It’s time to check in, dear readers! Step into The Waiting Room! I, Dr. Carl Cadaver, will be your attending physician as we examine the world of horror through the eye of medicine. So have a seat and prepare to peer into the marvelous murderous world around us.
I hope you have dressed warmly for this episode because we will be examining the effects of a good chill. No, not the hair-raising tingle you receive from reading the material within this wonderfully wicked website, but the chill you feel as winter’s wind cut you to the bone.
Imagine yourself isolated from polite society and wintering at a lavish and storied hotel. You’ve been battling the worst writer’s block of your career and your nagging spouse and meddling child constantly pop in to remind you of your failure. So you do what any of our loyal readers would do; you chase them outdoors with an axe during a blizzard, only to become lost within a labyrinthine hedge maze. Happens to all of us, no? It’s a tale as old as time…
But when the demons of rage that boil and seethe within you suddenly flee and leave you a quivering husk of a human, how long will you last in the arctic environment? Sitting in a drift, wearing only blue jeans and flannel, trouble is soon to come. No, not the authorities, they won’t reach you until spring thaw. Instead you’ll be apprehended by the twin menace of hypothermia and frostbite.
It’s easy to keep your body warmed to its preferred core body temperature of 98.6 degrees (F) while nestled within a secluded Rocky Mountain hotel, but it’s a very difficult challenge once out in the elements. The human body starts to function in a less-than-preferred way once the core temperature dips below 95 degrees. Convection of wind, swirling of icy waters, and exposed flesh all accelerate the cooling process.
The first thing your traitorous biology does is constrict blood vessels and shunt blood away from the skin so that this red miracle (which we discussed previously) doesn’t freeze into a useless Icee. This leaves your tender tissues susceptible to damage since your warm blood isn’t there to embrace them. After this, your core temperature drops more and the body goes to plan B; shivering. Involuntary rapid successions of contraction and relaxation use energy, which also generates heat (I’ll save the details of why to the physics-fetish or sci-fi site of your choice). For a while, this works and as snow falls around you, you still have your wits to realize you must find shelter soon or die.
Now that you’ve been sitting for a while, your body is running out of tricks. It’s main concern is to save the brain at all costs, so blood flow is rerouted away from luxury organs like the heart, lungs, and liver. In this time of surrender and retreat, fatigue sets in as breathing becomes shallow, the heart slows down, blood pressure drops, and the brain, ah the brain! The brain purposely limits its activity to preserve precious time, creating a state of confusion that becomes nearly comical to behold.
As the body begins to long for death’s sweet caress speech becomes confused and nonsensical. Memory fails and even if a victim of hypothermia manages to find a working phone, the ensuing call to 911 will rarely yield any useful or comprehensible information. Imagine the bitter thrill of hearing the voice of a potential savior only to reply to “what’s your emergency?” with “the cattle are of the roof screaming at me in Spanish!” Oh, so fleeting is the hope of rescue for the soul exposed to the fury of the indifferent universe!
Exposing the brain to lethal cold deserves turnabout, no? As the icy fingers of frigid finality reach in to switch of the lights, a hypothermia victim will engage in paradoxical undressing. Exposure leads to exposure! This is exactly as delicious as it sounds. A victim will strip down to their birthday suit and face life’s exit as naked as they faced its entrance. Of course for you voyeuristic onlookers this will fail to be titillating, as the victim’s nudity will be a canvas of pale, bloodless flesh highlighted with all manner of lesions, blisters, and extremities swelling (only to eventually fall off in a hail of auto amputation).
The solidified streaker will not be visible for long because Evolution’s most primal prank is about to be played. Naked, frozen, and with likely-irreversible end-organ damage, the human Klondike Bar will crawl into a nearby secluded confined space to breathe their last breath. This is called “terminal burrowing,” or the more delightful “hide-and-die” response. Bodies will be found behind furniture, inside of trashcans, and even in drainage pipes. Nothing beats entering the Big Sleep mimicking a hibernating bear, is there?!
So dear readers, think twice before you let professional failure, familial stagnation, and the demons of sobriety drive you deep into a snowy night for a little murderous hide-and-seek. Layer up, plan ahead, and for all of our sake, keep all undressing as non-paradoxical as possible. Farewell friends and fiends, until next time, stay cool…
(note: the Dr. Carl Cadaver art was provided by the marvelous Brad who can be found on Twitter @comicwasteland. Please consider contacting him for any art commission or project you may desire)