I never would have noticed the stain if Lynn hadn’t walked out on me. When she left, I went into a deep funk and, drinking even more than usual, lay around the house staring at the ceiling from one horizontal position or another. I wasn’t used to being alone. The house seemed so empty without her presence, singing or weeping depending on her mood. And our daughter, my little Sharon, where is my little girl?
I don’t blame her for leaving. I’m not the easiest person to live with. I slipped into a kind of gray zone laying on the bed staring at nothing. That’s how I first noticed the stain. A rusty brown blob with no color and no apparent shape. I watched it for hours. After a couple of days, the stain took on a shape I recognized. Sort of like a baseball diamond. I could, if I tried hard enough, make out the pitcher’s mound and the evenly spaced bases. It reminded me of that time I threatened Lynn with a bat. I was drunk, of course. I never would have actually hit her with it but I could see she was terrified. I did manage to bust up the furniture some and those two lamps her mother gave us. I was awful sorry the next day. Lynn took me back. Good old Lynn.
A couple of days later, the stain took on the aspect of a face, a man’s face, but I couldn’t place it until I noticed the cap. A policeman’s cap complete with badge and everything. I could even make out the badge number—387. It was the face of that young cop who came to the door that time I was so high on booze and pills I could barely stand. I must have taken a swing at him because I woke up in a cell in restraints. That was a bad time and I’m sorry I scared you, honey. You bailed me out yet again. I hardly deserved such loyalty.
The stain grows larger. There must be a leak somewheres though it hasn’t rained in weeks. Today the stain looks like a woman, a very unhappy woman. I can see her sad face. The tears streaming down her cheeks, her hair a tousled mess eyes pleading for me to stop. But I don’t stop, do I? I hit you to make you stop crying. I slap your tears away. I strike our daughter, my precious little girl. And what was it you did to make me so angry? I can’t remember. I am always angry.
I fall asleep staring at the stain. It is definitely bigger now and the color is turning from a rusty brown to a kind of greenish brown. My mind struggles to make a picture of the new shape. It is sinuous and complex. At first I think it’s you standing in the doorway our daughter behind your back. You are shielding her from my fury but that is not it. Then it snaps into focus. It is a dragon, its coils wrapped around its victim, a man, his head inside the dragon’s mouth. Whoever it is is being devoured. Somehow I know it is me. I am being devoured.
As I stare transfixed, the stain detaches itself from the ceiling. Is this a hallucination? When is the last time I had something to eat or drink? I’m sure I’m hallucinating. It’s so real, it’s almost funny. I try to laugh. But my mouth is too dry. I try to scream but whatever sound I manage to make is muffled by the dragon’s moist and toothy maw.
Harris Tobias lives and writes in Charlottesville, Virginia. He is the author of several novels and dozens of short stories. His fiction has appeared in Ray Gun Revival, Dunesteef Audio Magazine, Literal Translations, FriedFiction, Down In The Dirt, Eclectic Flash, E Fiction and several other obscure publications. His poetry has appeared in Vox Poetica, The poem Factory and The Poetry Super Highway. You can find links to his novels at: http://harristobias-fiction.blogspot.com/