[excerpt from Rotting Pyramid: Tracing the Teeth of America Cult, Dr. Linda Royal, University of Georgia Press, 2025]
The nine thousand wild acres between Hiram and Forsyth—between Georgia state roads 9 and 113 and 378, specifically—form a rough triangle, and the cult erected the pyramid in its center. They buoyed it in an ocean of scrub pine cut with loblollies and misplaced live oaks, perhaps drawing on the power of a half-arcane symbology. Tennessee and North Carolina meet in a mountain seam just north. Hidden among the tallest trees, the pyramid decomposed for as many as four years, an organic clock winding down to apotheosis.
The estimated 136 people buried in the soil and red clay—all white males, per available data—were either victims or new archetypes, according to local rumor1 and certain archival material2. A circle of graves around the pyramid, a line of graves leading to it, each corpse sprouting into muddled, unclassified life. Today the wedge of forest is filled with ecologists, botanists, epidemiologists, and forensics investigators, among other branches of science.
Before its apparent dissolution in 2024, the Teeth of America is thought to have reached close to 200 members, including those that were buried. For several years, the cult recruited the majority of these online as Pale Cross3, an organization with no known status or physical headquarters. Membership in Pale Cross precluded an invitation to the Teeth of America. The far-right and white nationalist leaning of its online content (primarily restricted to message board websites such as Reddit, 4chan, and 8kun, as there was no website of its own) has contributed to a great stir of debate regarding the true intent of the group—whether to espouse the recently prevalent Aryan supremacy doctrine or to lure martyrs already steeped in it.
The burials themselves further the mystery: antifascist murders or supremacist experiments in evolution? Both motives can claim righteousness. Both motives could even claim God, the malleable face of so many groups, as a benefactor, if one squints in the right way. These sociological impacts will likely ripple the surface of the conversation for some time.
[excerpt from “What the Teeth of America Cult Says About Our National Nightmare,” Jonathan Diehl, New South Magazine, August 17, 2024]
Derek Albies doubts he will ever leave Hiram. The 19-year-old lifelong resident tells me he would have said this before the night of April 6, 2024, when he and two friends went into the forest that has been the subject of national fascination, and he would still say it now. Even after his brother, Hunter, was taken by the Teeth of America last year and planted in this Georgia clay.
“I got my job,” he tells me, referring to the polyurethane mold plant in Forsyth, a town that also borders the site of the “Rotting Pyramid.” We’re standing atop Noles Hill, which overlooks the beginning of those woods, the tip of the spearhead pointing at the world. This peak is perhaps at 40 feet of elevation, as the land here is a valley of sorts, a soft prelude to the Blue Ridge Mountains around us. “Some don’t got that much. And there’s my mom and dad and my sister, who’s pregnant with her second. But I like it here, and President Trump got us disaster money. He’s bringing the good days back.”
Regional statistics do not bear out this claim, nor does the general tone of the town’s residents. Fannin County has a growing unemployment rate (33% as of June of this year, well above the national average in the post-coronavirus era) following two decades of peripheral suburbanization. Atlanta is less than 100 miles south—a distance that once seemed even greater—but life here is still decidedly rural, the population holding steady before and during the president’s two terms. And much like the Trump era, it is difficult to know how the area will make out in the aftermath of the Teeth of America.
Derek has an inordinate amount of gray hair for someone still in his teens. His crewcut glints in the strong sunlight. I ask him about the 6th of April, three days before the FBI raided this land and something far stranger than Waco or Heaven’s Gate unfolded here. After several minutes of staring down at the woods, however, Derek says he can’t open up about it yet.
[excerpt from Proud Boys With Antlers: The Occult Evolution of White Nationalists, Stefanie Morales, Riverhead Books, 2025]
The closest I came to interviewing a viable firsthand witness of the days leading up to the FBI raid was Anthony Belanger. He wouldn’t answer or return my calls, but several weeks after the first draft of this book was finished, I received an email from him along with permission to reprint it here. Grammatical corrections, such as adding capitalization and paragraph breaks, have been kept to a minimum.
