The Bug In The Basement

by Skijarama

Chapter 1: Awkwardness

The alarm clock went off with no mercy or consideration for the man who had set it. A dream-shattering ringing noise breached Eventide’s slumber like the shots of a machine gun, drawing a disappointed grumble from him. He lifted his peach-colored face from the pillow it had been planted in before reaching out and shutting off the outrageously annoying sound coming from his bedside table with a hard slap of his palm. With the blissful silence restored, he spent a few seconds just remaining motionless, not at all wanting to rise from the comforting warmth of his bed or go to work that day.

Of course, someone had something to say about his stillness.

He just caught the sound of four padded feet scampering across the floor of his bedroom before something jumped on him, and his back became host to a crushing weight. He grunted from the impact before a small, mirthful chortle managed to slip out of him. If he had to be honest with himself, this was the best part of his morning, every time. A slightly damp nose thrust itself into the back of his neck, sending blasts of warm air across his head, making his maroon hair dance just slightly. The snout then journeyed to poke and prod at his cheek, before a long tongue started energetically licking every part of his face the creature it belonged to could reach.

Now well and truly awake from the onslaught of early-morning affection, Eventide turned his vibrant blue eyes over his shoulder to look at the happily snuffing and prodding face of his golden retriever, who let a small, hopeful growl out from her throat before licking his chin. He went to say something, only for the dog’s tongue to slide over his lips, nose and left eye in one fell swoop. He recoiled from the slobber and brought up a hand to cover his face. “Uegh! Buddha, girl, easy!” he laughed out loud before finally managing to roll onto his back and sit upright. Buddha, without missing a beat, just kept on nosing at him for a few more seconds before hopping off of his bed and running over to the door, which stood slightly ajar. She stood there in the frame and looked back at him while wagging her tail. She gave an impatient bark to make her intentions clear.

Eventide just gave her a dopey little smile. “Heh… one of these days, I have got to let you be my only alarm,” he said drowsily before stretching out his arms and letting out a quiet yawn. “So much nicer…”

Buddha barked again, his sentiment lost on her.

Knowing that time would not wait for him to get a few extra zs, Eventide slid out of bed, dressed in only a pair of black pajama shorts and an old white t-shirt. Still shaking away the last remnants of the sand-man, he stumbled out of his simple bedroom and into the hallway beyond, while Buddha went scampering ahead of him. She raced over to the front door of the house with great enthusiasm, standing by it and looking back at him with her tongue lolling out. Eventide just nodded and followed after her.

His pursuit of the excited dog led Eventide out of the fairly short hallway and through what constituted as his living room, kitchen and dining room spliced together. On his left was a long counter with a fridge at its side. A stove and oven split the counter roughly in half, while a sink filled with a few cups and small plates sat to the stove’s right. A window sat just behind the sink, letting sunlight stream in through the thin white curtains. Closer on his left, Eventide saw his small, circular dining table pushed up against the wall with a set of three wooden chairs encircling it.

On his right was, perhaps, the most sparsely populated part of his home at this time, save for the basement. There was a single cushioned lounge chair that had lost much of it’s color to time against the front wall of the house. A blocky and uninspired coffee table with his cell-phone resting on top of it alongside last night’s T.V dinner tray was in front of it an angled just so to make sitting down easier. Against the far wall from the chair was a decently sized flat-screen television on top of an entertainment center.

Buddha barked again while scratching at the door, not at all interested in sight-seeing when she had some rather important business to see to.

“Okay, okay, I’m coming,” Eventide replied with a roll of his eyes while walking over. He gave Buddha a small scratch behind the ears before reaching out and throwing the door open. To his delight, he saw a mostly clear and sunny day, with only a few clouds on the distant horizon. Spring birds sang their melodious song from the trees, and a wave of warm air washed over Eventide, making him take a deep breath. He then looked down at Buddha and nodded towards the outside. “Go, answer the call of nature, you spastic little fluff ball,” he ordered playfully. Buddha barked again and did just that, sprinting outside to sniff around, looking for an appropriate spot to do her business.

