• Published 7th Aug 2018
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The Bug In The Basement - Skijarama

A changeling egg is left in the human world by its mother in a last-ditch effort to save it.

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Chapter 7: Learning Curve

Eight Days Later…

Beebee was turning out to be a much larger handful than Eventide had ever anticipated, and taking care of him presented quite the learning curve. The tiny fella almost always needed attention, be it to keep him from falling off of something, keep him from chewing on something he really shouldn’t, or to try and figure out what was wrong whenever he began crying; which was frequently. Beebee’s cries were remarkably loud and human-like, aside from the fact that they were two-toned. All Eventide could do in those situations was hold Beebee close to his chest and try to calm him down. It was the worst at night. Eventide had had to start keeping Beebee in his room when sleeping just to make sure he could react fast enough whenever Beebee acted up. He would just cry and cry without any provocation, eventually tiring himself back to sleep in Eventide’s arms.

There was also the matter of trying to figure out just what it was that Beebee ate. In the eight days since he had hatched, the grub hadn’t eaten a single bite of food, unless Eventide wanted to count playfully gnawing on a piece of raw, uncooked chicken as ‘eating.’ It really didn’t count, though, as none of that meat wound up actually being swallowed. Beebee just gnawed on it for a while, then held out his legs in that adorable ‘hug me’ gesture. But despite a lack of physical ingestion, Eventide knew that Beebee was getting sustenance somehow. He knew this because Beebee’s stomach would periodically growl, he would display signs of discomfort, but after a little while of being fussed over and worried about by Eventide, Fluttershy or Buddha, he would relax, and the growling would stop.

Just more fuel for the theory that Beebee was fed by affection.

The whole routine wouldn’t have been quite so bad if Eventide didn’t still have to go to work at the Ginger Mart, eating up eight hours of his day every time. He found that he never hesitated to clock out and jog home the moment his shift was ended to check in and take over for Fluttershy. True to her word, she had been coming by every day she could to help Eventide take care of Beebee, usually taking over for him while he was at work if she was able. Sadly, between her volunteer work at the animal shelter, spending time with her reunited group of friends and preparing to resume school once the repairs were done, she wasn’t able to make sure Beebee was always supervised.

Luckily, Buddha seemed only all too eager to fill in for both of them whenever they were both gone. Eventide had come to understand that the golden retriever kept Beebee out of trouble when they were alone, typically by picking him up and keeping him with her on the chair, cleaning him off and standing guard over him like a mama wolf. It was relieving to see those two getting along so well, and it was something of a treat when Eventide would come home to be greeted by both of them. The barks and licks from Buddha and the eager squeaks of Beebee.

That was an event he was looking forward to later on today, standing next to one of the checkout aisles at the Ginger Mart, bagging the groceries of the latest customer while Clean Sweep ran their stuff over the scanner. It was a pretty calm day, all things considered, with only a few people actually in the fairly sizable store at the moment. He had been here for a good few hours, now, just going about his usual tasks. Bagging, shelving, stocking, and answering questions. The usual. Soon enough, the customer had their goods all paid for and bagged, heading for the exit and leaving Eventide and Sweep alone.

The latter man looked over at Eventide with a raised eyebrow, studying him. This passive examination did not go unnoticed, and Eventide looked back at Clean Sweep questioningly. “What is it? Something on my face?” he asked while lightly tapping his own chin and cheek to emphasize his point, making the other man chuckle.

“No, not really,” Sweep denied before pausing, his face twisting with thought. “Ehhh… okay, I lie,” he corrected himself with an absent shrug. He then pointed at Eventide’s face. “Yeah, there is something on your face, kinda. You’re tired.

Eventide conceded the point without even a fight. “Yeah, I am exhausted. Thanks for noticing, bub,” he replied snarkily, eliciting a snort from Sweep.

“You’re usually pretty perky looking, even if you’re lacking something in the enthusiasm department,” he pressed, leaning against the counter a little bit. “Everything okay? I know CHS kinda blew up across the street. Everything alright with that?”