Here is how that night went.
Derek said his flashlight died soon as he went in the woods the night before so he chickened out. We laughed but he got real quiet all day at the plant worried about his brother. Then we caught him crying in the cafeteria and said we would go back with him if he really thought Hunter was in there. I mean we were kind of friends with Hunter too. We all brought lights, me and Derek and Robby, and they all cut out when we got in the trees. Phones too. You could hear the trees growing or something. It sounded like all the floors in my gramma’s house before she died. Old wood all swelled like it was rained on her whole life and slow creaking. But the moon was enough and we went on.
Before long there were these mounds all in a straight line through the woods like graves. There were things coming out of them. Arms reaching up made of like mushrooms and bone and this jelly stuff but kind of none of those things either. But at the same time they were real arms with real skin. It is hard to explain. Everything smelled real green. And that was what we had been hearing with the growing noises, them coming out. Then we saw some already mostly out and standing up. They were short. Spores were drifting off their skin and they had like deer antlers. Four or five each just coming out of their heads only in the wrong places.
We went on some more and these things looked less human but sort of more human too and what started off being like 4 or 5 feet tall was more like 10. Like house tall. A couple had those PROUD BOY tattoos on their arms just like on the internet but split open or covered in green stuff.
Then Derek yelled out Hunter and ran over to one. It did look like Hunter. I could remember one time he got in a fight with some Mexicans and got his face busted from being outnumbered. He was yelling at them and he groped one of their girlfriends or something. So I had experience seeing him messed up. Like partly formed. Of course he did not have a swollen neck and three antlers coming out of his face that time with the fight. But he or it or whatever did not react but just kept growing with that old floor sound.
I heard Derek screaming like his scream was turned on in the middle. I was feeling awful now. He pulled on his brother’s arm and eventually Hunter looked down from high up and kind of grinned with pieces of his mouth falling off. There was like moss or pond scum in his mouth. He lifted Derek up off the ground and me and Robby went over and pulled him back. We ran like dumbasses in the wrong direction away from where we’d come in and the antler people kept getting taller at every mound.
It got darker too at first with the creaking and pieces of moon falling between the trees. We ran half blind but then we got to the pyramid and that changed. It was lit up in an ocean kind of way. Like what I had read about deep in the ocean when I was a kid the way fish have to have this weird biological stuff to live. And the pyramid was alive. It was shaped like one of the ones in Egypt but it was alive and flexing like a stomach and it was dying. It had this awful stink cause it was rotting, parts falling off like Hunter’s mouth. The light moving all in the holes and full of maggots and a cloud of flies.
With the ocean light we could see some of those sort of human things around it but these ones were near as tall as my mom’s house which is two floors. They had come out of the ground and were walking all slow with those antlers and extra arms or legs hanging off and skinny. The head of one was covered with eyes. They looked like the pyramid in some way that hurt to look at. Moaning a lot like with pain in their guts. And almost worse there were naked guys crawling around on the pyramid and some of them pushing half into its walls. Those ones were still most of the way human.
There was this man sitting in front of the door of the pyramid but it looked like a mouth trying to say something. The man was bald and had the whitest skin. He had the blackest robe on. The maggots were piled up behind him in the door. He looked beautiful in some terrible way that makes me want to cry when I think about him. He said he was taking the white race to its natural conclusion in self worship. I remember those were the words he used. He asked us if we thought the white man was a superior creature and if we liked to own the libs and did we think racism was over and would we like to join our brethren and become something more? He laughed and pointed at one of the tall antler or tree or ocean things. I hardly remember Robby and Derek standing there. The air was hot and wet and got in the way of thinking.
Robby stepped toward the man and I just ran until I could not hear him laugh anymore. We came out of the woods on the Trickum Rd side but Robby was not with us. We called his name a while into the trees in between puking on the road. He never came out. Derek’s nose was bleeding. He had all these white hairs he did not have before. I looked in the mirror when I got home and I did too.
