S Y M b Y o S I S

T h e A r r i v a l

He lands with a hard thump, his body jarred by the immeasurable impact. He feels his body tremble with primordial fear, and instinctive urge to run. But he has yet to open his eyes. His breathing is ragged and troubled, as if someone had gripped his throat and slowly tightened their clasp. He began wheezing as he felt his broken body move in alien ways. His body was malformed and shattered. Displaced bone protruded from his skin, blood slowly seeped from his nose. He strained to push himself up, and exerts even more energy into opening his eyes, but when his eyelids crack open, a light of unparalleled brightness blinds him, like a bat staring intently into the eyes of the merciless sun. He is on a high plateau, overlooking a vast wasteland with a solitary path leading into the infinite horizon. When he strains against the agonizing light, he sees some sort of floating secondary horizon. He can make out enormous buildings with unreal architecture, some of which seem to shirk the laws of physics. His view is somewhat skewed by the brightness, which casts shining light in between the buildings and making them fairly deformed.
“Neil…” he whispers somberly as a small trickle of blood reaches the corner of his lips. Something told him from inside to speak his name. He spoke it again and again, a surge of foreign energy rushing through his veins.
“Neil…I am…Neil.” He again strains. His hands clasp tightly to something that has been in his hand for this time. He weakly raised his hand up into the light and opens it. His tremulous fingers reveal a small, metal pendant. It is a simple disc, but in its heart, a small, clear capsule with a viscous, red fluid inside. He puts the jewelry up to his nose and smelled deeply. A swarm of memories exploded in his clouded head.
“Ophelia…” he whispers. He breaks down, balling his fists and placing them on the sandstone. Hunched over, he began to softly weep. He realizes what has happened. He has failed. His love is gone.

T r u t h

The man who refers to himself as ‘Neil’ has wandered this wasteland, towards the heavenly expanse of civilization he observed on the plateau. Time has slowed to a pace in which days seem to be years. His clothing is tattered and weathered. His face is dirty and his eyes dark and sunken. He has gone without water for too long, his bones grind with each step. Unable to go on any further, he simply lays down into the hot sand, feeling the last pang of depression as he releases all thoughts in his head and forsakes his motive of life. His eyesight fades to a soft black, and the sounds of a dead world whip through his head as his final thoughts dissipate with his dying breath.

But this is not how his life is to end, to be pitifully splayed out like a carcass tossed from a ledge.

