's 2019 Horror Write-off:

What Happened in the SeventhOS?

Submitted by Eldritchhat (email)

At my first encounter with the Seventh Temple of Athena, the main thing occupying my mind was the sweltering conditions of my abode. I’m sitting at a sticky card table stained with green nail polish, a ring of condensation from a glass of ice tea seeping into the plastic covering. Clarice, my fiance, napping in the elbow of our bed, a royal edition of People magazine draped over the yawning pores of her face. White noise from the ceiling fan weighed down my eyelids, churning against the stale air. In case this might be the first work of mine that you’ve read, it should be no surprise that I was aimlessly browsing social media instead of working on the paper due next week. It was a philosophy paper, and I planned to finish on time, but the topic spun quickly in my head and the centripetal force kept a hold on my mind. A sudden stop and I crash into the landing page of a philosophy forum, further plowing into a sub-directory on metaphysics. My tongue lilted against a shard of ice that snuck its way past my chapped lips, eyes glazed over as I caught traces of Buddhism, Taoism, the Kabbalah, and healing crystals. I am not a religious woman, forgive my lack of interest. That said, I can at least intellectualize the conventions of spirituality, and I can even find inspiration in the miraculous faith of others.

Clarice’s father worked as an EMT and, once he retired, became a chaplain. The number of times he saw the light escape flood out from the eyes of a human being, I honestly cannot imagine the effect that would have on a person. I decided to write a story about a devoted Christian that came to attend his nephew’s baptism, only for him to crash into a tree on the icy road home. Upon his return to consciousness, he finds himself bleeding out in an ambulance, though his body is totally numb. He calls for someone to help him, to at least speak with him about his situation, but there is no response over the sound of blaring claxons. In the end, all he can do is recite a prayer from his childhood, the sun refusing to rise, as his soul is stuck in the last few moments his brain could register.

“Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
And should I die before I wake,

I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

I did not plan on writing anything that ambitious, though what I found far outweighs anything I could come up with, so here I write down my experience. When the target of my inquiry came into view, there were no supernatural forces pulling me towards the thread. “The Faith of Ancient Greeks” simply struck me as a small mosaic of syntax. The first few pages were standard, discussing the Cult of Dionysus and the Homeri Opera, a push-and-pull between sacrificial goats and peloponnesian wars. I skipped to the last page. There, posted three years before my expedition, was the final reply:

Thread: Plato Factory ⇒ Metaphysics ⇒ The Faith of Ancient Greeks

Xenophanes (GUEST) --- 5:35 AM, 20; 6; 2016;

Athena is the spirit of the West.

Download SeventhOS

I crossed my water-sausage fingers and clicked the link, quite aware that it may be a trojan horse. I don’t know how I got the program to run, so I won’t bore you with half-remembered details. After navigating the install wizard, I hopped over to the bed and tried dogging my semi-solid fiance into lending me her tech-savvy hands. What the hell is this? She will know when I’m finished. She mumbles out a gormless insult and shuffles into the folding chair, jostling the ice left over in my cup. Dosbox and drivers work hand-in-hand to concillorate its bizarre and broken programming. Without a sound, she then rose from the chair, her eyes ringed with indignation, and she leaves. In her place, I find a desktop wreathed in a sickly shade of teal, What Mystery will you offer? emblazoned in a console window.


I entered the one word still rattling in my skull. It is rejected. Too obvious, to be sure, but I had to give it a shot.


It did not reject this entry; instead, it returned an error message: You are stuck in your chains, until you free yourself you can only grasp at shadows ⇒ {REQUIRED ENTRY LEVEL == 5}. The passwords had to be entered in a certain order and, from a low spark of genius, I figured that there were seven levels in total. I closed the program and made a shortcut in the systems directory. I needed a little background knowledge if I was going to crack this nut.

During the next week, I overloaded Google with search terms like “Seventh Temple,” “Temple of Athena,” “Athena Cult.” It seems that my look was one in a million, because “SeventhOS” only returned the very page where I found the program. It was clear that I would need to take another angle of attack, so I instead looked through the profile of the user Xenophanes. They had no profile pic, their bio was barren, but it made bright blue twitter widget stand out all the more. I clicked the link. They were following six people, followed by six people, had an egg in the place of an avatar, and a single tweet:

Xenophanes  @xenophanes117   September 8 2015

Athena is the spirit of the West.

