“And There It Stood”: A Short Horror

On an eccentric November night, mostly one hundred years ago, at a time when the strange seemed rather charming, a boy child was born to an unlikely couple. The year was 1910. The Titanic had not yet sunk (but it was about to). And the First World War had not yet been started.

The boy’s parents were both engineers at Cambridge.

His mother sunk into trepidation the moment she first beheld his eyes. All she could see were eyes—big, looming eyes. Eyes that could swallow an entire horizon. Eyes that were like two overgrown moons floating effortlessly in a fluorescent night sky. She fell immediately in love with the boy.

They named him Wesley. But he preferred Wezel. He was a precocious child who spent most of his days studying his immediate surroundings.

At the age of seven he thought himself to be Vincent van Gogh’s “spirit-child.”

So he painted The Starry Night. An art historian came to see it. He walked around the room in a most elegant manner, now pacing up and now pacing down the entirety of the room. “Humm—pff!” he would exclaim as he’d pivot on his heels. “It is peculiarly unique relative to other replicas of the work in that the brush stokes are exact, measured with modest reserve, and pedantically calculated.”

The little Wezel loved perfection, and his artwork became a Cambridge sensation. It was rumored that during the First World War, when Cambridge’s own art department housed Van Gogh’s painting at the Fitzwilliam Museum it was actually Wenzel’s artwork that was on display—for the museum curators were “afraid of a loss of the original artwork during a potential air raid.” And so, in a matter of a mere eight years—by now it was 1918—Wezel’s fame grew beyond the confines of a single bedroom apartment that housed the two professors and their big-eyed child.

During his years at a local primary school, Wezel made two friends: one was the teacher and the other a kitchen rat. The teacher shared her lunchtime cookies with him, and he shared his portion with the kitchen rat.

The students didn’t like Wezel for several reasons. One, he looked like a disheveled old soul—whose entire physiognomy was reduced to an emphasis that was placed on his eyes and his “death-glare.” Two, he could not understand ordinary human language. He struggled to talk the baby-talk of his fellow peers, and so, in a most necessary manner, engaged his teachers in dialogue regarding math, logic, and a myriad of oil-on-canvas painting techniques.

His third friend need not be mentioned here, since, if I recall correctly, she never returned the favor. Her name was Katherine, and she avoided Wezel’s impulsive romantic approaches. He once tried to share the teacher’s half-cookie with her but she refused. So he went to the kitchen and gave it to the rat instead. Such was the result of his first dreamy endeavor.

Because the students feared him, Wezel had to reallocate his energy-expenditures in a more fitting manner. By the summer of 1920, Wezel—then being a decade old—locked himself in his parent’s attic (they had moved a few blocks into a small home) and vowed to never reappear unless he had produced a masterpiece. His parents fed him through a tiny crack in the wall, sustaining him for six weeks and three days with crackers, chocolate and prenatal multivitamins. Every third day he requested a large, boiling pot of coffee for “mental energy.” His parents complied. Staying true to his word, Wezel emerged—six weeks and three days later—with the art in his hand a dark and forlorn figure, bearing the anguish of a tortured genius.

His parents rushed to greet their wild-eyed child. His mother fell to the ground kissing his dimpled cheeks and swearing that she would never let him do this to her again. His father stood by silently watching the strange emotions take over his mostly rational wife.

“What did you create this time, Wes,” his mother asked tenderly.

The boy looked into her eyes without blinking.

“Is he horrified by us?” his mother thought to herself. “Why, surely, he knows we love him dearly!”

Wezel walked past his parents, as if in a daze, with an old cloth-sheet covering his hidden masterpiece. During dinner, after he had broken the silence, and having alleviated his mother’s fears, Wezel requested the presence of Sydney Cockerell, who was, at the time, the director of the Fitzwilliam.

The following day, with an eye-loop in hand, Director Cockerell came to see Wezel. He walked up and down the room like the last art historian.

“Aren’t all these art historian creatures the same?” Wezel silently asked himself. “They walk in the same manner; no two are different!”

“Yes, yes—indeed! Yes! Hmm. Wow. Yes, indeed!” the Director kept mumbling to himself. “Yes, very particular. Almost real. Yes, yes! Real. As real as rain in London!”

The piece measured one hundred sixty centimeters by two hundred. It was a large oil-on-canvas painting depicting Wezel’s last place of residence: the attic. It was an accurate depiction of reality. So accurate, in fact, that Cockerell spent the following days speaking about it incessantly.

“You should have seen it. The attic. Oh, god. How authentic it was! The sheer splendor of the piece,” he told everyone he met. “I was transported there—and have not left since!”

