PseudoPod 721: Teeth – Part 1

Show Notes

Part 1 of 2


Teeth

by Matt Cardin


For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.

— Ecclesiastes 1:18


Consciousness is a disease. — Miguel de Unamuno


1

My first and decisive glimpse into the horror at the center of existence came unexpectedly during my second year of graduate school.  I was earning a doctorate in philosophy and had stopped by the library between classes for some extracurricular research—or rather to pursue what I had long considered to be my true curriculum, regardless of whatever official degree program I might be enrolled in at the time.  The object of my quest was a copy of Plotinus’ Enneads.  I had only heard of the man and his book an hour earlier while browsing the Internet in my rented house.  A fortuitous combination of search terms had yielded an excerpt from his treatise on beauty, and I had experienced a flashing moment of metaphysical vertigo as I read his description of “the spirit that Beauty must ever induce, wonderment and a delicious trouble, longing and love and a trembling that is all delight.”  These words and their effect upon me had made it instantly clear that a printed copy of this book was definitely in order.

So there I was, winding my way silently through the second floor stacks and savoring the library’s familiar aura of wondrous knowledge awaiting my discovery of it in hushed anticipation. But instead of finding Plotinus’s book, I instead turned a corner and stumbled upon my friend Marco seated at a reading kiosk in the middle of the south wall.  The tall window above him spilled a shaft of dusty afternoon sunlight onto the burnished tile floor, imparting a muted glow to the kiosk and its occupant.

“Marco!” I said with genuine pleasure.

“Hello, Jason,” he murmured, and went right on reading and writing without glancing up from his books.  He was surrounded by piles of them, all impressive tomes of various sizes and ages and thicknesses, so numerous they were literally spilling off the table.  Three were propped open on the desktop, and he appeared to be copying passages from all of them into a lined notebook. When he did not pause in his work, I lapsed back into an uncertain silence.

Marco was a visiting student from Guatemala with an exquisite command of English and an accent so slight that it left some listeners unable to discern his origin.  His auburn skin, coal-black hair, and muscular physique gave him the air of a revolutionary from some Third World country.  He was, without a doubt, the most brilliant and widely read person I had ever met, a genuine savant who was simultaneously pursuing separate graduate degrees in physics, philosophy, and history.  We had met at the beginning of the fall semester, and I had quickly learned that his chic-terrorist look concealed a fierce intelligence.  Now, at the end of the spring term, I was still amazed at his vast capabilities.  He could discourse at length on almost any subject, displaying a verbal and intellectual virtuosity that put others to shame.  Adding to his mystique was the fact that he was only twenty-six years old. I found it impossible to reconcile his relatively young age with his positively fearsome erudition. The books arrayed on desktop before him now were a perfect example; I scanned their titles and found them to be of sufficiently diverse and advanced character to dizzy the average mind.

It was as I stood there watching and waiting in vain for our ongoing intellectual sparring match to resume that I felt the first prickling of unease.  Our interactions had always centered on a perennial philosophical conversation that never failed to exhilarate me even as it exhausted and humbled me. But on that day, in my beloved university library, with me standing there primed for a dialogue and brimful of a craving for neoplatonic expressions of transcendent beauty, Marco apparently had nothing to say to me.  I used the uncomfortable interlude to study his appearance more closely. His mouth and jaw were tight. His eyes appeared slightly sunken into dark sockets.  His shoulders were tense, his motions taut and meticulous as he continued his scribal work. He fairly exuded an air of intensity mingled with exhaustion. The word “haunted” sprang involuntarily to mind as an appropriate one-word description.

Then he said, “How are your classes?” Only his mouth moved. The rest of him maintained an unbroken focus on his work.

“Um, some good, some not.” I groped for a suitable entry point into this strange conversational exigency. “Teaching philosophy to disinterested freshmen is a bit like asking your cat to come to you.  They really don’t give a shit.” I winced at my own ridiculous words.