[transcript of “rotting pyramid speaks,” YouTube video uploaded May 11, 2021]
[A grainy darkness in which the focus sharpens and dulls by small degrees, sometimes resolving into a pale face: the suggestion of eye sockets, a cheekbone, a mouth stretched open. The clip begins with 47 seconds of subtle wet sounds like eating or objects slowly stirring liquid or perhaps simply flaws in the recording. A persistent whining drone suggests a swarm of flies. Then a voice, pitched low and threaded with a humming static, begins speaking.]
“The power of the mind is in and of itself occult. Confirmation bias and negative partisanship—willfulness—proved reality is only a fabric, and fabric can tear. It is a loose weave with rotted thread. We are at an apogee. The moon is at its furthest point from us. Maybe God is too, we as a moon in our own long orbit of whatever heaven is.
“I saw it everywhere. It clouded the air. It tasted like an ignored power. The hate flowing from people’s mouths, breaking the hearts and even the minds of those who wanted the truth to be truth, and for kindness to be kindness. A plague made half of us crueler than ever. Facts became bolder, but lies rose up and became truth in such a profound, puzzling human moment. What was happening to us? Perhaps this was the tearing point for the fabric. People would not move from the lines their minds had drawn, and reality never stood a chance. How could it against such numbers?
“And I thought—it seemed like if the world can be a cult, the word cult can change with the world. And the word occult can change. Just think—can demons or what we call demons be made real if we choose to believe in them no matter what? Simple belief. If the idea of God Himself can be turned ugly, if God Himself can be crushed in the teeth of His creation, the mind can do anything. This is a new demonology. These are the teeth of America.
“And so it stood to reason that what I wanted to do was not just possible.” [A long pause with continued wet sounds and a faint, panicked gasping in the background.] “It was probable. I have given birth to my pyramid. To plant it with the worms. My edifice to new—gods, to use a word that doesn’t fit. Something to wake us from our dreams.”
[A hand appears, long and white, more in focus than the face. Its fingers reach out and seem to caress the screen. The clip ends here.]
[excerpt from Rotting Pyramid: Tracing the Teeth of America Cult, Dr. Linda Royal]
Little is known regarding the leader of the group. Presumably a white male, he is known only as “Rotting Pyramid” in a pair of YouTube videos4 that would later be linked to the cult. As these clips were uploaded in 2021-22, a particular veracity is afforded. His expressed motives for constructing the pyramid further muddy the waters of understanding, but it is the author’s belief that a mode of nihilism—driven by an interest in the occult or mysticism—might be as much to blame as either pole of the political sphere.
Scarcely more is known about the pyramid itself. Nothing remained but flies when the first forensics team got their test tubes ready; thus, studies of it have been restricted to its ghost in the ecosystem, primarily in soil, insect, and plant life. Models extrapolate a square base with a height of 28 feet, small as pyramids go but looming large in a forested area of relatively modest trees. Traces of brick dust have been recovered from the site5, but certain recalcitrant compounds such as chitin and ossein are prevalent to much greater degrees, bearing out video and eyewitness accounts of purely organic material. Namely, meat and bone.
As of late 2024, law enforcement and government officials have yet to declassify the bulk of available reports and have been reticent even in the face of public health concerns. One Georgia Bureau of Investigation officer briefly discussed on Twitter what first responders encountered in the Hiram-Forsyth woods on April 9: “These things were like Jeff Goldbloom [sic] halfway through that fly movie / they were coming at us and falling apart at the same time / lord the stink of it.”6 The tweet was removed promptly, but screenshots survive in online posterity. Between the GBI, FBI, and Fannin County Sheriff’s Office, a total of 16 agents and officers were killed over the course of the raid, which reportedly lasted three hours. Somehow the media outlets were kept away until it was too late.
There were no survivors among the cult members—those that had been “born” as new organisms were certainly already dying before the raid—and the burial sites, too, have yielded limited and/or baffling results as a whole. However, two dozen of these graves still contained their corpses (or pupae, depending on one’s perspective), nearly all concentrated at a greater distance from the pyramid. Along with those dead at the scene of the raid, these have given researchers the greatest rewards. The bodies were found within a range of decomposition depending on time of death, but each exhibited a contradictory state of deliquescence and growth—turning to a mush densely packed with plant compounds while also calcifying, ossifying, sprouting new appendages such as antlers and limbs. The remainder of the mounds had been split open and bore organic traces similar to those at the base of the pyramid.
