Onslaught of Guilt
In a dark room in a cold and damp castle, an old man was laying on a bed. His wrinkled aged skin draped over his eye's. He seemed lifeless, almost dead, or at least an inch away from death, like some passenger waiting for their next train to their final destination. The thick layers of blankets already formed somewhat of coffin and at a glance the old man was ready for his own funeral. However there is just something about him. Some sort of restlessness that he just couldn't get rid of. Perhaps it was his twitching hands or the movement of his head wandering around the room that gave it away, but there was a sort of vigor within him. His sights would often linger in one spot of the room, and at that moment, his eyelid's trembled, his fist slowly clenched together with whatever strength he had left and before you knew it he was once more lifeless. A house servant sat to his left on a table with a lit candle. He held a feathered pen and was scribbling something onto a piece of parchment. The shadows followed his every move in the dimly lit room. He stopped and dipped the pen into a bottle of ink before readying himself to write again. He looked at the old man and waited. With each moment the servant waited in that uncomfortable silence for his master to speak but that moment never came. He was nervous. Sweat poured down his head, and the hand that gripped the pen shook as drops of black ink spilled onto the parchment. It was so silent that one could hear their breathing. Just when the servant was about to cough, three loud knocks sounded through the air.
The servant jumped at the sudden sound that echoed throughout the dark and damp room. He breathed in a little and rested the pen inside the ink bottle before standing up. He walked towards the door, and opened it. Standing outside the door was a middle aged man. The servant gasped slightly at the sight of him. He was a big man. Perhaps six or six and a half feet tall, he wore a black leather coat that covered his entire body. He wore a pointy hat with the neck of his shirt pulled up, covering his mouth. The only thing the servant could make out was just the pair of eyes that gazed at him, in a way that sent a shiver down his spine.
"May…" the servant began, but before he could finish the man pushed him away and walked into the room, the heels of his boot clanking on the stone floor with each step. The old man upon hearing the approaching figure looked towards him and nodded.
"Montresor." The leather covered figure greeted, as he took of his hat, bowing slightly.
"Ah colonel. You've come just on time." The colonel was a bald man. He was a man of power. Everything to his chilling stare that seemingly can steal your soul, his strong, sharp chin that accentuated his cheek bones, made him much more intimidating. He was cleanly shaven, and not an ounce of tiredness could be seen upon his face, quite different to the weak and sickly Montresor.
"You're paying me after all."
Montresor looked at a corner of the room. He clenched his hands before taking a deep breath. "Indeed." He said slowly. "As you've no dubitably notice by now, I'm dying and I fear I won't make it past this month." The colonel, remained standing with his hat in hand. There was no trace of pity, or sadness that could be seen on his face. To him this was just a business transaction. As long as he gets paid he didn't give a damn.
"Before you tell me the details, about my payment…"
"You'll get your payment." Montresor cut him off mid-sentence.
"My servant Luca will handle that aspect." The colonel nodded.
"Please continue then."
"I had a friend." Montresor started out slowly. "He… disappeared a long time ago."
"I doubt that you can find him but I can't help but think there is just something I overlooked. Perhaps if I had searched hard fifty years ago..." The colonel looked at him.
"You expect foul play?"
"He had a lot of enemies. I thought his disappearance was a business trip. But after two years and no word, I realized something terribly wrong had happened."
"When was the last time that you saw him?"
"Half a century ago during the festival." Montresor looked at Lucas who ran towards the old decrypted man, handing him a goblet of wine. Montresor smelled it, his lifeless eyes twinkling of remembrance to a time long past. A sweet scent of wine permeated the air, and in that split second the colonel remembered that stupid grin on a young man's face. That stupid grin on that rebellious face, laughing, and drinking, surrounded by the rest of his comrade in arms that hoisted him up in the air, it made him sick to his stomach.
"Amontillado?" He asked. Montresor remained quiet as he took a sip from the goblet.
"Fortunato always liked his wine. It was a shame that I couldn't share this last cask with him."
The colonel took a deep breath, as he shook off the captivating effect of the wine. "After fifty years I doubt that there are any traces left."
" No matter. Even if your search is fruitless, you will have your money." Montresor said, swirling the goblet of wine in his hands. The colonel nodded.
"Where do I start?"
