Liu Wei looked at the graph again. The annual sales lines were writhing toward the bottom of the page. Year after year they were ferociously sinking in what will sooner or later result in his discharge.

"I didn’t deserve this." Mr. Wei stiffly stood and walked towards the panoramic window, engulfing his office.

The milky smog outside the tower reluctantly swept away from the windows only to thicken itself even more when the wind stopped blowing. The sun was nowhere to be seen - just like the cause of the plunging sales.

“Sir, the board meeting starts in twenty minutes.” The mechanical voice rang out through the office. “In five minutes take the red-lit path. Don’t forget your breathing mask. Have a healthy day.”

Liu Wei opened the top drawer and took his portable mask. It was a fine product with five different filters and customized design. Usually, such breathing mask would have cost him a fortune. However, it was a company policy to provide free masks to all its top managers and their families. One more reason why Wei couldn’t afford losing his job.

Outside the building, Liu followed the red glowing pathway that connected his tower with the headquarters’ building. The “glowing pathway” project was initiated seven years ago, when the smog in the city obstructed the normal traffic. This was the year when his daughter was diagnosed with bronchogenic carcinomas – lung cancer. Since then, nothing was right. Not even the sales reports.


“Good health, Mr. Wei” The short, hunched lady of the directors’ board spoke first. “As you probably know, our production costs are constantly increasing due to the rising oil price. It is most unfortunate, that our sales have been decreasing for the past years. Therefore, your role as the head of the optimization department has been questioned.”

Liu Wei was staring at the edges of his black patent shoes.

“Due to your reputation, we’ve been extremely patient regarding all figures we’ve received from your department. However, we can no longer tolerate further losses.” The elderly lady carefully adjusted her glasses before announcing the verdict. “Therefore, the board of directors insists upon seeing a proactive initiative before the end of this week.”

Liu Wei bowed as low as he could.


In the hospital room, it was always warm, but never quiet. The life-supporting devices and the constant rustling of the air filters were always singing their song of despair. The small girl laying on the soft medical bed was long lost in cables and transparent tubes. Liu Wei was hoping that she was at least having pleasant dreams. The only thing he could do, was make sure that the mechanical beeping will never cease and that required a lot of money. In fact, her shallow breathes devoured his entire salary.

“We must cut the production costs.” Liu said to himself “I will have to cancel the order of new air filters for the factories. Besides, the old ones have been working just fine.”