The body was not disturbed for what looked like a week. The fingers and arms appeared black while oozing an orange fluid. Preliminary observations suggest a male in his mid to upper 50s. There appears to be lacerations in the abdominal region suggestive of an animal attack. Makes sense based on his clothing and the nature of where he was found, rural Idaho. The appendages feel like jelly and begin to tear, revealing more of the orange fluid along with a black discharge mixed in. Collection of the discharge was taken for further analysis. Interesting how the consistency of the body feels. Like that of a sea slug when touched in a tide pool. The soft slimy texture of the skin was otherworldly. As if he was inside of an animal’s stomach and then regurgitated. Notable as well is the smell of the individual, different from other bodies in this condition. The smell represents a combination of sourness and sweetness like that of a low-quality men’s cologne.
Moving the body over, revealed quite a peculiar sight. A number tattooed in large print across the individual’s shoulders. Seems fresh given the red swelling around the edges. The numbers read 01.13.74.501749. Unfortunately, this was not the first time I had seen such a sight. Except the number read 01.12.74.501748. Examination of his clothing revealed a driver’s license and a work ID. Gregory Johnston, from Sawtooth, ID, a high school science teacher. Too bad, we really need science teachers in this time of age. While looking at the deceases ID I catch a glimpse of a pure white object in his mouth. I grab my forceps and gently pry open his rotting mouth. Maneuvering around the maggots that have made home in his esophagus, I slowly pulled out a laminated card. I didn’t see any damage to the card or any blood, however, there was a message typed out on it. For fear of what it might say, I turned it over already predicting the message. “Project Green.” Damn, not again. Mr. Johnston was the 75th victim to be murdered within 25 years by this same modus operandi in Idaho alone.
Knowing the outcome of the other bodies, I quickly instruct my team to grab a fresh body bag. Obedient as they were, they were not quick enough. Within minutes of maneuvering the body into the bag, it had turned into a sluggish concoction that soon started to evaporate. The body began to bubble as if it were carbonated. Releasing a pungent odor out into the environment it had begun to attract the native insect population. Panic-stricken by the fast progression of this, I hurriedly dump in what remnants of Mr. Johnston I could and sealed it. He was literally disappearing before my eyes. Something the other cases had yet to observe. Trying to calm down amongst the chaos, I had noticed something abnormal from where the body was at. The ground had started to shift towards the body. Small weeds and dirt particles seemed to be attracted to the body like a magnet. The insects began to scramble around the bag. Bees, flies, ladybugs, spiders, everything within a ten-foot radius was attracted to this body. Astonished by this level of unpredictability, I stood still as the only evidence to this trend was slowly being swallowed by the Earth itself. I leapt forward and grabbed the bag, thinking my strength would outweigh that of nature. Struggling to find footing and losing grip strength, one of my technicians finally wrenched me off. The bag was then enveloped by an array of plant, animal, and ground variations until nothing remained. As if the Earth itself did not want her subjects to know of this horrific crime. No trace of the event was left except my notes/pictures, the black discharge, and the card I extracted from the mouth. Everything else had simply returned to nature.
Driving back to the forensic lab, my mind was racing with so many unanswered questions as to what just happened. Why did that just happen? Did that happen to the other cases? What was so special about Mr. Johnston? Are there more victims of this “Project Green” that we don’t know about? Is someone or something responsible for all these deaths? I came up with more questions than answers. Apparently, I started talking out loud as my technician began to worry.
“Hey Doc? You okay?” he said reassuringly.
Startled, I had seemed to forget that there was a living person with me in the truck.
“Just thinking out loud,” I said, almost embarrassingly. Surprised he isn’t as freaked out as he should be. With only being a year out of undergrad he is taking this remarkably well. However, I, a veteran in the field, have never seen such abnormality in my life. Which is saying a lot as a forensic scientist.
“That didn’t freak you out?” I aggressively asked him.
“Which part?” he said sheepishly.
I look at him with stark confusion. “Which part? How about the ground eating the dead body! That part!” I said with resounding frustration.
“What are you talking about? The body is in the back of the van,” he said.