After a few moments of sniffing around, Buddha came to a stop next to one of the trees in the yard, sniffing something at its base quite incessantly. Eventually, she let out a small half-bark while bouncing back a few paces, her eyes locked on something. Eventide raised an eyebrow before making his way over to his cell phone to check the time. He cringed when he saw it was already 11:00 o’clock and quickly went back to the door.

“Buddha, hurry up! I gotta get ready for work,” He called out to the dog, even though he knew she couldn’t understand him. She did understand the tone of his voice as being his ‘speed up what you are doing’ voice and obeyed without any further complaint. Soon enough, Buddha had relieved herself somewhere on the lawn and came happily frolicking back in.

After that was done, Eventide went and poured some food into her bowl next to the kitchen counter before having a bowl of cereal himself. While he was consuming his first meal of the day at his table, he lifted his phone to check his texts. Nothing exciting or interesting, save for a text from his boss to all of his co-workers, letting everyone know about some hardware issue or something in one of the lunchrooms.

With nothing else of note to be found on his phone for the moment and his cereal consumed, it was off to the shower, where his mind really began to wake up. He spent about ten minutes under the stream of hot water, running through his practiced and rehearsed statements and greetings for when he got to work, repeating each one under his breath meticulously. In short order, he had cleaned himself off and gotten dressed in a pair of blue-jeans, his red work shirt with a brown vest over it. Once clothed, he took a little bit to tidy himself up, running a comb through his short maroon hair and the trimmer over his chin and jaw to clear up a few errant whiskers that stubbornly refused to stay dead. Once all was said and done, he stepped back out into the rest of his home.

Buddha had finished eating for the moment and was now looking up at him with curiosity from the chair. Eventide smiled at her and pointed in her direction as he walked in the direction of the front door. “Okay, Buddha, daddy’s gotta go to work. You don’t chew anything, you hear?” he said simply while picking up his keys from the counter.

Buddha barked and wagged her tail.

Eventide gave her a light-hearted smile. “Heh. Atta girl. I’ll be back in a while!” he said in a theatrical way before throwing open his front door and looking outside. Those clouds he had seen in the distance were a little closer, and they looked like they might be rain clouds. But he figured he could power-walk to work fast enough to avoid the worst of it, if it began putting down at all. After shooting Buddha one last warm smile, he stepped out and closed the door. Locking it behind him, he set off at a brisk pace for the nearby Ginger’s Mart grocery store.

He was wrong about the rain.

Oh so wrong.

The clouds had rolled in faster then he had been expecting, and were now unloading their contents all over the entire region in a torrential downpour. It was so heavy that he almost couldn’t hear his own footsteps over the white noise of the rain. Cars drove by every now and then, adding a bit of variation to the ambiance, even if their passing often marked small splash of water against his woefully undercovered person. Dripping wet, cold and very disgruntled, he at least found some solace in the fact that he was getting close to work, at least. His workplace, the Ginger’s Mart Supermarket, stood out among the other, smaller businesses around it like a sore thumb.

He came to a stop at the next street corner to wait for the light, keeping his head turned down to try and keep the streams of water out of his eyes. A few moments passed like this, his shoulders hunched as a ridiculous amount of rain splashed against his shoulders, weighing him down. He was beginning to think that the red light might be broken when his thoughts were distracted by a subtle, circular shadow passed over his head, cutting the rain off before it could reach him. Eventide blinked in mild confusion before turning around to see who had been so kind as to lend him the canopy of their umbrella.

Of course, who else could it be? Standing in front of him with a sweet, shy smile on her face was Fluttershy. Her smile grew somewhat when he looked at her, a small shimmer of subtle delight shining within those ever gentle eyes of hers. “Hello, Eventide… um… did you lose your umbrella at work again?” she asked in her typically quiet voice, earning a small, disgruntled chuckle out of Eventide.