Neil is comfortable, laying down and staring at a distorted reflection of himself in a parabolic mirror that is actually the ceiling. He has been placed into soft black robes. His eyesight is blurry, but he can faintly make out his surroundings. He is still groggy.
“There it is again. That damned light…” he murmured as he weakly raised his arm to cover his clean face. He shakes his head back and forth, trying desperately to douse the incessant light. Without warning, a voice, deep and solemn spoke.
“Neil. It’s good to see you awake. We feared that you had passed before your task had been fulfilled.”
Neil sat up quickly and looked towards the man. His eyesight was still blurry. It was a tall man, a man of grand stature. He was adorned in red and black robes. Something shined softly underneath of him. The man turned to reveal that he had some form of an armored suit on underneath the robe. It was a mixture of what appeared to be copper and gold, a mesmerizing color that covers his whole body. On the armor are six prominent stripes of glowing azure.
“Don’t try to speak.” He says. “Just let your eyesight regenerate.” He continues. Neil bows his head. In a matter of seconds, his eyesight returns to him, crisp and clear. Shocked by this unusual prediction, he looks his hands and feet over. He returns to look at the man. He is a bit older, maybe in his late fifties. He had a short white beard that just meets his shoulders. Neil noticed three black dots, about a half inch wide equally spaced apart in an arc on his temple.
“Who are you?” He asks softly, his voice sounding alien to him. The man is looking out of a window. Neil realizes that he is in a tremendous building that overlooks the city he tried so desperately to get to. The city is so beautiful, like one massive piece of artwork. The place stretches endlessly. The man simply stares out of this window and smiles, his hands clasped behind his back.
“Me? Well, I am flattered, but I am not important, my friend. There are more dire issues at hand. Perhaps if you-”
“Who…” Neil interrupted harshly, his voice still showing evidence of his earlier trouble. “are you?” He finished quietly. The man, obviously caught off guard by this display of aggression, bowed his head and turned to Neil who sat, his head lowered and his expression of anger unmistakable.
“I am Thanos.” He said, as if expecting Neil to know exactly who he was by his name. “The Grand Leveller.” He finished. Neil was still perplexed. The man waited for some grandiose expression of affection, but was met with confusion.
“You didn’t answer my question.” Neil uttered, emphasizing his defensive tone. Natural for a human being to be so touchy when they have succumbed to such trials.
“My child, calm down. We are not enemies. I understand your…confusion and demeanor, but I am only here to help.” He said softly, nodding towards him and then returning his gaze to the city. A silence hung over them as Neil stood up off of the bed in which he had been laying on. He looked around the room, observing every little detail. He walked up to the window next to ‘Thanos’ and also peered out. They both stood at their windows, gazing quietly over the unreal expanse.
“Humans.” the man says. “They are too close to it.” He muttered, the silence gone, to be replaced with inquisition.
“To what?” Neil inquired.
“Transcending Death. They are dangerously close to completely removing it from existence.” He said quietly, his peering eyes fading off, staring at nothing in particular…lost in thought. Neil smiled at this absurd statement. He held his thoughts to himself, a wry smile appearing on his face as he continued to stare out of the window.
“How so?” Neil asked, keeping his focus on the city.
“Man is undisciplined. They are ignorant, and lacking in their worth in their Quest for absolute knowledge. Soon they will discover that Death is…” he faded, staring back into space. The silence hung like a fog.
“unnecessary.” he finished. Neil’s face shifted, no longer was there a smile on his face, it being replaced with a furrowed brow and inquisitive thoughts.
“Unnecessary?” He asked, turning to look at him. Thanos’ expression was bleak, his head lowered and his eyelids heavy.
“Man must not achieve immortality. The absence of Death disturbs the forces and order that govern our cosmology. Victory over Death destroys the essence of the Quest, as one no longer needs to find one’s way to accomplish one’s destiny. No individual has to prove his or her worth and thus gains an easy access to the divine status of the Gods. These individuals could easily reach absolute knowledge, but they lack the discipline to acquire and master it.” He spoke gently.
“I see.” Neil spoke quietly, looking back to the city. “And in what way am I involved with this?” He asked, the curiosity piqued in his voice.
“Man has to know…that the power of Death is not to be fooled with. Man must be taught, that there is a balance so delicate. If humankind disturbs this…it goes beyond theory as to what could occur.” He stated. His voice lacking any sort of enthusiasm.
“So what are you wanting me to do?” Neil questioned.
“It is…a daunting quest, to say the least. It requires lives… to be taken… by your hand.” He said softly.
“Me? Murder?” Neil retorted, a hint of anger coming through his otherwise stony expression. Thanos looked at him and shook his head.
“You will not be murdering anybody my friend. Perhaps I should elaborate upon my meaning. I have to explain a few things to you…” He said. He took Neil’s shoulder and gently led him to an opposing window which did not face the light.
“You do not need my observation here. You can tell that what you are seeing is different.” He said. Neil nodded in agreement. The desert. The desert that was in. He was still unsure of what happened.
“You can see that the landscape before you is dead. Nothing lives out there. This is the balance. Neil looked back at the other window. The golden realm. He turned to look back at the window in which he stood in front of. Death. For some reason Thanos was making sense. Neil bowed his head in remembrance of his only love, taken.
“I…I lost her.” Neil muttered. Thanos nodded.
“I know. And it pains me to see you in such anguish. But, it was something that had to happen. But if it makes you feel any better, she is not the one who has died.” He said softly. Neil’s face twisted.
“What?” He said, stunned.
“Your love, Ophelia, is not dead. It is you.” he smirked. Neil clasped his hands behind his neck, trying to wrap his head around this ridiculous statement.
“But…how?” Neil asked.
“She…just lives. You died by your own hand, Neil. Why do you think you suffered so greatly upon entering my realm?” He laughed. Neil was stunned at this man’s cruel joke.
“Prove to me that she is alive.” Neil demanded.