Montresor pointed me towards the last place he saw Fortunato. It was a small town built along the southern coast of the country. The ports were busy as I arrived on that early morning. The countless seagulls screamed for the fresh fish being dragged in by boats with their morning catch. The dock master was rushing back and forth with his parchment, and quill charging taxes and fees. Nothing escaped his eyes.
The ship I was on was quite big compared to everything else. It was a ferry boat, and quite a large one. The dock master hurried to the ferry as it docked. When the ramp connected the passengers all left the boat. Like a salmon swimming up river, he went against the crowd. He pushed and shoved, fighting his way onto the boat. A weird sight to behold. We bumped into one another as he squirmed his way onto the boat. His quill dropped to the ground where it was ruthlessly stomped by the oncoming people leaving. It was soon lost to both of us. I didn't say anything, and just stared at him. My coat combined with my hat seemed to intimidate him as he let out a small gasp. His eyes bulged out and for a second I saw utmost fear in his face. Turning sickly pale, the dock master hurried bowed, while repeatedly saying "Sorry! Sorry!"
The colonel continued on, paying him no heed, as the dock master continued to bow in one place, much to the displeasure of the departing passengers. Only after the Colonel left did he raised his head. In his face anger could be seen. His face twisted into an ugly scowl, and the parchment that he held carefully in his left hand, crumbled together when he squeezed his fist. His breathing hastened and bloodshot veins could be seen in his eyes as the dock master slowly thought "Make a fool out of me?" At that fervent moment, a sudden madness overtook him. He wanted to charge towards the colonel and slit his throat. He wanted to beat the man black and blue, string him up in a tree and starve him for a month before feeding him to the sharks. He was angry. The madness was about to control the dock master until a pat on the back drew him back to his senses. Looking around he smiled and laughed as he hugged the person behind him, the previous thoughts of murder and torture lost, unable to take root within his mind.
It was noon when the colonel came back from his investigation. He dragged himself up the stairs of his lodge and fell down onto the bed. His search was fruitless. Nothing was left. Family members of Fortunato, were either senile, or dead. The business that he had run was bankrupted three decades ago. His enemies were all in hiding after hearing he was looking for them. Perhaps they were afraid that he was an agent coming to extract payment for their past transgression. The colonel grabbed a metallic tin flask that he carried inside his leather coat. Opening it, he drank the amontillado inside, before belching loudly in the empty room. Everything that was connected to Fortunato was gone, eroded by the passage of time. The colonel looked at the flask, and couldn't help but think of the private. For a moment he was in a stupor, caught between the past and the present. He could see it clearly in his head as the event played out in front of him. The laughing crew, the dimly lit light underneath the full moon, the booze the cards, the cask of amontillado, it was a fond memory for him. Then it turned dark. Tables were flipped over and rapiers were drawn, blood splattered the evening air. Just as the colonel shuddered, there was a knock on the door, snapping him out of his memory. Capping the tin flask, he stored it back into his coat and got up to answer the door.
Opening the door the colonel was surprised to see Luca's tired face. It was almost as if he had suddenly aged a few decades. Full of wrinkles, his blood shot eyes, surrounded by dark sagging skin from many restless nights; it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that this wasn't the same person that he had met. Pushing such thoughts aside he glared at the tired man and asked, "What?"
Luca took a deep breath before handing the colonel a letter. Taking the letter, he could see a unique round seal. Instead of red wax it was blue and on the seal was the picture of a serpent coiling around a foot, with the words Nemo me impune lacessit imprinted along the bottom. Seeing this he frowned, before Luca handed him a fist, sized bag. He could hear the metallic jingle as the coins bumped into one another inside the bag. Puzzled, he looked at Luca and said, "Why are you giving me this? I haven't finished."
"Montresor is dead. This past week has not been kind on me. The finances had…" Before Luca could continue the colonel stopped him.
"Wait. Montresor is dead?" He wasn't entirely shocked that the man was dead, but the time frame in which he died had surprised him. It had only been a week since he left. He wasn't expecting him to die for another three weeks. Luca let out a deep sigh.
"Well he wanted to give you the letter." Luca turned and left down the stairs. Looking at the sealed letter in his hand he closed the door before he opened it. His eyes dipped into a frown as he read it. The sun had already set beyond the horizon when he finished the letter. The crackle of the candle light was loud in the silent room. He did not hear the rowdy crowd of patrons downstairs, or the lively festival just outside his window. The only thing that occupied his mind was a question, "Why?"
