TRUE! nervous, very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why WILL you say that I am mad? The smell had sharpened my senses, not destroyed, not dulled them. Above all was the sense of smell acute. I smell all things in the heaven and in the earth. I smell many things in hell. How then am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily, how calmly, I can tell you the whole story.
It started with the first child. Oh how quickly we learn our lessons concerning matters of the fart. How the danger lurks upon the sound of broken wind, how it takes flight. See? I am not mad, not insane. Woe, to those who challenge it. My knowledge and senses have heightened. I have become a scholar of sorts, a learned woman through the trials. Cast into the fire and tempered to a sharpened blade of cognition.
Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madwomen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded — with what caution — with what foresight, with what dissimulation towards the sound of seeping flatulence. I peeked in wary into the diaper, I opened it oh, so gently! And then, when I had made an opening sufficient enough for my eyes to discern. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I checked the diaper! I moved slowly, very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the young child’s sleep. Night after night, I crept to the side of the child. Days passed and she never suspected the changing of the diapers. Do you see? Mad women cannot posses such stealth, such dedication.
And now have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over-acuteness of the senses? now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew that sound well too. It was the sound of the young child’s fart. It increased my fury as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage.
But even yet I refrained and kept still. I scarcely breathed. I held the nightlight motionless. I tried how steadily I could maintain the light upon the child. Meantime the hellish tattoo of the fart increased. It grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder, every instant. The child’s bowel pain must have been extreme! It grew louder, I say, louder every moment! — do you mark me well? I have told you that I am nervous: so I am. And now at the dead hour of the night, amid the dreadful silence of that old house, so strange a noise as this excited me to uncontrollable terror. Yet, for some minutes longer I refrained and stood still. But the farting grew louder, louder! I thought the diaper must burst. And now a new anxiety seized me — the sound would be heard by a neighbor! The diaper change hour had come! With a loud yell, I turned on the light and leaped into the room. She shrieked once — once only. In an instant I dragged her to the table, and pulled the diaper off her. I then smiled gaily, to find the deed so far done. But for many minutes the fart beat on with a muffled sound. This, however, did not vex me; it would not be heard through the wall. At length it ceased. The child was done. I removed the diaper and cast it aside. Yes, she was done. I placed my hand upon the diaper and held it there many minutes. There was no pulsation. The fart would trouble me no more.
*this post contains actual excerpts from Edgar Alan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” All work contained on this blog is fictional and should not be interpreted as Edgar Alan Poe.