Symbiote


The Beginning

As soon as I heard my siblings' chemical screams, I turned and tried to run.

We disperse, trying to place as much distance between us and the scent of death, beating our cilia as fast as we could possibly go. But in the chaotic wake of the fleeing crowd I still felt the cyclical thrumming of the Creature's flagella, thrashing the surrounding water with the force of a tumultuous eddy. I feel it shift, change its path, to lock onto our chemical wake.

It's a predator, and we're it's prey.

The crowd begins to scatter into the dark, and between the scents of screams and alarms, I begin to pick out the Creature's scent, and swim as fast as I can in the opposite direction. Away from the screams, away from the alarms, and away from the Creature.

As soon as the water begins to cool, I slow my pace, and hide in the dimmer waters below. I've concealed myself here in the past from the Creatures, far enough down to be unnoticed, but close enough to the energy-giving light to recharge.

The Creatures can't even feed off light. They feed off us.

I stay below, holding my breath as the waters above continue to thrash, and as the screams of panic begin to fade. The scent of death still lingers, mixed with that of the Creature, casting shifting shadows as it passes overhead.

The shadows stop moving. I feel the Creature diving. I try to run, but I can feel its pseudopods rapidly extend around me, and reach to cut me off.

They come together, and I scream.

The Middle

Engulfed.

I beat my cillia fruitlessly.

The beast is semitransparent; I can still feel the light shining dimly through its gelatinous flesh, but the only thing I can feel is the constriction of the Creature's cytoplasm, dragging me deeper into its core. I've heard of no escapes from the belly of the beast, and the only knowledge that I have of my upcoming fate is the remains that we find trailing in the Creature's wake: empty husks and acrid chemicals, scarring our bodies as we try and touch them.

The light that passes through isn't uniform, dark shadows sometimes pass over me. Out of smell range, I can only guess what monstrous machinery lie within, or whether they contain the corpses of my sisters.

One shadow catches my attention, gradually getting larger as I wait, the familiar acrid smell drifting from its direction. A lysosome, filled with acid and enzymes, a little approaching ball of death.

The lysosome touches my vesicle, and slowly bounces off. It tries again, internal machinery dragging to pour the acid to my own prison, but it bounces off again.

Something is wrong.

I'm still alive.

I settle down for the long wait.

*

Dim light still reaches me. and I've been storing energy; but with nowhere to expend it, sugars leak from my body into the cell. The prison walls are alive, sucking the exuded sugars into the Creature.

I'm feeding it, helping it grow and kill more of my kin, but this Creature has a defect, a mutation, that prevents it from digesting me. Either that, or I am different from my kin in being indigestible. The latter I have no recourse, as escape is impossible, but with the former, I can at least keep my sisters from dying again.

The machinery in the Creature begins to move, gearing up for massive reorganization; I've fed it enough that it's beginning to split. From the inside, it feels sluggish and almost imperceptible, but by the end the light shines ever more brightly than it did before.

The End

I watch as the second creature leave, swimming away with the beating of its flagella. Inheriting the same genetic defects as its predecessor, the daughter as unable to digest me and my kind. Not doomed to extinction, though; as long as it can find another one of my sisters, it can survive off the exuded sugars formed from sunlight.

But I don't only survive off the sunlight. I've been forcibly stealing nutrients in through the walls of my cell, but in time, the Creatures who survive are those which can best care for my sisters, those who provide the best environment for us to live and thrive. We will change from uninvited guest to vital crew, from reluctant host to mutual dependent.

The Creature will depend on us, and we depend on it.

And we will never die.

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