The Suit Makes the Man
“It is here,” she said with conviction.
“You are sure?” her companion questioned as he dragged a black plastic bag from the van.
She didn’t look back at him, but continued to stare out across the river. The water looked darker and cooler at night, despite the heat. She knew that in the daytime it would appear brown, thick with the sediment of human agriculture and industry. The heat sucked vapor off of that river, pulling it into the city and smothering the inhabitants with it. She considered that it was a far lighter punishment than they deserved for all of their crimes – for their existence – but also that the discomfort would serve as a prelude to true penance.
Humans. The smell of them coated her nose and seeped into her lungs. She could not get rid of the stench. Even after she removed her suit, after she had scrubbed her skin with ice water and stood in her air conditioned office naked to dry, she could still taste their filth – like meat stuck between her teeth and rotting.
Once she had found It, she would be able to forget about the suits. She would stand bare-skinned with an army before her and watch the humans burn. The tang of mortal blood in the air would be washed away with fire, and she looked forward to walking through their flaking, scentless ash.
“I am sure.” She paused, but could see no reason to not assure him of her knowledge, “A ring warrior lives here.”
“Ring warrior?” her companion asked with faint alarm. “They might-”
“Not they,” she interrupted, “there is only one.” She breathed deeply, repressing the urge to spit out the essence of humanity that made saliva pool in her mouth and sour on her tongue. “The trail is thin, and crisscrosses the city, but a warrior is here.” Her companion returned to his task, lifting a second seven foot long black plastic bag from the back of an SUV and gently placing it on a cart beside the first bag. “Careful,” she reminded him, “this suit will not last much longer. I need a fresh one.”
“Of course,” he responded. He unzipped the second bag and pulled back the opening so that she could see inside. A dark face, with high cheekbones and full lips looked back at her. The eyes were closed, but the color was of no consequence. It smelled. Strongly.
She felt her lip curling back in distaste, “Still alive.”
“They stay fresher that way.” He zipped up the bag again and glanced at her face, noting her expression. “I have heard that rubbing menthol inside the nostrils drowns out the scent.”
“Perhaps,” she said, non-committal. A warm breeze pulled brown hair out of the bun she had fastened it in earlier, and the lock blew across vision. She pinched it between two fingers, ready to put in back in place, but at the slightest tug it came free. A patch of pallid skin the size of a quarter hung from the end, still attached to the hair by the roots. “Prepare the female immediately. It appears this suit has begun to wear through.”