Pull the plug

Someday they will flip off the machine that keeps me alive. For most, a near-death experience lasts only a split second – or as long as it takes for the doctors to defibrillate them. Either their experience becomes permanent – they die – or they come back to life raving about a bright tunnel of ecstatic light.

I have been in a coma for sixty days, seven hours, 24 minutes and 8 seconds, give or take a few tenths. My family has kept watch over my lifeless body the entire time, and I thank them for it. But they should give up – my body has. I will never walk again, even if I do regain consciousness – well, I am conscious, but my body doesn’t betray it. The doctors talk as if I’m not here, while my family pretends that I can hear every word.

They say when someone goes blind, their other senses become more acute. What happens when someone loses all their senses? They have a near-death experience. In only a second or two it can seem like a tunnel of light, but for an extended period, it can be pure ecstasy. I can see through my closed eyes, hear with my non-functioning ears, feel with my disembodied body … and my memories become more acute. I can feel every one of them as if they were happening right now – and the best thing is that I can play them over and over, changing them to suit my fancy.

I am aware of every second; and I even know whether the sun is rising or setting. It is a light, cool evening rain outside right now, and I feel every drop as it explodes on my naked, disembodied skin, at 43 drops per second. Each one caresses me like the tip of a lover’s tongue, first the impact, and then the stream down my body as it obeys gravity, picking up the essence of my salty sweat. It’s a clean summer rain, since the showers earlier in the day have left the air fresh with positive ions.

Between my dead legs is where I can feel it best, as the droplets cling to my pubic hair before beginning their journey southward. I love that journey especially, as I can break down every sensation to the hundredth of a second. It reminds me of Richard for some reason – he was not my first lover, but much more memorable. He was into oral sex, and he loved to explore my bush with his tongue, especially when it was untrimmed. He drooled as he roamed, and it dribbled down my pelvis like reluctant raindrops, clinging to me as to a branch. That’s a real memory, not one I’ve enhanced.

Richard had an amazing tongue, now even more amazing as I savor every millisecond, every twitch of those wondrous muscles, and finally every excretion as I orgasm. Surely you think I should use past tense there, but I orgasm even now as I recall it – not down there in the dead part of me, but in my head, and it is every bit as intense as the local physical sensation was. That sensation is interpreted by the brain, and although the doctors don’t see it in their scans, my brain is in overdrive.

His other appendage, where I bathed him with my saliva, was less effective. It reached deeper into me, but he tried too hard to please me and never relaxed enough to make it pleasurable for both of us. He said he could taste my orgasm; I could certainly taste it later while he tried unsuccessfully to make me pregnant. Maybe he was disappointed that I never tasted his – of course, I tasted his semen during foreplay, but never stuck around for the full flow. That wouldn’t happen until a decade or so and two lovers later, by accident. It was like eating oysters without the wine chaser – too salty by half.

The doctors have just told my family again that I am brain-dead, yet I feel my husband Jeremy’s sweaty palm holding my hand. He’s crying – he’s been doing that a lot lately, and I know why. They are pushing him to give the word. Then the doctors can slice me to bits and parcel my organs out to needy people who still have a chance to live. He’s still holding on to me, unable to let go, sensing perhaps that there is still something happening within my skull.

It’s been too long since we last made love, much too long. I can remember it in my supercharged state, but can he? Can he remember what I felt when he traced my spine with his forefinger? Did he feel me shiver? I can still taste the garlic on his tongue from dinner and hear his desperate breathing. He didn’t do oral – the proper appendage served me just fine. But not him that day. His thoughts were somewhere else, as they often were back then, probably on his job, or his cricket team. His over-active mind was always in the clouds. Now those thoughts are in his hand, where skin meets skin, life meets death. He wishes our last carnal memory was a happier one, and more recent.

Why is it that in my final days all I can think of is sex? I should be thinking of the afterlife, pleading for forgiveness of my sins, and praying for my immortal soul. Instead, I cling to life, because sex is life-giving. Maybe I’ve never had children, but the act of love gives life to the lovers, and that is worth clinging to.

When they do finally pull the plug, I shall draw out every last millisecond in ecstasy, my final act of love.

Are you still there?

“Which service do you require?”

“Ambulance,” I grimaced, still half-heartedly performing CPR while trying to talk. “A woman died right in front of me.”