But somehow they were enough to reach him. He paused in his writing, pen lifted above page, and appeared to reflect.  “Ah, yes. Philosophy. We do love it, you and I. How was it that Will Durant once defined it? ‘Total perspective, mind overspreading life and forging chaos into unity.’” His tone implied something like a rueful smile, but as I watched him speak the words, his face remained fixed in that expression of hollow intensity.

At length he set his pen down and straightened from the hunched posture he had been holding.  “Do you have a few minutes before your next class?”

I was still fumbling to pick up the obscure thread of this weirdly stilted interaction. “Uh, sure, a few.  What’s up?”

He hesitated, then said, “I want to show you something.  Something that I’m confident you will find quite interesting. Perhaps even fascinating, given what I know of your intellectual proclivities.”

“How utterly mysterious,” I said, attempting with a resounding thunderclap of failure to add a little levity to the scene. Marco showed no reaction other than to close and stack his books neatly, one by one, on the desktop to await collection by a library aide. Then he slid his notebook into his ever-present satchel and stood up. Without even looking at me, he headed for the stairs, and without my even hesitating, I fell in tow and forgot all about Plotinus and his promise to employ mere words to describe the impossible, delightful, delicious apotheosis of Beauty itself.


2

We stood facing each other in Marco’s cramped dorm room, walled in by bland cinderblocks and beige paint. Marco held out a spiral notebook toward me.  I looked at him curiously and, in light of our meeting’s odd beginning, a bit cautiously.

“Take it,” he said.  “Look on the forty-sixth page.”

I took the notebook and examined it while my mind whispered the word “anticlimax.” This was nothing special, just an ordinary seventy-two-page, college-ruled spiral notebook with a red cover.  It was, in fact, the same notebook that Marco had been writing in earlier at the library, and I couldn’t help feeling a flash of irritation at what now seemed his rather theatrical refusal to show it to me in public.

But there was no use complaining now. I perched on the edge of one of the room’s twin beds and flipped open the notebook’s cover to find the first page crammed with Marco’s small and scrupulous handwriting. My eyes began scanning the text while my brain registered that the notebook appeared to be a combination of commonplace book and personal journal filled with Marco’s thoughts on quantum physics, history, philosophy, and a few other subjects I could not immediately identify.  Instantly, my curiosity kicked in at the thought that I was being allowed a glimpse into my friend’s private mind.

I began to flip slowly through the notebook in search of page forty-six, which was made easy by the fact that Marco had hand numbered the pages in the upper right corner.  Naturally, I stole as many glimpses as I could of the material on the intervening pages, and what I saw quickly sharpened my curiosity into a craving. Although the notebook’s primary subject was not readily apparent, I discerned that Marco was conducting a serious inquiry into a certain matter, an inquiry that encompassed ideas from fantastically diverse fields of knowledge.  He made great use of quotations from other writers, and I caught snatches of a theoretical treatise on quantum physics by Neils Bohr, a monograph by an obscure astronomer, a book of Hermetic occultism, the Hindu philosopher Sankara’s commentary on the Vedanta Sutras, and the writings of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche.  These last three were familiar to me; as a student of philosophy I had encountered them more than once in my own studies. The net effect of seeing all of these quotes together was to generate a sense that the comforting constellation of my familiar authors, books, and philosophies opened out into a vastly wider universe of unknown properties.

I lingered for a moment on page forty-five to examine the two quotes that appeared there. One came from a book with a strange name that was vaguely reminiscent of Hindu deities. The other was from a story by H.P. Lovecraft. I had heard of the latter but the former was completely unfamiliar to me.

My curiosity finally got the better of me, and I blurted out, “What is all this? What in the world are you getting at?”

“It will help,” Marco said, “if you will turn to the next page.” The tightness of his voice drew my eyes away from the notebook and up to his face.  His sat opposite me on the other bed, mirroring my posture of perched attentiveness. His hands gripped the edge of the mattress. A bead of sweat slid down his temple.  The expression in his dark-ringed eyes was unreadable.  I stared at him for a long moment before finally looking back down and turning the page.

