Breath, Pulse, Blood, Spine
rating: +89+x

Dec 20th

There's nothing quite like spending the holiday season in a non-crucial Foundation site. Were I still working at 17 I doubt I'd even notice, but you can't really miss it here in 346. All non-essential personnel are away, doing… whatever people do when they're not here, I suppose. Is it sad that I don't even really remember what that's like anymore? Just doing nothing, staying at home, seeing family. It's been a while. God, it's been a while.

I'm not the only one staying here, of course. Security staff always stay in full capacity, and a few researchers always have to stick around in case a new Sub-Area appears. I wonder how many of us volunteered for the holiday shift. I wonder if I'm the only one.

Dec 21st

Been hanging around Sub-Area 13 today. I'm not exactly sure what drew me to that particular wing, but it certainly was a… unique experience. All of those beady plastic eyes, just staring at you from their shelves, and the sensations within them…brr. Colorful teddy bears with memories of the first World War. Fuzzy pink fur and blood soaked mud, cheerful little smiles and the stench of gangrened flesh. Squicking and screaming. Sometimes I can almost believe 921 is trying to tell us something. Then I listen to 921-2, and remember the entire thing is just a monument to pointless cryptic nonsense. Twirling ash and candied strips, all but glimmers in a bullfrog's eye. If that isn't just this place trying to fuck with me, I'm a monkey's uncle.

I also saw something else while I was here. Stevenson and Nakamura, hiding between the shelves. Groping. Heh, I suppose that's why they didn't seem to mind staying here for the season. Good for them, really. At least someone around here is having fun.

I wonder if I should call home. I wonder if anyone will be there to answer.

Dec 22nd

Head Researcher Sanders says we had a new Sub-Area appearing last night, somewhere around 24's natural thermal springs. No name from 921-2 yet, but I'm sure Ol' Dismembered Voice will come up with something suitably ominous-sounding. Sanders assigned Nakamura to do preliminary examination, but I said I'd do it instead. Honestly, I can think of worse ways of spending a day than exploring a new wing, and Nakamura, well, I'm sure she has plans. I don't. So, looks like tomorrow morning is spelunking time for kindly Dr. Levine. Sub-Area 24 is all pastoral nature scenes, and given how 921 usually works I assume this new place is going to be at least somewhat similar. Maybe I'll get lucky and it'll have something to do with the sea. Haven't been to the ocean in years now. Would be nice to see it again. I'll be bringing my recording equipment with me, of course, so expect some nifty pictures!

Who the hell am I talking to?

Dec 23rd

Ye God, this place is enormous. I saw how the others looked at me when they saw me packing my supplies, but I wasn't going to repeat that incident in the Chequered Tunnel. Nearly starving once is one time too many. Turns out I was right anyway, since this Sub-Area must be the largest we've found yet, so much so that it feels weird calling it a Sub-Area at all. You could fit a small town into this chamber, and that's only the parts I can see. I think there might even be daylight ahead. That would be a first.

It's an odd place, even by SCP-921 standards. Walls are covered with this sort of- I dunno, liquid crystal, I suppose? Almost looks like moving ice. Swirling in elaborate patterns, sinking and rising with a kind of rhythm, like a vertical shining tide. Naturally I'm not going to touch it until I know exactly what it is, but I find watching it soothing. You can really get away from yourself, watching those patterns flow. You can almost forget where you are.

The memories here are stored in these little alcoves in the walls, where the crystal doesn't touch, and they aren't at all what I expected them to be. Unless I'm missing something and memories from plague-times and pastoral nature scenes are suddenly thematically linked, there's no connection between this place and Sub-Area 24 even though the two are adjacent. Making it this day's second possible first, I guess. Heh. Whole thing makes me curious to see what else I can find in here. I suppose I could go back to the dormitories, but that's a few hours walk and I'll have to waste half of tomorrow just getting back here. No, I think I'll stay here for the night, nice and cozy in my sleeping bag. Not like anyone's going to miss me. Doubt they'll even notice, really.

Dec 24th

It was daylight. God.

