"Murder your children," the voices tell Mr Lee.
"Smother them in their sleep," they whisper to Mr Lo.
"Poison them," they suggest to Mr Li.
"Set your house on fire, let them burn like insects," they murmur to Mr Lu.
The four men sit before their four-pointed desk, pondering business trends. They peer over their lorgnettes, intoning figures, outlining trends, highlighting KPIs. They do not listen to the voices: devilish things, missives of Lucifer or Eris or Someone Else Much Worse.
For, should they heed these speeches, they know their world would come tumbling down. They love their children like no other four men love their progeny. They need their children, like cooked flesh requires sodium chloride. Children represent the future: there will be no future if their children perish before the mighty work is complete. They will not destroy their work's toddling fruit, never mind the sweet words of eleven hundred of voices.
"Torch them in the oven," they cry to Mr Li.
"Stuff them with herbs, mushrooms, ginseng," they shout to Mr Lo.
"Gut them, pull out their bones, shuck off their skin," they giggle to Mr Lu.
"Tuck in," they instruct Mr Lee.
The four men believe in discipline. Selected for their expertise, their stunning results slips, their record of never committing one error in their cycles on cycles of government service; the mousse in their comb-overs shine with their own striking luminescence, so perfect the souls of these men. True believers indeed: they give of their utmost for the glory of the further-projected good; five-pointed emblems of merit sit beside their computer monitors in their spotless offices.
They would not let one non-doctrine word pop from their lips. Yet the voices continue their endless song.
"Chop off their fingers," they wheedle Mr Lu.
"Poke out their eyes," they beg Mr Li.
"Press your body upon their tiny, writhing, helpless selves," they chortle to Mr Lo.
"Bugger them senseless," they tell Mr Lee.
The torture continues, hour on hour, week on week. The four men sit in their towers of industry, cooled wind whipping over their pores lest they perspire even briefly, wound in silken neckties, golden cufflinks, ironed trousers, woollen oversleeves, with pigskin shoes of corresponding colour. They smile to underlings, greet foreign celebrities with pomp yet obsequious respect, oppose opponents with cogent, cleverly composed responses, pose for photos, looking one hundred percent wholesome round the clock. Nothing pierces their veneers. Nothing deters them. The voices do nothing but force them to suffer.
It is six o'clock. There being no further meetings, Mr Lee goes home. Mr Lo goes home. Mr Lu phones his wife to suggest dinner outside, some chi-chi bistro, you think? Mr Li locks up his desk, logs off his user ID, steps into his Volvo, then speeds off to his dwelling.
His dwelling is wondrous, guests often tell the host. It is old: some colonist's folly in the tropics from the 1930s, but the stone floors, the wooden ceilings, the stone buttresses, look splendid now, restored for posterity. His living room is furnished with polished Indochinese lumber, Ming crockery, French upholstery, Hindu divinities of bronze or pumice. The lighting, of course is Swedish. The books left open on the cushions, top-notch lexicons of worldwide culture, with topics from butterfly morphology to the history of the zoetrope.
Surrounding his dwelling one will find festive blooms worthy of forestry exhibitions: hibiscus, pong-pongs, spider orchids, birds' nest ferns, coconut fronds, golden showers; lotuses touching lilies in the Nipponese pond, to boot.
Within is his domestic helper, Flor. She presses his shirts, scrubs his toilet, douses the Volvo in froth, unrolls his socks. She utilises the technology of the kitchen expertly: blenders, skillets, egg-slicers, skewers, electric stoves, woks sizzling with burning LPG. With these tools, she cooks delicious dinners for forty, lofty receptions for fifty, or simple yet sumptuous brunches for one. But mostly, she cooks for one.
For Mr Li lives with no-one. No wife, no children, no dog, no gerbil, not even koi - for the pond is empty, bereft of even the jellied roe of frogs. No sentient being will thrive in the house's vicnity, except for Flor, who thinks it swell how no beetles or mosquitoes will bug her duty.
Mr Li rolls into his drive, the entry's iron shutters closing behind his bumper. He exits his vehicle, observing with some smugness the riot of colour in his bushes: chlorophyll feeding buds of red, blossoms of purple, juicy globes of gold.
Then, in his most prized flower bed, he sees something. He steps two steps in reverse, in horror, upon viewing the sight: one tiny, murdered child.
Further note: the above extract is composed without the letter "A".