The colonel entered the Catacombs. It was cold damp and dark. If not for the light of the lamp, he would have long been swallowed whole by the darkness that was cowering around his perimeter. He held a sizable hammer in his other hand as he journeyed deep into the crypt. Finally reaching a particular wall he set the lamp down. Holding the hammer with both hands, he faced the wall. Pausing slightly, he lurched back before unleashing a furious blow foward.
It was a sturdy wall but it broke down upon receiving the repeated blows of the hammer. A cold breath of wind blew towards him, and from it a foul stench permeated the area. He quickly covered his mouth, willing the vomit to go back inside his stomach. He knocked down a few more blocks and the stench grew even worse, until he couldn't bare it anymore and threw up to the side.
Gasping for air, he sat down, a moment of respite before he had to continue. He knew what was behind the wall, but he still couldn't help but throw up at the thought of it. Grabbing the lamp he held it through the opening and there, chained to the wall was a corpse. It had a jester outfit that was worn and torn. Its once vibrant and colorful dye has turned grey. The jester's hat with its rusted bells remained attached to his white skinless skull. Chained to the wall was Fortunato.
Seeing the Dead and decayed body, the colonel stumbled backwards and sat down. A scene from the past repeatedly plays in his mind. It was that one figure that stood out amongst the memories. The figure of that one private, he hated so vehemently. He didn't remember what the private had done to him. He no longer remembered why he felt so angry to the extent that he had challenged him to a duel. He had won, and by law he was in the right, for it was his god given right to execute all those who had spite him. He knew he was innocent and that the private deserved his own demise, and yet there is just this nagging feeling. This faint suspicion that maybe just maybe, the private didn't deserve his wrath.
The colonel slowly walked out of the room forgetting even his lamp. The darkness swallowed him whole as he left the glowing sanctuary. He walked, feeling his way about the crypt until he saw the grey rays of the moon. Reaching the entrance he felt around his coat and uncapped the metallic flask that he took from the body of the private. He was about to drown the whole bottle before he looked up. Hovering in the sky, lofty and unobstructed by clouds was the silver radiance of the moon. The sun had set and the moon had appeared basking the area in a soft glowing light. The colonel paused as he saw the scene. It was on a night like this when he killed the private. The colonel shook his head, slapping his face, forcing him to snap from his trance. He took a deep breath before pouring the amontillado onto the ground. He turned around and threw the tin flask into the depths of the crypt. He didn't hear it hit anything, nor did he stay to hear it. He pulled his coat tightening it around him before leaving, the last words of the letter faintly echoing in his mind, in pace requiescat!
Cask of Amontillado as Hard Boiled explanation
Event wise, nothing really changed. Fortunato still dies, Montresor still survives for another 50 years and depending on your interpretation of the ending, he may have been haunted by his actions through all those years. The main difference is when the story starts. Instead of starting at the first narration with Montresor, I start at the end of the book. Instead of doing a retelling where Montresor flashes back mixed in with his thoughts I decided to just kill him immediately and introduce the Colonel. There are moments where he speaks and you will hear a lot of his thoughts, and through these inner monologues you can piece, bits of his past. For a 70 year old man, Montresor is probably on his death bed, and in the last moments of life the guilty feeling inside him continues to grow exponentially. The main point of this retelling is to expand on the thought of guilt. At the end of the original story, Montresor writes in pace requiescat, which translate into, may he rest in peace. Combined with the fact that he constantly thinks of this event for the last fifty years, makes it seem weird, almost as if he just can't forget it. We also don't learn where, or when this takes place, and we don't even know what the insult was, so one interpretation could be that Montresor is just rationalizing the whole event and actually does feel bad about what he did. Even in the crypt he had hesitated. Since he is nearing the end of his life I thought it would be a cool idea if after all those years of guilt finally got to him, and he needed to tell someone and repent before he died. So I thought it would be a cool idea to pick the story from that point, and in comes the colonel.