The mundanity of it all made me feel impotent and stupid, and I’d be lying if I said that I did not consider quitting here. I carried on, though, because I knew that if I were to leave this mystery unsolved, then no one else would pick it back up for me. Already, I saw in this goosechase a work of art, the obscurity itself defined its medium, so I navigated all the connected accounts. They were five normal names all connected to suspended accounts, and one spambot called Socrates(). I could’ve guessed that the famous skeptic would appear eventually. I jotted his name in my notes and scrolled through the hundreds of tweets advertising free iPhones and HD downloads of the Dark Knight. This was getting me nowhere. I shuffled over to the media tab, and I noticed that the only attached file among the deluge was a YouTube video for “Once In A Lifetime” by the Talking Heads. Absentmindedly, I let the video play as I worked over every conceivable clue that I could dredge up from this expedition. Under the water, carry the water. I stared into the eyes of David Byrne’s exasperated and sweat drenched face, and the flow neurons brought my first day of class back to the surface.


How had it not been more obvious to me? This was the man with an aquatic metaphysics. Though he was not a citizen of Athens, Thales is known as the father of western philosophy, and who else could be so taken by the spirit of Athena? I can recall a tale of him using astronomy to chart out the seasons, buying up a ton of olive farms and presses in anticipation of harvest, and making a fortune off of his calculated bounty. Regardless of this story’s veracity, my recall certainly paid off when the text parser returned: you break off the rusty shackles, the shadows flicker in ignorance ⇒  {ACCESS LEVEL 1 GRANTED}. I licked my flaking lips, and the slight taste of copper slipped through the cracks. The console printed out the vein of my curiosity, simply piquing my interest in the motherload.

Can you feel the water break?
Ready the forceps…

{LEVEL 2 HINT: Harmony of the Spheres}

My mind was floating in a bubble of intrigue, when the sudden intrusion of my fiance’s ringtone broke through that membrane. Wanna get dinner? I reply in the affirmative. There wasn’t an ounce of naivety within me, I knew that I had neglected earlier in the day. I had also been rather neglectful of myself, too entangled to eat while the enigma ate me up. I needed food, and my thoughts needed some mulling over.


During dinner I asked Clarice what she knew about the “harmony of the spheres,” while she idly stabbed at her fettuccine alfredo. She bore a smile, a chive stuck in her teeth. Then, she motioned for a cheap paper napkin and the pen I keep behind my ear. Next, she began her exhibition by eyeing the paper, tearing it precisely to get the approximate dimensions she required, then drawing a series of ever smaller boxes folding in on themselves. Finally, outward from the smallest rectangle, she fashioned a spiral with one swift motion.

There are 206 bones in the body of an average human adult.
There are 270 at the moment of your birth.
Only betweens these poles can we find true harmony.

{Level 3 HINT: Love and Strife}

“This,” she said, “is what is known as the golden ratio. It is one plus the square-root of five over two or one point six one eight continuous. If you create a rectangle with sides that conform to this ratio, it can expand or contract infinitely and form a spiral that occurs in seashells and flowers. This ratio was originally discovered by the cult of Pythagorus, who believed that the entire world could be mapped out according to numerical units. For them, the harmony of the spheres came from the sounds of cosmic bodies moving in a fantastic concerto, yet we aren’t able to hear it. They were ascetics that sought escape from the chaos of existence, to transcend circuitous reincarnation and bask in this ultimate song. Of course, Pythagorus ultimately commited suicide, and none of his disciples could even conceive of the number zero.”


Clarice drove me back to my dorm, letting Van Halen replace her voice as she planted her eyes stoically on the road. For some reason, I thought that our dinner had been a good time. No, it wasn’t, because I clearly still had that stupid program on my mind. It had only been a day, I was sure to be done with it before the end of the week. That’s not the point, I am always getting into some new project that I’m convinced will shift the world on its axis, and I just end up pushing everyone away. I never meant to push her away. Ugh… she knows that I don’t, but I’m too obsessed with proving worth to people that I’ll never know. She understands the impulse, but I’m not Victor Frankenstein or Herbert West, I’m just one normal woman. I’m not normal, she knows that, but why can’t I pursue something ambitious like all the “great men” in history? She doesn’t say anything, she just looks away as I clamor out of the passenger seat and walk to my dorm building.

Can you feel the animal magnetism?

Can you hear the drip… drip… drip…

Only to find excess?

