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The Animals Issue

Rotting In Hell

It is actually warm in the center of the maggot colony.
Κείμενο CIA

Photo by Sebastian Soot

Three years ago I got a job in a lab researching animal behaviour. I figured that my initiation would involve something along the lines of drinking a beer bong or skolling a few shots of Jaeger. It never even occurred to me that it might include me submerging my hand into a bucket full of maggots. Not surprisingly, I had never met anyone who was into maggots before I met Mel. She was doing her PhD on the use of maggots in dating the exact time of death of a corpse. I would occasionally find her patting them or staring at them with way too little disgust. Our lab was not a normal one with beakers, chemicals and Bunsen burners scattered around. We had those but we also had wall-to-wall spiders the size of small plates sitting in perspex boxes, ant colonies, blue-ringed octopus tanks and, rubbish bins full of maggots. Every night at least one of the spiders would escape and every morning we would walk into the lab and try to avoid the giant webs that they would spin across the lab benches. Walking into the webs was bad; a big fuck-off spider would drop from the ceiling landing on my face and I would scream like a girl. The spider would then shit itself, curl into a little ball and drop to the floor. I had no major problems with the spiders crawling around the lab, but the rubbish bins full of maggots were a different story. You would lift up the lid of a standard black bin and see a warm, writhing mass of maggots getting stuck into some rotting meat. Whenever Mel would open up a bin lid, the warm, sickly-sweet smell of the flies and the rotting meat the maggots fed on would send me over the edge, and I’d run out gagging. So when I looked down, halfway through my initation and saw my hand, wrist deep, in a bucket of writhing, grey-white maggots I just looked away and thought, go to your happy place, go to your happy place. Mel would smile at me and be like, “Feel the heat that they generate? It is actually warm in the center of the maggot colony,” and I’d try not to faint. I spent four years in that lab, surrounded by little vials of dead maggots with labels on them like ‘anus’ and ‘eye socket’. I sat through seminars where she would show slide after slide of decomposing pigs. The strangest thing was that Mel wasn’t the only person I met who really liked maggots; she was part of this worldwide club of maggot-lovers. I met another guy, James, who also collected maggots in South Australia. He came over to Melbourne for a maggot conference and Mel was really sad when she found out James was gay. She was hoping that they could date and hold hands over dead shit. Everyone in the lab knew when the Victorian police found a new corpse. Mel would get a phone call, take her special maggot-collecting kit, vanish from the lab and return with some story of a little retarded kid that had gone missing and had been found dead on the banks of some river, with maggots in his throat or something. She had names for all the stages of decomposition (I can remember ‘bloating’, ‘putrefaction’ and some stage where the fat of the corpse liquefies) and she would get all excited when the stomach of a pig exploded, spewing a little white tidal-wave of maggots over the ground. I never ever worked out the attraction and was more than happy when Mel graduated, took her maggots to the police force and used them to time the death of pretty much every corpse found in Victoria. CIA