The colonel is supposed to be the "detective" person in the retelling. I don't really dive into what he sees as I focused the seeing aspect to an omnipotent narrative voice. However the question of who speaks, varies in my story. In the beginning, the person speaking is the narrator. I think a narrator in the beginning is important as it sets up everything. You really get the most information of what happened in the beginning. I tried to make the colonel seem uncaring and mysterious person, almost like a hit man. I even gave him a leather coat and a point hat that covered his face. He is strong and in the prime of his life, a complete contrast to the old and sickly Montresor. The main reason I did this is because I was trying to make a mirror of the future for the colonel. The colonel is pretty much like a young Montresor in that he killed someone for some stupid reason. In this case the colonel killed one of his squad members in a duel. He doesn't feel anything for him, and find that he is in the right because he challenged him to a duel. The change that occurs in him is induced by Montresor's letter after he died. After seeing the body he starts to question his choices and with that he starts to feel guilty. Not by much but gradually, perhaps after half a century of being haunted by the past he would finally try and find a confidant right before his death to atone, in a sense for his sins.
The colonel makes this a hard boiled story, as it gives a darker feeling. He was a soldier, and he had killed an underling in the heat of the moment, hardly the classic heroic protagonist that we often come across when we read books. Hard boiled stories are greyer than others stories. Instead of having a good guy versus a bad guy we often have characters that blur the line between good and evil. Like the colonel. I made him so that he's not all good. He didn't even care that Montresor, his employer had died, and didn't even ask why Montresor asked him to look into a disappearance that happened 50 years ago. When he did find out that Montresor had died, there was no emotion shown. Far from it, there was apathy and a surprise of the timing of death, but no emotion. However despite this the reader has to put up with him because it is entered around the colonel. An important aspect that I added was the different time of the day. When he first came into town it was morning. From the bright shining morning to the afternoon, to sunset, and finally the depths of night, the progression of time was supposed to represent the creeping feeling of guilt that sneak into your thoughts. I believed that most people would fell guilt after we done something stupid. We may try and deny it like Montresor and the colonel, but it will always find a way to haunt you.
I find that starting at the ending of the story, and going backwards makes it more mysterious. I try to make it a mystery of what actually happened to Fortunato, and I deliberately left a lot of things out, like the names, and the actual investigation when writing the retelling. Even the apathetic aspect of the colonel was intentional so that he didn't ask questions about the strange request. The reason I did this is because it wasn't necessary to the main point of the story. Much like the original there are a lot of missing details, the most important being what Fortunato did to cause Montresor to kill him. When the bulk of the story actually happened in the past, there is a want to find out more of what happened. It creates another dimension to analyze. The wording and the small, off topic sentence that is in the weirdest places, all of the obscure sentences could hold the key to unlock the mystery of the past. It is the same with the original story. Throughout the whole story I just couldn't help but ask, "What happened in the past?"
There is no femme fatale character in the retelling. This is one of the defining characteristic of a hardboiled detective story, but I didn't find the addition of a femme fatale like character to be necessary to the story. Of course it is good for a hard boiled story as they are often times the main driving force, or villain of the stories, but many things could take the place of the femme fatale figure. For example in the retelling the main driving force is the killing of Fortunato. The cause that is racking Montresor with pain is the guilt over his actions, causing him to find repentance. Because of the guilt he hires the colonel who starts to question his actions. In a way the actions of Montresor is the femme fatale, as it is the driving force of the story.
There is also the paragraph with the dock master that I should address. The retelling is supposed to be centered on guilt. I focus in on how it started to haunt people. In the colonel's case, he starts thinking about it in the end. I never tell or even describe how he had killed the private, or what the private had done, just like how Montresor never explain what Fortunato did. The main reason I added the dock master was to perhaps in a way, show an insignificant, imagined insult that the dock master had suffered, causing him, in the heat of the moment, to want and kill the colonel. I would have imagined that something similar happened to Fortunato. He probably unknowingly did something insignificant that Montresor thought was highly insulting.
Overall this retelling didn't really change much of the original story. Instead of changing everything, I instead continued the story. A major difference between the two stories is how the reader is presented with the world. With the original the story is told, Montresor is the narrator, and thus see things through his eyes. Things might not have happened the way he said it happened, and there are things that he leaves out. Montresor is an unreliable narrator. With an omnipotent narrator the things that are being described is more reliable, and overall the reader could have a much better picture of the story. I believe that this is considered a hard boiled story because of the gritty aspect of it. The most defining characteristic, the femme fatale is not present, however I did include the mysterious manly man who has a trouble past, and frequently talks in monologues. The world is not all black and white, but grey. There is no happy ending or an ultimate villain that is the root cause of all the grief in the world. The story reflects an aspect of real life, and because of that it is considered a hard boiled story.