Gömböc
rating: +20+x

The Entrance

Siren lights flooded the hallway with red. There was no alarm. Carlotta, Lucretia, and a few others were silent as they stared at the door on the opposite end. The space seemed almost infinite. Carlotta furrowed her brow, knowing that it was a ridiculous idea. She could even see the door, it was only five or six meters away, but it was the only word that could describe it. Her mind couldn’t help but tell her that she was peering into a bottomless pit.

She stepped forward — those leadership courses were finally going to pay off — and gestured for the rest of the team to follow. They were all still. Carlotta sighed. Of course they were going to need some kind of speech.

“This is as far as I’m going to take you. That feeling you all have in the back of your head is normal. We don’t know what causes it, but it’s a sign of low-level reality alteration. You’ll feel sick, you’ll probably experience bouts of vertigo and anxiety, and you might start seeing things that… shouldn’t be there.” Carlotta drummed her foot against the floor. Each second she spent with her back turned away from the hallway, more sweat accumulated on her face.

“The foretold illusions!” said the caped, masked, and cloaked crusader near the back of the group. “One of the most nefarious enemies of man!”

“We don’t know if they’re hallucinations,” Carlotta said. “Reality here is flimsy. Things that weren’t real a second ago could suddenly start interacting with the real world like that. And that is why we have the buddy system: you stick with a partner at all times. As far as we can tell, this thing can’t directly influence any of you, only the world around you.”

Lucretia was leaning against a wall at the back of the group, the handle for a cage containing a demonic parrot resting in her hand. A large back vest had been draped on top of it. Lucretia had said it was to stop the parrot from becoming nervous, but knowing her, Carlotta couldn’t rule out the possibility that she just wanted to shut it up. She smiled, but a thought crossed her mind and it disappeared.

She wasn’t talking. Carlotta had expected more from her now that she finally had the chance to do something besides sit in a cell and let her brain rot away. She had seemed so optimistic earlier, but now it was as if a switch had been flipped in her mind and the woman that Carlotta had been so friendly towards had just disappeared. Carlotta averted her gaze. She had more important things to focus on.

“Alright. Are there any questions? 1360? Rainer? Anyone?”

Nobody had moved a muscle. Carlotta could hear the sound of her own heartbeat. It was like the world itself was holding its breath, waiting for something to happen. She examined each member of the team: the towering android, the quivering kid, the superhero, the Sarkic, and the caged demon. She tried to work out any possible scenario where they all wouldn’t end up dead by the end of this mission.

Her mind hadn’t come to a conclusion yet. “Before you go,” she said, “I want you all to remember something. Right now, you’re Alpha-9. That means that you’re expected to act like one. A lot of people are betting against you, so I will say this in the kindest way possible: don’t fuck this up.”

Lucretia burst out laughing. Seeing the overly-serious look on Carlotta’s face was enough to break her out of her anxious scowl. For a moment, Carlotta wasn’t sure if Lucretia’s mind had switched to a different personality. But soon the grin on her face faded and the stoic look returned. She laughed because she thought it was funny. There was no other reason.

Then, without any real cue, the team began to walk. No one in particular led the group. It was just a mob of anomalies marching into the unknown. Carlotta stayed behind for a little while and watched them make their way to the first room. Once the door shut behind them, she turned and briskly walked to her command station.


Earlier

“These…” Carlotta dropped a set of five vests onto the table. “Are going to be our line of communication. They’re each fitted with microphones, about a dozen each. They can capture your voice as well as any noise within a meter or two. That way if you drop your vest, you can still communicate with us.”

The barracks were empty, a sight that was noticeably uncommon. The gun ranges were silent, weapons remained in their racks, and four foldable tables had been arranged in the center of the room for the briefing. They were in a square formation, and Lucretia hopped off the one opposite of Carlotta to examine one of the vests up close.

“How will we be able to hear you?” Despite Lucretia’s large frame, the vest was still slightly too big for her.

“With these.” Carlotta held up a small crescent-shaped object in her fingers. Lucretia squinted at it for a moment.

“Are they earpieces?” someone behind her said. Lucretia turned and locked eyes with the kid, Rainer. He was sitting at the far end of the room, still wearing the prisoner uniform the facility had issued to him. Rainer broke eye contact first.

“You’re a smart one.” Carlotta began to place an earpiece on each vest. “Each earpiece is paired to a specific vest, so we’ll be able to talk to you individually or as a group. The vest is the one doing the actual heavy lifting, though. It can send a signal through a dozen floors of messed up reality. You lose it, your earpiece is functionally dead. Lose your earpiece, the vest can still function normally.”

The Specter snapped his focus away from one of the gun ranges. “Ah! But you have failed to account for super-hearing. That renders this technology obsolete!”

“Oh. Do you have super-hearing?”

