It sat in the corner, if you could call slouching in an armchair with putrid juices running down a saturated sleeve to pool on the ground in a slowly oozing puddle sitting. With eyes glazed over with unseeing death and his slack jaw venting fetid fumes, it groaned, craning its head on a neck that could barely support the weight, and slowly surveyed the room as if pondering the meaning in abstract art.
I watched this thing, this living corpse, from my seat in the audience with a growing sense of horror; not because of the blasphemous and flagrant slap in the face in God’s plan, or for the corpse’s grotesque appearance, or for its oppressing stench, but for the fact that, despite the groaning and shifting in that creaking leather chair, no one else seemed to notice it.
“The focus on this year will be on growth,” my Ops Manager droned on. “We need to be very focused on driving new business and expanding into new markets. This will not only expand our footprint but take market share away from our competitors.”
“Uhhhhhh…,” the corpse added as it slid lower in the chair, spittle and pus dribbling down its chin and onto a stained yellow collared shirt that might have once been white.
I looked around at my colleagues who were either half-listening to the year’s forecast or were not-so-discretely browsing the internet on smartphones. Could they really not see the abomination groaning in the corner? Had they simply grown accustomed to it? Or, I thought with growing dismay, maybe it was just me.
It was all in my head, I told myself, just my overactive imagination. Lack of sleep perhaps, or some undercooked pork from last night. Yes, that must be it. It was all in my head.
But, by God, it was so lifelike. The way it swiveled its sagging head on that wrinkled neck, the creaking and popping of decayed cartilage in its fingers, and, Jesus! the smell! Is this was hallucinations were like? If so, this was a far cry from the insanity I expected to keep into my life. I have my share of issues to be sure, but I never thought my demons would take material form in the middle of a Monday morning meeting.
Resolved to ignore the unreality shifting in the chair as if it had forgotten how to stand, I looked up at the Ops Manager.
“Q1 has been slow as it traditionally is, but we have hopes for a big sale in Q2. There has been significant movement in -“
Come on! How is no one else seeing this? There’s a corpse in the damn corner of the meeting room. It must be some kind of joke!
Yes, that was it. It was a joke. Some kind of stunt related to the message being delivered. Our business was struggling to survive, a corpse that needed to be brought back to life, a DAMN ABOMINATION!
“We need everyone at peak performance this quarter. The name of the game is delivery.”
Perhaps it was just an office drone like me. A guy hunched over at his desk day in and day out, chugging away at a computer, desperate for something bigger, something meaningful, a life of significance. Why squander the greatest gift in the universe, the gift of life itself, on quarterly reports and rolling forecasts when the end result of all my hard work will only rot away like so much dead flesh sitting in an armchair?
“What’s the point?!”
Silence. All eyes on me.
“Uhhhhh….” the Ops Manager began. “You okay, Nick?”
I blinked. The corpse in the corner was gone, though the stench lingered on like a stale fart.
I collapsed in my chair, and hung my head. The discussion went on without me, a droning murmur above the blood rushing in my head. My neighbor placed a concerned hand on my back and rubbed empathically.
“You saw him?” he asked.
I looked up and gave a timid nod.
“We all did,” he continued. “But don’t let it get to you.”
“What was it?” I asked.
“Your future, but there’s no avoiding it. Just live the best life you can. You going to the ROFL meeting?”
I took a deep breath, and the air seemed to be cleaner.
“Yeah,” I said with a sigh, my will to live returning. I glanced over to the empty armchair. Though the corpse was gone, there was a faint shadow lingering in the corner, like a cloud obscuring the sun. “I can make it.”