The opening of "The Pit and the Pendulum" sets the scene for what's to come later. There's something both surreal and yet at the same time, hyper real, about the fate that has befallen the narrator. He's aware, terrifyingly so, that he's been sentenced to a cruel and painful death. But it's all too much for him to take in; the sheer horrific magnitude of what awaits him overwhelms his senses and his reason. In the opening lines of the story, we are being introduced to both natural and supernatural elements, which will remain in constant tension throughout the rest of the tale. The narrator's fainting places him in a disorientated, almost purgatorial state, caught between life and death, dream and sleep, without knowing exactly where he is and what's really happening. And it's this stark evocation of the unknown, so artfully contrived by Poe in the opening of "The Pit and the Pendulum" that adds to the sense of terror and foreboding that characterizes the remainder of the story, making it all the more eerily effective.