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The Hand that Feeds

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“Are you seeing this shit…?”

 

He’s not talking to anyone in particular, per se, but it’s the type of thing one would mutter when confronted with a spectacle so bizarre that there’s nothing else you can really do but voice your disbelief. Which is exactly the kind of sight that Eddie Brock is seeing.

 

He checks his surroundings, unsure if he’s the only one.

 

He is.

 

Eddie takes a cautious step forward toward the small, glass jar next to his motorbike, housing a thick, black substance.

 

How suspicious.

 

Eddie scratches his neck in confusion. If it were any other jar, he would have assumed it was just ink, or black paint, or even dirty motor oil left next to his bike. He probably would have kicked it away if that were the case.

 

But the peculiarities lay with two crucial facts: the first being that Eddie swears the jar wasn't there when he first parked. He’s usually pretty good about committing his environment to memory.

 

And the second (and stranger one) being that the contents inside the jar appear to be moving. And with directional intent too.

 

His bike casts a shadow across the length of the jar, and the substance inside appears to be doing all that they can to stay within the shaded region. The black slime shakes in the jar, twisting and frothing uncomfortably, and on occasion, a piece of itself would shudder and overflow onto the other side which kisses the sunlight, before it quickly rushes back into the darkness.

 

Is this a joke?

 

Eddie looks around again, only to see empty streets. He hopes he's not the victim of a twisted prank channel, but he doesn’t see any cameras in his vicinity. He’s not afraid to admit he’s a little bit scared - he’s not that cold, hard-boiled investigator he wishes to be - but he takes a step closer anyway until his body casts its own shadow, completely immersing the jar in the dark.

 

Almost immediately, the liquid relaxes, redistributing their mass to fill the side of the container they were previously avoiding. It was then that Eddie realizes two things: first, this liquid is either alive or has some mannerisms resembling life, and second, this poor creature was being boiled alive.

 

Eddie bites his lower lip and squats to get a closer look. Surprisingly, the liquid responds likewise, shifting most of their mass toward Eddie as if they were doing the same.

 

“What... are you…?”

 

He reaches out, then hesitates. The possibility of danger finally squeezes it’s way to his consciousness. But curiosity overpowers him and he finally takes the jar into his hand. The jar itself is small and easily occupies a single palm, and unsurprisingly warm after baking in the sunlight.

 

Eddie turns the jar in his hand to face the other way. Curiously, the liquid doesn’t seem to want to change positions as they ripple back to the side of the jar closest to Eddie. He frowns and turns it again, and the contents crawl back to face him. He tips it upside down and away from him, and they defy both his expectations and gravity, plastering themself to Eddie’s side.

 

“Interesting,” he notes. Against his better judgement, he twists the lid open just enough for the hiss of hot moisture to escape before he quickly seals it again. He looks at them through the glass and they appear to be better, with their black, amorphous surface no longer rippling emphatically with discomfort. Instead, they simply pulse organically. Relaxed.

 

Eddie, too, feels relief.

 

He checks his surroundings one last time before placing the jar in one of the pockets of his jacket, then starts up his bike. Eddie’s not sure of what to make of this, but the idea of discovering more makes his chest flutter with excitement.

 


 

 

Eddie Brock isn’t ashamed to admit his apartment’s a shithole. He gets jobs every now and then, but he still wouldn’t consider that being employed, especially if most of his time is spent looking for work rather than doing work. It’s amazing that he’s able to afford an apartment at all.

 

One day, he’ll  become a hot-shot journalist. One day, he’ll be the ones writing the headlines on publications like the Daily Globe, or maybe even Time. One day, he’ll  be getting that upgrade in life and no longer needing to live off the kind of food that’s surely shortening his remaining time on earth.

 

But like the trash strewn haphazardly across his apartment that he swears he’ll pick up, that day has yet to come.

 

Even so, Eddie welcomes this new creature into his dump of a home. Of course, he’s not without his reservations and he decides to tread forth with caution.

