Case Number SW0112
He could not die. He remained, even as they ate into his half-buried torso. Dropping into the surrounding sea of leaves, burrowing and pulsing, tunnelling through his flesh and gnawing his bones; they made a home. He’d been aware of them throughout the long winter, but now the air was warmer and his senses were awakening. Perhaps he could hide from the plump overfed bodies. He wanted to go home.
He struggled to raise his mud-caked arm. Silver-dewed cobwebs strained and snapped, releasing sparks of water. Sodden earth clung to his elbow forming a gnarly branch. Trailing ivy, fed by leaching nutrients, tied the limb to the ground. He fought the binding weed until he collapsed, exhausted. Once more his arm settled back into the leaf mould as if it had never moved.
But on this day his thoughts came quickly and fluidly. Weeping joints and dead muscles warmed by sunshine filtering through the canopy oiled his movements. Finally he was free of the binding roots. He emerged like a fly from its chrysalis, unfolded his body, crease-by-crease, joint-by-joint, and willed each sinew to do his bidding. At last he stood.
His limbs resembled felled branches of trees: waterlogged, mould-spattered and swollen, with open splits in the skin. He rubbed his forearm and scraped off a layer of fat, releasing an odour of soap and damp, and exposing raw muscle. The smell awakened his dull senses, and at first he thought it was the soft fragrance of his wife’s perfume. He tried to find her. But as the sun warmed his sagging flesh and stirred his turgid blood, bacteria swarmed and divided, excreting the stench of decay. He realised her perfume was thick odour made sweet by fond memory. She was lost.
By nightfall his day had become just a series of snapshot memories. He recalled little of his journey through the wood – only the dark loam that oozed beneath his naked feet and the water that squeezed between his toes. Trees. Water. Hunger: wrenching hunger. Between snapshots, only loneliness and hunger remained.
But a feast now lay before him; raw meat from a carcass squashed against a tarmac tablecloth. The last meal he remembered was a spoon-fed purée of vegetables administered by a nurse.
He forced a mouthful and bit into the cream cheese consistency of the meat. It was food; it filled the gaps between his teeth. No taste, and his indefinite bite was like biting beyond the point his teeth should have stopped his jaw from moving. Like biting into his own skull.
He bent down to tear off some more flesh and felt a noise. Felt it through his body, a thumping beat and roaring engine. Music and oncoming lights. He remembered home when his daughter danced to CDs and flashed the lounge lights in her pretend disco. But this was loud and threatening, much more insistent, and arrived with a flood of white light that threw speeding black shadows against the trees.
He turned, slowly, mantis-like towards the throb. He stared into the twin rushing lights that promised to dash his mind to oblivion…..