Of all the things I might or might not have expected to find, an elaborate sacred drawing was surely among the last. And yet that was exactly what I found.  Rendered in the same blue ink that Marco had used to record his thoughts and quotes was an incredibly intricate visual pattern composed of abstract shapes, shadings, and forms. Its design was dense and complex, but what made it truly striking was its lushness and vividness, which made it seem three-dimensional.  At the same time, it was reminiscent of a Zen painting with its distinct dependence on space and absence to contextualize and comment on form and presence. Most amazingly, its elements were arranged according to some alternative philosophy of design that flouted and exploded common artistic principles of harmony, emphasis, opposition, and so on. Each line led the eye to one or more angles that refracted attention like a prism dividing light. Each shape held its position and significance in relation to a hundred different elements, each of which was in turn embedded in its own peculiar nest of visual meanings and unstated implications. The overall effect was of a bold, bristling infinity.

In a word, I was dazzled. I knew the creation of mandalas to serve as objects of sacred contemplation had been developed into an exquisite art form in religious traditions both Eastern and Western, but the one I was seeing now was even more breathtaking than the ones I had encountered in my studies of Buddhism, Hinduism, and medieval Christianity.  I had not known that in addition to his other prodigious gifts, Marco was an artist of genius. But there was no mistaking it. The mandala had been rendered by his pen, in his notebook.

I went to raise my head so that I could rave to him about the wonderfulness of the drawing and my awe at his secret talent.  But then, with a sudden, startling sense of the impossible, I found that I could not do it. My neck was locked in place and my eyes were magnetized to the center of the picture. I blinked, or rather tried to, and found that I was likewise prevented from doing that. I was still aware of the room, still aware of the floor and bed beneath me and the walls around me, and of Marco seated across from me. But I could only attend to them with my peripheral vision. It was as if an invisible anchor had been hurled out from the page and lodged in my eyeballs, fastening  them to the image and throwing me into an increasingly panicked state of immobility. I simply could not look away from the mandala, which filled my vision and began to horrify me with what I now perceived as its obscene infinitude.

And then it started moving. Right before my disbelieving eyes, the shapes began to stir on the page with a creeping motion like the slow boiling of liquids in an alchemist’s laboratory.  Every hidden implication and mini-universe of meaning in the individual elements took on countless additional connotations as the whole structure shuddered to life. The picture’s three-dimensional appearance became literal as the page’s center dropped away into a recess of infinite depth. I no longer sat in a room beholding a picture; the picture had become the whole of my consciousness, and it encompassed me, and I stared through it into a chasm of measureless meaning whose very vastness was a horror.

Then, in an instant, all motion stopped.  A dark spot no bigger than a pinhead formed at the mandala’s center and began to grow, as if approaching from an impossible distance. Ringed layers of shape and form fell away as this darkness accelerated its all-consuming approach. It resolved and clarified, and now wicked barbs and slivers were visible in its fabric, needled in endless rows of concentric rings like ivory spikes planted in rotten flesh. They churned and fluttered and twitched with a spasmodic motion, and in the tiny corner of my mind that I could still claim as my own, I realized I was staring into a nightmare abyss of endless teeth, a fanged and insatiable cosmic gullet that endlessly devoured, devoured, devoured all things in an eternal feast of annihilation.

All had been a prelude to this. My whole life, my very conception and progress through the stages of human existence, had been preordained to lead me to this dreadful moment. I felt the attention of a massive and malevolent intelligence turned upon me, and as I began to pitch forward into the pit, and as the first of trillions of teeth began to sink into my mind, I knew with absolute, horrified certainty that this nightmare abyss was also staring into me.


3

A buzzing blackness. Darker than darkness. Corrosive and cold. That was everything.

