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The Torture Garden Excerpt: The Cadaver

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“Oh, darling! Darling! Darling!” she cried; an exclamation by which she always expressed the intensity of her emotion at the approach of horror, as well as love. And we looked at the cadaver, and with the same horrified motion stretched our necks toward the cadaver, and we could not tear our eyes away from the cadaver.

On its convulsed face, on which all the contracted muscles were outlined, frightful grimaces and hideous angles stood out, the twisted mouth revealing the teeth and gums, mimicked the frightful laugh of a madman, a laugh which death had stiffened, fixed and, so to say, modeled into all the folds of the skin. The two staring eyes darted a sightless glance at us, but their expression of the most terrifying insanity remained, and so prodigiously sneering and so fitfully mad was this stare, that never in the cells of an asylum had I been destined to see its like in the eyes of a living man.

Observing all these muscular displacements in the corpse, all these deviations of the tendons, all these projections of the bones, and on the face, this grin and this dementia of the eyes surviving death, I understood how much more horrible than any other torture must be the agony of a man lying forty-two hours in his bonds under the bell. Neither the dismembering knife, nor the red, burning iron, nor the ripping pincers, nor the wedges which spread the joints, crack the articulations, or split the bones like pieces of wood, can work greater ravages on organs of living flesh and fill the brain with more horror, than this sound of an invisible and immaterial bell, combining in itself all the known instruments of torture, infuriating all the sensitive and thinking parts of an individual at the same time, and fulfilling the office of more than a hundred executioners.

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