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Riding the Coma

In the beginning you are a rock hurtling through space, a comet, perhaps, with a bright shiny tail drawn by the gravity of sound, crackling noises and half-finished words, static on the radio, only you don’t remember what a radio is or how it works and you sense this is a problem or at least a troubling lapse connecting the buzzing words to this flying business, symbols that make no sense, yet the sound washes over what you are, were, might have been and you, the dreamer, dream it out, while a soft, faraway voice keeps calling a name, vaguely familiar, always with the question—can you hear me, if you hear me raise a finger—which means, of course, there’s a finger to raise, so you concentrate and visualize a finger crooked in space, a single digit of explanation, straining, standing at attention, a universal salute, and it seems to work because the noise crackles, heaves, and you wonder if the sound and this endless ride is death reeling you in, a cosmic fly fisher, so you thrash with feeble outrage still yearning for a glimpse of the Great Beyond, that nether world for which you’ve created stories, prayers, whistling-in-the-dark pranks and jokes; yet when the light enters, you have a moment of breathless fear, then settle down while you imagine an insect transformed from slug to fine-winged creature and you have one of those “ahhh” moments, consider it a shape-shifting event, a turning into, a folding over where ordinary flesh morphs into the celestial, an entity of shimmering lightness, and you strain to the hear the heavenly music convinced it’s all you ever longed for, but then just beyond the glare, the words:

Oh, Jesus. Oh, Christ Almighty. He’s waking.

That’s when you know. There are no wings, no hovering haloes. The weight of who you are, who you’ve always been returns in a massive throb—a rush of light and sound, a thickness in the throat, and then a brackish taste and the odor of disinfectant. Senses kill the dream. Senses nail the flesh upon the world and rouse the weary dreamer.

Still, in the space between waking and dreaming, in the moment between heartbeats and blinks and ragged breaths, you remember the heady ride on a jagged rock where you were afire, ablaze in a white-hot coma, a misspent neuron spinning, hurtling, ricocheting through the infinite Mind of God.

Copyright © 2007 by Margaret A. Frey

"Riding the Coma" originally appeared in Mindprints, A Literary Journal, Vol. 5, 2005


Margaret A. FreyMargaret writes:
This particular flash came in a flash—one of those odd moments when you can barely get the words down fast enough. The piece stems from two events: a catastrophic injury and a celestial happening. I know I was thinking about my younger son, still struggling after a serious head injury, and who had earlier been placed in a drug-induced coma. I also recall reading a book review, a story about a before-and-after scenario—one moment you're leading an ordinary, everyday life and then boom, a catastrophe occurs and your life veers into a weird, unexpected limbo. And then there was the comet sighting, Hale-Bopp. I was fascinated, hooked, could not take my eyes off that comet. Night after night, I watched the brilliant arc right from my front door. Before I wrote this piece, I rode that sucker for everything it was worth. Turns out, it was worth quite a bit. Despite grim predictions, the world did not end. My son recovered and I went back to my ordinary, everyday life. But at night, I still look up and search the sky. That comet gave me a strange, ragged hope, and crazy or not, I connected the sighting to my son's recovery. Life is one surprise after another. I like it that way.

Margaret A. Frey writes from the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. Her work has appeared in numerous venues, including Cezanne's Carrot, flashquake, Notre Dame Magazine, Smokelong Quarterly, Byline Magazine, Mindprints, and Kaleidowhirl, among others. Her work is forthcoming (early 2008) in the Birmingham Arts Journal and in Thema. Margaret was a finalist in Erma Bombeck's writing competition and took a Writer's Digest Chronicle win in 2003. She lives with her husband, John, and her ever-rambunctious, canine literary critic, Ruffian. Margaret (aka Peg) can be contacted via email at:

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