Monday, May 07, 2012

Another depiction of Mothman, this one in prose

The Monster's Corner: Stories Through Inhuman Eyes (St. Martin's Griffin; 2011) is a prose anthology edited by Christopher Golden containing 19 short stories from different writers.

One of these is "Rattler and Mothman," written by Sharyn McCrumb, an author probably best known for The Ballad of Frankie Silver and She Walks These Hills. As the title indicates, Mothman is in it.

The story is told in the first person, presumably from the point of view of the title character, and old, loner type who lives far away from civilization, resents city folks and apparently has some sort of extraordinary ability to communicate with the dead and/or paranormal entities.

One night, while Rattler is sitting in his front yard, looking up at the stars, he sees a large shape circling him, and he signals for it to land. It turns out to be the Mothman, although Crumb is somewhat coy in actually using that name, holding off for a few pages.

The being is described as being seven fee tall, with leathery wings. Here's how McCrumb envisions her Mothman:

He was roughly human shaped, standing upright on long legs that ended in bird claws. Those red eyes flashed and glowed, seeming to take in everything around him. They were set far apart, on the outer edges of a round face with a sharp beak of a nose and a lipless mouth that made me think of a cave entrance: Just a way into darkness. I was wondering if he had teeth, and not particularly eager to find out.

The whole cast of his countenance would cause you to think "insect," by way of classification, except that his expression and bearing said that there was somebody at home. He was a lot smarter than a housefly. You could tell.

His body was covered with a fine fluff (Gray or blue—I couldn't tell in the dim light)—that might have been fur or the sort of down feathers you see on baby birds.

McCrumb's Mothman talks, and quite intelligently, "in a guttural voice with an accent I couldn't place."

The nature of the creature begins to emerge during the course of their conversation. Both the narrator and Mothman use the word "garuda" when describing Mothman, a garuda being a mythological, divine giant bird or bird-man creature in Eastern religions Hinduism and Buddhism. John Keel, author of The Mothman Prophecies and the creatures #1 press agent, used the term to refer to Mothman repeatedly, often referring to the creature's 13-month flap in West Virginia as "the year of the garuda."

In this story, garudas like the Mothman are powerful beings that live outside of time and protect the land upon which they dwell, by destroying the "nagas" that threaten it ("Nagas" being snakes, again in Eastern mythology).

Rattler pieces together that this particular garuda has been around the area that is presently West Virginia for millions of years, and is at least partially responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs (dinosaurs being the "naga"). It would periodically go to sleep for millions of years and awake to find its land different and populated by different creatures, some of which it would kill as well.

The garuda have a sort of mind-reading technique and, if it feels or "hears" enough human beings all expressing the same fervent wishes or prayers, it acts upon them, as it did on behalf of the Native Americans a few times. The Silver Bridge disaster was one such answer to one such prayer, which may not sit well with my fellow Ohioans.
"Okay, tell me about the bridge," I said. That's almost all anybody remembers about Mothman: That in December 1967 he was seen in the vicinity of the Silver Bridge at Point Pleasant, and that a short time later, the bridge collapsed, killing forty-six unfortunate people whose cars ahd been crossing over at the time.

"It was a small gesture," said Mothman.

Well, I guess it was, compared to wiping out dinosaurs and sending the Ice Age mammals into extinction, but I was still wondering why he'd pick on a bridge.

He heard my question in his head. "Because...that bridge led to a land of nagas."

Oh. Right. Sure, it did. Ohio.

Hey, who are you calling a naga, Mothman?

Unfortunately, the book isn't illustrated, so the only pictures of the various monsters are the ones the writers form in the heads of the readers.

Well, those and the ones on the cover. I'm not sure if they match, one for one, the monsters that star in the stories in the book, but there is a monster on that cover with pretty big, moth-like antennae, so I suppose it's possible that is meant to be Mothman (although it's lack of wings or red eyes makes me think that's probably not the case).

I didn't read the other eighteen stories, as they did not appear to be about Mothman, but the names of some of the contributors should be familiar to some comics readers, including David Liss (Black Panther: The Man Without Fear, Mystery Men), Kevin J. Anderson (JSA: Strange Tales, Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi) and Jonathan Maberry (Black Panther, Doomwar, Captain America: Hail Hydra).

And now here's a crappy sketch I did of the Mothman, as described in the passage above by Rattler:

1 comment:

Akilles said...

I`ve got a good idea for an ad for that story.
"In this book, almost all that you thought to know about Mothman, is revealed to be wrong!"

But then again, that`s just one cool, yet uncomfortably disturbing theory for his existence.