“It wasn’t just a smell, it was a force. With the first whiff, I thought, Camembert. But as the golf cart got closer, the smell became sweeter—noxiously sweet. You could call it the smell of death, but really it was the smell of what comes after: an obscene eruption of microbial life.
In the driver’s seat was Dr. Daniel Wescott, director of the Texas State Forensic Anthropology Center. He was telling a story about his four-year-old daughter. She had asked him once, “So, when I die, will I get really big? Will I pop?”
“No,” the cheerful 50-year-old had replied. “You don’t pop. You sort of deflate. But first, you bloat. Like this body.”
He pointed to the corpse at our feet—one of the dozens of donor bodies exposed to the elements here in the forests and fields of the university’s 26-acre decomposition research facility. Most of the local kids who tell…
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