A Library, Empty

rating: +44+x

28th of April, 1985

The Wanderers' Library, Wing Z, Thaumaturgy Section 24, Shelf 853

Within the Wanderers' Library, there was a corridor. A forgotten corridor filled with dust, mostly, but a corridor of importance to the library nonetheless. At least in the past it had been.

Within that corridor, on both sides of it, there were shelves. Shelves filled with ancient knowledge, forgotten by most long ago. Knowledge stored in every possible format; from physical, digital, to even metaphorical. Many would probably miss most of it, but it was there nonetheless — waiting for someone to study it again.

And within these shelves, there was a man. A man exactly 196 centimeters tall, slightly underweight, though not too much, with black, messy hair and grey-blue eyes, tired from adjusting to the everpresent darkness. From the way he looked and touched the shelves, it was clear he's been here before. How many times he couldn't say. Ten? Fifty? Maybe three hundred, even? He had no idea.

Similarly, he had no idea how long he'd been there for — or who he was, for that matter. Ever since that portal closed behind them, he couldn't say anything for sure. Hell, he wasn't even sure if there was even any portal to begin with.

As he touched the first book from the right, swiping away the dust that had covered it for so long now, he looked at its title. Runes and Symbols: Applied Thaumaturgy for Beginners. He silently chuckled. Has been a while since he needed one of those. A couple of years, probably. He tried to recall the exact day he had mastered the craft; the day he had learned to convert matter through various forms with ease. Though he could barely remember since those days were so far gone.

And as he opened the first page of the manuscript, he remembered he was a sorcerer.

He's been one for most of his life, really. It wasn't anything new, neither to himself nor to the people he knew. It was a part of who he was, for better or for worse, and for quite some time now too — he was almost certain it was ever since he turned 14 in the autumn of 1971. October 10, 1971, to be exact — the day he accidentally lit his entire home on fire. But that was irrelevant now. It was one of the countless demons of the past he tried to forget about.

As he leafed through the entire book, the nostalgia almost got to him. He'd spent the better parts of his youth in this Library, moments he'll never get back. He never forgave himself for having to find a new home here, but he didn't need to — the bookkeepers and the Black Queen were kind enough to never ask what happened, and he was quite thankful.

He put the book down. It was best to not touch those old wounds.

As his eyes wandered away from the tome stored on his right, he felt his jacket get forcibly thrown off of him. He kneeled down, trying to pick up what was taken away from him, only to see something he didn't remember putting there.

A loose photograph.

And as he picked it up from the stone-cold floor of the library, identifying the faces it depicted, he remembered he was a friend.

Not a very good one, though. No, not for a while now. Ever since they caught a glimpse of Nowak back in February of 1984 he'd been… different. Obsessed, even.

He wasn't happy about it.

These faces had meant something at some point to him. Magdaleine Cornwell, Jessie Rivera, James Micheals, and MacCarthy Junior. Each of them… was someone important to him, weren't they? When had he lost this joy? When did he become this uncaring and arrogant husk of a person? Where did he sacrifice the bonds he's created with all of them for… yes, for what exactly? For his devotion to work? For science? Or for a shadow of the past to which he clung like an idiot, trying to use revenge as a substitute for help with his long-time trauma and helplessness?

He didn't want to answer that question, because the answer he'd find would hurt a part of him he didn't want hurt.

Putting the jacket back on, he continued walking down the shelves, trying to find… trying to find what, exactly? He… he wasn't sure anymore, honestly.

And as he looked into the darkness surrounding the shelves, he noticed a flashing light in the distance, how far away, he couldn't tell But… flashing light. Light. Light…

He remembered that a long time ago, he was someone else's life's light.

Not… not anymore though. Not for a while now. It was hard for him to think about it, ever since she disappeared into death's cold grip. He never talked about her to anyone — not even those he considered his closest friends. The pain of having to bear the consequences of so many mistakes was too much to share with anyone, even if he knew he could trust them.

It was hard to explain with words; it made sense in his head, or at least he thought it did, but… it was complicated. Too complicated to give them any room in this already too complex machinery to begin with. As a result, he just left them sitting in a limbo of… not really acceptance, no, but a state of "this happened and it's now a fact, learn to deal with it." But there was no real way to deal with it, not when what happened was so shattering to the rules he'd set in stone for his reality as to just accept them with a simple "no."

Natalie, he thought, trying to stop the stream of tears going down his cheeks, staining the stone-cold floor of the room he stood in. He tried to make his stupidly complex mind stop, trying to just accept it or say "no," trying to say otherwise, trying to kill this stupid non-acceptance limbo that had haunted his soul for years now. He failed.

And so he cried.

He cried like the five-year-old boy he hadn't been for over twenty-two, breaking down in tears he so desperately tried to stop. He fell down the well of agony as the legs that made him stand up failed to support his body, giving him into the infinite rabbithole of sorrow.

It was hard. Too hard to explain with words.

But eventually, the sorrow stopped coming. He wasn't good, no, he was definitely far away from that state, but he was definitely… better, yes. He was better. At least better than he was before.

He thought he was ready to get back up; he probably was wrong, but that was beside the point — all that mattered now was that he could lift himself up from this miserable state of being.

The only way to get out of this place was to push forward, into the light that flickered once and never again in the darkness that surrounded this library filled with life and light so long ago.

Though his eyes were familiar with the lack of light most of the Library offered to its visitors, he still couldn't see everything he was marching like a blind man into.

And as he attempted to understand what was before him, he remembered he was a researcher.

He worked for a Foundation. A Foundation that he thought was always right, as the only true moral compass for the rest of reality, but it was a Foundation he wasn't now sure he trusted. He wasn't like them. He wasn't an immoral, grim asshole that always—

And then he realized he was exactly like the rest of them. Every single one of them, they identical to him, and he identical to them. When did he lose himself? When did he turn from the life-loving alchemist to an obsessed scientist, forgetting everything he was taught during his youth?

And for how long would it have to go on?

As the burning realization hit him, he remembered who the man beneath all these layers he'd built up really was.

He remembered he was Daniel Asheworth.

Daniel Robert Alliston-Asheworth, born 1957 in New York, USA. A Level 3 Researcher for the SCP Foundation and ex-alchemist, now self-declared as a free thaumaturgist. A servant to nothing and no one, and a free man to his past and himself.

And as he realized he was finally free, a beacon of blinding light entered his vision. From that light emerged someone he'd known for quite some time now alongside someone he barely knew. Jessie Rivera and Jeremy Cornwell, both members of the exploration team that had led them to where they were now. They looked… almost concerned, he thought, though visibly relieved.

Both of them looked like they've been here for a while now — their eyes were swollen from the everpresent darkness and their stances slightly lowered from visible exhaustion. Cornwell's wound from 5795's action was still visible on his arm, which bared a simple bandage created from what looked like Rivera's shirt.

"We've literally been looking for you for hours. You can't just split from the group like that, goddamnit." Rivera asked, trying to sound as harsh as she could, though failing to do so as she walked towards. "Where the hell have you been?" She tapped his chest angrily, showing her disapproval.

"I… I don't think I know," Asheworth answered as memories came back to him, making him remember.

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