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The Horror Below : A Halloween Tale

Wednesday, October 30th, 2019

For this upcoming Halloween tomorrow, I thought it might be fun to put one of my Halloween short stories, which others have found both interesting and creepy. If anyone who visits my blog and reads it finds it interesting and creepy, I will be delighted.

The Horror Below

A Halloween Tale

It’s impossible for me to describe in detail all the events that led to my present state. As I sit here in the courtroom charged with what happened to Allen Hastings, I know that my testimony will be dismissed, and I will be executed. Perhaps that’s just as well. My dreams are haunted and I no longer wish to imagine what lurks in the dark corners of any room in which I reside.

It all started when I met Allen at the University –––– the class in Gothic literature. Our mutual interests in the gloomy settings, the grotesque and vile events, and the atmosphere of degeneration and decay of 12th and 13th century northern Europe, served as the basis for the development of a warm friendship. We shared many evenings in the local Rathskeller, drinking beer and feasting on bratwurst and sauerbraten. But with time, I began to have a sense of unease.

Outwardly jovial, but inwardly tortured, as I was later to learn, Allen expressed interest in the darkest aspects of medieval German literature, and especially the supposed long-lost book, Die Ubergeist, written by the mad necromancer, Gottfried Abendsturm.

Toward the end of the semester, he began ranting on and on, sometimes in unintelligible German, about the abominable creatures hidden all around us, and how the book could guide us to their hiding places and expose them.

I began to worry that he was losing his senses, and tried to deflect him from this obsession.  “Since you’ve never seen the book ––– it seems no one has –––– why waste your time agonizing about it?” I asked him.

He smiled…. no, he leered. “I’ve not only seen it, but I’ve read it.”

I laughed. “What nonsense. I dare you to show it to me.” These were the fatal words. I so wish I could bring back and smash that utterance into atomic pulp.

“Are you certain? Once you see it, read it, there’s no turning back,” he warned.

I shrugged. “Sure. After all, how often does one see a book that doesn’t exist.”

So, the next day, All Hallows Eve as it turned out, I went to his apartment, said hello to several of my friends and classmates as I entered the building, and foolishly told them I had come to visit Allen. I had never seen Allen’s flat, and I found it to be a strange and forbidding place. It was filled with death masks hanging from the walls, black curtains and furniture, and only a few electric lights ––– but dozens of candelabras with blood red candles. At that point I determined to leave as quickly as possible, after satisfying myself that Allen’s book did not exist.

He offered me a glass of wine and brought me into his study. He opened a safe that sat beside his desk. He reached in and brought out a huge book, richly embroidered with hideous gargoyles and satanic faces, and placed it on a table. “Well, here it is. Beautiful isn’t it? But be careful. The pages are so old that even the slightest injury will cause them to fragment into dust.”

I began to shiver as I turned the pages. It was written in medieval German, and throughout there were drawings of skulls, devil heads, corpses, and smiling rats with blood tinged teeth.

Allen now took over and turned to page 666. He then looked at me and said,  “Are you stouthearted enough to come with me where few have gone, where the sun does not shine, where the unspeakable resides?”

I hesitated and began to tremble uncontrollably. Oh, why didn’t I flee from this challenge? But being young and foolhardy, I was more afraid of seeming a coward than listening to my deep fears. I calmed myself and said, “Of course I’m ready. Where is this netherworld? In your kitchen?”  I laughed, perhaps a bit shrilly, and waited for his response.

He chuckled hoarsely, a cold, almost sinister sound, and then turned back to the book. He now proceeded to recite the poem on page 666 in a guttural, alien language:

“Ph’nglu mglw’nafh wgah’naglfhagn

Mzz’xetth mzz’etth ndd’rtth dz’ftthe

Wghtth’lleh mnw’ttghth zzfg’llenth

Tth’zcggmeh dzznth’emnth gdzdd’brgh.”

And when he finished, he smiled and closed the book. We stood staring at each other. His smile never left him. I began to feel lightheaded, and as I watched, the walls started to shake slowly, then violently, and the room disappeared. Now I found myself in an ancient church, in which, oddly enough, there were no religious ornaments. It’s difficult to describe how cold it was, and how unpleasant the smell of primeval decay. On what seemed to be the altar, I saw a long, raised stone slab above which hung a carved black bird with its wings spread out.

