Day 6 – Dean Knight Has A Tell-Tale Heart


Tell the story of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” from the old man’s point of view–after his murder. 


This prompt was supplied by Dean Knight, the Education Coordinator of the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia. You can find out more about the museum here:  www.poemuseum.org 

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Leave a comment to let us know what you wrote about today, and how it went!

27 thoughts on “Day 6 – Dean Knight Has A Tell-Tale Heart”

  1. I had fun with this one. I turned the situation on it’s head and I had the old man ‘ playing ‘ with the nerves if the killer. Even at the end he had the last laugh by feigning death the freaking out the killer.
    987 words

  2. This ended up a *very* quick and *very* rough 400-word piece. Nothing all that special, but nice enough.
    I decided to go with Guillermo del Toro’s idea of a ghost as a preserved pattern or memory more so than a spirit who’s decided to stick around after death. As such, the story ended up being about the old man, trapped listening to his racing heart forever and ever, never quite knowing what’s happened to him. In the end, though he’s gotten his revenge, he remains unaware. His memories fade and his heartbeat grows to be all that he can hear.

  3. This was satisfying to me. Flash Fiction, 403 words. The old man was aware. He thought the young man plagued and mad, who thought to be clever. Even a milky eye perceives the difference between a lantern light and dark. Fool! Death brought relief. A release. The groan, not mortal terror. The weight of the bed-frame. A blessing from the rigours of life. Weightless, adrift. Watching. A wretched, plagued man arrested.

  4. I began by reading Edgar Alan Poe’s story because I was not familiar with it. It was fascinating and intriguing.
    It inspired me to be brave and I wrote an outline of a possible story from the POV of the person who had died. I wrote 450 words.
    It was, for me, a step into a different type of story. A good and a valuable experience.

    1. Confession time: when this prompt first came up I realized I only really knew this story from the Simpsons parody… 😉

  5. This was interesting. I ended up with a 500 word piece and the murderer wasn’t hearing the heart beating, but his victim’s ghost stomping on the floor. 🙂

  6. Around 700 words about how the victim’s abusive father (who had a condition similar to the murderer) blinded the eye. But revenge was the child’s. This was fun and scary to write.

  7. I’ve been enjoying the story a day prompts. Have some good material that I can mold into larger works ranging from comic all the way to the surreal. This is my first comment with my work. Had fun with the Poe related prompt.

    A bright light. A bright light had seized me. And the last image I saw in my final moments as I walked towards that great shining beacon, was of darkness and, that horrible dreadful laugh piercing me on all sides. I was fallen, my paranoia came to claim me at last, for I had sensed this end for many a night, felt a watchful eye for many a sleep, and finally I had succumbed to a terror that I had convinced myself was only in my mind. It was folly to believe such notions. The terror had been under my very nose, living under my very roof, yet I did not have the foresight to predict such an action, not from him.
    Nor could I have predicted the false dawn that was the bright light itself. For it was no salvation, no gateway through to the other side, and no grand calling from God on high. It was simply my introduction to purgatory. For I was still there, in my very chambers, at the scene of the crime, watching. Observing my murderer finish his work. Crying out for any kind of mercy as he dismembered my body piece by piece, arm by arm, leg by leg, and finally the head. He then disposed of seventy-five years of my life under my very floorboards, as if I was nothing but human waste.
    A knock came, a late knock. My murder seemed not bothered by the lateness of the hour and skipped out of the room as light hearted and chipper as if strolling on a summer’s day. I followed like a dark shadow.
    It was the police. Yes, of course the police would come. As I recall I did let an almighty roar upon my murder’s entrance to my chambers. Perhaps a neighbour heard my cries of anguish and informed them? Yes, justice had come calling for my assailant, much sooner than he had expected, yet he seemed not to have a care in the world, and here he was on the precipice of discovery. In fact, he smiled, and lead them through the house. So brazen was he to not only to commit such a heinous crime, but now he sauntered around my deathbed as if to mock not only my mind, spirit and body but that of the men who are my only hope for salvation, for peace, and for justice. His arrogance reached such a plateau that he placed his chair over my final resting place as they interrogated, to no avail.
    He told lie after lie with the ease of a serpent about my whereabouts until I could take no more.
    ‘Liar,’ I screamed. ‘Liar’ I repeated, ‘Liar,’ I shouted over and over again until the most remarkable, and unexpected thing occurred. He heard me. He glanced in my direction, as if he could see me, as if he was looking right at me. His confidence was shaken. Was there still a part for me to play? Could I really have been a factor in my own murder investigation from the beyond? I was about to find out. What had I to lose? If the police were so short sighted to be taken in by this man’s depraved nonchalance, then I had no other recourse but to provide my own justice.
    ‘Liar,’ I said again. I drew closer to my assailant, sweat was already materialising on his brow. I didn’t see the same confidence. I stood behind him, I too, now stood over the very spot of which my mutilated corpse lay uneasy.
    ‘Murderer,’ I whispered into his ear. It seemed to produce a remarkable effect, as his voice became more shaken and heightened, his lies beginning to unravel.
    ‘Murderer, ‘I said again and again and again, louder, bolder, nastier, as if every time he heard the word, the truth would unravel his mind like poison.
    So taken was he by my ghostly accusations, that he next stood from his chair and began to speak faster, and with violent gesticulations as if to ward off my voice from beyond the grave. I, like my murderer gave no surcease. And long did I continue to persecute his mind that he went so far as to fling his chair and scrape it across the boards where I stood, and my body lay, and with one last shriek, confessed to his misdeeds and ripped the boards which had perfectly concealed my decomposing corpse. Indeed, I had torn him down, just as he had done to that alien body that lurked underneath my chamber floor.

