The Pets In The Basement
The basement was dank and dreary with fungus oozing between cracks in the walls, and unpleasant dripping noises, which no one could find the cause of. Occasionally in the main house, you could hear the other pets going about their daily business, someone humming to herself while she was tidying, or someone whistling as he cooked. The basement had none of that cheer. It was lit by a solitary candle which was placed in the driest corner and while upstairs, the place was furnished lavishly with comfortable sofas, delicate lamps and cushions everywhere, the basement merely had a few crates to sit on and a heap of straw in one corner that served as a bed.
The pets in the basement didn’t feel deprived at all, and they bore no ill feeling towards their siblings who lived in the bright and cosy upstairs. The pets in the basement had chosen to live there, preferring it to the neat ordinariness of the rest of the house.
Zantae controlled what the pets in the basement did. She was fierce and easily annoyed, likely to turn on people for the smallest of things. She snapped if too much noise was being made, growled if someone lit the candle too early and the wax burnt out before dark. Unlike the others, she didn’t care for her siblings, only for herself. She even disapproved strongly of them going upstairs to eat at Christmas, and would have preferred to remain in the dark and the damp.
There were six of them in all, living in the basement underneath the spotted Kougra’s stern command. There was Monday and Jello, quite the double act. One a Halloween Mynci and the other a Darigan Kyrii. Then there was Nami, a quiet ghost who floated around without saying much, occasionally taunting Zantae by pointing out that there was nothing that could be done to control her. Lastly were the two Lupes, Ziggy and Quisitor, one of which spent a great deal of time sleeping, and the other who liked to explore every crate, corner and flagstone.
“I’m bored,” Monday moaned, sitting down heavily on a crate. It creaked threateningly.
“Yeah,” Jello agreed. “I know! Let’s go Upstairs!”
Although it was early morning, the other pets in the basement roused themselves at this suggestion, except for Zantae who remained where she was, sitting in the darkest corner so that all that could be seen of her was her eyes.
“Well, what are we waiting for?” demanded Quisitor, his smoky grey fur bristling with impatience. “Let’s go!”
“No!” Zantae snapped, coming out of her corner and staring at her siblings furiously. “We’re the so-called unwanteds. No one up there wants us. They’re all far too happy living in their oh-so-perfect dream world. Imagine their faces if we all trooped up there and messed up their house. We’d be thrown out just like that, and then wouldn’t even have a basement to live in.”
“But, we chose to live like this,” Ziggy pointed out. “Remember?”
Zantae scowled furiously and turned her back on her siblings, retreating back to the far corner of the basement until once again, only her luminous eyes were visible. Her voice floated out from the darkness.
“If you want to go, just go. But don’t blame me when you find yourselves out on the streets, cold, hungry and wishing you’d listened to me.”
The others looked at each other uncertainly. Jello finally smiled and looked at his brothers and sister.
“Well, she didn’t say we couldn’t venture upstairs. So let’s go!”
Reassured by his confidence, they felt their way to the staircase and slowly picked their way up it, before pausing outside the door that led to the main house. Although no one had ever said it, they knew that they weren’t supposed to venture past this door unless it was Christmas.
Perhaps Monday was just bored of the waiting, or perhaps he was just trying to be braver than Jello, probably he didn’t know the answer, but he pushed past the hesitating pets and pushed the door open, so bright sunlight flooded into the basement. They all winced at the bright light before venturing forward into the main house.
“Hello?” Quisitor called out. “Anyone home?”
The house was immaculate. Very tidy with freshly wiped and polished surfaces and cushions on the sofas angled just so. Slowly the five siblings moved further in and looked around in wonder.
“Why aren’t the walls damp?” asked Monday in wonder. “And where is the rotting stench of fungus?”
The siblings all looked at each other before their faces split into wide grins and they all ran in different directions, overjoyed at having free run of a house they didn’t usually have any interest in.
Jello and Monday ended up in the kitchen, where they headed straight for the fridge and immediately began stuffing their faces with luxurious food, which was reserved for them only at Christmas. Zantae made sure that the only food taken down to them was bread and a cup of water, despite the fact that everyone both above and inside the basement tried to reason with her.
“This is brilliant!” Monday announced, delving into the cookie jar. “I love the life they live Upstairs!”
Meanwhile, Nami was floating around the attic by herself. It seemed that someone lived there. There was a bed, neatly made with a patchwork quilt over the top, and a small table lamp on top of a chest of drawers. She sighed as she remembered sleep. It was such a shame that sleeping was a skill the living dead didn’t possess.
“Still, I suppose I can still be a bit of a poltergeist,” Nami said to herself before throwing the lamp across the room so that it smashed and pulling clothes out of all of the drawers. She smiled at her handiwork and drifted back downstairs, where she found Ziggy and Quisitor in the garden.
“I bet there’s buried treasure down here!” Quisitor said, digging deeply into the flowerbed. Ziggy watched apprehensively before shrugging and joining in. Nami watched them, laughing at their antics before her brothers noticed her.
“What?” Ziggy asked, his tail in the air as he dug, dirt flying high over his head and hitting the white walls of the house.
Nami was about to answer when they heard voices. Of course they had forgotten that their Upstairs siblings always used the back door when they came in. And here the three of them were, stood in the back garden with a trashed flowerbed. Nami put a finger to her lips and beckoned for her brothers to follow her.
They raced through the house, locating Jello and Monday and dragging them after them. Quisitor, Nami, Monday and Jello practically fell down the basement steps as Ziggy pulled the door closed behind them. A second later they heard the squeak of protest from the garden gate and then exclamations of horror as the trashed garden was seen and then a couple of seconds later there were even more when the siblings from Upstairs saw the open fridge and lack of food. And then much, much later a scream of rage when the ruined attic room was discovered.
The pets in the basement looked at each other guiltily as they sat in a circle on their crates.
“We didn’t mean to wreck the house,” Nami said in a small voice.
“Yeah, I guess we’re just not ready for a life Upstairs yet.” Monday sighed.
“Or maybe,” Zantae said, slinking out of the shadows, “Upstairs isn’t ready for you.”