Being in a coma is pretty underrated. When you cut your brain off from your senses it turns out the damn thing has quite a storytelling capacity. With no sense of time and nothing to distract you that puffy wet computer in your skull will think up all sorts of tales to amuse, terrify or titillate. Even that seven minute pause between presses of the snooze button on your alarm can give way to impossible vistas and ten year chases through the streets of a future dystopia.
If dreams have their own impenetrable logic then coma dreams have a set of rules that would baffle an IRS auditor. Your brain is dredging your long term memory for any shred of data. Your penis is turning into the head of the vice principal at your junior high school and penetrating the velveteen womb of that nearly extinct otter you saw a nature documentary about when you were seven.
For most people a coma is a scary experience. They'll wake up - if they ever wake up - talking about being chased around by demons or maybe seeing something staggeringly inane like white light or dead relatives. Holy shit, you saw light and some dead relatives in a coma! That never happens when you're dreaming! Truly transcendent! For me, being in a coma was fantastic. I was only out for three days and I only remember a tiny fraction of my dreams, but I can recall living out a hundred lives as a centurion in Rome, a little Chinese girl or a five headed dragon with a voice like Chris Isaak. It was amazing and I hope when I die whatever is next is something like that.
If you've ever been in a coma your dreams are so vivid and so tangible that you'll spend the rest of your life wondering if you ever really woke up. Maybe your mind is still spinning out those fanciful scenarios for you and this one just seems a little more involved. No, not that, not for me. I know I woke up from my coma. I know that I left that world behind and this is real. I know all that with absolute certainty, because I woke up from my coma to Lindsay Dawn Riley.
I'm getting ahead of the story. Let me go back to the day I ended up in that wonderful coma.
It was Thanksgiving morning of 1998 and I was still staying with my friend Todd in Tucson, Arizona. He'd been bitten by a coyote several months earlier and his wound had become gangrenous, forcing Todd through a series of painful surgeries and eventually a tedious and grotesque maggot compress that made him possibly the most disgusting human being on earth. By that time Todd's maggot treatment was long gone and the huge open sore on his arm had sprouted an even bigger scab that was disquietingly symmetrical and smooth. It looked like a huge reddish-brown gem embedded in his forearm.
Todd's health insurance had expired and he was left with me as his only caretaker. At the best of times I would have described him as a borderline sociopath. With the end of his unemployment checks on the horizon he had become a petty tyrant prone to idiotic demands and an ever-changing litany of "house rules" I was required to obey. Todd had also developed a seemingly permanent throat infection that had robbed him of his voice. With no money for a doctor he had opted to download instructions for a mechanical voice box from the Internet and forced me to help him build it. It was identical to those things people with throat cancer use to talk only it weighed six pounds, was built out of the parts from three old computer speakers and was somehow stuck with a creepy synthesized version of a British woman's voice. Initially it had made Todd's tirades about how I had failed to ask his permission to use the mirror in the bathroom slightly more bearable, but over the course of several weeks I came to see the British woman as Todd's conspirator. She lived in her little box, a digitized Goebbels to his third-rate Hitler, and at night they plotted against me.
Thankfully, Todd spent most of his days locked away in his filthy bedroom playing games on his computer. At first it was Meridian 59, but his true obsession became an RP-only MUD based on the sitcom "Wings" called "Roy's Dungeon." He even hooked up his old computer and made a Helen that he power-leveled with his 83rd level Joel and then would role play out sex between the two of them in the airport diner. Then Todd would tell me about it the next day in his British woman's voice and if I closed my eyes it started to give me a boner. I realized I needed to get out of the house.
I awoke Thanksgiving morning with a sore back from sleeping on the couch and a head pounding from the vodka I had surreptitiously downed the night before. My trip to the bathroom to empty my bladder took me past Todd's bedroom. Through the door I could hear a British woman murmuring and a rhythmic slapping that could be nothing but the worst thing possible. I've heard that there are computer programs that can turn a picture into a sound. If you scanned in a picture of your mother being torn apart by lions and ran it through that software it would have spit out a sound something like what was coming through Todd's door. It was the noise of entropy and despair in motion.
Watching my foamy urine swirl down the grimy bowl of the toilet I resolved that I would not be spending Thanksgiving with Todd. The problem with this new sense of purpose was that I only knew two other people in Tucson aside from Todd. One of those people was Nicole, the barista with the infant genitalia who I had vomited on a few weeks earlier. She had since disappeared off the face of the earth, going so far as to quit her job and flee her apartment with no forwarding address. Believe me, I asked around. Baby pussy or not, she had a great ass.
