leftofseven.com was intended to promote a physically published novel, but lacking an ending and a good deal of the middle, the novel was abandoned. For years the site was desolate, until I struck upon the idea of using it as a sort of half-ass therapy.
leftofseven.com further evolved into a loosely defined art-project. It's a work in progress, so parts you many find lacking in editorial merit. But it's free, and that beats a poke in the eye.
You must be here by accident.
Though you find these words on a website, they still are mine and I ask you not steal them. We're all friends here right?
I didn't write this, but it's twistedly applicable here:
No names have been changed to protect the innocent,
since God Almighty protects the innocent as a matter of Heavenly routine.1
I didn't write this either:
If you read this, you will judge 2
This is the TRUTH:
None of this is for you
He was out of school, she was still in, working on her masters. Susan knew that if she took time off, she wouldn't go back for her graduate degree. He knew the same thing, but preferred to lie to himself and say that he would. But, then again, he didn't really need a graduate degree as he could shuffle papers, punch keys on a computer, and do whatever it was that he did just as effectively with one less frame on the wall.
While she was in school, he took on the lionshare of the domestic responsibilities. It seemed only fair, after all, she was going to school full time AND working. He was only working and not much overtime to boot which was a good thing. It's not that he hated his job. It was fine. His coworkers were tolerable, some even likable. The pay was good, great benefits, but somehow he had a different vision of where his life should have been by that point, but only a few more years. Get Susan through school, get hitched, go on some kick-ass honeymoon, then move on to someplace worthwhile.
That was the plan at least. Financially and logically it made the most sense. Phil had always been good at making sense. Order and justification was his specialty.
At times he thought he should be some banker or accountant - something where everything was rational, where there were set rules that always had to be followed. But he knew he couldn't do it. The creative side of him (or what hadn't been beaten out of him by that point), would be so utterly bored and underused he may just shoot himself. So for another year or two Phil would stay with his current job.
He couldn't shop for groceries like a normal twenty-something, out of college, independently sustained person. Very few name brands, no dinner kits, no frozen meals. If there was a sale on canned tomatoes, then he would buy two dozen. Out of rice? Better pick up a five pound bag. Canned beans cost too much, but you can buy a bag of beans and soak them overnight for much less. A typical trip to the store netted for Phil a sizable cartload of food for a quarter of the cost those around him paid. Of course he walked out with twenty four cans of tomatoes, ten pounds of dry rice and beans, three pounds of frozen chicken breast, two pounds of sausage, two loaves of bread, and seven pounds of frozen vegetables.
Not bad if one were planning a cross-country wagon trip to 1849. Not good if you wanted to eat something NOW. Susan hated the food he brought home, there was never anything to just eat - you had to plan meals days in advance, but he also did the majority of the cooking, so it was up to him to craft dinners out of seven different ingredients. And much to Susan's chagrin, he was able to pull it off. She didn't know it, but it was a sort of game to Phil. How many different quality dinners could he produce for as little money as possible? To date, twenty-two quality dinners, and four failed casseroles / goulashes was the answer.
During his last trip to the store Phil had spotted a bag of garbanzo beans. What do you do with garbanzo beans? He didn't have an answer, so he didn't buy them. They were 9 cents more per one pound bag than navy beans. And you can make a lot with navy beans. Still, those garbanzo beans called to him. Screw it, it's time to live a little. [But why do I obsess over nine fucking cents?] We've got plenty of money. [Because you work at that bullshit job that you hate.] What am I supposed to do? Quit my job? Then what? I've never shown the motivation to complete any of my art projects. Not lately anyway. [Wouldn't be any good anyway - It could make you rich]. I can't take this anymore.
Turn the engine off. Sigh.
That's what you get for thinking about it again. Just stick to the damn plan. [Why do I have to be so rational?] Shut up, go shopping. [Don't forget your list] Fucking asshole.
He got out of the car, looked four times to make sure the doors were locked, twice to make sure the lights were off (even though he had not turned them on that day - and he KNEW it). Finally convinced, he was able to walk away.
