Estimated reading time — 7 minutes
He was an exceedingly average man. He had sometimes done good deeds and had sometimes done bad deeds. He had built up bad habits and good habits, neither outweighing the other. He was just average.
If anyone had asked him he couldn’t have said why he decided to go through the Museum of Modern Art in the middle of the day in the middle of the week. It was almost completely deserted, his footfalls echoing as he walked from room to room. He didn’t see anything he particularly liked; or anything he particularly disliked for that matter.
He walked into one room and drew up short as he saw the statue against one wall. It was very big and very ugly. It was roughly humanoid, but it was a caricature of a person, almost like a cartoon, vividly colored. And yet it was made in such a way that it seemed like something ancient, as if it was made thousands of years ago. It’s face had a ridiculously long proboscis, hanging straight down past its chin. It was about twenty feet tall, but its waist was only about five feet off the ground, making its torso three times longer, and much broader, than its legs. It just looked … wrong, for lack of a better word. It didn’t belong here. Not “here in the museum,” but here in this universe.
He realized he’d been staring at it for several minutes. He shook his head and turned away to look at the other pieces of art in the room. He walked along, trying to pay some attention to them, but he realized he was still thinking about the statue. He had such a strong reaction against it, yet the fact that it gripped him as it did showed that the artist did something right. He wondered whether this is what art aficionados meant by “good” art — art that was so bad that it grabbed a hold of your psyche and wouldn’t let go.
He kept trying to look at the paintings and smaller sculptures in the room, but his mind kept drifting back to the statue. Finally, with a sigh, he turned back to look at it again.
The statue was staring at him.
No, no it wasn’t, but God it had looked that way for a moment. The statue had its eyes looking at a particular place and he had inadvertently wandered into its field of vision. He walked sideways, facing the statue but moving away from where he had just been standing, and the statue’s eyes did not follow him. They continued staring at the same place. His heart was beating fast and he laughed at himself for being so spooked. The laugh echoed through the room and those beyond. He turned away from the statue again and looked at some of the other pieces in the room again. Eventually he worked his way to the doorway at the other end of the room where he had entered. As he was about to step through, he looked back at the statue for one final glimpse.
The statue was staring at him.
It’s head was turned and it was staring at him. And its expression had changed; before it had been blank, like a soldier standing at attention. Now it looked … disgusted. Offended. Contemptuous.
He walked back into the room, but the statue didn’t move. It’s gaze remained on the doorway where he had turned back to see it. He didn’t want to, but he walked up to it. He was thinking he should touch it to see what it was made of, but he didn’t want to. He wasn’t sure why, but there was something about the statue that made him afraid to touch it.
He had the sudden thought that it must be partially mechanical, able to move slightly, as a part of its “artistic value.” The thought came with a wave of immense relief. That would explain it. Perhaps the artist would move it remotely when someone was in the room in order to get a reaction. Perhaps he was on film right now. At some point, there would be a collection of reactions to the statue on video, his included. He wondered whether an audience would have been able to see his disgust when he first saw the statue. Whether the moments of terror he felt the two times he turned around and saw it “looking” at him had shown on his face.
Well, he didn’t want to be a part of some hidden camera event, even if it was artistic in a sense. “Hello?” he said. “I don’t want to take part in this. You don’t have my permission to show my image anywhere.” He waited while the echoes of his voice died down. There was nothing, no sound at all. “Hello?” he said again. Nothing.
He didn’t want to take his eyes of the statue, but he wasn’t going to stay in this room any longer. He walked over to the doorway he had first entered the room by and leaned out of it, holding on to the doorframe, and called out a third time. “Hello?” When no answer was forthcoming, he decided to just walk through the room and exit at the far side. He turned around.
The statue’s face was five inches from his.
He screamed and fell back, banging his head against the wall. He scrambled away, but the statue didn’t move, it’s eyes continuing to stare at the place he had been moments before, its mouth parted in an impossibly wide grin, its teeth so big that they were actually bigger than the nose. Much bigger. There was no way those teeth could have fit inside that mouth when it was closed. They were sharp, the teeth of a predator. It had bent over at the waist, its obscenely long torso allowing it to place its face right next to his without its legs moving at all. It should have been completely off-balance by this, but somehow it stayed frozen in place.
