I am afraid to say that I am a monster, I have not been happy with that fact and I certainly do not set out to be such a vile thing!
I have never once consciously decided to be a monster. Although, truth be told, I do enjoy being one sometimes, just for the variety, and, I confess I do love those few moments as a living being.
For me though, they could be anything, they wouldn’t have to be ghastly creatures. The monster form just happens, when monsters are what they imagine, and that is all too often. For example, just now, one minute a man was standing there on the street corner, waiting, for what I don’t know. In my lighter moments I say to myself, ‘me, he was waiting for me!’ but I seriously doubt that. Who waits for me, for us, with such indifference?
Anyway, there he was. I was just ambling down the dark street, still resplendent in my most recent form, when I saw him there, on the corner, bathed in the light of a street lamp. Well, like I said, it’s not a deliberate choice, it’s just the job. There he was, and then suddenly there he wasn’t!
It seems I had grabbed him in my strong jaws, dragged him into a nearby alley, and eaten a good-sized chunk of him before I realized what I was doing.
I came to or snapped out of, whatever state I was in, to find myself there, blood dripping off my protuberant fangs. My claws were covered in cloth and body matter, he had been wearing jeans and a hoodie.
You’d think I’d be used to it by now, but as always when these monster moments overtake me, I was extremely embarrassed and gazed about, hoping no one had seen. There was no one around, so I stood up, on four strong legs, and went out onto the street to find a big window. I wanted to catch sight of myself before the power of his imagination faded, as his life already had.
The art of a person, their imagination, their spirit, whatever you want to call it, is the very last thing to go.
I found something to see myself in, a big department store with almost nothing in it, spread over almost a third of a block. The windows were huge, the displays almost non-existent.
There I was, in reflection, a huge cat creature, splendid in a striped coat, my fangs still dripping a little watery red, as the man’s blood had combined with my ancient saliva. A saber-tooth tiger, well, well. I had never been one of those before. I guess it made sense here, so close to Siberia. I twirled in front of the window to get a good look at the magnificent muscular body before it faded away, it was most impressive.
Then, as usual, as the hovering soul finally departed for the other, my latest form departed too, and I was left, invisible, and feeling hollow and hungry again, my natural state, if I could be called natural, in any way, in this particular galaxy. I had returned to my area of ether, that in-between place, the space between atoms, and set to waiting for something to happen once more. It never took long, there are so many humans, and so few of us, we are always busy.
Us monsters. We should not exist here. We began as wraiths I guess you’d call us. And we were caught, stolen, rescued, the three of us, from Sagittarius A.
We weren’t supposed to be able to get away from that intense gravitational pull, but that’s the thing about being a spirit, one is not matter, nor is one anti-matter, we are other, we are the in-between, the unseen, but we can briefly take on material form. For very short periods, we undergo what in physical terms might be called a type of ionization, but that’s only a guess, we have not been studied by scientists, as they do not know we are here.
We call ourselves spirits or shades, or lately just plain monsters, it’s easier. We have become a part of death. The fun part I guess.
Every creature with enough self-awareness to know that Death is the ultimate consummation of life, pictures us, the harbingers of the end, as something different. They carry this image with them until that final moment. The man under the street lamp may have had a heart attack, but his most feared image was a sabre-toothed tiger, so…that’s what got him in the end.
It’s interesting for us, the three shades of death, we get to play all sorts of characters, and get a few moments experiencing what it is like to be alive.
We were doing fine, working alongside death, when the problem emerged. The problem was, we liked it too much, that little moment of life, and we wanted to find a way to stay in this ‘life’ longer. The physical reality of being big solid objects is glorious. The imagined creatures we are allowed to briefly inhabit, and more pertinently the humans, whose imagination forms them, have no cognizance of the invisible reality swirling around, in, and through them. We find it highly enjoyable to be so solid for a bit, and restful to be a creature so convinced that reality is only what it can see and hear and touch.
What a lovely, simplistic life these earth-surface dwellers have. We, us three, had been swirling around in our galaxy, all too aware of many planes of reality for eons, and let me tell you, it was as boring as!
Then, luckily, we were caught, stolen, rescued, by Death. She brought us to where she worked, to this solar system, to this middling star with a beautiful planet orbiting it. We were surprised to find something so special in this far-flung part of the universe.
Death of course is as big as all the galaxies and as small as the smallest quark. We are in awe of Death and work with gladness with, and for, her. If it weren’t for Death, we would never have had the opportunity to experience life. That is the wonder that is at the core of this world. But, we wanted our times of living to last a bit longer than they usually did. So, we decided, we, the three shades, to ask Death to take a holiday.
