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On a morning when Chad Linder was supposed to be going into work, he instead stands near his front door looking through the small peephole. He wasn't sick with the flu or hurt in any way, but something odd happened to him when he woke up around three-thirty in the morning. It was cold outside with the wind blowing when he awoke in his bed staring up at the ceiling. Thoughts of the day before ran around in his head while he laid there in utter blackness; thoughts about his boss yelling at him too much, and thoughts about the pretty girl who just started working there with him. She sat across the office in another cubicle but he could see her from where he was sitting; it was a nice view for sure.
Those thoughts and many others started to quiet down when he felt the sleepiness returning to him. Maybe waking up and staying in bed at this time was a bad idea; he could have gotten up to do something constructive, like spending time on the computer to write a poem for the pretty girl at work. He could give it to her when he sees her in her cubicle again. All he would have to do is walk up to her and say, "Hi, my name is Chad and this is for you!"
Would she like it or not?
As good as an idea it was, getting up now at this time and straining his eyes on that computer screen before even going to work to strain them there didn't sound too nice. He instead laid there with his eyes closed and the cover pulled to his chin, which wasn't keeping him warm. The thin cloth the cover was made of could have been the reason why he was cold, but another harsh reality set in when he realized he hadn't heard the furnace kick on since he arose. Taking a second in his bed before doing anything drastic, he eventually got up and sat on the edge of the bed while rubbing his tired eyes. It really was dark in this room and even with his eyes adjusted to the night, he had a hard time seeing anything. In the middle of the room was the treadmill that he would get on every day to keep in shape, but will the pretty girl at his job really care if he were a well-built five-foot man or a chubby five-foot man? Some like the chubby guys, but there are others out there who like the handsome well-groomed individuals. Right now, Chad happens to be a short fat hairy marshmallow, something he doubts the pretty girl at work would really take to.
His cellphone was charging on the stand near the bed, so he wouldn't take it with him as it wasn't fully done. There wouldn't be a need for it anyway, because even if the furnace was broken he wasn't going to call for help at this time. So, he gets up out of bed and stumbles his way over toward the wall for the light switch. A few curse words were let out when he couldn't find it, but then the light comes on and he's good to go.
"Please don't be broken," he said to himself.
When he made it down to the first floor of his house, Chad turned all the lights on just to make sure he wasn't going to run into anything if he had to come up here for some tools to use. His boxer shorts and white tank-top were not keeping him warm at all, and the house feels as if the furnace hasn't been working all week. It's not snowing outside, but if a storm cloud were to come overhead the white powder would be sprinkling for sure. Chad stands in his living room now, looking at the large clock hanging on the wall near his bookcase. It's showing the time of three thirty-three in the morning. So early, and his body feels as if it's going to fall over with tiredness.
He stretches. "I was wide awake when I first woke up, so why am I tired now?"
The door to the basement was in the next room over, a room with a large dining table and many chairs. There's an old plate of spaghetti sitting on the table that he was working on yesterday, but decided to leave it there and come back later to clean up. He does that a lot, sometimes leaving piles of dirty dishes in the sink never to be washed in this century. The last time he did wash dishes, his friend, Debra Steward, was going to come over and visit with him for the night. They've known each other since middle school, growing up on the same street until they were both in their twenties. Debra told him he doesn't have to worry about cleaning anything for her because she doesn't care about that, but when Chad looked in his sink and saw the maggots forming on the plates, he decided to wash them.
"Okay, down it goes and where it stops we'll see some hoes," he said while looking down his basement steps. It looked darker down there than any room up here or upstairs, (when the lights were off, of course). He wasn't sleepy anymore, not as he's looking down in the basement which looks to be an evil breeding ground for monsters. It's not as if he's scared to go down there, but deep in the pit of his stomach and subconscious mind, there's that little feeling that tells him to stay away. Something bad could be down there and his subconscious doesn't want anything to happen to him, but being a grown adult with the knowledge that the Boogeyman isn't real... he laughed at the darkness and grabbed his trusty flashlight on the shelf near the basement door.
"You'll work... I think," he said as he taps the flashlight. It didn't want to come on at first, but after hitting it a few times it shines brightly.
It was so quiet in his neighborhood tonight, and the little feeling in his subconscious goes off like an alarm when he realizes this. Normally even at this late hour, he can hear the cars driving down the road at a high rate of speed or a lone idiot on an ATV who thinks he's allowed to tear up the lawn of anyone's property. Chad hates those morons, people who seem to never have anything else to do but drive around all day and waste gas on those things.
