Death of a Linguist

When I tell my father I want to become a linguist, he remains silent a long time. "Words... they're all lies, you know." He finally responds.

"Language is a construct, meaningless symbols papering over the object's true self."

"Dad, it's not that sim-"

"Here, I'll prove it to you."

"I say 'chair'. Do you picture the word or the thing itself?"

"Well, I see a chair."

"Exactly!" He smiles as if he had the argument won.

"Say chair, or chaise or-" Here he clicks, a series of epiglottal stops. "-It all evokes the same thing. These... 'words'? And all configurations thereof? Mere time wasters."

He turns towards the window, the light from the setting sun casts his long shadow into the room so even from far away he reaches towards me. I cannot escape him, nor the frightful import of his conclusions.

"Every object, every concept, has its true nature. Words are... echoes, blinding us to what things really are."

"So what are they?" I ask. "Really?"

His back to me still, he responds. "I cannot tell you, only show, bound as we are by these falsehoods we speak. Are you quite sure you wish to see? There are some things we are not meant to know, artifices best left unchallenged. My son, I-"

"If you can handle it, so can I. Show me!"

He looks at me. For the first time, I see the anguish, the madness that was always there in his eyes but somehow had always escaped my notice. Perhaps before I did not know what to look for, or that there was ever anything to see. For the first time, I did not see my father, but a dangerous man, who had played with forces beyond the ken of any man to control.

"When did I ever say I handled it?"

He walks towards me, and I retreat. "Language is a lie, yes, but one tied to everything we are. Take that away, and..."

"Who are we?" I finish, breathless.

He reaches me, bearing a mournful expression. That of one just suffering an insurmountable loss. He grabs me by the back of the head, forces me forward until our foreheads are touching. I can feel power crackling in the air. Something dissociating me bit by bit from the world I know. Each second brings another small loss. Each second, I am less able to convey, or even understand that which is being taken from me.

"Exactly my son, exactly. So, tell me," An electric shock rushes through me. "Who are you?"

Two men are in a room, one standing as still as death. The other, older, watches for movement, or life. Then sighs and shakes his head.

"I warned him... didn't I?"

The Father leaves the room, not looking back once at the man who was once his son. The other, the still child, I… he, as if watching from outside himself, remarks on the wetness staining his cheeks. A phenomenon he cannot name. An emptiness wrenches his gut, belonging to an emotion he no longer knows.