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THH: I v. Mummified Egyptian Royalty
Pharaohphobia. The God-given phobia of mummies.
I had my sister search it up while I rocked myself back and forth on my knees and moaned.
Well, now I have it. I at least have the name.
The question must be eating you up: the Holy Hitchhiker? A scaredy cat? Madame Ala Nova, horrified by some dead thing from ancient Egypt?
2008. It pours outside, and the mother hen nudges her two daughters into elementary to wait out the rain. The older girl sits down.
I’m telling you, this little doofus here has the potential of something grand, wild wild pseudonyms and a future writing enthuse. She’ll even attempt music. Though for now, she is four feet with deliriously ugly bangs, and is still brown as a nut.
And she’s curious. She picks up the KID’S DISCOVERY book lying on the bench, and is unable to stop reading. In sick fascination, she meets the Ice Man. Nicknamed Ötzi, he’s a mummified cave man preserved in the ice long enough for civilization to catch up to him.
It’s not a very good acquaintance. They’re not friends.
From then on, she’s been stalked. That same dead thing evolved into a mummy (a type of corpse emballed and wrapped for preservation, especial to Egypt). It got to the point she could not walk by the nonfiction shelves in the public library in case they were displaying some dumb book about dumb Egypt. Dreams started to convert. Ben Stiller converted as well, chasing sanity in Night of the Museum while simultaneously promoting the demolition of museums. He only returned to threaten her repeatedly with Night of the Museum 2 and 3.
Things started to pick up the pace as she moved into Chicagoland, and her natural habitat was forced to cower less than 50 miles from perhaps the U.S.’s greatest mummy trove ever: the Field Museum. When her sixth grade History class decided to make pilgrimage, she dragged her mother along with. But no family member could shield her from the random horrors of the web, social studies, and…high school?
She could not believe it, either, that her future high school would be the only one nationwide with a resident mummy. I kid you not. A mummy, on display, and every day.
The high schoolers there even gave it a cute nickname.
It was not shock, it was pure terror. And above all, another reason to protest high school.
What could this girl do? What was there to do? Nothing, unfortunately: in daylight, she walked past it between classes. Her favorite and most active club happened to be moved next door to mummy central, so she spent time looking the other way.
I admit it’s not easy to throw around the word “phobia”—having anything less than the real thing is an insult to others. But unfortunately for myself, I have very much the real thing.
And I finally assume first person in that I am not scared of mummies, or intact remains of stupid hiking prehistoric cave men. I am terrified of them. It’s a metabolic freeze. Chemical fear. I can see the dried face of a pharaoh in my shower. The wrappings; I used to see its sarcophagus where the stripes of my quilt are. (I’ve since changed quilts.) Many claim visualization is the way we communicate with our unconscious; I only fear my unconscious knows me too well.
And all of this never leaves my mind.
It weaves in and out, sure. But it’s a stain on the mind palace. I can be talking to you about women’s empowerment, and simultaneously see the outlines of sickly Tutankhamen in your cheekbones. I can see your eyeballs dry away and let the lids sink over them. Your hands cross over your chest; they’re shriveling up now. Your skin is dyed the color of resin and your beating heart lies in a canopic jar somewhere—
This paranoia finally hit a soprano note last Spring Break. Teenage maniacs were cheering on vacation while I generally sank into ruin. Before, outbreaks of phobia could pin me down, but not like this. I began to physically fear closing my eyes for longer than a blink if that meant turning the real world away. It didn’t help, either, that my homework load went ballistic, and I spent more time that week under a lamp than under the sun. The stress was brewing. And two out of three nights of mummified dreaming finally pushed it over the edge.
I was in pieces, and I had no idea what to do. I did not want to be crippled by this for the rest of my life. And to think it was making me weirder than I already made myself!… Still, the mere thought of looking at a mummy to “cure myself” was torture.
What my mom told me wasn’t really reassuring at first. In fact, hearing her say this phobia probably won’t ever go away to my face had a very flattening effect. Then she concluded it was how I decided to live with it.
“This mummy has nothing to do with you,” she said.
Well, too many mummies are still rotting and existing, and I find that personal offense enough. But my mom was unbearably right, as most mothers choose to be, so I backed out and took a survey.
Where am I? Where do I belong?
…Certainly not in Upper Kingdom Egypt.
I actually know where I belong. I belong amidst friends, family, and cruddy jokes. I thrive amidst soul-force activists and genuine romantics. I have too much homework and way too many ways of phrasing things. I belong right now, here, reading you a story about myself.
And I do defer. Writing this in the first place took a lot of guts.
But now that I have, I move one step forward. True, I’ll probably hate Egyptians for the rest of my life (sorry, guys), but what difference does it make? Because although the fear has a name—pharaohphobia—I have one too.
And I’m taking it for my own.