“The Pit and the Pendulum” is a classic short story written by American author Edgar Allan Poe. Set during the Spanish Inquisition, it is a gripping tale of horror and suspense, of death and fates worse than death. It holds the reader’s heart in its gasp until the final sentence and ends not a punctuation-mark too late.
The narrator, who speaks in first person and spends the entire story without a name, is sentenced to death during the Spanish Inquisition. He spends much of the story drifting in and out of consciousness, describing what little he can see both in his state of mind and limited field of vision. Eventually, he is cast into a lightless dungeon, which by first inspection is made of bricks, of an odd shape, and approximately fifty yards in circumference.
Upon further inspection, the narrator discovers a pit in the center of the dungeon, into which he nearly falls. The narrator is then drugged and tied to a bed, which is placed directly under a swinging blade that is slowly descending from the ceiling. Death eludes him for hours. After realizing that he can use his head to fight against it, the narrator rubs food on the ropes that bind him to the bed. He is then swarmed by rats chewing off the ropes, and escapes in the nick of time.
Unfortunately, there is a third method of execution in the prison. The walls, which are in actuality made of iron, begin to glow red-hot and press in, forcing him into the pit. Just before he falls, he is rescued by the French during their invasion of Spain.
“The Pit and the Pendulum” is an epic of tension and high stakes. Not a word is wasted. The descriptions, especially in the absence of light, are remarkable. The vocabulary is rich and varied, arranged in such a way that we feel the fear of the narrator.
The story is a classic, and it has earned its place in the bookshelves and libraries of Americans across the country. It gives a hint, not only of the rich literature that was available in the 19th century, but also of the terrors of the Spanish Inquisition.
As a writer, I find that many things distract me. In fact, as a writer, I am a distraction.
I distract myself from my Bible reading. I'm lying in bed at 6:30 A.M., staring at my Bible by lamplight. In my head, though, I'm watching a scene from one of my books, movie-style. I might have been reading about redemption and started daydreaming about cheese. The funny thing is, my brain found a way to connect them.
"Hey, remember that one time you ate half-moldy cheese cubes during chemistry class? That cheese was redeemed."
"Cheese. What a funny word, 'cheese.' I like cheese. You know, Erik from the sequel--he's lactose intolerant. What would happen if he accidentally ate cheese? How does one accidentally eat cheese?"
*Mom walks into my bedroom with laundry*
Me: "Mom, how does one accidentally eat cheese?"
Mom: "Well, it would have to be in something that was cooked."
You know what, I think I started writing as a method of distraction. I was a kid. Life was tough. When the screaming in the living room got too loud, I went to my room and turned up the radio, then talked with my imaginary friends for a bit. Oh, I had such good times with my imaginary friends. I still do. Don't judge, it's so common they made a meme out of it.
Anyway, I had such good times with my imaginary friends, pioneers and Indians and anthropomorphic deer. I loved them all so much that, when I was ten, I compiled their stories into a novel. It was stupid, but without it, I wouldn't be nearly the writer I am today, and Where the Clouds Catch Fire certainly wouldn't be as good as it is today.
So yes, most distractions are bad. They take you away from what's most important. But not all of them are counterproductive, and if you can turn the thing that distracts you into a career--*insert fist pump* you've got something!
What distracts you? How have you creatively turned your distractions into solutions? I'd love to hear it...maybe I can apply your advice to my Pinterest addiction. God bless you, dear reader, and have a marvelous weekend!
--A note for the reader by Lukas McCamden.
Easter is a season best celebrated with others. I can say for the first time in forty years that I have done just that, for the celebration of new life is not quite complete without another life to share it with. The celebration itself is as wondrous as it is mysterious--a dying God Who, by His death, led captivity captive and killed death itself, only to rise again and share His life with His children.
The concept was a mystery to me as a child, despite my relentless questioning of the seventy-eight learned men of God with whom I shared St. Anne's Monastery. To me, Easter was little more than the end of Lent. With the pantry now open and our return from one to two meals a day, it was quite easy for my stomach to get ahead of my devotion to the Lord.