“How long ago?” she asked.

“Just a few minutes,” I replied. “I’m still trying to revive her. Just a moment …” I gave her a lung-full of air. “Okay …”

“Where are you?” the operator asked.

“Parland cliffs, about two miles north of the lighthouse.”

“It’s going to take us at least half an hour to get to you,” she replied.

“Just a second …” another breath, “What about air ambulance?”

“They’re out on an RTA. I’ve dispatched a local crew from Ridborough. May I just take your name and address?”

“Alice Southall. I live in The Bungalow, Parland Springs. Hold on … Still no pulse. She’s bleeding from her ears and nostrils, and her pupils are blown. I don’t think she’s coming back, and I’m starting to get worn out.”

“How did she die?” she asked. “Did she have an accident?”

“She was just standing there, and then she fell over. That was it.”

“Well, keep up the CPR as long as you can. Leave the line open so we can triangulate your exact position.”

“Okay,” I answered, leaving my mobile phone on speaker.

I pumped, 1, 2, 3, etc., then breathed for her. The more I pumped, the more blood dripped. After 10 more minutes, I was spent.

“Are you still there?” I asked my phone.

“Yes, ETA is 19 minutes.”

“I can’t do any more.”

“Thanks for trying,” she replied. “Sounds like it was a hopeless cause. Still better leave your line open.”

“Okay.”

It was the strangest thing I’d ever seen. I was out walking on the cliffs, and she was just standing there frozen, with her hands to her ears, or more precisely – to her headphones. They were expensive ones, not just your normal ear-buds. She was a pretty brunette wearing a white halter and blue jeans with an iPod strapped around her right bicep. I suspected she was a tourist, out on a power walk with her iPod drowning out the sounds of anything natural.

It was always windy on the cliffs, and only a few puffy clouds drifted in on the morning breeze as breakers crashed on the rocks below. I had never seen her before, but today I couldn’t help but notice her. She’d been about 100 yards away, walking towards me when she just put her hands up to her headphones and stood motionless. When I reached her, she had head cocked up to the sky and her eyes closed. Her lips parted in expectation – in expectation of what, I wondered. Her expression was much like I imagined mine to be as I straddled James on one of our illicit rendezvous. He was married, but as long as the sex was good, I didn’t mind. We’d had an on and off fling for nearly a decade. He was bored at home, and I was desperate – a perfect match.

“Excuse me,” I’d shouted to no reply. “Are you all right?”

The good Samaritan in me couldn’t leave her until I knew she was fine. After a minute, I touched her on the shoulder, and her eyes sprang open. Not even noticing me, she smiled and sank to her knees before crumpling over in a heap onto the path.

Again, I’d nudged her. “Are you okay?” As I rolled her over, her eyes just stared off into the sky, and there was no longer any life behind her smile. I checked her pulse. None. I nudged her harder. Nothing. That’s when I started CPR, and dialled 999.

“Are you still there?” the operator asked from my phone.

“Yes,” I replied.

“Fifteen minutes. Any change?”

“Thanks, no,” I answered, thinking I might have another go at CPR, but it had been almost five minutes since I’d given up, and she was surely brain-dead now, if she wasn’t before. It wouldn’t do much good to revive a vegetable.

I noticed her iPod was still ticking over, and I wondered what she’d been listening to that had caused her to stop so suddenly. Cautiously, I put her headphones up to my ears. Nothing. The timing showed that the track had been playing for 15 minutes, so I backed it up to the previous one. The display didn’t tell me anything useful, just a bunch of numbers.

Again, I put it up to my ears, and immediately knew my mistake. I heard nothing, but I felt James … not the real James … a fantasy James inside me just like I imagined on one of my lonely nights at home … perfect, and perfectly pleasing. I had lost track of the wind, the cliff, everything but this fantasy sex god touching every tender spot of glory. I was in heaven. I knew I’d sat up on my knees – that heightened the experience – and had clasped my hands to my ears, just like that woman had done. I couldn’t move, not until, yes, it was coming, closer and closer.

I wanted it more than anything, more than life itself. With a blinding crack, it came. I shuddered with ecstasy, and then …

The Veil of Sheera

He gasped when he saw me. I’m not sure what he expected. Could he see that my wrists and ankles were bound to the chair? Maybe it was that I wore nothing but a transparent veil which hung to the floor. Powder blue was never my color. I’ve always hated pastels. My mother, Tula Plantagenus, told me that even as an infant, I refused to wear pink.

