Y'know, Dick Crew, who is the producer of this show, occasionally Dick'll say to me "Why don't you do a segment on... something, such & such." Not often, but sometimes, and he said to me "Why don't you do one on your heart attack?" I said "Awwwnnnn. It's old news and plenty of people out there watching who've probably had the same thing."
And then I thought about it a little bit and I thought maybe this much of it might be of interest to you: As a writer - that's how I make make my living, is dreaming up stuff - all my life I've written about mortality. Every story I've written and in virtually every science fiction story you read, there's a protagonist and there's a discussion in some way or other , either obliquely or profoundly or obviously, there'll be a discussion of mortality. And what that means - and we write about it very glibly - well, I gotta tell you, when
I had the heart attack in April of '96 and they took me into the ER and, I think it was April 12th, I guess, or April 10th is when they took me in and April 12th is when they cracked me open - I mean they cracked me open like a walnut. I didn't know at the time - if I'd have known what the procedure was, I probably would've plotzed.
They actually open you up and they take your heart out and lay it on this side and they take your lungs out and they lay 'em on that side and they work on you outside your body. It's like getting your car repaired and I keep thinking, invariably, when I get my car fixed, y'know, there's always a piece left over and you say "Shouldn't that be in there?" And the guy'll say "Oh no, no. That's the thermostat, you don't need that. They just put that in because... ramadoola, ramadoola, ramadoola..." and then he throws it in the garbage can, an' I'm thinking "Y'know, did they do that to me too when I was lying on the table? Was there something left over and they just kinda went 'Oh no, no. He doesn't need that. It's just a liver. Throw it away.'"
I suddenly found myself standing in the doorway, looking... at the other side, looking at ... death. And there's nothing. I mean, there's nothing there. I'm..., being a practicing atheist, you know, I don't think there's anything on the other side. But I finally looked at death. And I gotta tell you - it scared the crap outta me. Really scared me. All that braggadocio that I had written about, that writers do write about, that people talk about - particularly young people - "Well, live fast, die young and have a good looking corpse," which most people don't know where that comes from. It comes from a Willard Motley novel called Knock on Any Door. Uh... it's bull. It's crap. It's silliness.
If you were 101 years old, lying on table about to croak, all you would think is "Lemme make it to 102." And if you were 102, you'd say "lemme just have it 'til a hundred and three."
When the time comes to cash in, even those of us who're real smart alecs and think we're very tough, you kind of run screaming from it.
I tell you all this, not for any particular reason except I'm sure there's somebody watching out there right now, tokin' on something really unpleasant and bad and it's gonna kill you, or eating a toadburger or, you know, frying up your arteries with some crap, and I just thought I would mention it just on the off chance that maybe I might help you save your life.
I don't know. Maybe Dick was wrong. Maybe I shouldn'ta done it. I don't know...
Go away. Go away...
From Sci-Fi Buzz, episode unknown
Publishing Rights to 'Harlan Ellison's Watching' copyright 1996 the Killimanjaro Corporation.