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Fiction

This story contains sensitive content

TW: SUICIDE, SEXUAL HARASSMENT

Frank awoke from his delightful dream thanks to a shrill beeping noise. The beeping kept Frank from remembering the details of said dream, so as much as he wanted to return to whatever that magical world was, all he could muster was a half-awake mumbling “How do I forget to turn off my alarm on July 4th.” Each beep felt like a jackhammer crashing against Frank’s ears, so after a few seconds, Frank finally turned over and hit the “alarm off” button.

               Frank groggily turned his face towards his alarm, finding the time “7:77” staring back at him. Damn LED lights are broken on this thing again. Frank tried to go back to sleep but after what couldn’t have been more than a few minutes, Frank still laid awake. He decided it was time to wake up and make some sort of attempt to be productive. However, to him, productivity meant shifting from his bed, walking the couple of feet to his sofa, pushing the empty Domino’s Pizza box from the night before off the couch to let it dive onto the floor, then Frank plopping down on the sofa, and turning on his late 90s television.

               As the television crackled on, the news reporter appeared and read the following bulletin: “Boeing has announced the production of the Boeing 777 plane to begin flights from Los Angeles later this year.”

               “BORING!” Frank yelled at no one in particular. He then immediately turned the channel. A soothing female voice announced from the television: “Today on 777 Discipleship, we discuss the word of Psalm 77:7. And now, God’s messenger: Mark Schmidt!”

               An older, balding, wrinkle-skinned, Caucasian gentleman appeared on the screen: “Before we begin our discussion of Psalm 77:7, I must give a praise report. A viewer out in Marfa, Texas submitted a report that there were several lights in the sky in that area. We know the lights appearing there are angels telling us of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The number of lights in that area recently has now gone up to 777, which is, of course, one of the signs we are looking for as Revelation…”

               Frank rolled his eyes, saying out loud in an almost exasperated fashion “Oh! My! God! These religious nutjobs will believe anything! There’s something mysterious, like a meteor, and it has to be God coming back! What gullible bullshit!”

               Frank turned off the TV. Simultaneously there was a knock on the door. “Who could it be at whatever the hell time it is?” Frank thought to himself.

               The knocking continued “It’s Mary Shelton! I know you’re there! Where’s my rent?!”

               Frank looked down to see if he remembered to have pants on and after confirming he was wearing a white wifebeater and red pajamas, he went to the door, yelling “I’m coming! I’m coming! Hold on!” before muttering to himself “You bitch.”

               Frank opened the door to a middle-aged woman with her hair done up into a bun, wearing a red dress that appeared to be recently dry-cleaned. “Do you know what time it is?” Frank asked in an annoyed fashion, but also out of genuine curiosity. His alarm clock was clearly not working and he hadn’t checked the clock on his phone yet.

               Mary gave a less than helpful retort. “Do you know what day it is?!” Before Frank could respond to her query, she shrieked. “July 4th. Do you know when rent is due?” Frank opened his mouth to speak, but Mary interrupted again. “July 1st! Let me break this down for you. July 4th, today, is after July 1st, the rent due date. In other words, you are late on the rent.”

Mary then lowered her voice and spoke stodgily, as if she was a queen giving orders to a peasant, “But I am willing to make you a deal, because I am in a good mood for the holiday. Even though this behavior is most usual for you, I will give you until tomorrow to pay. Cash only. I need the money quickly and I don’t trust your checks to process.” Mary then sauntered away before Frank could respond.

               Frank went back into his apartment, bewildered that his landlord didn’t have direct deposit capabilities. He picked up the smartphone on his counter to check his bank account. The smartphone screen just had a battery symbol with “77.7%”. The phone then died within a few seconds. Frank mused how weird the phone was acting, considering it usually showed just the time on the screen. He tried restarting the phone to no avail. Of course. And phone repair shops won’t be open today for the holiday. Frank decided to withdraw from the nearby ATM.

               Frank approached the ATM right outside the local banking branch. As he input an amount to withdraw sufficient to cover his rent, he was met with a two-tone sound that reminded Frank of the “wah-wah” horn sound made on TV to show that a character encountered bad luck. It was accompanied by the bold message on the screen in white on red background “WITHDRAWAL DENIED! INSUFFICIENT FUNDS!”

“What the-“ Frank muttered aloud before hammering his finger into the ATM to quickly check his checking account balance. The balance showed “$7.77”. Frank's blood pressure spiked. He frantically pressed buttons to check his transaction sheet. Was this account hacked?! Was money stolen?! After checking through the ATM the list of transactions, he realized there wasn’t any theft. Of course payroll is late again. Well now, how will I pay rent?

