Out of curiosity, I poke my thumb with my knife blade twice. On the second prodding, the blade punctures the epidermis, like it is dipping into a stick of room-temperature butter, and releases a telltale hissing. Escaping decomposition gases are not good; the rot has advanced more quickly than I guessed. Though the smell is faint to my desensitized nose, it is abjectly unpleasant, the stench of a far-off carcass.
Hat tip: MeFi. Raltson's been making the rounds at Wilderness Medicine conferences. He seems like a good writer, and has a story with lessons for surgery, physiology, infectious disease, and appropriate outdoor preparedness.
There is such a thing as overinterpretation, however. A little searching around on Ralston a led to this article, where an expert in Body Integrity Identity Disorder diagnoses Ralston as an apotemnophilic -- someone driven to amputation in order "feel themselves" again.
Sheesh. Can't wait for the google searches on that term.