I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity-” Edgar Allan Poe

For my history/literature class, I’ve been reading a lot of Edgar Allan Poe. As an assignment, I need to write a short horror story using the following plot points, which are from Poe’s story ‘The Pit and the Pendulum.’

~Death Sentence- Prisoner- Dungeon- Darkness- Bottomless Pit- Torture- Bound with ropes- Rats- Tottering on the abyss- Scream~

I haven’t read it yet, so I’ll see how the two stories relate when I finish my own. I’m going to post it part by part for some motivation over the week.


(Death Sentence:)

It’s on a rainy night that they come.

A whole horde of them, dark silhouettes in the white light of a full moon, armed with pitchforks and axes. With angry faces glowing red behind the flickering of torches, they look like madmen gathered on my front lawn, waving their fists and blades in the air and hollering. 

I don’t bother questioning their motives for coming out here tonight. I know well enough why they hold their ropes and weapons. Why they glare at me like they’re looking at the devil himself.

“Settle down, all of you!” Jack cries, putting up his arms to keep them from pouring onto the porch where I stand.

“Should we settle down when she’s tormenting the minds of our children?” A man growls, and cries of ‘no!’ and ‘kill her!’ ring out around him. “How about when she speaks with Satan? No doubt worships him, too.” More howls of assent.

“And this deluge, t’s not natural!” A woman joins in. “She be changin’ the weather! T’s not good for the crops, nor the animals, neither!”

Chaos breaks loose again, and Jack struggles to ward off the offenders. “What proof have you?”

“T’s not a matter of ‘proof,’” another says. “We can’t wait around for her to do somethin’ else, not with all that’s at stake!”

“So you would take a life when it could be innocent?” Jack demands.

The priest pushes through the crowd, his bushy eyebrows furrowed. “This is a matter of the church, Jack Bloom, which-” he gives him a pointed look “-Is not something you’ve been terribly wise about in the past.” He motions for Jack to move. “Step aside, boy.”

Jack holds his ground. “Get in the house, Alma.”

I turn to flee, which only infuriates the crowd. They swarm onto the porch, bushing Jack aside with their large numbers and surrounding me.

There are excited shouts of, “Kill the witch! Kill the witch!”

Hands grab at me from all sides, taking hold of my arms, my hair, my waist. I struggle, kicking and twisting and whatever else I must do to break free from them.

“Wait!” The priest bellows, and I feel the grip of my attackers loosen. “She gets a trial, same as anyone.”

There are cries of disappointment and rage, but the chaos dies down. Though my heart rate slows down a bit, my anxiety does not. I know how the trials go, and I know that they are not carried out fairly.

The crowd ‘escorts’ me to the church, shoving and dragging and whatever they have to do to keep me moving. It’s unnecessary, really. I keep a good pace. I don’t struggle. I do exactly as I should, and yet the pinching, beating hands continue to mark my pale skin and remind me of my destination.

A large group of villagers has gathered in the courtroom. I am held in place by two men at the front of the room, just feet from the cage of afflicted children.

They reach their hands through the bars, moving their bodies in strange, distorted ways and moaning. With deep-set eyes, tired eyes, they appear to stare at nothing.

I can’t seem to focus as the priest introduces the case. I can’t seem to look away from the eyes of the children. At the despair that fills them, at the way their lips tremble. At the way they writhe on the floor, not on their own accord.

Now the priest addresses me directly. He uses the words I’ve heard him use with the other accused. “What evil spirit have you familiarity with?”

I swallow, keeping my gaze even. “I have never heard or seen an evil spirit.”


“The only spirit with which I’m acquainted is that of the Lord.” My voice quivers, sending a whisper through the gathering.

“So you deny having a contract with the devil?”


The priest raises his eyebrows. “Yes, you do have a contract?”

Sweat breaks out on my forehead. “No,” I say quickly. “What I meant was yes I deny it.”

He rubs his beard thoughtfully. “So tell me, Alma Bloom, what is the source of your power?”

“I have no power,” I reply weakly. “Just that of my own two hands.”

The priest turns to the children. “Does this woman torment you?” he asks them. “Does her presence let off an aura of darkness?”

An aura of darkness?

The children’s grotesque expressions, so inhuman in their affliction, slide from the priest to me. Upon laying eyes on me they begin to shriek, crying, “Yes! She does!”

“Is she tied to the devil?”

“Yes! She is!”

The priest turns and gives me a hard look. “Very well, Ms. Alma Bloom. You are sentenced to death for not only causing further hardship for these poor, fear-stricken children, but disrespecting the Lord himself.”

I can feel them closing in on me. They shout ‘hang the witch!’ in gleeful, sinister unison. I feel the hands on all sides again, pulling me this way and that, tormenting me.

“All of you!” the priest shouts. “Must I tell you yet again? This is not the way it must be done!”

“She should suffer!” A woman cries. “She should suffer like the children have to!”

“And she will,” the priest barks. “But this is not the way to go about it. Not here, and not now. She’ll be imprisoned until her execution is announced, and from there she will die.” He turns to me. “In the meantime, you can consider what you’ve done.”

One thought on “At the Edge of the Abyss

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