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Watching a Giant Monster Trash a City
by Robert Hood

"This thing, this creature…" The Bio-Chemist glanced at the other inhabitants of the room, giving a bird-like twitch that shivered downward from his head and settled in his finger tips-which in turn drummed against the tabletop. "It just can't exist."

The bunker seemed to quiver as he struck the hard-varnished surface, but the vibration came from beyond the room and made them all tremble.

"Our brief is to rationalise it as best we can," the Convenor declared. "We must look at it and decide what can be done."

"No, you miss my point," the Bio-Chemist continued. He looked towards the ceiling, as though he might see through the hundreds of metres of reinforced concrete, steel and rock that hid them from the outside world. "No one gets it. The Monster can't exist. Discussing it is pointless. The energy transfer requirements alone render it impossible. Biologically-using the bio-logic with which I am trained to deconstruct life-a lizard that massive would have to eat, I don't know, a country the size of New Zealand daily, just to get going in the morning. As far as we can tell, it rarely eats at all! It's-"

"Impossible, yes." The Physicist nodded. "It would collapse under its own weight. I agree. Impossible."

The Geneticist laughed scornfully. "I've heard that some claim it's a mutation. Ha! A typical misunderstanding of the nature of genetic deviation. Nothing appears from nothing, especially when it is as deviant as this Monster. And never in a single generation."

The Environmental Researcher gulped from one of the half-dozen coffee mugs in front of her, then looked disgusted, as though she'd chosen the one with last week's dregs. "Indeed. Where the hell does it fit, environmentally and in the processes of evolution? Where's its biological niche? What are its native habitats? There's no chain of developmental dependence, no interconnection-"

"Not true!" The scruffy individual sitting in the corner, whom none of them knew, ran his palm over his balding scalp. "It likes trashing cities. It seems to connect quite enthusiastically with the idea of killing people or making them rush around pointlessly, screaming. Perhaps there's some sort of symbiotic relationship between this creature and the experience of destruction. Perhaps it cannot tolerate human pretension-"

"Woolly metaphysics. It's hardly a valid argument in a biological or physical context." The Environmental Researcher frowned. "Who are you anyway? What's your field?"

The scruffy man shrugged, staring at the screen on the wall before them. On its flat, digitally enhanced surface a huge mutated lizard-looking like no lizard and, equally, no dinosaur that has ever existed-raised a thick, rubbery foot the size of Parliament House and booted a current-generation assault tank into the harbour. "Like all of you," he said, "I'm a voyeur."

The experts scowled in unison.

"As for myself, I'm a realistic man," the Military Strategist said suddenly. "I do not partake in self-deception. I'm not going to be moved by the bleatings of the Gigantheistic sects which insist this creature is a manifestation of some divine principle. Yet I'm inclined to side with those among you who see it as ridiculous that we should even entertain the possibility of this creature existing. The armed forces have hit it with everything from rifles to nuclear missiles. We've unleashed more firepower at it than was utilised during World Wars 1 and 2 combined. Nothing living could withstand such attack. And the result? It's not even scratched. Phaw! What nonsense! It makes a travesty of military traditions."

A Social Engineer, who obviously felt there was little reason for her to be present at this strategic meeting, cleared her throat nervously. "I'm sorry, but all I can offer is a confirmation of the Major's attitude. That creature walks through streets that have been carefully designed to facilitate the flow of traffic and apparently reduces them to rubble, without causing any lasting damage to the City. Skyscrapers collapse like plywood replicas. Then-a year or two later-it happens again. What does that mean? How can it be? The whole thing seems to be an elaborate, and poorly executed, facade."

A deep rumble vibrated through the room, causing pens and a few cups to scuttle off the table onto the floor.

"It's above the bunker now," commented the scruffy man in the corner.

"Or we were hit by an earthquake," the Geoscientist pointed out. "All along I've been inclined to see public reaction as a subconscious transferral of plate-tectonic paranoia to the idea of the creature, making it a focal point for the instability we feel as human beings toward the not-so-solid world, the solidity of which is normally taken for granted."

"Good point." The Nuclear Physicist jumped to her feet and slammed her fist down on a pile of reports. "Paranoia makes fools of us all. Nuclear power has been the brunt of witch-huntery for decades. Blaming atomic testing for this, as many are doing, is par for the course."

"Likewise pollution," offered a Waste Management Expert.

A tall, painfully thin man with a skeletal face like an exhibit in a Medical Museum stood langidly and made a placating gesture. "We must not resort to the airing of individual grievances. The truth of the matter is that the emotions which fuel the creation of such a simple scapegoat illusion as this Monster-a radical incarnation of the fears that churn continually in the national psyche-are widely felt and of a much more general applicability. My own discipline, Psychology, is well familiar with the processes of Divergent Reality Creation. Nuclear power, earthquakes, pollution, yes. But beyond all that is the fear of social breakdown of any kind and, indeed, fear of death itself. Even fear of sexual appetite. All this plays into the propagation of an elaborate hallucination."

