the wetiko

Der Türhüter erkennt, daß der Mann schon an seinem Ende ist, und, um sein vergehendes Gehör noch zu erreichen, brüllt er ihn an: »Hier konnte niemand sonst Einlaß erhalten, denn dieser Eingang war nur für dich bestimmt. Ich gehe jetzt und schließe ihn. « - F.K.

he awoke in the morning to find he had a voice message. it was from someone who called herself a secretary to the commissioner. he had no idea who the commissioner was and from the tone of the voice of the woman on the phone, he didn’t really want to know. his bed was empty and the light outside was grey. he had already woken up some hours ago; his body had been in pain for some reason—-something more than soreness. he had slept in exactly the same way as he always did and he had also done exactly the same things as he always did. this morning, he woke up and he was in pain and so he sat in a chair near where his phone stood, looking at it, not once opening it; remaining still as the sun rose in the small alley outside his room. he hadn’t answered the phone when it had rung. it had rung twice and then she had left a voicemail, or so he had presumed. he waited a further two hours before opening his phone. he didn’t want to move his body, and he was tired, and all around him the noises of the world were quiet and he didn’t want to make noise himself and be seen.

she had told him that he was to meet the commissioner in some building he had never been to. it was far from where he lived, though he still chose to walked there. the grey day did not relent in its greyness, though it did not rain. the immobile clouds were just immobile; motionless, even purposeless. the streets were empty, but for a few passersby who walked quickly passed him and took no notice of him. ‘perhaps they are in a rush,’ he thought, ‘like me.’ he quickly remembered he was in fact in no rush. she had asked him to come, that he was to meet the commissioner, but she had mentioned no time. he had assumed that this meant he was to come at once, and having already waited two hours to even listen to the message she had sent, he imagined that he was late. perhaps, he was late; only, there was no reason to suspect so. he walked slowly and even deliberately, but when the odd person passed him he was curiously drawn in their direction and he paused where he walked each time as they did. there was nothing to say, and so he said nothing. if they had occasion to look back at him, they did so regretfully; turning their heads quickly back to the straight path they were on, grumbling something, or returning even to a more regrettable silence than the one he himself occupied.

when he came the door of the building, it was in a large courtyard. there were a few tall pines, which stood, one on each side of the straitway that led to the door. there were other building, which were reasonably tall, but empty—or seemingly empty. it was hard to say that anything was happening here. the windows were not only shut, but they seemed cold, as if their very glass was frigid and shut itself. the empty brown doors, which he stood for several minutes before as he tried to recall what exact address he had been given, were not imposing; they were small and even delicate, but still, they seemed unwieldy, even heavy, as if the more fragile they were the more he was likely to break them or make some unsilent entry. he waited long enough that the doors began to open themselves and a young woman appeared before him, her hands clutching closing to her chest what appeared to be a series of folders. ‘are you coming in,’ she said. he nodded and as he turned quickly back behind the doors, he followed her. the door was, indeed, heavy, and behind it there was only a small office desk in a hall that was too large to have been so empty. he heard the doors behind him close, though he was not but a few feet from them, and the sound of their closing was very faint and seemed very distant.

‘you can have no knowledge of why you have been asked to come here,’ she said, flatly. he looked at her silently. she continued: ‘it is not the commissioner’s way to make mentions or even to give out what we might call warnings to those whom he observes. he observes them, guilty or not, and comes to his own conclusions and only at the very last moment, when they imagine, if they can be imagined to do so, to have had an inkling of the commissioner’s observation, that they are no longer being watched that they are then called in. this is standard, or it is at least typical. in your case, indeed, after a certain point, in all cases, it cannot really be said whether when they are invited in they have reached such a point. in fact, it is sometimes the case that the commissioner has never before observed the individual and takes it upon himself right then and there to do just that. he observes them. at times, he will even leave them to believe that they have in fact been watched for a very long time and have successfully passed whatever test the commissioner has set for them. the commissioner will sometimes smile and pat their back and they will be returned to the world as if nothing had happened.’ he looked at her and his eyes had grown quietly defiant as he had spoken. they grew gentler when he had stopped and he asked, ‘why are you telling me this?’ ‘because I have to.’ ‘you have to tell me that the commissioner sometimes watches people who have done nothing wrong.’ she smiled, ‘no, no. you have not understood. it’s all well. you will get to meet the commissioner soon.’ at that moment, he looked ahead and saw, behind the desk, there was another set of doors. ‘is he in there?’ he asked. ‘well, yes,’ she paused, ‘and no.’ ‘well, which is it,’ he asked. ‘he is not there at this precise moment. or he may not be’ ‘where is he?’ he asked. she paused, for what felt like several long moments, until she said, ‘I don’t know.’ ‘you don’t know?’ he asked. ‘yes, exactly, I don’t know where he is at this precise moment. for all I know he could be behind those doors.’ ‘should we not walk in, then,’ he said. ‘no, no,’ she said quickly, ‘he will come out.’ ‘but he is in there,’ he asked. ‘well, yes. he could be,’ she said. it was his turn to smile and so he did, widely; she seemed to take some affront to this. ‘where else could he be?’ she spoke shortly, ‘as I’m sure you can imagine, the commissioner could be anywhere at any given time.’ ‘except behind those doors.’ ‘no, he could be there.’ ‘but, you don’t know.’ ‘no, I don’t.’

