I step into the shack. The stench almost has a human quality, assaulting me immediately, intentionally and without mercy. My eyes begin to burn as the smell of rotting flesh takes on new meaning when I see the source. A body lies on a cot, partially decomposed, mouth agape, propped up facing me, shotgun still clasped between two juicy hands. The flesh is beginning to bubble and sag on the bones. The stomach is large and distended beneath a frayed flight jacket. My knees begin to shake under a fresh wave of odor. My mind swimming, I turn away from the body in an attempt to shove down the screaming terror now taking over every thought, but this effort is wasted as my eyes involuntarily circle the room.
A bucket hanging low against the wall next to my boot is full of fluid and human filth. What were once herbs and vegetables in an Aerobed garden are rotting in the dank of the shed, gnats circling everything like a plague. And the walls, oddly steamy, are lined with warped papers. Some handwritten notes, some blood streaked cries for clemency, some newspaper clippings that look older than me, and a map against the back wall covered with pictures of people covered in boils and lesions, many of them weeping.
I find my feet giving out and as my knees are still shaking I shove my body out of the room for a moment, sucking in more gasps of freezing winter air.
Moments pass. My right mind returns.
Can I face the corpse again? I keep unwillingly imagining that face over and over, lips cracked, eyes wide. Shudders begin to move from my legs up to my shoulders.
I don’t have a choice. I left Danton for answers.
For a moment I consider taking a day or an evening before going back in, but that would make it more difficult not less.
I yank the door open again and instantaneously stare at the ground, working my way well past the body before I dare look up again. Towards the back, this map is less disconcerting on its own. I see that the pictures aren’t dated and many of them seem to be magazine clippings themselves. When I was a girl my dermatologist uncle had specialist magazines like these in his office. They were disgusting at the time but as I grew up I grasped that only a few of the patients were in serious trouble. That may or may not be the case with these pictures. I begin to pull off the pictures and see that the map is of the United States, and is marked with four different highlighter colors. A yellow circle of about five states in the center of the country is labeled in a makeshift legend as “I,” the pink and green rings that follow are “?” and “??” and the blue is marked “S.” Clearly his –I thought it was a ‘he,’ I won’t look again to be sure though- own private labeling system.
The newspaper clippings are a collection of a nonsensical stream of consciousness, moments in human history that meant absolutely nothing to the development of it.
Andersons set stake in western Mass
Girl Drowns in CO
Steamy Summers Encourage Travelers
The titles go on. The notes between are garbles of arrows and exclamation points. The handwriting is utterly illegible. I find a ‘there’ there and a ‘where’ here, but nothing connects. A symbol tucked in a corner catches my eye. A circle with an ‘X’ in the middle of it, on a simple square piece of scratch paper. On the back, in majestic and sweeping handwriting that cannot possibly be the same as his it says,
Let it go.
For some reason I tuck the paper into my pocket just as I see the set of stairs leading to a loft that sit directly behind me.