The Heart of Horror

Long time, no see ghouls and ghoulettes! It’s been a spell since we’ve spent some time together here in the Waiting Room! You see, instead of sharing information with you all about the glorious gore and fearful fatalities of the medical world I have been working on another project that you may enjoy as much. It’s a book, one with enough pictures to help those of you with, er, diminished attention spans. But more on that project later, let’s get on with some fiendish facts, no?


We’ve all been there. Huddled together with friends, opening an ancient Egyptian sarcophagus against our best reservations. As soon as the stone tomb belches its first gust of stale antique air, your stomach drops. You immediately have remorse. There is hope for you after all despite the mummified claw emerging to slide aside the slab lid; hope, because you read articles here on! You know that these sort of scenes never end well for our intrepid cast, and the time to run has arrived. So you turn and do so.

The demand your body has for fuel increases immediately, but no resource is as vital to your escape as oxygen. Your heart starts beating staccato rhythms hoping to force iron-rich red blood cells to trade waste carbon dioxide for oxygen as they pass through the lungs, and then continue down stream to deliver oxygen to any tissue that requires it. All non-essential staff should report at this time: only the components most critical to survival are fed oxygen. To help this sudden bullet train of blood, the vessels dilate to allow for more volume to pass and for more surface area for gas exchange.

Because the muscles working to carry you far away from a vengeful pharaoh use three times the oxygen their lazy, useless resting cousins do, the blood cannot supply life giving oxygen at the rate you need to survive. For this reason the lungs decide to pick up the slack with deeper, fuller inhalations. Everything in your body has been amplified, stimulated, and energized thanks to endogenic performance enhancing chemical. You are natures perfect fleeing machine.

That is to say, you could be. The problem is you’re a lazy monster kid that spends too much time on the internet and enjoying a universe of fried, sugary snacks (not to mention recreational pilgrimages into galaxies of alcoholic splendor). Your sudden marathon from murder is undermined by the physiological side effects of sedentary living and bad life choices.

Your lungs are trying to be the elastic bellows you need but the lack of use have made them the physiological version of balloons  evil clowns use to make animals for trusting children. Without regular stretching and deep inspiration, your lungs’ maximum volume is well below what you need to fuel a sudden escape. The little oxygen that does come in is competing with outgoing waste gas that fights for space. Inhaling and exhaling become uncoordinated and soon you are hyperventilating. Mummified murderers animated by the arcane rites of the Elder Gods or not, the body will stop everything until oxygen flow is restored. Congrats, you are helpless.


Or, you’ll find yourself running just far enough ahead to cling to the childish fantasy of escape into happily ever after. As you run, you exert far more effort than it should take to stay a few beats ahead of a creature that was ancient before Christ was first mentioned. The world spins, the stomach flutters in a fit of nausea, and the body is coated in a sickly cold sweat. We’ve already mentioned the lungs and their struggle against the symptoms of sedentary fandom, and here again shortness of breath sets in.

Discomfort beyond  your current fatigue and lactic acidosis starts to wrack your upper body. Your jaw tightens and aches, your back and shoulders scream out against invisible branding irons as the same searing assaults your arm and neck. You gulp for air but struggle on, against all of these evolution-gifted warning signs that you are in quite a pickle.

Your pace slows and you fully expect to feel the mummified mitts of murder upon you from behind. But you do not, yet relief does not wash over you. Instead you feel as if the great Sphynx itself is perched upon your chest. You look down dizzy and disoriented as you feel yourself being crushed, to see nothing causing the compaction. Like as many as one million Americans each year, you have just suffered a heart attack. You are in good company, no? Well, unlike you many of your colleagues in comorbidity will thankfully be near means to signal a squad of medical saviors. And none of them will be mere feet away from a beast powered by the Amulet of Nyarlathotep.

There are many things that contribute to your double-barreled death. As I mentioned, prolonged fasting from physical activity and failure to keep your lungs supple are two. The food you choose to consume like ravenous monsters also plays a role; high caloric content adds pounds that are oh-so-difficult to move in directions opposite of hoary threats, and cholesterol within the same food collects within the walls of your blood vessels like the secretions of a hive-minded xenomorph. This plaquey build up constricts the passage of blood, raises blood pressure the heart must pump against, and turns stretchy vessels into thick, fibrous pipes. And I’ve mentioned nothing about blockages, which love constricted vessels.

But perhaps the best defense, dear reader, is to never, under any circumstance, open a sealed tomb with warnings in languages dead centuries before you learned to crawl. The tombs of history’s hermetic overlords and eldritch emperors are much like those boxes of Pizza Rolls or repeated marathon couch time for binge Netflix viewing… they are best left alone.

Thanks again, foul fiends! Until next time, I’ll be here in The Waiting Room!