There are all kinds of monsters in this world, but none of them look like the ones from storybooks and ancient tales. They aren’t quite the stuff of nightmares. Instead, they smile and nod politely when you pass them in the street. They’ll make you a cup of tea if you call in at their house. They drive a car like any other, dress in perfectly normal clothes, visit the doctor when they’re sick, and the supermarket when they need groceries.
And no-one is the wiser.
I know of one who lives among us, though few would ever notice.
He always greets me when I walk by, and I don’t think he realises just how much my skin crawls every time I see him. He’s a monster of a different kind. Behind the wheel of his bulldozer he clears his land one section at a time. Rubble and death slides down the hill and into the creek, poisoning the fish. Wombats flee, and those who don’t are shot in the night.
That happened again the other night.
I heard a gunshot crack rather close by. Too close. When I crept out into the darkness to see the cause, I saw his torch beam scanning the bushes. In the morning a dead wombat lay across my driveway, having fled as far as he could go before his body gave in to the bullet wound.
The missing trees have left the land scarred.
Mud slides down the slopes with nothing to hold it back. Thorny weeds crop up in places where a paradise of native trees and shrubs once flourished. Cows trample new saplings and flatten lyrebird nests. Wallabies flee for shelter. Koalas crawl away from their fallen trees. Slowly, he transforms a paradise into a wasteland, with no-one to stop him.
And what’s worse is that he does this for pleasure. Not to support his family. Not to put food on the table. Not to contribute produce to his community.
‘Just a hobby,’ he once said.
And at that moment I knew him for what he was. He understood perfectly what he should and shouldn’t do, but for the sake of a few dollars he ignored the warnings. He disregarded the cry of the land. He doesn’t see the injured wildlife or the hill eroding away from beneath his own two feet.
He is much worse than a werewolf or a wyvern or a wendigo.
For every mythical monster spawning from tales across the world, someone had come up with a way to stop them. We knew how to handle the fantastic beasts born of our imaginations. But we didn’t need to invent monsters. They already live among us.