At one point in his life he had tried to make his paranoid checks of the locks and lights (whom his fiance, much to his dissatisfaction, declared not to be a form of obsessive compulsive disorder) invisible to those around him. He used to go back and open a door, acting as if he forgot something, or drop his keys so he could catch a quick look at the locks. For a while he tried to stop checking altogether, telling himself that everything was fine. The locks were locked, and even if the lights were on, the battery wouldn't go dead for eight or ten hours.
But what if? But what if is the devil, especially to someone who doesn't have obsessive compulsive disorder but would desperately love a label he could blame his problems on. But what it.
Eventually, though, he gave up trying to hide his not-quite dysfunction. Sometimes he would stare at the same locked lock for ten or fifteen seconds. Screw what everyone else thought. Phil didn't care anymore. He didn't beat his girlfriend (fiance), didn't do drugs, or steal from his employer (just a few pens, but those don't count) [keep telling yourself that]. If his one vise was checking his locks needlessly, then so be it.
[Better look back to see where you parked. Nothing worse than wondering the lot with a cart full of groceries]. A look back. A signpost, with a number.
Ok, I'm left of Seven.
Everyone loves the angel choir, and what normal person wouldn't? Every year just after Thanksgiving they come out - four little music playing angels, spinning whenever the Christmas tree lights are on. They smile and spin and play. A harp, a flute, a violin, a horn. They smile and spin and play.
Look a little deeper though, peel back a few layers of reality to the place where the trees don't always sit and do as they're told, where the plastic bags blowing across the parking lot aren't quite plastic. Peel back the layers until you reach the place that is guarded in darkness and ruled by the witch - in that place the angels are something else entirely.
Devils, you might say.
Little grinning bastards - a whole horde of them waiting for John and Carol or Phil and Susan or whatever made up names they're going by at the moment. Where the witch is the only god the land knows those snarling devils that everyone thinks are cute little angels are waiting to eat our hero and heroin.
A loud rushing noise filling the air, like a oncoming train.
Reaching its peak, seemingly coming from everywhere.
Where am I? [bed] Morning. I have to work today. [great] What day is this? The drowsiness of sleep eased and he realized that indeed he must get up. [shit] What time is it?
7:48. I'm late.
Up and out of bed. To the bathroom. Plodding there and trying not to look up; anything to keep the light at bay. Have to give the brain some time to wake up, some time to shake off that feeling.
Now with no sense of urgency he pulls out the razor and shaving cream from the standard issue two bedroom apartment bathroom built in wall mounted cabinet and mirror. For that matter, George, and his fiance Carole have the standard issue two bedroom apartment. White walls with neutral carpet. Small kitchen with eat in breakfast nook that opens right into the living room. They have sliding glass doors that lead to the small balcony where the happy couple keeps two plastic chairs and a grill small enough to hold two hamburgers or three hot dogs.
George and Carole's first apartment had colorful walls, they painted the walls themselves. All their friends liked them and told them so. Two gallons of oops paint, one blue one yellow. They combined a third gallon of each to make green. How clever they were then. All their friends told them so. "Sit on our futon," George and Carole would say, "it becomes a bed you know."
Then it came time to move out of the apartment and the young couple risked losing some or all of their 300 dollar security deposit, which may not sound like much now, but back then it was quite the tidy sum. So George and Carole bought two gallons of white paint to cover the blue, yellow, and green walls. Then they bought two more gallons of white paint to cover the pale blue, yellow, and green walls.
It had been white walls for them ever since. White walls suck. George stares into the mirror, angry at himself. He had made a promise to be at work on time "from now on!" His declaration had even come with a fist in the air. Wrong, try again. No one knows that I made some vow to be on time to work. I'll just be showing up 8-12 minutes late like every other day.
Turning the focus back to the razor George works on scraping off 3 days of stubble on his face. Monday, it must be Monday. George has considered growing a beard, but his father had a beard, and so George associates beards with his father. Thus, George has not grown a beard. 'Maybe when he's dead,' George thinks.