He continued to crawl away from it until he reached a wall which he used to stand up. He inched his way along the wall towards the far exit. Despite his panic he was still able to hold on to the idea that the statue was mechanical and was being moved around for some purpose. “Hello? Stop it! I want you to stop it! This isn’t funny, I don’t want anything to do with you or this statue or this museum! Do you hear me? Just stop!” He continued moving along the wall, his eyes fixed on the statue, afraid to look away. It didn’t move.
He got to the doorway on the opposite side of the room, probably fifteen meters away from it. The distance made him feel safer, but not much. Keeping his eye on the statue at all moments, he slowly eased his way out of the room. He was not going to look away, his view of the statue would only be broken when the wall came between him and it.
He was now standing completely in the next room over, but he could still see the statue, crazily bent over at the waist, its face and maniacal grin all the way across the room, looking at the spot where he had stood about two minutes before. He slowly took a sideways step. Now the wall blocked him from seeing its head (thank goodness), but he could still see its torso and legs. Another step, and only its waist and legs were still in view. One more …
And he could no longer see it. He took a few deep breaths to calm himself, and then made a decision. He was going to get out of this museum right now. He was going to walk quickly, very quickly, to the exit, and he was never going to come here or anywhere nearby ever again. He turned.
The statue’s face was four inches from his.
He screamed and fell down on the floor for the second time. The statue’s face had changed again. Before it had looked at him in disgust, as if he were some type of repulsive insect. Now its face showed a different emotion.
He scrambled away, trying to get out from under the statue’s gaze as much as to get away from it physically. He moved to his left and the statue remained utterly still, staring at the space he had just occupied. He got to a wall, and once again used it to stand up. He crept along it, his eyes fixed on the statue, but with the idea that he had to get to the door behind it. He wasn’t sure why, but he was not in a position to think through it rationally. It wasn’t until he got to the doorway that he realized why he had gone there.
From this doorway he could see the statue, still motionless. But he could also see into the first room, where he had first seen the statue. From this vantage point, he could keep the statue in view and look at where it had been. If he could see the statue in the first room, while also seeing this statue in this room, he would know that there were several of them positioned around the museum to trap unwary patrons. That was the only way he could keep the idea alive that this was all some bizarre artistic experiment.
Except the space where the statue had first been was now empty. The statue in this room was the same one that had been in that room. In the five or six seconds that it was out of his view, it had somehow moved from the first room to this room, somehow come up behind him without passing him, and without being seen. It was impossible.
He shrunk into himself. He didn’t know what to do; the moment he took his eyes off the statue, it would somehow move, while staying motionless, to another position. He backed up, into yet another room, but still with the statue in his vision. A thought occurred to him: Run. Just turn around and run like hell. The apparent benefits of this overwhelmed everything else, so he obeyed this impulse.
The moment he did, the statue was in front of him again, its face full of the same fury and rage, as well as a visceral hatred he had never felt towards another, nor been the recipient of. Its teeth were bared again, and it looked to him like the statue was going to consume him. Devour him. All this he got in a fraction of a second as he checked his forward motion, and fell back against a wall. This time he didn’t scream. He was beyond that now.
He stood there, staring at this monstrosity, and despaired. “This isn’t fair,” he said. Then louder, “This isn’t fair! I’m just an average man! I didn’t do anything bad enough to deserve this! It’s not FAIR!” His voice, the only sound in the museum, echoed, making it seem louder. Somehow, this gave him back a bit of his dignity. He walked back up to the statue, looked it right in the eye, and yelled, “Move, damn you! I know you’re going to get me, so just MOVE!”
And the statue began to dance.
It was impossible. Its motions were contradictions. Not just strange, but actual fulfillments of logical impossibilities. It couldn’t possibly exist. And he knew it was here to take him into its nonexistence.
His last coherent thought before entering his eternity of insanity was that even average men can go to hell.
And the demon pounced.
Credit To – Jim S.