The hallway outside the Broadside Conference Room is hemmed in by lava. Molten waves lap against the bottom of its two glass walls. Inside, a woman sits with HR. Her feet don’t touch the floor.
In recent weeks and, mostly because of the lava, she draws her knees into her chest to avoid the heat and, she has noticed, the position causes pain in her lower back. She has a doctor’s note recommending she work from home.
HR does not, in fact, let her work from home.
During those weeks, the woman has also noticed that the liquid hungers and unrolls when the finance manager mentions her burgundy lipstick, his uncut fingernails filled with potassium half-moons. As the ochre magma taps on the glass of Broadside Conference Room again, she clears her throat. Tries to get HR to focus.
‘The messages he sends me on Slack make me uncomfortable,’ she says. HR has the file, the screenshots, the late night dick pics and gym selfies, the sexy-time playlist with a lot of Drake.
HR cocks their head to the side and, maybe from that angle, it looks like the woman’s feet touch the floor. HR shuffles the sheaf they took the time to print out.
‘I don’t recall seeing you tell him to stop,’ HR flips print-outs left and right and the woman isn’t sure if the black lines are hers at all. ‘Has he messaged anyone else? It helps, you know, if there’s more than…’ HR lets the open number hang.
The woman does as well.
‘It’s not just what he says but,’ the woman rearranges her knees.
She doesn’t know why she has to tell them but, ever since he joined the company, she can’t walk without the soles of her shoes burning off in some simmering pool. She lost her last Rothy’s to the one that appeared by the kitchen Bevi. Most days, she sits as still as possible to keep the skin attached to her feet. Analytics is nearly submerged, marketing has abandoned chairs entirely. It wasn’t always like this and they must have noticed.
Still, she says it anyway. ‘It’s just, ever since he was hired, there’s the floor situation.’
‘The floor?’ HR, confused now. ‘The floor is unrelated.’
‘It wasn’t lava before,” the woman says.
HR blinks. The woman turns toward the glass and sees tangerine spatter the hallway in a monochrome Pollack.
‘Have you tried moving your desk?’ HR asks.
But there’s nowhere for her to go. The lava follows her when she goes to the bathroom, even when she gets into her car after work. She knows, soon, it’ll start showing up on the T, in her driveway. HR, she realizes, can’t contain it. And worse, they won’t.
So the woman whose feet don’t touch the floor rises, a hummingbird in her chest, and walks out of Broadside Conference room. Gently, ever so gently, she dips her toe into the burning pool.
Everyone watches her. She doesn’t say a word. She wonders if it will burn the feeling out of her. It doesn’t (burn the feeling, that is). That unfortunate bubbling in her gut stays and she leaves her shoes on the side of the terracotta pool and steps deeper into the liquid until she’s submerged.
Through the glass, they watch and do nothing until she is finally gone.