Before I get to the other person, let me just say that I know what you're thinking; I should have flown back home to spend Thanksgiving with my family. That's a great idea in theory, but the problem lies in Todd's ability to guilt trip at a superhuman level. You know how some people will fake illness or injury to get out of doing something they don't want to do? When you were doing something that Todd didn't like and Todd knew you had every right to do it he would literally manifest an illness. We're not talking "oh, I have a headache" or something grade school like that. When I said I was going to go camping for a weekend Todd had an embolism. When I was going to try to pick up women at the renaissance festival Todd discovered a cyst eight inches in diameter on his upper back and it chose that moment to rupture and leak blood and pus. When my grandfather died and I was supposed to be a pall bearer at his funeral Todd accidentally drank a bottle of colloidal silver and ended up with argyria.
My only chance to escape Todd for Thanksgiving would be to literally escape. We still had the damn wicked witch Halloween cackler that Todd had insisted I put on the front door, so that meant sneaking out through a window. I packed a bag full of some food, put on some comfortable shoes and climbed carefully out the side window of the living room. My pant leg got caught up in a Civil War diorama that Todd had made out of Gundam robots and as I tried to unhook myself I slipped and fell out the window. I landed with a splash. Water stung my eyes and the smell of ammonia shocked my nostrils. It took me a moment of spluttering and gagging to realize that water generally doesn't burn your eyes nor does it smell like ammonia. I had landed in a puddle of urine and as I looked up I spied the accursed font from which the acrid pool had sprung.
Lindsay Dawn Riley's vagina looked like the bottom half of a surprised U-boat captain's face. Then it disappeared behind her bulging acid-washed denims and I was left to pretend that I had not seen what I had just seen and that the bile rising in my throat was simply the urine.
"Well holeeeeee shit!" Lindsay Dawn Riley hollered when she saw me and yanked me to my feet. "If you wanted me to take a leak on you all you had to do was whistle."
She was the third person I knew in Tucson and the only person in my entire life that I actually feared. It wasn't that she was malevolent. Far from it, she was horrifyingly affectionate and lecherous. But, like a shark eating a stranded sailor or lions devouring your mother, Lindsay's natural way was to seize life in her crooked teeth and shake it back and forth like a chew toy with all the grunting and slobbering that metaphor suggests.
"So what are you and the leper doing for turkey day?" Lindsay asked as she wiped her urine from my face and hands with an oily rag.
"I was-," a hundred excuses ran through my mind, but they were all pointless. "No. Todd is sick."
"Don't need you to tell me that. That boy of yours is sick like givin' ten thousand dominoes to a tweaker."
Lindsay rested one hand thoughtfully on her chins while the other strayed dangerously close to the strained chest of the threadbare flannel shirt she was wearing.
"You're coming to my place for Turkey day."
I could pretend that it didn't seem like a bad idea at the time and that I had no notion what I was getting myself into, but I'd be lying. By then I was well aware of what spending anything longer than a wave with Lindsay would probably mean. I'd be groped, injured, possibly arrested and lucky if I didn't wind up dead or host to some sort of incurable fluke worm passed through the venom of a rattlesnake Lindsay decided milk into my beer as a joke. I knew exactly what I was in for and, after hearing the British woman talk Todd through sprawling across the wing of a plane, I preferred it to the alternative. Besides, I'd never been to Lindsay's house before and I wanted to see what sort of horrible rat hole she called her lair. It was the same curiosity that inevitably pushes every vulcanologist one step too close to that magma filled caldera. Death for discovery.
The funny thing about the worst is that even when you're expecting it you can't actually picture it. Such was the case with Lindsay's house. In short, it was to dilapidation what the American Civil War was to skirmishing. So many Gundams cut down in their prime.
Lindsay's house was a single-story tin-roofed shack located well outside Tucson. Patches of tall weeds sprouted from the hardpan dirt where her faulty septic system had overflowed into the soil. You know that sulfurous burnt-gunpowder smell you get from shooting off bottle rockets? Lindsay's property smelled like someone had been doing that every day for the past fifty years, only they had been using fresh human feces instead of a bottle. Leaning against the front of the clapboard house was a MacDonald's drive through sign complete with the speaker. It was sun-baked and the speaker was rusted and crumbling, but I could still make out an offer for a free Little Mermaid toy in each Happy Meal.
As we made our way from the gravel driveway towards the manor itself a pack of coyotes yipped and bolted out from a copse of thistles as tall as my shoulder. Lindsay howled and staggered towards them. They turned tail and fled for the mountains.
The interior of Lindsay's shack was a riot of discarded furniture, thousands of obviously random knickknacks and a groundcover of food wrappers and empty beer cans that threatened to form drifts. The walls had been painted a bright pink color many years earlier and the course of the sun was etched into the pink paint opposite the windows. Toddler fences marked out pathways through the garbage to and from various rooms and major pieces of furniture. As we made our way inside Lindsay hefted several errant beer cans and burrito wrappers back into the danger zone.