I stood transfixed until Allen turned to me and whispered, “Here.”  He had brought along two flashlights and two cell phones.. He handed me one of each and said, “Come, help me move that slab on the alter. Slowly, slowly, and with enormous effort, we were successful in uncovering an ingress into yawning blackness. The light from his flashlight revealed a long stone staircase leading down into what appeared to be infinite darkness. The smell that arose from the depths exceeded the most awful I have ever experienced ––– indescribable, except to say it caused me to retch over and over until, exhausted, I sank to the floor

Allen helped me up to a bench, and I tried to catch hold of myself. While doing so, I looked around at the church. Unimaginably old, perhaps several thousand years or more. Monstrous spider webs, encompassing all manner of dead insects, hung from the tall rafters. In the dark shadows surrounding us, I thought I saw movement, and then nothing. As I looked down away from my fear, I saw the skeletal remains of dead animals ––––rats, bats, birds. I shuddered and looked up at Allen.

“Where are we? In Hell?”

“Perhaps. But certainly a place where few have been and where I must finish my task. I need to go down into these catacombs. I must know what lies beneath this place. I’ll keep in touch with you via our cell phones.”  He turned and went to the opening.

“No, wait. I’m going with you. I can’t let you go down there alone.”  Sick with fear, but nevertheless unwilling to allow my friend to descend into that pit without me, I rose and started toward him.

“No!” he shouted. “No! You need to stay here. You can’t come with me.”

“Yes. I must. I insist.”

“If you try, I’ll call off this journey and we’ll leave. I’ll come back later. Alone. Won’t that be worse for me ? No one to contact?”

“All right. But for God’s sake, be careful.”

I sat down again, shivering, once more assessing the gloom where shadows moved and where I heard rustling and crunching as ghostly feet stepped upon the animal corpses. I shined the light in all directions, but failed to see the ghouls I sensed were all around me.

After what seemed like hours, my cell phone rang and I heard Allen’s voice. “Oh, my God. Oh, heavenly Father. What awful things I see. Ghastly! Dirty. Beastly. Ululating, demonic, blackest hell.”

“Allen, Allen, what is it? What are you seeing?”

“I can’t……. I can’t describe it. It’s too awful. You must get out! Get out!”

“No! I can’t leave you.”

“Yes. You must get out! But first move back the stone slab. For God’s sake push it back over the portal into this place beyond hell!” And then the screams began, high-pitched awful screams, Allen’s screams.

Breathing hard and sweating cold sweat, I barely managed to move the slab back over that doorway to the unspeakable. I ran to the entrance of the church, brushing past the slavering things that began to move out of the shadows, cackling, mumbling incomprehensible words.

I lunged out of the church into the night and into a crumbling graveyard. I began to scream as I ran toward lights I saw in the distance. After reaching what appeared to be a street leading to the university, I looked back, and the church was gone.

Shaking like some poor epileptic soul, I reached my apartment, tumbled into my room, and let out a strangled cry as I found Allen’s mutilated head on my bed. As I collapsed to the floor shrieking, the cellphone that I still clutched in my hand rang, and I heard harsh, croaking laughter, followed by a voice, deep, fiendish, savage, cruel, shout out,

“ Allen Hastings is dead and I am FREE! ”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RETURN OF THE BLOG MAN

Sunday, July 7th, 2019

Well, I’m back again. No, I didn’t die. My blog went into blogland hibernation and I went into a writing frenzy in an effort to completely re-do my unpublished novel  “Donovan’s Run,” which took hours and hours of my already shrinking life. But it’s done. Has gone out to several writers for critiques and to others who have an interest in reading the manuscript before I attempt to find a publisher.

So, here goes my blog with some bits and pieces of what’s going on in our completely daft world. I hope this causes you to once more read my blog and give me feedback.

The Riots at Charlottesville, Virginia 11–12, 2017.

