Terror is in the moments where hope becomes knowledge despite any underlying understanding of the inevitable, and then it is in that instant when our very human lack of knowledge is understood. This is horror. It accounts for the countless less obvious terrors of our existence…
The party that was gathered for the reading of the will was stuffed into a hot room. On fabric chairs they listened to a letter:
“I’m afraid I will have talked a lot and left so much unsaid. Things go unshared, even after death.” The letter read after a preamble, “but I have kept one secret, my friends, and it woke me up like a nightmare to a quiet night. This is my one condition to my will, and I insist that it be satisfied. It is itself an irony, but I will have to accept it; at least to dispel all other contradictions. Because, I guess, so much of it does not make sense. There are, and continue to be thousands of social practices based on faulty idealism and mysticism. I know myself, that the human animal cannot help but follow them. Yet, we often forget that there was a man called Diogenes – He who held the light up to the truth in midday. One who spat at kings and slept in barrels. The scoundrel was asked what should be done with his remains, ‘throw my bones, you pious soldiers, over the city walls,’ he said. ‘Let me be a treat for the rabid dogs’. That was that for Diogenes. Those were the instructions he left. So today, should I be a coward and not stand by my reason? I ask that you eat me. That I not be venerated or loved after my death. That I not be missed; that you acknowledge my nothingness. I see no other way about it then to be eaten, so even our most irrational parts understand the finality of death. I refuse my inheritance on any other terms. ‘Winslow Gevlov’”
“There’s no more.” blurted out the lawyer, and his palms moved to take the sweat off his forehead. “It just ends like that – so bluntly.”
“Maybe that’s the case. But if every man makes one point in his life, that was the point of his life, to discard all that excess. I’m surprised he even went on so long, and so romantically.” This was pronounced by the cousin of old man Gevlov, a large man named Boithe who liked to speak slowly. “But this man Diogenes… I don’t know if it makes sense.”
Sadie, an aunt who no one ever really put their finger on, but who all the kids loved, then had the lawyer read over all the important parts again to the family.
“If there’s to be any discussion” she said, “it should be about this man Diogenes” she said as she pointed her finger at the letter “discovering the meaning of his words, might take us to what the fool really meant”
Ethan Gevlov shifted on the couch. The girl next to him, his sister, Rebecca, thought through it all. How the will was important. How she knew her father, although she hadn’t spoken to him for decades, had left his children equal shares of his wealth. There were many… several… unpaid expenses. Damn the idiot if he were to take things away based on some principle.
“So you don’t believe he meant for us to eat him? It seems to me he wrote it out clearly.”
Everyone’s eyes snapped to Ethan. Boithe clicked his tongue.
“Not yet anyway Ethan. Although all possible routes must be examined. The individual is a complex question.”
“Let’s not be too generous. The piece is clearly satire.” This was all almost sung by Sadie, as she delivered her argument: “What Diogenes presents is itself inimical to his philosophy – if anything philosophical can be abstracted from Winslow’s account. For someone to demand logical consistency, but still be so clearly inconsistent, is what creates the humour. If you do not care what happens after your death, why leave demands? Or any attempt at changing the world? Isn’t the old dog as he says, ‘nothingness’?”
“Your interpretation is interesting. Should this be our conclusion?”
“If a conclusion is necessary, I think it should be this: that it is just drunk and inappropriate irony edging on profanity, if anything because it was so absurd, Boithe.”
“But you seem to be missing a part of the point. Gevlov understood that he was creating a contradiction…”
Ethan exploded with rage, smashing his fist against the table.
“This isn’t some holy text!” He cried. “Even if there’s no “good sounding way” to put it. Isn’t there some freedom behind every action that lets us decide, without our intentions being scrutinized?”
The group gasped, then heatedly argued this point for a long time, with Boithe changing sides now and then. Ethan left the room for a cigarette and returned. After discussing with the lawyer, he explained that Winslow Gevlov’s words would have to be taken literally. A vase in the room was knocked over and broken. The discussion continued.
“So then we must ask ourselves,” pronounced Boithe. “Should we eat a man for the money in his will?”
“Forget about the money,” screamed Sadie. “Should we eat a man in the first place?”
“Maybe that does boil down to the question: Does the substance of his argument, ultimately, hold up to scrutiny – please let me finish, I know you weren’t serious – because if it does, then we should eat him. I’m not entirely convinced it doesn’t. He is dead after all.”
Ethan stood up and paced the room. He thought for a moment, because he sometimes had trouble getting ideas in a convincing order. He stuttered in his head, and stroked the light bristles on his chin. Finally he threw up his arms.
“But isn’t there some sanctity of the dead that we should protect?”
“None that I can think of,” Sadie replied.
“Then what about our own morality? We shouldn’t throw it all away for reason. Won’t we do damage to ourselves?
Boithe hesitated before he started to respond. This was a difficult question that he never before had needed to discuss. In the silence, Esmeralda, who had been quiet for the whole conversation got to her feet. She was the most respected member of the Gevlov kids, probably of the whole family too. Her job at the university had earned her the name of an “intellectual” in her closer circles, and she was known for her clever writings on the philosophy of science. Everyone who had spoken at the reading of the will had at one point or another looked to Esmeralda Gevlov anxiously for a response or some approval. She had not given any yet, and it was her turn to speak.
“It seems to me that the clearest route in this situation is to study the disadvantages of eating my father. There might be none, as Boithe and Ethan have suggested, and if there are none, it makes the decision to eat the man so much easier. Ethan raised the question, of morality, and I believe this to be the most likely point of disagreement. And I say, certainly, there is some instinct in us that instructs our emotions about the improperness of eating the dead. But this is a sentiment that we ourselves own, it is not based on any rhyme or reason. My father is right in pointing out that it would almost be spiritual to try and give a lifeless body any value. If it is really us who construct our morality, things cannot permanently remain right or wrong. Our emotions will certainly come under the sway of our better reasoning, as long as we are consistent in believing in it. On the other side of the coin, I think you’ll find the reasons are plenty. There is the value of the will, and of defeating our illogical traditions…”
As Esmeralda went on like this, she drew in her audience. One by one they nodded their heads confidently in agreement: Winslow Gevlov should be eaten that night. As supper was served, there was nonetheless a general vague discomfort that haunted the room. Which part of Winslow they were eating was something they asked themselves. “This man was my father. What has become of… this man was my father,” Ethan said in his head. They all ate anyways.
It is a strange phenomenon; when months later, the party members stayed awake at night. It might only be explained as horror.
Written by: Samuel Helguero