“Yes. And also something else.”
“The Amontillado,” said Stendahl, going ahead with a blazing lantern which he held high. Skeletons froze half out of coffin lids. Garrett held his hand to his nose, his face disgusted.
“Haven’t you ever heard of the Amontillado?”
“Don’t you recognize this?” Stendahl pointed to a cell.
“Or this?” Stendahl produced a trowel from under his cape smiling.
“What’s that thing?”
“Come,” said Stendahl.
They stepped into the cell. In the dark, Stendahl affixed the chains to the half-drunken man.
“For God’s sake, what are you doing?” shouted Garrett, rattling about.
“I’m being ironic. Don’t interrupt a man in the midst of being ironic, it’s not polite. There!”
“You’ve locked me in chains!”
“So I have.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Leave you here.”
“A very good joke.”
“Where’s my duplicate? Don’t we see him killed?”
“There’s no duplicate.”
“But the others!”
“The others are dead. The ones you saw killed were the real people. The duplicates, the robots, stood by and watched.”
Garrett said nothing.
“Now you’re supposed to say, ‘For the love of God, Montresor!’” said Stendahl. “And I will reply, ‘Yes, for the love of God.’ Won’t you say it? Come on. Say it.”
“Must I coax you? Say it. Say ‘For the love of God, Montresor!’”
“I won’t, you idiot. Get me out of here.” He was sober now.
“Here. Put this on.” Stendahl tossed in something that belled and rang.
“What is it?”
“A cap and bells. Put it on and I might let you out.”
“Put it on, I said!”
Garrett obeyed. The bells tinkled.
“Don’t you have a feeling that this has all happened before?” inquired Stendahl, setting to work with trowel and mortar and brick now.
“What’re you doing?”
“Walling you in. Here’s one row. Here’s another.”
“I won’t argue that point.”
“You’ll be prosecuted for this!”
He tapped a brick and placed it on the wet mortar, humming.
Now there was a thrashing and pounding and a crying out from within the darkening place. The bricks rose higher. “More thrashing, please,” said Stendahl. “Let’s make it a good show.”
“Let me out, let me out!”
There was one last brick to shove into place. The screaming was continuous.
“Garrett?” called Stendahl softly. Garrett silenced himself. “Garrett,” said Stendahl, “do you know why I’ve done this to you? Because you burned Mr. Poe’s books without really reading them. You took other people’s advice that they needed burning. Otherwise you’d have realized what I was going to do to you when we came down here a moment ago. Ignorance is fatal, Mr. Garrett.”
Garrett was silent.
“I want this to be perfect,” said Stendahl, holding his lantern up so its light penetrated in upon the slumped figure. “Jingle your bells softly.” The bells rustled. “Now, if you’ll please say, ‘For the love of God, Monstresor,’ I might let you free.”
The man’s face came up in the light. There was a hesitation. Then grotesquely the man said, “For the love of God, Montresor.”
“Ah,” said Stendahl, eyes closed. He shoved the last brick into place and mortared it tight. “_Requiescat in pace_, dear friend.”
He hastened from the catacomb.
In the seven rooms the sound of a midnight clock brought everything to a halt.
The Red Death appeared.
Stendahl turned for a moment at the door to watch. And then he ran out of the great House, across the moat, to where a helicopter waited.
“There it goes!”
They looked at the great House, smiling. It began to crack down the middle, as with an earthquake, and as Stendahl watched the magnificent sight he heard Pikes reading behind him in a low, cadenced voice:
“’ … my brain reeled as I saw the mighty walls rushing asunder—there was a long tumultuous shouting sound like the voice of a thousand waters—and the deep and dank tarn at my feet closed sullenly and silently over the fragments of the House of Usher.’”
The helicopter rose over the steaming lake and flew into the west.
August 2005: THE OLD ONES
And what more natural than that, at last, the old people come to Mars, following in the trail left by the loud frontiersmen, the aromatic sophisticates, and the professional travelers and romantic lecturers in search of new grist.