The Bug In The Basement

by Skijarama

Chapter 2: A Strange Find

“Man was not meant to deal with holiday rushes,” Eventide grumbled irritably when he finally managed to get to eat his lunch in one of the few break rooms of Ginger Mart. A sandwich nestled firmly in his hand, he thumped himself down into one of the chairs that were still available, pulled his phone out of his pocket and got to checking any notifications. He only had fifteen minutes to try and relax before he had to go back out there into the storm of customers, and he was going to make the most of it.

The room itself was remarkably bland when compared to the rest of the store. The walls were mostly gray, with a dull, dark blue carpet and a white ceiling. A couple of light bulbs emitting a warm orange glow from the ceiling and across the room was one of the few things to make it look and feel even a little inviting. Against the wall to his left was a similarly dull counter with a microwave and coffee maker resting on it. To the left of the counter and nestled in one corner, a fridge freezer combo could be seen with numerous post-it notes and stickers plastered on it. There were two circular tables in the room, each one made to look like wood but were probably made up of some far cheaper material, and each one had four stiff plastic chairs tucked in at them.

The only other person in the room with Eventide, a young man with bright blue skin named Clean Sweep, gave a hearty little snort of amusement at Eventide’s remark while withdrawing his own lunch from the room’s fridge. “Pretty sure man wasn’t meant to go zooming around at many times the speed of sound,” he commented while sitting down at the table across from Eventide and shooting him a sideways look. “And yet, the modern fighter jet.”

Eventide just snorted and took a large bite from his sandwich while checking his texts. At the very top of the list, he saw one from Fluttershy, and he reluctantly pulled it up to study the contents.

“I’m sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable earlier.” was all it said.

Eventide repressed the urge to sigh, set down his sandwich and prepared to send a response. His fingers froze just above the touch-screen keyboard on his phone, though, his face twisting with indecision. What should he say? What could he say that wouldn’t make it more awkward. After several seconds of mentally trying to solve that puzzle, he sighed, backed out of the texting app and lifted his sandwich back up.

Clean Sweep raised a dark blue eyebrow, peering at Eventide with one of those really dark blue eyes he had. “You feeling okay there, bud? You’re acting kinda… tired.”

Eventide sighed and lowered the sandwich again. “I’m alright. Just got something on my mind, that’s all.”


“Why do you wanna know?”

Sweep shrugged casually. “Just curious, and looking out for my coworker,” was his nonchalant response before he took a bite from his own lunch, also a sandwich.

Eventide frowned and bit down into his own meal. After a few seconds of silently chewing, he swallowed and spoke up. “Just ran into one of my friends from school earlier. Kinda awkward…” he said, his voice trailing off somewhat as he recalled just how disappointed she had been.

Sweep gave a slow nod of understanding at that. “Oof. Yeah, that can be kinda awkward,” he agreed solemnly before shaking his head. “But eh. It’s just kinda how things go, isn’t it?”

Eventide shot Sweep a skeptical look. “That’s kinda surprising, coming from you. You’re the guy with an Ogres and Oubliettes campaign he runs every Saturday with friends from school,” he noted with a slight amount of playfulness in his voice. “Including your high school sweetheart. You two still together?”

Sweep smirked happily. “Heh, you know it! Yeah, I made an effort,” he replied before taking in another mouthful of food. Once it was swallowed, he leveled a firm look at Eventide, making the other man feel like he was being interrogated all of a sudden. “I can’t say the same about you, though.”

Eventide almost bit down on his own tongue from that comment and shot his coworker a questioning glare. “And what the heck is that supposed to mean?” he demanded indignantly before taking another bite from his sandwich.

“I didn’t mean any offense,” Clean Sweep was quick to point out, lifting up one hand in a placating gesture. “I’m just saying it how I see it. In all the time we’ve worked together, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you agree to hang out with someone, or go looking for a better job, or even try to get a promotion or ask for a raise, even if the rest of us think you deserve it. You just… kinda…” he gestured vaguely. “Lurk, I guess. You lurk where you are and don’t really try to move up to bigger things. What’s with that?”