he put his hands to his side and made to sit at a chair. she approached him, ‘I wouldn’t sit down if I were you.’ ‘why not,’ he said. ‘because the commissioner could come at any moment. it would seem rude, when you have been invited, to sit down.’ ‘I’m waiting,’ he replied. ‘but, don’t see. your appointment is scheduled for now.’ ‘if I recall,’ he began, ‘you made no mention of time. for all I know I could have shown up a week from now and what you’re telling me is it would be the same result.’ ‘yes,’ she said, ‘your appointment begins when you arrive. if you don’t your time in getting here, it is no bother. the commissioner is very adaptable.’ he looked at her, curiously. ‘you say the commissioner observes people; me? has he been observing me?’ at his question she turned around and walked to the desk. mid-way, she said, ‘as I already told you, sometimes people come here who have no knowledge of the commissioner and the commissioner no knowledge of them. one’s appointment is one’s appointment.’ she sat down and made no more comments to him. her eyes sat fixed on the papers which she had laid out in front of her. they were dense with words and the large hall in which they found themselves, utterly bare but for the few, seemingly needless, seats on which they sat, was too quiet for its size. he saw there was a second floor and small alcoves along the walls, but there was no one. the doors which stood, still many feet away from him, though which stood closer to her, did not move. the metal knockers were straight and untarnished. the wood was whole and the lights began to dim so that he struggled to see even the very papers which she was reading. only her face could he see, illuminated softly by a lamp he could not.

a long hour passed. the hall remained dark. he could hear it rain outside as he was close enough to the front doors, which sometimes creaked with the wind and grew moist with the rain. he heard footsteps and he turned to look towards the inner doors, which were by this point completely dark. her face did not move. he heard the splashing of rain and then the doors beside which he sat began to open and a man entered. he was completely soak and the doors closed shut loudly behind him and the man stood before her meekly. the natural grey light had erupted briefly into the hall and her papers had jostled in the incoming wind. he had seen the doors, only briefly. the hall was black, now. the man it seemed could not see well either. she approached him and said, ‘is it also your appointment now?’ he nodded and took a sat rather brusquely across from him on the other side of the doors. he had a loud cough and his voice carried over to her who had returned to her seat at the desk. ‘sorry I missed my last one,’ he said loudly, uncaring for the quietness he had, perhaps as it appeared to him inevidently, broken. she nodded this time and returned to her papers. ‘is he in?’ the man said. ‘he will be,’ she replied, though her voice was faint. the man looked over at him and smiled briefly before turning to look at his own hands. he had papers which were soaked and bag he had clearly left open. there were few buildings near here and little public transport and so he wondered if the man had somehow run through the rain to get here. ‘or,’ he thought, ‘perhaps the rain reminded him he was to come.’ he had found it strange how the man had said he’d missed his last appointment. it didn’t square with what she had said. it began when you arrived: how then could the man have arrived and somehow, at the same time, not showed up? ‘perhaps,’ he thought, ‘the man was actually being observed and this observation took the form of stages he was meant to himself observe. show up however many times and we’ll stop observing you.’ his thinking paused as he took another occasion t observe the man, whose held was titled backwards as though to either clear his nose or in some state of agitated exhaustion. ‘it was hard to say why anyone was he here,’ he thought.