Thanos had led Neil to a wall which had a single silver colored panel. The panel blackened and showed a heart wrenching image. Ophelia, his love, adorned in a black veil and dress, standing solitarily over a tombstone in the midst of a dreary cemetery. A soft rain fell as the woman stifled her sobbing. Neil looked at this in disbelief. He reached up and gently caressed the screen in such a gentle motion. Ophelia’s makeup ran down her cheeks as she fell to her knees, her head buried in her hands. Neil’s eyes glossed over, and a single teardrop ran down his cheek, burning like fire. It fell to the floor and hissed. Neil looked down at this anomaly, his hand still gently pressing the panel. His lip trembled.
“The dead do not cry.” Thanos whispered.

They returned to the window in which allocated the view of the living realm. Neil had composed himself. They both stood in silence for a few minutes. Nothing needed to be said. Neil finally asked.
“If I do this…can I be with her again?” He asked in a manner that a defeated man asks.
“It is not for me to decide, Neil. I cannot guarantee anything.” Thanos replied after a few moments, turning looking at him. Neil returned his gaze to the city below him. He breathed deeply.
“What do I need to know?” He asked.
“Well there are a few things. Are you willing to learn?” He asked. Neil hesitated, and then nodded weakly.

“Every person has and must fulfill their Quest. Their entire earthly life is to complete their Quest, whatever it may be. This deed is also unavoidable. Some people know it as fate. People who achieve immortality defeat the purpose of the Quest. Unfortunately, some people’s lives are fulfilled through the cycle of Death, and Death only. Simply put, some people are born to die. Death’s influence over mortality is faltering. We must reinstate Death as a superior power against the human race, and instill the respectful fear of Death into the people who are still alive and restore this balance. This is where your Quest is finished.” Thanos explained.
“Venom…he is my…how you say…Peer, in some cases. We work in union. He upholds the Death part of the cycle, whereas I maintain the Life portion. Together we hold the world in balance, making sure that neither one becomes too powerful.” He continued. He swiveled to turn his old head towards Neil, but holding back on eye contact. The newcomer inhaled sharply.
“Then why doesn’t ‘Venom’ go and complete this on his own?” Neil asked.
“Venom is ethereal. He holds no corporeal form. He must be…channeled. Through you.” He answered. He spoke softly, almost a in whisper. His eyes narrowed when he came upon the word ‘channeled’. Thanos’ eyes closed slowly.
“So my task is to sacrifice my body in order for ‘Venom’ to reclaim his power?” Neil questioned as Thanos sat down. He continued to look out the window.
“When you say it in that manner it seems very simple, but it is not. You will unleash The 4 Plagues: War, Cupidity, Famine, and Disease. Through these Four Plagues, Death will be put back into a standing of authority, thereby stopping this…imbalance.” He stated slowly. He clasped his hands in front of him and walked back over to the opposing window in which he viewed the dead landscape again. He walked with almost no energy at all, as if he were walking into his own demise. Neil slowly turned his head to follow the man as he make his walk to the other side.
“Is…” Neil started, a faint pang of fear building up in his throat. “Is there anybody else here?”. Thanos turned around and gazed at Neil with a small grin on his face. He walked over to Neil.
“Like you? Of course. You are looking over an immeasurable land of people just like you who live like they did before. Most are unaware of the true happenings, the reasoning for them being here.” Thanos reassured. The shining light cast very accented shadows on his wrinkled, aged face.
“Ignorance is bliss, you know.” he spoke gently. The wisdom of millions of years past twinkled in his hazel eyes. Thanos seemed much more youthful when in the direct light.
“What is that light?” Neil asked, with a curious tinge. Thanos chuckled softly.
“That is something that I cannot say. But you, my friend, will see soon enough.” He smiled.

