by Tony Estrella


by Tony Estrella


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Comatose follows the lives of four strangers who are trying to cheat death. On the surface, these people - a famous Hollywood director suffering from terminal brain cancer, a budding scientist in Artificial Intelligence whose honeymoon tragically ended with a freak plane accident, an angry orphan who lost her closest family to a tragic motorcycle accident, and the leading medical expert in treating comatose patients – appear to have nothing in common.

However, once they independently uncover a link between lucid dreaming and comas, their lives start to intersect. They uncover astounding opportunities to ease individual suffering and pain as they crisscross different time periods and distant locations in their odysseys. The competing factions careen forward into a life-threatening race for survival and supremacy, ultimately leading to an exciting conclusion that explains why we really dream.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781912964048
Publisher: Cranthorpe Millner Publishers
Publication date: 03/22/2019
Pages: 470
Product dimensions: 5.06(w) x 7.81(h) x 1.05(d)

Read an Excerpt


Milan, Italy. Present day.

"No, no, NO!" Daya jolted awake, her body soaked in sweat as she fought the urge to scream these words out in anger. She fumbled around on the nightstand on the right for her mobile. "PICK. UP. NOW!" The combination of her intonation, volume, and choice of keywords unlocked the device and immediately dialled the first number on its Favourites list. Under any other circumstance, the recipient no longer qualified as this essential for her. But now things were different. She needed him right away.

When nobody answered, she let out an exasperated groan. Daya pried off a caviar eye mask revealing her glowering eyes. Her fingers pounded furiously on the screen to initiate a video call. This time, she wasn't disappointed.

"It's early for you," the Doctor on the other end of the line coldly responded. Skipping all pleasantries and studying his watch face as if something else more important awaited him, he continued with indifference, "So, what's on your mind"?

"You sure took your sweet time to pick up," volleying a brusque response at him. Given his apathy, she considered egging him on further. But because of the importance of the dream, she took on a steely tone. "I saw Him. Finally. First time in almost two FUCKING years."

The Doctor leaned into the screen, his face contorted to betray genuine surprise. "Really? I wonder why he suddenly returned?" His eyes wandered off his device as he contemplated her words.

"Me too. So start your recorder," she ordered impatiently, annoyed that he didn't grasp the urgency of her call.

His gaze stayed on a point elsewhere in the office as he fumbled with something for a few seconds. Once he finished, he turned to her. "Yes, right. Go ahead now, Daya. Details, please." Whatever inquisitiveness she initially created in him had quickly evaporated. As the Doctor's questions started, his voice returned to the cold analytical tone of a physician grilling the junior staff for case information on a patient.

Daya ignored whatever gave him pause and jumped into describing her dream. "It was a new place, somewhere I've never been before. Some blonde babe in a white sundress had joined me. Pretty. And tall, definitely a model. But clearly dead from the neck up. When I took a quick look at my makeup in a mirror, I had straight black hair, Caucasian eyes, and light skin. Didn't look like me at all, but clearly someone He'd be into. Based on how I felt, we'd spent the day partying and drinking."

As she spoke, she got out of bed and walked to the kitchen to pour herself a glass of Pol Roger Prestige Cuvée to help calm her nerves.

"We sauntered into a crowded courtyard with an outdoor bar. Of course, it had to be the first nice summer Friday where all the corporate suits leave work early to enjoy the sun. Total meat market with lots of action. When I sat down, at least five people came up and offered me a drink. The last guy didn't even ask, he just intercepted me with pink bubbly in a champagne flute. It tasted like a strong French 75, which I suppose is the only acceptable way to drink crap champagne. Maybe I desperately needed one at this point? Who knows? Anyway, as I took my first sip, this guy caught my attention. I'm not sure why. He looked a little like the food celebrity on American TV. You know, the one with dorky glasses and awkward hairstyle. What's his name? Ah yes ... I remember now, Alton ... Alton Brown."

Daya caught herself rambling and polished off the remaining champagne in her glass in order to stop. As she topped herself up, she took a deep breath and composed herself. "But the face didn't give Him away. It was when He spoke. He had the same voice, the same fucking accent." Daya's eyes narrowed and her brows furrowed in anger. It infuriated her that she still vividly felt the pleasurable sensation of His hands running through her hair, massaging her shoulders, and caressing her face. At one point, His actions made her pain go away. And there were still times when she craved His touch and comfort. But the memory of His betrayal made those moments quickly evaporate into a fantasy, replaced with the pain of falling into a thicket full of thorns. As the uncontrollable rage welled up again inside her, Daya didn't realise she had stopped talking.

"Daya. Please don't pause now. You must continue," the Doctor implored. His earlier apathy had dissipated, replaced with an eagerness to hear the remainder of her story.

She carried on despite the rage roiling her mind. "He didn't come directly to me. The lung yung (similar to dickhead) focused on the blonde babe, who must have been halfway through her third drink since we arrived together. He invited her to do a photo shoot, and with a flirtatious giggle of course she said, 'why not!' He then turned to me and suggested, 'you should come along too. There's always room for one more'."