“Hey, Fluttershy. Yeah, I did. Go me,” he replied with a sarcastic shrug of his shoulders. After a moment, though, he frowned and his brow furrowed with confusion. He shifted to look at her more directly, shoving his hands into his vest pockets. “Wait, aren’t you supposed to be in school right now? It isn’t Saturday yet.

Fluttershy shook her head. “Mm-mm. No school on holidays, remember?”

Eventide blinked. “Holiday…? OH!” he slapped a hand to his forehead in realization. “Dik-Dik Appreciation Day! Right, that’s a thing!” he exclaimed before letting out a small laugh. “Y’know, you’d think they’d only cancel school for important holidays. Dik-Dik Appreciation Day’s about as obscure as they come.”

Fluttershy shrugged without a word. She then glanced past Eventide at the street light and perked up a little. “Oh, um, the light’s green,” she pointed out with a slight gesture with her finger.

Eventide looked and, sure enough, the light had turned, and he could cross. He nodded at Fluttershy in thanks before walking out and following the crosswalk. To his mild surprise, Fluttershy kept following him, keeping him under her umbrella. He looked over his shoulder at her questioningly. “You, uh… you need something else? I’m gonna be late for work.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Fluttershy quickly apologized before looking away, “But, um...I was just wondering, if you don’t mind, that is, but, um…” she lowered her head a little, allowing some of her long, pink hair to fall in front of her face, partially obscuring it. “How is Buddha doing?”

Eventide made an ‘o’ with his mouth in realization. He then put on a warm smile and nodded happily. “Oh, she’s doing good, Fluttershy. Don’t worry. I’m keeping her fed, brushed, and I take her for two one-hour long walks every night; one when I get back from work, and one before I go to bed.”

“That’s good to hear,” Fluttershy said happily, visibly relieved and perking up significantly from her hunched position. “I just know you’ll take good care of her, Eventide. You have always been good with animals.”

Eventide chuckled with an amused roll of his eyes. “Oh, please, Fluttershy. I’m not even close to anything you can pull off. You’re, like, the critter whisperer of CHS or something,” he replied in a slightly teasing tone, earning a small blush from the timid teenager at the praise.

“Oh… um… thank you,” she mumbled out, hiding behind her hair again.

“No problem,” Eventide said before looking ahead towards the store. The two of them came to a stop at the edge of the store’s sizable parking lot, and he realized with some measurement of dread that they were busy today. Deflating a little, he turned to face Fluttershy fully, a small frown on his face. “Anyways, I gotta get to work. See you later?”

Fluttershy looked down at the ground, looking even timider than usual all of a sudden. For a moment, she struggled to find her words. “Um… It’s just that… uh… we haven’t really hung out very much since you graduated a couple years ago…” she began before looking back up at him. “I was thinking that, uh, if it’s okay with you, maybe you’d like to hang out at the animal shelter at some point?”

Eventide subtly stiffened, his eyes suddenly finding everything but Fluttershy to be very interesting. “Uh… what time were you thinking?” he asked reluctantly, shifting back and forth on his heels in very clear discomfort.

Fluttershy, if she noticed, didn’t comment on it. “Maybe later today, after you get off work?” She tried with a hopeful voice, a small spark in her eye and an eager smile on her face.

Eventide rolled it around in his head for a moment, before giving a small shake of his head. “I… can’t. Sorry, Fluttershy. I don’t wanna leave Buddha alone for longer than I have to, and I still have a few bills to pay, so…” he sighed and looked into her eyes apologetically. “Not today. Sorry.”

Fluttershy wilted on hearing this, her gaze shifting to the ground below her. “Oh… okay,” she mumbled sadly, clearly dejected. She still managed to force a tiny smile after a moment, looking at him again. “Well… uh… I hope you have a nice day.”

“Yeah, you too. I’ll see you around.”

With all of that said, Fluttershy turned and began to walk in the direction of the animal shelter, probably planning on doing more volunteer work, as per usual. Eventide watched her go for a minute, taking note of how… disappointed she looked. He shook his head and mentally kicked himself around before turning and jogging across the parking lot and through the doors of the Ginger Mart.