“Someone took my ceiling.”
He said this sincerely despite how ludicrous it sounded.
“Someone…took…your…ceiling?” My cautious approach was attributed to his prior periods of paranoia and psychosis. My brother is schizophrenic and, at times, has a tenuous relationship with reality.
“There is a hole in the top of your house?” I suggested.
He rolled his eyes. “They didn’t steal my roof, only my ceiling. In my living room.”
I had been hinting around for a visit lately, but our Facetime calls always ended before I could get him to agree. Seeing the state of his house helped to clue me into the state of his mind and I always felt better after I had stocked his freezer with casseroles and stews. “Could I see it?”
He nodded. “It’s not bad, actually. I think I like it. Opens the room up a bit.”
He had been describing the truth; his ceiling appeared to be gone.
Standing in his living room, I had a view into the attic above, but it was a distorted one, as if I were looking through a window streaked with rain drops.
“How long has it been like this, Leon?”
He scratched his head, a nervous tick he had developed in childhood. “Since yesterday. I saw it right before I told you about it. I saw it, and then I told you.”
“I am glad you did,” I said. My heart was pounding, but I put on a brave face for him. I went to retrieve a step ladder from his garage. Back in the living room, I climbed it and reached up. My hand sunk into a gelatinous plasma. It was warm, like the inside of a mouth or other orifice. When I withdrew my hand, my fingers appeared webbed with a translucent substance. It pulsed and I was repulsed. I ran to the bathroom to disinfect my hands.
“You need to leave.” I insisted when my fingers finally felt like my own again.
He shook his head. “But they are watching me.”
“The ones who caused the accident.”
Two decades prior, we had been involved in a car accident with our family. A light, maybe oncoming headlights, had temporarily blinded our dad. Next thing I knew, I was in the hospital. My parents were fine, but my brother’s head had been shaved and he had a long scar above his left ear that ran from the end of his eyebrow to the back of his head.
The accident had gifted me with a matching scar on my pelvic region. We called ourselves “the twins of the lesions of power” and we made up fantastical stories about the origin of the scars and their supernatural gifts. Leon mostly told the same story, about a spaceship that had been in the area where we were driving. At times, he claimed having seen it right before the crash, and of seeing beings who took his brain to better understand earth. He used to tell me that the beings had left him with the brain of someone else.
Because of this story, he had shown no surprise when he had been diagnosed with mental health issues years later.
He insisted that because he had witnessed the exchange of his brain, he was able to remember it. He complained that the new brain was problematic. He would also tell me that my scar was related to a reproductive study. He would tease me and tell me that when the beings returned, they might insert a tenant into my vacant womb.
I was having a difficult time gathering my thoughts and I was concerned that I had just touched some contaminant. “You need to come home with me.”
“I am fine,” he assured me.
“Leon, there is something…very wrong here. I am scared and I want you with me.” I rolled down the top of my sweatpants to where my scar had faded to a faint pale line. “I need the twin powers to help me deal with this.”
This had no effect on him. He tapped his skull and said, “I have been dealing with this alone for a long time.”
The next day, I called my lawyer friend to see if I could legally force my brother to live with me. I could not leave him in that house with whatever was throbbing on the ceiling.
“It may be possible with a mental health power of attorney. Has he been incapacitated?”
I was not sure how to answer that. I would sound as if my mental health were in jeopardy if I reported what I had seen or felt.
After gathering some sage advice and doing a little research, I went to Leon’s. I was thinking I could maybe convince him to come for a night and then we would move forward from there.
He seemed unsure about letting me in.
“Can I see your ceiling again?” I asked, trying to keep my tone natural.
“I don’t think you need to.” He looked over his shoulder, as if there were someone else in the house.
I also peered over his shoulder and saw that the ceiling was now covered with short, red, swaying stalks that looked like seaweed being swept about by waves.
“Let’s go to the park.” He shut the door behind him and took my elbow, directing me away from his door.
In the park, I tried to reason with him. “There is something really wrong with your house, Leon.”
“There is always something wrong.” He scratched his head, his fingers lingering in the mass of hair covering his scar.
“Not with you, Leon, there is nothing wrong with you, but I am worried about what I am seeing.” I took his chin in my hand and forced him to make eye contact. “I see it too, Leon. It is very real, and I am very scared. If you come to my house, maybe we can have someone come look at it. Maybe it is some kind of mold or something—”
He leaned away from me. “You know exactly what it is, and it isn’t mold. If you just tried, you would remember, too. You would remember what they did to us…they’re back.”
I went along with this reasoning, hoping to get him to see that I was on his side. “Why would they be back?”
“To collect more data. I was only a child then, so my brain told them childish things. I have an adult brain now…and you…you have adult…”
I rubbed my temples. My fear was turning into frustration. I felt a loss over how to help him and I was the only one left who could help him. “Can you just come to my house for one night? Tonight?”
He considered this. “I will come tomorrow night. There is a show on Encounter Plus I want to watch but I forgot your login information. I will watch it at your place.”
I was relieved. I would go home and see what paperwork I could draw up. I told him I would pick him up the next morning.
After I had spent some minutes knocking, he answered the door and looked at me blankly. His head had been shaved. The scar from childhood boasted a fresh crimson line.
He shook his head. “I think you have the wrong house.” He scratched his scar and winced.
“No. Leon. It’s me. I want to come in.”
He looked at me sadly. “I don’t know you, lady. I am sorry.”
I peeked over his shoulder to see that his living room now had a ceiling. It was as if it had never been gone.
“Leon. I am your sister. You had promised you would come home with me today.”
His face grew cold. “My sister died twenty years ago in a car accident.” He slammed the door shut.
I rubbed my lower abdomen absentmindedly. I was blinking back tears and forcing myself to remain calm. I wanted to beat down his door; I also wanted to run away and never look at this door again. I was sure that I was about to lose my mind. This was his most extreme episode yet. Even at the most extreme, he always recognized me.
I decided to take some space and determine a plan. I went home and flung myself on my bed. Before I could entertain any rational thought, I dissolved into tears, crying until I fell asleep from exhaustion.
When I woke, I felt something was different about my room. I expected to see my ceiling fan in motion when I opened my eyes. Instead, I was able to see directly into the crawlspace that used to inhabit the other side of my now absent bedroom ceiling.
While stifling a scream, I realized that it did open up the room a bit.
∼ Elaine Pascale
© Copyright Elaine Pascale. All Rights Reserved.
5 thoughts on “The Drop Ceiling”
Loved this one. I’m trying really hard right now not to look up at my ceiling.:-)
Very creepy and shiver inducing.
so many possibilities. Well done!
Yes, WOW! Good one! Like Priscilla, I’m trying not to stare at our ceiling!!!
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What an amazing story! The dialogue and pacing are superb, and the ending has such a wonderful cognitive dissonance to it. Well done!