Welcome friends, fiends, and friendly fiends! It is I, Dr. Carl Cadaver! Druggist to the damned! Medic to the monster! Osteopath to the Old Ones! Surgeon to the strange! Physician to the forbidden! Come into my office and learn the horrors of our own bodies, won’t you?
For our first topic, let us choose the crimson fluid that runs through all things horror as well as through each one of us. Without it, there would be nothing worth living for. There would be nothing to curdle, nothing to spill, and nothing to avenge. Yes, dear reader, I am talking about BLOOD!
Blood is life. About 7% of the weight our bodies display on Earth is the blood we carry and depend upon for so many important functions. We each only have about 5 liters (1.3 gallons) of this red, red wine which is why we flee in terror from the slashers and creatures that would spill it from us! As our tell-tale hearts pump this fluid through us, it carries nutrients, oxygen, chemicals, waste, and the substances needed to fight insidious infections and heal grievous gouges.
Just over half of the blood that circulates through capillary, vein, and artery is made up plasma; a dense muck of white and red blood cells. The white portion, leukocytes, is responsible for finding tiny invaders bent on destroying all peace and wellbeing. We’ll look upon the sneaky bastards our leukocytes seek to devour in the future and learn what true body horror is! For now, it is enough to mention these paladins in white ride into battle to save us from viruses, bacteria, fungi, and all manner of parasites. Oh, the delicious tales they could tell!
Then there are the red blood cells. Red, ah yes red! Their positively bland medical name is erythrocyte, which would fail to excite even the wildest vampire. Red blood cells contain hemoglobin, an iron-rich matter that temporarily binds with oxygen for transport and gives our blood its red sanguinary splendor. Imagine the Grand Guignol or the works of Bava and Argento if humans were cursed with blood that was pale yellow instead of dear old profondo rosso. Truly terrible to consider.
As our lungs huff and puff to grasp the oxygen needed to flee our attackers, the red blood cells bond with molecules of oxygen to be delivered where needed. The more oxygenated, the more bright and splendid the hue of red. The less oxygenated it becomes, it takes on a dark, deep shade that is not without its own visual appeal. I imagine lycanthropes prefer one to another much as those our own fattened stock prefer milk chocolate or dark.
So desperately we much protect our blood! Yet, there are many methods to rob a living victim of this miracle nectar or at least hinder the erythrocytes’ mission. One particularly nasty trick would most likely be entertainment in an old dark house; the act of poisoning. Cyanide has long been a tool of choice for ornery souls with a bone to pick. This delightful compound is found naturally in many species of foul flora. Why, it is even in many seeds within the sweet fruit you snack upon!
Once cyanide finds its way inside you, the body is unable to utilize oxygenated blood. This blood never has to part with its precious cargo so it retains its glorious bright red color. Of course, the body turns blue and suffocates despite all the oxygen being pumped throughout the circulatory system as the heart beats ever faster, faster in panic of impending doom. Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink, eh?
Another rude transgression occurs when carbon monoxide (CO) builds up in the blood stream. As CO tricks the lungs into allowing it entry, it waits red blood cells to snatch up and bonds irreversibly with the hemoglobin. In effect, oxygen must stand by as it watches a killer climb into the family car and drive off… with the wife and kids inside!
Again, suffocation from inside, but this time with some flair. The new CO-heme complex tears through the brain, disassembling precious lipids and turning the brain into a leaky, pockmarked ball of hamburger meat. Why, even casual exposure to CO to the blood can slowly diminish the central nervous system: memory, intelligence, and movement coordination. Makes you desire sitting in an idling automobile, cuddling up to a wood burning fireplace, walking behind a lawnmower on a warm summer day, or puffing on a cigarette does it not? Slow murders are sometimes the most delicious.
Of course there is a much easier way to insult the blood we need so dearly. A body can be robbed of its spark simply by bleeding. Every Voorhees worth his sequel knows that the easiest way to stop a licentious teenager is to drain them quickly of what their throbbing hearts are circulating. Not all the blood needs to be spilt for trouble to begin, oh no! At 20% blood loss decisions and actions become harder. Panic and general restlessness set in, and a terrorized runner may just run right into that dark, decrepit woodshed against all better judgment. Delightful!
However at 40% blood loss, which is 2 liters of blood for those of you curious souls reading, shock sets in. The body starts to shut down organs and systems in reverse order of what is most necessary for the arbitrary designation we call “life.” Hoping that the hero will save the day in time, a bled body drops unconscious. If our villain is talented and wily, death’s icy fingers grasp our bleeder. The heart spasms, lungs labor, brain unplugs, and soon enough our unfortunate soul is off for The Beyond.
There is an art to bleeding a victim, and we can thank our martial minded friends in feudal times for mastering the techniques. Hacking and slashing with kitchen implements is one thing, but if done right and arterial laceration will spring forth a cranberry fountain as high as 7 inches against gravity or 16 inches laterally. What a glorious canvas Pollock could present if only he had traded brush for bowie knife! Our master swordsmen from the East even perfected a cut which made an artery whistle as it liberated a foes lifeblood. Whistling or not, after 30 seconds our fun is unfortunately spoiled. Our gashed gash and disemboweled douche will expire, having been pumped dry. Next, please!
Well there you have it, creeps and creepettes! Blood in all its gory glory. Protect its integrity, won’t you? Perhaps by passing that hitchhiker, avoiding that food from unknown sources, and politely declining that invitation to that rustic cabin you will live to read another installment. But please, don’t let me ruin your fun… life is about risks, no? Farewell reader, farewell!