“Well… um… The point is that you failed to account for it! You shouldn’t forget things like that. In situations like this, small details could spell doom for a team.”

“I’ll… keep that in mind. Thanks.” Carlotta turned back to the group. “Are there any questions?”

Rainer perked his head up, but soon he brought it back to the floor. Carlotta’s finger flew up and pointed at him.

“Rainer?”

He remained fixed to the ground as the rest of the team turned to look at him. There was a stubborn silence for a few seconds, almost long enough to start grating everybody’s nerves.

“Will we be able to hear each other?” His voice was so quiet that the sound was overpowered by the thoughts passing through Carlotta’s mind.

“What was that?” She stepped forward, hand pressed to her ear.

“Yeah, that’s a good question,” Lucretia interjected. “Will we be able to hear each other? There’s no point to this if we have to go through some Director to speak to one another.”

“It won’t be a problem,” Carlotta said. “The commanders on this mission have worked for years in situations like this. They knew how to distinguish their own voice from a hallucination. And unless anyone here with experience communicating within reality-warping anomalies has a better idea, we’re going to have to use them.”

The room quieted down as Carlotta distributed the vests among the team. The Specter took his after some hesitation, Lucretia threw one to Rainer and slipped on another. A voice peeped up from behind her.

“Oh, how the question gives me such a migraine, but how would you fit that vest on to my frame?”

Lucy and Carlotta both turned to the gray parrot that was gripping onto the sides of its iron birdcage. They looked at each other, then the parrot, then back at each other. Lucretia grabbed the final vest and flung it on top of the cage. Carlotta shrugged and yelled at the group to get moving.


The Hallway

Lucretia trailed behind Rainer, her eyes scanning every detail of his tiny frame. There was barely any muscle on his skeleton and the bottom of his drawstring pants dragged against the floor. He kept his eyes straight forward, always looking to the next door, the next room. It had been almost an hour-and-a-half, but nothing had happened yet. It was just more hallways and more red lights and more buzzing in Lucretia’s ears.

“You’re… approaching… a staircase…” the commander said. It felt like her brain was bleeding a little bit. The sounds around her were scratchy and sometimes didn’t register for some strange reason. She had to use all of her focus to pick out the words.

Rainer nodded as if the commander was right next to him. The edge of Lucretia’s lip curled up in an almost invisible grin. “We’re approaching a staircase,” he said.

“You know we also have earpieces?” Lucretia said. Rainer didn’t respond, but she could see a hint of red beginning to appear on his ears.

“You shouldn’t be talking unnecessarily. It’ll draw attention.”

“As will saying things we already know. Let’s call cease fire.”

Rainer stopped, almost causing Lucretia to bump into him. He turned on a heel and stared at her with stone eyes. He said, “You shouldn’t be making jokes here. This is serious.”

“I am serious,” Lucretia countered. “Did I say anything wrong?”

“You…” Rainer groaned, turned, and continued walking forward. “You don’t know what you’re dealing with. I do. So don’t try to play games here, it’ll get you killed.”

Lucretia really wanted to say something back, but her eyes got to her first. There was a fear in the way that Rainer moved. He never stepped too harshly on the ground, like he was afraid that it was going to disappear beneath him. She sneaked a peek over her shoulder and saw that everyone had slightly frightened eyes. Even the parrot was trembling in its cage.

She had heard only a little of Rainer’s past, but Lucretia knew that he wasn’t supposed to be here. He wasn’t supposed to be facing down this Site-wide threat that had the potential to span out for kilometers and kill hundreds, if not thousands of more people. But he did it anyway, and Lucretia admired him for that. Despite Rainer’s obvious fear, he continued walking forward.

But would that bravery matter if he was just walking to his death?

Lucretia picked at the question as the team neared the entrance of a stairwell. She didn’t find a question by the time they had gotten there.


The Robot Pt. 1

The room was wrong.

SCP-1360 could tell instantly. Its eyes, the two yellow screens built into its head, saw the world changing around it. The walls became slightly too dark and too much sludge began dripping down the pipes. The floor rippled and the ceiling never remained still. SCP-1360 looked to its teammates, but not one of them seemed worried by the signs. Not the muscular Russian woman, nor the man with the black cape, nor SCP-4051.

They descended like a group of blind prisoners. Their footsteps weren’t cautious, almost like they were trying to set something off. SCP-1360 stopped at the top of the staircase and looked down. The stairs spiraled around the perimeter of the room for a few revolutions before leading to a well-lit entranceway. But just a split second ago, that entranceway wasn’t there and the team was walking into an empty room.

SCP-1360 should have thought the situation was funny. Reality always being one thread short of reality, never becoming anything until it has to. It was like an animal: it slept, it woke, and it survived. Nothing else was necessary.

