She had always feared this day would come.
The dark musings had been anxiety provoking and had included the suit being handed over ceremoniously. But that could only happen in a world where her identity was known. Where the true identity of her husband was known.
Instead, a man had stumbled out of a nondescript car and handed her a box sealed with tape. Not the nice kind of tape, either. Not the smooth type, but the brand with the biting string embedded in it.
The cheap kind.
She had looked at the box and looked at the man. His eyes had been hidden behind large sunglasses. He had been as generic as the box. He had turned and left without so much as a nod.
The box, when opened, had given off a smell that she recognized. Even superheroes had favored brands of soap and deodorant.
The suit itself was harder to recognize; it looked different without her husband in it.
God, she missed him.
She wondered if she would miss him less if they had been able to recover his body; if she had had something to say goodbye to.
Without the suit, her husband was just a man. Without the suit, he blended in. Recovering the body would have required someone knowing who to look for.
She needed to have the smell of the suit around her. In their years together, she had barely touched it. It had been his: his responsibility, his power. She had respected that. But he was gone, and she was grieving, and the only thing she knew to do was to put the suit on. It slipped over her skin as his hands once had. It didn’t snag, it didn’t require awkward tugging. Despite their differences in size and shape, the suit fit perfectly.
The suit was made of latex and some charmed materials and had been secretly manufactured in a hidden lab. The suit maker was no longer alive. No one who knew the identity of the suit’s owner was alive, except her.
She wrapped her arms around herself, capturing the first hug she had felt in weeks. Still holding her arms tightly, she moved to the mirror, wanting to see something of him, anything of him. The suit had looked blue on him; it was a deep purple on her.
Inside the suit, his scent grew stronger. The feel of him, his essence enveloped her. She closed her eyes, to catch her breath, to ground herself. She whispered, “I wish I could see him.”
The mirror granted her wish in the worst possible way. The perspective was startling. It appeared as if she were on her back, looking up at the sky. She could not move: her hands and feet were bound. A cold wind blew over her and she shivered. The air bit at her skin, giving her the impression that she was naked. The sound of breathing filled her ears. It was breathing she would recognize anywhere. It belonged to her husband.
She was not seeing him; she was him. She was him in his last moments. But why was he on the ground? Why was he naked?
The vision of the sky was blocked by a face she has seen on the news. It was the Disposer. He had been terrorizing the tri-state area for months. The Disposer smiled at the shivering body, he smiled at the gasping breath. He was more menacing in person than he was in his mug shots. The Disposer’s eyes were like black holes: they absorbed everything and gave off nothing.
The Disposer pursed his lips as if blowing out a candle. Instead of spewing air, dirt poured out, filling her husband’s eyes and nose and mouth. The dirt smelled of rot.
The Disposer, watching her husband die, said, “I get to teach you something today, professor. You get to research death first-hand.”
She understood. Without the suit, the Disposer had no idea who her husband was. He only knew the alter-ego. Feeling her husband die did not provide closure. In fact, it provided the opposite: a thirst for answers.
She felt raw and battered as the mirror switched perspective to reveal a bit of distinguishable scenery. That glimpse could help her find her husband. Or it could help her find the Disposer. She did not know which outcome she wanted more.
The suit had always been an image of trust, of safety. So why had her husband taken it off when a known villain had been near? She had been accustomed to her husband’s strange hours and secretive behavior. The months leading up to his death had been filled with greater absences and a larger gulf between them. He had not been confiding in her as he had before. Had he been confiding in someone else?
The suit was now the cause of mystery and confusion. What had once been a source of pride was now a source of uncertainty. The only thing she was sure of was that someone knew her identity. The person who returned the suit was either someone close to her husband or an enemy inciting a new foe.
Strangely, she hoped it was the latter.
∼ Elaine Pascale
© Copyright Elaine Pascale. All Rights Reserved.