"Hello, young lady. What brings you here?"
Emma narrowed her eyes slightly at the man before her. The old man. Had to be in his eighties. He sat at a weathered metal desk, with a dusty, barely-touched old desktop. It still used a CRT screen, even. Really, now, "young lady"? I have every right to be here, just like you. You're lucky you're so ancient. You probably don't know better. Ah, well, I'd better make a good impression anyway. She smiled and responded, "I'm Junior Researcher Emma Stark. And you are?"
"Anderson. Roger Anderson. Welcome to the salt mines."
Long-Term Archives was, in fact, a former salt mine. The bored-out crystalline walls served to maintain clean air with low humidity—perfect for document storage. The irregular texture of the walls made for a soothing counterbalance to the antiseptic straightness of the walls in the rest of the facility. "Thanks. I'm looking for a file that didn't make it into the 2003 database upgrade. I'm pretty sure it's still just in paper."
"Yes, here's where it'll be. Do you have a file number?"
"A designation. It should be SCP-1969-EX."
Roger narrowed his eyes. A wry grin twisted across his furrowed mouth. "Interesting choice. Business or pleasure?"
Emma blinked and looked at Roger with a start. "What? Business. You get requests for otherwise down here?"
Roger leered slightly. "On occasion. We're strictly business down here. But the story of Paul's death always piques interest."
"Yes, but McCartney didn't die. He's still alive."
"Mmhm. But back then, it didn't seem so cut and dried as all that. But yes, he's conclusively alive, and that's why the SCP is Explained. You're right, it never got into the database. When it was concluded that nothing happened, they just stamped and closed the file, and no one bothered to upload it to take up space pretending it was an anomaly." He didn't even look at his computer or files. "Aisle 22, Box 431. Four rows to the right. Show your credentials at the door. And we've got cameras down there, so don't go snooping in other boxes. And don't forget your latex gloves."
Emma waved her badge in front of the door panel, a green light flickered, and Roger pressed a button under his desk. The door opened. Emma entered and oriented herself. The encrusted white ceiling strung with fluorescent lights gave an oddly inadequate glow to the metal frame shelves and cardboard boxes stacked in endless rows in the cavern. The air was pure, mineral, dry. She carefully followed his instructions, walked into the aisle, and pulled the heavy box from its shelf. She placed it on the floor and opened it.
Inside, there was a full set of vinyl records from the Beatles in their original sleeves. Multiples. The sleeves were marked up with a series of lines, notes, and questions about the meaning of each element of the artwork. Earlier albums, before 1968, showed only a few notes or marks, and were signed by the Cognitohazard Monitoring Division. But the albums were repeated chronologically, and each month more and more lines were made. More connections were noted. Sections of the album covers were highlighted, then covered over with stickers labeled "Warning! Memetic Hazard!" The frenzy of notes, connections, and redactions over the same identical covers continued until February 1970, when everything just stopped.
Tucked toward the back of the box, she found the main file documentation for SCP-1969-EX.
Emma looked up from her reading. Something wasn't right. She pulled out the documentation, closed the box, placed it back on the shelf, and jogged back out to the reception room. She tossed the papers on Roger's desk.
"You're Roger Anderson."
"You're supposed to shelve the file when you're done with it."
Emma slammed a hand down on the papers. "You're Roger Anderson. And I'm not done with this file."
Roger shook his head and allowed himself a sheepish smirk. "I am. I was in Cog Haz at the time, I worked on 1969. Hey, I forgot to ask in the excitement of you looking up my work. For the record, which object are you assigned to? How did you start looking for 1969?"
Emma stared at Roger a moment. Is he trying to change the subject? No, more about 1969, I can still ask. "I'm on SCP-012. I was — "
"Oh, for the love of… Twelve. It's always Twelve." Roger buried his face in his hands. "Twelve is the reason I transferred to Cog Haz in the first place. Lost a partner and a good friend to Twelve."
Emma peered into Roger's craggy face. "You… You're Anderson? Anderson and Spitzer Anderson?"
Roger nodded. "Leon Spitzer. Damn fine partner, drinking buddy, confidant. All stripped away into a paranoid mess by a damn piece of sheet music. I was popping amnesiacs like Tic-Tacs when I realized what was going on. I never actually saw the vellum with the mud off, but… One tip, miss. Don't abuse amnesiacs. Ever."
