Posted in Seven

Chapter 4

Two days later is Lotto’s favorite day of the week. Monday through Friday she is stuck doing homework and following rules set upon by her parents. Saturday she gets to do “family time”. But Sunday is her day of the week, the day where she gets to leave the house and do what she wants. It has been this way for almost ten years, ever since she began having her visions.

Lotto’s visions started in second grade. She would see spots and then blackout. Lotto would see people from all different backgrounds. They would appear one by one, as if they were presenting themselves to her. Then they would start to show signs of being in pain. This would terrify Lotto, triggering her awake. In the beginning they would only come once a week. But as time went on they would become more frequent, almost every other day. Lotto’s teacher, Mrs. Jones, started to lecture her about falling asleep in class. At the rate they were coming, Lotto knew she had to tell somebody. She finally broke down and told her teacher after a vision of a little girl came to her. Her teacher called her parents and they all agreed to have a meeting.

Lotto, her teacher, her parents, and the principal sat down the next day. Lotto tried to give them as much information as possible but she felt that nobody believed her. It was agreed that she was too much of a distraction in the classroom and she would do school from home for the time being. She continued to have the visions at home and her parents started to become worried, afraid their daughter was having hallucinations. They took her to their family doctor and she was given a series of tests that were very invasive. The doctor would take her parents into a separate room from Lotto to discuss the results. Nobody every told her what was going on. With more tests came the nightmares. She would wake up screaming, thinking she was being buried alive. She stopped talking about the visions and never brought up the nightmares. With her silence came the stopping of the doctor visits and tests. Lotto went inward and only spoke when she had to. She kept her head down and completed her school work, thinking they would send her back. But six months turned into a year and Lotto is now going on 10 years at home, with as little social interaction as possible. The visions come and go. Lotto has accepted them as part of her life, keeping notebooks on each person she sees, hoping eventually she will be able to help them. And the nightmares only come when Lotto starts to feel the walls of her prison-like home cave in on her.

It is peaceful as Lotto enters the kitchen and makes her usual breakfast. Her family is still asleep and Lotto hums to herself as she sits down at the table and eats. Her dad walks in and gives her a peck on the cheek. “Morning sweetie. Sleep okay?” Lotto nods and smiles.

Yes, Dad. And you?”

Peeking his head out from the top of the refrigerator, he says, “Not too shabby.” Lotto pushes her chair away from the table, throws away her trash. As she gets up to leave the kitchen her Dad asks, “Library, movie, and then home, alright kiddo?”

Lotto turns around and answers, “Sure Dad. I will be home by dinner.”

Lotto grabs her sweatshirt out of her room and heads for the door. “Lotto! Tell your mother and Tera goodbye.” Lotto snorts in disgust and says at the lowest volume she can get away with, “Bye Mom. Bye Tera.” She doesn’t hear a response so she heads out the door. The largest of the three windows in the living room of Lotto’s house are taken up by her mom and dad, holding hands. They both don’t take their eyes off their youngest daughter as she crosses the street.

Lotto walks with her head held low as she moves down the street. She is an expert at this, not running into anybody or anything that gets in her way. All the buildings she pass melt into one another, copycats of each other. They are building versions of her bedroom, white and gray, no bright spot to catch a passerby’s eye. Windows are blurry, in desperate need of a cleaning. Cracks line the sidewalk, the broken bones of the street.  Some buildings are apartments, filled with families who can only afford the pocket sized homes they provide.  Others are various businesses, with signs in English and Spanish.  

Lotto has to move for more stray animals than people. She steps on the tail of a chihuahua, who yelps a bark as pathetic as his size, as she crosses from one block to another. She slows her pace down, not wanting to draw attention to herself by injuring the stray pet population. Comfort comes with the lack of people she has to dodge. Pretending she is in her own world with no fears is something Lotto likes to do when she is out. Freedom makes her mind wander and with hardly any people on her walk to interact with, she is able to let her guard down. Talk of the latest illness that is going around is keeping people from participating in recreational activities outside the home. But Lotto doesn’t care. She isn’t allowed out of the house except for Sundays and she isn’t going to let fear keep her indoors. The smog is a constant in her vision while the smells of trash, animal waste, and tar invade her nose. Lotto revels in the lack of rules and walls. Nothing will bring her high down, not today. Sickness has never touched her, and she doesn’t think it ever will. But she would gladly trade her nightmares and visions for the sickness that most can’t afford to cure.

