I'm afraid of socks. So is my wife. They accumulate in dark, damp corners and eat their own kind. They do not merely put holes in one another (as you might think), but rather devour their victims entirely from toe to heel to ankle. Why does one sock turn upon another? What sinister motive propels such repulsive behavior? Perhaps they are smellier than the rest -- or, perhaps, not smelly enough. Calm my wife, if you can. Explain to her why if she waits only one week to do laundry, the hamper overflows with dirty socks. But, if she waits two weeks, she finds the basket nearly empty. Why? What is their reproductive cycle? What is the root cause of this cannibalistic behavior? Independent research labs must be contracted immediately to study this phenomenon. Although not purely scientific, I have made a study of my own socks. I do think my observations have a certain validity. No one knows my socks better than I. The cannibalism begins the moment I throw my used socks into the hamper or on the closet floor. At least, this is my theory. What else could explain it? There is, of course, the Sock Monster Theory, which has a great deal of solid, circumstantial evidence behind it. I am personally convinced, however, that the Sock Monster only inhabits run-down, sleazy laundromats, where it hides in musty recesses of washers and dryers. The Sock Monster strikes during the crucial spin cycle and tumble dry. While you sit there reading dog- eared, titillating fan magazines, it gobbles up young, innocent socks. For the insatiable Sock Monster, laundromats are the sock-gourmet's equivalent of fine French restaurants. Unfortunately, the Sock Monster is undiscriminating in its palate. It will devour gym socks and nylons with equal abandon. This was my experience as a bachelor both in college and beyond. There is the less-popular notion held by two Nobel Prize-winners on the East Coast that the Sock Monster has incarcerated massive amounts of mates to all our single socks. (In inner circles, this is called the Sock Monster Hostage Theory.) What diabolical purpose it has in mind is for you to guess, but if this is true, my fears are more warranted than I imagined. Perhaps, one day, we will all be totally sockless! The next step in the sock mystery is carrying my little treasures from the hamper to the basement washing machine. Somewhere, somehow on that journey, no matter how careful I try to be, more socks are devoured, kidnapped, lost in the crack of reality forever. (Who knows what evil lurks in the shadows of my basement?) "Of course," you say, "the clever, voracious Sock Monster lives there or visits from time to time." That might explain some of the missing socks, but explain this, if you can: During the actual washing cycle, a strange reversal of the sock population transpires. Having washed, dried and carried the creatures back to my bedroom where I lay them out on the comforter for mating, I discover to my chagrin that the single sock and overall sock populations have grown. Not only are the dark greens, blues and blacks indistinguishable, I have more socks than I can remember. There are singles I have never seen before, never-bought argyles, striped socks, patterned socks, multicolored ones, dark nasties. I have never seen so many socks in my entire life. Yet none of them match! How do you explain this? How is it possible? My wife believes that somewhere between bedroom and back again the single socks reproduce a totally new species that bears no characteristics of or resemblance to either parent sock. This is the only logical, sane explanatio techniques, pairing singles that almost match and, in emergencies, counseling the desperate on how to act nonchalant while wearing odd socks to a formal dinner party. Frightened citizens uncovering infestations in their drawers should remain calm at all costs. Simply break out the nearest window, scream, "My socks are going to get me! My socks are going to get me!" Then call your local Single Socks Prevention Center immediately.