Six pairs of footsteps trace into the dining room, which has been so thoroughly cleaned and made tidy that you would assume an army of housekeepers had been through the room twice over. So shocked is the Aristocrat that the cigar falls from her lips and scatters onto the floor in a peal of ash.
“But I!.. But, this entire room was completely empty before! I've been through twice!”
Shaking in confusion, she quickly calms herself, whispering something to the Financier, who nods curtly. You wonder if the two know each other as the Singer steps closer to the long table in the centre of the room, eyes wide.
“There are places here, set for each and every one of us – and more than that. Letters! Letters addressed to each one of us, can you believe that?.. Perhaps he won't speak to us face to face, but he's fine with hiding behind words.”
A moment of anger passes along her face – a controlled anger that won't stand for audacity, but is powerless to stop it.
“Well, who cares? I mean, letters are letters, whether they're written or spoken. I imagine if our Host truly wrote these, he probably wanted us to read them, right?” The Financier grins as he takes a seat and places his feet up against the table, much to the chagrin of the Major.
“Are we doing this round-robin, or just going solo?” The Reporter asks, looking disinterestedly at her own letter – but avidly at the reactions of all of you. She's already brazenly produced a pen and paper, and is making no secret of taking her thoughts – and the words of others - down.
“I, for one, refuse to be intimidated by a childish gesture such as this. Whatever our Host has to say, he may say to all of us!” The Major proclaims, tearing into his letter and eyeing it over once – then twice. His eyes well up – and he slumps into his seat, silent.
“Harrumph.” The Aristocrat mutters, the click of a mechanical lighter sounding like a thunderclap as she lights a cigarette in an amber-coloured holder. “I see no reason to amuse a Host who cannot even bother to show himself.” The lighter clicks once more as she burns her letter with an undisguised and venemous amusement.
Turning her gaze to the rest of you, she states simply: “I do not know what our gracious Host wrote each of you, nor do I care. If anyone else wishes to burn their letters...” Her eyes for a brief minute flash to the Major, and you detect the slightest hint of a pity – though only for a moment.
He is the first to hand his over, then the Singer and finally the Reporter. That leaves you and the Financier, who seems to be enjoying the somber atmosphere far too much.
“Come now, the rest of you didn't even open yours. Well, I'm not one to put my money where my mouth is, Major. I hope you're all ready to feel like fools – ahem.” Digging for some reading glasses in his suit pocket, he cracks open the letter and begins to read aloud.
“Dear – Ah, he used my actual name here. With all due respect, I don't respect any of you enough to repeat it – Dear Me. How are you doing? Perhaps you remember those storied days of our youth spent at Oxford...”
The Financier pauses, looking confused.
Grinning, the Reporter jabs him in the side with her pen. “Money, mouth, pal! Did he say something terrifying and exploitative that you just can't spill?”
“No... It's just, we never went to Oxford.”
The room falls silent, and the Financier continues, still obviously confused.
“... But the time has come and we are No Longer Children, and the day is long in the tooth. I have some things I want to bestow upon you, and feel I cannot tell you securely in confidence. I will not send this, but pass it to you when the time is right. I am honored to call you a friend, and hope you will forgive my impudence. Yours truly – Ah. Hmn.”
A moment passes in silence punctuated only by foul smoke.
“Damn, wish I'd read mine now.” The Aristocrat opens melancholically.
“You were the first to burn yours, you wretch!” The Major says, but his words lack tooth.
In the confusion, you subtly open yours and look at it while the attention of the crowd is turned. It reads: