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The thing on the ceiling (by Sparky)

 Sparky (0)  (25 / M-F / Massachusetts)
28-Mar-20 7:30 am
The thing on the ceiling

I usually thought of myself as living a fairly normal life in a fairly normal small town. I lived alone in a house, the house I grew up in, which my parents left to me when they died. I worked at a local factory that produced industrial cleaning products. I got together with friends on the weekend to watch the game and have some beers. Every summer I hosted a neighborhood barbeque, where the Smythes down the street would always try to set me up with another nice, handsome, stable guy from the city, because it?s ?such a shame? that I?m living alone in that big house, and it must be so empty and sad for me. I would always smile and act nice, but what they don?t know is that at my core I am a stubborn introvert silently screaming to be left alone. Truth is, I knew that being around other people is a bad-tasting medicine I have to take, because if left on my own I?ll slowly lose my mind.
In that sense, the creature on the ceiling was actually a mixed blessing.
I didn?t notice it until I was leaving for work one tuesday morning. I wouldn?t have had a good view of it from the kitchen as I made myself coffee and breakfast. I wouldn?t have seen it from the bathroom as I brushed my teeth. It didn?t come into my line of sight until I rushed through the living room towards the front door. But there it was, staring down at me with those huge black eyes, and I stopped dead in my tracks.
I can?t really tell you why I didn?t scream, or run. Maybe I was too overwhelmed. Maybe it was just too unexpected. Maybe I was in such a single-minded rush to get to work that my brain jumped tracks momentarily when I saw it. As it was, I just stood there staring up at it, and it stared back down at me.
It was big. Bigger than an average person. Most of its bulk was in its torso, which was sort of potato-shaped. It had very long, stick-thin arms and legs, which held on to the ceiling like a spider. Its neck was similarly long and thin, and held up its big, round face with its closed, lipless mouth and big, dull black eyes. It was featureless and naked, with smooth pale skin. It honestly looked like it had been drawn by a child.
Finally, I moved very slowly towards the door, keeping my eyes locked on it. It kept its eyes locked back at me, and moved slowly for the door as I did. I remember wondering if it was some kind of animal that got caught in here by mistake, and maybe I could just open the door and it would run free.
When I got to the door, it was right above me, so close I could smell it. It was a peculiar odour, like sharp cheddar cheese and wet cardboard. I reached out, very slowly, for the doorknob. It gave its head a quizzical tilt. I turned the knob carefully and pulled-
It moved so fast my brain barely registered it. It reached out with its impossibly thin arm and slammed the door shut with so much force that I stumbled and fell to the ground. This is when I finally started screaming and clumsily backing away like an injured crab. The thing on the ceiling didn?t really react, just stared at me as I fell all over myself trying to scramble out of the room.
In a panic, I ran for the back door. However, I could hear that thing scuttling along the ceiling right past me. It beat me to the door, and climbed down the wall to brace itself between me and the exit.
Thinking I could still outrun it, I ran back for the front door, but it was still too quick. I saw a couple of bits of drywall dust sprinkle down as it scuttled past me. Then there it was, sprawled out against the front door.
I leaned against the wall, out of breath. We continued to stare at each other. There was a strange intelligence behind those eyes, but not something I could really read or understand. It was definitely intentionally trying to keep me inside the house for some reason.
?What do you want from me?? I asked it breathlessly.
It said nothing. Just fixed its stare down at me from its perch on the ceiling.
?Do you understand me? Can you speak??
No glimmer of understanding, no response.
I looked around my small living room. It was cluttered, mainly with a lot of things my parents had left behind that I hadn?t figured out what to do with yet. I picked up a tacky golf trophy my mother had brought home once, and launched it as hard as I could at the thing.
To my shock, it didn?t even flinch. The trophy hit the thing, and broke like it had hit a brick wall, falling to the floor in pieces. The thing watched it fall, disinterested, and turned to stare at me again.