T h e V e n o m

Neil had finally been shown the outside of the mysterious building. The ground was some sort of malleable metal surface. It was the same color as Thanos’ armor, a coppery golden sheen that reflected light quite well. Their mirrors were defused. The air was balmy and relaxing.
His footsteps were soft, almost nonexistent. The energy required to walk went a long way, as each stride moved him farther forward. It seemed like gravity here was weakened. There was a tree in the middle of the courtyard that belonged to the building Neil was just in. It was some sort of weeping willow with glowing azure petals. Its elegant branches extended out gently and curved downwards, spurring long locks of leaves that reached the ground at points. There were nice stones built around the pile of soil allocated for the tree. There were people walking about. People of every ethnicity, communicating with each other, without the slightest hint of tension. The place seemed like some sort of heaven. Everyone looked to Thanos and bowed their head slowly. But it was not the obligatory bow of a tyrannical king. This was a free-will acknowledgement of his presence. Most did this, but a few in the crowds we passed decided to omit this seemingly trite action from their activity.
They walked towards the relentless light. It completely blinded them at moments, casting deep, distorted black shadows along the ground. The buildings around them were made of the same golden-copper material, which gave the viewer the illusion of warmth.
“Where are we going?” Neil asked quietly.
“We are bound for Venom. You must finish your quest as soon as possible.” He murmured. As he said Venom, people’s heads turned, some in outward disbelief. Others simply darted their eyes towards them.
They came upon a tall building that stretched far back, about a thousand feet. There were no swinging doors, but instead a single arch in which two guards stood, with swords at their sides. They had armor comparable to Thanos’, with the copper-gold coloring and glowing blue strips along their abdomens.
“I trust you will not defect on our arrangement. As you can see, it is becoming dire that this Quest be completed.” Thanos spoke as they entered under the arch. He walked briskly now.
“Arrangement? Correct me if I’m wrong, but our arrangement is not very fair. I recall it being rather unequal. You got your hands on me and are deploying me to kill what I am told to be countless innocent individuals, in return for a possibility of being reunited with my love. I will not do this until I am sure that I can see her and be with her again.” Neil insisted, stopping in the middle of the large room, filled with hundreds of busy people. The room got a bit quieter as Thanos bowed his head and exhaled. He nervously laughed, clasping his hands behind his back. He turned to look at Neil with a soft smile.
“Neil, I need you to come with me. We will discuss this soon enough.” He asked politely and softly. Neil scoffed, but followed Thanos. They continued walking, and entered a small room with a single door. They walked through the door. They had arrived at a massive room, a ceiling that was at least sixty to a hundred meters high. Neil gazed up, looking at the immaculate decoration above him.
In the center of the room was a large circular hole, an enormous black chasm that spanned at least fifty meters in diameter. It was lined with stone. A small pedestal sat its edge, and was adorned with beautiful carvings of winged beings and a strange obelisk. Thanos continued without batting an eye. They continued to another gate with fifteen guards standing in front. They spaced themselves so Thanos and Neil could pass easily. The second they passed, the guards returned to their original formation.
They were now in a small tunnel. They came to a room and without warning, the floor dropped slowly, and the two began to descend. After about thirty seconds, the elevator stopped, and the wall behind them opened to reveal an amazing sight.
Thanos led Neil into the large cavern. The ceiling had an enormous hole above it, the same hole that Neil saw earlier above. But his eye was drawn more to the structure directly under the hole. It looked like three elongated eggs, with thick hoses and tubes weaving in and out of the mass. The thing was tall. About thirty meters to be precise, and about fifteen wide. The eggs were glowing a bright blue, so bright that the room was blanketed in an ominous navy hue. A thin layer of mist coated the ground up to Neil’s thighs, also of blue color. Thanos took Neil by the shoulder and walking him towards a small staircase that led about halfway up the main egg’s height. They stood at the final stairway landing and looked at the egg, which had a thick layer of viscous fluid drenching it. The landing curved around the egg about a fourth of the eggs circumference, like a walkway. When he looked closer, he saw that the egg had two large holes in it which were lined with the same copper gold metal that he kept seeing. From this angle, Neil also noted the beautifully intricate floor carvings.
