AMY STEADMAN (part ii)

 

     Just minutes after death Amy’s body began to decompose. A process known as autolysis has begun. This is self-digestion. Starved of oxygen, complex chemical reactions have started to occur throughout the corpse. Amy’s cells have become poisoned by increased levels of carbon dioxide, changes in acidity levels and the accumulation of waste. Her body has begun the slow process of dissolving from the inside out.

     There has already been a marked change in Amy’s external physical appearance. Her skin is now discoloured; her once healthy pink hue having darkened to a dull, dirty grey. Her veins are now considerably more prominent and, in places, her skin has taken on a greasy translucency. Amy died lying on her back, with her body arched across the feet of a metal display unit. The parts of her body which are lowest to the ground – her feet, legs and backside and her left arm – now appear swollen and bruised. Blood, no longer being pumped around her circulatory system, has pooled and coagulated in these areas.

     The first outward signs of the chemical reactions occurring inside the corpse are now also becoming apparent. Fluid-filled blisters have begun to form on Amy’s skin and, around some areas of her body, skin slippage has also occurred. Her face now appears drawn and hollowed.

     To all intents and purposes Amy is dead. Her heart no longer beats, she no longer breathes, blood no longer circulates. The infection, however, has not completely destroyed her. Unlike the majority (perhaps as many as two-thirds) of the fallen bodies, part of Amy’s brain and nervous system has continued to function, albeit at a virtually undetectable level. There are several other corpses nearby which are in a similar condition.

     As an identifiable and unique human being, Amy Steadman has all but ceased to exist. All that remains of her now is a decaying carcass and all traces of the personality and character she once had have disappeared.

     Since infection and death, Amy’s brain has begun to steadily regain a fraction of its original capacity. Until now that recovery has been slight and unnoticeable. It has, however, finally reached the stage where her brain has become able to again exert a degree of basic control over the dead shell which houses it. The brain is only capable of the most basic and rudimentary yes/no decisions. Amy no longer feels emotion or has any needs or desires. At this stage, she is driven purely by instinct. The brain’s control over the rest of her body is improving, but at a phenomenally slow speed.

     Amy’s body is beginning to move. The first outwardly visible sign of change is in her right foot which has begun to spasm and twitch at the ankle. Over the next few hours this movement gradually spreads to all four limbs and across the torso until, finally, the body is able to lift itself up and stand. Amy’s movements are clumsy and uncoordinated. Coagulated blood and the gelling of the cytoplasm within individual cells (because of the increased acidity inside the body) is preventing free movement. Her eyes are open but it cannot see. She cannot hear. She cannot feel anything or react to any external stimulation. The combined effects of gravity, physical deterioration and the uneven distribution of weight across her corpse after two days of inactivity causes Amy to move. Initially she trips and falls like a newborn animal on unsteady legs. Soon, however, her control is such that she is able to distribute her weight enough to be able to manage a rudimentary walk. Devoid of all senses, Amy’s corpse simply keeps moving forward until it reaches an obstruction. She then shuffles around until she is able to move freely again.

     Amy’s body remains in this state for a further two days.