I went upstairs. It was hard to lose eye contact- the idea of it losing track of it and having it crawling around somewhere it my house was deeply unsettling. But I had to figure out a way out.
I got to my bedroom, and beelined for the window above my bed. My first plan was to open it and shout for help. I live on a busy street, surely someone would hear me. Failing that, I would crawl out. I?d done it before, when a neighbour?s kid threw a frisbee up on the roof. I could get onto the roof and climb down, and then call the police or animal control or maybe NASA. As much as I kept trying to tell myself that the thing on the ceiling was an animal of some kind, I knew it couldn?t be.
I barely got halfway across the room when the door flew open behind me, and the creature crawled across my bedroom ceiling towards the window. It must have known what was planning, because suddenly it was sprawled out, covering the window completely.
?No!? I shouted, like I was scolding a dog I?d found chewing my slippers. I picked up a heavy book off the floor, and threw it hard at the thing. Again, it bounced off harmlessly. My eyes darted around and landed on the weight set that I?d started working out with, but lost interest in. I picked up a ten-pound weight and chucked it unsteadily at the thing. The disc made a dull thud when it hit the creature, and then landed harmlessly on my bed.
?Get out!? I yelled, chucking another weight. Another thud, then a clack as it landed on the other weight. ?Get out!? I screamed as loud as I could, launching another. Thud, clack. It continued to stare blankly.
I opened my closet door, where I kept a wooden baseball bat. I was part of a community league; not for very long, but I?d kept this in case of intruders. I wielded it and moved towards the creature menacingly, but it didn?t react. I swung hard, making another dull thud and failing to entice any reaction at all from the thing. I swung again and again, against its body, limbs, and even its face. The force didn?t even move the creature at all. It stayed there, stuck to the wall, as though it was made of reinforced concrete.
Finally, I swung as hard as I could, and all I got for my efforts was a shattered bat and a bed full of wooden splinters. I stared at the remains of the bat, in shock.
?What the hell are you?? I asked it, dropping the handle of the bat on the floor. I backed out of the room and down the stairs. It followed me, keeping a bit of distance. I sat down on the couch and pulled out my cell phone, thinking I could at least call for help this way.
It immediately darted forward and swatted the phone out of my hands, then picked it up and held it in its long, thin white fingers.
?Damnit!? I yelled. I jumped up and grabbed for my phone, only for my fingers to brush against its unnatural flesh. I recoiled in shock; its skin was impossibly hot, like I?d just touched a red-hot element on a stove. I could smell scorched skin, and the screaming of my nerves as the pads of my fingers cooked. I ran to the kitchen sink and turned on the faucet- I tried to remember, in my panicked state, what the proper first aid was. Definitely not ice, right? Running water was bad for some reason too, wasn?t it? Or was it cold water? I put the plug in the sink and put my hand in the bottom where the lukewarm water was pooling, which brought some relief.
As I tended to my burn, I heard some commotion behind me. Lots of scuttling, then loud banging. I tried to turn and look, but couldn?t see anything from this vantage point.
I walked back into the living room to discover that the creature had methodically and thoroughly boarded up the front door and the living room window with 2x4s and plywood. It was dark in the living room now; I flicked on the light switch. I found my cell phone on the floor, a mangled wreck of plastic.
The thing came scuttling out of the basement holding more lumber, nails, and a hammer. It turned and looked at me, then rushed off towards the back door. Damnit, I forgot about all of that lumber. I?d picked it up for a project, a harebrained scheme to make myself a new coffee table.
My eyes fell on the old coffee table next to me, and I got an inspiration; there was my tablet. I could still go online with my tablet, maybe contact a neighbour or email my boss. I wasn?t cut off from the outside world yet.
I sat down, picked up the tablet off the coffee table, and turned it on. I opened up my browser, and got a pixelated image of a tyrannosaurus with a message that I was offline. I spent about ten minutes trying to get connected to my router again while the creature hammered away in the background, when finally I realized that the router itself was offline. When I crawled under the shelving unit to find out why, I discovered another pile of crushed plastic.