another hour passed and the man had fallen asleep. when he awoke it was to the sound of a door. the woman was gone and the barely perceptible doors across the hallway remained closed. he stood up and made to open the front doors nearest him, to step outside, but he thought that this might be the moment when you missed your appointment. he saw it raining still, anyhow, though the outside light remained an impervious, unchanged grey, as though no time had passed, and so he relaxed back into his seat. the man across from stirred. his eyes opened at a slant. ‘is she gone,’ he said. ‘I don’t know,’ he replied. ‘I’m a scientist,’ the man said suddenly. his eyes widened as he observed the man. ‘are you?’ he asked. ‘yes,’ replied the man, after a pause. ‘I’ve no idea why I’m here,’ he said. ‘but you said you’ve been here before.’ ‘no,’ the man replied, ‘never.’ he made to say something in reply to the man, but he began to speak again. ‘I know these buildings know. old faculty buildings, if you can believe it. I used to teach here. or, well, I say teach. one did all kinds of things in those years. things were much freer. I did research into things that would likely get me into trouble these days. I suppose that’s why I’m here.’ the man stopped and said no more. there was silence and the woman returned from the shadows and said nothing again. he was resolved to stay here for a long time and the unaccompanying rain made him in no mood to leave in any case. he tried to observe the hall and to recall the courtyard he had seen. he could recall nothing to confirm the scientist’s story. it seemed as though nothing happened here and nothing would. there were small leaks which he could here; small drips of water which gave nothing of the place away. it was a hollow chamber and the rain that came slipped out through as unlikely a hole as through which it had entered. he could see nothing happening here and he imagined the water from the rain rising slowly, submerging the buildings and the doors and the little, faint lights and saw the hollow drum become a hollow drum. it was as empty with the water as it had been before.

the man came over to sit by him. ‘it’s cold in here,’ he began. ‘it sort of feels like you're still outside, doesn’t it?’ the door beside which they stood was an odd presence. it had a draft and the little natural light that leaked in disoriented one’s eyes. he smiled before the man, but said nothing. ‘did you ever study science?’ the man asked. ‘in school?’ he nodded, but he meant to shrug. ‘yes, it’s a strange thing. take an object in the world and study it. put it in strange conditions until you find out that the conditions it was already in were strange.’ the man smiled and was silent. ‘it’s hard to thing to try and explain, how you could get so far looking at something in a certain way and yet nothing you say comes as close to stating just strange the original conditions really were. you can’t reach them. you don’t know. you think to yourself that they must be reachable, that it’s all connected, but you underestimate how far they are from you. you had an impulse, which is in your heart. but the outside world doesn’t really reflect us. it’s cold and strange and impossible. we forget that every word we’ve ever said means nothing unless we can say what those conditions were. what the originary conditions were. not just for life. because we want to say what’s happened will happen again. only we can’t even say this. we look up at the walls around us and we hear the rain and we don’t know what it means. we don’t even know where to begin. we put a number beside and another and we find things like these all so that we can say something as simple as it is raining. but we never get close to say that the rain is cold, that the numbers don’t work well with it. we don’t reconcile just how far our hearts are from what we are doing. they’re scared. I promise, our hearts are scared; very scared. they see what’s out there. they feel it. and where my heart doesn’t go, I can’t go either. I won’t know what to say. it’s all too strange. it boggles the mind. we’re not just ill-equipped to understand. we just don’t. we assume there is a way, but we don’t even know that it exists. I’m not afraid of the rain, but something about it scares me. I assume I can understand it, but I can’t. there’s nothing to say that understanding even exists. it really does just drop in its plenty and we’re about as wise as turkeys with our beaks pointed towards the sky and our mouths open thinking we can drink it. they don’t really drown. but we do. our heart’s can’t tell the difference and so we drown. we drown.’ the sky thundered lightly and he felt the front door open, but it was the inner doors. they opened slowly and as they did the man beside him stood. he couldn’t see the girl anymore and so he stepped outside, quickly, almost urgently and he found himself out in the rain as it poured down.

