Go Ahead, Feed the Monster
I have been wracking my brain trying to think of a monster archetype that frightens me, a physical or visual representation of fear that I was particularly scared of when I was younger, or even just one specific object that still inspires terror in me. And I just can’t do it.
Which is not to say that I’m not afraid of anything. Oh, no, I have fears, all right! Tons of them! Among a broad spectrum of fears varying in degree of rationality, I have a relatively logical, but not very powerful fear of wasps (a swarm of which stung me when I was three) and an entirely unreasonable, but completely debilitating fear of flying. My avionics engineer fiancé can feed me all the physics facts he wants to, but the twist of panic I feel in my stomach when a plane hits a pocket of low air pressure and free falls for a split second is enough to keep me contained to North America. When I die, it will not be at 35,000 feet cruising altitude, thank you.
But among my extensive list of fears (the rationality of each seeming to be inversely proportionate to the terror it inspires in me), there are no “monsters”: no vampires, werewolves, fang-toothed clowns, or possessed vehicles; no colossal sharks, malicious bears, constricting snakes, or giant spiders; no physical manifestation of evil, death, or any number of scary notions. No, my fears are all nebulous, all inspired by tiny morsels of reality which feed my imagination. The more I learn, the more I experience, the faster my imagination moves, the stronger it becomes, churning out every possible outcome for every conceivable scenario, regardless of likelihood or rationale.
It’s been suggested in class that strength of imagination, intensity of belief, and potency of fear are unique to children, and that as adults, we shed these things, regardless of intention, in favor of reason, logic, and facts, having gone through a period of disillusionment during that indeterminate amount of time between childhood and adulthood.
Maybe it’s because I’m slightly insulted by this suggestion (having been informed that my 25 years make me an adult by default) or just because I’m so resistant to the idea that being an adult necessarily means we abandon all characteristics of childhood, but I certainly don’t believe that imagination and reason are mutually exclusive. Now, I know I wasn’t the only child who’s had to tackle distinctly adult issues at an unfairly young age, nor am I the only adult who can pitch a temper tantrum to rival that of even the hungriest, most tired toddler, but I think that there are other less perceptible, less controllable aspects of childhood that seep into adulthood regardless of how much we change as individuals or how cognizant we are of our decisions and actions. As an adult, I make a deliberate effort to be kind and reasonable, but I’m often selfish and irrational despite my conscious. And despite a rational knowledge that the laws of physics will safely keep an airplane in flight miles above the earth, I cannot prevent myself from imagining that it will fall out of the sky for no other reason than that I am riding in it.
Perhaps my imaginings are not as fantastical as they were when I was younger, necessarily being affected by my age and experiences, but I do believe that the things I imagine, and by association, the things I fear, are more numerous, more vivid, and more complex now, simply because I am aware of possibilities and realities that weren’t within the realm of my perception as a child.
An idea we’ve discussed in class is that one way monstrosity can be defeated is through the dissemination of knowledge; however, my monster feeds upon my fear, which is ultimately informed by the combination of my knowledge, experience, and imagination.
Maybe that’s all any monster is: the thing our imagination creates from bits and pieces of firmly-rooted fact and personal experience. While many people probably could, I don’t think that I could accurately build an effigy of my own monster regardless of how hard I tried or how much time I put into it; my monster isn’t manifested in the form of a witch or a troll or even something more protean that morphs effortlessly according to my anxieties, so much as it is a formless accumulation of all my gloom and fear and imagining that grows and changes, but is never physically present, never visually recognized.
And I don’t know about you, but I find a monster that is invisible and intangible infinitely more terrifying than one that can be slain with a wooden stake or by a silver bullet.