“Neil, I picked up on your hesitance and doubtful nature when I first spoke to you. And It is understandable. But this is your quest.”
“I agree to nothing until I am guaranteed unity with her again. So do not expect this to be done until I have some way of knowing that the bargain will be upheld.” Neil said sternly.
“Neil. A man who is committed to his love as much as you are would do anything for a chance to see her, had they been separated. This also goes for you. I am not the one who governs that, and I cannot speak for them. There’s no telling what could happen. Have faith.”
“Faith? Faith is what got me here in the first place. Faith is nothing. I can’t be-”
“Neil, faith is blind, you must belie-” Thanos interrupted.
“Fuck faith! Faith is not the cure-all for these kinds of things! Action, both precise and affirmative is what is required, not a blind, mindless mass of people hoping!” Neil snapped. The cave echoed with Neil’s malevolent words, coming back to him and piercing him like thousands of knives. He put his hand to his head and sat on the dusty landing. All that could be heard was the alien hum of the eggs a few feet away.
Thanos finally broke the silence.
“As much as it pains me to see you as distraught as you are, I still am unable to help you. I cannot do what you ask. All I can do is have faith in you, and ask you to have faith in the cycle.” He said softly, kneeling down to speak.
Neil pulled his knees up to him, bitterly uttering curses to himself. His mind was a chaos of thoughts. He inhaled deeply, held it, and then exhaled. He composed his frayed mind and stood up. He sat for a few moments in silence, and then turned to Thanos.
“What do I have to do?” Neil spoke softly, looking at the blue ahead of him.
“It is overly simple.” He said. “Form two fists, and place them into the two contacts. Then push as hard as you can.” He said. Neil looked at his fists. He balled them up clenched hard. They shook with the trembling of his muscles. He began to aim them up with the two holes in the egg when Thanos shouted.
“Wait. I am forgetting…” he began, reaching into his robe. He took something from his pocket and handed it to me.
“You may need this.” He said softly. It was a small, circular pendant. The one from his love. The red stone gleamed against the blue. He hung it around his neck.
"Neil. This may be the last time I see you without the Venom influencing you.
“What?” Neil asked. He looked at the egg and then returned to meet Thanos’ eyes.
“The Venom, although not physical, is spiritual. While he exists to complete a balance, he also has his own hand in things. What I am saying is, you must not succumb to the urge that Venom may offer. He will become your other half, your alter ego. You must suppress him as much as possible. He will undoubtedly try to get you to kill for sport, kill for purposes outside of your quest. Lust, Greed, so many things that encompass his being will be pressed against you. You must deny him of this every time.” He said, his ominous warning hitting Neil at the heart.
“Now, time grows short.” Thanos ushered, pointing at the two slots. “You may continue.”
Neil raised his arms, now ready to sacrifice his life in the name of love. He clenched his fists and lined them up, and slowly slid them into each slot. Nothing happened. He remembered to push, and carried on to redirect his gravity and body weight into his fists. His ears rang suddenly with the screech of screaming women and children, the cries of murdered humans. His eyes closed, bracing against this sudden, intense discomfort. The sound then disappeared, and Neil reopened his eyes. He was somehow inside of the egg, and floating in this unusual blue fluid. He opened his mouth to breathe in, and realized that this substance allowed him to breathe. All at once, the fluid began to churn, and suddenly rushed Neil. It pumped into Neil’s lungs, absorbed through his skin, ears and eyes. He felt as if his body had exploded into an inferno. His body began to ingest this blue material. Suddenly, the main egg, and the two other eggs next to him were empty, and he stood at the base of the egg, hunched over and screeching for air. His body felt as if it were ready to erupt.
The egg abruptly dissolved around him. Thanos walked to him and helped him up. Neil put his arm around Thanos and rose with him. It felt as if he had ingested too much alcohol. His body was weak and wobbly, and a wave of nausea spread throughout him.
“You have about two hours before Venom manifests himself in your soul. We must outfit you for your journey in that time. Hurry.” Thanos guided.