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

During the past 12 days, since the Charlottesville Virginia riots on the 11th and 12th, serious changes have occurred in America. The far-right represented by the Klu Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis, and other white supremacist organizations came to Charlottesville, Virginia to speak against the removal of a statue of General Robert E. Lee who led the Confederate armies during the United States Civil War. We all know how heinous, anti-Semitic, anti-black, and anti-immigrant these organizations are. No question. They were met by supporters of the statue who were against removal, including members of the Antifa, a violent, anti-democracy, far left organization (see subsequent post about this group).

This terrible riot ended in the tragic death of Ms. Heather Heyer, who had come to march against these far right groups. She was killed by James Alex Fields, Jr, a 20-year-old white supremacist who deliberately drove his car into the opposition crowd in an effort to kill and injure.

President Donald Trump, shortly after this event had occurred, spoke against these kinds of barbaric activities , but initially did not specifically single out and chastise the KKK, Neo-Nazis, and other right-wing groups. This was interpreted as “insensitive” and “racist” and really not speaking to the major cause of the riot, namely the right wing agitators. He further enraged the Media by saying that all sides should cease and desist from violence. This must be understood in light of the fact that a good portion of the Media deeply dislikes and despises President Trump. Later, Trump came back to the airways to single out the far right groups, but this was said to be “too little and too late.” The following day, the president got into a verbal battle with the Media and indicated that both their far right and far left( which indeed was the case) were responsible for the riots, which resulted in a venomous response from the Media, Democrats, corporate moguls, and a significant number of Republicans, who see this terrible event as the fault soley of the right wing and that Trump’s insistance that both sides are responsible indicates he is a racist and should not remain President. This situation is indeed threatening the Trump presidency.

What I wish to do is to: educate the readers of this blog about the Antifa, who were part of the resistance to the right at Charlottesville, who have received almost no notoriety, but who threaten our democracy as does the far right; indicate that not everyone feels that President Trump is a racist (as he is being called in the Media); and how the concepts and actions against statues, etc. threaten to erase our history, both good and bad.

I now follow with literature on these events gleaned from some thoughtful essays on the Internet and other venues.

The Political Scene in the United States is Mean and Chaotic

Monday, July 10th, 2017

I’ve written only one post in April and one and May and none in June. Why? The mess in the United States, as well as across Europe, Far East, the Middle East, etc. indicate pure chaos as we look in every direction. Too much to put together that would be meaningful. What can one say except we bow our heads in prayer for those and their families who have died in England, France, Germany, and of course the United States as a result of the insane, corrupt, murderous Islamic Jehidists –––– Non-human vermin who have polluted civilization. Much too much to talk about. Much too complicated to write coherent stories.

But, now, a direct effort to injure the United States by one of its major parties. The war of the Democratic Party against Pres. Donald Trump.
For those who read any of my posts during the primaries and the election, I explained how awful I felt Donald Trump was as an original candidate for the Republican nomination, and then presidential candidate (of course, think of the opponents––– Hillary Clinton, liar and traitor etc.; and Bernie Sanders, an old firebrand socialist/communist entrances––– hell of a mess.)

But, Trump and is now president. As such, he needs to be supported. He has made some good choices––– Supreme Court, Cabinet secretaries, some of his foreign policy moves ––– the air attack on Assad; his meets with Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Arabs, and Egypt; his visit to Poland and the G20. However, he has been destructive to himself and his programs by acting like a bloody fool, tweeting all the time, day or night, and often spewing language not at all appropriate for the president of the United States. But it matters not––– everything he does or says is opposed, degraded, challenge, and despised with calls for impeachment by the Democrats who refuse to work with him and the Republicans. And of course they are aided by many the main stream media who hate him as well.

This has produced a greater and greater slowing down of the needed actions of the federal government and threatens to destroy the ability for the Administration to function. The Democrats are willing to see the Administration fail miserably, all in an effort to defeat and destroy Donald Trump. Let the country be damned, destroy Trump. And impeach him after they regain the House and Senate in 2018.

A pox on all their houses. But decency and the good of our nation are more important than their hatred and their despicable war on the President.

