The Macabre Symbolism in Edgar Allan Poe’s Iconic ‘Masque of the Red Death’

Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death” is perhaps one of the most iconic works of horror literature in history. It’s also perhaps my favorite of all of Poe’s short stories, with “The Fall of The House of Usher” a very close second. Beneath the surface of “The Masque” lies a multitude of hidden meanings and symbols, just waiting to be discovered.

First published in 1842, “The Masque of The Red Death” is considered one of Poe’s finest works and is set in a world ravaged by plague. In this story, Poe combines his signature themes with a stern moral lesson about mortality and death’s inevitable presence in life.

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The Elements of Good Horror Fiction

Writing a compelling horror story can be a challenge, but it’s certainly possible. When crafting a spine-chilling narrative, you should include some essential elements to create a successful horror story.

Horror fiction is a genre that seeks to evoke feelings of dread, horror, and terror in the reader. It is often centered around dark and mysterious themes such as the supernatural, violence, death, and the unknown. Horror fiction has existed since antiquity, appearing in ancient folklore and legends.

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Images of Pain (Flash Fiction)

A cold ground and thunder rumbling outside. All darkness at first and no memory of how I’d gotten here. Chilly air and damp.

I called out into the darkness but got no response. I saw what looked to be an old Zippo lighter by my side. I used it to faintly illuminate the room.

I am in prison, but the cell door is wide open.

They say sometimes we have dreams like this, though they could be better called nightmares. Perhaps they are nightmares embedded within nightmares in the subconscious, sleeping world. I have no memory of my life; everything is a blank slate, pale and grayish. The only images playing in my mind are of shadowy figures like ghosts. Though I see no one in this prison, I hear echoes of voices. They’re whispers, so I follow them. They say, “You deserve this,” and “The time is now for your punishment.”

The prison is expansive, set up like a labyrinth. I walk through the corridors and rows of cells, lost. It feels as though I’m wandering in circles. I follow the echoes of the voices. “Come closer,” they whisper. The thunder continues to rumble outside, and brief flashes of lightning that illuminate the prison’s interior. The whispers turn to deeper voices like growling. Then, the barking of dogs, loud, deep barks from vicious chained-up dogs. I can tell they’re chained up because I hear the chains rattle in the nighttime air.

No moon in the sky outside through the windows. My eyes adjust to the darkness so I can see better, but there’s not much to see. Despite the sounds, there still appears to be no one here.

My stomach twists with anxiety. Goosebumps on my arms. The clanging of steel now sounds in the distance. Memories are coming back, not like a flood of them, but little pieces here and there. Memories of a physical struggle, of looking down into the ashen face of a pale man on the concrete. His eyes are the purest light blue, and his smile is devious. He says, “Kill me, you bastard.” Memories of me holding a handgun and the steel’s coldness in my hands.

But it’s all mixed up. The man is on the ground, and his face has changed. The skin is green now, and the tongue is reptilian. The eyes are a deep yellow, and the teeth are sharp like fangs. There’s a crowd encircled around us, watching, cheering. There’s my mother crying, my dead father sleeping and levitating.

I am still walking the prison corridors, listening to noises. When I hit a dead end, the walls start closing in. Just when it appears as if there’s nowhere to go, a heavy door opens and hits me with a blinding red light.

Standing there behind the door is GOD.

But it is now how I imagined GOD would look.

He is a black, nebulous creature with wings. He has no face to speak of, and his body is not humanoid. It is more like a reptilian bird. I know this is GOD, though, for some reason. Something tells me it is.

I wait for the thing to speak while it flaps its wings. Then, the creature, GOD, opens its terrible, cavernous mouth and lets out the most horrible sound I could ever imagine. It blows me backward and pierces my bleeding eardrums until it makes me deaf and mute. The sound continues unabated, and the pressure in my brain keeps getting worse until it suddenly stops.

Everything is in complete darkness again. A garden has formed in this small room, filled with radiant blue flowers. A garden of the night within the prison walls. I fall asleep, I think, but I awake in the garden again.

There is no escaping this place. This is my home now, for eternity. Whatever punishment must come, it doesn’t matter. Whether I am cursed or blessed, I do not know. I know nothing anymore. Nothing but pain.

The End

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Drifting (flash fiction)

The lines on the highway get blurry when you’re driving for so long. Pete was used to this; he’d stop at whatever town seemed appealing to him. He usually picked where he stopped based on the name of the town. He didn’t know much about these small hamlets throughout the states, nor did he want to. Usually, the smaller and quieter the town, the better for Pete.

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Brotherhood of the Blood (microfiction)

I have decided to celebrate tonight. You must be asking why. It’s because here, in my solitary cell, the pagans who worship me, the religious cultists, have thrown an extravagant ceremony that coronates my kingship.

You see, they call me Killer Ugly. I am the god of the downtrodden, the people who most like to dismiss and push aside in this capitalistic free-for-all world. Someone must look out for these folks, no? I am their champion.

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Smile (Microfiction)

The woman’s body had been dismembered. Entirely and utterly torn apart, pieces of which were strewn about the apartment. And there, in the dark, we found the symbol of the killer glowing on the wall: the two Xs for eyes and the smiley face. It was the third such case this month.

“I wanna know, how does he not track blood everywhere when he leaves the place?” I asked my partner, Matthew. “He’s careful, but not that careful. If he was more careful, he wouldn’t leave such a mess.”

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We Will Burn Together (Microfiction)

“What was that noise?” I said aloud, though I was alone.

I remembered I had left the screen door open. There is such utter peace when you live in the woods, away from most of civilization. But there is also a creepy feeling, knowing that your neighbors are so far away, and no one would be able to hear you scream. It’s why I was so terrified of home invasions.

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Forsaken (microfiction)

You bring me these dead flowers, and I ask, why? Why do you come to this place, knowing the danger? Why do the stray dogs of the forest night terrorize us and not let us sleep, with their howling at the moon like wolves every night, feeding on the corpses of rabbits?

And yet, you seem so naïve. Did you not know that this world is forsaken now? When they dropped the bomb long ago, they killed beauty. Whatever innocence we had left died that day, and ever since, we wallow in our filth and spend each minute like it’s our last.

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