His brain was still groggy enough that he didn't have to think of how boring and pointless his job was. There would be plenty of time later in the day for those thoughts to sink in. To wonder if his life really was being wasted and what he should do about it. Then count down the hours until 5:30, go home and find a few hours of escape until it was time to go back.
Sleep, work, repeat.
No, at that point in the morning it was all he could do to not lay down in the bathtub and sleep a few more minutes. [i could call in sick]
Shower, get dressed, go to kitchen, grab lunch, find something for breakfast, go to car, drive to work.
Park car in lot. Walk three and a half blocks to office. Try not to sweat. Wait uncomfortably in elevator lobby with people you know but don't speak to. Elevator opens: walk into elevator.
I'm sweating. Why do I work up a sweat just walking? I'm not fat or too out of shape. Floor three. Three more to go. Stupid slow elevator, we should be there by now. [don't make eye contact]. Floor five. One more stop. I wonder if people can hear my thoughts? They can, so just shut up! As the elevator opens George half smiles thinking about his crazy mind. Well, he's not really crazy, just a little different. Don't read different here as a word used as a kindly attempt to explain another's mental or physical handicap. He just thinks a little differently than others. When you spend most of your childhood indoors alone, your imagination has to compensate.
Unless absolutely forced to, he thinks nothing of work over the weekends, and the rush of the morning leaves him no time to consider anything he might need to do that morning. Walking into the office he remembers that he doesn't really care for the place. Or the people. As long as we're making a list of things he doesn't like, we should toss in the work.
It wasn't that he hated it or anything, his office and work just wan't . . . what's the word? Exciting, interesting, important? Well, some of those, but ultimately the twenty something year old version of George just wasn't doing what he thought he would when he was younger. For the first four months that he was there, he thought his complacency because he was just young and not getting the exciting responsibilities of those above him. George gave it careful evaluation over a week, but realized that if he was there for fifteen years, he would certainly have more responsibility, but would most likely take his own life due to crushing depression.
But the job was only temporary, he kept telling himself. Suck up all the great benefits and money, try to get some experience, then move on to someplace that he liked. George would stay focused on the house Carole and he would have and all the wonderful times they would share.
That's the future, this is now. Now George is late to work. Now George is walking through the open office to his desk. His desk is not a cubicle because there are no walls. Walls constrict the open flow of ideas. Cubicles are for boring uncreative firms. George works at the epicenter of creativity. The decisions made in that office reverberate not only through the design world, but throughout the universe. It is thought, by the heads of George's firm, that they will one day send creative shockwaves that will echo through time - by choosing a certain combination of color and material they will be able to alter the course of human existence.
George isn't a cynic, but I am.
However, George finds himself often annoyed by those around him. There are the pages of the intercom that are always too loud. There's the guy with a wife and two kids three rows over that has a forest of toys on his desk. There's the guy that always coughs too loud. The heavy set [fat] guy that shakes the floor when he walks by. There's the woman who talks loud enough for the entire floor to hear her.
I'm sure you have a job you hate too, right? No need to bore you with the rest, just know that George made it through that day as he had all others. George's life, to that point at least, was the same as yours. Nothing out of the ordinary, nothing too exciting.
Working late is for people with a share of the profits - you would do well to remember that bit of wisdom. George left four minutes early and followed this routine: Walk to the car. Drive home. Park car. Breathe the fresh air of freedom.
"How was your day?" George asks Carole.
"Fine, how was yours?" Carole replies.
A few minutes later they would repeat the same questions and give and receive actual answers. Once they started recalling a few points each realized that there was an interesting moment or two, a few continuing story lines that each other knew something about, and that one shining golden moment of the day that they could only tell to the other. Because no one else could possibly understand the humor and beauty of the moment.