Then it was as if a light switched on, and that light was the visual image of Marco’s dorm room, and of Marco himself. He was standing on the ceiling. Either that, or the entire room had turned upside down. I watched his inverted image approach a similarly inverted medicine cabinet mounted on the wall. The slick mirrored surface flashed and waved as he opened and shut it. He approached me, still inverted, holding something out to me with his hand.

I realized I was lying on my back on one of his beds, arched up and watching him backwards over the edge of the mattress. He stepped beside me and the room righted itself as my head swiveled to watch him.

I tried to say “What?” but my lungs were paralyzed. I was suffocating. There was a momentary panic. Then my chest let go and I was sucking huge lungfuls of air.

“Take these,” Marco said over the sound of my frantic gasps. Two tiny white pills rested in his outstretched palm. With the other hand he offered a bottle of water.  Somehow my arms moved. I accepted the pills and washed them down while he slid back to sit at the room’s single study desk.

“Those were muscle relaxers,” he said.  “You’ll feel more composed in a moment.”

To my astonishment, he was right. I could already feel the unbearable horror, the impossible horror, draining out of my mind and body, not completely but enough to let me live. After a minute or two I sat up and swung my legs off the bed. The feeling of my feet hitting the floor, the sensory solidity beneath the soles of my shoes, revived me even more.

I looked at Marco. He had been watching me but now he looked away and stared at the wall. Finally, he spoke.

“If the purpose of philosophy really is to overspread raw life with mind, to gain a truly totalizing perspective that forges unity from chaos, then how do you spread your mind over what just happened to you? How do you include that in your tidy little philosophical cosmos?”

Was he really talking this calmly? Was he really acting as if things were normal and we were back to our old conversation, when in fact nothing could ever be normal again after what I just experienced?  But I could see the sweat standing out on his forehead and upper lip.  He turned his gaze upon me as if awaiting my answer, and for an instant his eyes were like black holes carved in a flesh mask. The floor beneath my feet shifted ever so slightly.

Then he was Marco again, but he was still saying things I did not want to hear. “The classic philosophical project has always been held up as a good thing, a noble enterprise that will bring justice and order to people’s lives. But what if the very attempt to gain that total perspective is tragically misguided?” He shifted in his wooden chair and leaned forward in the pose I had seen him adopt many times before when he was demolishing an opponent. “What if life and sanity depend not on finding the truth but on deliberately cultivating delusion? What if there is indeed a total perspective, but to gain and know it and identify with it is to invite your own deepest disaster?” He was still Marco but he was also something else, something more, leaning forward and splitting the air between us with the intensity of his words and vision. “What if reality itself is finally, fundamentally evil?

The words hung there, and then I answered them. “What you’re saying isn’t new and you know it. The idea or something like it goes at least back to the ancient Greeks, and probably farther. Schopenhauer and Nietzsche gave it a classic treatment a little over a century ago.” My composure shocked me. The room and my body seemed muffled and distant.

Marco straightened and slashed his hand through the air in a gesture of dismissal. “You’re talking history and theory. I’m talking about reality—pure, raw, existential.  You can’t distance yourself from it or gain a handle on it by recalling who first thought of it or what they said about it. For proof, I refer you to your own recent experience, which you’re only handling so well because I drugged you.”

And indeed he was right. My calmness wasn’t my own, and when I tried to see behind it I saw a raging swarm of terror and revulsion just waiting to arise. It was this subdued awfulness that now began to respond to the idea Marco was advancing, and my drug-induced surface calm suddenly seemed a positive curse. For it left me open to a nasty interplay of unwontedly dark thoughts and associations. My usual self-absorption, my narcissism, my obliviousness to my surroundings as I indulged a constant interior monologue—all these defenses had been stunned, and in the unfamiliar calm of interior silence I heard the sound of something terrible approaching.

Marco waited a beat, as if deliberately letting this chaos rage inside me. Then he picked his notebook up from the desk and tossed it onto the bed.  “Read it,” he said.  “It will answer many of your questions.  I assume I don’t need to tell you to avoid looking at a certain page.”

