was some quandary at the edge of his consciousness, a problem that he couldn’t solve because he didn’t know what the problem itself was. As the days progressed it confused him more, boring a path to the forefront of his mind. It distracted him and bewildered him. And he didn’t know who to talk to about it because it seemed like no one understood.
SNAP. Mary Jane snapped her fingers across his face and got his attention. “You’re drifting off again, geez.” They were sitting in his bed in Queens, NY, two worn marble composition notebooks and an iPad knockoff between them. Their high school wasn’t splurging when they went digital.
“Sorry,” he blinked nervously and scanned his notes to regroup, “Manifest destiny.” Mary Jane squinted at him, “Gold rush, the Klondike Gold Rush.” Peter nodded and smiled but he was lost. “We finished manifest destiny like half an hour ago.” “Right, yeah.” He looked down at his hands. His eyes fixed on his wrists and glazed
over. “What are you staring at?” “What are you staring at?” “Do my wrists look weird?” He pushed his palms out toward her face. “No?” she said, incredulous. “Are you sure?” She grimaced, “Dude, finals are tomorrow and your head’s been in the clouds for weeks.” He stared blankly at her.
She put her hands on his face and locked eyes with his. “Are you on drugs?” “No!” He insisted, then, “I don’t think so. Are there drugs where you, where like they make you forget you took them?”
He’d been forgetting a lot of things. Empty voids were scattered across his memory. He didn’t distinctly know about a lot of recent ongoings from more than four months ago like everybody else seemed to. The renowned Dr. Curt Connors, from Columbia University, had apparently hosted a walk-through of his lab for the A.P. chem class last semester.
Peter’s fellow classmates talked about it now and then, how it had been a great experience, how Peter had so impressed Dr. Connors. But Peter couldn’t remember any of it.
“What’s wrong? What’s been going on?” “MJ.” “Yeah?” she said tenderly. An opaque horror gnawed at his mind. One of the gaps was filling; he started to think of a beautiful blonde teenage girl. “You know Gwen Stacy? From the school paper?”
Mary Jane’s features were certainly clear; she was jealous and angry and hurt. “Are sh, she and you –” “No! No no no. No no no no no, it’s not, nothing, nothing like that.”
Mary Jane softened a little, but still had her guard up. Then Peter said, “Did something happen to her?” He could picture it like a memory, or better yet, a dream. It was like he was recalling a nightmare, where Gwen Stacy lay lifeless at the bottom of a bridge, a demonic green figure hovering above her. Mary Jane’s voice trembled, “Talk to me.”
He rubbed his right wrist carefully, expecting to feel something, but he felt nothing and he didn’t even know what he’d expected. “This is like heaven, being here with you, MJ.” She was still confused but instinctively smiled at that. He leaned in and kissed her. She squealed with surprise. He pulled back, “We’re dating right?”
She chuckled dismissively. It had been a genuine question though. He really didn’t quite know if he was dating MJ. This existence was slipping away from Peter. His awareness had been treading water up until now. Now he was starting to drown.
He was drowning toward what had been those gaps of memory. The gaps were filling and coming into focus, while the here and now was starting to blur.
He leaned in again and wrapped his arms around Mary Jane. She returned the hug warily at first, but then nuzzled into his collar bone. He felt her cheeks tense with a smile. There was someone else he needed to hold. He didn’t know exactly why yet but he knew his chance to do it was slipping away.
He rolled off the bed, darted through the hall and down the stairs. The grizzled voice of a strong old man, “Whoah! What’s the ruckus?”
Peter hurried to the kitchen. There was Uncle Ben at the square wooden table, halfway through a large slice of Aunt May’s lemon cake. In his right hand was the latest Daily Bugle, with a headline that read: NYPD DETECTIVES LOCATE AND CAPTURE DOC OC.
Unlce Ben smiled, “MJ bite you or something?” “Wha– No!” Peter said, “I,” he didn’t finish the thought. He charged at Uncle Ben and squeezed him hard. “I think I know what’s happening.” Peter didn’t feel too good. Uncle Ben patted his nephew on the back, “Well fill me in then.”
But there was no time. “I don’t wanna go. I don’t wanna go, Uncle Ben, please,” he started to cry, “Not yet.” He held Uncle Ben tighter, or at least he tried to. “I wanna stay here with you.” Tears poured out of Peter and before they dripped down to the floor they turned into dust. And Peter turned into dust.
Everything came to view slowly. Peter began to shudder and shake. He tried to speak, only humming incoherently. Someone held his hands, “Breathe. Breathe.” “I am breathing!” She was blond and fair skinned, wearing a red and blue military uniform, with a star in the middle. Peter gazed at her with confusion, “Captain America?”
She grinned, “My name is Mar-vel.” “Call her Carol,” a posh English voice said. Peter looked toward it and saw Jarvis, superhero name Vision. There used to be a stone above Vision’s eyes that kept him alive but it wasn’t there anymore, yet Vision was decidedly alive.
Peter remembered everything now. He remembered Thanos, and that Star-Lord botching their chance at stopping Thanos. He remembered Mantis turning into ash, and Drax turning into ash, and then himself doing the same.
“Where was I!?” Peter screamed. “You tell us,” Vision said. “Did you actually go somewhere? We thought you’d ceased to exist.” “He did,” Mar-vel said. “His thoughts lingered.”
Peter’s senses were returning to him. A familiar pressure on his wrist indicated his web spinnerets. He looked at Vision, who seemed both resolute and strangely serene, “Did you… vanish too?” Mar-vel said, “Thanos wiped out half of all living things; Vision’s a robot.” She hadn’t remastered Earth-tact.
“Excuse me,” Vision interjected sharply, “Though yes, I am inorganic, I believe I have recently learned to understand a dangerous but at this moment valuable human trait. Vengeance.” Peter had so many questions and he was about to ask one but Vision cut him off – “Let’s kill Thanos.”
They started walking away down a corridor. Peter scrambled up and hurried to follow them. He had only just started gaining cognizance of his surroundings. They were on a ship. He didn’t recognize it. “It’s a Kree vessel,” Vision shouted back to him, not explaining anything.
“Where are we going?” “To pick up the Hulk.” “Banner?” Vision specified, “The Hulk. He hasn’t been Banner for a while again. And I warn you not to stare. He’s red now.”