They’ve been locked in the meeting room for an eternity, and tempers have frayed as the humidity has risen. There’s a miasma there, a visible stench, the thick choking smell of leadership. It creeps up nostrils and down throats as they breathe, invades stomachs and mouths when they swallow. The water is long stale, the trash overflows.
Something breaks; a fork flashes in the diffuse light and a scream, raw and vibrant, strums the air like a plucked guitar string. Blood flashes, bright as a new penny, red as a maple leaf, and they shudder in release and turn on each other.
They have no weapons, but they have teeth and nails and thumbs, and those will do in a pinch. Eyes pop, ears are bitten off, throats are torn out, skulls are stomped beneath scuffed leather dress shoes, bones ground beneath sensible kitten heels; they stab and slash with keys and hat pins and emery boards, plastic ballpoints and shattered dinner plates, anything that will serve. They die in glory, merely glad to be delivered at last from the impossible work of quiet talk.
An illusion, alas; there is evening and there is morning, and when the sun rises they are seated again around the long table, a glass of water warm as blood by their elbow, the hum of speech somehow uninterrupted.