“I had finished a portion of the last and the eleventh; there remained but a single stone to be fitted and plastered in.” ~ Edgar Allen Poe, The Cask of Amontillado
Where first the screams were like music to his ears, now they threaten to drive him mad.
Eógan knew he should have stayed away, but he had to know the truth. Be the wailing and blasphemy truly echoes from that portentous night trapped in his very marrow, or had Bayard returned as a shade, hell bent on continuing his degradation?
The crypt, broken from the inside out, was laid bare. How this could be was a hideous mystery, The prisoner held within was chained against the far wall, unable to move his arms below his head, nor touch his feet to the packed dirt floor.
Brick and mortar were strewn across the ground, crumbled to pieces like chalk. The gaping maw, hungry for more sustenance, enticed Eógan forward, daring him to step across the shattered threshold.
Brushing his hands against the red brick, Eógan rubbed the soft powder between his hands, licking the dust off his fingertips. A tingle akin to the chill of hoar-frost in the winter danced on his tongue and slowly seeped into his bones.
A shudder ran up his spine, either from fear or cold, he did not know. A whispered breath touched the nape of his neck. Turning suddenly, half expecting to see the decayed remains of Bayard, Eógan instead faced an empty chamber.
Another touch here, a caress there, transformed Eógan into a whirling, spinning top, circling the chamber until he was disoriented and off-balance. Tripping over a pile of debris, he fell into the empty crypt, striking his head against the remaining alcove wall.
As he lay dying, his blood and spirit leaching into the dirt, Eógan was visited by the specter of Bayard, the same superior visage upon his face. With a tip of his hand, the wraith bid the fading Eógan farewell, knowing they would meet again soon in perdition where Bayard would spend an eternity tormenting him.