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Breath & Shadow

Winter 2020 - Vol. 17, Issue 1

"The Man Who Lived on the Ceiling"

written by

Amanda Dyer

She’d stretch her arms high into the air to hand him fistfuls of grapes and Saltines behind dark curtains. When he was born, he swam out of her like a fish in the sea. She always told him that when they left the hospital, she had to hold him to her chest real tight, or he’d float all the way to the sun.


He was her boy, with his hovering body reflecting against the black screen of the television unless the brightness of Wheel of Fortune was on. His eyes glazed on the flashing screen as he dreamed about those tethered to the ground, the heaviness of their insides fixing them to the earth. She would shout the answers loudly, her voice a warm embrace.


He grew into a man having to always make sure his head didn’t hit the ceiling, chewing quietly on his Saltines and grapes. His mama’s lovely reaching arms grew thin and frail. The only landscape he knew were her veins that looked like deep blue rivers. He’d shout the answers to Wheel of Fortune that he recited so carefully. A repetitious reverie of becoming flat-footed and kissing Vanna White on the mouth. Her feeling his heaviness that he never had.


Mama’s eyes grew heavy, drooping like melted wax. She held her hand in the air for him to hold. “Fly to the sun my boy”. He felt her rivers freeze over. His hallow chest cavity ached at the realization that he was alone. For the first time in his life, the dark drawn curtain made him feel captive. It stood as a barrier of the womb that he had never left. He’d no longer have Saltines and grapes. He yearned to hold Mama tight, pushing himself off the ceiling, bobbing down a foot or so before returning to its ugly cracks.

His hands were his guides through the small apartment, curved and grasping like long spider legs. The flower vase on the coffee table hanging down but no flowers fell out. He pushed toward the dark blinds. Mama always told him they were his biggest protectors. He grasped a fistful of the rough fabric and tugged with force. The rod that held them up along with the two thick sheets fell to the ground.

He had expected light but instead saw darkness littered with white shimmering specks above; red and green orbs moving quickly below. His first natural twilight. A large white sphere floated lonely in the sky. Was this the sun? It was not how he recognized it from the cereal commercials on the TV; orange with a mane of fire and smiling. This was cool and solid, its face more abstract.


The clips holding in the outside world were tight. His feet floated and flailed in the air, as he held onto them. Eventually, they fell loose and the glass pane slipped down with a soft thud. He was pulled gently out toward the world by an unfamiliar force. He turned back one last time to look at his Mama with her waxy eyes and frozen rivers. Fingers curled around the edges of his gateway, he pushed himself into the abyss.


Lights around him glimmered while indistinct whispers gently kissed his ears. Hushing sounds like Mama would make to put him to sleep as a young boy. His body rose in the darkness like a released balloon. The red and green lights became harder to see, and they too became blurry white specks. Cradled by the ethereal darkness, he continued his search for the sun.

Amanda Dyer lives on a small homestead in Bridgton, Maine. When she isn't feeding chickens she is working on her bachelor's degree in creative writing. While she enjoys writing a variety of genres, her favorite to work with is speculative fiction.

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