Neil had been escorted quickly back to a small building on the surface which was heavily guarded. Here, Neil was placed on a platform. Various portions of body armor were fitted to his body. He had a large, flowing black cloak, under which was the copper gold armor, which they called Aucu. This material is supposedly resistant to many forms of body harming situations. Intense heat and cold, heavy blunt trauma, piercing, and projectiles as well. Neil was allowed to get used to the armor. It was light and cozy. He was adorned with shoulder pads, bicep pads and forearm guards, as well as fingerless gauntlets, and under those, a pair of black gloves. He had thigh and shin armor, a large sectioned chest plate with the glowing blue strips along the ribs, and a pair of hard boots, which were actually comfortable.
Before he had a chance to absorb his surroundings, he began to fade. His body began convulsing, and an unparalleled pain shot through his body. He winced, and blacked out listening to the urgent shouts of the workers around him. He awoke some forty minutes later, standing on a large platform. He was high above the city, staring at a massive ring made of the Aucu. The ring was about fifty feet wide. It began to rotate as he was rushed towards it. Thanos shouted to the men, who heaved him through the ring.

He landed with a hard thump, his body jarred by the immeasurable impact. He felt his body tremble with primordial fear, and instinctive urge to run. But he did not open his eyes. His breathing was ragged and troubled, as if someone had gripped his throat and slowly tightened their clasp. He began wheezing as he felt his broken body move in alien ways. His body was malformed and shattered. Displaced bone protruded from his skin, blood slowly seeped from his nose. He recognized the texture below his fingers. Rough, grimy. He had fallen into a street in a large city. He pushed himself up. It was a blinding downpour, so heavy that it deafened him. He managed to rise to his feet and look around, dazed and in agony as his body still wretched with fierce pain.
He wandered down the lone road, each step draining precious energy. He reached an intersection of a slum-like section of the city. A strip club sat across the street from him. It had trashy neon lights flickering. He leaned against the corner, letting the rain hit him in the face. He closed his eyes momentarily, lifting his arm to wipe the blood from his nose. There was a small rumble of distant thunder. He kept his eyes shut and slid down the wall. There was a high pitched ringing in his ears, as he lay his head on the sidewalk. His brain screamed to him. He was dying. Somehow, he knew that he was about to expire. But what then? Will he end up back with Thanos, his quest failed? What were the consequences of this? Before he could answer any of these questions, his head hit the sidewalk, and his eyes rolled back into his aching head.

Neil opened his eyes. There were fluorescent lights above him, and the rhythmic beeping and tweeting of medical machines symphonizing like a collection of musicians. He slowly tilted his head to the right to look. A hospital? Why was he here? He sat up slowly, looking around, trying to forget the head pain.
“Whoa, sorry honey, but you need to lay back down. You still are recovering.” A sweet voice called from his left. He looked towards the voice and saw a pretty woman. A nurse. She had a petite figure with a pretty smile and long brown hair. She walked towards Neil, and pressed her hand to his head and gently laid him back down.
“I’m sorry, but until you fully recover, we can’t have you wandering around. It wouldn’t be safe.” She said softly. He nodded slowly, still dazed.
“Who are you?” She asked quietly. “You had no ID when you were found.” She said, pulling a notepad off of the cart she was pushing in. Neil struggled to arranged the letters in his head.
“Neil.” He spoke. His voice was weak, his eyelids were aching. He noted the sterility of the room, the alcoholic stench of disinfectant and the inorganic sheen of scrubbed tile. The nurse scribbled feverishly on the small notepad. She looked at his face, curiously.
“Where do you live?” She asked. He sat in a mental limbo, working his tired brain, scouring the crevices of his mind for the answer. He thought back in time, to his childhood. He could not recall a childhood. His life is empty, a void.
“I… I don’t know.” He muttered slowly, still waiting for some invisible hand to turn the key to the engine in his head, waiting for the answer to show up and help him get out of this mess. But, as he sat, thinking, he could not conjure a truthful answer. Neil looked at the back of his hands, which had needles in them, offering various form of supplements and life-ensuring chemicals. They pumped rhythmically, calculated, and coldly. The nurses face gently turned into a small grin. Her tiny body tensed as she leaned forward.
“Sir…Uh, Neil? Are you sure you don’t know?” She asked again, in a soft, angelic tone. He laid his head back and carefully rethought the question. He truthfully had no idea where he lived. His memory seemed shot. His life consisted of so few things, that a living space seemed…trivial. He remembered his life as a concept. Neil remembered his ideals. Protect himself at all costs. Instinct. He racked his brain further, withdrawing his second important life item. Ophelia, his love, his other half. Her face appeared before his eyes, scalding his retinas like a long gaze into the eyes of the sun. Neil reached his hand out weakly to stroke the face of his only love, but instead penetrated her smooth, beautiful face and achieved a swath of cold, unforgiving air. His heart slowed to a crawl as the misery settled like atomic bomb dust, a benevolent cancer that grew on him with every second. In front of him, the unattainable, a soul-aching desire to return to the comforting arms of familiarity and love. He dug deeper into his brain. His conscious told him that he was forgetting something. Something huge. He thought back to what had happened. Just as he realized the final item, he glanced at his still outstretched hand, grasping to the illusionary Ophelia, and noticed his fingers had grown long and thick. His fingernails had extended and widened, hardening into sharp claws that turned a sickly black. He pulled them tight into a fist. He turned to look at the nurse. She had taken numerous steps away from Neil, her mouth opened wide. He felt his throat seize up and grow hoarse. He reached his other hand out, which had turned into a mutated black mass that began hissing and steaming. He managed to utter a few words in his new, echoic, raspy, and alien voice.

