One of my earlier memories is set in the small playground behind the two-room schoolhouse where I attended kindergarten and grade one. I was five. We lived in a village so small that it didn’t even have an identifiable centre - just a wharf that was markedly larger and in better repair than the smaller and shabbier warves stapling down the bay.
One recess we went exploring at the edges of the playground, and I found a particularly large wedge of slate that needed pulling up. When I pulled the rock aside, a huge centipede and other shiny, squirming creatures scattered, running for dark places. A friend told me not to touch the centipede; it was, he said, deadly poisonous.
The centipede was probably not deadly poisonous, but it was in no great hurry to leave. Even as the other insects burrowed or skittered away, the centipede undulated out from the lip of the depression and continued on its unhurried way. It was my first encounter with insect life, with a form of existence that was completely alien. In a pre-articulate way, I understood that humans were not privileged by life or placed in a special state of harmony with it; life, in fact, existed in opposition to us. It defied us with its endless legs and undulating form, with its promise of poison. No communion was possible with a centipede; we could only watch it ripple across the ground in revulsion and fascination, or step on it.
I did not step on the centipede. It was too potent, too charged with menace and otherness for me to kill. What if its body contaminated my shoe, and that contamination somehow made it to my skin?
I suppose that’s why we can’t kill monsters; we risk becoming the object of disgust in the very act of destroying it.
Anyway, I sure enjoyed James Cameron’s Aliens. I’ll watch that film at the drop of a hat.