That string of observations made Eventide visibly uncomfortable. He shifted in his seat and looked down into his sandwich while he rolled around his response in his head. After several seconds, he managed to figure out something to say that he hoped would be satisfactory. “I’m fine where I am, Clean Sweep. I don’t really need to look for anything better right now.”

Clean Sweep narrowed his eyes skeptically. “Yeah, see, that’s just not true, and you know it. Even if you’re happy where you’re at, there’s no way you can deny that the paychecks for your position are utter garbage here. You’ve got a dog to take care of and a house you’re paying bills for, not to mention keeping yourself fed. You can’t expect to sustain all of that with just this job forever.”

“Look, can we not?” Eventide cut in sharply, his voice sounding more than a little impatient. He winced when he realized just how bitter he had let himself sound and took a deep breath. Once he had collected himself, he tried again. “Look, I appreciate the concern, but Clean Sweep, as my friend, I ask that you not bring it up with me, okay? It’s not…” he sighed and set his sandwich down for a moment. “It’s not your business. I don’t mean offense when I say that, it just isn’t. It’s my problem.”

The awkward silence following that request was enough to almost kill both of their appetites. Luckily, Clean Sweep was always one to know how to break the ice. He gave a small smile before he gave a light-hearted snort, finished off his sandwich and stood up. “Well, at least you’re acknowledging it as a problem,” he jabbed cheekily before stepping over to the door. “The first step to fixing a problem is knowing it’s there.”

Eventide rolled his eyes and shot Sweep a play-punch at the shoulder as he walked by. “Yeah, yeah. You heading back out there?”

”Yeah. Someone’s gotta keep the peace out there. Wish me luck.”

“Good luck,” Eventide called after him halfheartedly before the sound of the door closing plunged the room into another silence. Eventide let out a small sigh before taking another bite from his sandwich. He spent another minute or so in the quiet, just eating his lunch, before picking up his phone and staring at the text message Fluttershy had sent him again. After several moments of indecision, he put the phone away again, finished off his lunch, then got back to work. His shift was only halfway done, after all.

By the time the sun was setting on the horizon and his shift ended, Eventide was beyond exhausted. The rush had not let up at all since it had begun until maybe thirty minutes ago, and several employees who had been scheduled to have the day off wound up being called in just so the store could handle the rush. But at least there would be overtime payments, and a few of the managerial staff had gone out of their way to provide cupcakes to the overworked employees as they were leaving their shifts. They had claimed that it was to make up for the stress they had been forced to endure. A silver lining, if nothing else.

Much to Eventide’s relief as he stepped out of the store and began his return trip to his home (with his umbrella in hand, this time), the rain had stopped. There were still numerous puddles of water all over the place, and there were still plenty of clouds smothering much of the sky, but at least he wasn’t being dunked on. The clouds that did remain in the sky were arranged in a surprisingly dramatic way, creating a dazzling display of contrasting lights and darks from the setting sun’s light.

In combination with everything else still being damp, the whole world had gained something of a surreal quality. Once dull surfaces shimmered and sparkled in the sunlight thanks to the leftover moisture, making everything around Eventide feel… magical, he wanted to say. Magical, surreal, serene. The surprising lack of traffic only added to this feeling of tranquility, and he found himself taking in a deep breath through his nose once he got out of the business part of town and returned to the residential region he called home.

As his walk progressed, though, his mind wandered from the serene beauty of the post-rainfall environment to the words Clean Sweep had said to him at lunch.

“In all the time we’ve worked together, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you agree to hang out with someone, or go looking for a better job, or even try to get a promotion or ask for a raise, even if the rest of us think you deserve it. You just… kinda… lurk, I guess.”

Eventide shook his head at the thought, trying to suppress a shudder. Whether or not it came from the residual cold of the rain or some feeling of emotional discomfort, though, he couldn’t be sure. He tried to force the thought down as he drew near his home, trying instead to focus on what he needed to take care of when he got there. He needed to feed Buddha, take her for a walk, check the mail, check his email, eat some dinner, and so on and so forth.