And Death said yes!
We all agreed to become the monster our first customer imagined, and while we played at mortality, Death said she would have a nice rest. While we monsters went back to earth for our longer experiences of life, Death would not walk the planet. No, she would sleep. Nothing and no one would die, or cease to be. Nothing. No fish nor fowl, no stick nor stone. We would still consume our customers, our prey, in acts of Death, for that is the nature of us monsters in this realm. But no one would have the release of the ultimate finality.
After granting us our longer mortal moments, Death yawned and said the world would miss her terribly, but she needed a nap after all these years. We clapped our metaphorical hands, and went in search of our dying customers, taking on the forms these people visualized as their death, in all their different guises.
We didn’t realize, what we had created, was hell.
I ended up in a slithering serpent form, one of my sisters became an insect thing, and the other, an amphibious shark-like creature. Customers, prey, victims of our desire to experience life, were everywhere. They were people waiting for release.
We were caught and held by the first ones we found. Mine was in a factory, he had been trapped in some machinery and the contraption had at first just mangled his hands, it was part of a conveyor belt, so from his hands, it went on to tearing up the rest of him, dragging him, constricting him, soon his whole body was caught up in it. The life was painfully crushed out of him. But, it had nowhere to go, as Death was sleeping, there was no ultimate release. The pain and fear and misery only repeated. There was nowhere for his life to escape to, he was trapped, painfully dying, over and over again. His addled mind had turned the conveyor belt into me, a great serpent squeezing the life out of him. But, without dear Death, the life just rushed back in, and the whole process was repeated over and over ad infinitum.
It was fun in the beginning, to be alive so long, but after a while, I got very bored, what with the echoes of pain, and the man’s gasping and pleading, and whinging and moaning. I just wanted it all to be done. Surely there was more to life than this? This could not be what my sisters and I had in mind. To my relief, he slid into some comatose state and was no longer able to imagine me, so I gladly left him being mangled and went to find my sisters, before he came to and I had to start again.
The first sister I found was in an amphibian form, and very impressive it was too. She was thrashing a big grey tail and tearing at a fisherman’s arm. He was slowly being torn apart and drowning. The blood in the water had brought a number of frenzied real sharks. At my behest, she released the still-living body and left the job to those real predators, they were, after all, the nightmare that he had imagined. We went together to find our other sister.
She was dealing with a most imaginative customer. Her client, customer, victim, was a soldier who had stepped on an incendiary device, and this soldier’s fear was complicated. She imagined an enormous insect tearing her body apart, spitting shiny film from its mandibles, wrapping each separate body piece in the sticky stuff, and hanging it in a tree to age. The woman, still alive, but with only her head and torso left, watched in horror.
After hearing our plan, our sister happily left the noisy woman there on the ground. She would remain, bleeding profusely from her wounds, contemplating the bits of her own body dangling above her, until the process began again.
We assured our sister she would be back in time for the beginning again if our venture proved fruitless. She had nodded, grimly, this deathless life that was so horrible and sad for mortals was very boring and repetitive for us. The woman was at the end of her imagining, shrieking in high decibels of fear, and moaning in pain. My sisters and I were glad for an excuse to leave the cacophony, at least for a time.
We decided, we had to wake Death up. Clearly, we couldn’t experience life without her.
Death was not pleased.
“I was having a lovely dream,” she said. But we explained, and then we wheedled, and then we downright begged. “Oh, all right,” said Death. And she got up out of her bed and washed her deathly face and brushed her deadly teeth.“Off you go then,” she said irritably, “go experience life, but know, you must return to me.”
And we did. While Death stalked the world again and released her subjects from their suffering. We, for a short time, were no longer imprisoned by other creatures’ imaginings. We wore our favorite flying forms, we soared high into the sky and overtook the wind. We dove into the oceans and played in the deep dark recesses there. We roamed the earth on the back of the sun, and in the face of the moon. We saw flowers and jungles and great waterfalls, we saw babies and puppies and butterflies, and we cried, how we cried, knowing each beautiful thing would fade and then die. And we realized then, what we truly were.
We were not just three horrible monsters delivering death. We were there for the humans, we made dying an adventure in a haunted house, we were three good reasons to strive to stay alive, we were the monsters under the bed. We were helping to make life worth living.
And we were satisfied then, each one of us, to have just a moment of life, as we heralded dear Death, to one dying creature or another, so that other life could live.
We saw that we were helpful, that we were beautiful in our way. I was happy enough then, to be a monster.
Melissa Miles is an American who lives in New Zealand. She had many professional iterations--acting, teaching, film-making--but is now focusing on her writing while caring for her aging menagerie.