For when the poor sod needs to die

Dangling puppets (CC0 Creative Commons)

I know some of you associate me with lumberjack romance, which is great, but when I don’t write stories set in Nortown or somewhere Up North, people most often end up dead. As a result of this, my search history on Google often leads to body farms and more or less reliable sources about the stages of death and the decaying process a body goes through.

Contrary to what some may think I don’t like ending up on those sites. Body farms show pictures and while I might feel a sick kind of pleasure painting a ghastly scene, I don’t want to see the reality. So what I did was put together a little list for future references. I thought I’d share, who knows you might find it useful.

The Stages of Death

The moment of Death

Quite a lot happens in the moment of death—the heart stops, the body convulses, and the person gasps. The cough reflex goes away and in some cases, mucus builds up, and a gurgling sound called the death rattle may occur when air passes through. After this, the lungs shut down and the brain stops functioning.

Clinical Death

The brain isn’t getting any oxygen and gives up on bodily functions. Circulation stops and the body turns pale, bladder and bowels empty, the pupils get a glassy appearance, and the body temperature begins to drop.

A coffee break later

Blood pools at the lowest parts of the body leaving dark purple stains, the skin is discoloured and waxy, and hands and feet turn blue. Finger and toenails turn white as the blood leaves. The eyeballs flatten and sink into the skull.

Dead for a day

Rigour Mortis starts setting in about 4 hours after the moment of death, and the muscles will continue to tighten for about 24 hours before the body will start to turn limp. The pooled blood will turn the skin into a blackish colour, the liver will shut down, and after 8 hours the body will start cooling more rapidly. Up until 6 hours after the moment of death, muscle spasms may occur.

Second day

The body is now the temperature of the surroundings. The head and neck are a greenish-blue colour that spreads through the body. The intestines melt, and the smell of rotting meat is strong. Prince Charming is no longer recognisable.

On the third day…

That’s when the magic happens, right? Not really. The body gets covered in blisters and starts to bloat. If it’s found in water or in a warm environment, it’s grotesquely swelled at this time. Fluids are leaking from all openings and a bloody froth leaks from the ears and mouth.

A week or so later

Bacteria feed on the dead tissue and give off gas. The tongue will stick out of the mouth due to swelling. The gases force out remaining faeces and liquids and the skin turn green.

Two weeks

Hair, nails and teeth can easily fall off, and the skin can easily slip off the decaying muscles underneath. Moving a body at this stage can turn out to be hard…or sticky, I guess.

A Month

The skin cracks open and liquefies due to gases underneath, or it may dry out depending on the environment. Insects will feed on the body. If the circumstances are right and the body dries instead of liquefies, it’s considered mummified when the insects have eaten all the organs.

The one year anniversary

Depending on the surrounding environment and how many scavengers you’ve entertained a dental record might be the only way to be identified.

There, I think we can all agree that Snow White and Sleeping Beauty would be less than pleasant to kiss when they finally saw it fit to wake up, but each to their own, right?


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