Saturday, January 3, 2009

Real-Life Red Death (Part 2)

If you're not scared enough by my previous post about the "real Red Death," here's a description from The Hot Zone by Richard Preston:

His eyes are the color of rubies, and his face is an expressionless mass of bruises. The red spots, which a few days before had started out as starlike speckles, have expanded and merged into huge, spontaneous purple shadows: his whole head is turning black-and-blue. The muscles of his face droop. The connective tissue in his face is dissolving, and his face appears to hang from the underlying bone, as if the face is detaching itself from the skull. He opens his mouth and gasps into the bag, and the vomiting goes on endlessly. It will not stop, and he keeps bringing up liquid, long after his stomach should have been empty. The airsickness bag fills up to the brim with a substance know as the vomito negro, or the black vomit. The black vomit is not really black; it is a speckled liquid of two colors, black and red, a stew of tarry granules mixed with fresh red arterial blood. It is hemorrhage, and it smells like a slaughterhouse.

Wait, it gets better:

He doesn’t seem to be fully aware of pain any longer because the blood clots lodged in his brain are cutting off blood flow. His personality is being wiped away by brain damage. This is called depersonalization, in which the liveliness and details of character seem to vanish. He is becoming an automaton. Tiny spots in his brain are liquefying. The higher functions of consciousness are winking out first, leaving the deeper parts of the brain stem (the primitive rat brain, the lizard brain) still alive and functioning. It could be said that the who of Charles Monet has already died while the what of Charles Monet continues to live.

Buy the book here. Isn't "real scary" so much worse than "story scary"? Wheee!


  1. I used to work at small electronics plant across the street from the lab that was the site of the Ebola Reston outbreak. We didn't find out about the virus's unintentional release until this book came out.

  2. Are you serious? How many years had elapsed?

  3. About four years, if I recall correctly.

    Later I learned that there had been some minor coverage at the time, but nothing like the attention the Hot Zone book brought to the accident.

    The lab was destroyed the year after the book was released.


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