As the group neared the staircase, SCP-1360 realized what the room was going to do. The walls around the Russian woman and SCP-4051 began to bend and contort. They extended out and split apart, forming sharp edges that looked like monstrous teeth. Then the edges bent themselves towards the team like a bear trap that was seconds away from triggering.

SCP-4051 and the Russian woman continued to walk, completely blind to the monsters around them. SCP-1360 considered telling them to stop. If it returned alone, what would it gain? Another decade inside of a cell, only to be put back into containment right when the SCP Foundation needed another test subject. Either that or they would order its execution on the spot, believing it had murdered them.

But then it realized something. If it was being specific, the room showed it something. The walls were made of paper, the floor felt like it was collapsing, and the air became hot. SCP-1360 felt something in its chest. There was something wrong, but its sensors couldn’t seem to understand why. It almost collapsed when it finally understood what was happening.

It was breathing. For just a moment, something in the room had granted it the ability to draw in a breath. Then, it took away that ability. SCP-1360 was choking. It didn’t have any lungs or any ability to breath, but it was nonetheless. An overwhelming shock caused it to reach out for one of the railings for stability. The room wasn’t reality. It was something different, something that hated it.

And, most importantly, it was something that the SCP Foundation did not know how to contain.

“1360? Are you coming or is there something blocking your way?” SCP-4051 asked. The muscular Russian woman stopped and turned towards it.

SCP-1360 extended a tablet out of its abdomen and typed out a message. “Yes. I am following the team, just like the rest of you.

“Then why are you all the way up there? Did your creator never let you walk down stairs when you were a kid?” The Russian woman yelled. There was a childish anger in her voice.

I am capable of walking down the stairs. I was just… thinking about something.

Then, the bear trap triggered.

The walls jutted out like the jaws of a beast. It set its sight on the man in the black cape first. The metal engulfed him, muffling his screams and swallowing him. The voice over SCP-1360’s earpiece began to buzz wildly. SCP-1360 blocked it out. The muscular Russian woman fell through the steps, causing her to drop the birdcage containing the demonic parrot. It banged against the stairs and began to slide down the winding path as if it were made of ice.

SCP-4051 snapped around. Then, a dozen hooks shot out of the wall behind him and impaled his arms and shoulders. He screamed for a moment, then suddenly fell unconscious. The hooks, instead of tearing into his body, melded into it. They lifted SCP-4051’s body off the ground and slowly, carefully pulled it into the wall where it passed straight through and out of sight.

The birdcage continued down step after step, bumping into every wall and causing the animal inside to begin squawking out tongue-twisters. By the time it had reached the bottom, the bird was silent. The cage cover still somehow clinged on, preventing SCP-1360 from seeing its body. The cage slid towards the entrance as if pulled by a ghostly force.

Then, SCP-1360 was alone.

The room settled down, eventually returning to its usual shape. The steps became metal, the pipes became clear of grime, and the sensation in SCP-1360’s chest disappeared. The android stepped forward and began the long journey down the steps.


Stagehand

The lights shot on and the Specter was awake.

Only a few times in its crime-fighting career had it been knocked unconscious, and only one of those were caused by somebody else. He had made a mental note to himself that day: never underestimate the strength of a twelve-foot alligator. Although in his defence, he never knew alligators could be that tall.

But now was not the time for humor.

He jumped to his feet. His mind began absorbing the scene around him: wooden flooring, expensive red curtains, large stage lights. The Specter realized that he was on a stage. His cape fluttered behind him as it always did, and he steadied his senses to catch the slightest movement. Evil always made the first move.

A bugle call sounded. It came from all around him at once, refusing to let itself be confined to a single source. It blared out three notes, and the Specter knew it couldn’t mean something good. His eyes slowly adjusted to the blinding lights and he made out shapes in the darkness in front of the stage. Rows of theater chairs filled with smiling families who wore suits and dresses were illuminated. There were even children.

The bugle had to be a taunt. It dared him to take an action, to try and determine who played it. And the Specter always accepted a challenge. He ran forward a few steps before jumping out into the audience. Evil always made the first mistake. If he just kept his eyes peeled, he would be able to…

Thunk.

The Specter slammed into something and fell. The audience howled in laughter, rolling around in their seats. As he hit the ground, his head began to squeal in pain. He sat up and looked around, but there was nothing in front of him. His hand almost instinctively reached out, and he found his answer. Even though there was nothing in front of him, there was resistance. A wall of air as thick as concrete had stopped him.

“You, audience members! You are all in danger. Do not panic, for the Specter is here to save you.” The audience only laughed. “Hello? You can hear me, can’t you?” There was no answer, only the slapping of knees and the chattering of teeth.

He darted across the stage, searching for any exits, windows, or vents that could bypass the invisible wall. But the stage was like a box. The Specter then tried calling out to the audience again. They continued to laugh until their lungs became sore and red. Finally, after a few more futile attempts, he crossed his arms and just sat in the center of the stage.