I looked at the red cover lying on the brown bedspread and felt the first real intimations of the inner upheaval that would certainly topple me once the drug had completely worn off. The entire situation had to be a dream. It could not be real, because if it were—I could not even articulate the implications. And then there was that drawing, that awesome, beautiful, horrific mandala. What had happened to me as I studied it? Flashes of unreality began to invade the edges of my vision at the mere remembrance of that mad motion, that impossible infinitude, that galactic tunnel of teeth. . .

“What is it?” My voice was small and weak, but Marco knew what I was referring to: both the drawing and the reality it revealed.

“The very question,” he replied, “approximates the only suitable answer.”

“But. . . you drew that picture yourself. How. . . ?” My strength to pursue the question gave out as he stood and began ushering me toward the door.

“Read the notebook,” he said. “We can talk afterward. Right now you need to get home and get some rest.”

I helplessly obeyed.  Before I really knew what I was doing, I had left his room and was riding the elevator down to the ground floor.  Then I was walking out of the dormitory and across campus to my house.  Then I was unlocking the door and stepping inside.

The click of the latch as the door swung shut awoke me from my walking trance, and I saw that my hand was gripping Marco’s notebook.  I dropped it like a hot coal. It slapped to the floor like a snake. I left it there and walked to the bedroom, where I collapsed on the bed and fell immediately asleep.  All night I wrestled with a dream that returned repeatedly and never resolved itself: Marco was standing outside my door talking with strangers.  I heard their voices rumbling in response to his, but their words were indecipherable and their tones ominous. Then hands began to knock, not just one but many, rapping smartly on the door and progressing toward a thunderous pounding. The door shuddered in its frame. The knocks were somehow amiss, as if they were produced by the wrong kinds of hands beating on the wrong kind of wood. To my deep dismay, I heard my voice invite Marco and his acquaintances inside. The very invitation unlocked the door, which began to swing inward, and even before it completed its arc and revealed the visitors, I knew full well what I would see. I knew it; the visual confirmation would just be the culmination of a fear that had accompanied me from birth.

That was where the dream stopped, only to start again after an interlude of unconsciousness. By the time morning arrived and I awoke to the unbuffered emotions of the previous day’s catastrophe, I had seen that door and known that dread half a dozen times. But that certain knowledge of the visitors’ appearance, so inescapable in the dream, had not followed me into the daylight. All I recalled was the door itself, and the sound of rumbling voices, and the knowledge that I had invited my own deepest doom to come inside and make itself at home.


4

The next week of my life was devoted to reading Marco’s notebook. Everything else went into hibernation, intellectually and emotionally speaking. Even though I went through the motions of my daily routine, I performed my duties without spirit. All of my energy and attention was directed toward a single and singular purpose: to read and grasp the meaning of the dark philosophical testament that Marco had penned.

Grappling with it was the most grueling experience I had ever endured.  This was due partly to the fact that Marco’s speculations on astronomy and physics were practically incomprehensible to me, but there was another reason as well: A new sense or faculty seemed to have awakened within me, a kind of “third eye” that remained perpetually open and proved distressingly responsive to the dark suggestions unfolding on the pages before me.  As I read the notebook and began to perceive the galling weight of the worldview under which Marco labored, I found that the same mingled mindstate of disgust and despair had unexpectedly taken root in my own heart, and was in fact being nourished by the reading, which, in a loathsome symbiosis, was rendered all the more clear and emotionally compelling by this new inner sense.

