A/N: I felt like being wordy. Blame it on my ego. Or...stuff. I'm tired. Nighty.

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I am, what one might call, a man in ruins. I have seen the stygian depths and ugliness of vengeance. I have seen the depths of my blackest sin, examined with reluctance and disgust the face of my true nature and what I find there must surely make men of dignity and righteousness--men who are not damned by their own hands as I--shudder and speak whispered prayers. I have examined with heavy hearted understanding the breadth and scope of my crimes and the weight has driven me to madness; indeed, upon occasion, I have cause to wonder whether I still merely teeter on the precipice or if I have already fallen into the abyss and was simply too absorbed with my misfortune to have noticed. There is no aspect of man so ugly, no devil's pitfall quite so deep, as the trap of vengeance, and I have fallen as surely as a ship sinks beneath a tidal wave.

A phantom haunts me, one I find that is of my own design and therefore one I may not escape by means other than this phial of poison--now drained and its contents turning bitter in my stomach.

But I leap ahead of myself. The story is in the telling and my confession must be absolute, should I ever hope to gain mercy in the high court of God.

It is with heavy heart I write these words. Even as my ink spills and stains the edges of the parchment--even as my handwriting grows sloppy like that of a drunkard--I can't bring myself to care. This is, after all, not a confession that lends itself to neatness.

Murder is a messy business.

My fingers grow heavy. Expediency is called for.

I have broken but one commandment in my tenure on this planet but held the others close to my heart. I have killed a man and I think the trespass speaks more for me than all my virtues. Fortunato, a false friend--a man who transgressed against me in so many ways I cannot recall them all with any hope of accuracy--was sealed inside the catacombs beneath the house of Montesor.

In truth, in the two years since my heinous murder of the man in question, my recollections have grown dim; brought on by abundant use of alcohol to soothe the visions of that shade I always see at the corner of my eye--black and shapeless, too swiftly dissolving into shadow to be solid. I can no longer remember what offense I suffered at the man's hands of such magnitude to make me seek retribution so total and despicable.

The ink pot has upended itself--a result of my clumsiness. My limbs do not respond as I command them to. This poison is not quick enough, yet all together too.

I have not returned to the catacombs in these intervening years, tonight, after having swallowed my draught, before my legs began to fail me--I stumbled here, to the stones where I buried Fortunato alive, there left to wither in the knowledge of his hopelessness.

My sight grows dim. I will be found with my face resting in an ink puddle, but my neck no longer--

I dally. To the point, and be succinct.

All this time, I have been going mad, seeing the face of my victim in my line of sight--always present, yet never tangible--and I will tell you of those moments of breaching the otherworld.

That first night--the night of carnival--I was so thrilled with my misdeed, I drank my weight in wine with wild abandon to celebrate the world's joy at the loss of such a soul as Fortunato's--and after the midnight hour struck, I saw the apparition. Dirty, bloody, smelling of dank, Fortunato's shade stood before me, and in terror, I cried out, only to immediately find him gone.

It continued this way. I drank, he appeared; I drank more still, he vanished. Liquor was my exorcist for this unholy beast; I thought him to be exacting his own form of revenge as my physician told me that overindulgence would surely see me dead within the year--either that, or perhaps he was a punishment from God; a way to make me do my penance--but still, my behavior went on unbroken until my lack of control sent my beloved wife into illness and then her death, and still, this was not punishment enough. His visitations did not cease.

Once alone, they grew more frequent, until at last, this night, I have determined to do that which will free me from his grasp.

How heavy my eyes grow. How hard to move my pen.

But I must tell you--I must explain--if it is with my dying breath--

I have come here to my vaults, to die as I condemned Fortunato, a false friend whose sins I cannot remember, and I have found--

I cannot draw proper breath--

Fortunato's vault:

Empty.