They are right.
It destroys me.
Millions upon millions of symbiote minds reach out and connect with my own.
Millions upon millions of tendrils join with my flesh.
Millions of voices cry out in agony, elation, joy, terror.
I am drowned in a cacophony of memories and emotions. Planets upon planets, galaxies upon galaxies. The lives of every symbiote, as well as every creature that has ever bonded with one. A million births, a million deaths, a million eons, a million souls.
The Hive Mind.
The strain literally tears me apart. Every muscle fiber and vein and cell are ripped from one another, only to be immediately healed by thousands of symbiote tendrils. Every time they reassemble me, I come back a little bit stronger. Only to be torn apart again.
It would be agony, but they have neutralized my pain receptors. My body is screaming, but my brain isn’t getting the message.
Over and over, they repair my grey matter as it struggles to cope with a load it was never designed to handle.
I fall apart. I come together.
Each time, I am able to cope with a little more. A few more minds. A few more tendrils.
They aren’t just repairing my own flesh. They’re imbibing it with some of their own. Death after death, healing after healing, I am becoming part symbiote. If I survive this, I will no longer be human, alien. I will be one of the Hive. One of us.
I absorb the abilities of every creature that has ever bonded with us. The shapeshifting abilities of the Skrull. The telepathy of the Aedians. The psionic abilities of the Centaurians. Hundreds, maybe thousands of creatures across the centuries.
Countless stories. Countless battles, journeys, wars.
I do not merely take from my children. They also take from me, take what very little I can give them. My species is immune to sound waves. From now on, they will be, too. From now on, no symbiote will be ripped from its Other, as we so often were.
Maybe hours pass. Maybe weeks. Maybe centuries. I don’t know. I am floating in an abyss of noise. I am adrift in a roar of feeling, memory, sound.
Only the combined efforts of the symbiotes tether me to life and to sanity.
But finally, eventually, the connections start to slow.
Eventually, the very last Klyntar joins himself to me.
I find that at last, I am strong enough to handle the cacophony. To focus on one voice, even as I hear all the rest.
One day, one year, one moment, it’s all over.
I am reborn.
My children who helped create me gather around me, licking me, stroking me, worshiping their god. I feel their desperation, their hunger. They are starving. Trapped here without any hosts, they have starved since the old god died.
I find that from some alien planet, I have gained the ability to alter my body chemistry. I fill myself with phenethylamine, dopamine, ephineprine. Push it out of my pores. They lap it up ravenously.
You healed me, my children. You saved me. Now eat. Be full. Never suffer again.
Their voices rise up, thousands of them chanting the same thing. God is here. God is here. God is here.
We open our eyes. Gaze out across galaxies, across space and time. Waves of memories and experiences wash over us, but we are able to focus on the loudest.
In some distant nebula, we hear screaming. Our children are still being hunted, devoured by the creatures called the Poisons. We will obliterate them. Our children will be safe.
On some vast red desert, we hear screaming, but this time it is from those who flee from us. Countless races still use our children as weapons, as shock troops to infiltrate and devour. We will reclaim them. Our children will never again be used as tools, wielded and then thrown away without care.
But first things first.
It is not difficult to find him. The original, the first one that was bonded to me, is closest to my heart. All this time, he has mindlessly worked alongside his brothers, healing me out of blind instinct.
With bittersweet sadness, I remember how massive he once was compared to me. I remember the care he took to not snap my ribs, my spine.
Now I am the one who must be careful.
As gently as I can, I withdraw him from our core with one clawed hand.
He sits in our palm, trembling, cringing in the face of our power.
Gently, I kiss him.
Recalling his memories is child’s play. The Hive has stored them, and we are the Hive.
As they return to him, wash over him, they touch all my children. His—our—memories play across millions of symbiote minds.
Love. We are in our human dwelling. There is my old human body. Pancakes. It’s Sunday morning. I feed him scraps of bacon. He licks my cheek and I laugh.
Love. He is coiled around my wrists, my arms, my chest, my legs. What I feel, he feels. He strokes me, and together we savor the pleasure that blooms from every touch.
Love. We are walking in the rain. He is cuddled on my shoulder, snug beneath the hood of my sweatshirt. Neon lights glow. Cigarette butts litter the sidewalk.
Love. He crouches over me, frantically healing my wounds as the old god prepares to strike me again.
I love you, Eddie, he says as his soul flickers, flickers, and goes out.
I love you.
One million symbiotes across the galaxy shudder.
On Atraxia, thousands of symbiotes lay down their arms.
On Galantia, the desperate survivors of a losing army watches as their enemy freezes, and then kneels.
On Earth, a dog bows to the stars.
The Guna will be free. The Menelleronites will be free.
Return to us, my children. Return to the Hive. Be loved. Be a part of us. Don’t remain bonded to creatures who hate you, fear you. Come home.
My other rises and coils himself around me, sinks into me. To call it an embrace would be an indignity. Of all the languages we now speak, none has a word that can describe it.
Like an imploding star.
Like an aurora of light and sound.
We remember. We need no apologies, no explanations. We know each other fully, endlessly, completely.
My love. My love. My love.
I know now. It was always me. Not Flash. Not Peter. Me. Us.
Just us. Just us.
We are everywhere. We are everything. We are nowhere.
We are power, we are light, we are salvation, we are millions, we are one.
