A second ticks by on the ornate grandfather clock. The CEO of the company pauses, his pen held a centimeter above the paper. On his shoulders alone rests the final decision, whether to close a number of his stores, sending hundreds into unemployment, and, more often than not, poverty. Behind his unbelievably aged eyes (once unbelievably charismatic, but now stripped of their charm) flickers a slight moral concern. Electric impulses run on neurons long forgotten, finding his conscience, retreated to the darkest corners of his mind. Fed only by relatively insignificant charity (for what is a million dollars to charity when you have power over billions), it has retreated to a dark corner, but like a wounded soldier in a hospital, reading letters from his friends on the front lines, he is aware of the battle. However, the conscience, mighty though it once was, no longer holds the strength to resist outside pressures.
A slight concern for those affected sweeps through his mind, but is pushed aside by the stronger forces that now control his thoughts. The company has trusted him with this mission. The company has given him everything he has, lifting him from a lowly store manager to a desk jockey at corporate HQ, to a low level executive, and finally to this, the ultimate seat of power. The company has been kind to him, and the company does not require much. All the company wants is what any person, and biological creature wants, to perpetuate itself. The company gives him uncountable millions, and all the poor company asks in return is his insignificant aid in keeping itself alive.
And yet a dim flicker passes again through his mind, the memory of his mother, coming home sobbing, after being handed a pink slip. Perhaps she had worked at another company, but what difference does that make? After all, companies are all the same. But there might be other mothers, who would come home sobbing to their children because of his decision.
Sensing an ally, conscience joins with memory, and begin to push back the warped, twisted sense of obligation. But the forces of the company, planted in his mind long ago, have spread wide and grown powerfull.
Fear joins the battle, and, helping obligation, is able to resist the advance of memory and conscience. The conscious mind is flooded with dread of the shareholders, of angry calls in the middle of the night, of the discontent that comes with falling stock prices. His so called friends will ask why he does not lay off these inconsequential peasants, and laugh at his explanations. Fear and Obligation, locked in a grim battle with Conscience and memory, not yielding any ground but not able to win.
And now Megalomania enters the battle and all hope is lost. He envisions himself as the hand of the company. He is the mightiest of the companies servants, with the power to grant great joy or sorrow at his will. And now he will serve as the angel of death, ending the hopes and dreams of many employees. He will, and has been, granted great rewards for his service of the company. All his moral qualms are settled. His actions are justified. He pursues only the obeyment of the companies wishes.
The second hand of the clock moves again, sending a resonant tick through the air, interrupting his internal struggle.
His hand comes down, scribbling a wholly unremarkable signature in faint blue ink.
The company giveth and the company taketh away. Blessed be the name of the company.