Frank dejectedly shuffled his feet back to his car, racking his brain with ideas on how he could possibly avoid an eviction notice the next day. Frank sat in his car and then, in what would only be considered divine intervention if he actually believed in that, he realized the pattern. Every time he saw a number today, it was always a variation of three sevens. Frank knew Vegas well enough to know that this was a lucky triad on the slot machines. If he keeps seeing the three sevens, why not risk a day in Vegas to check out the slots? Without a second thought, Frank immediately began the journey to Vegas.

Approximately halfway to Vegas, in the middle of the desert, it finally occurred to Frank to check how many miles were left on his gas tank. He looked down and saw his analog gas gauge show near “E”. Frank needed gas at the next stop. Frank approached a gas station, isolated off the highway, miles from any other signs of civilization. He was horrified at the price: $7.77/gallon. But, then again, he had no choice unless he wanted his car to be stranded in the July desert heat. He pulled into the gas station and filled up the tank. As he exited the car to pump the gas, he was suddenly filled with elation at the three sevens appearing again. He didn’t even notice the price he was racking up on his credit card or how many gallons he was filling up. All he could think about was the continuing of only seeing the three sevens. Luck was in the air for him tonight.

Frank made it to the Viva Las Vegas Casino without incident. Frank was immune to the glitz, the glamour, the flashing neon lights. He frequented this casino whenever he needed the pull of the slot, the roll of the dice, the spin of the wheel as his latest get-quick rich scheme. As he walked in, a portly security guard dressed in a black tuxedo greeted Frank on a first-name basis. Frank ignored all of the distractions from the slot machines, the barely-dressed women handling plates of cheap liquor, the choking smell of cigarette smoke, and the other patrons full of delusions of hitting the jackpot oblivious to their surroundings. He sat down at one of the slot machines. This group of slot machines was arranged in a circle and from the middle of the circle was arose a sign reading “JACKPOT” with each letter on the sign being just short of the size of an adult male. Below the sign was a digital screen showing a number. Of course, the number just had to be $777,777.

Frank’s hands beaded with sweat as he pulled on the slot machine’s knob. He shook in anticipation like a puppy waiting for its owner ready to walk in the door. The three windows on the slot machine flashed faster than his perception could see. The first window stopped. It showed “7”. The second window stopped a second later. Again a “7”. Then finally a third window stopped. “7”. A series of flashing lights and a cacophony announced that someone had won the jackpot. A loud cheer erupted from the patrons throughout the casino like a wave cascading through the building.

Frank then caught his security guard friend running, although the motion seemed more like he was galloping, towards Frank’s slot machine. The security guard struggled to catch his breath, “Frank (gasps) looks like (gasps) you got lucky. I’m (gasps) going to (gasps) ask (gasps) you (gasps) to leave (gasps) the floor.” The security guard then suddenly was able to talk in an unrestricted manner. “Sorry Frank. Boss’s orders. You’re violating the dress code.”

Frank finally took a second to look down and realize he was wearing the same white wifebeater and red pajamas he wore during his interaction with the landlord. The security guard continued, “I thought it would be fine cuz you spend so much money here. You can keep the funds, Frank, because you finally got lucky here, and we feel bad taking away some winnings you finally get. But you can’t stay on the casino floor. Either check in or leave.”

Frank didn’t want to leave. Maybe tomorrow there would be a more relaxed security team, so he made his way to the check-in station. He didn’t need the security escort there. As he approached, he found a demure college-aged blonde woman he knew to be named Carlee.

Frank spoke to Carlee in his vain attempt at a sultry voice, however it came out sounding like he had a cough drop stuck in his throat. “Heeeyyy, Carlee.”

Carlee sighed and had to focus all her customer service instincts not to roll her eyes. She breathed then spoke like a southern schoolgirl who was overwhelmed to meet a celebrity, trying in vain to hide her Georgia accent. “Howdy Frank. What can I do for ya?”

“Well, maybe you can tell me my hotel room. And since you know where it is, maybe you can visit it.” Frank didn’t so much wink as look like he had superglued one of his eyes shut. Carlee had never seen another person’s wink look like their cheek was pushing past their eyebrow before, but this image proved there’s a first time for everything.

Carlee again had to summon her customer service powers not to shudder or vomit. Between Frank’s clothing, cowlicks that made his hair look like an 80s New Wave band except without the ozone-killing hairspray, his mouth and chin covered with what appeared to be dried pizza sauce, and a musty smell that reminded her of the time a cow died on a blanket she left in the barn growing up, there was not a single facet of Frank that remotely made her want to accept the invitation. Every time a guy whose interactions with women are mostly limited to waitresses asking for their order propositioned her to come to their hotel room, lesbianism sounded to make more sense. So for the sake of her stomach, paycheck, and lingering threads of heterosexuality, she rushed through the check-in process while Frank smirked. Her voice almost sounded like Alvin and the Chipmunks as she sped run through the process. “Well, since you have so many rewards, your check in total will be $7.77 and its room 777. We already have your credit card on file, so no need for that. Here’s your key.”