Mother had suffered a similar fate under not-so-different circumstances. She had served as the equivalent of a high-class escort (the highest class) used by the government to control people of influence. By “government” I meant my father. I was a wedding-night accident; they probably never slept together again. Instead, she slept with whomever she was told. There were always cameras filming every minute detail, to be later used to blackmail said politician or influential businessman.

It was one of those politicians who eventually took her life, but it took more than the scandal to topple my father’s corrupt government. When the recordings were released, he feigned outrage, labeling my mother a whore, having her body publicly burnt and scattering her ashes in a cesspit. I was seven at the time.

Now it was my turn.

Too busy with the running of the Presidio, he had sent me away to be brought up by his brother’s family. Uncle Oswald was a kind man, but completely dominated by his brutish wife Lena, who beat and tortured me at will and for no reason other than my lineage. My mother had been of the defunct royal line. She would have been Queen had the Presidio not forced her father to abdicate. My father, Mars Jensle, was second in command to Loll Tutemand and took my mother as spoils, raping her ill-advisedly on their wedding night. Before I was even born, Tutemand had died under suspicious circumstances, and father had taken control of the government.

My visitor surveyed me with both fear and desire. He had no doubt that his moves were being recorded. I tried to smile, but I couldn’t. He was as much a pawn as I was.

“Remove your clothes,” I said, using my royal voice. Yes, if it had not been for the Presidio, and subsequently the Federation, I would now be Queen, worshiped by my people – a people that once would have done anything just to please me. I would have been more than a Queen, I was their Goddess.

This man was of the old school and obeyed immediately. If I had told him to kill himself for me, he would have. Unfortunately, my handlers would probably have killed me before he had the chance. However, to some my word was an edict from the heavens. Left alone, the man would eventually commit suicide. Hence, I would never ask of him such a deed.

My father had been overthrown by a coup d’etat and replaced by a “federal democracy.” That was just show, and the few men that had usurped the power held the same kind of control over the legislature that my father did and in much the same way: through blackmail and threats. People “disappeared” on a regular basis. The man removing his clothes before me would suffer the same fate if he did not rape me. As a deposed royal, I was a danger to the Federation. They had to destroy my character.

After escaping from Aunt Lena when I was 13, I went into hiding, living on the street as a pauper. As far as I knew, my father approved, making only a farcical attempt to find me. As a street urchin, I had to steal and do anything to earn my crust of bread, including prostitution. My father’s regime had cleared the population of sexually-transmitted diseases, so I remained clean. How did he do it? Testing became mandatory. Anyone with treatable conditions were treated and sent to a colony in the islands of the Bardor Ocean for the rest of their lives. If it was untreatable, then they were sent to Melardo, a prison island, nearly 1000 KM from the nearest continent of Toohland. Most soon died there.

The Presidio maintained a no-tolerance policy, both in healthcare and crime. Those with communicable diseases were either quarantined in the islands or executed and their bodies cremated.

The man, now naked, guarding his manhood with his hands, stood trembling before me, unable to avert his eyes from the royal tattoo that emblazoned my chest, just above the center-point between my breasts. 26 years ago, men would have given up all their worldly possessions just to touch that tattoo. Without the agreement of father, my mother had ordered the tattoo drawn while I was a week old, a tiny red rose, that has been expanded every year of my life, even while I lived on the streets. Servants of the Monarchy spied on me. They knew where to find me, and on my birthday one would appear and add a tiny petal, leaf, or thorn to my rose, the stem of which had been extended to just below my breasts.

“What is your name?” I asked, wanting to know who was about to have his way with me. I always asked, and I remembered every single name, even from the time I lived on the streets. He would be my 101st.

“Olander Hefrig, at your service,” he answered, fighting a stutter.

I knew that name. “What is your title?”

“Chancellor of Harden University.”

That was where the intelligentsia had studied for centuries. I would have gone there had I not been in hiding. Instead, I went to Baltair College, a small progressive college that was run by royal servants. I never had to pay for my education, nor for my room and board. I saw it at first as a way to get off the streets, until they realized that I was brilliant. My Science-quotient was a 97, unheard-of at that level, the average top degree student graduating with a 71. My language mark was 93, and math 96. History had been removed from the curriculum in an attempt to dilute the tradition of the Monarchy.

