Copyright © 2013 Bruce Thomas
Ben woke up from a deep sleep, curled up on the comfy chair in the living room. It was the kind of sleep that you woke up disoriented from, but he could immediately tell something was not quite right. It was too late into the afternoon, had he really slept for so long? He wondered. the natural light in the room was deceiving. Ben got up out of the chair and walked over to the window, his old bones protesting a little as he did so. The sky had gone from a peaceful blue, to a still, ominous yellow. Yes, something was not quite right today, indeed.
She should have been home by now.
Ben paced around on the living room carpet for a few moments, trying to decide what he should do next. He was quite hungry, but would not consider eating a bite of food until she returned. He didn’t like to eat alone. After a bit more pacing, an idea struck him. Maybe she had returned. Perhaps she was here in the house somewhere, and he just didn’t hear her come in? It had happened before. Perhaps she saw him napping and thought it best not to wake him. Ben decided to wander the house a bit to investigate. However, he could not detect a trace of her sweet perfume in any room of the house, and his explorations only confirmed that she had not returned home after all.
He was indeed on his own.
Ben moved passed the window in the living room again, and couldn’t help to notice the sky. It was different. It had changed. Not by much, but enough to unsettle him. There was also a distinct drop in air pressure, he could feel it. Ben was suddenly nervous, without knowing why. He lowered his head in concern, and then a moment later it hit him.
There was a storm coming.
Now the panic was setting in. Where is she? Where could she be?! He went to the front door, with a frail hope that he might hear her footsteps outside…nothing. It was far too quiet out there for his liking. No leaves rustling, no children playing, just an eerie stillness. Ben slowly backed away from the heavy wooden door. He did not want to know what was happening outside those walls. All he wanted was for her to walk through that door right now and come home to him.
Ben let out an audible whine, just the kind of thing she often scolded him for. He knew he sounded pitiful, but he couldn’t help it. He was scared.
A horrible darkness slowly crept into his home. It was coming from the western skyline outside. Dark, heavy clouds blotted out the sun. Ben stared out the window as he watched the sky move towards him. This time, it wasn’t a whine that escaped from Ben. Below his trembling legs, a puddle of yellow urine spread out on the carpet like blood from an open wound under a thin layer of clothing. She will not be pleased, he knew. But he did not concern himself with that at the moment. Only one thought remained as he backed away from that awful sky…how could she leave him alone in such peril?
Ben raced into the bathroom, fishtailing on the tiles a bit as the mad, thrumming vibrations intensified outside. The whole house began to shake.
He whimpered at the loud noise attacking his sensitive ears.
BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!
Ben tried to cover his head, as he lay on the bathroom floor, but it provided little comfort.
That last sound felt more than just close. And in the last instant of light in the house, he imagined she was there.
Then he was alone in perfect darkness.
Ben felt close to madness. He wanted to cry. And probably would have, but suddenly his attention was re-directed somewhere else. He thought he heard a faint, but familiar sound in the midst of all the noise from the angry storm. His ears perked up and he cocked his head for a better listen. It was coming from outside the front door. He bolted upright as fast as lightning. He recognized the sound! It was the jingle of keys in the lock, and it was the single most joyous sound in the world to him! For Ben knew what would soon follow was the door opening and inside would enter his heart’s desiring! He raced as fast as he could to the front door, swishing the throw rug in the hallway around, and bumping against the furniture as he did so. The door swung open just as soon as Ben entered the room. It was her! She struggled to close the heavy door behind her against the rushing winds, until finally she won. She turned and they ran towards each other to embrace. Ben felt the cold beads water drip from her hair. She hugged him tightly and ruffled the hair on top of his head.
Another terrifying sound came from outside. It seemed to be right on top of them now. “C’mon, we gotta get to the basement where it’s safe!” she exclaimed, snapping into motion.
Ben followed closely behind her. She stumbled in the dark, banging her shin against the chair and letting out a small cry. Ben guided her, right by her side, straight to the basement door. She felt around for the doorknob and opened it, and they both entered the cool, dark portal underneath the house. Ben glided down the stairs with ease, but she missed the last step and tumbled to the ground. She crawled blindly until she reached a corner of the basement floor, and turned her back up against the wall. Both of them were panting heavily. He could sense her fear, so he guarded closely beside her. “I was so worried I wouldn’t make it home to you before the tornado,” she whispered in the dark, “I know you were scared.”
But Ben was no longer afraid. His sense of purpose had been restored. He would protect her, his master. And together in the dark, they waited.
* * * *
Time passed. And when the sounds calmed outside, Ben felt her move towards the basement door. “I think the tornado has passed,” she said finally, “I think it’s safe now.”
A flood of dazzling white light blinded Ben as she opened the door at the top of the stairs. When his eyes re-adjusted, Ben scanned the house and outside the window. There were fallen tree limbs and un-identifiable materials that littered his territory outside, but nothing seemed catastrophic. He barked once and she turned towards him and smiled.
“It’s okay, Ben,” she said reassuringly, “We made it! It’s over! We’re still alive!”
He was not sure he understood her sudden mood change, but he sensed it was a good thing. They walked outside together, she picked up a few loose objects in the yard, while he noodled around with a few sticks. And in the early evening hours, they returned to the warm interior of their home, and she made dinner. The smells were intoxicating, and she shared her food with him, a rarity that he was not accustomed to. But he was grateful for something else besides his dry meal from his bowl.
Not long after they ate, she was motionless on the couch, and he sensed she was resting. He would soon join her in slumber, but he took one last trip to the window to make sure the coast was clear.
He was her watchdog, after all.