Eventide nodded, looking around a little to make sure there weren’t any more customers on the way. “Yeah, more or less. None of the debris hit my house or anything, and the repair guys usually don’t work when I’m asleep.”

Sweep shrugged slightly. “Alrighty, just making sure.”

With those words, the conversation was closed for the time being. A few more customers came by, and business went back to usual for the next little while. As they worked, Eventide periodically glanced over at the big clock that hung on the back wall of the store. Forty more minutes until he got to go home.

Another pair of customers came in, and after a few minutes of wandering aimlessly around, one of them, a girl, no older than thirteen or fourteen with tannish skin and a well-combed head of light brown hair, came up to Eventide and Sweep. “Um, excuse me,” she called out to get their attention, her voice carrying a thick accent.

Sweep looked up and answered without hesitating. “Yes, miss? What can I help you with?” he asked with practiced friendliness and a cheerful smile.

The girl idly glanced back at the rest of the store. “Do you happen to have a pet supplies section? Stuff for dogs, mainly? I need a new toy for my puppy.”

This time, it was Eventide who answered, cutting Sweep off. “Yes, actually. It’s just over there, aisle two. We have stuff for cats, dogs, and even a few bird cages,” he explained quickly. A small grin grew on his face when he saw the girl brighten up significantly.

She beamed at his answer and gave a happy smile. “Thank you, mister!” with that, she turned and ran off, leaving the two alone again. Sweep gave Eventide another curious look, one which he chose to ignore. After a few moments, Eventide looked at the clock again. Thirty minutes.

All of a sudden, his phone began vibrating in his pocket. Thankful for the lack of customer traffic, Eventide pulled it out to have a look at who was calling him. His brow furrowed with confusion and concern when he saw that it was Fluttershy calling him. “Fluttershy? She’s at my house right now… is something wrong?” He thought before glancing up at Sweep with an apologetic smile. “Hey, can you hold this down for a sec? I gotta take this.”

“Sure thing, man. Take your time,” Clean Sweep assured with a friendly nod. That done, Eventide stepped away from the counter and answered the phone.


“Eventide, something’s wrong with Beebee. I think he’s in pain,” Fluttershy’s voice came through from the other side all at once, shaking and full of worry.

Eventide blinked and came to a complete stop. He felt his heart go cold at her words. Licking his lips, he leaned his hand against the wall and tried to formulate a response. “Uh… I-I’m sorry, what?” he asked, not quite sure he had heard her right. Now that he was really listening, he could hear her breathing. She was shaking and sounded scared.

“He’s curled up on your bed, twitching, and whimpering. I’ve tried all of the tricks we’ve figured out with him, but nothing’s working. I thought I saw cracks on his back, but he’s hissing and biting at me whenever I get close.”

With his heart rate accelerating, Eventide turned to Clean Sweep with wide eyes. He briefly lowered the phone and called out, “Sweep! I gotta run! Personal emergency!”

Clean Sweep straightened up in alarm, moving from behind the counter and approaching him. “Woah, what? Seriously? What’s wrong?”

Eventide ignored him for a moment, bringing the phone back up to his ear. “Hang tight, Fluttershy, and keep an eye on him. I’m on my way!” he stated before ending the call and putting his phone away. He then turned to start heading for the door.

“Eventide?!” Sweep called after him, making him turn mid-step.

For a couple seconds, Eventide tried to find the right words to explain the situation. But, after a few moments, he found his words. “My… one of my pets is sick,” he said simply, shaking his head. “I gotta go make sure he’ll be alright,” he explained before bursting out of the door at a full sprint, not giving Sweep any time to question him farther about it.

Now standing alone in an awkward silence, Clean Sweep scratched the back of his head in confusion. “One of your pets…? When did you get another one?” he mumbled out. He heard someone clearing their throat and turned around to see there was a new customer waiting for him by the checkout counter. Grimacing, he shot one last glance out the door after Eventide, then reluctantly went back to his place behind the counter, his fingers now nervously tapping against whatever they rested on as he helped the customer with their groceries.

