Reflections on Becoming a Host

Sometimes, I write in first person to get into a scene. Usually, it turns out terribly but lets me keep going.  Once it a while, it turns out decent, like this one did. I’m happy to share it with those of you patiently waiting for Rights of Use to finish revisions and come out.


How weird is it to experience another intellect? I’ve seen it in Star Wars books: Jedi reaching out to another mind, influencing it, bending it. They’re not very descriptive. How could they be? The authors haven’t actually done it. Having another mind in contact with yours… There’s nothing like it. It’s confusing, it’s busy and chaotic and overwhelming. At first, it feels impossible: like trying to give a speech while listening to someone else. But symbionts are good at this. They know how to put themselves aside, to listen—no, that’s not the right word. To sympathize. Once you know they know what you’re feeling, once you’re synchronized for a moment, you can start to understand each other. And when you do, when you interact instead of clashing, cooperation is just one more tiny step.

So is it weird?

In itself, kinda.

We reach out to other minds every time we sympathize with each other, when we read expressions or comprehend the subtext of written word or interpret emotion in variation of tone. These are the same areas Gertewet activate in their hosts’ brains, because Gertewet were designed for the hosts to tell them apart from themselves.

Weirder is how much it isn’t weird. How, suddenly, there’s another person inside your skin. We just don’t know what to make of that. It’s wonderful and terrible and creepy and a relief all at once. And, eventually, you think maybe humans were designed for this, too. Maybe we’re supposed to keep our secret thoughts to ourselves and still share everything. That companionship, that oversight—it has such capacity for calling both of us out, holding ourselves to a higher standard than we could alone.

But, yeah, at first?

Confusing.

Alarming.

Like standing in an airport terminal for the first time, alone, trying to sort ads from directions, weigh how much the passing crowd and the other passengers and the airline personnel, airport employees, and who-knows-who in one uniform or another—how much any of them have bearing on what you should be doing. Whether your baggage will be inspected or will pass. Whether the boarding pass in your hand is enough, whatever this “check in” process is, and whether you should have ID ready. What if you miss your flight? Can you afford another?

What if the details—the symbiont’s fleeting thoughts and pervading emotions and reflected feelings—overwhelm you?

What if they drive you catatonic?

What if you could just get out?

When you know you don’t have more money or a license and car, when you know that plane ticket is your only way to get where you want to go, you put up with the chaos. In time, you get used to it. You start to sort through the details: that’s important, that’s meaningless, and that’s amusing if there’s attention to spare.

With repetition, with time, it can turn from oppressive to fun or even not enough to keep you occupied.

It’s not so bad.

But in those first moments? There’s confusion, revulsion, denial, anger. There’s a drive to escape or strike out, but you can’t. It’s under your skin. You can’t run from it, and you can’t hurt it. It just is. It has to be.

It’s a beginning.

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