A Dark Humorous Tale by Herschel Cozine
– With apologies to Edgar Allan Poe –
So engrossed was I in my studies that I scarcely heard the sound that
emanated from the hall outside the door to my study. I glanced at the
clock. It was midnight.
The noise grew louder, an inhuman sound, somewhere between a moan and a cry.
“Who’s there?” I called out.
No answer. I strained to listen.
The clock commenced to strike. Enraged by the interruption I picked up the
paperweight from my desk and hurled it across the room. The glass
shattered and the clock fell silent
“Who’s there?” I shouted again.
Still no answer. A stirring outside the door told me that the spectre
continued to occupy the hall, seeking entrance.
I sought another exit from the small room but, alas, there was none. The portrait on the
wall captured my eye. The accusing face of my great-grandfather came
alive, its piercing eyes probing into my soul. My panic turned to
fury. I picked up a shard of glass from the clock and plunged it into
the canvas. Those damnable, accusing eyes stared at me. Ripping the
painting from frame to frame, I tore the eyes from the evil face and
shredded them with the glass.
Trembling with rage and fear I called out a third time.
“Damn you, answer me!”
The unearthly rasping of breath assailed my ears through the thick oak
door, and I fought a growing hysteria. A creature whose origin and
makeup was unknown to me and therefore more frightening than the
apparition itself, hovered just beyond the door, waiting. I closed my
eyes against the image my fevered brain conceived.
My fear turned to amusement as I pondered. The apparition was without question the ghost of Carlotti who died thirteen years ago this very night. In a drunken
rage I had sealed him in a vault and left him to die. His death had
haunted me all the days since.
Emboldened by this knowledge I determined to confront him. An apparition, after all, can do no physical harm.
I took the heavy brass door handle in my hand and pushed.
The door would not yield. I pushed again, throwing my weight behind it. Still the heavy door stood firm.
Carlotti had secured it from without!
I searched in vain for something to thrust against the door.
Frantic now, in the realization that I could not escape from the room, I raged and cursed at the unseen force beyond the door.
“Damn you, Carlotti!”
I attacked the door until my tortured body refused any further effort.
I wept in despair, my sobs turning to a maniacal laugh as I slowly descended into madness.
The clock, its shattered face staring at me through broken glass, sprang
suddenly to life. With dispassionate regularity, the pendulum counted
off the remaining seconds of my life. The hour tolled somberly,
reverberating in my brain with satanic malevolence. I determined to die
with dignity. Conquering my sobs, I sat upright and leaned against the
It was then I recalled that the door opened inward.
Herschel Cozine has been published in Alfred Hitchcock and
Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazines and Woman’s World. Additionally he has
had many stories appear in Orchard Press Mysteries, Mouth Full Of
Bullets, Mysterical-E, Great Mystery and Suspense, and others. His
story, “A Private Hanging” was a finalist for the Derringer Award.