"Have a seat on the couch, faggot." Lindsay gestured to a mattress lashed to a series of milk crates to form a sort of padded bench. "I'll getcha beer. What you havin, regular or fancy stuff?"
"Uh," I settled down on the couch and stared at a headless wooden Indian, "I'll have the fancy stuff, I guess."
Lindsay returned a few minutes later plus two cans of Pabst and minus her shirt. Her breasts bulged out of the cups of her bra like twin mushroom clouds with spider veins. The beer was skunk-bitter and warm as piss, but I chugged it anyway in the hopes that Lindsay might spare me a few seconds of her company. As I neared the bottom she threw a meaty army over my shoulder. I could feel the heat and moisture of her armpit on the back of my neck and caught a dizzying whiff of Old Spice doing a bad job of covering for swamp musk.
I drained the last of the Pabst as quickly as my stomach could manage and leapt from the ersatz couch, nearly tumbling over the toddler fence and into no man's land in the process.
"I'm going to grab another, you want one?" I asked Lindsay without looking back. I was already on my way to the kitchen area.
The thumping of heavy feet behind me could only mean that my dinner companion had decided to follow. The kitchen was a new and horrible scene. Pots and pans were scattered across the warped countertops and the various camping stoves and hot plates. Some were caked with layer upon layer of old food, others burbled ominously with fresh unsavory indelicacies. Lindsay rattled through a list of dishes she had been preparing, pausing occasionally to grope for my crotch or lean in and exhale her dental disrepair all over me.
"What about the turkey?" I asked, assuming that it wasn't the ingredient in something called "bus station chili."
"Out back, nigger!" Lindsay slapped me on the face hard enough to startle me. "You're doin' the honors. I can't. I love that big old fucker."
"YES!" She roared. "The cocksucking turkey! You're going to chop his fool head off."
I flinched away from her. I realized her precarious emotional state and immediately offered to go take care of the grisly task of offing her turkey. Hopefully the turkey would put up an epic struggle lasting several hours.
"Just right." Lindsay winked at me and licked her lips in a cartoonish approximation of lasciviousness. "I'll slip into something a little more comfortable and you can lay some pipe while that old bastard is cookin' up."
I was out the door before Lindsay could get her pants all the way unzipped.
"Axe is leaned up against the house next to his cage!" Lindsay shouted after me.
The plank above the cage read "Professor Charles Xavier" in crude knife cuts. Professor X, well, I don't know if turkeys can actually get mange, but if they can then he had it. He had plucked out half of his feather and his bare skin showed pink and raw in patches all over his body. He stared at me dumbly with his flesh waddle doing a little quiver of either nerves or just more turkey stupidity. I glanced next to his cage and spotted the wood axe leaning against the wall next to an extra-large bottle of Drano.
I took up the axe and with trepidation I unlatched the lopsided cage containing Professor X. His tiny birdie eyes stared into mine, but he didn't move. I just kept staring at him and all I could think about was his short and horrible life inside the cage. Here he was, the only thing Lindsay Dawn Riley had ever loved, and look at what that love had done to him. Something about the sadness in the surroundings, the desperation of my own situation or just a natural aversion to beheading struck me abruptly. Professor X would not die on this day. Not if I could help it!
I stepped out of his way and waited for him to flee to freedom. He didn't budge. Occasionally he would crane his neck to look at me or make throaty half-clucks, but he refused to depart.
"Go on, Professor X!" I urged him. "Go on! Freedom awaits!"
In retrospect shaking the cage might not have been the best way to get him out, but I spent a good ten minutes verbally urging him and gesturing expansively towards the world of wonder that was just beyond the confines of his pen. When I did finally decide to grab the sides of the cage and violently shake it, I assure you that I had exhausted all other options. At first Professor X sort of wobbled back and forth along with the cage. As my shaking grew more violently he became agitated.
"Go! Be free!"
That's when he struck. Professor X leapt from the cage and raked my chest with his talons. His head flew up and down in a violent frenzy and I could feel his big dumb beak tearing holes in my skin. Despite the pain he was inflicting, the battle was nearly silent. Professor X still seemed reluctant to make much more than a deep clucking growl and I wanted to keep this clash of the Titans on the down low. I'd endure hours of tearing and rending at the claws of a turkey before I'd have sex with Lindsay Dawn Riley.
It ended as suddenly as it began. Professor X seemed to grow bored of the engagement and midway through one of his swipes he hopped away from me and began ambling slowly past the house. I was battered and bloodied, but I was not yet beaten. Now that Professor X was on the underground railroad out of giblet town, I could simply sit and wait for Lindsay to get tired of sitting and waiting. With a few strategically placed "I'm almost done-s" I would be able to draw things out. Then, my plan fell apart.