To top it all, the attack on a group of Republican representatives and senators training for a baseball game with Democrats for charity ––– for poor kids in Washington, DC. A former worker for Bernie Sanders decided that Republicans needed to be rubbed out. He almost did it, were it not for two Capitol police who killed the shooter, who had already seriously shot four people including the Republican whip in the House. Three of the four were seriously wounded including the two capital policeman. The worst injured was the Republican Whip, Mr.Scalise.

And guess what the response has been? The Republicans blame the wild talk and the media pronouncements against Trump and Republicans. And the Democrats blame, of course, Donald Trump. We seem to be skirting around anarchy. Who knows when or where it will finally burst out?

A Few Brief Notes About Heart Attacks For a Lay Audience

Monday, December 12th, 2016

When I was first in the practice of cardiology, a heart attack was a fearsome problem. Our tools for handling it were primitive especially in light of what we know about the process and its management with today’s technology. Over the years, the understanding of coronary artery disease, coronary thrombosis, lipids, etc. have blossomed along with a greater and greater sophistication in dealing with a heart attack. In addition, with time, research, and the burgeoning of our tools, the understanding of the variability in the presentation of heart attacks have led to an increased capability in handling such cases.

Despite our new technology, a major element in cardiac diagnosis for over a century has been, and still is, the electrocardiogram invented in 1903 by Willem Einthoven, a Dutch physiologist. It remains today a critical tool in much of cardiology, including in the diagnosis and management of heart attacks. The alterations in the EKG during a heart attack can help assess the possible severity of the attack and possibly the prognosis.

What exactly is a STEMI Heart Attack?

A STEMI is a full-blown heart attack caused by the complete blockage of a heart artery. A STEMI heart attack is taken very seriously and is a medical emergency that needs immediate attention. STEMI stands for ST elevation myocardial infarction. “ST elevation” refers to a particular pattern on an EKG heart tracing and “myocardial infarction” is the medical term for a heart attack. So STEMI is basically a heart attack with a particular EKG heart-tracing pattern.

When someone is being evaluated for chest pain the EKG tracing is done as soon as possible to help see if it’s the heart. An ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) is a combination of symptoms of chest pain and a specific STEMI EKG heart tracing. The EKG has to meet what is called STEMI criteria to make a correct diagnosis, just like an NSTEMI will provide another set of specific diagnostic criteria. The EKG also provides information as to which part of the heart the blocked artery is supplying, for example an anterior vs. a posterior STEMI vs. an inferior STEMI. An anterior STEMI is the front wall of the heart, and the most serious. A posterior STEMI is the back wall of the heart. An inferior STEMI is the bottom wall of the heart.

What Happens to the Heart?

In a heart attack there is sudden rupture of an unstable part of the wall in a heart artery (coronary artery). This leads to a build up of clot in an attempt to heal it. However this clot formation results in total blockage of the artery. Unfortunately, this total blockage leads to loss of blood supply to the heart beyond that point. The heart muscle stops working within minutes of this and dies within minutes to hours unless the artery can be opened up and illustrates what is the primary goal in tratment –––– to rescue as much heart muscle as possible. For this reason every minute from the onset of a heart attack is absolutely critical. Often the patient doesn’t make it to the hospital due to sudden death due to a malignant heart rhythm. For those that leave it too long to get help or for those in whom the heart attack isn’t treated, the heart muscle dies and is replaced by a non beating scar.

Treatment

The most important part of any STEMI treatment protocol is to get to the hospital as quickly as possible, so basically to call 911 immediately!!! In a STEMI, an artery is blocked and treatment centers on opening this up as quickly as possible. The preferred way to do this is by performing something known as an angioplasty and stent placement. In this procedure the artery is opened up working through a small tube passed into the heart either from the wrist or the groin. In some cases this cannot be performed quickly enough (less than 90-120 minutes) because of being too far away from a hospital equipped to do these things, and in order to avoid a significant delay in any treatment, clot busting drugs are used. Unfortunately these clot busters are not as good since they are less likely to open the artery and are also associated with bleeding complications. However, they are better than no treatment at all. So sometimes we have to use them.

