There was no answer to my call. I folded my cane and listened to the house: no unexpected sounds but there was a musty scent to the air. The car key was on the hall table but it, like everything else I touched, was covered in a fine layer of dust. Mom was a fastidious cleaner.

When I finally found her, she was lying naked on her bed. I checked her pulse but found none. I felt her face. It was her but so changed. Her skin everywhere was drawn tight, stretched and dry. Her stomach protruded as though of malnutrition. It made no sense.

I listened for Mom’s heartbeat and heard it, very faint. I called 9-1-1.

As I maneuvered her into position for CPR, there was a sharp crack as her ribs broke, a rip as the brittle skin on her belly tore open. My hands were covered in a malodorous, viscous fluid. A single low moan escaped the rictus of her mouth.

I tried to hold closed the hole in her belly until the paramedics arrived but pulled my hands away immediately. Something large was writhing inside her.

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