The smell stung my eyes. I turned away from the plastic bag and exhaled every molecule of oxygen from my lungs in a startled huff. Blinking away the tears I raised the back of a gloved hand to my nose. He had been dead for too long. I gently brushed the pad of my thumb over his toes admiring their distinct,endearing swirls. The nails were fairly clean and for a moment I marveled at the beauty of his fragile anatomy. A gentle breeze meandered through the unseasonably warm day and,caressing him briefly, carried his scent up to me again. I coughed and screwed my eyes shut. Every muscle in my torso crunched inward at the center, ejecting the foul air from my nose and mouth. Under furrowed brows I forced out a disgruntled huff, he was gorgeous but the smell was killing me, time to get to work. With a gentle touch I located the terminal point of the proximal tibia/fibula juncture and pulled the leg taut. Preparing to make the incision I tightened the skin with two fingers and watched it gently part under the tension. With dismay I realized he was too far gone to save any soft parts. His hands and feet were already de-gloving which meant nothing else would be much good. Disappointed I set my blade aside to examine the burst seam of his abdominal wall. As I rolled him onto his side, the rotted, copper green sludge of intestinal sepsis oozed out, leisurely. Some of his organs were still pink, save for the post mortem bruising of pooling blood. Pulling his legs straight, I steadied his upper back and shook him gently. The slippery, discolored intestines that had been peeking out slid onto my work surface with a pleased squelch. Like a trick at a birthday party I pulled the rubbery, knotted balloons of his large and small intestine out hand over hand. Mid way into the descending colon I snipped the squeaky, resistant tube. Unceremoniously I scooped his pulpy innards into a plastic bag to be disposed of separately. Lacking the bolt cutters necessary to access the heart I turned my attention to his face. I grabbed the back of his neck to turn his face to me. Under my hand the vertebrae were so badly damaged I could feel them crunching, grinding against each other. It felt like squishing a ziploc bag full of ground beef and broken glass. I grabbed a handful of hair at the back of the head only to have it pull completely off with the greatest of ease. Irritated, my hooded eyes slid from the thick tuft in my hand to the bald patch I had just created. I grasped the moist, separating skin at the back of the head firmly (not without a little grumbling.) Finally comfortable with my hold I turned his face to me and gazed down at the nightmarish maw of spattered death. The impact had split his skull into quarters with the facial bones on the right and left sides standing up and out, independent of his skin, like the mouth of the Predator. I could not find his eyes in the wreckage but I could distinguish some of his nose. As the remaining organs in his chest cavity began sliding into his (now, much roomier) abdominal cavity his head lolled back, his shattered mandible made a slight clicking as the bones rubbed together. His throat made a disgruntled glk-pop sound as the still wet and bloody soft tissue Of his esophagus parted with a sticky complaint. His visage was horrific. Part of his tongue had been protruding for some time and had dried out. The first third of it was crispy and black, the line where it met the rest of his pale pink tongue contrasted sharply. Some of his teeth were intact but it took some digging to find the bones of his lower jaw that had migrated closer to his ears to seek better opportunities. Cutting out a few portions of his maxilla and mandible I dropped them into a jar full of tap water and thought eagerly about the new teeth I'd have in a week. Stripping off my bloody and putrid gloves I looked over him again, although I knew I could do nothing else and I'd have to wait for the rest. I picked him up, with some difficulty, and lowered him into the shallow grave that would be his home until I could harvest his bones more easily. I covered him up and liberally sprinkled a desiccant over the site to trap any adventurous odors. I paused and looked down at the grave, mulling over my disappointment. I would have liked to keep one of his feet, just as a keepsake, shame he was in such a state of decay. I shrugged, maybe I'd get another chance soon, after all, it was getting to be that season. I slid the door open much more at ease, maybe I'd even get lucky and find a fox or a raccoon instead of a 'possum. You just never can tell.