The Boarded Window by R. J. Cardullo | Script Revolution

The Boarded Window

This is the story of a man who THINKS his wife has died of fever.

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Page Count: 
3pp

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Based On: 
An 1891 story by Ambrose Bierce.
Synopsis/Details: 

It is 1800. The area around Cincinnati, Ohio, is almost unbroken forest, and a man named Murlock lives there in a small log cabin with his wife, Mary. He makes his living by bartering animal skins. One day when Murlock returns home from hunting, he finds his wife deliriously ill with fever. As they have no neighbors or doctor nearby, Murlock tries to nurse Mary back to health by himself. His efforts are unsuccessful, however, and she lapses into a state of unconsciousness, appearing to die without ever recovering awareness.

Murlock now sets about preparing his wife’s body for burial. He performs this task stoically, if not numbly. He tells himself that, after he buries Mary, he will miss her; for the present moment, he tries to convince himself that things are not so bad as they seem. After Murlock finishes preparing the body, he sits down—feeling utterly tired, as night is approaching, and placing his head on the table. Through the open window he then hears a long, wailing sound, perhaps a wild animal, perhaps a dream, for he is already asleep.

An hour or so later, he is suddenly awakened. Murlock listens intently, wondering what woke him up. He hears, or thinks he hears, soft steps—they sound like bare feet walking upon the cabin floor. Terrified, he neither screams nor even calls out. Instead, Murlock waits in the darkness, speaking his wife’s name but getting no answer. Then he hears something even more dreadful—the sound of a heavy body throwing itself against the table on which his wife lies, and next to which he sits.

Murlock subsequently hears and feels something fall onto the floor so forcefully that the whole cabin shakes. He also hears the sounds of scuffling. Murlock throws his hands across the table, but is horrified to discover that his wife is no longer there. At this point, terror itself drives him to action. Murlock springs to the wall, grabs his loaded rifle, and shoots it without even aiming. In the flash of the gunpowder, he sees a giant panther dragging Mary toward the window by the throat.

Shocked by the sight of his defiled wife, Murlock loses consciousness. When he awakens early the next morning, he sees his wife’s body near the window, where the cat had dropped her before fleeing. She lies in disarray, and from her badly lacerated throat issues a pool of blood that has not yet fully coagulated. Mary’s hands are tightly clenched; between her teeth is a fragment of the panther’s ear, which proves that she was alive when attacked by the wild animal.

Murlock returns his wife’s definitely dead body to its funereal state, cleaning her throat, rearranging her hair, changing her dress. Again he places Mary’s corpse on the table. Murlock is pale and shaken, and his hair appears to have turned white. He then goes outside to board up the window through which the panther had entered the log cabin. Finally, Murlock goes back inside the cabin, carefully latches the front door, and sits down next to his wife’s body. He stares straight ahead, his eyes wide open and unblinking.

Submitted: November 3, 2020
Last Updated: November 4, 2020

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R. J. Cardullo's picture

The Writer: R. J. Cardullo

A former university film teacher, I turned to screenwriting several years ago. I have also written film criticism for many publications. A New Yorker by birth, I grew up in Miami and was educated at the University of Florida, Tulane, and Yale. My last U.S. address was in Milford, Connecticut; I am now an expatriate residing in Scandinavia. Many of my scripts (both long and short) are adaptations of lesser-known works by well-known authors. I am happy to re-write, collaborate, or write on demand. Thanks kindly for any attention you can give my work. Go to bio

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