“OK,” he said. He put another blank sheet of paper on top of the small folding table in front of me, sat back, and crossed his legs. “Now draw a monster.”
I looked around at the small office, surrounded by books of human nature and the mind, of life, death, and beyond. There were hundreds of books in that dimly lit room, and where there weren’t books there were stacks of paperwork: stuffed into shelves, on piles on the floor and on top of the bookshelves, and adorning the older wooden desk behind the plush chair on which he sat with his legs crossed. Looking at him — at the man with whom I had held hours upon hours of conversation on everything from philosophy to history to science, life, and eschatology; at the thin, bearded man who in his warm, grandfatherly demeanor had just asked me to draw him a monster — I began to wonder how to even conceive of one in this place.
Images flashed in my mind. Hundreds. Yet when I put pencil to paper and started drawing, two figures of my youth, creatures from my dreams which I had so feared that as a child they would bring me to tears, began to form themselves almost effortlessly.
The first was a marionette, with a tiny, wooden body and a large, human head, which walked and talked, powered only by demonic possession. I had a dream once where this creature and others like it took over an airplane I was flying in and crash it. I later thought I saw it in a dark room at my aunt’s house. She turned on the light, showed me that all I had seen was a giant, stuffed bear, but I knew better. The large headed creature had escaped from the window before my aunt got there.
The second was a fish monster, with evil eyes, a large, toothy mouth, and… a guitar? I had a dream once where this fish monster would run around (on land, on his back fins) killing and eating people, stuffing them whole in his huge mouth, or putting them into his oven, then tearing their flesh with his sharp teeth. In the dream the television news reported on the destruction wrought about by this thing and his kin, by the army of monstrous beasts which had invaded the city. It was just my luck he decided to stop by my house.
I put the pencil down and handed him the paper. I was glad to be rid of it, glad to be rid of these beasts from the darkest corners of my mind. Whatever had taken over my hand to create them now slithered back into the depths of my mind.
As he looked at what I had drawn and asked about them I told him the stories behind each. I explained to him how they were only dreams, childhood fantasies concocted by my own mind for reasons I don’t really understand. After all, does anyone really know why we, as children, come up with nightmares?
When we met again a few days later, he told me he had been thinking about the drawings I made. He pulled out the drawing of the monsters and told me something I never expected to hear. “These,” he said, “are your defenders. They are you.”
How were these me? Outside the fact that my mind created them in order to seemingly taunt me as a child, how were these any part of me or, by implication, I part of them?
“Rather, these are different aspects of you, and when you feel threatened these monsters come out to defend you. On one hand you have the monster with the large head. When you feel threatened, it is your head which you use to defend yourself, before –” and he pointed to the marionette’s small body,”– you attack with your fists. You first fight using your mind. On the other hand, you have the beast with the large mouth. When this one comes out, you strike back with your words when threatened; you chew whoever it is out.”
I left him that day wondering about what he had said. While I don’t think this is why my brain made up these monsters, it certainly would explain why I chose to draw them. Later that night I asked The Wife what she thought. “Have you ever seen me chew anyone out?”
She opened her eyes in a wide, almost incredulous stare and let out a long, drawn “Yeeeeees.”
I decided to take that as a yes.
So what did this all mean? Nothing, really, at least nothing too serious. It just means that this is the way I naturally go about defending myself, with my mind and my words. Were I Dr. Jekyll, these would form my Mr. Hyde. And like all of the monsters which live within us, indeed, like all passions within us, if not brought under our control, these would quickly take control. A double-edged sword in action.
These are my monsters. My nightmares. My defenders. Me.
What are your monsters?