Lotto turns the last corner to her destination and finally lifts her head.  The letters that spelled out library are long gone but the burnt red bricks that make up the building are mostly intact.  There are no windows and just the one door that used to open automatically.  Lotto pulls on the metal handle connected to the door and feels her mood lift even more once she steps in.  The stuffiness and the scent of old books replace the smog as she starts to make her way towards the back of the room.  She weaves through a collection of tables that were used for school cafeterias at one time, passing just a couple of patrons who are seated at them.  She waves a silent hello to Shelley, the lady behind the counter.  Shelley returns the wave, beckoning her to come over.  

Good morning Lotto. How are you today?” Resting her arms on the laminated wood counter that separates her from Shelley, Lotto says, “Much better than yesterday. Have anything new for me today?” Shelley bends down and pulls a stack of magazines out from below.

I found these in the back room and thought you might enjoy them.” Lotto picks up the top magazine and looks it over. The writing of the magazine leaps out at its reader, with bubbly writing colored with sugary pink. There are pictures of teen boys on the cover with the title Teen Beat at the top. Lotto assumes the ones on the cover were famous a long time ago. She can’t wait to read why. “Thank you Shelley! I love them.”

Shelley grins and replies, “I thought you might. Just remember to bring them back up here when you are done.” Lotto picks them up and tells her, “I will. Thank you again.”

Lotto carries the five magazines to her spot, the back of the library on the left side. It is Lotto’s favorite spot due to it’s privacy. Shelley even found an old chair for her and positioned it where Lotto could sit for hours and still have a full view of the library. She sinks into the chair, relishing the warmth and softness of the sand colored corduroy. The chair wobbles due to its uneven legs and there are a number of rips in the fabric due to it’s age. But Lotto is at home. She opens up the Teen Beat and sits back with a happy sigh, letting everything else become white noise.

Posted in Seven

Chapter 3

Lotto’s falling has slowed to floating. She swishes from side to side like a magic carpet ride, the gentleness unnerving her. She doesn’t know where she is and her vision is blurry. She can see a pinhole of light with everything else around it being the color of murky, San Franciscan fog. Looking left and right and up and down doesn’t help. Just as she thinks the darkness will never leave, she starts to make out a man. He is short, with mocha colored skin and thinning but oily,raven hair. He is wearing a faded blue collared shirt and tan pants. He is standing in a wallflower living room in an apartment. To the left of the living room is the minute kitchen, with its white side by side refrigerator, grease stained stove, and peeling linoleum floors. Lotto brings her attention back to the man and sees him double over. He grabs his chest and voices a shout that doesn’t make it’s way out. He takes two steps forward and eventually falls to his feet. Lotto’s mind races to try and figure out what she is seeing, wanting to solve the mystery to calm her nerves. Who is this man? When is this happening? Can she help him?

Lotto watches in terror until she is back at her desk. She feels her chest. Her heart is calm. She is still fresh from her shower. But her mental state has gone in the opposite direction, a state of chaos. It is starting to feel like she can’t distinguish dreams from reality. Lotto breathes through her nose, trying to focus. She doesn’t know this man but she knows his plight. Many have come to her before, in similar states of distress. She has had these visions for almost a decade. This man is just one in a line of people who clearly needs help. But no matter how many people need her help, she doesn’t know how. Each image leaves her feeling shaky and on the verge of tears.

Lotto attempts to write down what she saw but she is at a loss once she writes down “Man needs help. Heart attack?” Nothing else comes to her. She clenches her fists, counts to ten, and leans back in her chair. These images haunt her day and night. Trying to make sense of them only leads to the road of nothing. Lotto decides to move forward for the moment and focus on something she can accomplish. She opens up her notebook and looks at the multicolored dividers. The purple one shows English. Lotto knows she should focus on history or math but English will set her in motion. She doesn’t even bother flipping the divider to show what she has to do for the day. She opens the middle desk drawer and takes out The Great Gatsby. Glamour in 20th century. Lotto has read the book already but decides to refresh her memory. She flattens the book out on her desk, puts her head down, and commences rereading.

Posted in Seven

Chapter 2

She thinks the world revolves around her and only her,” Tera thinks as she chews her toast and watches Lotto leave the kitchen. “Must be nice to be the center of the universe.” Brushing the crumbs off her hands, Tera throws her napkin in the trash and washes her hands at the kitchen sink. “Can I get you anything Mom, before I finish getting ready for school?”

Tera’s mom smiles and says, “No, honey. Go finish getting ready, I’m fine.” Tera bends down to give her a kiss and says, “Okay.”