In addition to this, a number of other treatments are used. Painkillers such as morphine are required to settle down pain and reduce anxiety. Oxygen is administered to those who are breathless or have heart failure. EKG monitors are attached so that potentially lethal arrhythmias such as ventricular fibrillation or even less dangerous but still significant arrhythmias such as inappropriate sinus tachycardia or atrial fibrillation with a rapid heart rate can be identified and treated. Blood thinners such as heparin, aspirin and other platelet inhibitors (clopidogrel/ticagrelor) are used to improve outcomes and prevent more heart attacks.

Post-STEMI Recovery

Educating patients and their families is one of the most critical aspects of care after a STEMI. Several new medicines are started after a heart attack, several of which may be needed lifelong. Patients need to be sure they take the medications prescribed to have a benefit. I’ll address these briefly later. Stopping smoking is essential. It’s important patients follow up with their doctors. Drugs should be used to control blood pressure. After a STEMI patients will be enrolled in cardiac rehabilitation that is a program they should attend on a regular basis. This involves exercise, addressing questions such as time of return to physical activities and dietary concerns. Following these things after the STEMI is arguably as important as treating the STEMI itself.
What exactly is a Non-STEMI Heart Attack

As previosly indicated, ST refers to the ST segment, which is part of the EKG heart tracing used to diagnose a heart attack. NSTEMI stands for Non-ST segment-elevation myocardial infarction. Nevertheless, a NSTEMI is still a type of heart attack, although presenting in a somewhat less acute manner than a STEMI. A myocardial infarction is, of course, the medical term for a heart attack.
How is a NSTEMI diagnosed?

In addition to signs such as chest pain, a heart attack is diagnosed mainly two ways. First is a blood test that shows elevated levels of certain markers of heart damage such as cardiac troponin. Secondly is by looking at the EKG heart tracing. As we have already shown, if there is a pattern known as STsegment-elevation on the EKG, this is called a STEMI, short for ST elevation myocardial infarction. If there is elevation of the blood markers suggesting heart damage, but no ST elevation seen on the EKG tracing, this is known as a NSTEMI, a non ST segment elevation myocardial infarction. A NSTEMI may be associated with other EKG changes such as ST segment depression. Often looking at the EKG helps us to locate the area of the heart that is affected.

Treatment of Non STEMI Myocardial Infarction

In addion to the EKG, part of the way of diagnosing a NSTEMI is by a blood test called troponin that is indicative of heart damage. Although the troponin test is great in that it does not miss heart attacks, it is not specific for heart attacks alone. Once the patient’s problem is diagnosed as a NSTEMI, the treatment strategy will typically include an echocardiogram to look at heart muscle functioning. Initially, blood-thinning agents will be given such as aspirin and the blood thinner heparin. These medicines have been proven to improve outcomes in patients with NSTEMI. There may be other medicines given such as a beta-blocker or nitrates. Many patients will then go for a heart catheterization. This test involves injecting dye into the heart arteries to look for blockages. In the case of severe blockages, treatment in the form of a stent or multiple stents may be required. Sometimes there are so many blockages that bypass surgery is advised.

Prognosis after a NSTEMI

A NSTEMI IS a heart attack, so the treatment of that applies here as well. Medicines are prescribed that have been proven to save lives in the long term for heart attack sufferers. Depending on factors such as symptoms and heart function, a number of medicines may be prescribed. Lifestyle changes and modification of risk factors are key in preventing recurrence. It is important for smokers to stop smoking. Blood pressure control and control of diabetes are key. A post-heart attack exercise plan should be incorporated into a daily lifestyle if possible. Often NSTEMI patients will be sent to cardiac rehab to receive education on the important of exercise and begin a program in a supervised environment.
Common Medicines Prescribed After a Non STEMI or STEMI Myocardial Infarction
Aspirin, antiplatelet agents, Beta-Blockers, ACE-Inhibitors and Statins are often prescribed.
STEMI vs NSTEMI – Which is Worse?

The bottom line is that both are bad. STEMI is seen as more of an immediate emergency because there is a known total occlusion of a heart vessel that needs opening urgently. In terms of long-term outcomes, they have equal health implications. Patients with NSTEMI often have other illnesses such as ongoing critical illness, diabetes, kidney disease, and other that means they have a generally high risk over the long term. Both STEMI and NSTEMI need aggressive treatment over the short and long term.


William S. Frankl, MD, All Rights Reserved