Ever since I was a child, I could see the monsters. They languished in the shadows and stole people away into the night, away from the lights and smog of the city. I used to be scared of them, and I would hide behind my mother, trying not to look at the deformed nightmarish creatures that hid in the corners and alleyways, anywhere they were easily concealed.
“Mom! There’s a monster over there!” I would yell and hide my face in the folds of her skirt, clenching her hand with incredible strength. Because she was my mother, and was used to my antics, she would look where I pointed, and then back at me with a chuckle.
“Oh, but honey, that’s just a man.” she would say, and pull me away from the monster I knew I saw.
As I got older, I stopped trying to get people to see them. They would never. They were too blind, but I would always see them, and the older I got, the more I tried to pretend that they were not there.
Then, when I was 26, I could no longer pretend. I could not walk away from a child that obviously needed help. Help that no one was giving. I saw it in an alleyway, on my way home from work. The boy was screaming and thrashing, trying to wrench himself from the iron grip of the monster pulling him away, but people just walked on by. I threw myself at it, yanking the boy from its grasp, and staring it down, daring it to touch him. The boy whimpered and cried behind me, cradling his arms that were gauged and bleeding from the monsters claws. It grinned at me cruelly, too many teeth showing, and then with vicious speed it shoved me against a wall, gripping my arms tightly with it claws, almost drawing blood. It cocked its head, almost in curiosity and its beady eyes shone, but I turned my head away, closed my own eyes, and tried not to scream. Almost as if it was satisfied with my fear, it promptly let go of my arms and began crawling away from me. I looked down at my arms to see handprints on my arms, from the tightness of the monsters claws on my arms. My head popped up in confusion, to stare at the monster walking away from me. When I did, the monster transformed from a horrible deformed thing, clawing at its own neck, to a man striding away and flipping up his coat collar.
The boy had already disappeared by the time I turned around, probably to find his parents, so I continued to walk home. Every now and then I would glance down at the disappearing handprints on my arms. As I did, I began to remember all the times I had seen monsters, and I gawked at the ones I passed on the way home. They were no longer the hideous beasts I had seen since I was little, and I realized that my mother had been right. I had never been seeing monsters.
They were all just men.
When we are children, we are scared of the horrible hulking monsters that we see in movies and envision in books. Growing up is when we realize that things to be afraid of are not disgusting creatures, but people around us that look exactly the same. We notice that people are not taken by things with claws and faces that do not seem human, but are hurt by men and women that look perfectly normal. I had denied that fact my whole life. I had refused to believe that humans could be the ones in the wrong. But I had learned. Monstrosity is not a disease of the skin, but of the mind.