Managing to get his mind off of Sweep’s prodding, he was smiling when, at long last, he came up to the front door of his home. He could already hear Buddha scampering around beyond, and a small chuckle came to his face as he went fishing for his keys in his pocket. “Hey, girl, guess whose home?” he called leadingly through the door before sliding the key into the lock and throwing it open. In to time at all, the golden retriever came bounding out and reared up onto her hind legs, practically hugging Eventide around the waist while nosing his belly and lower chest, eager to smell all of the new scents he had picked up at work that day.

Her excited response drew a happy laugh out of him, and he reached a hand down to give her a scratch behind the ears. “Hey, girl! Were you good while I was gone?” He asked between his chuckles, then laughing when she shoved her snot into his belly button.


“I don’t speak woof,” Eventide playfully shot back before lightly nudging Buddha down and starting to head inside. “Now, who wants some dinner?” He called back to her while making his way for the cupboard with the dog food in it.

To his surprise, Buddha didn’t follow him. Instead, she looked out into the yard before walking back over to that tree she had barked at earlier. Once Eventide noticed this, he decided that getting her food could wait for a minute and walked on over and see just what his dog was so fascinated by. As he came closer, though, his face gradually shifted into a look of confusion, then fascination. “Woah… what is that?” he mumbled curiously, squatting down to get a better look at the oddity. Buddha sniffed at it, then backed up to get out of his way.

Sitting just at the base of the tree, leaning against the trunk and glistening in the evening sunlight, was the weirdest thing that Eventide had ever seen. It was green and vaguely egg-shaped with darker green lines swirling around it in a pattern that almost reminded him of the way cabbage leaves folded over each other. Buddha sniffed at it again, then jumped back with a small bark, as if she were nervous. Not as deterred as his dog, Eventide slowly walked closer and looked the odd object over before reaching out and picking it up. It wasn’t as heavy as he had been expecting, though it wasn’t exactly light either. Its surface was remarkably smooth and almost reminded him of a rounded gemstone of some kind, and the way the light seemed to refract through it aided that assessment.

Although, the very, very slight give it had when he held it made him question that assessment. He held it up to the sunlight for a second and found that it was, indeed, translucent.

“Huh… weird. Where did it come from…?” he muttered to himself before, with a shrug, he rose to his full height and went inside. Buddha stayed close to his side, trying to sniff the strange item whenever she could, making little sounds of curiosity every time she got a good whiff. “Eh. Something to look up later, I guess,” Eventide finally decided before setting the smooth object down on his coffee table. He then turned, about ready to go and pour some more food into Buddha’s bowl, when said dog suddenly pawed at it. The object rolled across the coffee table and over the side, thumping onto the carpet where Buddha then began to sniff it almost aggressively.

Naturally, Eventide was not amused. “Buddha, hey!” he snapped, making her back away with a tiny whimper. “Stop bugging the weird rock thing. Jeesh…” with that said, he leaned down and picked it up again. And again, Buddha came closer to him in an effort to sniff at it, making little whines as he lifted it out of her reach. “What the heck has gotten into you?” he questioned incredulously before shaking his head in exasperation. Without another word, he made his way over to the door at the very back of the hallway that separated his bathroom and bedroom. Throwing the door open revealed an unlit set of wooden stairs framed by grey walls leading down to his basement.

Keeping Buddha from following him with his foot until the door was closed, Eventide made his way down the steps and into the only room of the basement. He pulled on a tiny chain that dangled from the roof, allowing the room’s one light build to spark into life and do its job. Now that there was light, Eventide could see just how very little he kept down here; a couple of cardboard boxes, some of which were empty, sat in one corner, while a couple of bookcases rested against the wall on his right. Aside from the dust, and the aforementioned items had collected, that was all there was down here.

Giving the curious item in his hands another thoughtful look, he walked over to one of the bookcases before gently setting the stone down on one of the shelves. He gave a quiet hum and studied it in the dim light for several moments, reaching a hand up to scratch the back of his head. Finally, with a noncommittal shrug, he turned and returned to the rest of his home, turning off the light and closing the door behind him. He’d do a google search about it tomorrow or something, he figured.