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(Originally written as a final paper for a Literature class)

Her sensuous movements were in perfect synchrony with the music, as she swayed to Natasha Beddingfield’s vocals issuing from the radio. How apt that the song playing was ‘Wild Horses’, because even those could not keep Desmond away from the sight of her body. It was either the unique body that got his attention or the fact that he was a peeping Tom enjoying the forbidden view of a naked woman. Since she was his housekeeper of many years, Desmond had her routine memorized. Every morning before starting on her duties, she would lock herself in her room to “exercise for a bit.” He would wait eagerly outside the locked doors, counting down the seconds until the music began. The moment his countdown hit zero, soft sounds would be heard through the door. From countless peeking, he knew that was the moment she took her clothes off to dance. The image was etched in his memory – after all, she followed the same movements everyday – yet he could not control the irresistible urge to peek through the keyhole. This woman had the perfect body; the one he wanted. When she would take off her shirt, he wanted to run his hands across her manly shoulders, all the way down her bare, broad back. When she would undo her belt and slide down her jeans, he wanted to squeeze those huge buttocks of hers and hold her body close to his. There was something in the shape of her body and the fluidity of her movement that made it impossible for Desmond to drag his eyes away. The thighs looked round enough to match the tree stumps in his backyard, and that broad back was like a billboard. And those abs…he had to stifle a scream the first time he saw them. They looked like layers of jelly stacked upon one another.  She jiggled them perfectly with the music and his heart seemed to skip with every beat. The huge body lured Desmond more than an anorexic one would have, and as she grew bigger with each passing day, so did his yearning. He wanted to hold her body in his bare hands and never let go. And so Desmond peeked each day, a hungry look on his face. He peeked to curb some of his desire, all the while ignoring the little inner voice in his head.

Her inner voice was telling her that she was doing wrong, but she ignored it. She wanted food, and as long as she had easy access to it, all thoughts of right and wrong were erased from her mind. At least I have a conscience, Charlottetold herself, justifying her excessive consumption. Her mouth still watered from the Lobster Ravioli she had had, but that did not stop her from taking a bite out of the delicious Beef Casserole. What was one bite anyway, she told herself. She would just mix it up a little and the Casserole would look as good as new. But it never stopped at one, did it? Pretty soon she had devoured…no, never mind. It would be impolite to say how many servings of Casserole she had consumed. She wondered if the horse would just fall down and break its leg the next time she went riding. Even with her waistline fast approaching the size of the Equator, Charlotte just could not get herself to stop. The oozing chocolate on the Chocolate Lava Brownie was too good to resist, and she was willing to risk death by chocolate. After all, she was not breaking any rules or stealing the food; she had earned it. Her salary for waitressing was nominal, but the compensation included an all-you-can-eat offer. The sight of food made her reach out for it so uncontrollably that Charlotte was convinced of her body being controlled not by her brain, but instead, by the amount of saliva produced in her mouth. “Waiter, somebody took a bite out of my steak” was the punch line for the many jokes food critics made about the restaurant. Charlottehad undoubtedly taken it too far. Eventually, the day came when the restaurant started losing customers because it did not have enough servings – she was devouring them all. She was about to be fired, but her biggest worry lay in the fact that she could not bend over to retrieve a Twinkie from the floor. The manager was on his way to tell her to leave, the little voices in her head seemed to be laughing at her, and yet her life depended on bending over to get that Twinkie and eat it.