Resolved to be regaled with rambling old-man tales, she corrected, "Amnestics?"
"Amnestics, amnesiacs, whatever. I know they reformulated them around the millennium and reminded everyone that they're really called amnestics, but we were all used to calling them amnesiacs, even if it wasn't right. But I panicked when I realized what was happening to Leon. We were in Florence to pick up a copy of 701, which is safe to look at and read, so we weren't expecting something as insidious as Twelve. When I realized that Twelve had changed Leon, I started recording everything I knew and made myself an amnesiac cocktail. I lost my best friend and half of my childhood that day. Do you know how horrible it feels to go visit your family for Christmas, and realize you can't remember your mother's name? Terrible. When I got back, I put in for transfer to Cog Haz. I wasn't going to let another Twelve slip past me again. I also got medical orders never to take amnesiacs again."
Emma wondered, "But when you retire — "
Roger shut her down with a wave of his hand. "I ain't retiring. Had to give up that possibility just to avoid the retirement party drink. That's why I'm down here in Archives now. I'm too run down for anything actually anomalous, so I get to sit down here in the salt and reminisce, most days. It's good for my lungs. Slow pace, low risk. Best retirement I could ask for."
Silence passed between them. Roger sat contently, while Emma leaned against the desk, half-sitting on it. She squirmed and looked around, noticing the papers under her hand. "Now about Paul —"
"You still haven't answered why you wanted to look up 1969. Don't think I've forgotten. I'm old, but not senile, Miss Stark," Roger interrupted with a wink.
Emma rolled her eyes and sighed. "Okay, so I was looking over K. M. Sandoval's journal, for clues about what 012 was doing. I didn't see anything, but there was this note about how he alluded to Paul's death on the night it was supposed to happen. So I looked for any records we might have had on Paul's death, and learned about SCP-1969-EX. So here I am."
Roger's eyes sharpened in response. "Sandoval talked about McCartney's death? And he was supposed to have died while we were in Florence?"
Emma pulled out her tablet and presented it to him. "I took a picture. See the note in the margin regarding McCartney?"
Roger pored over the tablet, pulled his desk lamp close over it, cursed the clashing lights, pushed it away, and read carefully, mumbling to himself. "Looks like Wertham's writing. He knew more about 1969 than any of us. If anyone knew the particulars of McCartney's death, it was him. But if this really is his journal, you're right. Sandoval was talking about when McCartney died. Maybe that's why Rita mentioned Golgotha. But according to this, he hadn't even found Twelve yet. How could he have known that Paul died that night, a thousand miles away?"
Emma looked askance at Roger. "Paul… didn't die that night."
Roger gave Emma a blank stare. "No, Paul didn't die that night."
Emma leaped back into her questions. "But that's the problem with this documentation. If Paul never died, who was William Campbell? Why did you pick him up? What was that phone call with Rita all about? None of this makes sense!"
Roger smiled and spread his hands placatingly. "Wertham explained it to me. Mass hysteria interference from another SCP."
"Sounds right to me. Strange, it was apparently neutralized back in the 19th century, though. I remember reading it over then."
"That doesn't make sense."
"I just listened to Wertham and went ahead with it. You don't contradict the site director."
Emma tapped a few figures into her tablet. "No, it's not SCP-1841, that's a travel guide or something."
"Can't be. It had to do with mass hysteria carried by Franz Liszt, if I remember correctly. Died with him."
"Wait… 1969 got reused, right? How about… Aha! Here it is. SCP-1841-EX. Your 1841's explained and in the database."
"Explained? When did that happen? Read it to me."
Emma looked at Roger in disbelief from his request, but shook her head and went through the record with him, including the addenda. Stopping for a moment afterward, she mused, "This doesn't help this case a bit."
Roger scowled. "So Wertham pulled a full-RAISA on the article."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, you know how stuff is redacted or expunged or behind an access code wall when we're not supposed to know about something, right? Well, that little redacted sign lets us know that something is in fact there, we're just not supposed to see it. But sometimes, someone pulls strings and makes sure we aren't allowed to know that there's hidden information. What do those addenda say? It tells us that they completely changed the article, made it look complete. That way, we walk away thinking that it's Neutralized last century, when it's still active."
Emma sighed. "I'm more concerned that if 1841 is Explained, then 1969 suddenly can't be mass hysteria. Suddenly, it's not explained."
