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The morbid desire to look at, and reflect upon, skulls. Named after the skull upon which Hamlet laments death in Shakespeare's play.

At Indiana University, on the lowest floor of the Student Building, is a glass display case filled with skulls. The specimens represent numerous species of felines, avians, canines and primates. Most of the specimens are authentic. There is also a synthetic reproduction of a human skull.

And next to that, a real human skull.

I've named it "Ed." The bone is yellow, and lacks teeth; the jawbone is gray and discolored on the right side, and there is a sort of stout metal pin or bolt stuck in it, below where the right canine tooth would be. It is an adult skull, and for all I know it is female.

Occasionally, when I have some free time and the right mood takes me, I swing by and consider it. I think: That is the bare frame of a human life. That is me, beneath all this flesh. In life, Ed was as much an individual as I, with desires and a will and rationality and emotion. Why, he or she might have decked me for looking at them like this. But no more.

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