The man with the Savoy uniform worked his slow way up the moutain, picking delicately between the rocks and the trees, twisting agilely so as not to smudge his immaculate clothes. He had been climbing for three years, from the moment they first gave him the uniform with its soft cap and sturdy, unreflective shoes, and was no more than a quarter of the way to the top. Ten had been in the room then, and one by one they had all passed him, all but one, all in the first year, climbing urgently above him, jackets snagging on errant branches, shoes scuffed and dulled by the rocks.
Far above him, perhaps two weeks’ climbing, there wound a wide road that glittered in the sun and gleamed whitely in the moon. At the head of this stood a building, its function obscure at this distance.
He spread his handkerchief on a boulder and sat down wearily at noon. He had very little to eat, but lately he had been able to go for days on the tiniest amount of food. Of the supplies that filled the outer compartment of the package the Savoy people had given him he had half left. He had eaten last five days ago, a slice of bread and a generous swallow of a thick, white, bitter drink. He ate a handful of dried nuts and swallowed more of the white gloop. He took the Savoy cap off and ran his hand through his sweaty hair. The band of the cap was darker where three years of sweat had worked into it.
A branch cracked and he looked up to find a woman in a uniform identical to his own making her way through the trees. Her eyes were open, but the way she held her head made him think she was blind. He called out to her, then coughed whoopingly, his throat tearing from the unaccustomed use. She came towards him slowly, gracefully, moving unerringly between the bushes and the trees.