“Um… Oh! Evil-doer, show yourself already! Do you think somebody like the Specter can be stopped by a few magic spells and the rejection of others? Because, um, I can’t! So you might as well come face me already.”

Nothing happened.

“Okay, I’m throwing out a lot of bones here but it feels like you just keep having people laugh at me which is… y’know, I guess that’s an evil plan, but that’s it? That’s all you have?”

A ceiling panel fell and smashed on the floor, revealing a small hole. A rope descended through that hole next to the Specter. He eyed it with suspicion, but he shrugged his shoulders and pulled on it.

Then the floor disappeared.

The audience ceased laughing and leaned in as the Specter leaped up six feet and grabbed onto the rope. Every sense in his body was zapping information to his brain. He looked down and saw a swirling mass of flesh drenched in saliva. The thing pulsated, shedding a thin layer of flesh. An enormous eyeball was underneath. Tentacles writhed around in place of eyelashes and a bright blue parasite acted as its iris.

The eye drifted towards the Specter, and the tentacles followed. They grew long hooks at the tips and flew towards him. His instincts kicked his body into motion. He scrambled up and down the rope desperately avoiding attack after attack. One of the tentacles recoiled as bubbles began appearing beneath its flesh. A bloodshot eyeball sprouted out. The Specter didn’t waste a second and slammed his foot into the tentacle before it had a chance to orient itself.

Blood pooled in the white sphere, causing the tentacle to slowly drift below the others. It fell into the central eye, piercing it and causing a small patch of blood to appear. The Specter focused on that spot as he dealt with the other tentacles. Slowly, steadily, more blood began to flow out. Even the tentacles were starting to be affected. If he could just fend them off for a another minute—

Snap!

Time slowed to a crawl. The Specter was plummeting downwards, rope still in hand. The tentacles drifted instead of dancing, the audience only began gasping, and he couldn’t feel the wind in his cape. Before his mind could construct a plan to get out of this situation, something began overpowering it.

Something was watching him. Time froze. Black eyes began appearing in his peripheral vision. They never blinked, they never wavered, they only watched. Was this the evil-doer, the one that was trying to kill the Specter? No, his senses immediately countered. It didn’t have the look of a predator nor a murderer. In fact, the eyes didn’t seem worried at all. It was the look a disappointed father gave to their son.

It was looking right at him, but it didn’t acknowledge its existence.

The Specter’s brain fizzled out and time returned back to normal speed. The audience disappeared as he fell below the stage, only a few feet away from the eye. Still, the only thing on his mind was the thing looking at him. The eyes were still there in his memory, simply looking at him until he nearly forgot his own name. He wasn’t sure if he was afraid.

As he plunged through the pupil, he heard the sound of ripping paper.


Winter

The ground was soft and wet beneath Lucretia. Cold wind stung her face. The air was almost unbreathable. She opened her eyes to a blank sky showering down white snowflakes. Pulling herself to a seated situation, she examined the scenery around her. She was lying in the middle of a pathway that cut through a forest. On either side of her, dead trees that looked like distorted mannequins swayed slightly.

“Shit…” Lucretia moaned as she brought herself to her feet. Her head was spinning in confusion, but her memory was still intact. That was good.

Something roared in the distance. She turned to see the silhouette in the distance the size of a building. The ground rattled like it was splitting apart. The silhouette lumbered forward, causing the rattling to intensify. Lucretia breathing heighted as she realized that the thing in the distance was running towards her.

She tried to stand but her legs were paralyzed. Yanking them had no effect, neither did yelling at them to work. Eventually, Lucretia resorted to rolling off the path and into a large snow bank. The rumbling was growing louder. It was like an old iron bell was being rung next to her ear every few seconds. She swam through sheets of white snow and grabbed onto a nearby tree.

The silhouette continued to encroach. It was even larger than Lucretia had imagined, towering over the nearby landscape like a living mountain. Her eyes were locked to it for a moment, and she did nothing as it came closer and closer. Then she slapped herself. That desire wasn’t real, it was implanted into her by this thing. Did she forget what she was dealing with?

“Fuck.” Pain swelled through Lucretia’s legs. She reached up and grabbed a sturdy tree branch, hoping to drag herself out of the snow.

Then, the branch turned to boiling water.

She didn’t have time to scream. Shock seized her body. She fell into a small puddle of water that seared her flesh. The water began to melt through the snow and soil like it was fire. Lucretia felt something pulling her down as the water dug a deeper and deeper hole. The heat spread to the snow around it, causing the pool to grow larger with every second. She had to start swimming to keep herself at the surface.

Something seized her leg. She couldn’t feel it, but she knew it was there. It wasn’t something physical like a hand or a tentacle. It felt like her own soul was trying to yank her below the surface. She took a deep breath, fully convinced that it would most likely be the last one she took for a while.

