No sacrifice to the elder gods is ever wasted

This piece was first published at Reflex Fiction.

It started with tea. Cups of it, going cold on the desk beside Ipsi’s computer. He brewed his tea strong and black, then left it overnight – etching the insides of our team’s communal mugs with dark stains.

‘Do you ever actually drink tea?’ I asked, trying to scrub out the offending crockery. ‘Or do you just make it for fun?’

‘It’s an offering,’ he replied, as though that was obvious. ‘Did you know that in Taiwan, programmers leave snacks next to their computers to help their code compile?’

‘We’re not in Taiwan,’ I said, ‘You’re not Taiwanese.’

‘The principle still holds.’

Before I could ask what principle, Ipsi sauntered out of the kitchenette, mug of tea in hand.

He moved on to snacks two months later, towards the tail end of a chaotic sprint. It wasn’t much — a handful of Skittles or gummy bears sitting on his workstation where the rest of us kept toys and sticky notes.

But it seemed to work. Ipsi’s debugging took less time; his code had fewer syntax issues.

The week before launch I worked until the small hours, squinting at lines of code, trying to catch errant parentheses.

At three a.m. on the third night, dizzy with exhaustion, I bought two packets of M&Ms from the vending machine. I arranged them around my keyboard in neat groups, sorted by colour. Then I fell asleep on my desk.

I awoke to Ipsi waving a coffee under my nose.

‘I see you’ve come around to my way of thinking,’ he said, while I gulped espresso. I nodded. It wasn’t until I’d finished my coffee that I noticed all the green M&Ms had gone.

‘Doesn’t hurt to make offerings to local spirits,’ said Ipsi. ‘You never know who might be hungry.’

Photo by SHOT on Unsplash