In Which A Decision Is Made
The room was largely quiet, save for the occasional cough or sniff. Someone’s fingers gently drummed the edge of the table around which they were sitting. The silence, if it could be called that, was uncomfortable. It made the men nervous, which explained the coughing, the sniffing and the tapping. It was as though a question had been asked to which no-one knew the answer or dared suggest a solution, and yet there was an air of expectation that an answer would come. At the head of the table a large man brooded, glowering at the rest of them. Such was his stature that it appeared his chair had been built around him, but built two sizes too small. On his right shoulder, indifferent to the gathered audience, a hooded crow perched inspecting its flight feathers.
The man cleared his throat. A rumble rolled down the room, echoing off the dark wooden panels that lined the walls and ceilings until it crashed off the end wall and rolled back towards its master, growing weaker and weaker as it went until, by the time it had reached its maker it was but a mere whisper. The other men, ten in all, five down each side of the table, turned their heads as one to stare at the growling giant. Perhaps this was it; the answer would finally come.
“So…,” the giant boomed, leaving a dramatic pause before he continued, “no thoughts, no concerns, no objections to my proposal?” It was spoken with the faint air of menace, as though no dissent was expected. None came.
“I asked you once if you considered my proposal dangerous. I’ve asked you a second time. Now I shall ask just once more; shall we proceed?” The last three words roared out like artillery shells, striking into the souls of the gathered men and exploding there, jolting out a response. Ten quiet murmurs of approval gathered into one loud resonant voice of acquiescence.
“Excellent, gentlemen,” said the giant with a sense of satisfaction. “That just leaves you, Professor. And you? Shall we open the portal?”
The giant’s question was directed at the opposite end of the table. Ten heads swung round to await the Professor’s response. Nestled upon several cushions and dwarfed by the large winged-back chair in which he was sitting, the Professor stroked his whiskers thoughtfully. There was a long pause; a long agonising pause before the Professor finally spoke.
“Meow,” he said and the rest of the men nodded in agreement.
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