Cutting the clothes from a woman's body might be considered a recreational activity under some circumstances, but I quickly discovered that dealing with a headless walker the fun factor was definitely missing. The walkers that I had seen were always at least partially clothed, filthy, and caked with the dried fluids of their victims and their own organic processes. The one I had secured was no different. An outward examination of the carcass from neck to groin was already gruesome, but it did provide some important clues.
"You okay out there?" the voice of my wife crackled over the walkie talkie.
"I am nothing in the neighborhood of okay," I replied. "If anybody ever reinvents psychotherapy after all this is over, today is going to cost us big money. I just cut some lady's head off and am now trying to figure the best way to cut her up. Sort of way past fucked up."
"Maybe," the wife said, "but contrary to what I thought this is useful stuff. What you have sent back so far is already giving me some ideas I didn't think about before. Abort if you need to. It's your call."
"Just keep recording," I grumbled. "It won't make the Discovery channel, and this isn't anything close to science, but your right, there's stuff here I wasn't expecting."
"The body at time of death and with head attached would have weighed an estimated one hundred and seventy too one hundred and eighty pounds. Approximate height was five feet eight inches. Skin color at present consistent with the face, is bluish gray, with signs of generalized mottling along bony structures at clavicle, sternum, and pelvis. Post mortum lividity is absent. Coloration remains consistent to pelvis and lower extremities, with no pitting edema noted."
"There's no swelling or darkening of the legs?" The walkie talkie crackled, "Where the fuck did her blood go?"
"Please ladies," I said. "Hold all your questions until the end of the lecture. There will be a quiz before you are allowed out."
"Yeah, sorry." said the wife.
"Hey I don't blame you," I said. "There is a lot wrong here. She should have been blown up like a balloon and falling apart within three days after vital signs were gone. There's no sign of bloating, no sign that the blood pooled anyplace, and this lady stinks to high heaven but she isn't decomposing externally in any normal sense that I can see. If I had to guess I'd say the virus is putting out something that is effecting the natural bacteria in the corpse. I can smell decomp, but nothing like it should be. I'll know more when I open her up."
"We're talking too much," She said. "Check your six and do what you have to do, and we'll figure it out when you are less likely to get eaten."
"Right," I replied, doing a quick circular scan of my area before I proceeded. "The skin appears slack overall, and very dry, with minimal slippage. There is no evidence of wounds on the front of body. The breasts which would have been large during her life appear radically flattened and atrophied, and there is evidence overall of sudden radical weight loss. There is a depletion of subcutaneous fat, and in some areas at the breasts and hips it appears absent altogether. I am going to incise the chest and abdomen next"
I had some knowledge of anatomy, and felt certain that I could pick out the major organs and structures if I saw them in their natural state. I didn't get that far. The "Y" shaped incision I made from the points of the collarbones and down the front of the body to below the navel was easy enough to pull open as I used the butcher knife to separate the skin and the flesh clinging to it from the underlying structures. I found myself looking at a ribcage with the associated muscles and the major abdominal organs. I stopped.
"Holy fuck," I muttered.
"What?" crackled the walkie talkie.
"Okay, the abdominal and chest cavities as well as the diaphragm appear to be lined with a gelatinous layer of what I am guessing is the same red fluid noted in the mouth and neck structures. The major organs to include the intestines, lungs, and stomach, are atrophied and necrotic and appear to be drying out, withdrawing towards the mid line and separating from the lining of the chest and abdomen. The organs themselves seem to be compacted in the thorax and abdomen respectively within a gelatinous layer formed of the same material encasing them separate from the cavity lining. There are no viable organs, as all are desiccated, but they remain identifiable, and both major cavities seem to be drying on the interior aspect. This lady is drying from the inside out"
"Is that even possible?" came from the walkie talkie?
"I seem to be looking at it," I replied. " I have an idea. I am going to incise the major muscle in the calf of the left leg."
I quickly made a deep slice in the muscle of the lower leg, and immediately noted the presence of the viscous red fluid, as it began a slow seep. The light suddenly went on.
"Exam is terminated," I said. "I am starting home in a few minutes."
"No," I replied. "I am okay, but I think I know what is going on. Just be ready with plenty of bleach. I am wiping down the gauntlets and spraying myself down, and leaving everything here."
"What the fuck is up?" demanded my wife. "Are you in trouble?"
"No, I am just done. There's nothing more I can do here with no equipment and I have the information I came for. This lady has been deader than Hitler's dog for weeks, but the virus has somehow managed to change fat cells into this red goo I keep finding. It has used it to isolate the interior organs and structures from the striated muscles and skeletal system, as well as the brain and spine. It is somehow using all the moisture in the body to keep the muscles hydrated as concentrated moisture source and lubricant. I suspect it is thick with Campion virus. It's how the Zekes keep moving as long as they do. They can't heal or replace cells, but the virus has adapted fat cells to keep the brain and striated muscle cells it does have to work with viable for as long as possible. It is an elegant solution and shouldn't be possible, but I am looking at it."
"Shit," the wife said quietly, as she realized what I was saying.
"Yeah," I said. "The fluid, the "zombie goo" is the key. The obvious question is what is it and how long does it last? I'll see you in a couple of hours."
"Taking your time aren't you," She noted, not wanting to ask my plans.
"Got something to do," I said. "I need to see if there are any records that would indicate when this walker died inside the complex and I want to attend to our subject here. She's a hero in her way."
I had no way to bury Suzy, as I called the walker that had been unlucky enough to be the subject of my attentions. A shovel wasn't something I lugged around, and I wasn't willing to spend that kind of time in the open. I would keep an eye out for something that would do inside the building. I didn't know what was inside although I was certain any other viable walkers would have made themselves known by now. For the time being I placed her head in the middle of her chest and covered her with a plastic drop I carried in the pack.
I moved quickly towards the nursing home door.