Mummifying Alan

by Chris Phillips

by Chris Phillips

Happy New Year!

It feels like an age since I last wrote a blog, and in all honesty, I can’t say I missed it. Life was busy shuffling by me, past me, and through me with the full frontal force of a battering ram, and although writing is an escape, there was fear of what ugliness would rear up if pen was put to paper.

But here I am now, new year, old me, with a new smile.

Isn’t it odd how the smallest things can lift you up? Motivate you, inspire you, shock you into living again? In my case, this such thing was a tv show.

In desperation, I was browsing through the show listings of 4od (it is glaringly obvious from this just how desperate my situation was) and found a show called ‘Mummifying Alan.’ Curious, I watched it…and over an hour later was staring in shock and disbelief at what I had watched. In gruesome detail, scientists had performed a mummification on a donor body – Alan. At first, I couldn’t understand it. Why on EARTH would you donate your body to scientists and television, putting your family through the trauma of watching your own (significantly slowed down process of) decomposition?! It was a thought too raw for me to handle and so, at the time, I couldn’t understand it.

On reflection however, it became clearer, as it always does with hindsight. What at the time looked ugly, I now perceived as an act of utmost respect. The art of mummification was saved for the kings and Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt; doing the same thing for the man you loved was a message that went further than tv fame. And so, for the first time in a long time, I picked up a pen and began to write.

* * *

Mummifying Alan

A cold grey slab of meat.

Stomach distended.

Cheeks bulbous.

Empty of organs, of blood, of heat,

Of life.

 

Sketched on the page

his outline makes my stomach turn.

Three maggots writhe in his ear,

but decomposition is not your road, my friend.

 

I shall bathe you in salt water.

Submerge you, soak you in tears of grief and joy

for fifty two long, sunless days

before you are reborn again.

You will rise from those waters

as a slippery eel escapes its hunter,

unbeknownst to me,

your forgotten author.

 

Here is where you begin to harden:

grow leather for skin and salt crystals for muscle,

mutating into that eternal agony nestled in me,

shaping the murkiest shadows.

 

Now your cheeks are hollowed,

your flesh softened,

ballooning with the welcoming promise of collapse

like a fresh pillow on a hotel bed.

 

It is beyond wonder that you still resemble you,

as I hack and chop and mould all that makes you human –

though, truly, my eyes have not gazed upon your face for eternity.

 

I must wrap you now,

in strips of rough white linen hugged tight around you,

blossoming as spider web from my quill,

weaving your immortal bed.

 

As I cover your statue-face,

I feel release and a knowledge:

This is right.

For though none else can see it,

the golden crown inked splendidly on your preserved head

is as beautiful in death

as you once were in life.

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