I always had a death wish, I just didn’t expect it to come true while I was still alive. Funny that. The condition was called Cotard’s Delusion, named after the neurologist Jules Cotard, who described the disease as a delirium. The denial of ones own self-existence. The feeling of being dead, basically.
When I was eight years old, I fell from the ash tree in our back garden, and was knocked out cold. I regained consciousness the following day to find my wonderful mother watching over me. Her tears of relief coated the gargantuan goose egg on my forehead, and she kissed me all over my hematoma. She died from a brain aneurysm three years later, and I think her sudden death played a pivotal role in my future endeavour of being a cadaver.
I worked the graveyard shift at the local supermarket which is where I met Helen, the woman of my dreams. I asked her to marry me, and she said yes, even though I’d turned into a total hypochondriac. That was stage one of the delusion: germination. I was on anti-psychotics the day of our wedding. As sole beneficiary to my mother’s estate, I moved my pregnant wife into the very house I was raised in. The infamous tree had succumb to ash dieback fungal disease.
When Helen suffered a miscarriage, my reaction was that of a man with self-certified psychosis — I couldn’t have cared less. I was far too preoccupied with the fact I’d misplaced my nose — as in the appendage — which was stage two of the delusion: blooming. I denied the existence of my own limbs. I was adamant that someone had stolen my internal organs and sold them on the black market. Whenever Helen offered to make me dinner, I would tell her to cook the heart she’d stolen from me, as I longed to taste the fleshy flavour of my own ticker. Medium-rare.
It was easier to identify with the living dead, so I watched a lot of zombie movies. I stopped showering and smelled like rotting flesh. That’s when Helen called in a psychotherapist who said something about serum concentration, but being brain-dead made it difficult to concentrate, so she dragged my lifeless body to the hospital for a PET scan. The neurologist remarked that he’d never seen such an under-active brain before. I was wide awake, you see, but my brainwave patterns were consistent for a subject sound asleep or under anaesthetic. Not long after I was diagnosed with walking corpse syndrome.
Stage three: chronic. I no longer ate or drank. I spent my morning’s reading the parish news obituaries, and my afternoon’s relaxing in the crude coffin I’d built for a single bed. That was the last straw for Helen and she walked out on me. I ended up moving in to the church — well, the graveyard — and pissed off the priest in the process. He said I was petrifying his parishioners, apparently, and performed what turned out to be an unsuccessful exorcism.
Torrential rain one night. I stared at her grave — Here Lies Helen O’Brian — and she had lied when she promised to protect me. When the storm stopped, I wept, then through the sodden grass came my mother: hands first, arms, skull, then her maggot-infested body. She wrapped her bones around my fragile frame, sank the few teeth she had left into the fetid flesh of my neck, and granted my last dying death wish.