“Impressive. I salute you, scholar.” Hefrig would have been aware of my abilities.

“My privilege, my …”

Queen. If he would have said it, he would have been executed on the spot. He wouldn’t have been the first. Hefrig was young for his position. His predecessor had disappeared. I’d learned of it at Baltair. He had a familiar air about him, as if I had met him before. His golden brown eyes held serious learning behind them. He was no figurehead; he’d earned his position.

“What brings you to see me today?” I asked, knowing that he’d been given no choice. In addition to having a brain in my head, I also had the beautiful body of my lineage. I would have been “culled” at the age of four if I hadn’t been considered suitable to the royal line. I wondered if my father might have permitted it, thankful for an excuse to get rid of me. No man could resist my charms if I chose to exert them. Of course, there is nothing more seductive than the power of royalty.

“I have been sent here on an urgent matter that concerns you,” he answered. That was the standard euphemism they used when they were unable to say that they were about to seduce or rape me.

“Come forward and tell me your desires, Olander,” I replied. That would have sent his heart racing. I admired him. He was about forty and looked distinguished with his hair graying at the temples. I also knew that he had been a professor of history. I vowed to make this as enjoyable an experience for him as I could.

Hefrig took two steps forward and knelt on one knee. That was punishable by deportation or at worst, death for treason. He averted his gaze, preferring to look at my toes, which protruded from under the veil. None of the handlers came to kill him. I would reward him as well as I could.

“Look at me, Olander,” I said, knowing that would serve two purposes. Calling him by his first name twice raised his stature to a member of my circle. That was the ultimate aphrodisiac, and combined with being encouraged to look at me up close had the desired effect.

“My …”

“Don’t Olander!” I stopped him. That would have sealed his death. “Would you be so kind as to remove my veil?”

Bound to the chair, I was unable to hide myself from him. He couldn’t control his desires, yet I had not given him permission to touch me. He couldn’t mask his disgust, seeing the ties that bound me.

“You may touch it, if you wish,” I said.

He knew immediately what I was referring to, as he reached forward and gently traced the lines of my tattoo.

“Men have killed for that,” I whispered so that only he could hear it.

He gulped. I fear that was the point he knew what I begged of him.

“I would like to hear you say my name.”

“Sheera Marianna Ephrasus,” he paused, “Plantagenus, my …”

“Don’t!” During the Monarchy, he would have had to follow with “my Queen and Goddess.” Again, I had saved his life.

“Chancellor Olander Hefrig,” I said, “I permit you to do what you have come to do, my love.”

He wouldn’t have been the first of my “clients” that I’d confessed love to, but he was the first who had deserved it. His first touches were tentative, my arms, my breasts, my thighs, always returning to the tattoo.

“You may kiss me, Olander.” Others had, but I knew he required permission.

He started with my shoulders, my neck, my lips, perhaps surprised when I responded, caressing his tongue with mine. When he kissed my thighs, I nearly broke my chair, I desired him so. Parting my knees for him, I entreated him to take me. He had to take me all the way for the cameras. Sitting on my lap, he kissed my tattoo again. It tingled strangely as it never had before.

“Let your Queen be your vessel,” I whispered into his ear as he positioned himself awkwardly between my bound legs. I couldn’t have been more ready for him. Soon he was inside me – the chair groaned from the weight of his thrusts. “Love me!” I begged as he throbbed, losing himself in me. He tensed and snapped, along with the legs of the chair, falling on top of me. I let go, too, so wanting to hold him close, but with my wrists still bound, I had to compensate by frantically kissing him as if there were no tomorrow.

As if he had unlocked my memory, I remembered that Hartig Hefrig had been my grandfather’s valet. I’d seen Olander as a teenager, but most of all I knew that his loyalty was unswerving. “The Gods will reward you a thousand times what I have given you,” I whispered. “Free me, my love.”

With his arm already wrapped around my neck, it was simple. I felt his fingers touch my tattoo ecstatically as he kissed me a final time while caressing my chin. He was my savior, and he would soon follow me.

“Do it!” I pleaded.

I heard only the first of the clicks of my snapping neck. My ritual humiliation was over.