The Tell-Tale Heart

Can you hear it? The man’s heart is beating, beating, beating…

This is a simplified version of The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe.

Original StoryThe Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe in 1843
LevelLevel 2 (for upper-beginner English learners)
Word Count2,000 words

Crazy? Do you think that I am crazy?

I’m not crazy! It’s true that I am very nervous. But I’m not crazy.

Actually, I’m greater than before! I have stronger senses now. I can hear everything. I can hear all things in heaven and on earth. I can even hear many things in hell. You see! How can I be crazy if I can hear so much?

OK, listen. I will calmly tell you the whole story.

It started with an idea. This idea… I don’t where it came from. It just entered my brain. I kept thinking about it day and night.

There was no reason. I wasn’t angry at the old man. I loved him! He never did anything bad to me. He never said anything mean to me. I didn’t want his money. I think maybe… it was his eyes.

Yes! Yes! That’s it! It was his eyes! He had eyes like vultures. Pale blue eyes. They were so creepy. Whenever he looked at me, my blood turned cold.

Day after day, the idea became stronger and stronger. And finally, I decided to kill him and get rid of those eyes!

Now, listen to me. This is the part of the story you don’t like. You think I’m crazy, don’t you? But it’s not true! Crazy people don’t understand things. They don’t know what they are doing.

But I understood! I knew what I was doing! I was very wise and careful. I planned it.

The week before I killed him, I was very kind to the old man. I was as kind as ever! And every night, around midnight, I looked in his bedroom.

I wish you saw it! I was very smart! I was very cunning! I opened the door so very gently. I opened it just a little. And slowly, I peeked my head through the door. And then I slowly pushed a lantern through the door. But the lantern was shut. It was just a dark lantern. I moved very slowly to get my head through the door. It took me a long time! Probably about an hour! And then, I could see him. I watched him sleeping.

What do you think? Could a crazy man be so smart?

And then, when my head was in the room, I opened the lantern. I opened it carefully. Very, very carefully. I opened it so that a thin ray of light came out. And the light shined on the vulture eyes.

I did this for seven nights in a row. I only shined the light on the eyes. But each night, his eyes were closed. His evil eyes.

I couldn’t kill him. Why? Because I didn’t hate the old man. I only hated his eyes. So in the morning, I greeted him and chatted with him. We talked happily. He had no idea that I was watching him while he slept.

On the eighth night, I was even more careful opening the door. The hands of a clock move slower than I moved.

For the first time in my life, I felt that I was powerful. I felt that I was truly intelligent. I couldn’t hold in my pride.

Can you imagine it? There I was, opening the door, little by little. The old man didn’t even dream of my secret plan. I laughed at the idea.

Maybe he heard me laugh because he moved in his bed suddenly.

Now, you might think that I drew back and got out of the room. But no. His room was in thick darkness, (he always closed the windows tightly to keep robbers out) so I knew that he couldn’t see me. I kept pushing the door open, steadily, steadily.

I had my head inside. I was about to open the lantern, but my thumb slipped on the lid.

“Who’s there?” The old man cried out, sitting up in his bed.

I kept very still and said nothing. For a whole hour, I did not move a muscle. For that whole hour, I did not hear him lie down again. He was still sitting up in the bed, listening. Just like me.

Then, I heard a soft groan. I knew it was a groan of terror. It wasn’t a groan of pain. It wasn’t a groan of sadness. No! It was a low groan from the bottom of his horrified soul.

I knew the sound well. Many nights, just around midnight, that sound sometimes escapes from me, too. That groan is a deep, dreadful echo in my soul.

Yes, I knew it well. I knew what the old man felt, and I felt sorry for him. Sorry and joyous at the same time. I knew that he had been sitting up in his bed, awake. His fears were growing and growing. He was probably trying to justify the sound. Maybe he was thinking, “It is nothing but the wind,” or “It is only a mouse running across the room,” or “It is just an insect that chirped.” Yes, he was trying to comfort himself. But he couldn’t stop the fear.

Because of Death. Death was approaching him, and when Death approaches, the victim knows. The old man was completely enveloped in Death’s black shadow.

When I had waited a long time, very patiently, without hearing him lie down, I decided to keep going. I opened the lantern just a little.

So I opened it. You cannot imagine how carefully and slowly I opened it. The smallest little ray of light, like the thread of a spider, came out. The light shot out from the crack and hit the vulture eye.

That vulture eye was open. Wide, wide open. When I looked at it, I became furious. I saw it perfectly, clearly. It was a dull blue, with a hideous veil of skin hanging over it. It chilled my bones. I couldn’t see anything else of the old man’s face or body because I had directed the ray precisely on the eye.