But right then, her legs regained function. An extra wave of pain coursed through her body and forced her to act. She rammed her fist into one of the walls, forming a hole big and sturdy enough for her to hang on for a few seconds. She hoisted herself up as the force pulling her down grew even stronger.

Her first breath was a gasp. The skin on her face was bright red and her arms simmered from the cold snow, nearly sending her back into shock. She punched another hole in the wall and shoved her foot into the first one. Slowly, with snow falling around her and something pulling her down, Lucretia managed to climb out of the hole. She laid with her back flat against the ground, her strength completely gone.

But still, her brain commanded her to at least look back into the hole. And with no way to fight that urge, she forced herself to her knees and took one final look back down.

There was no bottom, and only a few glints of reflected light let her know where the surface of the water was. That light soon disappeared; the sound of gurgling was the last to leave. As she stared into the black pit, some part of her mind began to whisper things to her. It told her to jump in. It reasoned that this world was an illusion, and the only way to break illusions was to fight back, to break it, to die.

Lucretia took a few steps back, but the feeling remained. Grief entered her heart like she had just abandoned a dying family member. Her legs took an impulsive step forward, but she forced herself away. There was nothing there. This wasn’t an illusion, that force, that voice was the illusion. It was a mindless, soulless thing. It didn’t know what was at the bottom of that pit. It couldn’t speak to her. It couldn’t understand her.

It was nothing.

She continued walking backwards for a few meters, turned, and saw stone. There was a tower on the pathway in front of her. White bricks were stacked hap-hazardly atop one another, eventually fanning out into a small chamber at the top. Lucretia looked up and saw somebody staring back at her. It looked like a person, but she couldn’t be certain here. Their face was an oily black and their arms were longer than they should have been. They were leaning absurdly far out of the window like they had been frozen in the process of diving out of it.

Lucretia held her breath. She refused to move a single muscle so as to not disturb the person. Pin and needles spiked across her body and a sweaty wave of anxiety settled around her mind. She couldn’t let herself break the image. Even as her fingers began to tingle and her chest heaved, trying to force some air in, she refused. Right on the verge of fatigue, Lucretia tried to sneak in a tiny breath.

The figure roared in fear and confusion as it plummeted towards the ground. The sound rotted Lucretia’s muscles away, causing her to stand still and lock eyes with the figure. The closer it got to the ground, the more detail it gained. Harsh brown skin and a white lab coat were the only details she could pick up before it snapped its neck on the ground. Lucretia blinked.

When she opened her eyes a millisecond later, she was back in the depths of Site-θ.

“What the fuck?” Those were the only words she could get out of her mouth before she keeled over and vomited all over the floor. Her stomach had been flipping the entire time, but adrenaline and fear had prevented her from realizing it.

Lucretia wiped her mouth and took in a few deep breaths. If she was lucky, that would be the worst of it. But she was never that lucky. She felt for her earpiece — she let out a fiery groan — and realized it wasn’t there. Her vest was still working. Well, she couldn’t tell exactly, but it didn’t matter. It had to be working. Lucretia demanded it.

“This is Lucretia. I’m… I’m somewhere in the Site,” she said. “Don’t try to talk back, I lost earpiece. The whole team got fucked up, but I’m fine. Yeah, I think I’m okay.”

Lucretia stared down the hallway. The door on the other end had been broken off. She wanted to tear off the head of the fucking idiot that thought that a few SCPs could stand a chance against a thing like this. But that word, ‘thing’, it made her cringe. It wasn’t a thing, it was a… it was a feeling. It was an experience, a point of view. She sighed. It didn’t matter. Nobody listened to dead people.

So she would have to keep going.

“I’m going to start searching for the rest. I didn’t die, so that means that… they might not be dead, too. I’ll start…” Lucretia looked to the other door. It was still standing, and there was a keycard scanner next to it, still functional. “I’ll start now.” Lucretia began to hobble over to the broken door.


The Robot Pt. 2

The ghost was following SCP-1360.

That was the nickname SCP-1360 had given the thing. It didn’t have a body or a face, but it still clung to SCP-1360 like the researchers did. Except the ghost didn’t try to give it orders. It had thrown away its earpiece a long time ago. It wouldn’t be needing it after the ghost was finished. Had SCP-1360 enjoyed concepts like that, it would have even considered the thing an ally.

The facility had been gutted. Entire rooms had been upended and desks and computers were strewn across the floor. Some were aflame, others were covered in odd fluids. And, even more strangely, some were left complete untouched. Twice now SCP-1360 had come across a room where every piece of furniture was standing upright and in its proper place. The ghost was strange like that.

SCP-1360 walked through another room, a waiting room for one of the Site’s emergency medical bays. This one hadn’t been spared. Medical beds were stuck in the walls, all of the chairs had disappeared, and the ceiling fans were inside-out.