The Twinkie was in his line of sight, perched on the edge of the table; he had been staring at it listlessly for quite some time now. Wharton was hungry, but the Twinkie was too far to reach. He’d have to get up from his bed, but that would require him to get out of the comfort of his blankets. The sun shone through the window as he stretched his legs and slowly turned over to lie on his stomach. He felt like a giant panda – unwilling to move, almost hibernating. The room was silent except for the steady tick-tock of the clock he kept on his bedside table. This piece of machinery was perhaps the only ‘living’ thing in the room, the only thing that produced some sound. Wharton sighed – a slow, heavy sigh. His body felt limp and his head seemed to be buzzing with the sound of a thousand flies. It made his head hurt, but he lacked the energy to swat the thousand imaginary flies. He was hungry, but that stupid Twinkie was out of arm’s reach. Wharton felt worse than a thousand hangovers – combined. He could not remember for how long he had been in bed now; the ticking of the clock had faded away into the stillness of time. He rolled over on his back again and tried wiping a sliver of sweat off his forehead. His hand seemed unwilling to move, so Wharton decided to remain still. Why bother, was what the buzzing seemed to be conveying. If only he were actually a panda, storing bamboo in his body. Wharton did not realize that the pandas were going extinct.  Maybe you should eat something, or take a shower, said a tiny voice in his head, amidst all the buzzing. He might have considered listening to it, but even the voice seemed dull and monotonous. The food was not coming any closer, and his clothes were starting to stink from accumulated filth. When he opened his heavy eyelids and glanced out the window, the stars were twinkling back at him. Wharton’s breathing was getting slower by each second; the very movement of the ribcage was getting to be wearisome. ‘Meh’ was all he had to say. The only movements in the room were that of the slow fan – a snail would’ve moved faster – and the sound of the clock. A droning voice was playing in Wharton’s head, sounding distant. Perhaps it was still trying to tell him to get out of bed; Wharton could not seem to care. He lay there, one hand on his stomach, occasionally blinking. The fan buzzed lazily and the clock ticked on, and as the seconds passed, even the act of drawing a breath started to become tedious.

Drawing in a deep breath, Ira walked down the hall to her cubicle, making sure that her co-workers noticed her Valentino 360 and the matching necklace to go with it. Her Louis Vuitton peep-toes were already attracting attention owing to the constant tap-tap of the heels as she walked across the wooden floor. She was a little late to work, but that did not matter; her boss would forgive her tardiness as long as her skirt was a little high on the hem. There were not many people at work who came from families having ‘old money’, and so she felt it her right to flaunt her position as the richest amongst them. If she couldn’t mingle with this crowd, she was determined to show them why. Her finger and toenails would always be impeccable and her hair would always be properly straightened. No wonder she looked refined compared to these uncultured individuals. Caked in the finest makeup money could buy, Ira was convinced that she was a modern day Aphrodite. Who says money can’t buy happiness, she wondered, as she batted her eyelashes at the male co-workers eyeing her, no doubt attracted by her expensive attire, accessories and definitely her body. She had dumped her boyfriend of one month a day before, and today she decided to focus on the hot dude from marketing. John, Jack, Jim…what was his name again? Oh well, hot-dude-from-marketing he shall be. She knew once he saw her sports car and heard about her reservation at one of the most expensive restaurants in town, he would drop everything and come with her. Who wouldn’t, given her elite status and the excessive amount of money?  She was bagging the handsome men left, right and centre, because who would want to say no to her anyway? All that glitters is not gold, whispered a small inner voice, somewhere in the back of her head. Every time that happened, Ira chose to ignore it. I have the money, I have the beauty, I have the right to do so, and that makes me above all, she repeated to herself every time the lowly voice in her head spoke up.

