Ashes. Ashes. We All Fall Down
rating: +19+x
rura049vs343.jpg

"What do you cure, exactly?" The florescent lights were, as always, buzzing. The table between the two individuals was about three feet across and made of painted white metal. The small white room had one door in and out, with an empty observation room connected via a large glass window pane.

SCP-049 and SCP-343 both sat in chairs on opposite ends of the table. SCP-049 looked around in a panic before speaking. "What are you?"

"A seeker of truth. A delver of mysteries. So. What do you cure, exactly?"

SCP-049 leaned in slightly. "The pestilence."

SCP-343 chuckled. "Of course. You always say "The pestilence" like it's some grand truth. If it was so self evident, why is it everyone asks you the same question?"

"I do not know. The pestilence is responsible for more death and destruction than any other disease afflicting this world."

"Right. But you can't tell me what it is, can you?"

"I do not feel a need to do so."

"You can't. If you could you would've. Or you'd have told someone else. But not once have you named your bogeyman anything else that the pestilence."

"I do not have the time nor inclination to banter with whoever you are. I must return to my experiments."

"Your experiments will still be there when I'm done learning about you. But since we're talking about them, why do you kill people?"

"I do not. I cure them of the great pestilence and…"

"No you kill people. Let's be clear about that at least. Though you've killed many less since the Foundation put you into a box."

"The pestilence is nearly eradicated here. The doctors, the guards, all clean of infection."

SCP-343 leaned back in his chair and laced his hands behind his head. "You know what. I think it's free will."

"What?"

"I mean it could be life itself. It could be an actual disease that only you can see. But I'd guess it's free will."

"I do not understand."

"No. You wouldn't. To be free of it yourself you'd have to excise it. Cut it out and never return to it. Tell me, why did you kill Dr. Hamm. He was your friend."

"I had no choice. He was infected. He…"

"He was thinking about retiring. His daughter was about to go off to college and he wanted to take some time off. Maybe quit entirely. You killed him as soon as he stopped blindly following orders. As soon as he chose something that his superiors at the Foundation didn't choose for him."

"You are confused. I have always done what must be done, without regard for my personal feelings."

"I'm not confused. I was there when you were made."

"What?"

"Things like you, they crop up in the dark places where I can't always look. But it was sunny that day. Hot. The stink carried for miles."

"I don't…"

"Stop." And SCP-049 froze in place. The room around them fell away until they were standing in a sunny green field, next to a road. A man was gathering sticks and wood that had fallen from the sparse trees that were sprinkled across the landscape. The faint sound of hooves on dirt echoed in the distance.

SCP-343 pointed at the man gathering sticks. "Is that you?"

SCP-049 turned his head to look. He couldn't move the rest of his body but he could move his head and eyes. He tried to speak but the words didn't come. The man gathering sticks was wearing what could comfortably be called rags. He was placing the sticks in a pile on his wheelbarrow. The beating hooves got closer.

"This is you before you became a monster. It's subtle. Watch closely. The moment you chose to change is coming up."

The horse in the distance was finally upon them. It was pale grey with black spots along its neck. Atop it sat a man in the protective garb of a plague doctor. He was slumped in the saddle and as he passed, he fell with a thud to the ground. The horse stopped as the rider fell. The man with the sticks ran over to help.

SCP-343 spoke up. "He's sick. The same thing that's killing everyone else in your village. He's come here to make some money off the dying and the dead. But he's about to join them."

The man with the sticks pulled the mask off the man. The man beneath it almost immediately vomited blood onto the ground beside them. He rolled over and tried to crawl away.

"He knows he's infected. He knows he's putting you at risk. He doesn't know you're immune. A quirk of genetics that you probably still wouldn't understand makes you one of the luckiest members of your generation. Watch this, he's about to die and you're about to make a decision."

The actual plague doctor collapsed to the ground. The man with the sticks looked at the mask in his hands. He put it on.

"If you were almost anyone else you'd be dead in less than a week. Instead, you have an idea. You're going to make some money. You're going to feed your family off a farce."

The man with the sticks crawled over to the fallen man and began to remove his robes, then looked up at the horse. Then the scene faded away. And a swirling of events unfolded all around them.

"You ride the horse. Carrying death with you as you go. Castle to castle, town to town, village to village, house to house. Until you've made a grand circuit. You are home. You have enough money to last several lifetimes. You and your family will never go hungry again."

The scene solidified again. A man sat on a pale horse overlooking a village. Several of the shacks were on fire. The stench of death filled the air.

SCP-343 nodded and the scene shifted again. "They're in the town." The man in the plague doctor costume rushed to a single house. "Your family is in there. Aren't they? Your wife. Your daughter."

The man walked into the house. The smell of rotten flesh was overpowering. A woman lay dead. On the floor. Chunks had been taken out of her arm and legs. Animals. The man fell to his knees. He cried out. And a noise in the dark corner of the house stirred him from his grief.

"You left them here to fend for themselves. No warning. You couldn't take the risk. This is what the money bought you."

A young girl moved out of the shadows and looked up at the plague doctor. He recoiled as he saw her face, covered in blood. She was dragging something behind her.

"She's just like you. Shares your quirk. She couldn't get sick."

The scene faded out to gray. The white interview room came back. The buzzing of the florescent light returned. And the plague doctor moved his hands again.

SCP-049 cocked his head to the side. "I do not know those people. I am…"

SCP-343 raised a hand. "I understand now. There are dark places that even I cannot see. And things like you come out of that darkness. I was wrong. You've never once made a choice that was yours. You're just an echo of a man. Go back to your room."

"I…" SCP-049 disappeared from the room in a flash of light. SCP-343 sighed and thought about who he wanted to question next.

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