"Oh my Lord in fuck!" Lindsay shouted from inside. "You are not going to believe how goddamn wet this got! Get in here in a hurry!"
I had a sudden image of a hotdog sinking into a groaning patch of quicksand. I looked around for some delaying tactic, some means to forestall the inevitable. I wiped blood from my eyes and as my gaze swept past the turkey cage I spotted my salvation. Drano. If Todd could handle a flagon of colloidal silver and walk away with nothing more than permanently gray skin then I knew my infinitely superior constitution could withstand a deep draught of Drano.
"You've gotta see it. It's like a faucet!" The door banged open behind me and I knew my time was brief.
As I surged to my feet and grabbed the Drano I saw a pink jiggling shape shambling towards me. I fumbled with the cap, knowing I was only seconds from that quicksand.
"Hey, what are you-"
Drano doesn't taste good. It tastes like what I would imagine sticking a burning log in your mouth tastes like. All the same, I swallowed a good half a mouthful of the stuff because I'd had a good long glimpse of the alternative. That was probably a mistake, but it only felt like someone shot a flamethrower down my gullet for a few seconds before I lost consciousness.
Then I was Soundwave spearheading a coup to overthrow Megatron and throw Starscream on the scrapheap. A swarm of cassettes shot from my chest and transformed into a whirlwind of destruction that tore through the fields of Kansas. Little Dorothy was whisked into the sky and when she landed spread-eagle on my penis she was a spitting-image of Hillary Clinton. I marched at the head of an army that sacked Beijing and I fled from the zombie hordes through the streets of post-apocalyptic Paris. I saw family, friends and vague acquaintances. Sometimes they acted as they might in real life, at others they were wildly unpredictable and sometimes they were just familiar faces on a giant owl that asked me riddles.
Best of all, there was no Lindsay Dawn Riley. Even Todd showed up in my dreams. His wounded arm was sheathed inside a ruby opera glove and his gem-encrusted fingers gripped Crystal Bernard's head.
"Cum all over my face!" she moaned with a robotic British accent.
I shot skeet over the Grand Canyon with Kurt Vonnegut and beat Drew Barrymore to death with axe handles at the command of Ice Cube. I made passionate love to everyone from Alicia Witt to a zebra. I had magical powers that I could use for good or evil. Professor X thanked me for letting the X-men out of Magneto's cage and Psylocke stripped naked and used her psychic powers to make me pee.
I found myself in a blacksmith's forge. The furnaces burned hot and my body slicked with sweat. I was muscular and powerful and as I plunged the pig iron of the rough sword into the furnace I felt pleasure enveloping me. I withdrew it and began to pound it flat, then I plunged it back into the furnace. It moaned gently. I pounded out more of the imperfections and then thrust the sword back into the fires. It cried out with ecstasy.
All at once there was a terrible crash and the bricks of the blacksmith's forge fell away. It was dark around me with just a faint glow and a strange ethereal beeping. Then another ecstatic moan and I realized that I was no longer dreaming. I felt a great weight atop me and as my eyes slowly came into focus I saw the worst thing since I read that "Mind of Mencia" had been renewed for a second season. Of course I didn't even have that to offset the horror because this happened back in 1998, well before Mencia had stolen all of his terrible jokes from other comedians.
Lindsay Dawn Riley was riding me like the mechanical bull at Cal's. The heat surrounding my groin was still there and I knew in an instant what was going on.
"Oh, I knew you would wake up one of these times, stupid dumbshit."
With those words all of the wonderful sex in my dreams was robbed from me. I didn't have sex with Alicia Witt. I didn't even get to have sex with a zebra. I had been getting cripple-raped by Lindsay Dawn Riley.
"Go ahead and do it inside me, nigger." She interrupted my self pity. "I'm on the rag."
I wilted like lettuce in a steamer. In fact, I didn't have another erection for almost two months after that. I wish that I could say that it was the last I saw of Lindsay Dawn Riley. That she was locked away or given the electric chair or something for raping me in my coma. Unfortunately, with a forged marriage certificate and a few bribes, Lindsay had convinced the hospital staff that I was actually Zack Riley. We had been happily married for six months and all these visits were because I had promised her a baby. I tried to explain it to them, begged them to give me something to put me back in the coma, but it didn't work.
I was married to Lindsay Dawn Riley, and it was going to be one terrifying honeymoon.
Are you concerned that you may be a character trapped in a Tom Waits song? Be smart and learn the warning signs before it's too late. Also, it's too late. It has always been too late.
I'm haunted by a recurring vision of a skeleton flipping me off. To avoid seeing this terrifying image in bumper sticker form, I pay someone with a blank bumper to drive in front of me at all times.
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