The Man Who Forgot to Die ~ Short Story

A warm blanket covers me, breathing in cold morning air in a quiet room. “Another day”, I say to myself and then get out of bed and put on blue slippers.

First thing—pee. Second thing—wash face, and next brush teeth. Staring in the mirror is such an unusual thing for me each morning. Gazing at the reflection and trying to figure out who is looking back. Who does this reflection belong to?

“The reflection belongs to me”, I say out loud; “You are the man who forgot to die.” That is what the neighborhood kids have dubbed me; The Man Who Forgot To Die.

That’s the question in my head, that same repetitive question that will not go away. It will always wake me at exactly 7am. I never need the aid of an alarm clock. I have always gotten up at exactly 7am since the incident. What is up with that? Who gets up with a haunting repetitive question in their mind every day? Me, I acclaim, the man who forgot to die.

Monday 7am, the third of December I awake to the question of Existence. Not the question of ‘do I exist’ but the why and how of the longevity of my existence.

This is what I think about at 7am under a warm blanket, breathing in cold morning air. My long existence…

My existence has been mundane at best, not at all a great reality, nor a horrible one either. In all truth it has been a boring life, mostly.

I am the man who forgot to die…in hindsight it is a peculiar thing to put out of your mind, but forget I did. In truth, I did not forget to die. It was more like I didn’t remember that I was supposed to die.

It seems only natural to think about your death. Far as I know there is no cure for that condition called birth. If you are born you will die. Harsh, nonetheless true. Death has no cure.

This is the oddity of all the oddities…if you are born you will die. In between the light of birth and the darkness of death you get to think about it. On some random day for a haphazard reason you will die and there is nothing you can do to stop it. If that wasn’t bad enough you get no control over the how, why or what of your looming death. There is suicide for the control freaks, but that is a bad choice for those who have been baptized.

The compelling subject of death has missed my thoughts; I question my existence and speculate about what purpose it has. Bloody hell there is so much rubbish in my head. Truly maddening, repetitive and worthless…I need coffee, lots of it.

I turn off the running water, flush the toilet and go down to the kitchen.

Seven twenty two AM. Black coffee and toast, this is my same breakfast…mundane…isn’t it? I do use different jellies to break up the humdrum of it all.

On my kitchen table I keep a large yellow legal writing pad. In the morning with coffee and toast I like to write about myself, at least what I understand regarding my way of life. I hope that keeping lists, notes and casual whatnots about my life will help. It is my intention that these words may be of use to somebody some day. I feel bad for the poor bastard who needs these words.

Today’s page is titled ~

The Man Who Forgot to Die
~ I did not cheat death but forgot, so I remembered later, much later
~ No supernatural gifts or powers that I know of
~ No special diet or exercise program, in truth I am a slovenly lad
~ No fountain of youth or magical elixirs
~ Not a vampire
~ Not cursed, that I know of
~ Not blessed, that I know of
~ I do not pray or meditate or talk with the dead
~ Never studied on how to sustain long life
~ I did buy a juice machine off of a late night infomercial, maybe that had something to do with it? Probably not. I only used the juicer twice. Beet and celery juice is dreadful…
~ Spent a long time in a coma or hibernation or deep suspended sleep. The doctors never did agree on what to call it

Twelve years ago I walked out of Saint Clair Memorial Hospital with three Kurt Vonnegut novels, two Beatles CD’s and the complete Pittsburgh Steelers decade of champions history of the 1970's in my head and not much else.

I knew how to tie my shoes and how to find my way home. I knew where I kept the coffee and how to find the post office. I even remembered my way through the local woods and short cuts to get across town.

What I couldn’t remember was:

~ My name
~ Age
~ If I had parents
~ If I had siblings
~ If I went to school or held a job
~ Was I liked or was I a self-absorbed wanker
~ Did I know love, did I break hearts or have my heart broken
~ Indian, Thai or Italian?
~ Why on earth my closet was filled up with tie-dye t-shirts, black skinny ties and a large woolly sweater with leather patches covering the elbows?
~ What was disco?

Nobody was quite sure how long my stay in Saint Clair Memorial Hospital was or even how I got there.

When I arrived at Saint Clair’s their record-keeping system consisted of hand-written notes on 3x5 white index cards that a nurse would type up in some meaningful order for the next physician to use.

When I left, patient information was readily available on something they called smart-phones that had no resemblance to a phone at all, more like a hand-held calculator with no numbers. A flat screen that gave you information when you touched it, as far as I could tell it responded to your thoughts and finger’s needs.