Money was the biggest vice, the root of all evil – she had grown up listening to these sayings. And yet, it was money that she coveted the most. Elizabethwasn’t poor in any way and yet she wanted more of what she already had. The more she hoarded it, the more she wanted it. She lived in a penthouse decorated with the finest collection of art and the most comfortable and expensive furniture attainable. The works of Kiki Smith obscenely hung in the foyer, while the very armchairs seemed to shriek of the thousands of dollars spent on them. Elizabeth was the lone resident of the luxurious house, spending her days in the company of her pricey wardrobe and the lavish comforts the house had to offer. She did not leave the house much because going out would eventually lead to spending money, and Elizabeth wanted to hold on to the already vast amount of money she had. Strangely, her unwillingness to spend did not deter her from wanting more. She would not invest in a business deal, but being the chairwoman of her family’s corporation enabled her to bilk the employees out of the hundreds and thousands of dollars they collectively made on business deals, earning her the notorious title of ‘Queen Midas’. Generations of hoarding in the family enabled her to have a posh lifestyle without having to spend anything more than was absolutely necessary. And yet, despite the quantity she had, Elizabeth thought that a little more would not hurt. The sight of crisp, fresh dollar bills would make her mouth water. Each day, she would run accounts and eagerly watch the number of zeros increase in her ledger. Each night, she would dream about the days when her wallpapers would be lined with dollars. She would sleep in her king sized bed at night and spend her days devouring classic novels and revering the movies accumulated over the years. Her genre of interest included stories about the miserable lives of rich hermits. As she would read and watch, Elizabeth would usually not pay heed to a little voice in her head, almost like a murmur, trying to draw parallels between her and the fictitious characters.

The characters he was reading about were quite interesting, but twice he found himself holding the heavy book in his left hand, poised to throw it. Breathe, Alex, breathe, he told himself. The hostile feeling was growing inside him; he was fully convinced that his victim deserved the torture. And the icing on the cake would be that Alex would be the one giving him the final blow – literally. Alex’s blood boiled and his veins bulged every time he caught sight of his prey. And then he would smile inwardly at the slow and painful demise he had planned for his adversary. Blood would be drawn and bones would break, and Alex would emerge victorious from that battle, a triumphant smile on his face. The thought made Alex tingle with excitement. He had waited long to extract his revenge, and the time had come. He was fully prepared and had complete faith in his plan. It would be executed just right – he was sure of that – and his enemy would be defeated for good. The enemy might even repent, but Alex would show no mercy. The ringing of the bell brought his reverie to an end. The time had come to carry out the master plan. Alex hitched up his shorts and followed his fellow classmates out of the fourth grade spelling class. Making a beeline for the playground, he spotted his enemy right away – the school bully was standing by the swings, perhaps scouting out his next victim. Alex walked towards him; the time had come to kick the guy in the shins and make him fall, as Alex had been planning for weeks now. He could almost hear a voice in his head that sounded faintly like his mother’s, when she would advise him against picking fights with anyone. Alex shook his head and walked on; he wanted payback for when the bully had stolen his tuna sandwich.

He took a bite of the tuna sandwich, trying to get used to the taste he hated so much. If only his mother would listen to him and not have tuna sandwiches for dinner every day. But Richard doubted that would happen, because every time he had tried to revolt against having tuna, his father had intervened and suppressed Richard’s well-thrown tantrum. And of course, his mother would listen to the father, because what importance did a five year old have in front of a grown man anyway? He – the latter – was tall, he was smart and he loved tuna sandwiches; it was his wishes that were being followed, not Richard’s. Richard would usually be clueless, sometimes even slightly resentful of things such as his father getting to buy the stylish shirts with the collars and buttons, while all Richard got to wear were clothes with pictures of Tom and Jerry on them. It was not just the clothes or the fact that his father got precedence on the question of dinner. What Richard started to dislike – almost begrudge – even more was the stark contrast in his mother’s dealings with his father and with Richard himself. Why did he get a peck on the cheek or forehead from his mother whereas his father got one on the lips? Why did his father get to sleep in his mother’s room but Richard was kicked out because they wanted to “take a nap”? And what was up with them taking naps at the oddest times of the day? Richard knew that if he slept in the evening, he would be punished for it, but the rule did not seem to apply to this father. Richard often wondered how to get the same attention from his mother as his father did, and resorted to some ideas of his own. Throwing tantrums from time to time did not work in his favour, because his father would give him a stern look that would make Richard stop. Richard would be vexed by his father’s actions getting preferential treatment from his mother instead of Richard’s tantrums. His need for the same kind of attention made him want to replicate his father. Admittedly, that shirt with the buttons came down to his knees, but why did he get scolded for wearing it when his father got exaggerated pats on the back? His mother would hand over the brown briefcase to his father every morning, but Richard was told to “stop playing with daddy’s stuff” when he so much as held the briefcase. When Richard addressed his mother as “Baby Doll”, he was taken aback by the repulsed look on her face. Of course, when his father used the same word, he was kissed on the cheek for the “delightful term of endearment.” With each passing night when the tuna sandwiches were served, Richard got increasingly distraught over how he was expected to follow his father’s choice of tuna, but his father paid no heed to Richard’s pleas of having sundaes for dinner. The child was desperate to get his mother’s attention in the same way, and every time the tiny voice in his head told him to stop acting so outrageous, he would counteract it by wondering if his mother loved his father more than she loved Richard.

