The Little Green Monsters

snake-leg Mrs Duan Qiongxiu, can’t remember what she had been dreaming about. But the strange scratching sound must have moved up slowly from some underworld until it woke her.

“I turned on the light” she told the people who were interested the next day, “and saw this monster working its way along the wall using his claw.”

In an unusually composed combination of bravery and foresight, which may not come as a surprise to her friends, the 66 year old Mrs Duan, beat the creature to death with her shoe, then calmly pickled its body for later. The world has since seen the pictures of this monster, which officials of more scientific inclination have termed “a snake with one leg.”

No such thing has ever been reckoned with in such a way, not, at least, since the invention of the Internet. In fact a snake monster is more likely to have two heads, a fairly common mutation apparently, though one which adversely affects the creature’s chances of survival in the wild due to the rather counter-intuitive, (but perhaps understandable) habit such heads have of attacking and killing each other.

The whole episode might not have fascinated me quite so much, if I hadn’t, only the night before, read Haruki Murakami’s short story The Little Green Monster. In this particular story, a woman sits in her house looking out half-heartedly at the garden through the window. “*It was dark before I knew it*” the narrator tells us. “*I must have been there quite a while. Then, all at once, I heard a sound. It came from somewhere far away – a funny muffled sort of rubbing sort of sound. At first I thought it was coming from a place deep inside me, that I was hearing things – a warning from the dark cacoon my body was spinning from within. I held my breath and listened. Yes, no doubt about it, little by little the sound was moving closer to me. What was it? I had no idea. But it made my flesh creep*.”

From out of the ground – that is, from some half inner, underworld, a little green monster emerges, shaking off the dirt. It has “*slender little arms and legs jutting out from its green scaled body, and long claws at the end of its hands and feet*” and, so we learn, it can read people’s thoughts. But it doesn’t mean the woman any harm. No, it has come to propose to her.

The narrator, in an unusually composed combination of bravery and foresight begins to torture the love struck creature with her mind, tying it in her imagination to a chair with thick wires and ripping out its scales one by one with a pair of imaginary pliers. And the creature, who cannot help but feel these thoughts as if they were really happening, begins to dissolve beneath the extraordinary cruelty of these ingenious insults.

What do these monsters want from us, and how are we supposed to deal with them? I was camping the other day with a friend on a piece of land in Daylesford. It rained all night, and our swags steadily gave in to it. And all night, apparently, my friend suffered horrendously from nightmares, huddled in the last dying patch of moderate dryness. In his dreams, hideous spirit creatures were prowling the circumference of the camp sight, sticking their heads and fingers into his swag to leer and threaten him. He woke traumatised and told me of a time, camping in Western Australia, when one of his travelling companions, an Aboriginal elder, had woken him in the middle of the night so that they could accompany each other to the toilet. In that land, no man goes walking alone through the bush at night, since there are creatures who appear like beautiful women to lure you away forever. He was cautioned to never sleep on his back, lest similar night spirits get into him.

“*The dwarf comes into my dreams every night and orders me to let him inside me*.”

So begins the final page of another of Murakami’s stories from the same collection.

“ ‘*At least that way, you wont be arrested and dismembered by the police,’ he says*.

‘*No, but then I’ll have to dance in the forest forever*.’

‘*True says the dwarf, but you’re the one that has to make that choice*.’

He chuckles when he says this, but I cant make the choice. I hear the dogs howling now. They’re almost here.”

The Elephant Vanishes

The Elephant Vanishes

Haruki Murakami

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