?Damnit!? I hissed. I banged my knee crawling back out and struggled to stand up.
So I was trapped. I couldn?t get out on my own accord. But surely someone in the neighborhood would notice that my house was being boarded up? Would they come and find me and rescue me? Or would they think I was just doing some sort of renovations?
The whole day, I listened for someone coming up the walk while the thing finished boarding up every single door, window, and vent in the house. It was oddly quiet outside, though. Probably everything was muffled by the lumber. I didn?t even hear a car go by.
The thing had blocked out all the sunlight, to the point that I only knew when evening came by the clock on the microwave. I finally decided to just go to bed and see what tomorrow would bring- once I?d cleared off the debris and changed the sheets.
---------
The next day, the thing and I just stared at each other. The house was strangely quiet; I found myself wishing I hadn?t cancelled cable TV or the landline phone. I tried to ignore the thing, tried to read some of the books I?d picked up as a New Year?s resolution but never got around to. But it was impossible to concentrate with that thing around.
Fortunately, I had just picked up groceries a couple of days ago. Enough to last a while, now that I was captive here. I ate lunch while it watched me from the ceiling.
I tried to watch some movies, from my parent?s collection back when DVDs were the way to go. I?d seen them all already, and they were all dated and boring. The thing quietly watched me watch the movies.
I managed to keep it outside of the bathroom, which was a relief. There was no way I would be able to go while it watched me. I had a feeling that if I tried to get the boards down and break out the window, it would smash the door down in a second and stop me.
On day three, I tried it anyway. I took the crowbar from the basement and went into the main floor bathroom, hoping that it wouldn?t understand my intentions. It watched me with its dull blank stare, stopping outside the bathroom.
When the door was closed and locked, I immediately began prying at the two-by-fours on the bathroom window. They were fastened really well with big, long nails, but they began to pull away. A blinding shaft of daylight hit me, and I was momentarily blinded.
It didn?t exactly smash the door down; the creature ripped it right off its hinges and tossed it aside. It was inside and wedging itself between me and the window in an instant. The bathroom was really small, though; in its effort to crowd me out, the thing brushed up against me several times and left me howling in pain at my burnt skin. It stared on blankly as I backed away. I ran for the kitchen sink and doused the wounds with water, not caring about whether the water was too cold. Fortunately, the burns turned out to be superficial.
So I didn?t try to escape again, after that.
On day four, the constant adrenaline of living with the creature started to fade, and the boredom was really starting to get to me. I put my weight bench back together and did a few exercises. I was disappointed to see how weak I was; I?d been making good progress a couple of months ago.
The creature watched on as I brought some empty rubbermaid bins out of the basement and started sorting through my parent?s things. Now that I was surrounded by them twenty-four hours a day under this sickly electric lighting, I couldn?t stand to look at them anymore. I filled one bin with donations and one with things that my sister might want. I grabbed a garbage bag for the rest. There were certain things that I had just stop seeing, from seeing them so much every day for years; dumb little nicknacks and dust collectors that didn?t mean anything anymore now that they were disconnected from their owners.
I?d filled four bins and two garbage bags before it really hit me. I was holding a snowglobe with the ?Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas? sign in it, when I was hit by a sudden feeling of my father?s presence, an immanent sense of him being in the room, of his smile when he came home from that trip, of the dumb visor he?d bought that cast a green shadow over his face. I hadn?t really felt that sense of his presence since the last time I?d seen him.
I spent most of the rest of day four crying while the creature on the ceiling looked on dispassionately.
On day five, I tackled the cleanup again, and got a little further. I cried less that day. The thing found some rolls of duct tape in the basement, and started really sealing the place up. I decided not to question it; it didn?t harm me as long as I tried not to leave, so I left it alone.