************************************************************************

I looked around the dingy bar, taking in the details of the grimy walls and the empty tables. The bartender passed me my usual drink – blended malt scotch on the rocks – and I gave him a nod of approval. Nice man he was, always keeping to himself, unlike the others I was waiting on to show up. They would be here soon; I was well aware of their daily routine. Just as I thought: the door opened and in walked all seven of them, heading straight for their usual corner table. I lit my cigar and settled back comfortably on the armchair, getting ready to overhear the conversations of the seven of them, or ‘Septem’, as I called them. Wrath had done exceptionally well today it seemed; he was the loudest of all. Gluttony’s exuberance seemed to signify something similar as well. I was sure that their conversations would yield details soon. Pride seemed to be glowing, while the brainless chuckles of both Lust and Envy did not leave much to the imagination with regards to their day’s achievements. Even Sloth and Greed were embracing each other, no doubt pleased with their day’s work. It seemed like the Septem had been successful in their endeavours of the day. Or so they thought

These seven were quite loud, almost as if they wanted to be overheard. I listened intently as they recounted their day in loud and triumphant voices. Clearly they had thwarted the one thing that kept them from achieving what they had set out to do, the one obstacle in their way. Or so they thought.

I watched as Lust sipped his drink, a permanent look of delight on his face. He could exactly tell what the look was, because it was mirrored in the sneers of the other six. Greed was talking quite animatedly, while the others listened contentedly. The Septem sounded like a flock of chirping birds, the kind of flock whose shrill and piercing sounds get irritating after a while. If you were to come across this group, they would appear as they were acting – happy, contented, pleased with themselves. If only you could see what I see.

I shifted my couch a little closer to their table, lazily rattling the ice in my glass. They were talking about the day’s escapades as if they had achieved something extraordinary, even though both they and I knew that this had been just another day like all the others. I sat close to that corner table, yet the Septem seemed oblivious to my presence. They were perhaps too engrossed in their own little group, or maybe the smoky atmosphere of the bar made it difficult to spot anyone. I smirked a little at their ignorance, quite aware of what my presence would do to them. Ah yes, there’s the reaction I was waiting for. Would you look at that? Do I sense a bit of hesitation in their voices? Some semblance of uncertainty, perhaps a slight faltering in those god damned chirpy voices? Poor Wrath, is that a shuffling of the feet I see? Have you stopped drinking because you’re feeling a little uneasy now, Envy?

These poor, naive beings think they have succeeded, but they are as ignorant of my presence in all their acts as they are of my current physical presence. The voices have gone down considerably and the relaxation is no longer apparent. The atmosphere is perturbed; they are perhaps getting a little queasy, overwhelmed by that feeling of being watched. I am watching them – always. All the time, I am on their heads; I am in your head.

Perhaps they do not even notice me as I get up to leave. A general lull in the conversation makes me turn around before making my exit. The Septem – the toxic, venomous Septem – are looking straight at me. Despite the mistiness, I am certain they can see me now, as I am sure they are aware of my eye on them at that moment. Is that a sense of fear I detect, a touch of apprehension? They stare at me with resentful eyes, perhaps even with a tinge of respect. I stare back at them, silent, unblinking, still. I am not dead, not yet.

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