Let’s jump headfirst into the second part of this series: Four Terrifying Things Your Body Does When It Decomposes. If you’re new to this series, take a step back to the previous entry and go no further until you’re well and truly prepared. These final two festering features of decomposition are certainly not for the faint-hearted; for the bravest among you, read on.
Decomposition, as it were, is a term that sounds just science-y enough — thankfully, it dispells any mental conjuring of moldering cadavers — and we’re left thinking about the decaying compost heap in our back gardens. Is there really anything so frightening about that?
3. Black and blue and dead all over (or lividity).
The characteristic bluish appearance of a corpse is the unfortunate tell-tale sign we face when we’re sure that they’ve pretty much stopped ticking. Interring the dead into morgues is part-and-parcel of the medical profession; and all physicians we’ve spoken to convey that there’s stark difference in the appearance of skin immediately after an individual passes away.
It’s pretty obvious why this change occurs: the mighty heart that pushes around vast quantities of the red stuff (thereby perfusing all the body’s tissues and organs with life-giving oxygen) has stopped beating. The circulatory system is, well, no longer circulating. And without this pump, the blood can do nothing to resist the flow of gravity — which is where lividity enters the scene.
The ever-stickier, coagulating red blood cells starts falling to the lowest point in the body (e.g. if you die lying down, it’ll pool on the back side of your body). What’s more is that depending on the levels of haemoglobin the blood, the lack of circulation causes skin to assume varying intenstities of colour called a “marbling” effect.
We won’t lie: it looks a bit like the elementary school project where you make wrapping paper by dipping a big sheet into a bucket of oil paint and turpentine.
4. Loosening up (skin slippage).
We’ve decided to share (possibly) the most macabre one for last: skin slippage. If you’re unlucky enough to happen upon somebody who hasn’t really been thought of in three weeks, you’ll see that their hair, skin and nails loosen and start to slip off.
It really is, philosophically speaking, one of the more finite stages of external tissue decay (that lovely interface we have between ourselves and the outside world) where the skin bursts open and exposes all the muscle and fat lying hidden beneath it.
One final fact: skin slippage makes it possible to cut carefully around the wrist to remove the skin around the hand. Carefully inserting one’s own hand into this “glove” can create the fingerprints police and forensic investigators need if the deceased in question is unidentified.
Your Turn: If you’ve gone back and read the previous article, which of the four “most terrifying things” shocks you the most? Are you a know-it-all who thinks you can show us one better? Let us know in the comments. We’d love to hear from you.