I put my waders on. The cold rubber complained as it stretched over my feet. Looking ahead I saw a marsh of filth. Something that once probably had some beavers, the odd heron or two now housed black, black and more black. Suiting up was essential for walking into the wetlands. They were no longer just sticky mud. They were something else. Something menacing.
I didn’t fully understand what I was getting into. A story, like any other I write is just something you have to do. Deal with some unpleasantness, and then…a short blip about whatever topic comes out, smashing picture. DONE! In the bag. Finished. This story was different.
I heard rumors of bog bodies surfacing in the black marshes behind the CDC camp in Blue Mountain. This wasn’t entirely shocking, bog bodies have been found all across Europe in peat rich environments as well as other places. A different kind of mummy. A mummy preserved by nature instead of man. I’ve seen them in museums, as mummies tend to be the popular exhibits to rotate from museum to museum. This didn’t phase me one bit. A body is a body. I’ve seen hundreds.
Waders on, thick plastic pants buckled, an anorak zipped up…smelling like plastic. A face shield covering my face, obscuring my side vision. Glorious. I don’t know why I decided to take on this story at night, possibly because I had been busy during the day. Maybe. Possibly I didn’t wish to find a reason not to visit the Horned God and drink myself into a stupor before the week ended. This was the more likely culprit.
I pointed my light at the white skeleton trees first as they stood out in the moonlight. Void of leaves, they looked like the earth was in pain. A sore of black causing the white trees to lurch out visually as if to say, “Hey, a little help please?”. My beam flashed past the trees and nothing else really caught the light. A little bit of reflection in the black pools, the constantly moving, coursing black pools of filth that makes me glad it hasn’t hit London yet. My flat may look like a natural disaster, but at least it’s not…this.
Surveying the landscape, you notice things cluttering the edges. Black blobs of filth covered objects. Some things might be a ooze covered milk-jug, another might be a severed head. It really is a crap shoot on what you’ll find, and usually you hope for the not severed head option.
The sound wasn’t natural. Instead of frogs and tiny toads making a chorus of noise I heard the burbling, the sticky and unhealthy sounds of filth moving around me. The pools are alive, taking the place of small animals. I can’t remember the last time I saw a squirrel around these parts, or a toad hopping across a path. They’re absorbed into the black nothingness that entraps hope, life and the will to survive.
I started my walk, carefully along the rock and grass embankments that surrounded the pools of filth. My light seemingly bounced happily along, unaware of the gravity of the landscape it was illuminating. I passed the initial pools, small and unaware of the impact they had on the local wildlife. Slowly I was making my way to the larger one, the one that was a long trek to get to, past many smaller less menacing bubbling black pits that no doubt people and animals have been sucked into.
Once I reached the large mass I just stood there. This is where the reports pointed to. I almost grimaced. I have seen filth up close and personal before, but somehow looking for bog bodies wasn’t on my list of top things I wanted to do on a prime partying evening. This job, new as it may be has matured me in ways that are unexpected. I’m willing to work. I’m willing to see this through.
I shone my light across the black rippling surface. Driftwood, coating in slick floated. At least I hoped it was drift wood. Black soaked up the base of the trees, where waterlines once would’ve been. It looked as if Satan himself ate a triple pepper curry and couldn’t make it to the restroom on time. Everything was…gooey. It smelled like rot. The stale air sat in my mouth and I could taste the decay. Maybe I wasn’t ready for this.
I looked across to the side. I saw the pile. The bodies that were mentioned. I can’t say I was really thrilled to discover them, even though that was my goal. The bodies were stacked on top of each other like cord wood, as if someone had tried to pull them out and possibly do some justice to them, but had been interrupted. I walked closer, holding my nose as the stench of rot was almost making me gag. These weren’t normal bog bodies if they smelled like that. They weren’t preserved. Their flesh was bloated and teeming with bacteria feasting on the flesh. Their guts bloated with gas.
I turned my light to the wood when I heard a noise. I don’t know why anyone could’ve been out there at that time of night, or if they’d even want to. It didn’t sound like an animal, it sounded like a limping person. Step…drag. Step…drag. The sound got closer, and a raspy breathing sound soon became audible. “Fuck”, I thought to myself. This is just what I needed. Of course I brought a side arm, but when I’m trying to figure out what is going on I don’t like to be disturbed by…things.
I unhooked my gun from it’s holster, and held it next to my light. Eventually a person walked out from the treeline, not dead but…not really living either. They looked like they had once been a professor or teacher of some sort. They had an ID badge, glasses, vest and tie on. They looked at me and began reciting logic proofs. I didn’t even really know what to do. They just stood there telling me why A was related to D and how C was involved. I kept my eye on them, looking a little closer at the bodies. The bodies seemed to have pre-filth injuries. People who become part of the filth tend to just…grow with the filth. These bodies looked as if they had been killed beforehand and dumped into the filth. Either someone trying a large experiment or trying to cover up something. Either option didn’t sit right with me.
The professor kept spouting theorems. “If A equals D and C equals A….” I thought in my head what to do about this man. He wasn’t coming at me, but…filth people usually did. Maybe his cerebral cord was still flickering on before the filth zombie side of him could take over. Either way I backed towards the bodies but faced him. I got a closer look. The people were definitely killed before being soaked in filth. Maybe the same person who put them in, took them out to see what had happened to them.
The professor stopped repeating theories suddenly and I looked around. A light bobbing through the trees and the professors head snapped around to look at the light before he began repeating the logic proofs again. I ran. I ran as hard as I could without putting myself in danger of falling in filth. I hid behind the biggest tree I could find. A man in an all black hazmat suit walked through to the clearing and then looked at professor filth, raised his gun and shot. It shouldn’t have shocked me, but a shudder went through me as I saw the body fall to the ground. I watched him examine the bodies one by one, scanning what must’ve been an implanted chip in each one. Soon more lights were showing up and a truck drove through on a plank path, beeping as it backed up towards the pile.
I watched twenty-three bodies get loaded onto a black covered truck. To what end? I still don’t know. I watched them work quickly. The whole ordeal took less than half an hour before they all left. I waited a few more minutes for good measure and then began my trek out. I almost felt bad for the professor that was infected with filth. I know I shouldn’t. Cleaning up the infected is part of the job of survivors…but still. He had a life once. So had those people who were killed. Who knows who they could’ve been. Some company, with a lot of money paid to have people killed for testing. People who were probably healthy before they were put in the filth. We have to watch out for the obvious monsters, but sometimes we must turn our gaze inward. Humans can be monsters if humanity is pushed aside for survival. May we never lose our humanity entirely.
Wynn Gwynn is an Illustrator, Editor and Writer of Tuppenny Dreadful, a media company in Darkside of Ealdwic London- Shades District.