Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Complete Ditch Death Experience

When I was a kid, I worried about dying. I used to pray every night to live forever. “God, spare me. Don’t let me die. Take…my brother. My hamster. But let me alone.” Since then, I’ve seen almost everyone I know die, leaving only those in a race to outlive me.

Unlike them, I sleep in ditches.

I’ve found that sleeping in ditches puts me in a spiritual pocket similar to the one into which you would reach your hand and pull out a nicely wrapped packet of death. Nothing to be afraid of or concerned about. Look at the cool wrapping. In fact, it becomes as natural as waking up with a caterpillar wiggling across your nose just as you begin to realize how hungry you are.

One night, I had a Complete Death Experience in one of my favorite ditches, one I usually save for the weekends only, just so its certain vivre whatever never wears off. It’s a great ditch—not much garbage, no really offensive odors, bugs with only mildly irritating bites and nothing sharp or pointy.

I had just eased into the weeds and dirt like insulation settling in the walls of an old house when I heard it.

It was a faint rustling of weed leafage, a miniscule shift of a tin can, a slight rise of a milk carton with the picture of a child fading away on its surface. My ears twitched. It was moving toward me, quickly, deliberately, possibly attracted by the warmth of my body or the glow of my aura. I felt a vague sense of danger but, damn it, settling into one of your favorite ditches is no small thing and I wasn’t going to let that rustling and shifting scare me out of my composure.

Composure is something rare these days, generally relegated to the dead and the comatose. Sometimes sleeping babies display amazing composure but then they grow and the schools go to violent lengths to teach it out of them. So when you achieve composure, it’s worth hanging onto if only for a few moments more, even if you sense something in the dark.

A cat screeched abruptly somewhere several ditches away. A dog whined. A car honked. The usual stuff I get in my ditches. But tonight, right beside me, something slithered. It had come to that—slithering. I wondered if there were any poisonous snakes in the area. I didn’t think so, but I could have been wrong.

I was.

It bit me. For no reason I could fathom, it bit me. It wasn’t like it was going to eat me after poisoning me to death, and I hadn’t threatened it. It bit me for the pure hell of causing havoc. I grabbed it by what I guessed was its snake throat and squeezed hard. Its evil little eyes bulged and its tongue zipped in and out like a tiny leather fork. It opened its mouth and showed me its teeth. I pushed them into the bite marks on my already swelling arm and said, “Care to try that again?” It did. But its bite didn’t generate that same exquisite pain it did the first time, so I squeezed the life out of it with its fangs still in my arm.

That might have been a bit hasty on my part. I must have taken a triple shot of venom and it didn’t take long before my head started to spin and bright bursts of pain exploded in my chest and abdomen. My empty stomach squeezed liquids from its walls and tossed them through my mouth. My arms and legs shivered and twitched. Beads of sweat popped out of my face. Convulsions bounced around in my torso. Under the moonlight, my legs went all spasmodic as though I was lying on my back doing an obscenely weird kick dance. My head banged against an outcropping of feldspar and I fell into a deep dark place where everything was quiet and surprisingly warm for a dark place. It was peaceful and quiet, liquid, like floating in black coffee. Then somebody poured in the cream and I was dancing on my back again and my arms were flailing in the air and fluids were dripping from my nose. My tongue slid into my throat and I coughed it back into my mouth. The f ditch began to spin around the culvert about twenty feet away. I was in the air over the ditch watching myself spinning around the culvert.

I blacked out.

It wasn’t the same as passing out. I didn’t actually lose consciousness, more like being in black so black that I couldn’t even say it was nothingness. It was black, thick black, bulletproof black. It scared the shit out of me. I thought, No wonder death is so one-way.

But it wasn’t. I’m not sure how long I was stuck in the black—probably a day or two—but eventually the black splintered and cracked and melted and my eyes were open and I was lying in my ditch still holding that damn snake in my arm.

Nothing wrong with that, though. After a couple of days of death, I was hungry.


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