{Level 4 HINT: Nothing is No Thing}

I didn’t fall asleep that night, nor did I feel like cracking my knuckles again on the cipher. Anxiety churned my stomach as I stared up at the ceiling and contemplated my mistakes. Relationships were always a cliff for me, a sisyphean challenge that I had no choice but to tackle. I almost fell into a fugue when Clarice proposed to me, because it seemed like a joke that anyone would want to spend their life with the likes of me. Now, I felt resentment bubbling up in me that she would dash my hopes against the rocks, even though I knew that she was right and our distance was absolutely my fault. My life appeared like a gordian knot, for I needed the support of those that value me, but the obsession I have with my insufficient qualities drives those very people away.


There was no soul. There was nothing. The world did not exist. All of this, everything, was just words on a page. I can see now that this is real, even though it felt like fiction at the time. Anything that you can imagine must exist.

Your will has no bearing on reality.
You cannot conceive of reality.
Submit to the One.

{Level 5 HINT: Enjoy the Happenstance}

The next morning, I knocked out one after the other, and I already knew the answer for the fifth layer, yet this hint perplexed me. In my mind, it seemed like a random phrase, one that had no real relationship to the ancient philosopher it corresponded to. This break in metafiction simply broke the mystique. These words are in english, they reference idioms in english, and they allude to inventions and theological concepts alien to this conceit. Were I to bring this to a Greek scholar or, hell, the dead men themselves, they could make neither hide nor hair of it. Why did I blindly follow the directions of this impotent system?


Instead of the next key, I entered something that pertained to my particular interests, a figure of Greek legacy whose work has actual bearing on my life. I really didn’t expect the parser to return anything but the generic error message; however, it had a unique response. What is this shard of sunlight? ⇒ {ACCESS LEVEL ? GRANTED}. Perhaps I was wrong in my assumptions as to this program’s creator. Perhaps this “Xenophanes” is a woman.

In Plato’s Republic, there are neither women nor slaves.

Could you imagine such a world?
Keep your head up, dear sister.

Breathless, I felt vindicated. Though I was still bereft of answers, it seemed that my mind now had some mastery of this puzzle. My notes sat beside me, dozens of names jotted down and scratched out, sometimes tearing through the legal pad as I ran low on ink. It dawned on me that the heat still hadn’t let up, and I touched a patchy spot on my forehead where my flesh started peeling in the sun. Had a month already eked by without a single drop of rain? I rose from my chair and forced open the screen door that seperated my shelter from the balcony. A burst of stale air hit me, accompanied by the barks and honks of the chaotic world outside. The world still spins, even when my brain is caught in that steel trap. The forests are burning, the seas are rising, and the people who have always suffered at the hands of zealous men find themselves suffocating. I raised my eyes to the sun, its radiance like a brand on my retinas, and I dared it. I dared Apollo to come down from his golden chariot, to finally meet his subjects so that we can all tear off the pound of flesh that we are owed.


Unlike every output that came before, nothing was printed in the console this time, and what appeared was an alert box.

Death with Dignity

I pondered the phrase for a second, and then tried to close it. Another box then popped up, and I knew better than to try closing it again. Thank god I was running the OS with a simulated desktop, for it was clearly behaving like a virus now. Still, I couldn’t interact with anything but the message, and I did not want to keep closing it out like a fool until the whole program crashed. No, I decided to just use Ctrl-Alt-Dlt and close out the application. There, I saw that the name in the directory had changed from “SeventhOS” to “CreateNikeTxtFile.” Were my tactics so simple that Xenophanes could predict them from years ago? Regardless of the answer, I created the Nike text file on the desktop and kept it open as I advanced to the following level.


This time, the console did print something. {Final Level HINT: Impoverished Sentinel}. The text file updated and gave me far more text, and far more questions, than anything up to this point.

Athens, Tennessee

Dear Gertrude,

Zoos and I have been off in the deep woods for this hunting season, only provisions with us are some canned food, a few jugs, and a heap of jerky. She misses you, Gerty, you’re her mama and she’s been looking for comfort since she lost that litter. I’d like to think bagging a buck might cheer Zoos up, but I don’t have much hope with how things have been going. She came upon something wrong out there, been real spooked since, and I think we may have to head on back early.

We’d been through that neck of the woods a thousand times, not once we came upon much to look at. It’s on a hillside, runs right up against a stream that rises up just above your knees at this time of year. About the top of the hill is a cedar longhouse, been there all my life, my grandad even knew the family that erected it. It’s been empty, though, for years now. I should know, since I spent the night once instead of pitching a tent, and you could see it was a common meeting ground of squatters and raccoons. Zoos slept outside when I did that, though she whimpered through most of the night, worried me that she might attract a bear. I even put some jerky down at the threshold of the front door, but she just stared at it, didn’t even try to make a swipe at it and run back to her spot. Afterwards, I just found places to sleep elsewhere.

