It washed up on the beach already dead, rotting gashes in its flesh widened by gulls. The wind on the beach was cold, slick through the grey dawn with fine rain torn from white-capped waves.
The scientists that followed the dog walkers and unhappy tourists passed under the ropes tied by local police and circled around it. The consensus quickly became known. Some kind of mutation, an anomaly. A whale that had somehow grown beyond its normal size. Despite it not conforming to any known physiological description of a whale.
Within a day its bones started to appear, yellowing and slightly translucent. Plastic sheeting was stitched together, patchwork protection that could not hold back the crabs or birds. Staked into the soft, damp sand the ropes and sheets prevented the carcass from being sucked away with the tide but not from decay. The scientists worked faster in the winter cold, the skyline a leaden grey of ocean on one side, yellowed, dead grass on the other.
The media arrived in vans. The noise of helicopters increased the misery. Photos were taken. Video. People attempted to steal things. It proved impossible to chip the bones. Flesh was cut, preserved in alcohol. Jars started appearing for sale on the internet. Much of it fake.
Until nothing but the skeleton remained. An arcing structure of pale bronze terminated with a bulbous, fierce skull. Dead-eyed, looking back at the ocean. Once the flesh had gone the bones were pulled apart and taken by truck. Forgotten by all except children who found parts of them scattered through museums.