Eventide hadn’t run that fast in years, or for that long, and it showed. By the time he came to a stumbling stop at the front door of his house, his lungs and legs were burning as if someone had poured molten steel into them. Gasping raggedly for breath, he tried the handle and, to his pleasure, found the door was unlocked. He pushed through the door and passed into the living room, where Buddha could be seen sitting in the chair, watching him with worried eyes. He spared a moment to utter a quick greeting to her, then continued on his way for his room. The bedroom door was open, and Fluttershy leaned out of it to look back at him, worry still on her face.

“How is he?” Eventide asked immediately between his pants, coming to a stop by the door. He bent over and rested his hands on his knees, still struggling to catch his breath.

Fluttershy glanced back into the room in concern while waiting for him to steady himself. Once he managed to get some breath back, and his pants quieted down, he began to hear Beebee’s high-pitched whimpers from out there in the hall. Slowly, he stood upright and made his way into the room, Fluttershy stepping aside to give him some space. Eventide’s eyes went wide at what they saw.

Beebee was, as Fluttershy had said, curled on the bed, whimpering in pain. All along his white back was a gigantic, gaping crack, his skin splitting apart to reveal something underneath. It was a hard, dark blue surface made of the same material as Beebee’s face. A face that was currently contorted in an endless grimace of discomfort and pain, his legs twitching sporadically while curled up against his front.

“He isn’t letting me get close,” Fluttershy said softly, looking on helplessly. “I don’t know what to do. It looks like he’s shedding his skin, like a snake or a lobster or something, but I don’t know for sure. It might be natural…”

Eventide grimaced before gingerly approaching the bed, careful not to make too much noise. Beebee’s glowing blue eyes shifted to look at him, and he could see there were tears running down the bug’s cheeks. As he drew closer, Beebee hissed at him, his forked tongue flicking out and writhing in the air. Eventide stopped and very slowly lifted his hands in a disarming gesture. “Hey, it’s okay, Bee…” he whispered in as soothing a voice as he could manage.

Beebee kept hissing at him for several moments, but eventually, his discomfort drove him to whimper and curl up again, squirming in pain where he lay. Eventide took this chance to inch closer, managing to lower himself onto his knees by the edge and reach out for Beebee when he was finally noticed again. Beebee, like before, began hissing at him and bared his fangs, making Eventide hesitate. “It’s just me, Bee,” he assured before very gently easing his hands closer. “It’s just me. I wanna help…”

In the doorway, Fluttershy was holding her breath with a hand clutched to her chest. Inch by inch, Eventide’s hands drew closer to Beebee while he whispered reassurances to the squirming grub. His words and slow movements seemed to be enough to prove to Beebee that he wasn’t being attacked, and he allowed Eventide to slowly pull him closer to the edge of the bed, despite his hisses and whines of protest and pain. Fluttershy took this as her cue to approach, making sure to keep her movements slow and smooth so as to not upset the only barely pacified Beebee.

She settled down next to Eventide and smiled sweetly at Beebee’s face. “You’re gonna be okay, little guy,” she cooed, drawing Beebee’s attention. He twisted his head back and forth, whimpering in yet more discomfort. It was then that Fluttershy noticed something. “His skin is loose…”

“So he is shedding his skin? Or molting or something?” Eventide asked, looking at the gaping split in Beebee’s back. He saw something twitching under the pale white skin, making his eyes narrow with curiosity.

Fluttershy nodded, her expression turning into one of deep sympathy. “Yes, I think so. But something might have gone wrong; these processes don’t usually cause pain for the creature performing them, I don’t think. Not in any animals I know of, at least...”

Eventide glanced at Fluttershy, then at the twitching movement under Beebee’s skin. He slowly reached towards the edge of the crack, curious to see if he could help the process along. When his fingers touched the skin, Beebee suddenly jerked and wailed out in pain, making him retract his hand immediately. When he saw Fluttershy’s questioning gaze, he elaborated. “Something’s moving under the skin on his back. Right there,” he pointed, and Fluttershy looked. “Maybe something got caught on his old skin, making it so he can’t get out?”