And yet, as SCP-1360 stepped over the flattened receptionist’s desk, a detail that it had been neglecting came to mind. Despite all of this destruction, there wasn’t a single drop of blood or dead body. There were certainly bodily fluids in places, but none of them were man-made. Maybe something had taken them, a creature or some other animal had eaten them whole.

But that theory was ridiculous. Animals, like all mortal things, were imperfect. They would leave evidence behind. Whatever did this, it was precise.

SCP-1360 stumbled into another hallway that had been left untouched. There wasn’t a single sign of damage or displacement. Two benches and a few bolted doors were the only things within. As SCP-1360 walked past, it felt each of the doors. They were steel, hardened and reinforced from the other side. Glass viewing ports allowed SCP-1360 a view into empty rooms.

The ceiling light overhead flickered for a moment. SCP-1360 snapped towards it, ready to flee or kill whatever was causing the disturbance. But only a few seconds later, it returned to normal. The room was filled with pure white light. SCP-1360 looked back down and spotted an open door at the end of the hallway.

On the other side was a darkened room that was overflowing with hospital equipment. SCP-1360 was still for a moment. After a few minutes, nothing changed. Therefore, it had to be real. SCP-1360 began to lurk towards the doorway. There was a hospital bed in the room. It was on, something had activated it.

As SCP-1360 stepped through, it noticed an oddity within the bed’s sheets. Something was moving. The covers were hiding a large object. SCP-1360 assumed it to be an animal at first, a wild dog or SCP that had gotten loose. But as it got closer, it realized what it was looking at.

It was a person.


The Kid

Rainer was bathed in a world of color. Purple and blue and white lights surrounded his body, nearly blinding him. He tried to grab onto anything stable, anything that could give him a reprieve from the void that was everywhere else. The air felt like water. He held his breath, refusing to give this place even the air from his lungs. His hands felt something soft and warm like silk. He grasped onto it, but the feeling disappeared in his hands.

“Carlotta…” he whispered into his chest. “Carlotta, I-I need some help. I don’t know what this is, but it’s everywhere and I can’t…” Slumber filled his eyelids, causing them to grow heavy. Rainer stabbed his fingernails into his palm to keep himself awake.

“I think it’s trying to keep me… Please, I just need—”

There was something in the distance.

He squinted, trying to capture a hint of shape in the colors. His eyes never adjusted. Still, he could sense in his bones that there was something out there. And for some reason, that entity was staring directly at him. Rainer’s heart began to beat faster.

His mouth opened as if to speak, but he covered it with his hand. He couldn’t make himself known to this anomaly, to this alien. Not until the Foundation knew how to fight it. Feeling the familiar groove of his earpiece, vest firmly wrapped around his chest, he knew they had to be listening to him.

But why weren’t they giving him any orders? Were they focused on different matters? The other anomalies probably needed more help than he did, Rainer thought. He wasn’t in any direct danger, nor was he being threatened. If he were, the thing in the void wouldn’t be stalking, it would be hunting. This must have been what was happening, Rainer decided.

Just as his train of thought stopped at the station, the thing moved. He could almost feel it travelling across the blank space. It glided across the ground like a ballet dancer at first. Then, it dug its claws into the ground and sprinted towards Rainer. He reached out again, trying to find anything to pull him out of the dream he was trapped in.

He flailed his arms in every direction, causing his body to spin violently in place. Blood rushed to his head, then fell to his feet, then came back to his head every few seconds. The thing was nearly on the horizon. There was nothing else to grab onto. Rainer tapped on his earpiece, but no sound came from it. He brought his legs up and folded his head into his stomach.

“Something’s here. It’s not Lucretia or the bird or… “ His mind tried to kill his voice again. The thing had already seen him, there was no point in staying silent. But if it heard him, it would learn critical information about the mission. It would hurt his teammates, his friends.

Rainer’s throat dried up for a few seconds. Then it exploded.

“Please, I need… I just need somebody to talk to be or just tell me you can hear me. I know you can hear me. Just say so, that’s all I want. You said this would work, Carlotta! I have the earpiece and the vest, you should be hearing me. I know reality here is… weird, but that’s not my fault. I’m just stuck and it’s coming and I really just need to know what I should do and I want to see Lucretia please, please I want to see her and… I don’t know.”

His voice fell. The thing that was once safely away in the distance was now visible. Its head was twice the size of its body, which broke apart and reassembled itself twice as it came closer. Its skin was an ashy white. Fingers, eyes, and faces were all stitched together in a monstrous construct. Its face was behind it.

It towered over Rainer, and each footstep only made it seem bigger. He tried to close his eyes, but the thing had cemented itself in his mind. Even when he wasn’t looking, he could see it.

