“Johnny!” a woman shouted, “Johnny! Oh my god!” She ran into the Hall of Dinosaurs, skidding around the corner just as Venom finished retracting fully into Eddie. The T-Rex bones were scattered around them, laying in a heap on top of Stegron’s headless body. Eddie quickly nudged a femur on top of the pile, hoping it would somehow obscure the fact that Stegron was headless and still bleeding. He tried to make himself look presentable, which was tricky considering he had about half of his costume left, the shirt had a rip in the sleeve, and the cape had gotten lost somewhere in the chaos. As it was, he looked more like a waiter that’d had a really rough night.
“Johnny,” the woman said again, as she shoved past Eddie and fell to her knees next to her very-much-alive son, pulling him into a desperate hug. “My baby.”
“Mom,” Johnny said, pulling back in the annoyed yet grateful way all teenagers had. “Mom I’m fine.”
“I heard you screaming, and nobody knew where you were and then—“ her words cut off as she took in the pile of bones, and then looked at Eddie. “What is this? What happened here? What’d you do to my son?”
Eddie had his hands up defensively. Dinosaur-men were one thing, but angry mothers were not to be trifled with.
“No, Mom, he saved me!” Johnny said.
“Saved you from what?”
“A dinosaur!” Johnny pointed at the tip of Stegron’s tail, sticking out of the pile of bones.
“Johnny…” his mom had a tired, exasperated look on her face softened by the sheer relief radiating from her. “Dinosaurs are extinct.”
“No, there was one here and then he—“ Johnny pointed at Eddie, “was covered in all this black slime and took these bones and turned into a T-Rex and ate the other one’s head!”
The mom looked at Eddie in disbelief.
“I—uh…” Eddie stammered.
“Great job!” Dan said, jogging into the room, Anne by his side.
“Yeah! Good job, everybody!” Anne echoed, smiling a wide fake smile at Eddie.
“The scene looked amazing,” Dan said clapping Eddie on the shoulders with just as fake a smile. “That’s a wrap, Eddie.”
“A—wha huh?” Eddie was completely lost.
“The movie’s gonna be great!” Anne said.
“Movie?” Johnny’s mom asked, brow furrowed, as she stood brushing off her dress. “You were filming a movie?”
“What? No way!” Johnny said, “That’s bullshit.”
“Uh...right, the movie,” Eddie said, nodding.
“This is real,” Johnny said, shoving the dinosaur bones nearest him.
“Practical effects. The museum was nice enough to let us shoot here.”
“During a fundraiser? With kids? You endangered my son for a movie?” Johnny’s mom shouted. “I didn’t sign any waivers!”
“No, it’s all perfectly safe,” Anne said, hands spread wide. “Foam and other—uh—special effects."
Johnny narrowed his eyes at Eddie. “What about the black slime?”
“Uh…” Eddie let out a breath, trying to come up with a good explanation.
No, his mom will freak out.
We can take her.
“With AR,” Anne said.
“Right, augmented reality,” Dan said, nodding to himself. “Really cutting edge stuff.”
Johnny climbed to his feet and glared up at Dan. “Bull. Shit. Do you even know how AR works?”
“Yes…” Dan said.
“Bet you’ve never even played Pokémon Go,” Johnny said, turning away from them, to face Eddie and added, “I don’t care if you don’t believe me. I was attacked by a dinosaur and Venom saved me. You all just don’t want anyone else to know.” He smiled at the end, fully confident he’d figured it out. And he had, of course. “I’ve seen him on YouTube.”
We’re on YouTube, Eddie!
Eddie looked at the kid, silently pleading. They were gonna have a hard enough time as it was calming down his mom without her being aware that Venom was in fact in the room with them this very moment.
“Venom’s gone now,” Johnny continued, catching on, “but if he was still here, I’d tell him thank you, he’s a hero.” He smiled as he brushed the hair from his face.
“Thank you,” Eddie smiled and gave him a surreptitious wink, “I’ll pass on your message.”
“Johnny, we’re leaving,” his mom said, grabbing him by the arm. “And if you’ve got so much as a scratch on you, I’m gonna sue!”
“Mom! I’m fine!” Johnny said, as he was herded out.
Dan clutched his hair with his hands and sank to the floor. “Oh god, the museum’s never going to let us host here again. They’re gonna arrest us, the foundation will be shut down, I’m gonna lose my license.”
Anne sat down next to him and took his hand. “You’re not going to lose your license.”
“It’ll be fine,” Eddie said, joining them on the floor, crossing his legs. “I’ll just—I’ll explain what happened. There was a dinosaur man and we had to stop him and there may have been some collateral damage. Walls can be replaced!”
