Monday, March 09, 2009


THE MONSTER OF PURE LAND MOUNTAIN


You hear them now and then up here, the footsteps coming toward you out of the forest... Let me move this lantern a bit closer--

As I was digging up some dinner potatoes in that countryside silence I was just talking about - it was getting quieter by the minute as the wind died down - I thought I heard what sounded like a large footstep on dry leaves-- then, after a long pause, another footstep; I turned my gaze from the dark depths of the soil and peered around through the darkening air, but there was nothing moving anywhere. I must be imagining things.

Country monsters are like that. They have to leave more to the imagination, there's so much more ground they have to cover to do their jobs. So they're more psychological than city monsters: a rustle here, a footprint there, some long golden hairs there, a legend over the mountain, a blurry photo, a yowl in the night-- pushing those secret buttons we all have.

Most of the big-time monsters - the famous ones like King Kong, Godzilla, Mothra and those guys - that get starring roles in movies and become international icons of monstrosity, are city monsters. Because of their size they need a lot of manipulable artifacts to keep them busy, which they can get in the big cities, with the tall buildings, elevated trains, power stations and so forth, so you couldn't get more obvious than they do in going about their business. They like the city because that's where all the people and peoplestuff is, all the goodies worth destroying, that city monsters can step on, crunch up and rampage though, throw around and roar at.

Roars and hugeness work well in the city, because they're right at home. Hugeness gets small pretty quick in the country though, where there's not much added value to destroy, and mountains plus other major largenesses can make King Kong et al. look embarrassingly toylike. Roars don't really work out here either; the natural silence just soaks them up like a sponge, with no concrete smotherage around for reverberation. As a result of their necessarily repetitive urban habits, you can read city monsters like a book. They're so predictable; no need or desire for subtlety. You want subtlety in a monster, you gotta go to the country.

The countryside calls for subtlety in terms of the frisson because, although fear is cheap in the city, it's rare and imaginative in the country, which is is the home of genuine silence, universal hugeness and mythical darkness, so country monsters don't need to be so pushy and destructive to make their point; they go for the mythos, like Kappa and Sasquatch. Frankenstein was a country boy too. City monsters are as obvious as Broadway and go directly for the PR aspect, whereas country monsters by and large prefer to remain unseen, aim for the shivery subtlety, like big footprints, Kappa rumors, crop circles and so on, a lot of nice stuff that smiley country folks can sell to smiley city folks from roadside stands along with the summer corn. Favorite old folk tales, like the headless horseman, always come from the country.

Country monsters don't need the crude oversized gargantuan approach, the bulk rampages and random devastation; all they require is a sliver of moon, a hooting owl, a rustle of wind or could be a fox through dry leaves, maybe the creak of a door, a fluttering curtain, footsteps on an old wooden floor, or just some innocent out digging up a few potatoes on a darkling afternoon in March after the wind's died down to the silence at the bottom of the mind - Stephen King lives in the country, you know - and the darkness is reaching the point that's perfect for footsteps approaching from the upmountain forest when the waning light plays tricks on the eyes - Edgar Allan Poe had a house in the country also, as perhaps you were aware - out in the country there's a different shiver system. The result is Bigfoot, Nessie, Yeti, goblins, the Honey Island Swamp Monster, Kappa, they've never even been seen, but we have a good idea what they look like, and they're there alright, usually just behind us, rustling leaves out in the dark, just beyond the mind's reach. Like now...

After staring carefully into the forest for a while I returned to digging and before too long I'd swear I heard it again, another footstep... it was coming from behind me, as country monsters do, and it was getting closer-- I must be imagining things, there was nothing there! Back to digging, found a nice potato and--there it was, from right over there behind the old cedar! I saw some leaves shoot out from behind the big trunk as the creature slid to a hiding stop-- then silence, complete country stillness... Whatever was hiding there knew I had seen it, there are bears around here you know, and wild pigs and stags, snakes too-- it was now or never: I knew I'd been right - I got a good grip on my pitchfork - there and then it made its move, showed itself at last as it moved relentlessly toward me, leaves flying this way and that: it was... it was... The Monster of Pure Land Mountain...

2 comments:

Delwyn said...

A Lovely story Bob, is there a sequel?


Do you know what spud monsters look like?



We have a voracious monster lurching down our coastline, munching a swathe of pacific shoreline, in the form of a cyclone...

Bob Brady said...

No sequel, Delwyn; just a bit of Hitchcockian suspense for early visitors, the mystery now resolved at the end...

Spud monsters-- you mean those giant green caterpillars?

May your your monster turn out to be as nice as mine...