Nevertheless, Zoos caught some stray scent up there, and whatever had kept her back before didn’t seem to dissuade her. She followed it back behind the cabin, towards a firepit I’d neglected to notice throughout my time here. Started digging at the ashes until she came upon a leather corner that turned out to be a steamer trunk. Scratched atop it were these words:

“Remains in the dark, the seventh temple,

Now seven times folded, blessed are the bodiless

For Athena is the spirit of the west.”

I had thought to break the lock on it, either with the butt of my rifle or a bullet, but something else caught my eye. Buried right beside the trunk was something charred black, and I first wondered if it was a piece of it that had broken off. As a man who has skinned more deer than he can count, I knew soon as I got a good look that it was a bone. Might’ve been a fragment from an animal, it was so small, so I turned it over a few times in my hand. Something registered in my mind, that it could be the unmended bone from a newborn baby’s finger. I dropped it then, not wanting to ponder any further on what I had discovered.

I sincerely hope that you’ve not found this story distressing, I’d just like you to know why I’m heading back so soon. I know why you stay with your mother, the heat this year is enough that even I can get delirious. Next year, then, we won’t be heading down this side, since even the deer have thinned out from that area. For what it’s worth, it may have been my imagination and, by the time this letter reaches you, Zoos and I will relax near the fire. I’m sure you’d love to join us, maybe read a book together like we did back when we both had our youth.


What was this? What was Xenophanes trying to tell me? Were this even a real letter, how would they get this? I knew that I had to finish what I had started, but so many new doubts and fears rattled against my ribcage, I was paralyzed to do it. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew that something sinister was waiting on the other side, at best a shock image found on some rancid image board. I decided to do some outside research before sealing my fate, so I looked into any urban legends surrounding Athens, Tennessee. There was a reddit thread a few pages into the google search that actually referenced a haunted longhouse that sounded like it may have been the one that letter mentioned. It did not mention any cult or steamer trunk, but a curse that supposedly drove game out of the area. Apparently, people and animals went missing around the building, their bones later found fused into the wood of the walls.


The console simply closed itself, as the wallpaper became an artifacted, pixelated image. It took me a moment to realize that it was a photo and not just a pastiche of muddled browns, but I cannot say that it was exactly what I expected. That isn’t to say that I couldn’t recognize image, after my brain took a few seconds to fill in the visual gaps. It was a decrepit steamer trunk, with some illegible scrawl emblazoned on the top. Whatever the letter’s veracity, it was now indisputable that the artifact did exist. However, it was not buried in dirt, but lying on a dusty wooden floor in some dark room, illuminated either by a weak flashlight or the flash of a digital camera. Over top of the box was the silhouette of a figure with a wide-brimmed hat and an outstretched hand, seemingly motioning for something. A file for the image was now on the desktop, right where the index finger lead, named “WhatIsGood.png.”

Once I felt that I had gotten my fill of the macabre scene, I terminated the instance of DosBox and transferred SeventhOS into a USB drive. I then stuck that drive in the back of my desk, wedging it far behind my many unfinished projects so that I won’t be tempted to mess with it any time soon. I think that my notes have sufficed to give a decent approximation of the experience. Thereafter, I called Clarice and got her voicemail, but I told her that I was done with my project and that I wanted to spend tomorrow with her. That is the truth. I am done with the SeventhOS. I will spare you of what theories I have to its purpose, largely because such speculation might re-spark my interest now that I’ve reached the conclusion of this writeup. You can search it out or you can mull over the descriptions I have provided here. Though, if it might convince you not to mess around with this program, I will clue you in on the final discovery I made before locking it all away.

I moved the image file away from the position where it appeared, and underneath I saw a solid black object that I could just barely make out. I opened the file with photoshop and zoomed in on that part of the image, even though I knew the low pixel count would not result in much or any increased clarity. What I did notice, though, was that a few scant pixels were stark white in contrast with the general charcoal black of the object. Of course, that could have just been the light reflecting off of the surface, but I decided to turn the contrast on the photo anyway. The outline and extent of the object was now much clearer. In comparison to the steamer trunk, it had to be at least three inches long, and it had the shape of a rudimentary flute. It was quite possible that this was a proximal phalanx, but it was far too large to be an infant’s bone, or even the bone of an average human adult.