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HORROR'S HEAD

By Lieut. John Pease


The story "Horror's Head" was inspired from Walter Duranty's Moscow Letter, New York Sunday Times, June 24, 1928

Moscow Doctors Keep Severed Heed Alive Four Hours

WALTER DURANTY
(by special wire to the Times)

MOSCOW, June 24.--That a decapitated head can live, that its eyes can blink and its throat swallow four hours after being severed from the body, savors of "black magic," but that experiment was a successfully carried out in the Moscow Brain Institute this week.

The subject was a dog, but Professor Chichulin, who accomplished, the miracle, declares it equally possible with a man.

Before a young American physiologist, Dr. Horsley Gantt of Baltimore, they proceeded with the experiment, which is of great interest to humanity for three reasons:

First, it permits a careful, detailed study oi the processes of death throughout the body.

Second, it allows a study of the brain as an individual organ isolated from the rest oi the body.

Third, through a blood-pumping machine, it points the way toward a hitherto impossible operative treatment oi heart disease, which claims the greatest number of victims among elderly people.


Saved from death by Dr. Nicholas Grodski, noted
Soviet surgeon, Ivan Petrov achieved a miracle of
surgery. But the head of Comrade Peshlrin went mad


CHAPTER I
The Soviet Tribunal

HIS steel-slender hands tied behind his back, but his black-moustached fine-featured head held high, Ivan Petrov defiantly faced the three Judges from Leningrad, who sat behind the long red-cloth-covered table on the low platform at the end of the hall. On the wall beyond them hung two enormous bunting-draped portraits of Lenin and Stalin, flanking a red flag, bearing the hammer and sickle.

The Judge on Petrov's left was squat and repulsive, with keen beady eyes in an otherwise bland face. His hands, spread out upon the table, were short and pudgy. From pictures which Petrov had seen in copies of Izvestia and Pravda, he recognized this man as Dr. Nicholas Grodski, noted Soviet surgeon, reported to have built up his reputation on the work of his less political-minded associates and subordinates.

There had been rumors of strange experiments, some of them of an unmentionable nature, Petrov knew, and his presence here on the Judges' bench indicated his political power.

The Judge in the center, whom Petrov had been told was Commissar Bucholtz, was young, debonnaire, and handsome in a sort of heavy fashion, with wavy brown hair and flashing eyes. His large though carefully groomed hands constantly toyed with a crude rubber-stamp bearing a skull-and-cross-bones.

The third member of the tribunal was a nondescript individual with a heavy black beard, named Peshkin.

Commissar Bucholtz snapped, "Ivan Alexandrovitch Petrov, you are charged with being a friend of the Supervisor of this village, now under sentence of death for treason."

At the mention of the prisoner's name a crafty expression crept over Grodski's bland features. The prisoner's clear gray eyes fixed without fear upon the handsome face of his accuser.

"Tovarish Commissar," he replied in level tones, "The Supervisor was merely a patient in my hospital. I am loyal to Russia. I do not concern myself with politics."

"Petrov," snapped the Commissar, "there is no Russia! What once was Russia is now the Soviet Union. And it is the duty of every Russian to concern himself with politics—on the proper side, of course."

He leered, and turned to the bearded Peshkin on person standing before us is obviously I no working man. Shall we apply the stamp to his papers?"

Peshkin nodded, and a yellow fanged grin showed through his black beard.

"Just a moment, Comrade Commissar," interposed Dr. Grodski, laying a pudgy hand on the arm of his superior. Then to the accused, "You are the son of Alexander Petrov, are you not?"

"Is that a crime?" Ivan ?ashed.

Grodski shrugged his ponderous shoulders, and his fat features broke into a fatuous grin, although his little pig eyes remained keen. "Your father was surgeon to the Tsar. Later he was one of those followers of Denikin to be captured and executed, if I remember rightly. But perhaps you inherit your father's ability, without inheriting his—ah—unfortunate political prejudices. Are you the young Petrov, whose researches in brain-surgery have recently appeared in print?"

The prisoner nodded.

"We are wasting time!" again interposed Commissar Bucholtz, pounding his death's head rubber-stamp upon its ink pad, and then holding it poised expectantly over the warrant on the desk.

"I vote for death," rumbled Peshkin through his thick black beard.

But once again Grodski laid his pudgy paw upon Bucholtz's arm. "Parole him to my custody, my good Comrade Commissar," he wheedled. "I can use him."

"Very well, Doctor," snapped the Commissar, shoving the file of papers over to Grodski with a grimace of irritation. "Release the prisoner. Next case!"

And so Ivan Petrov was permitted to visit his home and hospital under guard, to pack up such of his belongings as had not been stolen during his brief incarceration. Then, when the blood-purge of the little village had been accomplished, he traveled back to Leningrad with the three Judges.

He did not ride with them, however, in their first-class railway carriage, but with the squad of common soldiers who served as their bodyguard, which however he accepted with an amused tolerance, tinged with relief. For, after all, he was not only alive (which was quite something in itself in this topsy-turvy world) but also was headed for interesting scientific work under the great, though repulsive, Grodski.

When the train reached Leningrad, Dr. Grodski bade a warm farewell to the dapper Bucholtz and the blackbearded Peshkin, picked up Petrov from among the soldiers, and waddled over to a cab. He directed the driver to take the two of them to an address on the outskirts of the city.

"Well, my dear Petrov." He smiled ingratiatingly, as the cab bounced over the cobblestones. "You doubtless would like to know why I spared your life. I always had a great regard for your—ah—late father. I do not share the general proletarian prejudice that brains are essentially antisocial."

"After all," Petrov interposed, "did not even the great Lenin himself say: 'Without science there cannot be communism'?"

"Excellent! Excellent!" Grodski replied, beaming. "I must remember that quotation. I shall report you as relying upon the wisdom of our dead teacher. It will go well with your record. 'Without science there cannot be communism.' Um!-Ever hear of Professor Chichulin of Moscow?"

"The brain specialist? The man who made a dog's head live for four hours, completely severed from its body?"

"Exactly. But Chichulin did not go far enough. He lacked both the technique of the old tsarist intelligentsia, and the ve...

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