Thanatos drummed his falanges as he surveyed the sub-committee's sunken faces before him. The darkest lights of their generation, yet none of this skeletal crew could eclipse the abyssal infinity of his own current glower. None would meet his eye, huddling their skulls deep within the shroud of their cowls. Dark, his mood was positively stygian. Or negatively so.
The sub-committee had hit a brick wall. One they were unable to scale, tunnel under or simply detonate and push through. These fine, perverted minds, the brightest dark stars around, and finally they had sunk to their limits of depravity. They had platted so low, there seemed nowhere else left to plumb.
Even an old faithful like Stacy A-Po had seemed to have lost her mojo. She had been charged through the ages with religious slayings. And how she had risen to the challenge, evolving from stonings, crucifixions, witch burnings with faggots, all the way through to her meisterwerk the suicide bomber. But the tour de force of the Twin Towers had left her spent. No place else to soar. Or plummet.
Gill O'Tine's political sump had also apparently dried up. Hanging, drawing and quartering had long had its day in the dust. Heads on poles deftly booted on the other foot by being mirrored in regicide beheadings, but that too had diminished in impact and popularity. Dictators hung on lamp-posts had become debased war crime executions captured on phone cameras. Defenestrations, impalings, relay teams of sniper-assassins, even the extemporised ice pick in the head, had all been defeated at the polls.
Roman Holiday's special portfolio for genocides had lingered on past the Holocaust, through Cambodia and into Rwanda. From high tech to low, railway timetables and gas ovens, to polythene bags placed over the face and machetes, Roman's big eyes had surveyed them all, but scale ultimately steamrolled over him and left him a shadow of his former bureaucratic self. Death had become by numbers rather than by the numbers.
Criminal gain and simple stripped back sociopathy had always been a fecund wellspring. From rape, pillage and slaughter, walking the plank, cut-throats, Thuggees, acid-bath murderers, St Valentine's Day massacres to Colombian neckties, Della N Quincey had surpassed herself in her resourcefulness and enterprise. But like any corrosive talent that yields up all the rewards and riches the world has to offer, Della had become corrupted and in her venality had squandered and pawned her once priceless gifts. She was addicted to several of the illicit drugs she had introduced as a double bubble of culling addicts as well as instigating lethal gang turf wars.
And what precisely was the reason for the current malaise? That they found themselves outstripped and outdone. Every single stroke of artistry they brought to the field of death and decimation, out-trumped by a new player on the scene. A Holly Wood. There were even rumours that Della Quincey's addiction had been initiated by Ms Wood and that to score her drugs she had sold her soul to become a technical adviser to the dread Wood and traded insider knowledge.
Ms Wood however executed all her extinctions and expunctions as counterfeits. With make-up, special effects and pixels. There was not one single method of dispatch dreamed up originally by Thanatos' crew, that Ms Wood hadn't aped and recreated. In loving, voyeuristic detail. Yet the biggest slight, the greatest Indictment, was that each death was part of a narrative. It had some meaning and served to drive the story forward.
If there was one thing Thanatos had lifelong struggled to establish, it was the purposelessness of death.