As I had already seen, much of the notebook consisted of long quotations carefully transcribed by Marco from a wide array of books.  Schopenhauer loomed large, as did Nietzsche.  It was during my undergraduate years that I had first encountered these giants of German philosophy. Back then I had exulted in the universal pessimism of the former and its extension and exhilarating transformation by the latter into an exploration of the meaning of human subjecthood. But now I felt as if I were truly understanding them for the first time.  Recorded here was Schopenhauer’s famous criticism of the assertion, so common among some thinkers, that evil is merely the absence of good.  “I know of no greater absurdity,” he wrote, “than that propounded by most systems of philosophy in declaring evil to be negative in its character.  Evil is just what is positive; it makes its own existence felt.” The concept was not new to me but its import, as perceived and amplified by my new inner faculty, hit me now like a blow to the head.

Also recorded was Nietzsche’s amplification of his mentor’s idea:

Nobody is very likely to consider a doctrine true merely because it makes people happy or virtuous . . . . Happiness and virtue are no arguments.  But people like to forget—even sober spirits—that making unhappy and evil are no counterarguments.  Something might be true while being harmful and dangerous in the highest degree.  Indeed, it might be a basic characteristic of existence that those who would know it fully would perish, in which case the strength of a spirit should be measured by how much of the “truth” one could still barely endure—or to put it more clearly, to what degree one would require it to be thinned down, shrouded, sweetened, blunted, falsified.

The quotes spooled on and on, piling up page after page, interspersed occasionally with Marco’s own notes and observations. After the Nietzsche quote, for instance, the blue-inked letters of Marco’s voice clarified, “And so the perfect lie would be the perfect sanctuary, the ultimate one-pointed perspective, and thus the ultimate weakness, while perfect strength would see reality cold, without blinking, and vast, without center, and naked, without a hint of cognitive or affective coloration.”

After two days of reading, I began to despair of penetrating the notebook’s secrets.  On the surface it seemed to be nothing but a particularly pessimistic collection of aphorisms and observations, albeit ones whose significance I was feeling with a weight and an impact that were veritably physical.  And still the searing memory of that picture on page forty-six jutted out like a broken bone in the skeleton of my psyche, leaving me frantic to find a conception and a context that would set the bone and bind the wound.

Then, on the third day, when my despairing confusion had reached its nadir, I came to a quote from the Indian philosopher Sankara that acted as the proverbial solid particle dropped into the saturated solution of my soul.  Sankara wrote,

With half a stanza I will declare what has been said in thousands of volumes:

Brahman is real, the world is false, the soul is only Brahman, nothing else.

I had long been acquainted with the Hindu idea that the material world is actually maya, illusion, a kind of mirage resting upon the absolute reality which the Vedantic Hindus call Brahman. The Hindu sages generally taught that moksa, the experience of release from this illusion and the subsequent realization of ultimate reality, constitutes life’s supreme happiness and final fulfillment. But Marco, by contextualizing Sankara’s classic one-line summation of Vedanta inside a potent exploration of Western pessimism, seemed to be positing that the uniform substratum of being that underlies physical existence is an utter nightmare.  And if “the soul is only Brahman,” meaning that the individual human self is at root nothing but a particularized manifestation of this pervasive primary reality—I couldn’t bear to follow this perversion of the Eastern beatific vision to its conclusion. Its repercussions were simply too awful to articulate.

Of the scientific line of thought interwoven with the philosophy, all I could comprehend was that Marco was struggling with some unresolved issue in quantum physics.  The mathematical work was beyond me, but from his text notes I could gather enough to grasp the bare essence of the matter, which had something to do with the philosophical implications of quantum mechanics.  I read that the equations used in this science are straightforward and uncontested in terms of their practical applications, as attested by everything from television to the hydrogen bomb, but that no satisfactory explanation for their meaning, their overall implications at the macroscopic level of existence, had yet been established.

On the subatomic level, I read, particles flash into and out of existence for no discernible reason, and the behavior of any single particle is apparently arbitrary and usually unpredictable.  If there is a cause or “purpose” behind this behavior, then it is one that the human mind is, to all appearances, structurally prevented from comprehending.  In other words, for all we know, the fundamental ruling principles at the most basic level of physical reality may well be what our minds and languages must necessarily label “chaos” and “madness.”

