He tugged on his face, a grotesque mask, a mockery of humanity. His pupils dilated, and he breathed out a long, slow breath. It convulsed in the air, not sure yet whether it would dissipate or shimmer. He scratched at his skin, his post-skin, and had an idea of luminescence. It was unreasonable, these people were being wholly unreasonable. He pulled back his lips and let his canines slide out, sharp and pointed; dripping venom. He licked his lip.

“Sir,” a soldier walked in yapping. His face looked slack as if he was already half-dead. But he was post-dead. His camouflage shifted coyly while he danced from foot to foot, shifting his post-weight. “Sir!” he yapped again, his jaw flying.

“Out with it,” he said softly but it came out loud. The words bit, they were barbed and sharp. The soldier flinched, his jaw flapped.

“Sir, we have the fugitives. The fugitives sir.”

He looked into the soldier’s eyes. They were dead. Of course they were. He was post-life too. He waved his hand carelessly. No blemish marked his flesh, his pallid, pulsating flesh. It undulated like waves. “Bring them in.”

The soldier nodded,his head the only thing really visible, floating above the camo, the camo shivered and nearly winked out. He shook his head slowly, side to side, side to side, the world flashed in brilliant colors. The post-world.

The soldier left and reentered with three persons, three fugitives. This is not how the story usually goes. But we have entered upon an unusual scene.

He studied these figures before him, offhandedly, yet he scrutinized every detail. The sweat pooling between the girl’s breasts, the throb in a throat, the short and shaky breaths. Heat rolled off of them, undulated like waves.

The figures in their turn studied him standing before them. His face was a white mask. Or a white mask was his face. Or he wore one. They debated in their slow minds, their pre-minds. They debated. But they came to no conclusions. They knew death hovered over them, breathing foul air on them. They could feel his presence and gasped the harder for the cool feeling pressing in on them.

“Be candid, express yourselves,” he said.

The words echoed and reverberated in their ears, their three pairs of ears. Their pre-ears.

“You are a beast Rousseau!” the girl shouted hysterically. Tears streamed down her dirty face. Grime and soot covered, her eyes were a sharp green that seemed to speak of summer days and hazy naps. Colors danced before them all as they took in the billowing skirts of grass and the lazy hats of trees.

“I prefer to be called a vampire,” was his inane reply.

The girl gasped as he sunk his teeth into her neck. He bit sharply and quickly and stepped back. “You see,” was his pronouncement.

The girl fell to her knees, life abandoning her, her form lay still after a moment. Her skin grew white and soon began to shed like so many ashes. The others begged for freedom, renounced their previous ties, disdained all they’d done against him. He smiled. “Okay, you shall have your freedom then.”

The soldier dragged them away, injecting them with syringes filled with a yellowy substance. It congealed if you didn’t shake it just right, just so. They twitched and their skin grew taut, they were taken away.

The soldier reentered and gave an awkward half-bow. He creaked, his wiring was loose, his camo shorted again and sparked. “That is unacceptable,” he said to the soldier.

“Yes sir,” came the reply. The slack-jaw fell open and yawned while some command scrolled through his brain. He abruptly stood up and he looked fit and shapely again. Not a speck out of place. “Find the next camp,” he said and the soldier nodded, saluted, and left.
Rousseau took a sip of brandy and exhaled a sweet and tangy breath.