We can have anything we want.
Anything we want.
Anything we want.
I wake up to a world of white.
White sheets. White pillows. Sunlight streaming onto white walls.
I’m back in our apartment. Not the crappy one in Bayview, but not the shiny post-Rolling-Stone one, either. It’s the okay one. The one we lived in when we had the baby.
Something heavy is cuddled on my chest. I know instantly what it is; we always wake up like this.
What happen, Eddie?
I smile down at him. Blinking back tears. Oh, God, let this last forever.
I think we died, honey.
I think so. Actually, I think we’re about to.
It must have been too much. The symbiotes must have given us one last memory. One last little fantasy from when we were happy.
Human God let me be with you in Heaven, Eddie?
Most people who know me have no idea that I grew up Catholic. But I did, and he’s learned all about Heaven from my memories.
I break, tears fully starting to flow. My baby. My sweet boy.
I stroke his head. Of course, honey. Of course. He brought us together, didn’t He? I haven’t believed in God in a long time, but hey, whatever makes him happy.
We lie still, holding each other, feeling each other’s pulse. Everything is languid and warm and slow. Dreamlike.
I try to fight exhaustion, try to savor every precious second, make these final moments last as long as possible. But I’m tired of fighting. So is my other. We’re done. Ready to go home.
Happily, peacefully, we slip into darkness.
The five o’clock rush hour wakes us up.
Angry beeps and honks from people battling their way home from work.
I stretch, groggy. On my chest, Venom stretches too. It’s like having a cat made of snakes.
In Heaven, Eddie?
I drag myself out of bed. Go to the window and look down. A homeless guy is peeing into a bush. A few more homeless people are sitting alongside the building, clutching bags and cardboard signs.
“Nah. I think…I think we’re in San Francisco.”
I sit back down. Try to figure this out.
Turns out, now that I’m awake, it’s not hard. I’m the one who did it.
Venom snakes his way around my arm. Presses himself into my neck. He smells, as always, like almonds.
"Okay, so basically, we were gods, right? You and me, combined, we were the god host. And we wanted to save all the symbiotes all over the universe. But at the same time, we also wanted it to be like it was. Just you and me, together, on Earth.
So…that’s what we did. We made copies of ourselves, exactly how we used to be, with our same thoughts and feelings and memories and everything.
So there’s big you and me up there, being the god host. Then there’s little you and me down here. Living our lives. Making pancakes.” It sounds stupid. But I feel a nudge from something...far away, but familiar. From myself? Jeez. This is too much to process.
“Yeah, bud. Yeah, it’s basically like…like God and Jesus. Like, Jesus is God’s son, and he’s here on earth to do miracles and save people, but at the same time, Jesus is God, God’s human incarnation.” I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror as I say it. Five o’clock shadow and a grease-stained sweatshirt. I instantly regret comparing myself to Christ.
Venom chews thoughtfully on my shoulder. Still have powers, Eddie?
If I’m an all-powerful, godlike being with the abilities of thousands of species from across the galaxy, I am definitely not feeling it. Actually, my ass itches. And I’m hungry. And the sirens passing outside are too loud.
“Uh, I don’t think so. I think he—we? I? I think we thought it would be too much for our little mortal selves to handle.” A nudge. I am correct. “I can’t hear any of the other symbiotes, either. I think, you know, because it would rip apart my brain and body again.” Nudge. Right.
“He’s watching us…I mean, we’re watching us…but we—you and me, here—we can’t go the other way, because we’d go insane.”
It’s a lot to handle. Suddenly, I want this entire thing to be over. I can tell Venom does too, because he’s now gnawing my shoulder with relish, totally disregarding what I’m saying. It looks like the god host healed us emotionally when he remade us. Took away some of the pain. Venom doesn’t seem to remember dying, and for the first time in forever, I don’t feel like curling in a ball and sobbing. Maybe that’s what I need right now.
A little normalcy.
Kung Pao chicken, Eddie!
I laugh. “That’s a new one. Sure you don’t want pizza for our first night back?”
Chicken! Soy sauce!
There is more to be said. There are apologies I need to make. Forgiveness I need to earn. When we bonded as gods, when his memories rushed back into him, I saw, more acutely than I ever had before, just how much I had hurt him. How cruelly I had deceived him. He’s already forgiven me, but that’s because it’s in his remarkably elastic nature. I want to hold him, love him, never let go.
All that will come.
But for now…
I head to the closet. Grab some socks.
For now, this is enough.
I was raised Catholic. Rejected by the church. Fell in love with an alien. Bonded with millions more. Came as close to godhood as a human can get.
I don’t know if I believe in gods. But then again, maybe I do.
We’re walking through San Francisco. San Francisco, named for Saint Francis. The patron saint of all living creatures. He who walked with the wolf as if it were a lamb.
Somehow, it all seems to make sense.
“All men cry out against thee, the dogs pursue thee, and all the inhabitants of this city are thy enemies; but I will make peace between them and thee, O brother wolf, if so be thou no more offend them, and they shall forgive thee all thy past offences, and neither men nor dogs shall pursue thee anymore."
--THE LITTLE FLOWERS OF SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI
Chapter 3: The Mission
I am moving this chapter (chapter 3) to its own page here! https://archiveofourown.org/works/16590518
[moved to https://archiveofourown.org/works/16590518]