Living with Necromimesis
by Jan Baughman

Edgar was thought to be born dead, and that's what he always believed. The first words he heard were those of the doctor stating that he was blue and unresponsive (he knew otherwise), and in the frenzy that ensued he quickly found out that he liked the comfort of the heat lamps and the monitors. The stillness and peace of the rhythmic machines that sustained his near death were preferable to the nine months of floating in that mobile water balloon. As long as he played dead, he lived in peace. And that's how he got through his life. He always hated water.

He played dead all through school, silent and osmosing. The teachers thought he was mute; the doctors, autistic, or possibly brain damaged from the apparent lack of oxygen. But he was always first in his class. An idiot-savant perhaps, or simply dead quiet.

Death in adolescence was a difficult role to maintain. Raging hormones belied his somnolent act and the resulting conflicts landed him on the psychiatrist's couch. At least there he could play dead. It was an expensive proposition, but he would be content to spend six or eight years in this weekly ritual. And it made his parents feel like they were doing something for him. Eventually, without even having to utter a word, he was given a label. The entry in the chart read "necromimesis." The delusion in which a person believes himself to be dead or acts as though he were dead.

The psychiatrist tried hypnosis and Edgar would regress all the way back to the time of the incubator, but he refused to go back to the womb to the instant before his death. He would once again feel the heat lamps and hear the monitors and he was happiest when he could relive his mortal post-natal state. He would spend hours there and it was worth every penny. And, of course, the more often he got stuck in this state of suspended animation, the more therapy the psychiatrist recommended. Everyone was a winner.

About the time that his parents' insurance was canceled Edgar was finishing college. He graduated magna cum laude from business school and was voted class valedictorian. He took to the podium and stared deadpan at his classmates for a full seventeen minutes. It was the most poignant graduation in the university's history and his classmates still talk about it today and live by his message.

Edgar knew he had to find a career that would permit him to play dead while allowing him to make a living, so he accepted a position as a government accountant. He liked the bland gray walls of his office and the harsh fluorescent lights that engulfed his days and sustained his death. There he was surrounded by necromimesiacs like him. He even met a woman. She wanted to marry him because he never talked back or bothered her. It didn't matter to him one way or the other and he was intrigued by the vow: "Till death do us part." They had a simple wedding, and rested in peace.

Published January 30, 1997
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