“Eddie, they’re not gonna believe you,” Anne said, then her eyes widened. “Until they look at the security footage.”
“Security footage?” Eddie groaned. “Shit. Dan, I am so sorry—"
“For what, saving lives? It’s not your fault.”
“There is no security footage,” said a woman, walking up behind them, heels clicking on the floor. She had a severely sharp bob cut, a suit that likely cost more than Eddie made in a year, and a look in her eyes that said murders and acquisitions. Two bodyguards flanked her, wearing matching suits and steely expressions.
“Sorry, who are you?” Eddie asked, standing.
“Liz Allan,” she said, ignoring Eddie and handing business cards down to Anne and Dan. “CEO of Alchemax. We’re big supporters of the museum, as well as the Saint Francis Foundation. I personally selected the security system here.” She turned to look at Eddie. “The power shorted out approximately eighteen minutes ago. No footage.”
Eddie felt his eyebrows creep up.
“Okay but what about the—the whole dinosaur wing is trashed, and—" Dan stammered as he and Anne stood up.
“We’ll cover the damages.” Liz snapped her fingers and one of her escorts handed her a checkbook and a gold pen. She flipped open the checkbook, scribbled something, tore out the check and handed it to Dan. “Another two zeroes added to our annual donation should cover it, don’t you think?”
Dan, still slack-jawed, said nothing.
“Yes,” Anne said, eyes widening as she took in the number on the check. “Yeah I think that’ll be a big help.”
“Alchemax...” Eddie said, as the gears in his brain started turning again. “Right. You had that whole health code violation issue a few years ago, didn’t you? Chemical waste in the sewers. Mutated animals—"
Liz turned her icy glare on Eddie and he swallowed despite himself. “And you’re Eddie Brock, disgraced journalist, who had a very public nervous breakdown last year involving a lobster tank, was it?”
Eddie cleared his throat. “We all have our bad days.”
Liz lowered her voice considerably and leaned in close to his ear. “But we’re not all hosts to alien parasites.”
I know, I don’t like her either.
“I assume nobody’s been willing to put you on their payroll full-time, Mr. Brock.” She smiled thinly. “That’s not likely to change any time soon given your damaged reputation. But I might have an assignment for you.”
“What makes you think I’d work for you?” Eddie said, getting angrier.
“Because everybody gets desperate at some point. When that happens, give me a call.”
“Well, this is definitely a Halloween I’ll never, ever forget. As much as I may want to,” Dan said, giving Eddie a hug before climbing into the cab next to Anne.
“See you soon, Eddie,” Anne added, waving.
Eddie stuck his hands in his pockets and walked down the broad steps of the museum, heading back towards the city. “We did good tonight, millions of dollars of property damage aside.”
“Property damage is insignificant compared to saved lives, that’s what you said two months ago.”
“Wow you remember that, huh?”
“I remember most things.” Venom settled around Eddie’s shoulders and spread up his neck and down his back, forming around him, leaving only his face exposed. For example, I remember you saying that Halloween is for costumes and candy. You lost your cape, but we can make our own costume.
As if on cue, a group of kids in costume ran past them, jack o’lantern buckets swinging. The girl at the back of the pack skidded to a stop in front of them, and stared up at Eddie. “Whoa...cool costume dude!”
“Thanks!” Eddie looked at her for a second. “Same to you. Captain America, right?”
“Yup.” As she lifted her plastic shield up to show him, Eddie saw a slim black tendril reaching into her jack o’lantern, it came out a second later holding a Milky Way.
No! Put that back!
Put it back right now!
We’ll get our own chocolate. You don’t steal from kids.
She has an entire bucket. If she eats it all, she will make herself sick, like you did that one time when we—
The tendril unfurled and, with serious attitude, let the Milky Way drop back into the bucket.
“Well, have fun trick or treating,” Eddie said, smiling at the girl, who luckily hadn’t noticed the attempted candy theft.
“Happy Halloween!” she said, running off to catch up with her friends.
Eddie. She said we were cool.
“She thought you were a costume.”
“Well, you are.”
Venom’s head flowed out of Eddie’s shoulder, and turned to look him in the eyes. “We are.”
“Yeah, we are pretty cool.” Eddie smiled and leaned forward to give Venom a kiss.
“You promised chocolate.”
“I did. Let’s go get some.” Eddie rolled his shoulders back and Venom formed fully over their head. They took a few running steps across the street, shot out a tendril towards the skyscraper nearby, and leapt up into the night.