It came upon him. The thing’s form unraveled itself in front of Rainer. Afterwards, it bent down slowly and laid itself flat on the ground (some of its legs broke off from the impact). It began to twirl its face around. Rainer turned his head away, hoping that that would somehow dispel the thing’s image in his mind. No matter where he looked, he was always looking into the thing’s eyes.

The distortions in reality, the surreal visions and destroyed rooms, weren’t caused by it. They simply appeared there when the thing did. It was the universe’s interpretation of the thing’s existence. And Rainer’s brain realized this. His heart was straining from the rate it was pumping at and sweat drenched his face and chest and back. His brain tried to erase Rainer’s discovery, but it acted a fraction of a moment too late. Rainer waited for his death as he comprehended the thing’s true form.

But suddenly, he understood it.

It could stand, but it didn’t have a body. Seeing it made Rainer realize a few things. He knew instantly that nobody was coming for him. The realization made him chuckle to himself a little. Rainer thought about how cavemen thousands of years ago would look at stars at night and pray for those stars to help them. No matter how loud they chanted or how much they sacrificed, they would still be killed and eaten by the predators of the night.

The thing before him, Rainer realized, was the world. It wouldn’t kill him — it was far too impersonal to do something like that — but it wouldn’t save him either. In fact, it wouldn’t do much of anything besides sit back and watch from somewhere far away. Rainer knew it had the power to do something, anything to change things, but it didn’t. It let things fade. It let things fall apart and die. He should have realized that earlier; it was doing that to him right now.

Once Rainer realized that, he promptly opened his mouth and screamed until his lungs collapsed.


Getting Warmer…

The air in Phenex’s cage dried his eyes and created a few more cracks in his break. He was lying on the floor, it was hot. He felt a slight burning sensation all across his body — the thaumaturgic seal was slowly irritating his flesh. The vest was still strung over his cage, blocking any light from entering.

“Oh dear,” he squawked. “Where has my protector gone? Have I slept all the way through dawn? That assumption must be faulty; aye, I must be wrong. There’s no way they could have wished me begone.” He began the painful process of rising to his feet.

There was a sound nearby. It was soft, almost imperceptible. Phenex froze, ears trained to catch the slightest abnormality in the noise around him. After a few seconds, he found one. There was a soft tap on the ground, something that couldn’t have been caused by a piece of furniture. Phenex’s eyes widened.

It was a footstep.

He couldn’t tell who they belonged to. One moment, they would be soft as if the person were walking on their toes. The next, it was hard and firm. And after, Phenex would have to strain his ears to realize that the thing had even taken another step. Sometimes, the footsteps would be very far away and sometimes…

Tap.

They were very close.

Something lifted his cage. Loud footsteps flooded Phenex’s ears as his weak body was swung back and forth between the walls of his cage. He tried to cling onto the golden perch in the middle, but his mental map of the cage failed him as he slammed into one of the walls, believing it to be the floor. He reached out, trying to grab onto anything.

Eventually, he resorted to screeching out, “Hello!? I ask you to reveal yourself at once! I will not put up with devilish affronts.” The thing carrying him refused to answer.

There was a warmth on the back of Phenex’s neck. He clawed at the darkness, but the only thing he connected with were iron bars. Decisions raced through his mind, causing his head to spin. Did he try to reason with it? Did he call for Lucretia? They were pointless plans, but he had to do something.

“Please, return me to the woman who carried me before. If I am killed, my friends will surely be forlorn. Think of your heart and see that I am not your enemy. Place me down, please, don’t be the death of me,” he pleaded.

The thing shook him, causing Phenex to slam into another wall. His wings ached and his legs were refusing to move. The heat slowly grew and grew until it became overpowering, forcing him to pay attention to it.

Phenex laid down. He didn’t feel his flesh burning from the thaumaturgy anymore. Then he realized that this is what the thing wanted, to get him to give into sleep or exhaustion. Once he did, he would be powerless. He just needed to stay alive for a little longer. The Foundation was coming for him. Lucretia was coming.

“Please… leave…” His words were barren. Phenex wasn’t sure if the thing even heard him. Sweat dripped into his eye, causing it to sting. There were soft crackles and pops in the distance.

He could have stopped this thing if they just let him out of the cage. Without those restrictions, he could have thrown the thing into a wall or made them disappear. He wanted to see Lucretia. Why wasn’t she here yet? Whenever she carried him, she was always careful not to shake his cage too much. Phenex thought that this was because she didn’t want to disturb him. But then he realized why she covered his cage.

She didn’t want him to see what was going to be killing him.

The thing heaved back and threw Phenex’s cage. He began to float. The vest flew off and a gust of wind blasted through his cage. He was in an elevator shaft where the walls had been torn up. Heat torched his back.