"Whatever," he said as he makes his way down the steps. He could have turned the light on if he remembered to replace the light bulb that burnt out the week before, but alas he hasn't done so. The store he went to had plenty of groceries, which he managed to fill his cart within one go, but none of the aisles had any bulbs.
(The store did have light bulbs, but he forgot to pick them up. He keeps telling himself they didn't have any so his ego wouldn't hurt).
Those people need to stock their shelves better.
When he finally reached the basement floor, Chad felt the coldness of the cement on his bare feet. A look down shows dust and random junk lying around that he would step on while he's down here. A nightmare of an image popped into his brain of him stepping on a sharp object that would ram itself so far up his foot, it would be there forever. He laughed at the thought, knowing that items ramming themselves up feet never stayed there forever, that would be silly, of course.
But they could slice a nice chunk out of your foot...
"Shut up, brain!" he said to his way to active imagination.
Near the furnace sat a ladder that he would use to sit on while down here checking everything over. It wasn't a large ladder, but tall enough to reach any part of his home when needed. It was on its side and Chad remained uncomfortable as he sat there looking at the furnace. The protective cover has been removed and he was leaning closer to peer into the hole where he could see the flame... if it were lit that is.
"It's not working...," he said while sounding frustrated.
Chad Linder wasn't a furnace expert by no means, but after watching the repairman working on his furnace the last time he called him out here, he could pretty much figure out what may be wrong with it, saving him some money. The coldness of the night stings his skin as he rubs his hands together, and when he sat the flashlight down on the floor to see into the furnace, he saw his breath dissipate in a small cloud of steam.
"All right! Think, Chad," he said to himself.
The first thing he could think of doing was to bleed the furnace, to open the valve letting fresh oil seep out into a coffee can while watching those air bubbles. The repairman showed him how to do it before he left just in case the furnace decided to act up again, but that was so long ago, and remembering all the steps hurt his brain.
"It can't be that hard."
On the side near the furnace was an empty coffee can that he left there for this purpose; it was the same one the repairman used, and a quick grab by his hand left oil stains on his fingers. He cringed at the thought of having that gunk all over him and felt the need to scratch his face soon as it happened. Why does your face always have to itch when you have dirt all over your hands? Chad wasn't going to let that happen, though, because he wanted to head back upstairs and climb into bed when he was done down here. Sure, his feet may be dirty from the basement floor and there may be an object rammed into them before the night was over, but he wasn't going to get oil all over his face from the furnace.
That wasn't going to happen.
So let those itches suffer because they're not going to be scratched!
He leans into the furnace with a small wrench in hand to open the valve. At first, it seemed as if it wasn't going to move at all, being tightened to the brink of breaking by the repairman who probably laughed when he did it.
"That prick," he said while grunting.
More grunts and a few swear words exit his mouth as the wrench slips in his hands. His knuckles smash on the furnace and a small sliver of skin is pushed back letting some blood loose.
"Damn it! I thought that only happens to mechanics?'
He blows on the wound, hoping that the air would take the pain away. Why in the world it would work boggles his mind, but with each blow, the blood dries a little more and the stinging goes away. An image of himself slicing more of his knuckles open came to him, the floor around the furnace would be coated with his blood if he were to continue.
"And that's why I don't repair anything."
Chad got up from the ladder and grabbed the flashlight on the floor to take with him. The furnace was off and it would have to wait until tomorrow to be fixed. He's going to go back to bed and sleep the remainder of this cold night away in his bed upstairs, hiding under the covers from the cold that would make him shiver. The frustrations of not being able to repair anything himself was getting to him, and as he cursed at himself in the darkness of the basement, the odd thing happened.
On his left was a doorway that led into another room in the basement. When he started walking away from the furnace and toward the steps, there was a strange noise that came from within. He jumped at that noise and his heart started racing immediately because he knew what it was right away. It wasn't a thump or a bump or a thud or anything of that nature, but it was a small giggle coming from someone who was in there. Chad stands there listening into the darkness of the basement, knowing that there shouldn't be anybody in there at all. He could look in there with the flashlight and check for the person, but when he hears the giggle getting louder as if it were coming closer toward him, he ran out of the basement and back upstairs into his bedroom.
The basement door was now locked, and whatever was down there would keep him awake for the remainder of the night. Chad stayed under his covers with the flashlight hoping that the giggle wouldn't make its way up here. He's wide awake now but what he doesn't know is that the giggle in his basement was only the beginning of his odd problems.
© 2020 Edwin B Lowry