Organic compounds not previously found in nature were identified, such as the twining of plant and animal DNA—the calcium and phosphorus of antler marrow fused with urushiol, the oil secreted by poison ivy; bird feather keratin threaded with chlorophyll, pine sap, and squirrel hair follicles; the glossy chitin of a southern pine beetle’s carapace threaded with white-tailed deer hair; human semen in mosquito proboscises; human teeth with Virginia creeper root fibers7. For each of these genetic anomalies, there is another that spirals into further esoteric biology. The bonding of lithium and chromium to white blood cells into perhaps a new element8, as only one example, is a question that will be discussed across the periodic table and in anthropology symposiums for years.
Through litigation, the Southern Poverty Law Center acquired DNA results from eight of the occupied burial mounds—each matched an American male involved in far-right or white supremacist movements9. From the violently patriarchal Proud Boys to the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas—not to mention three known cases of active Ku Klux Klan members10—the devotedly disaffected found their way to the North Georgia mountains. It is assumed they did not know the nature of their “evolution” until it was too late, but this is far from certain.
[excerpt from Proud Boys With Antlers: The Occult Evolution of White Nationalists, Stefanie Morales]
The following letter was sent to Tyler Wilhelm, a Teeth of America member and victim, in September of 2021 along with a hand-drawn map. I reprint it below with permission of his sister, Sarah, who was kind enough to be interviewed for this book.
Fellow keeper of the birthright of the Pale Cross! It is time to join your brethren and Become something more. You are proven and now kin with the Teeth of America. As you are the product of superior evolution, in intellect and in cunning, in godliness, we offer you the final step into this ascension. This is the destiny of our race. The rise of the white sun. You have one week to arrive. You need only BELIEVE as lesser souls cannot. You need only taste of the Pyramid. Journey well, brother.
There came a point—around the time of President Trump’s reelection—that Sarah Wilhelm stopped reminding her brother that he had never stepped foot in the South and began fearing his obsession with the Confederate flag. What had started as a bumper sticker on the tailgate of Tyler’s pickup truck—HERITAGE NOT HATE shouted a foot above his Pennsylvania license plate—now seemed to be with him all the time: “a haunted look in his eyes,” she says.
It was an accelerated infection Sarah can trace in a clear line back to their father. The elder Wilhelm was a quiet bigot. His slurs were couched in softer words and oblique nudges, easy to brush off even when they should not have been. The voices of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity began murmuring through his ever-present earbuds sometime in the 1990s, and Sarah can now see the slow poison in him, the graying of his skin along with his hair. A self-righteous exoskeleton hardened around him.
Tracking her father’s infection is more difficult, with evangelical threads trailing back through the Republican Tea Party, the conditioning of Reaganomics, piercing the Civil Rights movement to anchor in the ugly hide of Jim Crow. An illness of resentment and entitlement, vague as its logic, festered in millions alongside him. It is the familiar story that has weakened the dynamic of so many American families in recent years.
The two Wilhelm children took their nurture and developed entirely different social constructs—Sarah working with nonprofits in the blue bubble of Philadelphia, Tyler trawling online message boards in the 96% white Blair County. Their mother died in 2004, after 9/11 twisted a new dial of white nationalism, before she could watch her husband’s political rage begin to be more carefully curated by the voices in his ear.
Sarah remembers the QAnon T-shirt Tyler wore to Thanksgiving dinner in 2019. She remembers spittle flying from his mouth—some of it misting onto the carved turkey—when he defended the shirt to their Uncle Steve. And she remembers his manic nature when Donald Trump was reelected, how the new facets of his personality seemed to sharpen. The look in his eyes went from haunted to bright zealous sparks.
