When I was a child, I believed in monsters: the great slobbering crocodile-like creature lurking under my bed; nameless somethings prowling in the woods around our house; and the dark shadow things living in the basement. Where these monsters came from, I don’t know. Was I born with them engraved onto my infant’s mind or did they somehow infiltrate my consciousness as I was thrust into the world from the womb? Are my monsters like your monsters, the same as some child elsewhere in the world born the same day and time? At the time, I believed these dark shapes were mine alone, something that haunted only me.
As I grew, my monsters began to conform to the world around me, to the stories I read and the TV I watched, monsters like Bigfoot and Nessie and the Yeti. I believed in them because they were exciting and out of my world. I was safe behind my book or the TV. Not likely that I’d travel to Loch Ness or Washington State or the Himalayan Mountains. I was fascinated with the mystery of them, the possibility of how these monsters might intersect with all the parallel worlds in my mind.
I began to learn about real monsters, men and women who committed unspeakable deeds. How could anybody do such horrible things? And yet, I was secretly fascinated by them, always hoping that I might be able to open their heads to discover the reasons inside. There had to be reasons; no one would do such unspeakable acts just because. The idea of a sociopath was so foreign that I didn’t even speak the language. And yet, as a writer, I kept looking, kept tunneling into the horrors in the hope of understanding. I wanted to understand; I wanted to peer into their lives and see their truth. I wanted to know that I wasn’t a monster, too.
As I grew even older, I found other kinds of monsters. Men or women who stand before you with a smile on their face, saying everything you want to hear, all they while their actions are tearing away the foundations of your world. Can there be any worse monster than one who says ‘I love you,’ while acting like you are nothing?
I have come to terms with most of my monsters, those fears that came from who-knows-where, hidden in the darkness of childhood. With the crocodile creature under my bed, I learned to stand on the bed and jump as far as possible. He, like most monsters, couldn’t come out from his hiding place. I learned not to go past the edge of the lawn after dark, not to turn my back on the night woods. To trust my instinct and if I felt something out in the dark, to run. Fast. And never look back.
Today I am comfortably happy believing in Bigfoot and Nessie and Yeti. I believe in them because I’ve chosen to believe, because their mystery adds something to my world. I never want to be terrified of a monster again, but I do want to know that out there, somewhere, dark mysterious creatures exist in this scientific world, a little bit of magic left from a far distant past.