Word Count 500
By Sam McManus
The artificial lung hung on the wall as it had for 265 days, or as long as Allison had been at her job, give or take a day. It wasn’t there to commemorate her promotion, however. It was there for its own reason that the brass hadn’t deemed mandatory for their subordinates to know. Not that it stopped the kind of frenetic gossip that took place around the water cooler from occurring. In fact, since Product Corp had been founded, there were no fewer than eight such water cooler environments per floor to encourage just that kind of frenetic gossip.
Allison didn’t really give the artificial lung the time of day. She was far too busy making life or death decisions, figuring out which swatch matched the wall color in the Fergusons’ summer home down at the Cape, for instance. It was “perpetual taupe,” by the way. She was an interior decorator, not to be confused with an interior designer, because it was her job to beautify the space, not to design its overall concept. Conceptualization was a job for Ralph or Jenna down the hall, and neither of them was as nimble with the decorative touch as she.
That was the issue, at its base, at least according to Allison. When she had arrived at Baker Finch’s “Delightful Décor,” she was the newbie. Ironically, the only office available was one she had been given specific instructions not to ever change. Which is why she still had the antique doorknobs that were not her style, the plastic Ficus plant that was one generation removed from her sense of feng shui, and the artificial lung that had haunted her since that first day.
She had tried to hang things off it, to pretty it up, give it a sense of gaiety that it sorely lacked, but those experiments had completely failed. It wasn’t quite the lung itself, but the movement of the artificial organ that generally caused issues. That’s right. It was constantly expanding and contracting, though it didn’t appear to be connected to anything outside of itself. This was at once both eerie and reassuring for those who came to see Allison in her domain. For Allison herself, it meant absolutely nothing.
Once she took it off the wall, just to clean it up. She had planned on returning it, but the second the lung left its ceremonial place she began feeling a bit off. Her breathing became labored. The central rhythms of her existence began failing. She could feel the lungs in her body expanding and contracting faster. The world became black and white in place of the sparkling color it usually was for her, and she slumped to the carpeted floor, the lung shaking in her arms. Luckily for her, Art from Spatial Design passed her open door the moment before it would have been too late.
Once the artificial lung was back in its place on her wall, Allison returned to normal. She never moved it again.