At some point, he branched away from their father, into the open militant arms of certain online communities. Less quiet, less subtle, more inciteful. Sarah remembers a friend sending her a video clip of Tyler in the spring of 2020, one segment of a foolish worm coiled in front of the state capitol in Harrisburg to demand the state be reopened completely in the first months of the coronavirus pandemic, when the death toll was climbing nationwide. He was holding an assault rifle that would soon make appearances in his social media posts. She remembers zooming in on him in a photo she found on Facebook until it blurred into pixels to try to read a patch on his jacket, which had been identified in a comment as the insignia of the Patriot Front, a white nationalist/neo-Nazi group that coopts conservative talking points about “freedom.” A few weeks later, another friend of Sarah’s witnessed him using the same rifle to break windows in Philadelphia storefronts, a tactic used by many far-right groups across the country to escalate protests against police violence into all-out riots.
Sarah lost track of Tyler after that. Her attempts to reach out to him went unanswered for more than a year. On September 19, 2021, he shouted four words on Facebook—“THE WHITE MAN ASCENDS”—and vanished. Three years later, his personal effects—wallet, driver’s license, cell phone—were found buried in the woods outside Hiram, Georgia, near the site of the Rotting Pyramid. Tyler had ended up in the Confederacy, after all, through the jaws of the Teeth of America.
Sarah looks back over all the brooding signs and tells me she’s not surprised he joined the cult and sacrificed himself to become such a malformed, brief monster: “He wanted to be something more,” she wrote to me in an email after our phone call. “Then more again. Something always more. It’s how that letter hooked him. I think white nationalists—or maybe the people who make white nationalists is the better way to put it—all know on some level that the world is moving on without them, no matter how much power they have. That must be where the anger comes from. He wanted to be a weapon for a cause I don’t think he ever understood.”
As for why he was chosen for the cult, perhaps it was simply this lack of understanding, and the passion that could be stirred up in the space where wisdom should be, in a better world.
But Sarah Wilhelm also remembers Tyler pulling her around their cul de sac, the wheels of her red wagon rumbling as he took her in ever lessening circles, a spiral that ended in the Happy Dot, which Sarah would always draw with sidewalk chalk before they started. And then out again, in widening loops. Hours of this, Tyler almost ten years old, Sarah still four. She remembers Tyler driving her to get ice cream the day he got his driver’s license, then to Duncansville Park and its little pond everyone called a lake, where they skimmed rocks until the light failed.
These days she works with Life After Hate, on Tyler’s behalf, imagining a story arc in which he was able to pull the poison out of his mind and help others do the same. She doesn’t speak much to her father. He spends his days slouched in his den watching Fox and One America News—den is the right word, she says, an animal’s dim lair with an animal’s musk, in which his face is painted by the violent light of a constant news cycle, where truth is what you demand it to be. It has become difficult for her to draw fond memories of him out of her childhood. She has already mourned him. Eventually, she worries, it will feel as though he was the first of their parents to die.
[transcript of “rotting pyramid speaks” #2, YouTube video uploaded October 25, 2021]
[A candle, nearly burned down and guttering, sits on a saucer before the camera. Grainy VHS darkness crowds around the flame. Wet sounds can be heard, shifting and squelching, punctuated by long groans. A dark mass fills the background, perhaps a building or a mound of earth, and pale naked figures seem to be crawling upon it. They are indistinct. The candlelight catches their movement, those surfaces that glisten with moisture.
After 84 seconds of the unsteady light, a face pushes into frame from behind the candle, into the foreground, its mouth and eyes pockets of shadow. The head is narrow and bald. The mouth opens into a vertical column and breathes upon the saucer, and the darkness folds over. Only the white blur of the face remains. The voice that follows is low and distorted.]
“I have eleven of them now. They find me, they come into the trees, hate and dogma flushing their soft skins. Their teeth already loosening for me. They lay themselves on the dirt and leaves before me. I send them into the pyramid to gestate, and they go without pause, without question, almost without thought. I tell them their favorite lies and they make their own truths, to become their own new templates. They make their bodies into their own new temples. They emerge, eaten and cleaned, and I bury them in shallow earth, I nourish them like the worms that eat them, but it is their belief that rewrites their bones. It is no scripture of mine. I am but their guide and their minder.
