Few mystery writers would argue against Edgar Allan Poe being honored as the father of the modern mystery. Poe pioneered the art of the detective story when he created the character C. Auguste Dupin. He also crafted dozens of poems, the best known being “The Raven”, while also penning some of the most brilliant tales of horror ever conceived by man. “The Cask of Amontillado”, “The Masque of the Red Death”, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, and “The Pit and the Pendulum” are only a few of the short stories created by this brillian but troubled writer.
In celebration of Poe’s 200th birthday — and because Halloween is only a few days away — it seems fitting to honor both the man and the season with a very short story based on one of Poe’s works. I wrote this little tale ten years ago for a proposed anthology of flash fiction honoring Poe. While the book never saw the light of day, the story has lived on in my computer. I present it to you now with the hope that you’ll enjoy my tribute to Edgar Allan Poe, the master of the short story.
The Tell-Tale Glow
by Mary V. Welk
A Modern Take on “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe
Some say I went mad the night I killed her. I admit to being nervous–dreadfully nervous–but mad? How could I be while plotting so brilliantly to rid myself of that awful glow?
She’d never wronged me, never been unfaithful. But she smoked, and that one vice drove me to distraction. From dawn to dusk a cigarette dangled from her lips, the tip flaring red-gold with every breath she drew. It was that glow, that taunting, ever-present glow that made my blood run cold and sealed her fate.
I planned it well. I arranged a visit to a city where the police were reputedly dull-witted, booking a seventh floor room in a non-smoking hotel. Upon arrival she reacted as I’d hoped. Furious about our accomodations, she flung open the window, leaned out, and lit the last cigarette of her life.
The end came easily: a slight push and gravity took over.
The authorities were sympathetic when I tearfully expounded on my wife’s fatal addiction while staring at her crumpled body. It should have ended there except for that accursed cigarette. Still wedged between her lips, the tip smoldered dully, then suddenly flared bronze against the night sky. the police seemed not to notice, but then the ash grew ever brighter. When wisps of smoke began encircling her still features, I could stand it no longer.
“No!” I shrieked, snatching the cigarette from her mouth. “I killed you once, and once is enough!’
The glow faded as they placed the handcuffs on my wrists.