"And was there anything familiar about her?" The Doctor asked, now fully immersed in Daya's story.

She paused to consider his question, partially because she couldn't tell why he cared, and also because Daya didn't have a good answer. "Why the fuck does that matter?"

"Daya, please. You know every piece of information and detail is important," he challenged her. "Do you honestly need me to explain why again?"

"Yea, yea, yea. Alright. No, I didn't recognise her. At least right now I don't. But I'll let you know if I think of anything." Daya cradled the champagne flute with both hands as she collapsed on the couch and put her feet up. The phone didn't sit straight on its stand so the Doctor could still see her, but she didn't care. "Anyway, I went along with them to watch, and whilst they flirted with each other during their photo shoot, a different twat came up to me. This one acted as if he knew me. He asked how long it had been since we saw each other, and why I didn't return his calls. And you know the ironic thing? In hindsight, I think I recognised him. Someone I flirted with on a flight a few weeks ago. Regardless, I quickly forgot all about the idiot once I focused on Him. As He operated the camera and directed the blonde, I kept focusing on His voice." Daya felt her blood boil again, "That FUCKING voice!" She pounded her side table so hard it almost sent the table lamp tumbling to the ground. "I can't believe I'm saying this. But despite everything He did, a part of me is still attracted to Him, hoping everything else will melt away and it can just be Him and me."

Daya picked up a small pillow and viciously wrung it, choking it with all her strength. She had forgotten how talking about her interactions with Him led to wild swings of anger and passion. She needed an outlet on which to vent her frustrations, and the pillow was the closest victim. "I wanted to stay," she declared angrily. "I needed to ask Him why He left. So when I approached Him, I knew what my first question would be. When He turned to look at me, our eyes momentarily locked on each other. And at the moment when I started to talk, some sort of invisible shock went through my body. And then I woke up."

"Interesting." The neutral tone of his voice left Daya confused. She could never be sure which details would pique the Doctor's curiosity. Before she could ask, he continued grilling her. "So tell me, how did you feel after being jolted awake like that?"

"Like shit! C'mon, what are you actually asking me?"

The Doctor wiped his brow as he rethought the question. "You described some sort of force. I want you to give me more details please."

"Ok. I get it. It's like I touched an electrical line whilst standing in water. My body seized up, and then it felt like I got thrown backwards like I got hit by a bus. My brain felt short-circuited, and I eventually woke up on my bed."

"Hmmm ... I wonder if it's a defence mechanism he set up. We'll have to track future occurrences more closely."

The Doctor's over-analytical conclusion was the final straw for Daya. If he couldn't quickly decide what to do next, then she would take charge. She glared at him on the screen, thinking of what to say. Daya let him suffer an extended uncomfortable silence, and when he started rambling, she cut him off. "I think it's time for you to get a group together and see if anyone else has had any new experiences with Him." She declared firmly, "And, I'm coming to Lausanne tomorrow."

His reaction surprised her. "Yes! A great idea. I'll set it up. Fly here, but not tomorrow please. Give me until next week. We'll meet in the usual location."

"Fine. One week then. I'll email you my trip details later today." After a silent nod from the Doctor, she picked up the phone from the cradle, hung up, and threw the device on the couch.

He's fucking back. She didn't know how to feel. The past two years were extremely difficult. His absence had been a perpetual source of frustration. But the silver lining came from how occasionally her emotions and mood swings were becoming more stable. Recently there were new moments when she considered the possibility of a future without the baggage that came from the memories of Him or her brother.

But all those aspirations died overnight.

Aaargh! Daya collapsed as she allowed the range of emotions to overwhelm her. She angrily slammed the button to start the shower and glared at herself in the mirror until she cooled off enough to bathe. She then threw off her robe and stepped inside to let the seven high-pressure faucets massage her naked body into a relaxed state.

Once she accepted his disappearance, Daya moved on from her coma and all its personal pain. Perhaps in a very different way than her brother Kai intended, she finally found happiness and a way to work with the Triads. Her scheme for robbing Business class passengers as they flew into Hong Kong started small. But as China grew in importance, so did the numbers of people who flew into the island and other major Chinese metropolises such as Shanghai and Beijing. Now, her operations allowed Daya to build a comfortable lifestyle on top of the inheritance she received from Kai's death. First a large flat in Shanghai. Then one in Milan. Clothes, lingerie, handbags, shoes, perfumes; she built an expense account which let her buy whatever she wanted and eventually create unique stylish identity along with a toned body to match. But, despite being able to afford anything she coveted, her life felt empty. Losing her brother crushed Daya. But what He did nearly drove her to kill herself.

A drop in the shower temperature jolted Daya back. She bathed for so long that she had run out of hot water. Unfulfilled, she stepped out and towelled herself dry. Daya's thoughts were elsewhere, so she couldn't enjoy her normal routine for getting out the door. Beauty serums, lotions, hair, makeup, and perfume; she completed each step entirely from muscle memory with no enjoyment. Even the normal pleasure of picking out stilettos from the custom temperature- and humidity-controlled shoe wardrobe couldn't break her distracted state.