I stomped on the brakes, nearly causing whiplash for the technician. I jumped out of the driver’s seat. Ran to the back of the van and open the suicide doors. There in the middle of the van bed is a body bag. Shocked and confused I immediately leap into the van bed and ripped open the body bag. There laid a decapitated head of a young buck with the body. The throat of the deer appearing to have been shredded. Picking up the head of the deer by the antlers I turn to the technician.
“What the hell is going on?” I say sweating profusely.
The technician looking as dumbfounded starts shaking his head in disbelief. “I have no idea doc.”
“Tell me what you saw at the site!” I instructed him.
Frazzled by the sight of the deer body it was very clear that he equally was confused as I was. Turning back to the body with the head in hand I noticed a specific detail. The abdomen of the animal had the similar lacerations as seen on Mr. Johnston. Placing the head back into the bag I immediately reach for my notes and camera. Flipping through the grisly images it was apparent that there was a dead human body. Finding the lacerations on the dead body and comparing them to the young buck. “Oh my god,” I said. Which I didn’t mean to heart as I am an atheist. The findings were identical.
“How can that be?” the technician asks. My mind is now racing. The only thing I can think of is the tattoo on the back of Mr. Johnston.
“Help me get the bag out of the van,” I instruct to the technician.
We both grab one end of the bag and heave it out of the van like a sack of potatoes.
“What are you looking for doc?”
At this point I was hoping I was wrong. I take the head out of the bag and place it on the roadside. I then start to flip the torso over. Clearly showing signs of me struggling the technician takes his cue and helps me. Flipping the now rotting body on its opposite side, I’m struck by the sight of a numerical sequence. “No,” I say out of breath. “It can’t be. That’s impossible.” It was the exact numerical sequence as on the back of Mr. Johnston.
I fall to my knees in absolute disbelief as to what I am witnessing. Not only did I see the ground eat Mr. Johnston in the past 30 minutes, but for him to be resurrected as a decapitated buck in the back of the CSU van. I was at a loss for words. Unable to comprehend the events that I have just witnessed. The technician looking at me, proceeds to put the body back in the bag along with the head. Arranging the hooves back in the bag and shifting the head to ensure a perfect seal.
Why isn’t he reacting? Am I overreacting? Am I dreaming? I start to look around. Hoping that there might be clues to help me establish that I am dreaming. But nothing. Everything is here. Its all real.
During my mental crisis, the technician has already thrown the body back in the van and closed the doors. I’m still on the ground while experiencing what I think is a midlife crisis. He turns around and starts to eye me. I guess I never realized how handsome his features are when they aren’t being covered but a surgical mask and hair net. He begins to approach me in a nonchalant attitude. Bends down in a catcher’s squat and looks me dead straight in the eyes. As almost he was searching for that one thought in my mind that might’ve made sense to me.
“Let me know when you find you buddy,” I sarcastically exclaim to him thinking I know what he was thinking about me.
He sighs. Almost in disappointment. He then reaches into his jacket pocket and pulls out a syringe. The liquid within the syringe is clear and yellow. My eyes open wide and I start to jump up when he suddenly holds me down. His strength was unprecedented and confining. Struggling to release myself from his grip he progresses the syringe closer and closer to my arm. “Why did you have to look at the body bag again?” he questioned, still trying to inject me with the unknown substance. Tears start to build-up in my eyes. I cannot breathe. This is how I die. Every time I would move his body would become denser.
As if I was a pathetic mouse and he the python slowly constricting the life from me. I started to feel the cold metallic tip of the syringe on my hot skin with a forceful stab as if being bitten by a rattlesnake. With the small pain activating my senses I started to breathe better. The technician was on me but appeared to be more limp than dense. He starts to breathe irregularly. I feel a warm sticky residue on my legs. Scrambling to release myself from his grip, I am free and immediately pull the syringe from my arm. The technician struggling to keep his head up. His face soon starts to become a beet red color as if he cannot breathe. Against my better judgment I rush towards him and try to get him on his back thinking he is choking. He falls over and there I see it. The beginnings of deep gashes across his chest. The fear in his eyes gave the impression of his imminent end. Running to the van I seek out gauze and bandages to stop the bleeding. When I turned around all I saw were his marbleized eyes fixed on me.
Slowly approaching the now dead technician I began to wonder whether I killed him. But how?
End of Part 1