(Set in the near future, when the earth’s atmosphere no longer holds a breathable amount of oxygen, the following imitates a possibility in a private company’s office)
Keyboards clutter. Landlines rumble. The ceiling fan squeals for an early retirement. Papers slide over the wooden table and that is when a man clusters all his courage to plunge from that lavish blue chair. His eyes target a dull white cubicle at the end of the hall where sits a man, known as boss, who finds all his glory exercised when he strips an employee of his/her pride.
His every step slow and inconspicuous, to him, as heavy as his demand. His heart throbs as if a festival’s drum. He is the first one to make such a demand in two years. Sweat trickles through his head, blocking his view. He removes some of it by his left thumb. “If you are not going to tell, nobody is going to come and hand it over to you,” He assures himself. He pats his chest slowly. “All is well,” He mutters as if some old trick from an unrealistic movie could come and save the day for him. A suppressed laugh entertains his ears and he turns around to see if anybody is laughing at him. He sees no one. A private joke perhaps, vanished as soon as it was cracked, flickered only for a microsecond.
Hiding himself, he gently peers inside the cubicle. The man inside is a villain. Death dances on his face. His eyes tearing into his laptop. His face as frigid as an iceberg. He hums an old Hindi song, legs patting the floor at its imaginary beats. The employee knocks on the inside wall of the cubicle. The boss doesn’t look up. He knocks again. “I am not deaf, Rakesh,” The boss says, still looking down.
Until now, nobody has noticed where Rakesh went. One or two people may have seen him, but they were too busy to notice it as a significant phenomenon. Until the moment, an agitated roar eradicated all of their concentration. It echoed through the walls. From the glass windows to the notice boards, transcending to the far ends of the hall. “ONE MORE BREATH!” It said. Men and women shift from their seats. Few female employees, not being stoic enough, cups their both hands on their faces. If they closed their eyes, tears would fall. Few happy employees even laugh at the ludicrous attempt of this idiot person.
Rakesh walks out of the boss’s cubicle, his face a destitution of color. Boss’s words echo in his head. “Twenty years!” He had said. “Twenty years I have been in this place and never asked for another breath, even saved few. Not only you have finished your five hundred breathes, you are asking for more? You have some nerve! Get out of my face before I fire you.”
As soon as he walks out, suppressed whispers sublime from behind the desks. It fills the air, propagates through it like a longitudinal wave, and rams on his face through a friend. He does not reply. He pulls a chair and plummet onto the cushion like a fallen warrior. What could lead to such travesty? What could possibly be the reason? Has he not been careful enough? How could he spend all of his breaths before the end of the day?
He introspects. He first blames it on his friends who kept him awake and talking for an hour last night. He blames it on his girlfriend who desired an ice-cream five kilometers away from the ice-cream parlor. He blames it on himself who wasted another fifteen minutes on his favorite TV show before going to bed. He blames it on the alarm clock. Wait! You cannot blame the alarm clock. It worked on time! It’s the snooze! Five minutes multiplied by three, and he woke fifteen minutes past his usual time. He tried desperately to cover, even skipped a few morning rituals. Skipped the breakfast, but couldn’t make up for those fifteen minutes. He even had to climb the stairs fast. Wait! The stairs! Being late is no excuse! He shouldn’t have leaped on stairs like rusted Iron-man. It compelled him to take a few heavy breaths, which in time, led to a shortage of them.
A smile renders on his face. He has found the root cause of his problem. He makes a flow diagram, puts all activities he performed last night on a not-to-do list and restrains himself from taking a deep breath.
He sits back and relax. Now all he needs to do is to figure out how to collect those extra breaths to stay alive and make it through the day.
(Above is purely a work of fiction. It does not, in any way, models a realistic atmosphere)