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Today's Story by C.S. Roberts

That made me think of a book I read in high school about some guy. Dorian Gray.

The stain on the Ceiling

I woke up one morning and noticed a brown stain on the ceiling. I hadn’t seen it before. I couldn’t begin to fathom how long it had been there or where it had come from.

Overcome with curiosity I jumped out of bed too fascinated to notice how good I felt after a night out on the town. I grabbed the chair next to my nightstand, tossed the clothes that lay on it onto the bed and placed the chair directly under the stain. I jumped on and inspected the stain from up close.

There was absolutely nothing peculiar about the stain. It was like any other stain I’d seen. It reminded me of a coffee stain on a white tablecloth. Disappointed, I got off the chair and dressed for work.


After work I stopped at the DIY to pick up a bucket of latex. That evening I made myself dinner, or rather heated up some left-overs from the day before, threw on some old jeans and t-shirt and painted over the stain. There, that should do it. Satisfied, I took a shower, brushed my teeth and fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.


When next morning I opened my eyes, first thing I saw was the stain on the ceiling. Confused I sat upright. Didn’t I paint over it yesterday? I asked myself. The smell of latex told me I did. I took the chair again, got on it and looked at the stain. The paint hadn’t completely dried yet, it was still sticky. I decided it needed a second layer of paint. So once again I painted over the stain. I made sure I covered it this time and went to work. I arrived late and couldn’t focus all day.


When I came home from work I spirited to the bedroom without even taking off my coat. I opened the bedroom door and there it was, defiantly staring at me. I started to grow frustrated. What the hell is it? Why won’t it go away? I asked myself. Then it hit me: the upstairs neighbors must have a leak.

So I went upstairs, rang the bell and waited for someone to answer the door.

Mrs. Hannigan opened the door and smiled at me. “Hello, Mark. What can I do for you?”

“Well, I think I have a leak in my bedroom ceiling and I was wondering whether you had any complaints as well.”

“A leak?” she repeated. “No, we don’t have any problem. Are you sure it’s a leak?”

“No, I’m not sure,” I admitted. “But it has to be. I painted over it twice and a couple of hours later it was right back.”

“I don’t know what to tell you. Our bedroom is right above yours and there are no water pipes there.”

I sighed. It had been long shot. “Okay, thank you, Mrs. Hannigan.”

“No problem. Good night.” She closed the door and left me alone in the hallway, confused.


I spent that night looking at the stain and wondering. If I squint my eyes it almost looks like Abraham Lincoln. I must have fallen asleep because the alarm woke me next morning. Listlessly I went to work, all day thinking about the stain.

Over the next weekend it grew on me. It fascinated me. It was the last thing I looked at before I fell asleep, the first thing I saw when I woke up.

I had accepted that I would never know where the stain had come from. It was a Saturday night and I was lying on the bed looking at the stain. I thought back to the day the stain had appeared. I had been hammered the night before. And come to think of it I’d been perfectly fine next morning, no hangover, no nothing. That made me think of a book I read in high school about some guy. Dorian Gray, I think his name was. He had this picture of himself and everything he did would not age him but aged his picture instead. Kind of what happened to me that night, I joked.

I jolted upright. Could it be? I asked myself. No, I set myself straight, this isn’t some fiction novel. The more I thought about it though the more convinced I was that it must be true. And why not, I told myself, stranger things have happened.


From that day on, I lived like there was no tomorrow. As the years passed, more stains appeared on my ceiling yet over these years I didn’t seem to have aged a day. I mused about how I had found eternal life when the doorbell rang.

“Mr. Johnson?” A large man in a black suit filled my doorframe.

“That’s me.”

“I’m with the city. I’m here to catalog the leaks in this building.”

I couldn’t wrap my head around how the city knew of my stains. “What leaks?” I asked, feeling guilty and ashamed at the same time.

The man sighed, “A couple of years ago the city renovated this building and apparently the workmen didn’t close off the old water pipes properly. They started leaking and people have complained about stains on their walls and ceilings.”

“I can’t remember any renovation?” I interrupted him. I didn’t like where this was going.

He turned a few pages in his binder. “The renovation ended by December 2000, were you already living here at the time?”

No, I hadn’t.

“What I’m here for, sir,” the man continued undisturbed, “is to ask you if you have any leaks to report. The city will reimburse the damages.”

“No, no,” I mumbled. My head whirled, my world came crashing down. My stomach heaved and I ran to the bathroom and threw up in the sink. I washed down the bile with a handful of water. I pushed myself upright and looked into the mirror.

All I saw was an old man staring back at me.


At thirty years of age, C. S. Roberts’ midlife crisis is still ahead of him. He nevertheless has the urge to buy a ridiculously expensive car. Sometimes he tries, and sometimes successfully, to write something. Some of his work has been published in 50-to-1, The Fringe, and Daily Flash 2012: 366 Days of Flash Fiction


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