There was lots of other chatter too, but nothing too consequential. There was no talk of nightmares, witches, or other worlds. George and Carole made no plans to leave the house in search of a tree who could burn his own kind. The happy couple had no need of mystical maps or the power of the White. That evening was normal as could be
As evenings so often do, that one ended, and it was time to go to sleep.
"I've had bad dreams
so bad I threw my pillow away"3
With the lights turned out Wayne found himself looking at the mirror, on the wall. He had never been a big fan of the dark, but was never specifically afraid of it either. Still, he found himself on that particular night, which was vaguely indistinguisable from hundreds of others, staring at the mirror waiting for a form to appear. [Stop freaking yourself out].
Wayne closed his eyes.
Suddenly he wakes up - could have been ten seconds or an hour later, he had no clue - and looked again at the mirror. A shape! [dear God Jesus in Heaven, something is alive in there!]
Fear is released into his blood.
In a moment of near panic he fumbles for the light and his clamy fingers find the switch. He turns it on only to see the shape was the chair on the other side of the room. Relief at the speed of electricity. He turns over and confirms it. Yes, just the chair. "Fuck." He says outloud. Fortunately (for who?) he was too tired to dwell on the issue.
Wayne turned out the light, closed his eyes and was again fast asleep.
The world was darker and Wayne was back in high school. In dreams as well as reality, the school is a series of hallways and classrooms. The place is like a compass, perhaps a metaphor, with the long axis running north to south. The two major stairs lie on opposite ends of the axis. Do you choose north and whatever it is the north provides, or south and just whatever it is down there?
Perhaps it's a case of up and down. Heaven and hell? Aren't you supposed to interpret dreams? Use them to figure out that you secretly hate your parents? Hmm. Wayne doesn't need dreams for that. Neither do I.
But you don't try to grow metaphor and symbolism while you're in the dream, which Wayne is now. Not a dream, a nightmare. Wayne knows that pretty quickly and doesn't care about much except getting out. Alive.
High school was always about not to bumping into someone, but there are much less people in the dream than there were in reality. This is troubling for the dreaming Wayne. Why am I here?
Up the first flight of stairs and on to the second floor. In the physical, the shcool had only two floors, but in the dream there was a third.
Here's a little known secret - There was a third in real life, just not a floor that was easy to get to. One had to know the hidden paths that lie in the shadows. More on that later - let's keep track of Wayne.
The power that controls this nightmare wants Wayne to understand he is not in the safe arms of reality anymore. The hall blends into classrooms which fall into an open web of girders and beams that were somehow also stairs (to the third floor). All of this may seem confusing now, reading it, but Wayne knew what it meant. Something akin to "you're not in Kansas anymore"
Wayne talks to his ex-girlfriend. It was something about how they have gotten back together, or that the time they had spent was great, or that he should call her and they could have lunch sometime. She could tell him about her children.
It was hard to determine exactly what was going on. The nightmare was getting darker, but it was not ending. It was only time to move on.
Though he had been moving towards the north end of the building, Wayne found himself again in the south stair. It may have been night, or very early morning, or another time that would not require anyone to be on the premesis. He was alone and it was too dark, but he wasn't scared. He had just spoken to his old girlfriend. That had been nice.
That thought faded as he moved up the stairs. Something wasn't quite right. He shouldn't be so high. There should be railings on the stair. Should there be doors to another floor? He walked through them. It was much too dark to think about going back down the stairs. How could he even see?
He recgonized it as the second floor hallway from highschool and at the same time a particular seventh floor hall from college. Somehow both were the third floor of the specific building he, at that moment, found himself in.
It was still dark.
The walls and floors and furniture told him that it had been dark for a long time and would be so for some time to come. They had almost given up hope of seeing the sun again. The walls, floor, and furniture, as do people, had come to expect the rising of the sun as a matter of course. When the natural occurence stopped they first had become quizical, then worried, then hopeless. That is the nature of nightmares. There is no sun. There is no hope (help).
