Cotard’s syndrome is a mental disease where the victim concludes that he or she is dead.
It starts slow like. A dream I’ve been having since I can recall. It takes on several manifestations, but it’s always the same. I’m older each time I have it. I’m aging with the dream. The parking brake doesn’t work. My father’s Dodge pickup rolls out of control. Oncoming traffic. I’m a kid when I first have it, my feet can’t reach the brake. I have the dream for a month my kindergarten year. I only tell my mother about it once.
“I can tell you need to have control of the situation,” it’s one of my ex’s speaking. I wish she’d just shut the fuck up. Things get too real for me, she says. Tells me how I need to let things run smoothly. Only she means that she wants me to give her the control. To lay down my guards and roll with the punches her fists deliver. I book it out. Henry Miller says to get over a woman you have to write about her. Only I’ve never actually heard Miller say this. It’s just something I heard in a movie.
“Roll with the punches,” she says. She and I have our secret fight club. We’ll see who ends up on the floor next.
My eyes snap awake – or my mind’s eye. I can see the bedroom in the dark, lit only by the pale light of the moon. I trace the outlines. I heard the breathing…my breathing? My heart’s pounding. Even though I can’t see it, I know it’s there. I struggle to move. I want to scream out but my voice is mute. I moan, doing my best to get the word help out on the top of my lungs. Just please help me. It’s almost in prayer. Shake awake. Fully awake. My eyes perceived what my mind wanted me to. There are no demons here.
She cries out for me. She’s in pain and I’m inmobile. I’m not awake though I am. Auditory hallucinations. Screams for help. Screaming. Pain. Other voices shout out. Help me. Help me. Help. Crying. Laughing at me. They start to get loud. Deafening until they’re all I hear. Goddamn, just wake up. Just wake up. It can’t be real. I know it can’t be.
Shortly after the car accident, I start perceiving the world differently. I start noticing things I normally would have ignored. I feel whatever part of me that I once had is vanishing. Eyes are watching me. Something is stalking me. As time passes, so does the feeling. Or I learned to ignore it as I have done with things in the past. Ignoring and faking it, two things I’m good at doing.
Years later, I’m admitted to the hospital. My appendix has gone rogue and plots to take me out. I sign away my life. I’m rolled down the hall on a gurney. I remember the scene from Trainspotting after Rents OD’s – every movie with a hospital scene comes to mind. “So it really does look like that,” I say. “Excuse me?” the orderly replies. “Ever see Trainspotting?” “No.” “Nevermind then.”
I’m in the hospital, recovering, when I have the nightmare. I see a red light and some sort of sheet blocking my view of the lower half of my body. Men talk. Words I cannot hear. There are others in the room and they’re just watching me. Once again, I cannot move. I try to speak but something is putting me under. My eyes scan the blurring room one last time before it’s clicked off like a television.
It comes to the point when I begin to wonder what happens when we die. As an agnostic, I hope an afterlife is possible. As a rationalist, I fear that this is a one shot deal. As a dreamer, I yearn for immortality. It’s a flashbulb realization: I cannot accept the fact that we just cease. My mind refuses to buy into it like it had done for years.
Joey’s funeral. I think of how close we all are to death. Each day is a step closer to it. Some of us are at the brink without our knowledge. Joey complains of pains and the next day, he’s dying. Now he’s dead. Gone. Erased from this novel. Days? Weeks? Months? Years? Hours? Minutes? Seconds? How long do we have?
I wrote a short story a while back entitled “Distorted Truth,” in which all that happens to the character happens to him in his own mind. Nothing happens, really. There isn’t some pivotal moment where you relate to him, or feel sorry for him. You learn that he brought it upon himself. And lately, I start to think that this is all just in my head. Like what they say in Waking Life. We might just be dying and all that is happening to us is just our thoughts during the final seconds of our death. Like the Inception dive. We’re just in the getaway van, suspended in air for hours even though it’s only seconds.
- Meditation: The Simplest Health Tip Has the Biggest Benefits (blogher.com)
- The Depth of Insanity (socyberty.com)
- “Dead Birds and Dead Fish – End of Days or Bad Luck?” and related posts (outdoorzy.com)
- Near-death neurologist: Dreams on the border of life (newscientist.com)