The Seventh House


fiction by J. A. Tyler


I built the seventh house in the crook of a cloud, where it was moving upward in columns, rearing to the shape of thunder that never came. I looked at the sky from in the clouds and there was a home I could build. I made the walls from trees. I used an axe and a saw. I purged a doorway and four walls, made a chimney for the first snow, gutters for the rain. This seventh house as a seventh place I could burn down, if the loss became too much.

From above in the clouds I looked down on the forest and saw how they expanded and grew without a line ever showing the end of these woods. The trees going on into infinity. These lost woods are the only place. This is where I am, the deer-left part of me, hiding in hiding.

In these lost woods we can only go up.

I built a seventh house in the clouds.

Deer-Brother: Where have you gone? I’ve been out looking.

In these woods, I am more lost than I have ever been before.

My brother was a deer and I was a deer and when we ran together we were a herd and the herd was near a river and the river was running. We were running. When my brother was a deer and I was a deer we were making the noise that deer make, which is only ever the hoof-step of running in forest dirt where dead ideas go. The sounds of forgetting. When I was young I was a deer and my brother was a brother-deer I looked up to, put stock in, held hands with. That brother has vanished. That brother has gone. That brother is a deer in a woods that never stop treeing.

In these woods, this seventh house was my attempt to live inside a dream.

In these woods, there are only death-dreams.

A death-dream is not a dream. A death-dream is a calling. A death-dream is a command. This is purgatory, these lost woods. This is where I am because I have not yet died. This is what it feels like to live on while dying. This is what it feels like to burn. This is what it feels like to have had a brother and to have been a deer and then to wake in a lost woods, a black dot on a white piece of paper, handed out from a dear brother, who disappears into the landscape.

Sky and dreams are made from the same irreverence.

When I built this seventh house up in the clouds and the walls came crashing back down through that whispering haze-lake, I understood that creating anything in clouds was a failure, that I was failing.

In these woods, where my brother is not.

Dear Brother: I’m sad. Do you remember when we were a herd? That was a music I could listen to forever.

I build the seventh house with a chimney for the first snow and a gutter for the rain and two chairs to sit in, for myself and my brother, for when we were together again. My brother the deer. And that seventh house, when it pulled back to the ground, it shattered into so many pieces that it was unrecognizable as a dream that I had in the clouds above us. The impossibility of being.

I built the seventh house without imagining how I would burn it down, up in the clouds, with the closest fire that pretend sun hung above these lost woods, where I stare in the hopes of going blind. My brother a deer hiding away in the shadows below, always escaping my gaze from this seventh house, the one that stayed built for only a moment.

Deer-Brother: I am tired.

In these woods I have been handed death, and I have refused. But the woods are never-ending and the houses I build all burn down or sink. My hooves are exhausted. And the moon never rises in the way that a moon should. I writer letters to the outside but they are only in my head. I try to clarify what I’ve done but can’t. I look for my deer-brother in his deer-hiding, but I cannot find him. There are bears and foxes and fish. There are deer. And in this seventh house, for a second, there are birds, all the birds that the lost woods hold. They fly by, streaking. The clouds are no place for pause. Dreams are suitable for building a home.

Dear Brother: I tried.

The two chairs that I built in the seventh house crashed down too, broke the same as any other point of love. There is no spirit here. On the ground these broken chairs and my deer-sad hooves, they are quiet waiting, lost forever beneath a world. Stuck in death-dreams, where deer no longer matter, chairs are irrelevant, and houses don’t always burn down – some fall straight through our wishes, caving into splinters on the solid soil-fists below.

Try clouds, try sky. Try looking up with these antlers on our heads.

My brother was a deer and our childhood was a running river and the seventh house that I built in the clouds was a house that I wanted to burn instead of it falling out of the sky. But clouds are not meant for dreams and our chairs remain empty and I call for him, for my deer-brother, search for his hoof-sounds through lost-woods branches, but dying is a singularity.

Try hoping. Try death-dreams.

With the seventh house broken around me I had nothing left to burn. Until a bird landed on the ground nearby. Until a bird hopped in quick flits towards my hand. Until I was holding a bird in my deer-brother hand, restricting its wings, touching flame to its feathers. Until a bird was flying up towards the sky, its wings alight, its beak a burning compass.

In these woods, I refuse to die.

In these woods, where even clouds are not sacred.

Dear Brother: Maybe I will see you again soon, and we can figure all of this out.