Frank just stood there, staring, half trying to figure out what type of carnal relations Carlee would engage in with him, and half stunned that those damned triple sevens. He already won his jackpot. What else could the universe want with him? The staring was interrupted by a voice heavy with anticipation repeated, “Here’s your key.” Frank snapped out of his distraction and gave an almost silent, “Oh…thank you!” Then he more loudly declared, “And you can stop by tonight!” before giving one of his special winks and heading to his room. As he turned away, Carlee began looking for the nearest wastebasket and asking for a coworker to relieve her of her duties.

Room 777 had just the basic necessities for a hotel room: the twin sized bed, the wooden nightstand with a Bible on it, a TV, and a room fitting both the toilet and the shower. To call it cramped is an understatement. Frank could barely walk to his bed without needing to crabwalk. How anyone could fit a suitcase in this room was beyond Frank’s understanding. Frank was able to get to the bed from the door in one long step.

Frank lay on the bed, ruminating on how every number he saw that day was the same string of three sevens in a row. He stared at the ceiling, trying in vain to make sense of it. This went on for what seemed like hours. Then out of the corner of his eye, Frank noticed the tome sitting on the nightstand. It seemed ridiculous, but maybe this mass of text that people claim to get divine revelation from could, indeed, give him the revelation he was seeking. Where to start? Wait, what was the verse that the grifter was talking about this morning? Ah, it was Psalm 77:7. Of course three sevens.

Frank opened the tome and after fiddling with the course, heavily-worn pages for a few minutes, he finally found Psalm 77:7 “Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again?” Frank wondered what the Lord could possibly be rejecting here and how it leads to his three seven dilemma. Then the answer washed over him. Of course! God has rejected us! But what does this have to do with the three sevens?

Frank’s eyes shot open at the answer communicated into his brain. Those people who claimed God spoke to them might be onto something. There’s only one logical solution to the three sevens problem: God is using Frank as a vessel to tell the world of impending Armageddon on July 7 at 7:00! That’s why it was only those sevens showing. Frank initially was immobilized from the shock of his revelation, but then was able to rush out of the room, get into his car, and speed back home to announce to the world his revelation. He was in such a rush he forgot to cash out the jackpot voucher. Not that he would need that money anyways.

Between Frank’s Vegas epiphany and the early morning hours of July 7, Frank maxed out his credit cards purchasing escorts (sometimes multiple escorts at a time) from shady websites and buying the finest cuisine he could think of: pizza from a local bistro. He also managed to avoid Mary despite her posting eviction notices on his door and her constantly stopping by to look into complaints of a turnstile of women dressed like French maids or Japanese schoolgirls going to Frank’s place.

In between his episodes of Nero-esque debauchery, the rest of the time was spent posting messages on forum-based sites like Reddit or 4Chan some variation of the following: “GOD HAS SPOKEN TO ME! THE TIME OF JUDGMENT HAS PASSED AND HE HAS ABANDONED US! JULY 7 AT 7:00 PACIFIC, GOD WILL WIPE AWAY THE WORLD! WE MUST PREPARE OUR BODIES FOR THE END! TO SUBMIT, ONE MUST HAVE DRAINO ON HAND TO MIX WITH BLEACH TO DRINK AT THIS TIME OF RETRIBUTION TO SEEK A HIGHER PLANE OF LIFE!” While the posts were typically immediately flagged and deleted for encouraging suicide, some managed to stay up long enough for numerous comments to appear. Most of these comments were questioning Frank’s mental health and referring him to numerous mental health advisors; however, quite a few of the comments indicated support for Frank’s plan. By July 7, 776 people had commented that they were going to partake in Frank’s plan. Including Frank, that number would be 777 who were prepared for the end times. Again, divine synchronicity.

Frank knew his alarm, despite still only showing 7:77 still, would still ring at 7:00. Frank pushed the alarm minute down ten times to wake him up in time to prepare for him leaving the physical plane of existence. On that morning, Frank arose and mixed the concoction he had laboriously posted about. He drank the poison and waited. He almost immediately felt the chemicals burning through his esophagus. He wanted to cry out in pain, but his voice had become long gone. As the chemicals were seeping into his lungs, tearing at the organ linings, Frank began to choke on his blood. He tried to cough up the blood, but was unable to. He immediately fell to the floor as blood spilled from his mouth and nostrils. His throat, face, lungs, stomach, intestines all burned in unimaginable pain as the organs all ruptures nearly simultaneously. This process went on for several minutes. Frank could no longer breathe. He felt his heart no longer beating as the world became woozy. His last movement was his eyes shooting open in horror when he saw his alarm clock. It now read 7:08 AM. The world was still here. Frank’s last conscious thought was “IT’S PAST 7 AND THE WORLD IS STILL HERE!” before all went dark. 

August 19, 2022 16:33

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