I had originally planned to present this story at Toastmasters (a club to practice public speaking) last October but I was so busy at the time that I couldn’t get it written in time. It’s my take on one of my favorite Edgar Allen Poe’s short-stories which I think it was perfect for Halloween.
Oh well, better late than never.
The objective of this speech project is to interpret a story in my own words.
Without further ado, here is my version of Edgar Allen Poe’s Tell Tale Heart (wish me luck at presenting this story):
Okay, I’ll admit it. I have been nervous, not just nervous, dreadfully nervous. You might ask, “what is there to be nervous about?” Unless you’re crazy, of course.
Oh no, of course I’m not crazy, why would you even think of calling me crazy?
I’m merely someone with a disease, a disease that has sharpened my senses. I can hear things; things others can’t hear. I can hear all things heaven and earth as well as quite a few things in hell. But I am not crazy, and I shall prove to you through the telling of this intriguing tale.
I do not know how or when the idea was conceived but once it was hatched, it haunted me day and night. It’s easy, my mind told me, just do it and you’ll feel at ease once the task is done.
It was a task, all right, nothing but a task. No object. No passion. Believe me, I never wished to harm the old man. I love the old man, loved him from the very first day. He had been good to me, never given any insult and truly, I have no wish for his gold. He was simply seeking company when he hired me and so was I.
But that eye – that hideous, vicious blue eye. It made my blood run cold whenever its gaze fell upon me and it was the eye that made up my mind.
One week before the task was carried out, every night at midnight, I turned the latch of the old man’s door and opened it. Slowly and cautiously, I opened the door. When the opening was wide enough, I thrust in my head.
Slowly and cautiously, inch by inch, I made sure the old man was not disturbed.
An hour later, I succeeded. I could finally put my whole head within the opening.
Carefully, I opened my dark lantern, allowing the dimmest ray of light to fill the corridor. Through the dim light, I saw the old man, asleep on his bed, the evil eye shut.
I repeated for the next seven nights, hoping to find the evil eye open so I could carry out task for it was the eye that was making me do these things, but it was never open. Damn, I thought as fury crept upward from the pit of my stomach.
To ensure the old man was oblivious to my night activities, I always spoke courageously to him the following morning, inquiring how he had passed the night.
On the eighth night, disaster struck. As I had done in the previous seven nights, I opened the door and cautiously thrust my head into the room. I pursued my movement more cautiously on this very night, slowing my movement to the point that the watch’s minute hand moved faster than me.
At my sense of giddy and triumph, an unexpected sound came from my lips and then I heard the dreaded whine of the old man’s bed-springs. “Who’s there?” The old man shouted, springing up from the bed.
At that, I stilled myself and remained that way for the next hour, waiting for the sign of movement the old man was returning to his slumber. It never happened. A slight groan sounded from the room causing immediate pity to rise from my throat. It was not a groan of pain or grief. No, it was a groan of fear.
“It’s nothing but the wind in the chimney.” The old man comforted himself. “It’s only a mouse crossing the floor.”
Unfortunately, in that very moment, all the comfort in the world would not had done him any good for his death was quickly approaching.
A very long time later, I opened a tiny crevice in my lantern to allow the dim light to fill the room. In the dim light, the old man turned to me, his vulture-like evil eye wide-open and in that moment, fury flood through me. In that moment, I saw nothing but the eye with perfect distinctness – the dull blue with the hideous veil that brought ice to my bones. I couldn’t see the old man’s surprised, frightened face. I couldn’t see him sitting there on the bed, scared and defenseless. No, I only saw the eye.
As my fury grew, my hearing became more acute and along came a low, dull, quick sound, like the sound a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. It was the sound of the old man’s beating heart and it was signaling me to continue onward with my task.
Yet, I remained where I was, staring at the old man’s eye, motionless, while the sound of the heart beat increased.
Louder, louder, louder.
At one point, I was so sure the heart was going to burst. At last, the hour has come. With a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room. The old man shrieked once as I advanced, dragging him to the floor and pulling the bed over him. For the next minute, all I heard was the heartbeat and the muffled scream of the old man.
At long last, the deed was done. The old man was dead. I removed the bed and examined the corpse. Oh, he’s dead, all right, stone dead.
Sometime later, a knock sounded at the door, startling me. I checked the time. Who could it be at 4 AM? I had spent the last hour working silently and hastily, cleverly hiding the old man’s dismembered corpse beneath the floor of his chamber.
I allowed three men into the house, each introduced as a police officer. “A neighbor reported a shriek coming from this residence.” One of them said.
“Oh,” I responded, speaking in a calm voice with a hint of embarrassment, explaining the shriek was merely my reaction to a dream. I led them all over the house, informing them the old man was out of the country. I even allowed them to search for I had nothing to hide nor fear since I did the job so cleanly and efficiently. I even led them to the old man’s chamber, letting the officers rest on the chairs I had brought into the room.
The officers were satisfied. My manner had convinced them. I had answered their questions and chatted pleasantly with them.
It wasn’t long before I wished them gone. I could feel a headache coming on and there was a ringing in my ears.
Louder, louder, it grew.
The sound was no doubt the same as before – low, dull, and quick, like the sound the watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped but the officers didn’t seem to hear me. I began to speak in a clipped tone with more emotion as the noise rose steadily.
Louder, louder, louder.
Still, the men chatted and smiled. Was it possible they didn’t hear it? No, they heard it. They knew and were making a mockery of my horror.
Louder, louder, louder.
I could bear it no longer. I would rather scream or die. Anything was better than this.
“All right!” I screamed. “No more pretending! I admit the deed! Tear up the planks! Here, here! It’s the beating of his hideous heart!”