Roger hardened his jaw and swallowed. "So Paul really did die."
Emma jumped up and paced. "No, we know he didn't die. The only way this makes sense is if we know he died, then know he didn't die. Which is it?"
Roger laughed. "Maybe both."
"Listen, as far as the rest of the world is concerned, Paul never died. Everyone went a little crazy one fall, saw stuff that wasn't there, and then we all wised up. But the Beta-6 involvement, Campbell, the Rita call, none of that would have gone down that way if we didn't have conclusive knowledge that Paul did die on November 9, 1966. So, maybe he was dead. And now he isn't. Stranger things have happened, you know."
Emma stopped pacing and leaned forward against the desk. A knot started forming in her stomach. "What are we talking about, resurrection? They were 'bigger than Jesus,' right?"
"More popular than Jesus," Roger corrected. Realization passed over his face. "Oh. Oh, Rita. Listen, have you got the Twelve documentation? Show me the full record. I'm still cleared for it, no amnesiacs, remember?"
Emma passed her tablet to Roger. He squinted to read the screen, but got through the short documentation quickly. "Where's the rest of it?"
"No, this is all kinds of inaccurate."
"Really?" Emma took the tablet back and looked it over again. "I know, I've been wanting to update it with some of the most recent results, but…"
"You're still suspending it from the ceiling in its own room so people can't look at it, right?"
"The way this reads, it's not Euclid, it's Safe. You stick it in a locker and forget about it. You don't go through all the trouble of its own room and leave it where someone has any chance to see it at some weird angle."
The knot tightened further in her stomach. She felt her insides grow cold.
Roger continued, "And how many pages is the music now? We had five when I stopped working with it. How many now?"
"Um… We… uh… A hundred and seventeen."
"A hundred and Seventeen. All in blood? Even when ink is provided?"
Emma didn't like where this was going. Getting words out was getting harder. "Yes."
"And do all the pages carry the cog haz?"
Emma blushed and shrunk. "N-no. Just ten of them."
"Don't you think this is all important documentation?"
"And what's this about a 'recent storm'? Do the 1966 Florence floods seem recent to you? Or just a storm?"
Emma was at the verge of tears. "No."
"Miss Stark, this documentation is inaccurate and misleading."
In a small voice, she responded, "I'll fix it. I want to fix it."
Roger stopped, realizing what he was doing. He swallowed and took a deep breath. Damn you, Twelve. He softened his tone. "No, it's not your fault. What I'm saying is that Twelve is receiving the full RAISA, like 1841."
Emma's encroaching dread dissolved. "What? Are you sure?"
Roger fixed Emma with a steely gaze. "Yes. Read the journal again. Sandoval was affected and had to find Twelve before he knew about it. You know you can't just stick it in a locker. You know it's Euclid."
Emma, confused, replied, "Couldn't we put it in a locker?"
"For a bit, but people know about it. And when they know about it, they want to do more with it. They'd pull it back out. You were ready to change things to say more about it. Heck, I was almost shouting at you just now. How many people have read that? How many have loved it? Does it deserve that love? Does that document deserve so much attention? And how many want nothing more than to rewrite it? They know how to fix it. They know how to complete it. And yet, they cannot."
Emma's eyes widened. "Oh my god. Is that why we keep testing with it? Is that why we can't put it away? We're all affected by it? We want to display it?"
Roger nodded. "I bet so. It's not a strong effect. It can be resisted. But it's… alluring. It's sexy. Even when presented with some crappy inaccurate documentation, something about it sings in your soul. You just know how powerful it is. How compelling. You want to work with it. That's why it's Euclid."
"And… someone doesn't want anyone to know this."
Emma started wondering. She's been working with this item for nearly a year now. Who is hiding the truth from her? From the Foundation? Who is trying to make sure no one knows anything more about it? Why? What is this scrap of music capable of? "Wertham?"
"Wertham's dead. No, it's got to be someone else."
"No clue. But you need a chance to meet with some other old-timers. Someone's got to know something. And Twelve being Twelve, someone's just dying to spill his guts about it. I got an invite to Dr. Califano's retirement party next week. Come with me. We'll get some answers."
Emma straightened. "Okay. Yes. I… gotta get back to work. But what about 1969 and all that?"
"It's a crap shoot. But I'm betting on Twelve."