 

Eddie pulls the jar out of his pocket and eyes his new friend. They pulse oddly, as if discomfited by the shaky ride home, but otherwise seems fine compared to when he first found them. He notes how cramped they must feel inside the jar.

 

“Let’s put you in a bigger home, alright lil’ guy?”

 

He finds a bigger jar. Eddie would have loved to settled for a fishbowl, or even a full tank, but renting and living minimalistically means he’s got no frivolous spending money and he hasn’t had the time to look for something better. The jar, though clean, still has the ghost of its previous tenant still lingering, unmistakably the smell of old pasta sauce. It’s good enough , he supposes, and hopes his new companion wouldn’t mind too much.

 

“Can I let you out? If I transfer you, will you jump out and try to kill me?”

 

The black pudding doesn’t respond unless you count that alien slime wobble as an answer. They don’t even appear to be sentient. Eddie feels his ears burn, suddenly feeling silly in his own apartment.

 

“Um. Okay. Just don’t try to jump at me, please. And -- why… why am I even talking to you?”

 

Eddie takes a deep breath, steeling his nerves, and counts.

 

One, two, three!

 

In a few swift motions, Eddie twists the lid off the smaller jar, dumps the creature into the bigger jar, then quickly reseals the new jar as the creature hits the glassy bottom. The creature bounces, but otherwise, they do nothing but continue their placid wobble.

 

Eddie releases his breath and cracks the room with his laughter. He feels like a complete idiot. Why did he get so psyched up for nothing? With a sudden austere clarity, he realizes he’s in dire need of a beer. A cold can of the cheapest shit he can afford, to wash away the taste of a fruitless day.

 

He throws open the fridge and shouts, “you want anything, bud?”

 

He looks back and surprisingly, they’re pressing against the glass in his direction like before.

 

“You want a beer too? Wait, no, that might kill you. Soggy fried chicken? Maybe some of this rice that’s congealed with… uh.”

 

Eddie pulls out the only thing that seems to be impervious to shelf life, which was an untouched chocolate bar he put in by mistake. The texture is all ruined anyway. And if this creature has been baking in the sun, they’re likely malnourished and in dire need of some simple carbs.

 

“How’s this, lil’ buddy?”

 

Eddie unravels the wrapping and breaks off a corner, dangling it above the open jar. A single, weak tendril of slime reaches out to wrap around the confection before retreating back inside. The chocolate gets swallowed into the black pitch as if it never existed.

 

“Huh. Do… you want some more?”

 

He offers them another piece, to which they greedily accept. And another. And another. In a flash of renewed energy, they reach out with a thick limb and snatches Eddie’s outstretched hand.

 

“Woah, woah! Get off! You can have the whole thing!”

 

He swats at the limb and throws the entire bar into the jar. While distracted, Eddie grabs the lid and tries to reseal the container, but the creature pushes back with a newfound strength, unwilling to be caged again.

 

Eddie drops the lid and backs away as horror blossoms before his eyes. The creature pulsates and stretches out as a single slug, stepping out onto the counter like an Eldritch slinky. They twist and turn, first flattening themself across the counter like a puddle of water dispersed by gravity, before their outer edges retracts and coalesces back at the center. From the center of the puddle emerges a small mound the size of a baseball, and then they stop.

 

Eddie’s jaw drops stupidly, flapping in disbelief, as he grips onto a sad-looking frying pan.

 

“Wh… w-what…”

 

Out of nowhere, two white crescents flicker onto the mound. They're unmistakably eyes, and while there are no pupils to indicate direction, Eddie’s certain they’re staring at him.

 

He stares back.

 

“Unbelievable… Are you… are you mad at me? Do you even understand me? I literally just gave you chocolate, you do NOT  have the right to glare at me like that!”

 

The mound shifts, as if they were to cock their head to the side in confusion.

 

Eddie swallows and tries again. “What are you?”

 

It’s stupid because Eddie’s sure he’s encountered rats in his building bigger than this thing, but it’s the fear of the unknown that’s making him sweat so profusely. The liquid creature tries to vocalize in response. They form a cavity with their black flesh to draw in air, then they expel it through a pinched opening. But to Eddie, it sounds like nothing else but a hiss that could only be described as threatening.

