The box sits under the door. It’s finally here. After unlocking the front door, you scoop the package into your arms and rush up the stairs to the kitchen. Despite its size, the box is light, almost airy. Why did they pack it in such a big box? You set it on the counter near the stove. Using a steak knife, you slice the tape sealing the flaps and open.
There is he. Swathed in recyclable bubble wrap is Orokuma, the real King of the Monsters, not that Godzilla everyone loves so much. Covered in orange scales, Orokuma uses his pincer-like arms to impale his prey before gnawing away at them with several rows of long, sharp teeth.
You turn on the kitchen light, sit at the table, study your new toy. Other than a few worn-out spots on the spikes running down his back, it looks new, even though this toy came out thirty years ago.
You remember the first time you got the same toy. You were a little boy, sitting on a floor, ripping up wrapping paper while a circle of friends watched. After unwrapping each gift, you gave it a quick glance before placing it in a pile on the floor and grabbing the next one. But when you opened the box with Orokuma in it, you gazed at it for a minute until your mother cleared her throat. Open the rest of your damn gifts, she said without speaking.
For weeks after, Orokuma crushed every structure you had built, whether it was made of cardboard or wooden blocks. He also travelled with you everywhere: school, the library, movie theaters.
Then one day, he disappeared. You swore he had been sitting next to you during lunch, but no one working in the restaurant had seen him. Maybe he wasn’t there. Your mother backtracked to the other places she had taken you to that day — the department store, the bank, the pharmacy. Each time, employees told her the same thing: no customers turned in a monster toy to lost and found. You cried that night, even more after your father had lectured you about how expensive that toy was.
Now, after all these years, he is back. You bring him into the living room, where you have a shelf with other monster figures. For a long time, you reserved a spot for him, between the moth-like creature and three-headed dragon. You put him down, fold your arms. Your collection is complete.
As you walk away, you hear your wife’s voice. What are you going to do with all these toys? You’re forty years old — you shouldn’t be playing with toys. And every time, you ask her what about your figurines in the display cabinet in the living room? And each time, she tells you to grow up.
You walk back to the kitchen but stop halfway. Such a fierce creature like Orokuma doesn’t belong on a shelf, waiting for dust to coat his scales. He needs to move. He needs to destroy.
You return to the shelf, take him off, gaze into his red eyes. He roars, though only you hear him. His pincers tickle your fingers.
Grow up. Oh yeah? I’ll show you.
You open the cabinet in the corner of the room, study the cartoonish figures with their round heads, big eyes, and innocent expressions. All of them smile. But none of them expect the force that is Orokuma, a force entirely beyond the scope of their imagination, a force that is about to turn this cabinet into a living hell.
You look out the window at the driveway. Good, she’s still out.
Orokuma stomps on the lowest of the three shelves in the cabinet and grabs one of the figurines, a blonde girl with pigtails, sitting on a couch, holding a cat. The monster cries again before pushing it off the shelf. It falls onto the hardwood floor with a small thud. The head and some limbs detach from the body. A smile cuts across your face.
One by one, Orokuma throws the rest of the figurines off the shelf. Blood rushes through your veins. Now that the monster has started, he can’t stop. With your help, he climbs up to the middle shelf and attacks the innocent creatures there. As the mound of porcelain corpses rises, your teeth clench, your fingers coil. You’re winning.
Now onto the top shelf. Goodbye, little skier. Goodbye, soccer player. And then there’s just one left, a blonde ballerina wearing a tutu. Her favorite. She was once a ballerina. You nod at Orokuma. Let’s finish this. And he does.
You laugh. Take that! You shelve Orokuma and crouch down to pick up the pieces. Be careful, the monster warns, don’t cut yourself.
Christopher Iacono lives in Massachusetts with his wife and son. You can learn more about him at cuckoobirds.org.