On the ceiling

“Did you see that?”

James looked up at his brother’s screeched question. “See what, Tommy?”

Tommy pointed into the kitchen. “There, on the ceiling. Something crawled across the ceiling. Just now.”

James turned the swivel rocker around to gaze into the kitchen. He didn’t see anything unusual about the small area.

“Okay, I think someone’s had a lot too much to drink. I mean, if you’re seeing things,” he jabbed at his older brother.

Tommy shook his head, “Nope, ain’t had nothing to drink. You’ve been playing video games with me the whole time, jerk. When would I have had time to get anything?”

James conceded the point. “Fine, you’re not drunk. Maybe just tir…  Holy hell! What was that?”

Tommy asked, “Something large and sorta white? Crawling across the ceiling?”

“Yeah. I swear it almost looked like a person.”

Tommy grinned, vindicated. “Like a girl with long dark hair? On her hands and knees?”

James swallowed hard and nodded, too scared now to talk.

“Yeah, that’s what I saw, too. It almost looked like that girl from back in high school. You know the one?”

Again James nodded, he knew exactly which girl his brother was talking about. The girl everyone made fun of. The girl who vanished the summer between Tommy’s junior and senior years. The girl whose torso the cops had found the next winter.

“But,” James whispered, “why would she be here? And why now?”

“I don’t know,” Tommy said, looking nervous.

James’ eyes grew large with fright, his body stiffening to immobility.

The voice that issued from the figure behind Tommy was eerie, seeming distant and breathy but all-too-clear, “Tom-my. Help me, Tom-my.”

Her pale hands reached for the older man. James, suddenly released from his terror, bolted.

What was left of Tommy was found two days later, hands still clutching the game controller.

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