By Brian Jefferson
“Monster far far from here? Where?”
- Margarita Velasco
In a time long, long ago, on an especially crisp and amber autumn morning, the village Monster awoke with much disquiet in his heart. To his dear companion, Squirrel, Monster asked:
‘What of my monstrous hands? Clumsy yet forceful they crush all whom they embrace.
‘What of my monstrous face? It is enough to instill terror and fury in all who catch the briefest glimpse of it.
‘And, alas!, my terribly monstrous belly? It compels me to gobble up even the smallest children.
‘And the brute power that I possess is the most powerful of powers – sadly, I must leave this village and leave it promptly.’
Squirrel responded with the glassy expression of an animal that cannot speak. This silent gesture sent Monster into a complete melancholy. It was with this sadness in his breast that Monster would set out for the forest; here, he decided, he would search for a cave deeper than deep, darker than dark.
The ensuing morning was a prophetic one. Monster gathered his few belongings in a leather sack and, whilst offering to hoist Squirrel onto his shoulder in accompaniment, swung his door open and embarked upon a fated trail.
‘How I yearn for perfect solitude; how it shall cleanse my heart of these throbbing pangs,’ Monster thought to himself. ‘Yes. I long to live amongst only the creepy-crawlers, the bats, the grubs and the worms. Only they understand my plight, … my hideousness. I seek only that cave of infinite depth, of the purest darkness and greatest remove.’
For many of hundreds of days Monster and his petite companion struggled with the stubborn density of the woods: the menacing carpet of broken branches, the thicket’s thorny webs, the bladed granite that pierced upwards through the river’s stream, and the canopy impervious to sunlight.
No, against this thickness they found no such cave.
One misty dawn, Monster began to cry and bemoaned to little Squirrel:
‘Look at how pathetic I’ve become. Look at how useless I am. For years I have moped and wallowed through this forest. In vain we have wandered in aimless circles –duplicating and canceling out our very own footsteps. Have I not yet snapped out of this despair? Have I woven myself so deep into a never-ending nightmare?’
Squirrel frowned; and with great delicacy he placed his walnuts besides his fuzzy bum. Pensively stroking his grey whiskers, with much gravity, countenance, and solemnity, he responded:
‘In your isolation you have become a caricature of yourself – of someone you desire to be. Playing out this role. Feigning tragedy. Looking for a cave that you know does not exist. With Herculean effort you’ve tried and tried and tried to find a reason to retreat from even those who love you the most. All you have learned from these charades is that effective bridge-burning requires a considerably greater amount of ardor than one is inclined to assume; an ardor that contradicts the very character you desperately wish to portray, that contradicts your most sacred propositions about life.
‘Ceaselessly you gripe and you pity yourself. Your melodramatics! They are monotonous. They are boring. They are exhausting. I cannot go on any longer, friend. For years I have stood by your side. And in return you have worn me out in mind, body and spirit, too. All in aims of looking for a thing you knew all along was never there. For what cave? Oh, how I feel so weakened and thinned inside, brother. If you do not desist from this moribund game of yours I am left with other option than to depart. Desist, brother. Indeed you may well be Monster, but you are by no means a monster.’
To this reply Monster fell into an ingrate position full of sulk. Providing his furry warmth, Squirrel snuggled next to him as they fell into deep sleeps, while the stars danced above.
Despite these complaints, Monster persisted and Squirrel continued by him for four more years of drifting. On the third Sunday of the fourth year, Squirrel passed away. This left Monster in a true solitude. Perhaps this was his prized cave in the end.
We are still unclear as to how and why Monster adopted his nickname. In fact, this son of an accountant had hands that were small, bony and feminine. His appetite was comparable to those of mice and birds rather than cannibalistic beasts. And he was quite unimpressive in stature; Monster’s body was frail and more or less insignificant. In fact, Squirrel was just barely smaller a man than he.
Nevertheless, to this very day, lost in the depths of the labyrinthine forest, it is said Monster continues his trek in search of that perfect cave.
I am telling you there exists something of a Monster in each and every one of us. And we are all forever searching, yearning for that bizarre yet familiar place in which we can bury our own ugliness. Or, more precisely, the ugliness we fear others see in us.
Brian Jefferson is a Ph.D student at the NSSR in the Department of Political Science. His main research interests are power-analytics, political violence, and Nietzschenaism.