Now, I told you that I’m not crazy, right? My senses are stronger. That is how I opened the lantern so precisely on the eye, like instinct!

And then, I heard a low, dull sound, like the sound of a clock underwater. I knew that sound well, too. It was the beating of the old man’s horrible heart. It increased my fury. It was like a beating drum that calls the soldiers into war.

But, I refrained and I kept still. I hardly breathed. I held the lantern motionless. The ray of light was steady on the Evil Eye.

Meanwhile, the beating heart became quicker and quicker, and louder and louder. The old man’s terror must have been extreme! It grew louder, I say! Louder every moment! Do you hear me? I told you that I am nervous. I am.

And while I stood at the door, in the dead of the night, that sound filled me with terror. I stood and listened, and my anxiety was uncontrollable. But the beating grew louder, louder! I thought the heart would explode. And then, I worried about some else. What if the neighbor hears the heart!

It was time. With a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and jumped into the room. He screamed once. Only once. In an instant, I dragged him to the floor and pulled the heavy bed over him.

Then, I smiled. I did good work. But for many minutes, the heart continued beating softly under the bed. This, however, didn’t worry me because it couldn’t be heard by the neighbor.

After some time, it stopped. The old man was dead. I removed the bed and examined the corpse. Yes, he was dead. Stone dead. I placed my hand on the heat for many minutes. There were no beats. He was stone dead. His eye could move no more. I would never be troubled by the eye again.

If you still think I’m crazy, listen to this. I was incredibly cautious when I hid the body. I worked quickly because morning was coming. I worked in silence.

First, I cut up the corpse. I cut off the head, the arms, and the legs.

Then, I pulled up three planks from the flooring. I put all the pieces of the corpse under the floor, and I returned the planks. I put the planks back so perfectly, so cleverly! No human eye—not even his Evil Eye—could notice anything wrong. There was nothing to wash. There were no blood stains or drops of blood. I was very careful to put all the blood down the sink. Ha! Ha!

When I had finished all this labor, it was four o’clock. Still dark. The clock bell rang four times.

At that moment, there was a knock at the front door. I went down to open it with a happy heart. I had nothing to fear. No one could discover anything!

Three men entered. They introduced themselves as police officers. A neighbor called and reported a scream during the night. The information was recorded at the police station, and now, they must search the house.

I smiled. What did I have to fear? Nothing! I welcomed the officers inside. The scream, I said, was me. I told them that I screamed while I was sleeping because of a bad dream. The old man? He was absent because he went away on a trip.

I guided the officers all around the house. I told them to search. Search well. I led them to the old man’s bedroom. I showed them his treasures and belongings. Everything was untouched.

I felt wonderfully confident, and so, I brought chairs into the bedroom. I told them to take a break. I put the chairs in a circle, and I put my own chair directly over the corpse. My chair felt like a throne.

The officers were satisfied. My manner really convinced them. I was so relaxed. We sat and chatted about happy things.

But, suddenly, I felt my face becoming pale. I wanted them to leave. My head ached and my ears started ringing. But still, they sat and chatted. The ringing became stronger and stronger. I tried to ignore the feeling, so I talked more freely. But still, it continued until I realized that the sound was not in my ears.

Yes, I grew very pale. But I talked more fluently, and my voice became higher. I tried to talk over the sound, but still, the sound increased. What could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound, like the sound of a watch underwater.

I gasped for breath. Didn’t the officers hear the sound? I talked more quickly, more intensely, but the noise steadily increased. I stood up. My voice was high and violent, but the noise steadily increased. Why didn’t the officers leave? I walked back and forth over the floor, and their eyes watched me, but the noise steadily increased.

Oh God! What could I do? I shouted! I spat! I swore! I picked up my chair and beat it against the floor. But the noise was all around me, steadily increasing.

It grew louder—louder—louder! And still, the men chatted pleasantly and smiled. Was it possible that they didn’t hear it? No! God no! No! They heard! They knew! They were laughing at my terror. They were laughing at me.

But I couldn’t stand the agony! I wanted to end my terror! I couldn’t watch their smiling faces anymore! I felt like I was going to die!

And now, again! Louder! Louder! Louder! Louder!

“Evil!” I screamed, “get out! I admit it! I did it! Pull up the planks! Here! Here! It is the beating of his horrible heart!”


Published by Judy Shinohara

Hello! I’m Judy, living in Osaka! I love teaching English to my students. In my free time, I enjoy simple gardening, reading and writing, art, and watching Netflix.

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