He managed to pull his heaving torso off of the edge of the bed and fall to the floor as the nurse quickly left, gasping. He strained to his feet using the support of the small stand to his right. His hands were black and heavy, becoming clumsy and inoperable. He was able to pull to his feet and grab his head as his transformation became more bizarre. His fingers were hard, like some sort of metal. He picked up his hand from the stand and noticed that he had pummeled it, splintering its sides. He made his way to the hallway where he was met with many gasps and screams. He looked to the left side of the hallway where he noticed a small team of doctors rushing towards him. Once they laid eyes on him, they all scattered. He limped to the opening where a receptionists office cleared instantly. He fell to his knees as his eyes became engorged. He awoke from his daze about a minute later. His body had finished it’s repulsive transformation. Neil was now able to stand without any sharp pain or strained movement.
He began to resemble a human again. His flesh had hardened into a deep black hide, his fingers extended over two inches, and his index fingers now sported a long curved blade-like appendages. His general body shape was humanlike; two arms, two legs. His face though, was completely different. He no longer bore a nose or mouth, but instead a small, triangular indentation stretched down below his glowing white eyes. HE had also grown in height. At least two feet. He had to duck his head and body down to avoid hitting his head on the ceiling. His body was trim and muscled, no longer bearing the weak, Neil like traits he had moments before. This radical transformation hadn’t registered in Neil’s mind. Instead, someone else decided to take the helm.
Neil’s long foot stretched forward without his intent. His body began to move outside of his control. The footsteps became faster and more confident. His long strides carried him far, and in no time he had reached the end of the hall, where he was met with a collection of guards.
“Holy shit!” the leading guard exclaimed, his body frozen in terror. Without any command, the guards behind him drew their pistols and opened fire on Neil, who was unharmed by these measly little bullets. He lunged forward, slashing with his fierce claws, spraying dark blood all along the walls as the body parts fell to the ground. He looked at his hands, which were dripping in the viscous life-force. The blood began to seep into his palms, and a jolt of energy came through his body.
Inside, Neil was wholly bewildered by the events that had transpired. He had no reason to kill the guards. Something else did it. The Venom.
Neil arrived at the staircase and wildly ran down the steps, vaulting the railings and pushing off of the walls. Every time he hit the wall, it dented or cracked a portion of the brick. Once he arrived at the bottom, he was greeted by an even larger security force then the one before. This time, they wasted no time in opening fire. Neil roared, finally hearing the vocal aspect of his new form. It was like an alien shriek, a piercing roar, and a raspy whisper all at the same time. It boomed in the hallways and rooms throughout the hospital, and left the security personnel temporarily deaf.
At once, his body pulled back, his feet remaining in place, and his arms extended fully. He roared again, and five enormous tentacles exploded from his back, curled to his front and launched forward, piercing through five guards. Upon impact, millions of tiny white particles exploded from their exit wounds, and they mysteriously began to disintegrate. Once Neil leaned his back to its normal position, the tentacles retracted, and the sizzling corpses slumped to the floor in front of a troop of astonished guards. They began to retreat slowly, eyeing Neil’s intimidating appearance. Neil tried to calm down, but the primordial rage began to escape, and Neil’s new form thought for itself. It launched Neil at the guards like a flurry of knives, shredding the defenseless people before him. He realized that he was on the ground floor, which permitted him to escape before more people arrived to try to kill him. He bounded out of the hospital on his long and slender legs. He heard sirens in the distance, calling through the city in search for the escaped mutant. He ran as fast and as far as he could. He could not recognize the city that he was in. It seemed somewhat advanced. The vehicles were sleek, slender and quick. The city seemed to be considerably dark. The skies were blocked with huge, black clouds that menaced the people from above, launching huge sheets of rain below.
He ran until he reached a wooded area. The rain continued to drown the city, making giant puddles and keeping pedestrians inside, and also quickening his escape without being seen by civilians. The forest was dark and quiet, aside from the loud rain that turned the woods into a muddy wasteland. Neil realized that he had lost complete control over his body, and something else was controlling him. He remembered Thanos’ warning, how he had explained Venom’s ulterior motives. He needed to take over the body in order to complete the quest.
