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Traveling back in time with the help of literature

Dear Mr. E,

I am writing to tell you of a most disturbing and peculiar thing that happened to me last week. I realize that being a police officer, I should expect the unusual, but in all of my years in the force I have never seen anything quite like the incident that I am about to recount to you.

It was Saturday the fourth, or was it the fifth? I do not remember exactly. I can, however, recall a most dreadful thunderstorm, which was, I must confess, making my job as policeman rather miserable. It did help that I was inside the dry warmth of the police station, and I dreaded the half-expected summon to duty.

Having nothing to entertain my mind, I slowly began to slip into a light doze. I was already half asleep, and rapidly approaching complete unconsciousness, when the door of our station flew open. I woke up, and a drenched civilian walked in, appearing quite distressed.

Due to the fact that she was soaked to the bone, and also because of the fact that her face was half shrouded in a black hood, I could not immediately tell who this person-in-need was. When she began talking, though, it did not take me long to ascertain that this was indeed Ms. Olivia Bumpkin, son of the late Dr. Frederick Bumpkin, an esteemed physician.

"What is it?" I drowsily, but professionally asked from my cot.

"The Poe residence!" she cried out in a panicky manner. "I swear that I heard a shriek from that cursed man's house. A shriek that could only have belonged to a man being murdered in the most gruesome fashion."

The fact that it was the Poe residence, and not another house in town, from which this frightening noise came from did not surprise me. Just a week before that, I had received a report of the same Mr. Edgar Allan Poe mysteriously fraternizing with a raven. And even that was not the first incident involving this strange man.

Many times before had people living within earshot of Mr. Poe reported strange activity at his house. I was, however, disconcerted by this particular report, as it had previously been confided to me that there was a man living with Mr. Poe, whose name, I must admit, I had forgotten to ask.

I slipped on my policeman's uniform just before departing with two other officers to investigate, and retrieved my club, just in case. Judging from my past experiences with Mr. Edgar Poe, I had reached the conclusion that he had an unhealthy affair with alcohol.

"The man could be in a dangerous fit of drunkenness, a mere club might not suffice," I reasoned with myself, and grabbed my loyal handgun, which I surreptitiously placed in a pocket under my black coat. I looked once more into the police station, bade goodbye to the remaining officers and walked into the night.

I arrived at the Poe residence quite nervous, but managed to confidently knock on the door, and professionally answer it when an extremely nervous Edgar Allan Poe came to the door. He smiled sheepishly, and with a terrible stutter (which he would use throughout our discourse), bade us three officers to come in.

Before we asked him anything, he mentioned that the shriek had been nothing but a fitful dream on his part, and that the old man who was living with him was out of town at the moment. He invited us to search the premises, and moved four chairs into the room, being sure to place his on what appeared to be a patch of loose floorboards, the only loose floorboards in the house.

Trying very hard to appear at ease, Mr. Poe proceeded to have a brief chat with us. As our little talk continued, poor Mr. Poe appeared to grow increasingly nervous, and, if I should go so far to say it, demented. He stood up and paced the floors, while I all the while smiled and tried to appear friendly.

He proceeded to grate his chair against the floorboards with increasing force, and I was just about to ask him whether or not he was feeling well, when he suddenly burst forth a gushing of confession to the reason for his apparent discomfort.

"Villains," he shrieked, "dissemble no more! I admit the deed! Tear up the planks! Here, here! It is the beating of his hideous heart!"

We immediately and dramatically arrested this criminal, and at present, he is sitting in a county jail, awaiting further instruction from the authorities. I will now end this long-winded letter of mine, and leave it for you to absorb and interpret. Write me back if you manage to make heads or tails of this most peculiar incident that I experienced last week.

Your friend,

Officer Olson

Nathan Kitzmann is a freshman and is homeschooled. Some of the quotes appearing in this column are from The Telltale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe.