Short Story: Fortunato's Revenge
This story is based on Edgar Allan Poe's "Cask of Amontillado"
Et dicet ascendens operiam ad victoriam: I will rise to victory
My old acquaintance Montresor was a puffed-up man, smug at times and given to moments of pompous grandeur at others. Since I’d been drinking that evening, I ignored his faults. It was Carnival and he invited me to go with him to sample a cask of wine. A chance to go to his vault was a privilege not to be overlooked.
“Come with me,” he said. “I have some wine that I am unsure of.” I was a connoisseur, as was he. He had the nose, but I had the taste buds. Besides, when he put forth Luchesi’s name instead of mine, I could hardly bear it. What did that knave know?
I wore a jester’s costume that evening to the festivities. It made me appear ridiculous but no more so than Montresor in his black mask. He took me to his cellar in the family catacombs where he’d stored an excellent selection of wines. We walked further and further into the darkness, his torch lighting the way. Bones of the dead surrounded us--partial skeletons scattered with an occasional skull. The niter got stronger as we proceeded. Breathing was hard.
Montresor kept mentioning that he was a mason, a fine organization to discuss but for what purpose when we were seeking wine? I soon found out. When we got to the end of the vault, he pushed me against the wall and handcuffed me to it by means of a set of old chains left over from a previous era of torture. Then he took a trowel and some bricks he’d placed along the edges of the catacombs and walled me in. He meant it as my final resting place. I screamed for mercy. None was forthcoming. At the end, my sobs were moans, the bells on my costume echoed in the dark, damp chamber. I was alone with the dead.
After his footsteps faded, I sobered up and overcame my initial terror. I began to think of survival. The mortar in the last bricks was still damp. I worked free from the old, rusty chains, rummaged in the dark, and found a humerus from some ancient arm lying near. “Poor fellow," I said under my breath. The bone made an excellent hammer. I began working on the bricks around it until I had a hole big enough to make my escape. I restacked the bricks to disguise my exit in case Montresor visited his handiwork. Without the benefit of light, I touched the damp sides of the vault and moved forward, tripping over skeletons and ignoring the scurry of rats until a small shaft of light appeared.
It was common to see revelers lying in the streets after carnival. They slept off their excesses in crumpled costumes and wandered around town seeking their way home. I quietly escaped Montresor’s villa, blended into the crowd, and caused no stir as I walked toward my home in my motley dress. There, I secured the proper tools and set about breaking off the metal cuffs from my hands and feet. I changed into more sensible attire and placed the jester costume in a trunk.
For years, I didn’t see Montresor although he remained in my mind, gnawing on it like vermin. I carried on with my life as if I’d never seen his wine cellar. At the same time, I never forgot his macabre attempt to kill me. I became an old man but not the same person I had been.
As I walked down the city street one day, I saw someone who looked vaguely familiar. I realized at once that it was Luchesi, my competition long ago for the chance to sample the amontillado. He had grey hair now.
“Luchesi,” I called out. “How are you? It’s been many years.”
It took a second for him to recognize me. When he did, his shock was apparent.
“Fortunato, I’d heard that you had passed on years ago. Your old friend, Montresor, talks of you every time I visit him.”
So, he was still living. In my mind. I smelled the dankness of the cellar, felt the pressure of the chains against my wrists, and heard the shrieking of rats.
“He must be quite old,” I said. “Where do you visit him?”
“He’s in the home for the infirm. His mind is weak. His heart weaker. He told me he had left you in the wine cellar years ago and that you were dead.”
“I was lucky to get out.” I explained no further.
“He has a birthday next week although I think I’m the only one who cares. He made a number of enemies over the years. No one visits him but me.”
“You are a good friend, Luchesi. Will you see him on his birthday?”
Luchesi shook his head. “I have other business that will take me away that day. It is also carnival again.”
I nodded my head. It was hard not to smile.
“It’s nice meeting you again. Sorry I startled you.” With that, I took my leave and began thinking of how I could give Montresor a final birthday surprise.
The revelers came out the night of carnival. I slipped on my jester’s costume and tilted my head, letting the bells ring. I was satisfied with my appearance in the mirror. The smirk on my face would not go away.
It wasn’t far from my villa to the infirmary. On certain days, the foul stench of death and voices of the insane carried on the wind through my windows. As I walked toward the entrance, my heart thumped, the memory of the catacombs revived. I considered the irony of that place. I was imprisoned there and now Montresor was imprisoned here waiting to join his ancestors.
I entered his room. He was crunched down in a chair sitting by the small window. It was open allowing the sounds of the revelers to filter in. He looked toward the fireworks going off then tilted his head my way.
“Is there someone here,” he said.
I moved closer and made the bells ring on my hat.
“An old friend.”
Ring, ring, ring.
“That sounds familiar. Are you dressed for carnival?” “I am,” I said. “just like I was so many years ago.”
Ring, ring, ring.
“My name is Fortunato.”
“It can’t be!” he said in a startled voice. “You’ve been dead for many years, safe in the catacombs. Are you a ghost?”
“No, Montresor. I’m no ghost. I worked my way out after you left me imprisoned. I knocked out your cruel bricks and escaped. Here I am again to celebrate your birthday and carnival.”
Ring, ring, ring.
He clasped his chest, gasping for air.
“Fortunato, help me!”
“Help you? I’m going to help you the same way you helped me when I screamed for mercy. I’ll help you find the catacombs. This will be your final birthday.”
Montresor had yelled out his family slogan as I languished in his wine cellar. Now, I offered him mine as he died. With a demented voice filled with joy, I said, “You forgot my family motto, didn’t you? Let me refresh your memory. Et dicet ascendens operiam ad victoriam. I will rise to victory.”