he found himself in the courtyard again and he walked across to one of the buildings. he noticed that it was identical to the one he had been in. ‘what was that man trying to say,’ he thought to himself. ‘I can see though now why he was there, before the commissioner. not that that explains why I’m here, but perhaps I am one of those the commissioner has never met and who’ll be sent off with a pat on his back as though nothing ever happened.’ the thought struck him eerily now. in the building he was in, which he had entered through doors exactly alike the ones he had just exited, he observed its likeness. there was no desk and no chairs, but the rain had found its way in somehow and there were doors across from him, where for all he knew the commissioner sat. he thought to enter them and to put to rest at least the small, obscure thought in his thought that he might not be alone. he walked up to them and found they were shut. the doors didn’t move like doors. it didn’t seem as though they had ever opened, and as he made to force them open, though the effort it seemed was to go against their design, as though he might succeed only to break open a hole into the walls of the building, he heard someone behind him. it was a man, somewhat old, stocky, and dressed in black. ‘who are you?’ he asked, loudly, somewhat accommodated to the place now. ‘I’m the commissioner,’ said the man. ‘you can’t be,’ he replied. ‘why are you here?’ asked the man. ‘well, I would say I was invited, but I’m not sure that’s really true now.’ the man walked towards him; he did not seem to be wet from the rain. he was, by contrast, still soaking and cold. ‘these buildings are all the same,’ said the man. ‘I like to wander between them. it’s hard to say where people may be waiting.’ the man said this softly and slowly, as though he was speaking to himself. ‘I can’t understand. you mean to say you walked in here by chance.’ ‘no,’ replied the man, ‘not by chance. there’s always someone waiting somewhere.’ he wiped his wet brow and approached the man slowly. ‘did you meet with the other man, in the other building?’ ‘what other building,’ replied the man. ‘the one I was in.’ ‘I thought you were in here, waiting for me,’ he replied. ‘no, I was in another building.’ the man smiled, ‘yes, I see. no, I was also in another building at the time too. have you been here long? you’re still wet,’ he said. ‘no, here.’ he hesitated. ‘no, not long.’ he didn’t feel he could speak and he felt a silence returning to him. the man observed him, ‘were you trying to get into those doors,’ he said. he said nothing. ‘those aren’t doors,’ the man replied. ‘the buildings, as I’m sure you will have observed by now are all identical. surely you would have known by now that those aren’t doors.’ he remained silent; almost defiantly. ‘you should come with me. I should show you around so that the next time you are here you will know where to go.’ ‘I won’t be coming back.’ ‘oh, come now. you will.’ ‘why?’ he asked the man. ‘because I’ll invite you and you’ll come, or say you’ll be wandering in one of these buildings again and we’ll meet. or say you never leave and I depart and you get lost.’ ‘I know exaclty how to get out,’ and he pointed slowly to the front door, still wide open, in which the torrent of rain fell and the grey light sat. ‘ah, yes,’ and the man smiled, softly, ‘yes, that’s true. I always forget about that one. are you sure it’s really a door?’

he rushed to the front door and placed his hand slowly through it. his hand passed through easily. it was a doorway. he turned towards the man, who had not moved from where had stood. ‘you came in through these doors? you know you did.’ the man looked at him and said, ‘I don’t quite remember.’ and the man looked around somewhat forlornly. ‘I wish I could sit down.’ he paused. ‘I don’t always remember how to get around, but I’ve been here for so long it doesn’t quite bother me. or seem to matter.’ he looked deeply at him. ‘I see you,’ the man said. his eyes were grey. he breathed deeply. ‘do you know of the word wetiko?’ the man asked him. he shook his head. ‘it’s a cree word. very old. it’s unclear to some what it means. it seems to have had something to do with cannibalism.’ the man paused and then continued. ‘eating people, yes. I know, dreadful. but this was done out of necessity, out of starvation.’ he looked at him and continued. ‘nowadays it has a more interesting meaning. it means the selfish. those who eat others, at those around them. there are some people who are so emotional and so demanding that they really seem to eat others, eat their feelings. they don’t mean to. they’re starving. but they do it. they don’t think they are doing anything wrong. and we don’t tell them they are. we’ve forgotten how. we try to say but if they weren’t so hungry. but they are. and no one can quite figure out why. why do loved ones start to eat each other? why is that happening? why is it any of this happening? they start to do it and so we give them a name. we call them wetiko or windigo. and once we call them this, if we can remember to, something happens. something changes. they don’t feel they can do it anymore. what they were doing. they feel seen. these cannibals. they were lost and nothing and no one was around them and suddenly it isn’t so frightening anymore. what do you make of that? is it really enough? do they really stop or do they just pretend to and then go on eating those they love and we just don’t see? I have to watch them constantly. always I am watching. always I am waiting to see them do it.’


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