Once in the bathroom, Tera turns on the light and looks in the mirror. She likes what she sees. Her nose is her favorite. She has been told numerous times that she has the perfect pert nose. Her teeth are white as can be and her skin is smooth and acne free. She pats her hair down, wondering if she should touch up her roots. Her natural mousey brown hair doesn’t go with her otherwise flawless appearance so she dyes it blonde every three to four weeks. Nah, she is good for another week. She applies her bubble gum pink lipstick that every girl who knows better is wearing at the moment and goes to pick up her bag and jacket.

Bye Mom! See you later and have a good day! Love you!” Tera yells from the front door.

Mom shouts back, “Love you too honey! Good luck on your English test!” Tera frowns and heads out the door, keys in hand.

Tera drops the keys into her classic vintage handbag (her favorite second hand store find) after she locks the front door. She needs to get to school early if she is going to meet Steve. He had told her last night that he wanted to talk to her about something important but it had to be in person. Tera felt giddy just thinking about it. She knew he was going to ask her to be his girlfriend. With him being the captain of the basketball team and overall likeable guy, that would secure her position at school. She held her head up high and walked with a model’s swagger as she headed out.

Tera could see Steve even before she stepped on to campus. He is sitting on a three foot brick wall that is surrounded by a bed of flowers, right next to the sign with the school’s name on it. The sign shouted upcoming events such as Prom, Spring Break, and all the events that Tera lived for. She darted in and out of the cars, ignoring horns honking at her to move out of the way.

Steve saw Tera just as she was within a couple of feet of him. He was by himself and looked uncomfortable when she put her hand on him. She let go quickly and stepped back. She put on a happy face and asked, “So what’s up?” Her initial thought of impending coupledom was started to dwindle.  

Steve cleared his throat. “So, um, Tera, I don’t know how to say this other than to just get it over with. I don’t think we should see each other anymore. You’re a great girl but I don’t think we are meant to be.” Steve coughed and stood there, finished. Tera was humiliated and shocked. She knew her recovery time would determine what people thought of her so she breathed slowly through her nose and faked a smirk.

I absolutely agree. I have been getting a little bored anyways. Thanks for doing it first. I didn’t want to hurt you. See you around.” She turned around and walked with assuredness towards her chemistry class. Every step required her concentration, which she was grateful for. She would not cry and let anybody know how much she hurt. Steve would regret today, she would make sure of it. But that would have to wait. Her English test was thankfully at the end of the day and she was going to need that time to study so she could pass.

She entered Mrs. Bo’s class and scanned for her best friend Andi. She was sitting in the back and had a hand on the desk next to hers. When Tera saw her she could tell that Andi already knew. Andi moved her arm and Tera threw her backpack and purse onto the desk. Andi whispered discreetly, “Are you okay?” Tera just shook her head in the negative and that was the end of it. The bell rang and both girls pulled out their notebooks, happy to forget the hell that is high school social life. At least for the time being.

Posted in Seven

Chapter 1

Darkness. The faint smell of dirt. Lotto tries to take a deep breath, chokes, and coughs on the chalkiness as it coats her tongue. Her eyes aren’t adjusting, no matter how much she blinks. Panic descends and her heart starts to race. She stops the deep breaths and tries short ones. She tilts her head back and lifts her arms above her head with effort. “You can do this,” says the voice in her head. She digs her fingers into the dirt and pulls herself up. Tiny rocks take up residence under her nails, leaving superficial scratches at the tips. It feels like she has moved an inch, if that. Dirt moves all around her, sliding back into place as she tries to move north. Moisture drips down her forehead and cheeks. Imaginary bumps line up from her wrist to her bare shoulder. She tries to ignore the creeping thought that microscopic bugs are making a pilgrimage across her limbs. She stops, collects herself, and counts to 10. She pulls up again. She does this for what seems like an eternity.

When she sees the glimmer of light she tells herself it is just a mirage. But the false hope builds and she keeps it up even though the physical effort is excruciating. The yellow light continues to build, spurring her on. Just when she thinks she is at her destination and happiness replaces the terror at a 51/49 percent ratio, darkness in the form of a booted foot lands on her head. With a great shove, she is transported back to where she began. The despair overtakes her.

Lotto feels a moment of falling and hits the ground. Opening her eyes she realizes she is in her bedroom, laying next to the bed she just fell out of. Lotto inhales and starts hacking, spitting the nonexistent dirt out of her mouth. Sweat and exhaustion overtakes her. She can’t shake the memory of the foot and force in which she was pushed downwards. She tries one more breath and grabs onto the bed to pull herself up. Another morning, another dream that will shape her day.

