Dead Men Don’t Tell Tales, They Prattle On Ad Nauseam

I’ve been dead, once or twice. (Three times, truth be told.) I can’t recommend it, it’s fairly dreadful. 

It makes a good subject matter for writing, though.

It would be pretty hard to invest in a story without some sense of mortality.  At least something has to be impermanent, or else, why worry?

About a year ago I wrote a non-fiction piece for one of my non-fiction classes (imagine that?) about my experiences as a sometimes corpse. My professor liked it and had me submit it to the school’s lit journal.

They liked it too, I think. They gave me an award for it, anyhow.

I’d like to post a direct link to From the Fallout Shelter, but sadly the website is a bit out of date (read: three years). As such, here’s an excerpt from Dead Men Don’t Tell Tales, They Prattle On Ad Nauseam.

I hope you enjoy it.


    I’d had a few months of ineffective chemo. Well, no, not ineffective. Highly effective, just not very good at slowing the progression of my systemic tumors. I’d been in the medical system long enough for the absurd to become common-place. I was bald, but so are most people. It is normal that people you don’t know should come into your room without knocking to poke you with things or to explain you to someone else who will also want to poke you with things. Various forms of Jesus peddlers will circle your floor like cross carrying vultures. People will poison you and give you antidotes in equal measure, thinking the latter highly sympathetic. Vomiting is a regular and frequent part of the day. How else could it be?

It had been a few months and nothing was working in the way it was meant to. I was on a CT machine for a scan-guided dissection of some kind. I didn’t mind, full body anesthesia was to be involved. Always opt for the gas, it takes longer for you to go under and you’ll never have a high like the fifteen seconds of total existential dissolution paired with complete physical ecstasy in so safe a setting outside of full pre-op anesthesia.

Most people are told to count back from ten and don’t make it past six. I wasn’t told to count, but did in my head anyway, getting to fifteen before the world swirled away, turned fluid and soft and disappeared in the galaxy’s most gradual faster-than-light change.

I was a corpse, I knew that much. I felt like a tiny piece of myself, complete and miniscule, trapped and detached from the much larger external whole. I could sense, but only dimly; sight was bright but fading quickly; sound was diminishing. I could feel myself fading and shrinking into myself. My body wouldn’t move, the impulses and force moving one direction only. Without really making out what I was hearing I knew what the doctors and nurses were talking about. It was calm but energetic, like a race car driver on a difficult course, any expert pressed to make full use of his abilities. There was no pulse. This was a problem. I was still receding. I could almost feel my skin, but the intervening mass felt like sand, like lead, like a hot solid chunk of watermelon flesh. I knew it was hot but I couldn’t feel it and in fact I was very cold.

This is dying. I thought.

This is fucking terrible.

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