  8. I thought I wasn’t going to have anything to write about this prompt — was going to substitute rewriting a scene from my work-in-progress from a secondary character’s point of view to at least make use of the change in POV that the prompt called for. Instead, I started with a handful of 6-word stories from the old man’s post-murder pov, which led to a couple of opening lines. And before I knew it, the insistent thump-thump of the beating heart had become the engine for a two-page short story. Loving how this StoryADay challenge gets my creative juices flowing!

    1. I am a big Poe fan so this prompt was wonderful. However, I was more interested in the relationship between the boarder and the old man before the murder from the old man’s pov. Below is an excerpt in 3rd person which I may change to first person later (or not). Just happy to finally be writing again. So much fun; I actually wrote over 1000 words.

      The boarder was kind and seemed to love him; at dinner he would often select the choicest pieces of meat for the old man to eat without injury to his decayed teeth; ones that were easy to chew and swallow. He’d pour wine for them both and drink noisily while telling him about his life in the big city. They were tales that the old man drank down — as thirsty for them as for the red wine in his glass. But at some point during the dinner, the enjoyment would fade from the boarder’s face and rigid lines would set on either side of his mouth. All lighthearted conversation would end. His gaze would narrow and a look of hatred would pierce their conversation as he stared at the old man until he became frightened and spilled his wine on the table or had a coughing fit to disguise his shaking hands. At that moment, he did not know the man anymore; they had nothing in common and none of the stories excited him. He thought often of asking him to leave. But he doubted the boarder would leave unless he felt it was time to do so. So the old man lived for those moments when they were at ease and the joy between them was palpable until the man inevitably lean close to the old man’s face and pulsed with anger. The old man feared for his safety and began to find excuses to avoid eating and drinking with the man. One day during another strange dinner, the man jabbed a finger towards the old man’s eye.
      “Why don’t you pluck that damn thing out?” he asked.
      ‘Why should I pluck it out? It doesn’t bother me,’ the old man said.
      ‘Well, it bothers me,’ the boarder snarled and pushed himself away from the table knocking over his chair and stalked off.

    2. I LOVE how you found your way into this story. What a great exercise.

      And yes, isn’t it amazing how a challenge can reveal more creativity than you believed you had?

      Keep up the good work!

  9. 1,000 words today coming with the adrenaline from Dean Knight’s prompt. Wondering about what person my protagonist is trying to find to explain more of the mystery he is pursuing. A new character who emerged from Day 5’s porthole prompt takes a larger role in the story and surprises the protagonist at what she found that had been right under his nose, which, by the way, is loving the smell of her perfume. Thank you, Julie and Mr. Knight. I feel driven to write everyday now to see how this all ends.

  10. Intriguing–I ended up writing a flash fiction story combining ideas from a few different Poe stories.

    1. That would be so fun, especially for a Poe fan to read.

      I rewatched the Agatha Christie episode of Doctor Who recently, and the episode’s writers have confessed to having a contest to see who could get the most Agatha Christie titles into the characters’ dialogue. It does make for some silly moments, but it is a silly episode anyway, and it’s fun for a fan. I know I missed a lot of them…

  11. Bang, Bang, Bang

    Where am I? This is not Heaven. Even I know that. Otherwise, I’d see St. Peter smiling at me, hear pretty, blonde angels singing, and smell roses blooming.

    This is not Hell, either. I see no devilish creatures, hear no tortuous screams, and smell no searing flesh.

    I must be in Purgatory. It’s not as bad as I expected, close quarters though, and stuffy in here. The walls are made of something bumpy and malodourous. Dare I touch a wall? Touch, touch. It feels mushy. Poke, poke. The wall bounces back like a marshmallow. Punch, punch. This feels good, like hitting a punching bag! Punch harder. Punch more quickly. Bang, bang. Somebody is knocking on the other side of the wall. It’s getting louder. Bang, bang, bang. It stopped.

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