Lotto is determined to move past this nightmare. Once up, she grabs her favorite hoodie off the scratched up bed post and yanks it over her mussed hair. Before heading to the bathroom she shoves her feet into the soft, worn down polka dotted slippers that are hiding under her bed. The bathroom is in the left hand corner of her bedroom. The scratched up bed post and its three brothers take up the center of her room. Threadbare white sheets are pulled tightly at each corner, threatening to let go. A crocheted blanket with patterned colors of red, gold, and yellow gives the room its only color. It is placed in the shape of a perfect square on top of the sheets. Rounding out the bedding is a quilt that used to be white. Lotto moves her slipper feet across the stained carpet and enters the bathroom. She makes use of the toilet and washes her hands without bothering to look up in the mirror. She splashes water on her face. Heading out of the bedroom, Lotto takes her time going down the hallway. She drags her hands along the white walls that house the cheap black frames that contain family pictures. From right to left they have Tera’s class picture, Tera and Lotto together, and Lotto, Tera, and their mom and dad. Tera’s bright smile takes up each picture while Lotto looks she is trying to shrink into the background. Tera is the sun while Lotto is the star that has burned out light years ago.

When Lotto walks into the kitchen her mom and Tera are sitting at the table. She manages to not acknowledge her mom and sister while taking out the orange juice and pour herself a glass. Mom breaks the silence and asks, “Good morning Lotto. Did you sleep okay?”

Lotto doesn’t bother to turn around and mutters, “No.”

Mom gets the message and goes back to eating her oatmeal. Tera goes about her business like her sister isn’t there. Lotto returns the favor. Lotto rips a granola bar open from the cupboard and eats it in two bites. Finished with her orange juice, she rinses the glass out and refills it with water. She hears the sound of laughter get bigger and bigger as a group of kids about Lotto’s age walk by her house. She sees them when they are right outside the kitchen window. Looking past the dirt coating and cracks, she counts three boys and four girls. They are separated into groups, divided by gender. The boys are pushing each other around good naturedly and laughing over a joke the tallest boy just finished. The joke teller puffs out his chest with pride when they all laugh in response to the punch line. The girls are huddled together and giggle at their own private joke. The smallest girl with curly highlighted hair and a curvaceous figure sneaks glances at one of the boys, Lotto can’t tell which one. They all walk without a care in the world. Swallowing back tears, Lotto takes a deep breath and turns away from the outside world. She takes her glass of water and heads back to the only place she can be alone.

Determined to put the image of those kids out of her mind, Lotto focuses on the day ahead. Her neatly typed schedule is taped to the wall to the right of her bathroom, a constant reminder of her life.

7:15 get up

7:20 eat breakfast

7:35 brush teeth

7:37 take shower

7:45 out of shower, get dressed

7:47 put hair in ponytail

Lotto glances at her old fashion round alarm clock. The big hand points to the Roman numeral XII and the little one points to VII. She walks over and hits the button to turn off the alarm that would have signaled the luxury of a nightmare free bout of sleep. She takes a deep breath and walks into her bathroom to start the shower. The steam fills up the bathroom while she brushes her teeth and then steps in after throwing her clothes in the wicker hamper.

8 minutes later she is out, using up the extra minutes to soak up the remaining steam. She applies lotion and pulls her wet hair back into a ponytail. Walking into her closet she chooses a plain t-shirt, sweats and socks. She picks up her only piece of jewelry, her grandmother’s flower bracelet off the closet shelf. She smiles and admires it. She has been a gone for a couple of years and Lotto still misses her everyday. This bracelet, gaudy as it is, is her reassurance that she is still there in spirit.

The desk sits to the left of the bed, placed up against the center of the wall. Its gloss gives off light when the sun hits it midday. Like the majority of Lotto’s stuff, it used to be white. It is wide, giving her plenty of room to put her school work and anything else she wants, within reach on it. Its matching chair sits on the right hand side while three drawers round it out on the left. Lotto sits down at the desk and organizes it according to what she needs to accomplish for the day. Her notebook and pen are in the middle where she left it. She reads a couple of lines of what she wrote yesterday. “Another day in prison. No nightmares. Heard Mom and Dad talking last night but only caught a few words. Talking about me?” She leans back, rubbing her eyes. Turning her head to the side, vertigo takes over. Slowly she turns her head straight again and tries not to make any other quick movements. Like dust particles floating in the morning light, the spots appear. The spots get bigger and bigger until the blackness comes and Lotto is descending.