Fluttershy eyed the twitching for several seconds before nodding. “It might be…”

Before they could speculate any farther, there was a bone-chilling crunch as the white skin split open even farther, some of it sliding down Beebee’s left side to reveal more black chitin. As it fell away, a single, transparent blue wing with small holes in its filmy surface sprang up and began to buzz wildly in the air, sending a few drops of some indistinct fluid to splatter across their faces. Fluttershy fell back onto her rear, letting out a squeak of alarm and disgust, while Eventide just gasped and wiped the back of his wrist over his face to remove some of the odd-smelling liquid. Once he opened his eyes again, he noticed that some of Beebee’s discomfort faded away, but he still squirmed and groaned in pain.

The twitching was still happening under the skin on his right side and had only gotten worse. As it got worse, so too did Beebee’s pain, his reprieve already over. His cries began increasing in volume to become agonized shrieks that made Eventide’s heart plummet into the pits of his stomach. He looked pleadingly at Fluttershy, gesturing loosely at Beebee. “I think his other wing is stuck,” he said, looking down at the crying creature. “Can you hold him still? Maybe I can get it free.”

Fluttershy’s eyes widened some more, moving back up to her previous kneeling position. “Are you sure? We don’t know his anatomy; what if you hurt him? This might be normal!”

Eventide’s own expression hardened, and he pointed at Beebee’s pained facial expression. “No, it’s not. Pain like this is not normal. And if it is, then normal can shove off!”

Fluttershy gulped but nodded. She looked down at Beebee, took a deep breath, and gingerly reached her hands down to hold him still. He hissed and squealed in protest from her touch, but her gentle voice soothing him and the feather-light touch of her fingers was enough to keep him from biting. Eventide took this chance to very carefully lift up the shedding skin with the tips of his fingers. He heard Beebee wail even louder, and cringed inwardly with guilt. For a second, the skin resisted his pull, and he became afraid that Fluttershy may have been right about this being normal.

But then, all at once, the skin peeled back fully with another sickening squelch, and Beebee’s other wing snapped up, free at last. There was a very clear crease running horizontally across it, indicating that it had indeed been stuck and folded, presumably being the cause of Beebees pain. It buzzed eagerly for a moment before both wings stopped and his cries died down. After several seconds, Beebee audibly sighed in relief, and Fluttershy took her hands off of him. After a few more seconds, Beebee then began to squirm again, tiny squeaks of effort escaping from his face before, at last, he fully slipped out of his old skin, his face receding into the white grub before popping up from the crack, along with the rest of him.

Eventide watched with awe and amazement as Beebee revealed his true self for the first time. He stood on four legs, each one filled with tiny holes. The legs appeared to end with what appeared to be tiny hooves. His body was completely black and shiny, save for an armored pseudo shell along his back, which was colored a dark, rich blue. His twitching and buzzing wings extended out from the shell, and were a lighter shade of blue that was closer to teal. His single horn had gotten slightly longer over the last eight days, now that Eventide looked. Two ears swiveled around on either side of his head, and a fin could be seen running perfectly down the middle of the back of his neck. Above his hind legs was a tail made of the same material as his fin, twitching behind him as Beebee got used to his new appendages.

All in all, he looked like a tiny horse. A tiny bug horse with holes, wings and a horn. Not to mention the long fangs, sharp teeth, and giant, glowing blue eyes.

After a few moments of adjusting to his new body, Beebee looked up at Eventide and Fluttershy before giving them both a big smile and reaching his forelegs out to them as if desiring a hug.

The two of them shared a frazzled look.

They had the feeling that the learning curve for taking care of Beebee just got a lot steeper.

Author's Note:

Fun Fact: This is the first chapter to be edited by my new editor before going public. The rest of them were edited only yesterday on the 20th.

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