THE conqueror worm, the bleak and blackness of night, the damp soil, clinging onto one’s garments, oppression of the lungs, the embrace of the narrow coffin, the body now entombed for evermore. The lack of air, fumes, the grass above one’s head, and above that a moon, and sun and stars, galaxies, the universe, you are in a new world, beyond. Your friends are at home sleeping, drinking, laughing, all informed of your death, yet not your fate; that they are uninformed of.
You are buried alive, in a hopeless position. Appalling it may be, an intolerable horror, an agonizing dream, as nothing half so scornful, but it is real, and somehow you must tolerate the burden of that reality.
Now I will tell you a true story of a resident and friend of mine, from Huancayo, Peru, high up in the Peruvian Andes, where folks still do things the old fashion way, to include burials. Leoncio, originally from a small village called San Jeronimo de Tunan, who had moved to the inner-city of Huancayo (within the Mantaro Valley region) no one knowingly knowing of his disease catalepsy (often times coupled with epilepsy and schizophrenia, characterized by lack of response and external stimuli and by muscular rigidity), no one alive that is, his age being 68-years old, and having no family to speak of, a few friends, unknowing of the mysterious disease he had. Although I did, but I was far-off during his so called departure from this earth, in Patagonia.
This disease of course is of profound interest especially for its fate, or has been in the past. The patient or victim, lies for a day or longer in a state of exaggerated lifelessness. He is senseless, motionless, the heart’s pulsation is faint at best, yet some places of blood warmth remain. His coloration changes to his body, even to his lips, a vacillating action takes place in the lungs. He is in a trace like mode for weeks if not months. Often times in isolated areas that are still with the old customs, the prognoses is ‘absolute death’; and for such communities, death is death, and there is no double checking into records, that might or might not be, and for old Leoncio, there were no medical records, he cured all his aches and pains with old remedies, the old way. And he got buried the old way. And the only way anyone other than myself would have known of his catalepsy, would have been by consequent suspicion, and above all the lack of decay, the latter being overlooked. Thus, he was consigned alive to his tomb.
I can say in certainty, he fell into a swoon, a blackout, without pain, unable to stir. Perhaps even to think for a while, but with a dull and dim consciousness eventually.
Leoncio, also being an alcoholic, remained in a stupor, perhaps thinking he was in a nightmare, until he awoke out of this stupor, into reality, and found himself in a new crisis. Smitten to his surroundings, he must had been sick and numb, chilly and dizzy from the hangover. Yet now in his tomb, black and silent, his world in total annihilation, his universe gone.
He awake as out of a seizure, and I know of that experience, for I have lived it, my soul reaching out for perception of what is going on? Slowly coming back to the light that was turned off; coming back out of a trance, trying to get in touch with possession of my senses. Thus, his stage was even deeper, his bewilderment and perplexity deeper, for he remained in absolute abeyance.
His death haunted me day and night, thinking it was a premature burial. Thus, I had the city officials reopen the coffin, grim and darkness overspread our faces, I shook and quivered, as did the officials, shuttered to reflection that they had buried him alive, did we send him into the world of phantasms, I contemplated, then I heard a gibbering voce a whisper that came from the corpses’ lips, they moved, “Alive,” was the one word, it said over and over, then died out. My teeth chattered, here was a voice that grasped me by the wrist-figuratively speaking, but had I come too late?
Out of the radiance of decay, he had been buried ten-days, his body sad, in solemn slumber with the worms. A pitiful sight. In fact I no longer trusted myself, was he dead, or still alive? The doctor at hand reassured me by a solemn oath, he was dead. And the coffin was closed.