The first time I went skiing, a couple buddies of mine gracefully descended the slope on the fine white powder and came to a stop at the bottom of the mountain. They were dressed in the finest ski gear available, they had to be as I grew up in a ski-town and that's where men of nineteen years met girls.

"Hey," one of my friends said to another, "where's Victor?"

Just then a ball of screaming black ski gear, wobbling from side-to-side, dashed down the mountain and zipped past them.

"AhhhhhhAHHHHHHHHHHaahhhhh."

I jabbed the poles into the snow to stop but instead my body flew into them and I lost them.

I hit an embankment and almost went over it into an SUV. One ski flew one way and the other had my leg twisted underneath me. I looked back to my friends; most of them were doubled over in laughter. One of them was on the ground on his back he was laughing so hard.

Just then someone walked over to me. I could see her hair in the sunlight; it was a brunette and she had ski goggles pushed up onto her forehead. Her nose was red from the cold and she had large, soft brown eyes. She offered me her gloved hand and I stood up.

"First time?"
"You can tell, huh?" I said.
"Don't worry. Everyone has a first time."

We rode the ski lift back to the top of the mountain and she began showing me what I needed to know. Keep your knees bent, don't use your poles too much, and use the pie to control yourself.

Ah, the pie.

"That's not a pie," some kid said next to me, "it's called a pizza."
Go away kid. Monique is showing me the pie.

I descended the slope about ten times as slowly, with Monique next to me, occasionally holding my hand to balance me. I made it down and she gave me a hug and said, "Good job."

My friends weren't laughing anymore.

I never saw Monique again, but, I just wanted to say thanks. Not just to Monique, but to all the Moniques out there.

Photo courtesy of Yotut. 
Narcosis of the deep, the bends, hypothermia, and as if that weren't enough; sharks. Why would anybody scuba you ask? I really don't know; not totally my cup of tea. Let me share an experience with you:

You climb onto a boat and the wind is blowing so hard it almost throws you into the ocean; the theme from Jaws in your head. The guide is skinny and brown with a weasel smile and a six-pack of abs he takes every opportunity to show off.

"Ladies," he says, even though 7 of the 10 people here are male. "Make sure you check your regulators and don't bite down on them too much. If you need help with your coral mask, I'm here."

"I need help with my coral mask," I say.

"Oh," the weasel says, "I meant the girls. Most guys don't need the help." He checks the regulator. "Hmm, where'd you get this? I haven't seen this kind before."
Thanks weasel, that makes me feel better considering we're in the middle of the ocean and you're the only one that's certified to save my butt.
"All right guys and dolls, have fun."

The water is warm and it makes you want to urinate so badly you just decide it's better not to fight it so you can concentrate. The sunlight comes down and breaks into fragments, turning light blue, then blue, then dark blue, then black as you go farther down. There are fish everywhere and coral but they don't interest you because you've just seen a small ship wreck. You go down the sixty feet or so to the bottom and see that it's an old sailing boat. You reach out and touch the wooden sail and a splinter embeddes itself deeply into your middle finger. And then, you see the blood. It looks cloudy in water and you're thrilled at first, but then the theme from Jaws plays in your head again.

You come up to the surface but not too fast cause they said your eyeballs will pop out of your head. You come up onto the boat and the weasel is standing there.

"Oh, hey, one more thing. There's a boat down there. Make sure not to touch it it's really old."

The weasel won that day, and I still didn't figure out what the draw was for scuba. At least I wasn't eaten.
Do you remember the first time you ever learned about monsters? Probably not, but there had to be a first time somewhere, right? Whether it's the boogeyman under your bed or the scary clown doll in the closet (creepy by the way), monsters are part of our lives.

Freud and Jung (especially Jung) wrote extensively of what monsters and mythical creatures mean in relation to our psyches. Every culture has myths about monsters and from the Epic of Gilgamesh and the myth of Hercules, to the legends of aborigines in Australia about the monsters that live in the outback, to the Twilight movies of today, there is something about the monster tale that fascinates us.

I remember my first real exposure to the monster myth. I saw Jaws when I was five years old and I have loved that movie ever since. Even now, in my thirties, I watch it about once every other year or so. Aside from being a great story, it represents something much deeper. The "unknown" lurking underneath us, ready to pounce at any moment.

The biggest draw to me and the biggest question in monster books is: Does the monster represent an actual external threat or is it a representation of our internal shadow-as Jung called it?

I couldn't possibly begin to answer this question, but I can tell you that when I was writing Savage, the monster was certainly a representation of the internal darkness in the protagonist, Nathan Beaufort. The beast and Nathan are linked; as one grows insane, so does the other. To be honest, I didn't plan to write the book that way but after finishing it and reviewing it, I could see the parallel clearly. The unconscious, especially in an art form as expressive as writing, certainly has a way of getting across what it wants to get across.

Though many literary types hold their nose up at the monster genre, they are usually unaware of its true literary merits. I have no doubt that if some of them cuddled up with Moby Dick or Jaws, they would see exactly why we need the monster genre. It teaches us something about ourselves. That, despite our veneer of civility, man can still be as savage as nature.
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