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A Searcher's Journal

After the main contingent had left for the crash site I had a chance to talk to one of the rangers, I knew I was soon to face a severely burned, headless body. I was also given the idea that the hands and feet were missing also. So on into the site I traveled with my 35 pounds of water while mentally preparing myself. My mission was to cool the body so it (why it instead of he?) could be placed into the body bag. I was expecting bright red at the missing points, the most horrible odor that I could imagine and the internal organs spread out over the woods. When I first arrived I could smell the forest fire odor but could not discern a human element. This surprised me because I was actually attempting to sniff. The second thing I thought was everyone was going to be away from the body, so I walked right by it at first. Then they called me back. For a moment I did not want to look but then my curiosity took the better of me as it often does. So I looked, surrounded by points of light, outlining my coworkers solemn faces through the fog. I only felt the stillness not the rain. The body was on its stomach with every joint bent, hands twisted, as if I could feel the pain. But I didn't. The body was not a body but instead a lump of charcoal. It even appeared shiny in parts. The missing head didn't bother me. It was a comfort really. This thing clearly was not human. I then went for the details, look at the open femur fracture, notice the shattered patella and the entire joint exposed. Chuckle at the shiny buttocks, one of the few areas left unburnt. As I poured on the cooling waters I noticed the flight jacket he wore. The collar looked out of place. The feet were also left unburnt, shining in the glow of my flashlight. At least my light was white unlike the red lights that bobbed in the fog like tiny demons dancing about the plane. Finally, I realized my arm was tired from the water pump. Before, we turned over the body I thought of the worst. Karen was the only one who volunteered to help turn. We turned and I was somewhat confused. As the water hit and wisps of steam and smoke swirled upwards into the fog I realized I was staring at the vertebra; the entire insides had simply burnt away. We then quickly placed him into the body bag and departed singing yellow submarine. I hung back with one of the more experienced rangers and discussed the interesting effects stress was having on some of our members. Following the road of flagging tape we marched back up the hill never realizing we had left the fragments of his wife still unfound and unnoticed. A most powerful and interesting night in the woods.

 

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