The carrion beetle who said this kicks him in his behind and onto his way with one of its thin but painfully hard legs. The Infected One reluctantly moves towards a major node in the throng, just beneath the bed of bones, allowing himself more time to take in the rest of the sight. Above the bleached structure of femurs & Co there is an incongruent mass of flesh, skin and hair, which must be the source of the putrid stink. The reasonable assumption is that this is the corpse of something gigantic. There are hundreds of little scurry paths along which insects are moving in and out of the dead body.
At the node there are five cockroaches, huge and boisterous, handing out little scraps of paper to their fellow insects. The Infected One approaches one of them apprehensively, head lowered and holds out his hand. He is always uncomfortable in such situations, being one among many but when it serves him to pull through in rough times he can be stunningly pragmatic. Eventually something like an opening will present itself and, being the smallest of them all, he will be the one able to slip through.
He considers the scrap: it’s an extremely crude drawing of a human body’s torso. Another empty heave. There’s a red X in the lower left hand half of the left wing of the lung. The bug before him get’s an identical scrap and The Infected One follows it up the steep incline of an uneven tibia and another one, then across a spherical piecelet of skull, almost slipping to his death on oozing corpse juice and finally into the inside of one of his own. It’s the most unerotic way he has ever entered the body of another human being.
There’s dark red light, it is very warm, fetid beyond words and exceedingly difficult to follow the insect before him. At last they arrive in a small, flesh red enclosure.
– So what are we supposed to do?
– Juh are noohz zzzo ghuuuud wizzz mehking jokezz, are juh?
The bug burrows head first into the moist, glinting flesh. Its mandibulars make sickening sounds of mastication. The Infected One seeing this, registers how his full inner cup of indignation overflows. He could give less if this is nature taking its course or not. He takes a step forward and jumps onto the back of the hexapod, rips out its antennae in one strong motion, then rams his fist through the outer shell where he suspects a brain or something of the like. The Infected One’s adversary flips backwards landing on top of him, scrabbles the air desperately and eventually convulses to a stand still. He extracts his right fist from the mess and studies the indistinct gloop it is covered in. What would it take for his own body to be turned into this same substance?
He wipes it off and shakes his head, quite certain that he has gotten himself into terminal trouble. Then he walks away from the grizzly scene, randomly winding his way through the branching network of the lung, everywhere infested by insects feasting on the decomposing material.
There is gaudy crime scene tape setting the apartment’s door off limits for non-police people. FTP. It’s the tape that really shocks the Infected One since it makes him wonder how his good friend’s apartment went from being a place for sharing a good cup of coffee and having an interesting conversation to being a locus of investigation, who transformed it from private to official.
When was the last time he had gone to visit Max? Three weeks ago or four? And he had looked so healthy, no signs there in his quick face, the loud fashion of extemporizing complex arguments [concerning empire and art] that he would soon be a banquet for worms. Yet. And he shouldn’t be surprised, The Infected One thinks, as death plays the role of the thief in the night well and frequently. It’s more aesthetic, more dignified that way, to have it all taken away in one fell swoop rather than to stagger slowly, with suffering and debility, towards the waiting grave: cancer, dementia, Parkinson.
The smell hits him before he’s even inside the appt’s hallway, the reek he would expect going to the toilet after the devil, battling diarrhea, has used it. There are two women and a man, one on a walkie-talkie, one jotting down notes on a block, the third snooping around then stopping him and asking what the hell his business is.
– I’m Mr. Fanon. Max’ friend. You called me to come identify the body.
– They told you to come here, to the apartment?
– Yes. I mean no. I wanted it this way. I believe Officer Balibar is awaiting me.
– He is. Down the hallway to your right. The body was found in the living room. You might want to use this.