The memory of any joy he had of the place had left him, replaced by a similar loss of hope that the ceiling and floor and furniture had come to regard as common. He couldn't turn around. It wasn't only a matter of the darkness and uncertainty of the stairs, but also that the doors he had come through weren't there. Or had been forgotten about (possibly just locked)?
He walked into the first door on the left. Chemistry class? It hadn't been used in years, but still he could almost see his friends talking and laughing, but they were gone before he could even be sure. No, they were never there to begin with. He was scared, Wayne was at a place he had never been before. He had no idea how he had gotten himself into so much trouble so quickly.
He had been wrong to come into the room. He couldn't go any further into it. It felt like too much of a trap. Wayne turned and walked back into the hall. He remembered there being a phone in that hall, in college. There was no phone there now.
He was going to die in that hallway.
It was coming for him. Loud and deep, as base as the earth. It was everywhere and almost on top of him. He couldn't escape. He had come too high, too far into the building. He had left his friends behind. How had he done that? At the same time he was asking himself the question he knew that it did not matter. He was there, whatever the reason. And he couldn't get out. He began to yell because it was the only thing he had left.
He woke up screaming in his bed. It was still dark outside. Marie was trying to sleepily console him.
"Shhh. Go back to sleep." She half patted his leg her glimmer of awareness left and again she slept.
Wayne rolled over to hold her, hoping that she would protect him (if only he knew then). He lay in the darkness for a few minutes until the immediate fear of the moment began to fade. He wasn't dead.
But he was still in the dark. He slipped out of bed and went to the bathroom. Though he was sure he was awake and once again part of reality he didn't look up until he turned on the bathroom lights. Six hours ago he hadn't been afraid of the dark. He was now.
He looked at the mirror, then touched it to make sure it was real. His fingers stopped when they hit the glass, it did not move. He took a few deep breaths then wet his face. His eyes hurt. He was tired.
He turned out the light and went back to the bedroom. Dreamless sleep.
"That's pretty screwed up. I had a dream last night too." Marie paused for a moment, letting the memory return to the forefront. "It's like I was back in high school. There were lots of guys around. People that I used to know before. But I'm married? But they're all trying to date me. I was in some big auditorium. But that gave way to a field.
"It's some sort of wedding reception. Somebody I know, but don't know. You know how that works in dreams." Wayne nodded. "So there, everyone is asking me to dance. Like I'm the center of things. But I don't want to dance with everyone. Because I can't. If I dance with them, I have to help them. They want me to dance with them because they know I can help them. So I make it out of there. And I end up in my elementary school auditorium."
Marie finds herself in the auditorium of her elementary school, standing on the stage, looking out at no one. Turning to look into the wings, behind the curtain, a place she had been only once or twice in real life.
Then she was in the audience, sitting on the left. The talent show was winding down. Already the crowd was breaking up. Or is it just a dress rehersal? It's hard to tell. Things are cloudy (or smoky?), Marie had not gone on yet, and probably would not get the chance. But she doesn't have an act. What would she do? She probably doesn't need any act, she could just stand on stage. (aren't dreams tricky?)
She found herself turing two quarters in her pocket over and over. Hadn't there been three? Still on the floor, but now on the right, she found herself looking at a door. Three steps up to the stage level. There were some musical instruements back there. Or were - when the place was real, and not a dream. She took the three steps up and saw her friends. She had a conversation that occured so quickly she didn't know what was said.
And then, it was there. Another door. In the back, off to the right of the room. Halfway open. She had never been in there when she was in school, now could be the only chance she would have. A sudden jolt of lonely fear struck her halfway to the door, but that was silly. She had seen her friends go up.
The stairway was once again fully lit and when she turned the corner to climb the second eight steps she could see Jenny and Chris. Straightening their capes and rehearsing lines.
'I should have taken a part. Then I could be part of this.'