Day six I was back on the weight bench, still a little sore, but happy that my muscles were waking up again. I set the treadmill back up in the basement and worked up a sweat. I read Oryx and Crake in one sitting, pulled out my mom?s old pasta maker and made my first batch of spaghetti. It turned out fairly decent.
Day seven I uncovered the unopened cans of paint in the basement and finally repainted the spare bedroom (at least, as much as I could get while working around the boarded-up window). Then I polished off Needful Things, worked my legs and my core muscles, and ran a few more kilometers.
By day twelve I?d figured out four different kinds of pasta and was tackling cannelloni. I was feeling stronger and fitter, taking deeper breaths, standing up straighter. I?d struggled through A Brief History of Time and a dozen other books. The thing watched on.
On day eighteen, I woke up, made coffee, and ate leftovers for breakfast. I was out of eggs and milk now, and running low on other food too. I wasn?t sure what I was going to do yet; all attempts to attack, outthink, plead, and reason with the thing to let me go had failed. I?d started to ration out the food I had left.
After breakfast, I stepped into the living room to find the thing dead. It was no longer on the ceiling; it was lying on its back on the floor, legs folded in like a dead insect.
I found the crowbar in the basement, and carefully poked at the thing. It didn?t move. It was a greyish colour now, sort of sickly looking. I still didn?t want to touch it, in case it still generated that heat. Somehow I?d never realized it before, but it never scorched anything else it touched. It had only ever been hot when it touched me.
I didn?t waste any more time. I began prying off the boards across the front door. Again, it was blindingly bright outside; I hadn?t seen natural daylight in over two weeks. As my eyes adjusted, I ripped the boards away one by one until the door was accessible again. I opened it and stepped outside.
I stumbled a bit at first, unused to the light and the fresh air. The sudden freedom was exhilarating. Very quickly though, I realized something felt incredibly wrong. The street wasn?t just empty, it felt abandoned. I couldn?t put my finger on it, but I knew there was nobody around.
I walked down to Main Street, which was only a few blocks away from my house. It was not just empty, it was... finished. There was a car crash down the road that nobody had bothered to attend to- a pickup truck with a smashed-in front end blocked the road sideways, and looked like it had been there a while. Nobody was out on the street. A couple of business windows were smashed, and it looked like someone had made a half-hearted attempt at looting but just given up halfway through.
?Hello?? I yelled out. Nobody answered.
I wandered the town in a daze for about half an hour before I spotted the three men in neon green hazmat suits loading dead bodies into the bed of a truck.
?Hello?? I called out to them. They stopped what they were doing and stared at me as I approached.
?Hi, I don?t know what?s been going on here. I?ve been- well, I?ve been trapped. In my house.?
?You?re from around here?? asked one of the figures. It was a tall man with glasses. He looked at me like I was a ghost.
?Yeah, I live over on twentieth ave. What happened here??
?There?s been an accident at the chemical plant. Something went wrong in the lab. Things got out of control, and there was a cloud of gas that rolled down the hill and wiped out most of the town. There?s still some in the air; we need to get you out of here right away.?
So away we went. They took me in the truck to their headquarters, and I tried not to glance over my shoulder at the bodies of my small-town neighbours behind us. I got treated for toxic chemical exposure as a precaution, but I was perfectly fine. I told my story a dozen different times, knowing that nobody would believe me, but figuring that they would eventually find the creature on the floor of my living room. I was half right; nobody ever did believe me. They never found the creature, though.
What they did find, which I had never noticed in the house, was that a remarkable filtering device had been attached to my furnace. It had been cleaning the outside air so that I would be safe. Men in suits quizzed me for hours about what it was and how it worked, but I had absolutely no idea. Eventually they had to let me go, when I vowed to never tell this story. That was almost seven years ago.
Of course, you?re probably wondering why I?m telling this story now. Truth is, I figure this might be my last chance. See, I?m running low on food. The thing on the ceiling is back, and it won?t let me go again. This time, though, I outwitted it. I managed to get onto a neighbour?s WiFi.
Anyone know what?s going on out there this time?


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