This predicament of knowledge (so I learned from Marco’s commentary) had remained essentially unchanged for eighty years, and Marco possessed the audacity to believe that he had begun to solve the riddle that had haunted the keenest scientific minds for nearly a century.  But he expressed his solution in a series of mathematical equations which were incomprehensible to me, and which may as well have been hieroglyphs carved on the inner wall of an Egyptian tomb.

My experience of these blossoming revelations was appalling. It was also progressively intense. The further I advanced in the notebook, the more powerful became the rising tide of revulsion inside me.  At times it grew so overwhelming that I was forced to stop for several hours. On one occasion, after I had rushed to the bathroom in the grip of an actual physical sickness, I laid aside the notebook for more than a day.  Late in the week I realized that what I was experiencing could only be described as horror, a word whose referent I had never really known.  Marco’s comments about the human need for illusion began to make progressively more sense, for if the ideas in his notebook really did point to reality, then I would rather be deluded. If it was strength to gaze unflinchingly into that abyss, then I would rather be weak.

It was with a veritably religious sense of fear and trembling that I turned, on the last day of the week, to the forty-fifth page of the notebook. Slowly I read through the first of the two quotes that appeared alone on the page, the one from a book whose title sounded distinctly Hindu even though I had never before encountered it and subsequently forgot it.  As its significance became clear to me, I felt the words begin to sink into my mind like vicious hooks:

Foolish soul, wilt thou comprehend the All, the great Central Mystery?  Man’s place is the middle.  Thou approachest the Gate in both the Greatest and the Least.  In the face of the night sky, at the core of a dust mote—the same One.  Wretched is he who hears the call, but more wretched still the one who answers it.

The final quotation was from a story by H.P. Lovecraft, and in the margin beside it Marco had written “The Capstone.”

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.  We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far.  The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

About the Author

Matt Cardin

Matt Cardin is a writer, editor, musician, and college professor and administrator living in North Texas. With a Ph.D. in leadership and a master’s degree in religious studies, he focuses frequently on the intersection of religion, horror, art, and creativity. His books include the weird and cosmic horror fiction collections To Rouse Leviathan (2019), described by Thomas Ligotti as “a breviary of gruesome mysteries” that is “a worthy descendant of a distinguished line of supernatural horror”; Dark Awakenings (2010), which Publishers Weekly praised as a “thinking-man’s book of the macabre” with “unusual philosophic depth”; and Divinations of the Deep (2002), which launched the New Century Macabre fiction imprint for Ash-Tree Press. He also wrote the free ebook A Course in Demonic Creativity (2011).  His editorial projects include Horror Literature through History: An Encyclopedia of the Stories That Speak to Our Deepest Fears (2017), Ghosts, Spirits, and Psychics: The Paranormal from Alchemy to Zombies (2015), and Mummies around the World: An Encyclopedia of Mummies in Religion, History, and Popular Culture (2014). In 2015 he received a World Fantasy Award nomination for editing Born to Fear: Interviews with Thomas Ligotti. He is also co-editor of the literary horror journal Vastarien. (more…)

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About the Narrator

Jon Padgett

Jon Padgett is a professional–though lapsed–ventriloquist who lives in New Orleans with his spouse, their daughter, and a rescue dog and cat. He is the Editor-In-Chief of Vastarien: A Literary Journal, a source of critical study and creative response to the work of Thomas Ligotti as well as associated authors and ideas. Padgett’s first short story collection, The Secret of Ventriloquism, was named the Best Fiction Book of 2016 by Rue Morgue Magazine.

He has work out or forthcoming in Weird Fiction ReviewPseudoPodLovecraft eZineXnoybis, and the anthologies A Walk on the Weird SideWound of WoundsPhantasm/ChimeraFor Mortal Things Unsung, and Ashes and Entropy. His latest chapbook, The Broker of Nightmares, will be published this October by Nightscape Press.

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