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 …