Above him, past the ripped remains of the vest, Phenex spotted the thing that had thrown him. It was just an odd bit of color at first, but then it morphed into a shape. And then that shape morphed into a shady and that shadow into a person. It never grew a face, though. Phenex wondered if it had one at all or if it was just a nameless thing.

Flames consumed his vision before he reached an answer.


The Robot Pt. 3

SCP-4051 screamed and shook violently in his hospital bed, causing the machines to rapidly begin beeping. His eyes shot open, closed, rolled into the back of his head, then flickered back to life. SCP-1360 watched him silently from a few feet away. It made no noise as SCP-4051 faded in strength.

His face became pale and his arms weak. It looked like he was drowning, almost. Maybe the air inside of his lungs had shifted into a liquid, thus suffocating him from the inside. But that conclusion was faulty, SCP-1360 determined. Why would this change happen so subtly that it would not be able to detect it? It wouldn’t.

A new idea emerged, one that was riskier, but would give SCP-1360 a certain answer. A text-to-speech keyboard emerged from its chest, and SCP-1360 typed out a short message.

Rainer.

SCP-4051 shot up to a seated position, staring at the ceiling. Like a puppet, its head fell to level before swiveling towards SCP-1360. He could not be in control of his body. If he were, he wouldn’t be attempting to frighten his savior.

“Who are you?” SCP-4051’s voice was the same, but each word was lifeless. It was as if he had lost the will to say it right as it slipped off of his tongue.

I am SCP-1360. I am here to help you.

“I don’t know who you are.” The light above the bed casted long shadows down SCP-4051’s face. SCP-1360 focused on his eyes. They didn’t reflect anything.

"I am like you. I am an SCP. I was assigned to be a part of a team of SCPs with you. We were investigating the lower levels of this facility from a… trap injured you. I am here to help you."

SCP-4051 blinked. It took him several seconds to force each eyelid shut and open. He offered his hand to SCP-1360.

“Can you touch me?”

Why do you want me to touch you?

He turned his face away, very ashamed. “Because… because I don’t know if you’re here or if you’re just another vision. I don’t know if I’m really in a bed or if this room is even real. I… I started thinking that maybe, um, I was never even here. That right when we went through that hallway and turned that first corner, I just stopped existing. I don’t know if they’re ever gonna find me.”

SCP-1360 stepped forward. “Who are you worried is not going to find—”

“Please!” SCP-4051 screamed. He was crying. “Just… do this for me, okay?”

SCP-1360 was still. It could tell SCP-4051 still wasn’t in his right mind. He switched tone with every sentence, one minute sounding happy and the next on the verge of tears. For a few seconds, SCP-1360 thought they were on the verge of seeming logical. But then SCP-4051 tossed the lawbook aside and began operating by a different set of rules. Regardless, SCP-1360 had to follow.

It slowly extended its hand out. Centimeter by centimeter, it bridged the gap until it was hovering directly over SCP-4051’s palm. Then, it snatched the human’s hand, careful to make sure that its own grip was dominant.

SCP-4051 snapped his neck back to SCP-1360. His eyes were still wet.

“You’re strange.” SCP-4051 began squirming his hand violently. His voice had returned to its usual dead tone. “Looking at you is strange. You feel different, but you look so… similar to me. Your face, your body. Would they call me an anomaly, then?”

I do not understand. You are experiencing hallucinations.

“I like you. I really, really, really, really like you. I still know what you want, but I’ll keep you here at least for a little bit.” SCP-4051 maintained his blank stare for a few more seconds before immediately returning back to screaming and contorting in his bed. All SCP-1360 wanted to do was stare at him a little longer.

“Hey!”

The voice came from the hallway. SCP-1360 dropped SCP-4051’s hand and retracted to the shadows. The voice was female, younger but not as young as SCP-4051. There was a slight tinge on the last letter: a foreign accent. SCP-1360 slinked across the wall to the corner beside the door, hoping that the woman would be so distracted by the sight of SCP-4051 that she wouldn’t think to look around.

It heard loud footsteps as the muscular Russian woman rushed in, taking the bait. She stumbled around for a few seconds but never looked to her left, where SCP-1360 was. She moved to SCP-4051 and began shaking the man who looked like a child next to her.

“Hey, hey, it’s me. Kid, shh… You good, you safe. Holy shit, how did you even get here? It doesn’t matter. I’ll… shit. I’ll figure something, okay? Just don’t die for a few seconds.”

SCP-4051 opened his eyes and looked deep into the Russian woman’s face. The image clouded SCP-1360’s mind. So much in fact that it didn’t realize that it was slowly drifting away from the corner and towards the light for a closer look.

The woman twisted her head towards SCP-1360. Her eyes narrowed for a second due to the light, but she knew what she was looking at. Confusion filled her face for a few seconds. Then she looked down at SCP-4051 and that confusion evolved into anger. Her words made the walls rattle.

“Why didn’t you help him?”










Resurrection – New Faces
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