The piece was purchased by the museum for millions of pounds, allowing Wezel to drop out of primary school, pay for his parent’s first honeymoon vacation, and resume all artistic activity immediately and forever.

Within weeks, word got out that the great philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein was seeking out the company of none other than our very own Wezel. At the time, Wezel was unfamiliar with Wittgenstein’s thinking. He had, however, gone through Russell and Whitehead’s Principia Mathematica, a book he criticized for “fatalistic logical errors in its presentation of the foundation of mathematics.” Wittgenstein, having heard and having seen Wezel’s work became all the more interested in meeting the decade-old human being who criticized—quite accurately, in his own opinion—the Principia.

As fate would have it, on an August evening, Wezel met with Wittgenstein. To this day, nobody knows the exact contents of the conversation, but from what I could gather, it seems that Wezel encouraged Wittgenstein to write his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Moreover, it was rumored that Wezel wrote parts of it. For example aphorism 2.12 reads: “The picture is a model of reality.”[1] The “picture” Wittgenstein had in mind—or, if Wezel wrote this, then “the picture Wezel had in his own mind”—was none other than The Attic (as Wezel’s masterpiece was later called). Per Wezel’s own account, the first remark Wittgenstein made upon his meeting him was: “But your eyes! How large must the world appear to them!” To which Wezel replied, “I can see the world accurately.”

In 1922, the year Wezel turned twelve, was the year Wittgenstein published his work. It became a philosophical sensation overnight. Wittgenstein became famous, while Wezel became a historical relic of the past.

In 1931, during a meeting at the Vienna Circle, in which Kurt Gödel was expounding his recently published ideas on the “incompleteness theorems,” Wezel met Wittgenstein yet again. The years had done nothing but shed their blessings on Wittgenstein; he was cheerful, optimistic, and open to new ideas. Upon seeing Wezel, he hugged the now grown, young lad.

“How is your work coming along?” he asked after the discussions were over.

“I became a professor of philosophy, Ludwig,” Wezel replied nostalgically. “I gave up art when I met you.”

No, you cannot say that. I would not encourage the study of philosophy,” Wittgenstein replied tersely and with peculiar force. “You must resume your art. You have a talent.”

“You don’t understand, Ludwig,” Wezel said in a hushed voice. “I’m now depicting reality with language—just as you suggested!”

“Why language?!” Wittgenstein moaned out loud. “The world is going to suffer much having lost you.”

With that, Wittgenstein angrily walked out, leaving the Circle. He never spoke with Wezel again.

In 1932, Wezel published an article titled “The Impossibility of Atheism.” In it he argued what he had argued ever since he met Wittgenstein: language is a depiction of objective reality. “In our minds we create a pictorial representation of the world. This picture of reality corresponds with the real world. There is a direct relationship between the picture in our minds and the world around us. Words refer to things in the world. An apple is an apple because there is the word ‘apple’ and its objective referent: an apple in the real world. Unicorns imagined in our mind are not an accurate picture of reality because there are no unicorns in the world. For words to have meaning, they must be grounded in reality.”

That was the beginning of the paper. Professor Wezel argued that Wittgenstein was right in his Tractatus: only that which exists in the real world should have words in our language. Since God did not exist in our world, there was no use having a mental image of God. Where did this image come from? If not from the world, then where from?

The second part of the paper proved the impossibility of atheism. “Since God is thought to be a metaphysical Being existing outside of the post-Einsteinian space-time continuum, it is, in fact, impossible to speak about God’s existence or non-existence thereof. God, as understood by some authors of the Bible, for example, does not exist in this world; He is above the world, above the natural order of things. Since God is outside of the world, being eternal and non-objective, language cannot be used either against God or for God: ‘whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must remain silent.’”[2]

The paper caused a sensation amongst both the scientists and theologians. The theologians were angered at the fact that Wezel attacked positive statements about God, while relishing his attacks on the atheists for their positive claims regarding God’s non-existence. The atheists, on the other hand, while happy that Wezel supported their thesis that religion was meaningless, were angered by the fact that he debunked the possibility of atheism. And so neither side was happy or unhappy: they were both equally miserable. Wezel, for his part, rejoiced tremendously that he could irritate people.

In 1933, a young professor by the name of Dolly, specializing in a secret field pioneered by her called micro-tectonic astro-physiology, heard Wezel’s paper being read at some academic society of sorts. In a matter of hours she arranged for a meeting with that “most dazzling of minds.” Wezel proposed to Dolly the following day; they were married the following weekend.

