojourns into the land of the dreaming and are made wholly unbearable by my displeasure at finding my course unchanged upon waking. Perhaps worse, I grow unaware of how long I have been in my prison, but each time I awake I grow hungrier than the last.
I have become, in fact, so hungry that a pain in my stomach makes it clear to me that I am in great peril if I continue to do nothing. At some length—and upon discovering that the pain would not allow me to enjoy the continued respite offered by sleep—I begin to ponder how I might assuage this most base desire. With some effort I maneuver my hand so that it is near to my mouth. My lips and mouth are dry like parchment from my earlier efforts to call for help, but with some minor cries of pain I am able to part my lips and, like an infant, thrust my thumb into my eager mouth.
This present endeavor would have one of two outcomes. I would be sated or I would fall victim to the pain I was about to inflict. If the former then perhaps I would be allowed some measure of sleep if the latter then it would be a time of blessed oblivion as, due to a loss of my vital fluids, I would meet the end that someone had clearly designed for me, at this point in my life, to endure. For me, either option represents a parting from my current pains, if not an end to my experience, and so I resolve to proceed.
I gnash my teeth together with reckless abandon and felt, as they first dig into my skin with the effect and force of a serving spoon used to open a tunnel to freedom, a pain that was simultaneously unbearable and necessary. My cries of pain cut through the sound of the ever ringing bell. The pain brings with it new images of stinging white shapes that explode behind my tightly clenched eyelids. Still I grind my teeth until they find purchase and the first salty sweet rivulets trickle along my tongue. I bite more fiercely now in my frenzy to quench my now barely dulled thirst. My heart serves as a willing accomplice and soon I stop to drink—my own life fluid fills my mouth and throat. It is not a completely unpleasant experience. I drink until my blood begins to clot and bite down to get more until I have had my fill.
I am pleased to find that my efforts have renewed my vigor, and with my stomach struggling to digest itself, I dig in again with my teeth and cry out with anguish and triumph as a large strip of flesh comes loose in my mouth. I pull the remnant of the extremity from my mouth and chew eagerly on my own gristle until it can be chewed no more and let it fall into my throat and, with a small effort, send it to join the meager contents of my stomach. I consider another bite, but I find that I am now exhausted from the effort. I thrust my thumb back into my mouth and gently lap at the freshly flowing blood that is the result of my most recent success. I sleep comforted by the subtle metallic tang that means I remain alive.
When I wake again I fight the urge to vomit that will undo all that I have fought to do. The hunger has returned along with a different pain that is surely the product of my efforts to recycle my own body into sustenance. I would need to eat again soon to survive. If I dwell too long on my methods I may be rendered unable to repeat them and so I once again bring my thumb to my mouth and pause only briefly to reaffirm my intent to stay alive. I gnash down again with my teeth and angrily scream as I whip my head from side to side opening new wounds and tearing away massive portions of the appendage. I swallowed some at first, but then thought better of consuming all of the meal at once. I spit out a large portion into my hand and work my teeth until I remove the rest of the flesh to the bone. The pain is unendurable and I stop several times as I lose my grip on consciousness from the pain or simply because I cannot bring myself to do more harm than has already been done. I drink deeply while I am awake so that little of my blood is wasted and when I am finished I press my hand against my side to reduce the flow while I fight to stay awake.
With my unmarred hand I examine the meager quantity of flesh which I have piled on my chest. There is enough for one mouthful, but if I ration the remains I might not have to start on my next finger for a goodly amount of time. My body needs time to renew itself and recover from my self-inflicted efforts to stay alive. Sleep would be welcome, but I fight to remain awake until I am sure that my hand has stopped bleeding. I feel along my side with my free hand. The stone beneath me is sopping wet with my blood. Though I resist, I cannot help but pass into a state of unconsciousness.
I eat again the next time I wake—half of the cold wet mound from my chest serves to stop my stomach from roiling. I press my wounded hand against my lips and find that it is cold. I cannot otherwise feel the appendage. Tearing away my next meal will be easier.
My head still aches and I briefly entertain thoughts of chewing on the loose flesh that fills my cheeks to see if I can affect a state of numbness to slow the dull relentless throbbing, but I decide against that course of action. I run the fingers of my good hand along the bone that protrudes from the place where my thumb once was. It is still wet with blood, but coarse and cold like the stone around me.
I call out again for help when I discover that my voice, though quite raspy, has returned—none was given. Though I could not with any certainty say how long this continued, the rest of my imprisonment was carried out in much the same manner. I consumed the remaining flesh of my left hand and made a neat pile of the bones that did not remain attached. I laughed more than I screamed now.
I try to remember what my life had been before I woke in darkness, but find that I cannot. Had I been a farmer, a bread maker, a butcher (given my taste for raw meat I thought this the best possibility) or perhaps a lawyer or minister? I could with no more certainty give you my profession than I could tell you what was the cause and sequence of events that brought me to this place, but I still try and in so doing I manage to maintain some of my sense. I can feel it slipping from me; however, soon it will leave me altogether.
My forearm burns where I have torn away the last of the flesh from my hand. My blood gushes more freely now, but I do my best to staunch the flow and fight to stay awake. I think the pain is there to keep me from going on, to warn me away, but eventually, and by degrees, I again grow hungry.