As she looked around the new room her friends were gone and the darkness her mind feared and knew would exist returned to the room. Dusty chairs in the middle and in corner was a desk. An old wodden one that only teachers at old elementary schools had. There was a small desk lamp in the corner and a cracked leater writing tablet in the middle. There were a few pieces of paper and one lonely half used pencil. The eraser had petrified with age. It was uselss
The pencil had writing left in it, but whatever was put down would be for keeps. That eraser couldn't take anything back. The person using it better make certain they knew what they were doing.
'What sort of work went on here?' The question was/is/will be terrifying. Maybe it was better not to know. Blackness, fear. Oh shit.
Then light again. Her friends. They were looking out the window - without any glass - down to the stage below. The show was winding down. (It's probably getting dark outside too.)
Marie found herself moving up the stair. Up the stair? A third floor? (were there even two floors?) But there was no time to think, only follow along with the dream, she couldn't control her movement. The stair sung to her like a warm glove to a cold hand.
No firends would be at the top of the stairs. They were below getting ready to go on stage. And besides, the play was alreay over. 'Whey am I here?' The exit, the ground, outside, safety, life - it's far away. 'I won't be able to make it in time.'
The top is a little room. One metal folding chair and a trash can. There's a small pile of old cigarette butts along with an old pop can.
It's getting much darker. Night time. She turns around. A CATWALK. 'That was never there.' No third story, no second story either. 'This isn't right.' The magazine and the trashcan, that's right, but no the floor. Not the catwalk. 'Not this place, or this play.' No, a talent show. 'That I think I was in.' And one quarter, not two. Certainly not three. 'Why would I need three?' Marie reaches into her pocket. It's empty.
Not a good sign. Marie looks up and out along the catwalk, a wood base with a wood rail slung with ropes and knots and sandbags 'Sandbags?' The light was fading. It's light outside, but up on the third floor there are but two windows, and they're covered. The catwalk is a haze, and seven feet to he right is another door. 'No.'
Sheer terror grips her. Fright, pain, panic. All in one. She whirls around. Nowhere to go. The stairs are there, but dark. Everyone is gone now. She's alone. How did she let this happen? No time. Her breathing is rapid. Much faster and she'll collapse. All this in the span of a second. No more. She completes her turn (who else has taken a turn?) and is looking at the door.
From her right eye, in the corener, towards teh floor she sees the stairs she came up, the stairs she came up hours ago. The same stairs she climed less than a minute ago. The door. Blackenss. A roar or indescription surrounds her. She can only act on base instinct. She answers with a silent defeaning scream that fills her.
- A Scream -
More darkness, a different kind. The air is different. 'Did I scream out loud?' I'm safe. Wayne next to her. She reaches for the light, knowing what horror will be there, and turns the switch. Nothing. No horror. Only that same bedroom that was always there.
2:15 in the morning. Her heart is humming, she's damp with sweat, and the feeling of dread still lingers. She turns the light off and bear-hugs Wayne. 'Please protect me.'
Tap tap tap. A furious pounding of the keys. Like a speed-metal drummer. Like a jackhammer. Like a guy who still hasn't figured out how to put it all behind him.
Tap tap tap. A hundred words a minute, a thousand.
Then nothing. Contemplation. Is that the right word? Will people get it? What if they do?
A slew of backspaces. Delete delete delete.
Dreams aren't real. So, why worry about them? No sense being concerned about that bogeyman when you wake up. Sure, you might have a lingering feeling of dread upon waking, but once you wipe the sleep from your eyes, it's fine.
On occasion, however, the bogeyman can still get you when you wake up. Frank and Cecilia were about to find that out.
My friend grew up in Ohio. Now he lives in China. He literally could not have moved further from home.
I live less than ten miles from where I grew up (lord help me). But, and ever has the addict survived with that word, but there is a river and a state line seperating me from my youth.
That, my friends, has made all the difference.
1 Taken from Sirens of Titan - Kurt Vonegut
2 Taken from Jounals - Kurt Kobain
3 Taken from Angel - Belly
Last updated: december 3, 2013, the next update will be when I feel like it
you can write me if you wish, but you'll have to be a little clever to do so
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