 

And this is where our story truly begins.

You see, Wezel’s eccentric gaze frightened many people out of many nights of peaceful rest. Some even avoided walking past him on their way to Cambridge just to dodge his “piercing, eerie stare.” His wife, however, a simple beauty of extraordinary mental capacities, was blind. And this was, perhaps, the only reason she never left Wezel: she never had a chance to be frightened by him.

On their first night together, Wezel awakened at three in the morning to find his wife tranquilly sleeping. He had, for many years, struggled with imagined demons. Every time he closed his voluptuous eyes, he would immediately begin sensing the presence of toxic evil. Not only did he feel the company of the demonic, he also imagined it. Demons of various shapes and sizes resided in his mind, swimming out from their lagoons every time his eyelids shut.

On this summer night, in early September, it was no different. Wezel kept imagining the demonic. He would blink only to be bolted back into the wide-eyed and terrified.

He praised God that his wife was blind. “If only she knew the demons I struggle with…and what I’m about to do…” he thought to himself.

He reached over the bed and quietly opened his drawer. He fumbled around for the duct tape.

Having found it, he gently brought it in to his chest. The roll of tape felt cool against his nervously hot skin. His sore fingers dug into the worn edges, seeking out a place where he could grip the tape.

He counted to ten under his breath.

And slowly made noiseless progress. “Good,” he muttered under his breath in the most silent of manners. “At least she can’t hear me.”

The project continued. He slowly removed two pieces of tape measuring two centimeters a piece in length.

Without disturbing his wife, he placed a single piece on his eyebrow, taping his eyelid to it to keep his eye from closing. He did the same with the other eye.

In a matter of minutes, he was fast asleep.

 

The following night, around two thirty in the morning, Wezel awakened to the sound of heavy breathing. Once he trained his ears to listen—to really listen—he heard nothing but silence. The breathing was all an illusion. What he thought was not real; it did not correspond with reality.

He closed his eyes again—and rested.

Only moments later, he imagined a beast of tremendous terror standing before him. He opened his eyes.

There was nothing there.

“Professor Wezel,” he reassured himself professionally in the most cool and academic of ways. “Your language, your imagination does not correspond to reality. There are no demons—not even gods.”

He convinced himself of this—and fell back asleep.

 

After a few weeks of living with his wife, Wezel began to realize the uncertainty of reality. His wife was, according to him, a schizophrenic. One minute she wanted Italian for dinner; the next minute, she wanted French. One second she felt cold next to him; the next second, she felt too hot. He would close his eyes, imagine her wanting Italian food—only to open them and have her state something entirely different.

And it drove him mad. She made no sense to him.

One night, before bed, he imagined they would make love. It was a Wednesday, and they always had sex on Wednesdays. He closed his eyes and imagined his wife’s naked body. Then he opened them.

She was still dressed in her nightgown.

“Maybe we will have sex next Wednesday,” he said to himself. “Maybe she just forgot. It is, after all, November—and people don’t make any sense during the holidays.”

 

The following Wednesday, Wezel, by means of induction, decided that his wife would not have sex with him tonight either. He closed his eyes and imagined that, when he’d open them, she’d be fully dressed.

And so he opened them.

She was naked.

 

For the rest of the week, Wezel slept relatively peacefully. He asked the leading sexologist at Cambridge what the reason was for his unusual calm and discovered that sex was, indeed, the reason. Wezel made note of this in his journals.

 

On a stormy night in December, just before Christmas, Wezel’s unrest returned. For the past few weeks, he had been lecturing his students on the certainty of reality. And, having come clean with his academic peers, he was not entirely certain of the certainty that he so expounded. “It is entirely possible that I know nothing,” he once said out loud to them in exasperation.

His demons were haunting him—changing him as a person. They began speaking to him, telling him to kill his wife. He found her to be too unpredictable. And so, if the demons were on the side of certainty, then surely they were right. She was, after all, a very uncertain creature.

He closed his eyes and imagined the demonic persuading him.

He opened his eyes and there was nothing there.

He counted to ten while taking a deep breath. “This is all just a bad dream—an inaccurate picture of reality,” he restlessly convinced himself.

He thought he heard a voice—it was directly addressing him.

He opened his eyes.

And there it stood.

 

Written by: Moses Y. Mikheyev

 

 

NOTE: This is a work of fiction. Wittgenstein obviously existed. I can assure you: he never met Professor Wezel. 

 

 

FOOTNOTES:

[1] Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, trans. C. K. Ogden (Mineola: Dover Publications, 1999), 33.

[2] Ibid., 108.