Okay, so this was a project for English class, and it struck me how much it would make a good fanfiction. It was supposed to be an alternate ending to that standard High School short story "The Lady or the Tiger?", but I took it in a much different direction, as you will see shortly. Because my English teacher absolutely LOVES Poe, the first story we read in our short story unit was "The Cask of Amontillado." To this day, it firmly remains one of my favorite short stories ever. Enjoy the story!
The young man slowly opened the door. Not a soul said a word, so captivated was the crowd, as the doorway crept open, bit by bit. And then…
Darkness. Nothing. Not a sound. Confused, the young man turned towards the king and his daughter. The daughter looked at her beloved as if to tell him to wait, and wait he did – until an ominous growling noise made him stop waiting and glance backwards.
There stood the tiger, in all his ferocity, twitching his tail like a switch. It bared its yellow teeth at the terrified young man, who had not an instant to move before the deadly cat pounced. The iron bells tolled, the tiger's teeth sank into his flesh…
Montresor woke with a start, panting and sweating as if he had just been running a race. He carefully scrutinized his bedroom, scanning it with his eyes. It had only been a dream. A phantasm caused by going to bed too late at night. Or was it something else?
No. Fortunato was dead now. There was nothing to worry about. He had finally succeeded.
Guilt, it had been said, often came back to haunt the guilty party. And who was the guilty party here?
No! Montresor thought, shaking the thought from his head. No. I refuse to let this bother me. It's over and done with. Still, all the same, it would be better if he checked before he settled back into sleep.
He lit the candle near his bed and made to check behind his bedroom door. Nothing. The closet showed no intruder, and neither did underneath the bed.
How appropriate it would be, he thought. A monster underneath a bed. Satisfied, Montresor smirked to himself and settled into bed.
A few moments later, he thought he saw something move in his window curtains. It had begun to storm. Lightning flashed, and in that bit of bright light, he thought he saw something skulking behind the opaque curtains – a shadow.
Montresor's heart quickened and he lay stock still in his bed. The shadow did nothing. Could it be…?
NO! He cannot come back, you fool! Montresor thought to himself. Fortunato is dead, DEAD! You heard the silence as the last brick was placed, you heard it!
But he had not seen the actual time of death occur. He saw Fortunato struggle to free himself, yes, but nothing more than that. He had assumed that Fortunato had been strangled by one of the chains, or that he had simply overworked his body from fear, both plausible causes of death. But he still wasn't able to ascertain the cause.
Still, even if it wasn't the ghost of his enemy, he'd have to play it safe. Montresor closed his eyes and turned over in bed, sincerely hoping that his ruse would work.
"I can see you, you know." Montresor fought the urge not to cry out. He knew that voice. Fortunato really had come back from the dead! Montresor sat up in bed, holding the candle in one trembling hand.
"Leave me alone!" he yelled. "Phantom or no, I will not allow you to harass me again!"
Fortunato chuckled and stepped out from behind the curtains. His clothes were a torn, wet mess; his face paint had streaked from the rain. "Honestly, old friend, did you really think that you could be rid of me so easily?"
Montresor didn't say a word. He glanced quickly from Fortunato to the dagger on his bedside table. Maybe he still could defend himself.
"I escaped those chains, Montresor," Fortunato said, as he continued to converge. "I picked the lock on each one, and then I carefully knocked out the bricks." He began to walk towards the rigid Montresor, examining the look of sheer terror on his face.
Montresor glanced once more at the dagger.
"I wouldn't do that, if I were you," Fortunato said, revealing a wickedly-pointed dagger of his own from his pants pocket. "Someone might get hurt."
"Fortunato, please!" Montresor cried out in vain. "It was a prank! A harmless joke, that's all. I didn't mean it… I was going to let you out within the last few moments - "
"Don't play innocent with me, Montresor!" Fortunato shouted. "It was nothing of the sort! You fully intended to hurt me. To kill me. And now you must pay the price."
Fortunato plunged the dagger down, towards the unlucky man's chest, but the target was never hit. At the last possible moment, Montresor had rolled off of the bed. Fortunato looked about, dazed for a moment, and then glanced at the figure running through the open door. Fortunato followed his target, a malevolent gleam in his eyes.
Montresor ran faster than he ever believed that he could, tipping over anything possible in order to slow down the vengeful man behind him. He didn't dare look back; he knew there was only one place safe enough – the family catacombs.
He flew down the stairs and past several twists and turns before stopping and ducking hard against the wall. His heart beat wildly as he listened hard for any sound, any at all, that would clue him in on his pursuer.
"Oh, Montresor?" Fortunato called in a sickeningly sweet voice. "Are you there? I thought we were friends. Let's go back upstairs, and we can talk this all out."
A dim light glanced off of one of the walls, followed a bit later by Fortunato, holding a lit torch. He looked about, straining his eyes to see into the darkness of the catacombs, but nothing immediately appeared to him.
Suddenly, he heard a pile of bones clatter down a flight of stairs.
Montresor glanced down at the bones, now dispersed widely over the floor, and cursed himself for his foolishness, then ran down the stairs in front of him. He continued onward, listening to the hurried footsteps behind him, knowing that Fortunato was getting closer, ever closer…
Montresor stopped. There was nowhere else to go. Warily, he placed a hand on the wall, traveling over the damp niter until he hit something metallic. He picked it up in both hands and found, to his profound horror, that he was holding a chain.
It was the niche. The niche that Fortunato had broken out of.
Suddenly, he felt a pair of hands shove him forcefully against the wall. The heavy metal chains clamped around him, and Fortunato stood in front of him, a satisfied look on his face.
"No. No! NO!" Montresor struggled to free himself, knowing that it would be in vain.
"How does it feel, Montresor?" Fortunato asked, a smirk forming on his face. "How do you like being a prisoner caught in your own trap? Who's laughing now, Montresor? Who has the last laugh now?!?"
"No more so than you were when you trapped me here."
"You can't leave me like this!"
"On the contrary, Montresor…"
Fortunato stepped back, and, picking up the fallen bricks on the floor, began to form a solid wall between himself and his enemy. Montresor didn't scream. He didn't even try. He knew that it would be useless.
The chains rattled as Montresor wildly struggled, trying to break their cruel hold, but to no avail. He hung his head sadly, knowing that this was his last stand. There was no escape now. Unless…
"Please, Fortunato, I beg of you, reconsider! I'm terribly sorry, really I am! I was wrong. Please… just don't do this to me! Don't let me die here…"
Fortunato stopped for a moment, as if he really were considering Montresor's apology. He was about to continue until a sudden thought flickered across his mind. Wouldn't doing this to Montresor make me just like him?
He dropped the brick and entered the niche. Montresor smiled gratefully at his old friend.
"Thank you," he said, bowing his head.
"Well, Montresor," Fortunato replied, "You once told me that all things are finite and must eventually come to an end." He walked forward, placing a hand on Montresor's shoulder and the other into his pocket.
He withdrew the shiny metal dagger he had threatened Montresor with earlier.
"Unfortunately," Fortunato concluded, "That is you."