The Spot On The Ceiling
By: Walter G. Esselman
"No, I understand Mom," said Justin through gritted teeth. Exhausted, he trudged up to his townhouse. "No, I understand why you want me to go, but I can't this weekend."
Justin unlocked the front door and stepped into his home with its plain white ceiling and Pistons memorabilia randomly placed on the walls.
"No, I do understand that you want me to go, but I don't want to go to my cousin's birthday party," said Justin.
There was a pause as he listened.
"What do you mean 'Why'?" asked Justin. "He used beat me up all the time when we were kids," said Justin. "Besides, I'm already on the schedule. Working doubles. Just like I did today, and yesterday."
Justin flicked on the lights and hung his keys by the door.
"No, seriously Mom, I can't get off this Mom? Mom?" called Justin as the connection died. "Fuck."
Taking a deep breath, he turned on the TV, and then headed into the kitchen.
However, before he made it out of the living room, Justin screeched to a halt.
He looked at the ceiling and saw a spot, about the size of a dime.
"Huh," commented Justin, and he wondered how long the spot had been there. Had it been there this morning? he wondered.
Going into the kitchen, he made a meatloaf sandwich and took out a beer. As he walked back into the living room, he glanced up at the spot, and froze.
Was it bigger? he wondered. Or, maybe it had already been the size of a quarter.
However, the ceiling looked dry, so he made a mental note to keep an eye on it.
At halftime, Justin jumped up for a bathroom break and another drink. Armed with a frosty beer, he stopped by the spot again.
It was definitely bigger now.
"Dammit," swore Justin. He took a pull on his beer and left it by the TV. The Pistons were still in halftime so he ran into the kitchen. There was only one chair at the kitchen table. He carried it back into the living room and stood on it.
The ceiling was wet to the touch. He smelled his fingers and recoiled a little. The water smelled brackish.
"What the hell?"
Jumping down, he went to the second floor to check the full bathroom. But everything was as dry as a bone. Just in case though, he ran the faucets and flushed the toilet, but he did not hear any watery noises below.
Going back downstairs, he heard the third quarter starting, but the spot was even bigger now. Getting some paper towels, he stepped onto the chair once again.
Justin gently touched the ceiling and tried to blot the water. The ceiling gave, just a little. After a pause, he pushed a little harder and as he let up, the small section of ceiling bowed downward.
A single drop of liquid formed at the bottom of the drooping ceiling.
The brackish smell was starting to get worse.
Before the droplet had hit the chair, more water was beginning to collect. Carefully, he tried to blot the water, but it was collecting faster and faster.
"Bucket," he said to himself.
Hopping down, he bolted to the laundry room in the basement, and found two plastic buckets. After a moment's hesitation, he grabbed the first one and tore back upstairs. Once there, he put the red bucket below, to catch the foul smelling water.
He heard a cheer from the TV, and stole a glance.
"Come on you guys!" he told the Pistons. "Don't fall apart on me now."
Looking back at the droop in the ceiling, he sighed sadly. Taking out his phone, he called the maintenance department for his Coop. It rang to voicemail.
"Hey, this is Justin from 2232 Mulberry Ave, and I've got a leak in my living room ceiling. I got buckets, so I should be okay till morning, but I'm going to need help by then. It's dripping pretty steady."
Ending the call, Justin noticed that the dripping had increased.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
"Aw crap," he muttered.
Running back downstairs, he retrieved the second bucket. By the time he had returned, the droop in the ceiling was getting even worse. The dripping had quickened. He thought about trying maintenance's emergency number, but decided against it.
The ceiling was going to give soon.
"Might as well get it over with," he grumbled. "At least I can drain it."
Wielding a pen, he took the second bucket and stepped up onto the chair.
Wrapping his arm around the bucket, he pricked the bottom of the droop. A thin stream of water began to pour out quickly, and the hole started to form cracks, which opened it wider.
Most of the water was being caught by the bucket though. However, the smell was horrific, and Justin had to fight the urge to throw up into bucket.
Even as the water slowed, one part of the ceiling gave and opened up a hole above. As bits of ceiling fell to the floor, Justin looked up into the hole. There should have been wood, and probably pipes, but instead, there was a deep, profound darkness.
And was there something moving up there? he wondered.
Four eyesset close togetherglinted.
Claws swiped out and caught Justin just above his right eye. He stumblefell off the chair, and dropped the bucket, which splashed across the floor.
Clutching at his right eye, he turned to see something drop down. He did not even think of the front door. Instead, he bolted for the first way out of the room.
Justin ran up the staircase in a panic. Even before he reached the landing though, something was at the bottom of the stairs, but Justin could not process it. Multiple arms, but no legs?
Hitting the landing, he raced into his room.
There was a skittering now on the stairwell.
In his room, he turned to close the door and he could see something closing fast on him. Just as the door slammed shut, something smacked hard into it. Then came a scraping and scrabbling against the door.
Fumbling with his pocket, he took out his cell. As he leaned over it, a tiny drop of his blood hit the screen. Unlocking the phone, he went to dial 911.
A drop of brackish water plopped onto the screen and diluted the blood there.
Slowly, Justin looked up. At several points, the ceiling was bowing.
Then the one above him burst.
The maintenance man, Lanny, came to a halt in Justin's living room. He turned around, once again. By the door was a set of keys, hanging on a hook.
Opening his cell, Lanny made a quick call.
His colleague, Ty, answered right away. "Yo."
"Hey Ty," started Lanny a little slowly. "That message about the drip from the ceiling, that was from Justin at 2232, right?"
"Yeah, should be," replied Ty, but he sounded a little unsure. "Let me play it again."
Over the cell, Lanny heard Justin talking about the drip from his living room ceiling.
"Yep, it's definitely him," said Ty. "Why?"
"The ceiling's fine," said Lanny.
"Maybe he meant another room?" suggested Ty.
"I looked in every room," said Lanny. "I even glanced in the bedroom, but all the ceilings look fine. No hint of water damage."
"Huh, a prank?" asked Ty.
"I don't know," said Lanny, but something was giving him the willies. "But I'm heading back."
And as he left, another spot began to form in the ceiling.