Bart Rawlins’ body wasn’t discovered until twelve hours after his death. His wife returned from a conference and found her husband’s corpse in bed. When she touched his shoulder she drew her hand back quickly and gasped, like grabbing a hot plate.
Her fingers weren’t burned: the flesh felt as hard as a lobster shell.
She called 911.
It was still fairly early when the paramedics came. Notes made by the chief medical technician on the scene indicated the patient exhibited advanced stages of rigor mortise and an abnormally high body weight.
Rawlins was pronounced DOA at 7:15 on Monday morning.
Next stop hospital morgue.
The doctor read the reports. Advanced hardening of the body was not uncommon and varied from case to case. What threw him was the fact body weighed 280 pounds. Even a rough estimate of the weight shouldn’t have tipped the scales at more than 175 pounds.
The doctor didn’t have time to think about this. He had an autopsy schedule to keep up. He picked up a scalpel.
When the tip of the razor sharp tool barely traced a scratch on the skin the doctor stepped back. “Would you like another instrument, doctor?” The assistant said.
Using his phone, the doctor took photos of the dulled scalpel and the scratch. As he moved in closer he thought he heard a faint hiss but paid no attention to the sound. When he finished dictating the event to the voice recorder he told the assistant, “Get me the bone saw … and put a new blade on it.“
The doctor waited. He put on his helmeted face shield, completely blocking out the noise now.
By scratching the surface of Bart Rawlins’ hardened flesh, barriers shielding the inside of the body were compromised. The hissing the doctor dismissed as ambient noise or ringing in his ears was the sound of air being drawn into the scratch.
Oxygen permeated the top layer of hardened fat cells and seeped into the pliable substance now filling the cavity left when the novel coronavirus infecting Rawlins’ body dissolved the internal organs.
The virus fed on blood, nerves, tissue, and bone then secreted the waste material as organic silicone.
Every cell of the material carried the DNA imprint of the virus. Increasing oxygen levels created chain reactions that pieced together things seen in Rawlins’ death dream. In an instant, linked molecules reacted.
The doctor was looking down when he noticed the corpse on the table seem to be shrinking. Both feet contracted.
In a 10th of a second, what was left of the body bunched together into a crude cylinder.
The doctor looked up in time to see two pulsating irises set over a mandible spanning the lower body.
He didn’t have time to be fascinated or frightened. Tentacles burst from the base of the cylinder with a ripping sound. The creature was pushing against the table and supporting its weight.
The doctor never saw the beak that came out the belly of the beast like a king cobra strike.
The assistant was tightening the lock nut. He dropped a power tool when he saw his boss being turned into a gel and sucked into a tube.
That was the only explanation a mind paralyzed with fear came up with. The thing was bigger now. It jumped down from the table and stood in the pile of wet clothes on the floor.
It stood between the assistant and the nearest exit.
So far, the thing hadn’t moved. The assistant took out his phone and texted hospital security.
When the novel coronavirus killed Bart Rawlins it hooked into the synapses firing in a vivid dream and took that form. Evolution gone off the rails spawned the creature standing in the morgue.
In one lightning fast move, the creature bounded across the floor. The killer beak punctured skin. A pair of scrubs fell off the dissolving body and landed on a pair of empty sneakers.