His lips turned an icy blue. A shocking contrast against the crimson rising around his neck and cheeks. His whole body screamed in silent convulsions. At first unnoticed. Then slowly awareness began to spread among the other guests.
One hand clutched his throat. The other shot out and began flailing around, seeking something firm to grip. His whole body lurched. A wineglass went flying. Clothing and floor would be stained indelibly, from that day on.
Firm hands gripped his shoulders and pushed him forward, bent double. A fist struck against his back. A hammer-blow between the shoulder blades.
Muttering diversified among the diners. Some suggested calling for help. Others uttered frantic prayers. Their whispers merged with desperate wheezes, as the thudding continued.
Flesh on flesh.
Bone on bone.
The Host had risen and made his way calmly across the room. Guests moved aside, and the Host stood directly behind the choking man. He stretched out his arms, wide, and then wrapped them around his friend. He clasped his fist, locking his hands in place under the man’s ribcage, lifting him to his feet.
He pulled in tight. A sharp thrust that brought their bodies so close together. Closer perhaps than they had ever been.
The Host’s heart beat hard against his friend’s back. Every fibre of his being willed his friend to draw breath and live.
A third time.
A convulsion. An expulsion. A deep intake of air. The guests, who had held their breath in a mixture of fear and solidarity, followed suit. Deep relief swept through the room.
The diner collapsed to his knees. Limp, listless, but held still in the arms of the Host. Crimson subsided, retreating down his neck, as normal colour returned to his lips. His whole body throbbed, and his blood-shot eyes settled on the offending item, discarded on the floor. A small grey morsel of lamb.
The voices of the diners tumbled over each other, a cacophony of relief and awe.
He could have…
If He hadn’t…
Not a word passed between the diner and the Host, yet so much was said in the silence. Gratitude, yes. But tinged with something else.
The Host returned to the head of the table. Seats were re-taken; jostled plates re-set. Neither diner nor Host seemed inclined to discuss what had happened. Or what had caused it.
“Now where had we got to?”
The Host picked up a dinner roll from his plate, and smiled wryly.
“Before our interruption.”
The guests chuckled. The diner excused himself from the table. He was alright, he assured them. Just needed a moment. Some fresh air. They should continue without him.
“As I was saying…”
The Host held the bread roll high.
“This is my body…”
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