A doctor would walk into my room pull out this tiny black plastic gadget, wave his fingers over it and tell me that my vitals are looking good. Next the black-plastic-calculator-looking gadget would ring or chirp or play music and that was the warning sign that the doctor would say good-bye to me and walk out of the room.

With the switch from the pen to wireless technology my medical history was lost, the majority of it anyway. Dating my stay in the hospital it would appear that I have been here at least 23 years, best guess.

For the past seven years I had the same nurse; Dolores.

Dolores filled me in on much of what happened. She was the one who would read me the Vonnegut novels and play the Beatles music for me. Dolores felt sorry for me that nobody ever came to visit. Those novels and music were her son’s favorites during the wars that he was in.

Wars? What did I miss?

Dolores told me about how her son gave his life for us in a war and how the world has fallen into a world of terror, sac-religion and worst of all you can watch it all on the tellie.

So, Dolores would sit with me and mourn her son. Trying to comfort me with some of his favorite things even though I was sleeping. Dolores the Kind Nurse.

One day I awoke in Saint Clair Memorial Hospital with Dolores the Kind Nurse sitting next to me.

I was refreshed, strong and ready to go. I could bend over and touch my toes, I could do push-ups, was not sore or achy. My muscles should have been atrophied and deteriorating, but they were not. I had energy.

The explanation that the doctors had for me was that I was in a different state of consciousness during my long stay at the hospital. I was neither awake nor sleeping or dreaming. I was in an “alternate state of consciousness” was all they could figure.

They diagnosed it this way because apparently my heartbeat and brainwave activity continuously stayed the same. Neither slowing down nor speeding up. I am told that when you’re in a coma or asleep you will still have changes in brainwave activity and heart rate. I did not.

The comparison they gave me was that my brainwave activity and heart rate could be qualified as a marathon runner, running at peak condition that never altered pace or thoughts, for 23 years non stop.

To the doctors I was neither man nor angel or demon. I was unexplainable. This alternate state of consciousness left me ageless.

I aged but less; I grew strong during my absence.

I had some gray hairs on my chin and flecks of gray in my hair but I was muscular with little to no body fat. I had no wrinkles or age spots on my skin. I stood tall, well built with good posture and bone structure.

The experience should have left me decaying; in reverse it made me trans-human.

Three days after my awakening, with clarification from Kind Nurse Dolores, a barrage of questioning and tests from the medical staff, I walked out of Saint Clair Memorial Hospital with 3 Vonnegut novels, 2 Beatles CD’s and a hug from Kind Nurse Dolores.

Shortly after leaving the hospital I found out that I had become some sort of media-medical-celebrity. Everybody recognized me from the tellie, newspapers and Internet hoopla…but no one remembered me.

What type of blimey bastard must of I been? Twenty-three plus years in a hospital with no visitors and now all this media-medical-hype and still no one remembered me. I left this world and went to sleep and nobody missed me…

Over the next few years people began to think of me as this strange trans-human-being. People would walk up to me and ask all sorts of questions about my alternate state of consciousness. I favored calling it my “long-afternoon-nap”, but nobody seemed to care what I preferred.

Questions regarding the afterlife, heaven, hell, purgatory; they would want me to lay hands on them or they wanted to touch my hair for good luck. They would ask for my blessing over them or to heal their sick.

I had no answers for them. No gifts of wisdom to give them.

“Surely that occurrence must have had existential meaning to it”, they would say, or “What did you see” or “What did you learn”, they would ask of me.

Sorry to report—no visions, no knowledge, no memory…

It was disappointing to see their faces when I told them the only truth that I knew, which was “Sorry, I can not help you.”

After a while of not being able to stand all the disillusionment that I was causing in the masses, I decided to start giving one blank statement to all the hundreds of questions; Be Nice.

Be Nice ~ that was it, that was all I could come up with. Not much of a curbside prophesy but I figured with a statement like that I could do no harm.

Just like that I became “The Man Who Forgot To Die”, walking the streets telling people to “Be Nice” to one another. It looks as if nobody was listening at any rate. No wonder why I took my-long-afternoon-nap.


Passing a church bake sale I could smell fresh apple pies. I remembered that I liked apple pie but I could not remember if I ever held a job or went on a date. Go figure.

I walked down into the church basement and heard my name spoken out load for the very first time and at that moment it all came back to me, my existence, my purpose, and my name.

I nun falls to her knees in front of me and said,

“Dear God”.

“Yes”, I answer.