Another rumble. This one was accompanied by a distant roar-a complex sound that made bones shiver.

"As a Historian," said the rotund woman who kept flicking her pen from hand to hand in a distracting manner, "I must point out that this is not the only time this has happened. In different places and over many centuries, communal insecurities and an improper grip on the semantics of knowledge have resulted in the alleged manifestation of gigantic creatures. Remember the Rhedosaur that was supposed to have appeared in the streets of New York a few decades back. I've also heard of a giant six-tentacled octopus, a Roc-like bird, ants, scorpians and other insects, and even a man blown to enormous proportions, most of them allegedly created by-" she nodded acknowledgement to the Nuclear Physicist, "-atomic testing. And Japan, with its peculiar history of large-scale disaster, is rife with tales of gigantic monsters like this. Do you see?"

This time the tremors were more violent and a rhythmic pounding, like the thud of gargantuan feet, began to tremble through the surrounding earth.

Everyone in the room glanced around, nervously, as though it were their dismissive logic, and not the bunker, which seemed under threat of collapse. Everyone except the scruffy man in the corner, that is. He was writing furiously, hunched over a large pad.

"What are you doing?" growled the Convenor. "Are you writing down what is being said here?"

The man glanced up. "I'm writing a story."

"A story?"

"A story about a monster, a large impossible monster that causes a lot of monstrous destruction."

The experts huffed as one. The Convenor spoke for them all. "Why write of such nonsense. And why now when the problem of rampant subjectivity is so apparent?"

The scruffy man appeared to consider the question. Finally he waggled his pen at them. "Because of everything you've said, I guess. Because you are so determinedly resistant to the possibility." He shrugged. "But mostly because it amuses me."

There was silence in the room-except for the monstrous pounding from above. The mood was broken by a Social Engineer, who stood and cleared his throat noisily. "Ignore this man," he said. "Leave him to his own ridiculous and irresponsible pastimes. As the guardians of our society, what we need to do is recognise, fully and clearly, the facts of this matter." He began to pace. The scruffy man listened for a moment, and then continued writing.

"We are right, I believe," the Social Enginner continued, "to dismiss this Monster from consideration. We mustn't miss that point in our deliberations concerning the current dilemma. We're intelligent, responsible people. We know who we are and what the world is. This Monster represents more than just an appalling waste of time and resources. It is an affront to reason and good taste and a threat to the evolutionary development of a society based on reasonable achievement and a rational aesthetic. How can we tolerate this violation of everything we take seriously? Because it amuses us? It's not justifiable.

"So let's get this straight. Certain things are possible in the World As We Know It, and certainly things aren't. Some things just don't make sense in terms of the way the physical world functions, even at a commonsense level. According to the laws of physics, some things will never happen, though they might happen when a breakthrough in cosmological theory takes place and we understand the world in a different way. Other things, however, are just ludicrous.

"One such is the existence of gigantic creatures taller than a skyscraper and almost totally invulnerable to artillery fire. Such monstrous fauna defy physical logic. They cannot ecologically exist. They could have no scientific basis, coming from nowhere and going to nowhere, and with them the whole intricate web of biological life on the planet is made irrelevant. What comment can they make on real life? What truth do they represent? Not mine, and not, I suspect, any truth recognised by anyone with a decent aesthetic sense."

The scruffy man looked up with a smirk. "You underestimate the value of more basic responses," he said. "Excitement, awe, fear, wonder. A cathartic enthusiasm for destruction. The irony of civilisation helpless. And that's not to mention the metaphysical and symbolic value of this monster. Perhaps you're all being narrow-minded, overly literal and-let's face it-boring." He went back to writing his story.

The others all spoke at once, raising their voices in a mass litany of indignation. Finally the Convenor's gavel broke through the noise. But even after the group stopped talking, he could barely be heard. The thud of the Monster above them was insistent now.

"Enough!" the Convenor cried. "We must make a decision on how to deal with this thing."

"I move," the Social Engineer declaimed, "that this monster cannot and should not exist. I propose that it has little significant meaning and no value. Like other fictional nonsense of a similar ilk it should be reviled and ignored."

Convenor: "All in favour?"

The massed "Aye!" nearly drowned out the stomping from above. The room shook as though something was being forced through the rock surrounding it. The ceiling began to split. Calmly the scruffy man wrote the final words of his story.

They were:

Suddenly the roof cracked apart and a huge, scaly foot smashed through the rock and steel and concrete. As the room's occupants screamed out their chorus of terror, the foot pounded down upon them, crushing them amid a shower of broken cement and twisted metal. When it withdrew, all that was left was a mush of rubble and blood and flattened bodies.

Only one person survived. Elated by his luck but shocked and saddened by the terrible destruction, he closed his notebook, slipped his pen into his pocket and began the long climb through the shattered roof towards the surface.


© 2001 Robert Hood


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