But it was on my fifteenth Easter that I learned the true meaning of the holiday. Just two days prior I had witnessed the massacre of the rest of my fellow monks, and I had received such a beating that twelve of my ribs were broken. Somewhere between the coughing up of blood and the physical pain that, to this day, has never fully left, I realized that Easter had set itself upon me. I will never forget the irony of the promise of new life in the face of so much death.
As I lay on the bed that had once belonged to my father, every painful breath reminding me of him (for even his bedclothes smelled of ink and the fields he worked), a thought struck me. While I had the joy (more or less) of physical life, my father now enjoyed eternal life. Just as Christ had died and risen again, so had my father risen--but not to the life I found myself in, with its consistent pain and struggle. No, my father had the joy of the Lord. And without Christ's sacrifice and, even more, his resurrection, he would not have had this hope. None of us would.
For anyone can die, and everyone will die. But it takes the power of God to rise again. Christ is "the firstborn among many brothers," as Paul told the Roman church, and His resurrection is the first of many. My spirit longs for the day that mine will occur.
For now, though, I am content to watch Alynn, resplendent in the dress Caitriona has made for her. Lent is over; the time for feasting has begun. And I praise God with the ringing of bells and singing of psalms, and with cries of "He has risen! He has risen indeed!"
It's been a while since I've read a good book. Sure, I read The Fellowship of the Ring in February, but can someone hire a linguist to keep all of the names straight? A much more modern, faster read can be found in Brentwood's Ward by Michelle Griep.
This enchanting story follows young Emily Payne as she traipses through pre-Victorian England--but her fantasies are halted when her father hires Nicholas Brentwood to be her guardian. Nicholas is a Bow Street Runner, the precursor to England's modern police force. Intelligent and attractive, with near-Sherlock deduction abilities, Nicholas turns the heads of nearly eligible lady in the novel. Except for Emily, of course--she has her sights set on the affluent Charles Henley.
But when Mr. Payne's business partner turns up murdered, Nicholas must put his sleuthing skills to the test. With kidnappings and betrayals, murders and lies, this may prove to be too much for even him to handle. And will Emily be kept safe?
I haven't enjoyed a book this much since I ran into The Crittendon Files trilogy a couple of years ago. The characters are stunning, the tensions are gut-wrenching, and nearly everyone gets what they deserve in the end. I was especially impressed by Nicholas's observance and deductive reasoning. Although it's a Christian book with no profanity, it's best enjoyed by adult audiences, mostly because of a single scene in the end of Chapter 21 (and the first page and a half of Chapter 22) that has some non-graphic adult content. The scene serves its purpose--to create tension and expose a character's true colors--wonderfully.
As with any book, it's not perfect. The ending is slightly abrupt, as if there were a deleted scene somewhere before it that would have made everything clearer. Some things, like Nicholas's villainous past, are implied on the back cover but never described in the book. But it's well-researched, well-written, and well-paced. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Brentwood's Ward.
What about you? Have you read Brentwood's Ward? If so, what was your favorite part? I'd love to hear it in the comments below! God bless you, dear reader, and have a wonderful day!
Now that April Fool's Day is officially past, and I can post without fear of my heinous plans being discovered....
I caged our house.
Thanks to Pinterest, I got the idea of "caging," or taping pictures of Nicolas Cage everywhere. Over pictures. On eggs. On light switches. I even caged my parent's car keys. The results were stunning....
That's my aunt and cousin. And here's my parents and I when I was a toddler:
It took me an hour and a half to do every picture I found in our house (well, the ones I had faces big enough for), but it was worth it. Very much so. And I found out that my dad looks surprisingly like Nicolas Cage.
And here's my favorite:
Which picture is your favorite? What's your favorite April Fool's Day joke? I'd love to hear it in the comments below! God bless, and have a wonderful day!
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.