“What, before, might have been conjecture is now evident. Already evident. The power of the mind is in and of itself occult. This new demonology. This new apogee. These teeth of America.”
[A pause. A long, liquid scream from a short distance. More screams rise up to join it. A match tears into light, the candle wavers again, and the white face fades into the background, toward the dark mass. The bald head is disembodied above the candle—or the figure is wearing a black robe. The light is lowered to the ground as two people—presumably people—creep around the sides of the mass, as though escaping the light. White arms snake out of the robe and it—he—can be seen pulling something out of the mass, something wet and humanoid with growths extending from the front of its face. It moans as it flops onto the ground. Static builds as the bald man drags the figure out of the camera’s view.]
[excerpt from Rotting Pyramid: Tracing the Teeth of America Cult, Dr. Linda Royal]
Alongside the medical and scientific expertise in these North Georgia woods—all the teeming -ologies—a certain measure of attention has been given to an occult element. Folklorists, theologians, and professors of esotericism poke around the site of the Rotting Pyramid with their respective two cents, not to mention a peripheral contingent of conspiracy theorists and psychics that sneak into the trees after the others have taken their notes and soil samples back to their cities and universities. The Church of Satan has sent its own dignitaries on this strange pilgrimage as well, though this has largely been viewed more as a political display than a pursuit of knowledge9.
These experts, though less demonstrably academic, are asking the question more baldly: What was the role of the occult here? Could it be credible? Have demonology and Judeo-Christianity anything to do with the organic matter of the pyramid and these aberrant ritualistic burials? Could there feasibly be an evolutionary catalyst in play, some cosmic straw best grasped within a Lovecraft tale?
In his “Rotting Pyramid” YouTube clips, the presumed leader of the cult claims to have created a new demonology predicated upon a theory that “the power of the mind is in and of itself occult.” Vindication and fear are currently spreading through the theological world. Taken at his word, and supplemented by the evidence this small army of PhDs has gathered over the past ten months (see Chapter Four), this theory—with its aversion to natural laws—cannot be easily discounted. From an anthropological or sociological standpoint, there is merit, no matter that biology screams out against it, in that way akin to denial, not outright refutation.
Once science is scraped away and too much unexplained tissue remains, there is a sense of the alchemical, as applied in mysticism tracing to the ancient Greeks and Anglo-Saxon Britons. Paganism meets chemistry. This transmuting of elements brings to mind a Philosopher’s Stone with lungs and migrating cells, all infused with and animated by—as the cult’s founder puts it—belief.
No operative doctrine of the Teeth of America has been uncovered or even guessed at. There are only the musings and vague manifesto of this man’s strange amateur videos, and he has presumably gone to ground. Still, lacking clear lineation, and in spite of the occult straining faith in these long years since the Enlightenment, one must at least allow these considerations: What is more occult than belief? How may the occult survive without it? And what is belief in this saturated 21st century?
[excerpt from “What the Teeth of America Cult Says About Our National Nightmare,” Jonathan Diehl]
When standing on a summit, it’s easy to imagine a battle below. You get the bird’s and the general’s eye view. From Noles Hill, I can almost see shell casings gleam in the V of the two blacktop roads meeting here at the point of the trees. But what was this battle for? To show racism as the monstrosity it is—literally, with monsters that we finally cannot look away from? I believe the evidence says so, vigilantism aside. If these were gods shambling out of the mountain valley, they were as ill-conceived as much of the United States’ dark history.
But in an echo of Charlottesville in 2017 and everywhere in 2020, it has been said that our nation lost honorable citizens on the law enforcement side on April 9th…and the white supremacist side. The calls for unity are as divided as ever, leading us to wonder what the point of it all was, if there is any atrocity that can’t be repackaged in real time for an intended audience. In white evangelist America, the dog whistles have been put aside for megaphones. God Himself is shambling, too, crushed in the teeth of His followers, to paraphrase the leader of the cult that nested here. Maybe this was the point, that all gods are ill-conceived if they are subject to ill beliefs.