He arrived at a string of rocky terrain. He searched from an outcropping of rocks that would allow shelter from the rain and a safe place to sleep. His body was still adjusting to the new and alien form it had taken on. He realized how sharp his eyesight had become. All of his senses had heightened to the point of super sensitivity. His arms now extended farther and his hands had become bulkier. The end of his index finger was adorned with a blade about as long as his hand. It curved slightly towards his palm, allowing for arcing swings with the lethal adjunct. His heart thundered now, it’s rhythmic beating actually audible during periods of quiet. His face had changed drastically. He no longer supported a nose or mouth, instead, the two creases which would have started on each of his nostrils extended far, to the bottom of his chin where they faded. His cheekbones rose high and forced his eyes to squint, without any noticeable effect on his seemingly immaculate vision. His legs had changed as well. His calf muscles were much shorter, less than a foot long, but at the end of the calf extended a large, blocky foot, similar to a dog or horse, but with immense muscle mass. His eyes radiated a soft white light.
Neil had yet to hear Venom’s voice in his head. Instead, he had heard the roar of a beast, the cry of a monster. He wondered if Venom was able to speak; English that is. Neil’s now unsettling predicament now made him reconsider this quest of Thanos’. Unfortunately, Neil was too deep in this wretched affair, and began to feel pangs of regret as distant thunder threatened from afar. Something in Neil’s new body decided to stand up, and without his consent, his body rose elegantly and royally. His body seemed to tremble as he stared out into the bleak wilderness of an unknown city. Without any guidance, Neil now had to rely on the focus and determination of a heartless, animalistic evil. Venom’s control seemed to be impossible to avoid. Like two equal forces clashing at the same time, they canceled each other out, and it only depended on who was more fatigued to determine who emerged with the control. By now, Neil’s mind was beginning to crack, and he finally gave in and allowed Venom to take over.
Neil’s mind slipped into a pitch black void. It was a conscious limbo. His body floated in an interminable expanse of black, left only with his thoughts. A perpetual echo bounced off of the nothingness. His thoughts became raging storms of sonic thunder, blasting him with force, and then, at what seemed to be at the same time, silenced.
Neil woke to thunder again. A particularly loud crash, coupled with a blinding flash. He saw Venom’s huge clawed hand, swiping over a smooth, wet rock in methodical, sweeping motions. A viscous, blood like substance came from the large claw, which had been drawing during Neil’s stint in the void. The drawing began to take a recognizable form. A large circle was established, and inside, a man stood with his arms and legs spread apart. His face was of pure anguish. His chest had eroded, and his internal organs were clearly visible through his disintegrating flesh.
“What is this?” Neil thought out loud, watching his hand move outside of his control. It smoothly and swiftly added to the raw and sickening image. The rain began to smear the bloody fluid around, distorting the image. Neil stared at it, even as it ran down the rock and sunk into the already oversaturated soil.
“What is it? Some sort of disease?” He asked aloud. His head jerked up, like a dog reacting to an offer for a treat. His head cocked slightly, and then his head bobbed up and down in agreement.
“Disease? It’s disease?” Neil reassured. His head again swung up and down with childlike cadence. “That’s the first Plague?” He furthered. The rain had picked up and began to become a deafening roar. His head once again nodded with excitement. Neil looked at the drawing intently, examining the detail that had been put into it. The fluid bled so awkwardly, it haunted Neil. It was a sign of what’s to come, in a simple drawing, bleeding off of a wet rock in an unknown city, and no one is prepared for it.


Visceral Creations

Kent, United States

  • Artist
  • Artwork Comments 2

Artist's Description

It’s a shame I didn’t have the motivation to finish this, because out of all the writings I do, this one tends to be one of my personal favorites. I based it off of a concept album done by a little known French progressive metal band named Symbyosis. I, obviously, took immense liberties with the story, as what was provided with the music as far as lyrics go were amazing, but it left me wanting more. I wanted to elaborate and make it more…I don’t know…faceted. I heard the album and my mind became inundated with this beautiful and dynamic imagery. So much so, that I began writing it down. Though the lyrics are basic in their storytelling function, the story is compelling and interesting, and wildly unique. I based a lot of this writing on it. Each chapter is named after a song, and in order as well. Certain specific aspects of the story I’ve written aren’t in the words, I added a lot of material in order to make it an engrossing story. I tried to write it in a style that seemed like it was a children’s story, just amplified intensely. But most of the names are taken directly from the lyrics. Maybe I’ll get inspired someday and finish it.

Artwork Comments

  • kalaryder
  • Visceral Creations
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