All Her Teeth Were Thoughts

I am currently taking a class on science fiction, fantasy and horror writing.  Looking now at the horror part of the course, we were given the task to write a creepy collaborative tale ourselves.  For inspiration, I turned to an old favourite tale, which I recommend to you: 

Berenice, by Edgar Allen Poe.

This does not seem to be one of Poe’s better known stories.  It first came to my attention because of an obscure song by the band Mr Bungle, headed by Mike Patton, who others would recognise from Faith No More.

Skip to 02:30 for Poe quotations

It’s a long, weird and rambling song, portions of which fall into utter incoherency at times, but its eccentricity is charming.  The lyrics extensively quote Berenice.  This line always used to capture my attention:

“And of Berenice, I more seriously believed that all her teeth were thoughts.”

Eventually, I googled the line and discovered its origin, and read the story.  It’s long and very dense at the beginning, and the action is slow to build.  On rereading it, I wondered if I’d made a mistake thinking it was the terrifying tale it was.  But once Poe introduces the titular character, things get dark and fascinating.  The conclusion is so tightly wound at times I found myself wanting to scoff at this or that detail for being too convenient, but Poe set the story up so carefully that I couldn’t refute any of it.  Everything was explained.  Everything had a reason.  And everything was so unavoidably, beautifully macabre!

I hope you enjoy this horrifying tale, or the strange song it inspired.  Poe and Patton are both masters in their fields.



P.S.  Something I found out on rereading this time:  Patton actually mispronounces the name.  He says “Ber-neece” when it should be “Berry-nice-ee”.   It’s going to take a while for my head to adjust round that one.

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