After dressing, she easily made up her mind on where to go next. She rang downstairs for a car. On a day like this, only a spa visit would soothe her nerves. Whilst waiting, she mulled over her morning. My first dream in two years. And of course it had to be about Him, she lamented. At least it wasn't there!

As her car pulled away, she stared out the window, anticipating the pampering she would receive. She hoped it would ease her restless spirit and wash away the anger.


Budapest, Hungary. Present day.

"Joder (fuck), you're quick!" Fernando laboured to speak, heavily panting as he leaned on the plane seatback to support himself. "How did you manage to sprint faster than me while pulling both of our bags behind you through the airport?"

Sumire chuckled as she placed their luggage in the overhead compartment above their seats in the last row. "Mi amor (my love), you need to get away from your computers more often! It's called exercise!" It was a Monday evening, and they had just barely made their flight after losing track of time while relaxing at the Széchenyi Bathhouse, one of Budapest's finest amongst the many options in the 'City of Baths'. "I know we left late, but those last thirty minutes gave us such a perfect finish for our honeymoon! You know..." she added with a glint in her eye and in a playful voice "... you could've also hacked the airport computer system to delay our flight by a couple of hours so we didn't have to rush to get here!"

Fernando chuckled. He would never be reckless with applying his Artificial Intelligence programmes to 'improve' their daily lives. But this didn't stop Sumire from coming up with amusing and creative hints for him. As he sank into the seat, he stared lovingly at his new bride. She wore her chestnut brown hair short in the back, with a side parting on the left to accentuate its asymmetric style; cheek length on the left, and shoulder length on the right. Beyond the natural beauty of her narrow, Asian eyes and sharp chin, Sumire also had two distinct features that everyone immediately noticed about her. The two-centimetre-wide streak of white hair, which started at the left part just above the hairline and swept across her face, stood out most. This dramatic accent fell all the way to her right shoulder, whilst the exposed nape of the neck on her left side featured a triangle shaped birthmark. The 'silver streak', as Sumire called this bleached look, appeared within a month of her mom passing away and her dad subsequently leaving her behind in Japan. She rarely spoke about her traumatic upbringing, but this permanent vestige served as a constant reminder of Sumire's harsh family history. Occasionally, Sumire thought about dyeing it brown to match the rest of her hair, but she could never go through with the change.

Her silver streak turned into one of many reasons behind his love for Sumire. Every morning, he awoke feeling grateful for how fate had brought them together in an unexpected way. "I can't believe it was just eighteen months ago when we first met in Prague," he whispered to Sumire whilst tenderly caressing her cheek. "Look, I know we only took a few days for this honeymoon. But someday, I will make more time for us to celebrate," he declared.

"Gordito," Sumire addressed him by his nickname, "Of course, I know you will!"

Fernando used to hate it when people used the moniker. His best friend Steve came up with it to mock Fernando back when they were in university together because regardless of how much he ate, he never gained any weight. But when Sumire also began using it, the name took on a different meaning. Because he had given her the courage to drastically change her life, she adored calling him by a name which meant 'opposite'. For Sumire, the endearing name was like her silver streak, a keepsake for how he inspired her. After Sumire explained her reasoning to him, Fernando didn't want her to call him by any other name.

"Now that we're on the plane, you're allowed to talk shop again. So spill it. Why do you need to rush back?" Sumire wrapped her arm around Fernando's arm and leaned into his shoulder waiting for a response.

Fernando cherished feeling her arm through his. He also enjoyed how Sumire's face lit up as she learned from him. "Pues (well), we're coming up on a key deadline for ze (the) self-driving car test programme in Milton Keynes. And the main output is based on our ability to show how ze self-driving car works at night." Some days Fernando's Spanish accent came through more strongly than others, especially around Sumire because she found his native language appealing. She now spoke passable Spanish also, building on the Italian and French she picked up from living in northern Italy and the frequent trips to Paris and the French countryside Sumire took with her friend JeanPierre.

Sumire nodded. "Right, I remember now. And the night test for your AI programme is more complicated than a daytime test because lower light makes it much harder for your software to pick up inputs?"

"Sí, muy bien (Yes, very good)! It's like using our DSLR camera and adapting the settings for night images. Remember when I taught you about photography in Prague?"

"Of course, mi amor," her smile reflected his own fondness for the memorable day.

"And so my AI is copying what happens in brain as you look through a DSLR camera. It's millions of inputs! They come in from these cool night-vision ocular sensors which are built into the car. And like your brain, my programme has to process the data points quickly so the car can figure out what it should do. All this is happening second-by-second. Or, actually, in fractions of seconds."

"Mmm-hmmm. And am I safe to assume you'll have to stay at the lab for a couple of nights?"


Excerpted from "Comatose"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Tony Estrella.
Excerpted by permission of Cranthorpe Millner Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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