But when belief itself will not coalesce into truth, when it stubbornly bends even further away from it into something new, where does this leave us? The Teeth of America has given news outlets such as Fox and Breitbart more fodder for their anti-antifa ramblings—how dare this liberal cult target white people, the subtext seems to demand indignantly, as though violent nationalists are standing in for all white Americans.
Meanwhile, some militant “news” sites that make Breitbart seem pacifist cling to a belief that the still-obscure things that emerged from the woods this spring may have failed but still hearken the next phase of some kind of reverse eugenics, a coming dawn of evolution. New hate groups have bred in the wake. This has shown us nothing so much as the era of Fake News marches on, mutating into its own unprecedented monster until the word unprecedented loses the last of its meaning.
Have we learned anything? And what was the lesson? Perhaps these Teeth should have taken a bigger bite.
I ask Derek Albies if his brother wanted to see the white race elevated to its former epoch, the sort of dominance that would no longer be questioned. Instead of answering, he tells me Hunter wasn’t a bad guy. He was tricked by the cult’s promises. When I point out that the promises involved a deep embrace of white supremacy, he goes back to the mantra: Hunter wasn’t a bad guy. He says this repeatedly, though he’ll never quite look at me.
Perhaps Derek isn’t far from the truth. Unlike most of the cult’s victims, Hunter Albies wasn’t a known affiliate of any hate group. He was a local. His proximity to these woods, and his driftless life in an agitated, divided land, may be as much to blame. Derek looks down at the spearhead of trees, the sun picking out the white in his hair like a constellation.
And just last week, a grainy video was uploaded to Twitter by the anonymous handle @newdemon, a drone shot passing over a sweep of forest darker and more textured than the one below us, riddled with static. A black pyramid seems to loom among the trees for a moment, before the camera glitches wildly and cuts off.
“I guess we still think God is ours,” Derek tells me. His voice is difficult to read. “We say we were made in His image. Why do all you reporters think it’s gonna change?” He turns to go, back to Hiram, away from where the pyramid fell apart.
[transcript of “rotting pyramid speaks” #3, YouTube video uploaded July 7, 2025]
[In the 95 seconds of darkness, a mass shifts in the background among trees, as though the camera was moved laterally and segments were edited together afterward, into an unsettling smoothness. But the quality of sound, the tones of dark, the tree species, the candles in the middle foreground, the squelching noises, the naked figures crawling on the mass—it becomes clear that all these elements are different as well as in different locations. The camera’s viewpoint retreats six times to show a towering pyramid, a blue-black sky framing its lines between tree crowns. These are six distinct pyramids in six forests.
A voice speaks throughout the video, pitched low and warped. At times the edge of a pale face is glimpsed on alternating sides of the frame, the rim of a wide eye.]
“And now President Haley builds the wall higher. Eight zealots sit on the highest court. We lock the old weak gods inside with us. We insist on lengthening the apogee. We strain the leash of heaven. We wear our hate in our mouths. It grows in our bones and we call it godliness.
“Books have been written of my teeth. Billions of pixels are spilled to understand. But my recruits—my little gods—my growths—these are merely the abscesses. The infections at the root. The journalists and the anchors and the writers and the scholars, they second-guess. They appeal to the better angels that are long chewed and swallowed and digested. They give ugliness the benefit of the doubt until all is benefit and all is doubt. They still have not seen.
[A pause in which a chorus of groans can be heard.]
“Let them see.
“These are the teeth of America. The rotting pyramids. Surely you did not think it would be just the single tooth rooted in the jaw of this land? These will decay, until you are pulled from the mouth of history.”
[In an echo of the first video of the series, a hand appears, long and white. Its fingers reach out and seem to caress the screen. The clip ends here.]
My novella Everything Is Beautiful and Nothing Bad Can Ever Happen Here (1/3 of all proceeds will go to The Southern Poverty Law Center when the limited-edition run sells out)