This is an extract from Eugene Thacker’s forthcoming Tentacles Longer Than Night: Horror of Philosophy, Vol. 3 (Zer0, April 2015). It is the second of two extracts, the first of which (from vol 2 in the series, Starry Speculative Corpse) was published here last week. The two books (Vols 2 & 3) will be published simultaneously on 24 April by Zer0. – TS
For the most wild, yet most homely narrative which I am about to pen, I neither expect nor solicit belief. Mad indeed would I be to expect it, in a case where my very senses reject their own evidence. Yet, mad am I not – and very surely do I not dream. But to-morrow I die, and to-day I would unburthen my soul. My immediate purpose is to place before the world, plainly, succinctly, and without comment, a series of mere household events. In their consequences, these events have terrified – have tortured – have destroyed me. Yet I will not attempt to expound them. To me, they have presented little but Horror – to many they will seem less terrible than baroques. Hereafter, perhaps, some intellect may be found which will reduce my phantasm to the common-place – some intellect more calm, more logical, and far less excitable than my own, which will perceive, in the circumstances I detail with awe, nothing more than an ordinary succession of very natural causes and effects.
An opening that is, perhaps, unparalleled in horror literature. Poe prepares us to expect something incredible, but without giving us any particular clue as to what that will be. Regardless of what follows, we as readers are primed to experience something indefinite, something the narrator does not – or cannot – define in any concrete way. All that we know from this opening is that what the narrator has witnessed seems to defy all rational explanation. The narrator even questions himself – was it a dream, a drunken hallucination, insanity itself? This self-interrogation (before the narrative has even begun) raises the stakes of the story. Whatever abstract horror has happened, it cannot be explained by the narrator. And yet, it must be explained, there must be an explanation. The narrator is so committed to this notion that he is willing to question his own sanity so that the “Horror” can be explained. And, the narrator continues, if I can’t explain it then there must be someone else who can. In lieu of this, he can only hope that someone else (doubtless we, the “dear readers”) will come along and provide an explanation, some explanation, any explanation.
What cannot be accepted is that something happened for no reason. But this event is not just an everyday event. It has the character of being out-of-place, of not fitting into our everyday or even scientific modes of explaining the world. It threatens the order of things produced by we human beings, living human lives in a human world largely (we presume) of our own making. That something, that event, might threaten this order of things, and that it would happen for no reason – this is, for the narrator of “The Black Cat,” the real horror. It is a thought that cannot be accepted, without either abandoning reason and descending into the abyss of madness or making the leap of faith into religion and mysticism. It is as if, before Poe’s story has even begun, the horror tale itself is in a state of crisis, the narrator nearly having a break- down before us, only able to communicate himself in vague terms and uncertain utterances. Continue reading Exclusive extract from Tentacles Longer Than Night (vol. 3 of Eugene Thacker’s horror of philosophy series)