 

Think, Eddie, think!

 

Despite his panic, his brain takes a quick jog down memory lane and finds the lesson he’s been looking for: wolves raise their hackles to danger, birds spread their wings to look bigger than their enemy, and Eddie, too, can puff his chest and raise his arms to intimidate this hissing black creature.

 

And he does so, hunching his back and slowly spreading out his arms.

 

In response, the creature sequesters enough mass from their body to push out two tendrils, spreading them horizontally like poorly rendered limbs. One of the creature’s limbs are longer than the other and ends with a large, bulbous appendage.

 

Eddie almost drops the pan when he realizes that the creature is trying to mirror him. The creature is unable to tell where Eddie’s arm ends and when the pan begins, so they simply assume the entire extrusion is part of the same appendage.

 

Eddie waves the pan up and down.

 

The creature does the same.

 

Eddie drops the pan onto the countertop.

 

The whites of the creature’s eyes widen in confusion, darting back and forth between Eddie and the discarded pan. They hesitate first, before eventually severing the bulbous tip of their limb to let it drop onto the counter. The dismembered bulb eventually rolls back to join the main body.

 

“My god,” Eddie breathes.

 

Eddie still holds his hands in front of him, bracing for a fight.

 

“Look, little murder pudding. Can you please, please get back into the jar? I don’t want to lock you in there forever, but I don’t know what to do with you right now, and I’m honestly about to shit myself.”

 

Eddie gestures weakly toward the jar.

 

The creature gestures weakly back at him.

 

Eddie wheezes in disbelief.

 

At least they seem more inclined to mimic his actions rather than to attack him. He takes a cautious step forward, still raising his arms for battle, but notes that the creature simply does the same, rippling a few inches forward on the counter. Eddie steps forward and stops when his own hands are mere inches away from the creature’s makeshift hands.

 

The creature stares at Eddie, awaiting his next move.

 

… What if?

 

Eddie closes the distance, touching the tip of his index finger to the tip of one of the creature’s outstretched limb. It’s a weird, alien remix of the Creation of Adam.

 

The creature doesn’t seem to be hostile. In fact, they eventually retract their limbic protrusions and regathers themself into an oblong sphere, allowing Eddie to brush the tip of his fingers against their main body.

 

It’s wet, he notes, but doesn’t leave any residue.

 

Eddie’s fingers rub the top of the mound in gentle, circular motions, noting how his fingers submerge into the creature on occasion, like water, before being pushed back out. The creature’s eyes curiously dart back and forth between Eddie and his fingers, but otherwise seems okay with his ministrations. Their liquid surface ripples under his touch. Eddie’s unable to determine if it’s supposed to signal affection or contempt, or something else altogether.

 

“You are the weirdest looking dog I’ve ever met,” he laughs.

 

The creature closes their eyes as if sated by the gentle caresses.

 

“You’re strangely cute. Terrifying, yes, but in an ugly-cute kind of way. I like you.”

 

As if taking his words as a signal, the creature reacts, clinging to Eddie’s finger in an attempt to climb up his arm. Eddie pulls back immediately.

 

“No, no, no!” he shouts, swatting the back the tendrils back to free his hand. “Bad pudding! Bad!”

 

The creature’s eyes narrow back into the jagged crescents, and suddenly, they lunge.

 

As they clear the space between Eddie and the countertop, Eddie quickly reaches for the discarded pan from behind and -

 

-- THWUNK!

 

He sends the creature flying across the room, splattering against the wall of his dirty apartment. Eddie Brock raises his arms in victory, and shouts:

 

“Eddie-fucking-Brock knocks it out of the park! Yeah! Wait -”

 

He quickly grabs the jar before rushing over the slime, which has fallen to the ground like a lifeless puddle. Seemingly stunned, Eddie scoops the creature into his hand and works them back into a ball before tossing them back into the jar, sealing the cap tightly.

 

He slumps against the floor in disbelief.

 

“Wow,” he sighs, “what on earth am I supposed to do with you?”