Creature Features: Man Is Always the Most Dangerous Kind of Monster

Welcome to Kerry Alan Denney, aka “The Reality Bender”

Godzilla and King Kong. The Thing and The Blob. Count Dracula and werewolves. The Kraken and dinosaurs and giant mutant spiders. Zombies and spiky dagger-toothed aliens. Demons and poltergeists and The Devil. The Reaper from my novel Jagannath and the malevolent spirits from my novel A Mighty Rolling Thunder. All of them are monsters of one kind or another. But none of them are real … at least not in the sense that they’re physical incarnations of dangerous creatures that can rip us into bloody ribbons of lifeless flesh, pulverize us into pulp, consume us whole and devour our bodies while we’re still alive, or implant parasites in us that steal our wills and control our minds and bodies.

Writers dreamed up these deadly monsters. They were born of our deepest, darkest fears, creatures crafted out of the stuff of our nightmares. In some fictional form or fashion, each one of them steals from us that which we fear losing the most: self-control and willpower, sovereignty over our destinies, our ability to have a choice in determining our fates and preserving our lives and the lives of our loved ones. From the moment we mastered fire and learned to communicate, we have been telling stories of scary monsters that frighten the wits out of us, chill the blood in our veins, and keep us looking over our shoulders expecting to encounter entities intent on destroying us. But

… then there’s Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. Pol Pot and Jim Jones. Baby Doc Duvalier and Josef Mengele. Chairman Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh, Tojo Hideki, Vladimir Lenin, Hirohito, Chiang Kai-Shek, and Saddam Hussein. On a smaller scale yet no less brutal and merciless, we have Jack the Ripper, Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Charles Manson, Luis Garavito, Pedro López, Mikhail Popkov, Gary Ridgway, and who could forget the Zodiac Killer, the Boston Strangler, and David Berkowitz aka Son of Sam? The list of conscienceless mass murderers and serial killers throughout humankind’s history is endless and horrifying. No doubt our caveman ancestors had their share of ruthless human slayers lurking among them as well, nameless predators whose only desire was to kill, kill, and kill again.

From whence does this lust for blood and death originate? Is it just part and parcel of the human condition, a sickness among us that will never be eradicated, a genetic inevitability? Or is it some metaphysical switch in our minds that, at any given moment, can be turned on, make us unable to empathize, and transform us into pitiless murderers of our fellow humans?

As much as we’ve recently learned about the workings of the human mind, no one has definitive answers to these questions—yet, I feel I must add. Many scientists involved in brain research believe that mass murderers and serial killers have various types of Antisocial Personality Disorders. That is a watered-down term for a deadly psychopathy—another two-dollar scientific term for a propensity to kill indiscriminately without remorse and in plenitude—and that is what can make us into monsters of the most despicable magnitude.

Despite some claims to the contrary, no one can identify these types of human predators on sight, or determine their psychotic tendencies and their jones to kill via conversation or even familiarity. But they most assuredly lurk among us, waiting for their next chance to strike—and to defile, humiliate, and kill. We’ve all heard this phrase or similar, and often: “He seemed like such a normal guy, a dedicated family man.”

They are our neighbors, colleagues, associates, and acquaintances. Maybe the person driving the car behind you. Maybe even someone you know intimately.

Although we have an infinite capacity to love and care for our families, friends, and even strangers, we also seem to have an endless proclivity to destroy that which we should cherish the most: our fellow humans.

Without this ability to love as well as a yearning to empathize with our fellow humans—this desire to love selflessly with no desire for our own personal gain—the human species would surely have obliterated itself into extinction ages ago. In the best examples of human kindness, we feed the hungry, shelter and clothe the destitute, and free the oppressed among us. There is much to admire in humankind’s generosity, mercy, and compassion, and history is thankfully replete with shining examples of the very best in our species.

It’s a damned shame and a sad testament to our savagery that there are always some assholes among us who feel they need to assassinate those people, isn’t it?

Will we evolve with grace and benevolence into the global stewards and redeemers of our species that many of us believe we were meant to be, and leave a legacy of distinction that other sentient species will speak of with admiration and respect for eons after we’ve seeded the stars with the milk of human kindness? Or will we devolve with callousness and rampant slaughter into the chaos of being destroyers of all that is good, believing we were meant to be conquerors and subjugators of all we survey?

Ask yourself this: How many intelligent space-faring species would want to be neighbors with a species that wages war on its own kind? If we place so little value on the lives of our fellow humans, how destructive would we be to species which we don’t resemble physically, or emulate emotionally or morally? True, some wars inevitably must be waged against the despots, tyrants, and persecutors as long as they remain among us. Edmund Burke perhaps said it best: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” (And I heartily add good women to that!) But somewhere along the line, some hard and uncrossable lines of integrity and honor must be drawn, or else we will become that which we despise the most: human monsters.

Many of you who know me well realize that I remain ever hopeful for the very best future for our species, even though my writing is festooned with characters who embrace the worst in us right alongside those who cherish and nurture all of our best qualities. What can I say? I love killing off the bad guys in my stories. In all the best stories and novels I’ve read, although a steep price must out of necessity often be paid, good defeats evil every time. If I want to see the bad guys win, I’ll just turn on the damn news.

To me, this is a very exciting and illuminating time in the history of our species. With the recent mind-boggling advances in technological marvels and a growing comprehension of the infinite possibilities in quantum physics, we are on the verge of potential greatness. Only an unshakable sense of ethics and a strict adherence to moral behavior in every stage of our development will prevent us from plummeting into pandemonium. Although we’ve proven our ability to rise above our pettiness and to triumph amid extreme adversity, we’ve also shown we have a bad habit of repeatedly making the most unforgivable mistakes. We must police our own actions, remain accountable for the choices we make, and be prepared to suffer the consequences of bad decisions just as we’re equally ready to reap the rewards of wise choices.

Make no mistake and have no doubts: As vivid and vibrant as our imaginations may be, no creatures, beings, or entities we have ever created or ever will create can hold a candle to the most dangerous monster of all.

And if you didn’t know it before, I think you know this by now: Within each of us resides the potential for either preeminence or desecration.

We are those monsters.

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