the Bog Monster
When I was a kid I moved from a little suburb outside Chicago to a more rural setting a few hours’ drive away. It was rather traumatic because I was fond of where I was moving from and had no idea what this new world was going to be like.
However, the one thing I wasn’t going to miss about the old place was the Bog Monster.
I can almost hear you rubbing your hands together and saying “Now we’re talking” in anticipation. Monsters seem to have that effect. We all have them and it’s usually interesting to hear about other people’s.
I lived in a small development and I was close enough to walk to school. The school was also in a small development and in between the two sat a wooded area with a creek that ran through it. When I reached the end of my development and made the small jaunt to the development where the school sat, on a fairly straight and unremarkable path, I might have covered a hundred yards or so. At the time it seemed much further, particularly when I was to make the walk at night or when it was foggy.
I am a forest, and a night of dark trees: but he who is not afraid of my darkness, will find banks full of roses under my cypresses.
—Friedrich Nietzsche, “Thus Spoke Zarathustra“
In fairness to the wooded area, despite giving my adversary the moniker Bog Monster, it was in no way a bog. There were no steaming, bubbling pits or rotting vines draping the trees. It was actually quite a pleasant place. At the time I was big into fishing and I would spend hours meandering along the stream because eventually it emptied into a larger river and rivers have bigger fish than streams.
During daylight hours there was nowhere I would have rather spent a leisurely afternoon.
But at night… not so much.
But even night did not fill me with the kind of dread that fog did.
Once fog was laid upon that pleasant wood all the steaming, bubbling pits would burst forth and rotting vines got busy draping themselves all over the trees.
And the Bog Monster would come into being.
But it is the same with man as with the tree. The more he seeks to rise into the height and light, the more vigorously do his roots struggle earthword, downword, into the dark, the deep – into evil.
—Friedrich Nietzsche, “Thus Spoke Zarathustra“
At this point I’m sure you’re waiting for a detailed description so you can compare notes, but the truth is I never saw it. I imagined it much like the Swamp Thing comic, a large shambling mound of vegetation and ill-intent. Other times, it could take shadow form and slide quickly through the underbrush and give chase.
Which it did many a time.
It was not unusual that fog would lie between the two aforementioned developments in the morning and I was forced to make the perilous journey right through the heart of Bog Monster territory. I can’t describe how many times it almost caught me. How many times I arrived at school out of breath, heaving and completely disheveled.
On my last day of school before I moved the fog had never been thicker and I distinctly remember stepping into the mist assuming that I was going to end up on the back of a milk carton. There was no way around it. No avoiding it. Swallowed up by the vengeful Bog Monster, never to be seen again. I didn’t even run and when I made it to the other side I felt an anger that bordered on rage emanating from the fog.
Or at least that’s where I thought it was coming from.
Man… cannot learn to forget, but hangs on the past however far or fast he runs, that chain runs with him.
The anger followed me. I can’t describe it but I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Bog Monster wasn’t done with me. It was going to find me in my new lair.
I actually say down and worked out how far away I was from my old house and approximated how much distance a Bog Monster could reasonably expect to cover in a single night. And not as the crow flies. A Bog Monster can’t just head out and walk along the highway, thumb extended. It would have to creep through whatever rivers and streams lay between where I was and where I had been.
And it could only travel at night, obviously.
Ten nights. That’s what I figured I had. On the eleventh night he would arrive at my door and finish what we’d started back at the old place. That was a long night, let me tell you.
On the twelfth night I concluded that it could only travel on foggy nights. That put off its arrival anywhere between six and seven months.
I used to sit in my bed and stare at the ceiling waiting for it. I would imagine it slowly making its way towards me foggy night after foggy night, filled with fury at my very existence. I could almost see it and I sure as fuck could feel it.
Every night getting closed.
A few years later, when it never arrived, I asked the school librarian for a book on monsters. I needed more information because even after all those long months had passed I still couldn’t shake the feeling that the Bog Monster was still coming.
She gave me a book written by a guy named Friedrich Nietzsche and he claimed, or at least I think he did, there were no pictures and he used a lot of big words, that this monster was very real and really just my inadequacies following me.
I have moved several times since then but on foggy nights I still lie awake and picture my old friend making its way towards me. Its wrath building after visiting each and every one of the places I’ve called home only to find me gone.
The growth of wisdom may be gauged exactly by the diminution of ill temper.