I doubt there are many people not familiar with this short story first published in 1842 in the literary annual The Gift: A Christmas and New Year's Present for 1843, a story that finds our narrator waking to discover that he has been imprisoned, by order of the judges of a court of the Spanish Inquisition, in a place much rumored about and dreaded by all. In the total darkness of his cell he strives to find just what the cell holds for him; how big is it? has he been entombed while still alive? what's the worst he should fear? The only thing worse than not knowing, is to discover the truth and face madness. This is a place where no one receives mercy nor leaves alive! There will be no quick death allowing one to escape the torment, instead, the cell is designed to provide the utmost pain and horror to the prisoner for the longest time possible.
I can feel the cold dampness of the cell's walls and the slime covered stones of the floor, hear the whoosh of the pendulum as it inches closer and closer, I can hear the footsteps of the hungry rats as they scurry for the forgotten meal, and, I can smell the stale dank decay that permeates the very air he breathes. I've read this tale many times yet this is one story that still today horrifies me, while at the same time, so fascinates me that I never tire of it. Just imaging myself in that cold, damp cell sends shivers down my spine.
Poe sure knew how to write scary, scary stuff!