As I travel and attempt world records, I see life and death in its many forms. But few instances have halted my mind and made me stare, the way children become mentally absorbed by a fascinating museum display. That’s just happened. Trust me, seeing a decomposing adult body bobbing on the river outside your residence would catch your attention too.
The yet-to-be-identified body had come to a stop on its journey down the jungle river against a large mass of flotsam. The upper torso and one arm were above water, the hand still reaching out to nowhere. The sunken eyes were surrounded by blackened skin from forehead to chin, and the mouth had come to rest in a permanent silent scream. Gentle ripples on the surface of the river lapped against the tight-skinned hairless cranium.
I, together with hundreds of locals, stared down from a bridge with locked gazes. The discovery was so recent that emergency services hadn’t yet arrived. A few locals wearing no appropriate gear bar latex gloves had waded into the water where they stood waist-deep, seemingly unsure of what to do next. Then, sirens split the air, hooters blasted as cars shuffled in the milling crowd and officials spread across the bridge and surrounds to take order.
I ran to get my camera in my room only 60 metres away. Upon my return, the centre of attention had been removed for examination at a hospital nearby. I took a photo nevertheless, and have marked the exact spot the body was plucked from.
As I stood amidst the fast-dissipating onlookers, I took a closer look at where the corpse had been bobbing in the river. The flotsam was a mix of water weeds, plastic garbage and bamboo poles. How sad that this person’s journey through life ended here, jammed against a floating island of plastic waste. Polystyrene, PET bottles, snack wrappings, straws and old shoes were eerily keeping this corpse company. What a sad state of affairs.