June 21, 2006

Dead People Are Scary

Today it happened that, after about ten minutes of link jumping, I came upon a site called rotten.com (which I will not link, for reasons that will become rapidly apparent), which achieved fame as the source of the evergreen barfing-pumpkin photo that inevitably appears in my inbox in the weeks preceding Halloween. It turns out they do not specialize in off-color pictures of vomiting gourds, but rather, pictures of any subject running the gamut from off-color to depraved, usually middling around revolting. Because that’s entertainment, or something. (I realize these are relative terms, so to give some perspective, I’ll mark the ‘vegetables in various orifices’ series as off-color, whereas the ‘mutilated corpses of people who got hit by trains’ as depraved, just so’s you can establish a frame of reference.) Now, I understand that the internet is protected by the first amendment, and I can click ‘close’ at any time if I am offended (which I totally was, being sane). What I don’t get it how people can look at pictures of dead, butchered, murdered, or otherwise un-living persons and not lose whatever meal is most chronologically convenient.

Dead people scare me. Because they’re scary. They’re not really people, they just look like people, and we as human beings have a hard time getting our heads around that (the ones that can become doctors and make millions, which I have no qualms about, because if I had to be in the presence of a dead body in any venue other than a funeral parlor I would be found shortly thereafter in a small white room, rocking back and forth, quite possibly unable to return to my former life ever again because dead. People. Are. Scary). I don’t know if it’s the closed eyes / blank stare (equally creepy), or the fact that they’re so still that you can’t get within a foot of them because they ARE GOING TO JUMP UP AND SCARE you and small white room. It’s probably the subconscious fear of death, and being presented with it in such an immediate and paradoxical way (person was alive / is now dead / looks the same as when alive / I’m alive / I’ll look like this when I’m dead / what exactly is death, anyway?) that makes me want to run in the opposite direction with a mighty banshee wail, skin optional, at a Yeager-challenging clip until I reach my childhood bedroom, get under the covers and go wide-eyedly, mutteringly insane.

[Aside: Maintenance is experiencing a difficulty with the fire alarm system; the damn thing keeps going off in my ear every five minutes. Since they’ll never realize that it’s just Peter O’Toole trying to steal the Cellini Venus, I have to take a minute out of my busy life, sneak into his hidey-closet, and selflessly make out with him so we can all get some damn peace and quiet…and I can get a piece O’Toole].

I do, however, get a great deal of enjoyment out of sites like morbidcuriosity.com, which lists the final resting places of many notable dead people. I usually have no trouble with this, as they (as most legends will) have been dead a while, and the only pictures posted are either publicity stills or headstones—plenty respectable. That’s a memorial. It’s a tribute to a person’s life, and an affirmation as to the equality of all human life, i.e. we all gonna die. They do not have, say, morgue photos of bloodied corpses, like a certain other websites prominently feature—and go on in more detail on their sister site, featuring cadavers.

CADAVERS.

I mentioned that I respect doctors. I work with them, and they’re by-and-large a nice bunch of folks, but that’s not why I respect them. It is because of the fact that every one of them, in the course of their medical training, had to do some sort of clinical practice on a dead body. A person who used to be alive, but is dead now. The empty shell of human meat we leave behind. They have to get ALL UP IN THAT SHIT. TO THE ELBOWS [shudder shudder blearg blearg bllaaaaaaar] if necessary, and then not only must they complete whatever ‘procedure' they’re attempting on Dead Fred, but then continue to lead a normal life afterward. I can’t watch an episode of CSI without hovering over the john, maw agape, at least once—because dead people are that scary. So scary they have the power to upset my digestive processes and give me the urge to raalph like a hackneyed pumpkin photo. The only thing scarier than a dead person is, of course, a zombie, because it’s a dead person who walks, and has a 100% better chance of getting close to you with its stenchy deadness. I dunno what it’s going to do when it catches up to you, but it doesn’t matter, because it doesn’t make it any less scary.

I’m not a scaredy-cat. It takes a fair bit of eeriness to really rattle me. We just all have our hang-ups (spiders, ghosts, outdated surgical equipment, mannish nurses) that will creep us all the way out to the top of our tree, where no amount of rational conversation will be had until said thing is at a very distant proximity. It’s understandable. It’s human. And I will continue to watch History Channel documentaries of Lincoln and only get one mild ‘heebie’ when they show him lying in state (a much more noticeable ‘jeebie’ is reserved for the Life of Lizze Borden), safe in the knowledge that not only are they not in the room, but they’ve been dead since before color photography was invented, and that takes the creepitude down a notch.

But dead people are still effing scary.

1 comment:

Meg said...

I feel the same way about dead people. I hate open-casket wakes for this reason.

It especially bothers me that there are people who take pleasure in looking at dead bodies. That person once meant something to someone. They were alive, with a family, a job, etc. Would they feel the same way if it was one of their loved ones? Hopefully not...

ugh, now I'm all creeped out.