I've been with the Foundation for the last twenty-seven years. I've worked on seven SCP items. I've seen and heard things I doubt most people would even buy in a science fiction novel. And through all of that, I can't remember feeling such a sense of true wonder as when I saw the forest.

There really shouldn't be anything here to make me feel that way. Not after… not after everything. Just a small wooded valley, and a road covered in snow, and some mailboxes poking out every once in a while like they've been planted there by some giant squirrel. This should be nothing to me, this is nothing to me.

None of this makes any sense. Nothing about SCP-921 ever indicated there could be something like this in it. Sure, we found some large rooms before, but this- if this is a room, 921 is making a damn good job of disguising it. By all accounts I should go back right now, report this to my supervisor and get some actual experts to deal with this. I flunked the tests for the Paraworld Analysis Department, I was literally found unsuitable to go any further by some of the brightest minds in the world. But I'm… I'm not going to. Because this place, it does mean something to me.

I feel like I'm home again.

And that doesn't make any sense either. This isn't me! I've never lived anywhere even resembling this. My current place sure as hell doesn't. Nothing in this forest should be in any way familiar to me. And nothing really is. And yet, here I am, standing knee deep in snow, fumbling through mailboxes full of artist's dreams, most likely going to freeze to death come nightfall. That is, if night is even a thing here. And the memories, they're far more vivid than anything 921's other wings have to offer. In the inner rooms you always felt like you were watching things through a screen, or touching them through thick gloves. Nothing like that here. No barriers. I can feel the brush in my hand. I can hear each creak in the harp as my fingers weave a pattern on its strings, lightening fast. I can feel the razor parting flesh, warm bath waters filling the wound. I'm there, and it flows through me. My blood is its blood.

December 24th today. You know what, fuck it. This is my Christmas present. For once, screw protocol, screw those Paraworld Dep asshats, and screw being myself! For once in my life, I'm going to see something through.

Dec 25th

I can't feel the cold. I've been walking most of the night through a snow-filled forest with not so much as a coat on, yet I feel nothing. Not tired either, and now that I think about it, I haven't eaten in more than a day. I just forgot. Why didn't I think about that? Why do my thoughts… seem so orderly, growing into a, a narrative? For how long now? I can't seem to get the frame right. It wants me to, it's in its nature. Who's 'it'? Why doesn't SCP-921-2 say anything anymore?

No. Can't… can't think about that now. It's not time yet. Not there yet.

Huh. Nodded off there for a minute. Must be tired, shouldn't have walked all night like that. Still, I'd say it's been worth it. God, look at that view.

I reached the castle shortly after dawn, and it looks like it's the center of this… well, not sure if Sub-Area is even the right word to use anymore, but it's what I got. Anyway, it looks like for once the sensations here are what I expected them to be. In every stone there's a memory of conquest. It's odd how similar they are to those art memories I found in the forest earlier, now that I think about it. There's no restraint to be found anywhere around here, that's for sure. Each memory is so intense, so raw, and there's a whole building-worth of them. I'm surprised the thing can even stay in one place with such foundations. Like the pulse of a colossus, soon to awaken.

You'd expect I'd be intimidated by all of this power, but… I'm really not. When I was working in 17 I was always on edge. Everything out there, every SCP, even the Safe-level stuff, they all felt so alien to me. We couldn't understand what made them tick, we didn't ever really know how to stop them from doing whatever they wanted to do, we were never in control. This isn't the same. The power here… it's human. To its core. The liquid creativity I found in every mailbox, the sheer, burning ambition housed in every stone, it's all us. In a way, it's really quite encouraging. Because now I know that whatever the universe can throw at us, we can throw back harder. It's not us that should be scared. Why did I ever think it was right for us to hide under our rocks, to pretend none of this is real? We can do better. We can do so much better.

There's something calling me. It was calling me ever since I first entered this Sub-Area, but I only just got close enough to really tell, I think. Something in the very rocks of this place. Tomorrow, I'll be going inside. Honestly, I can't wait.

Dec 26th…maybe? Am I counting the days now?

There is a new order in my mind. Thoughts become words, aligned in lines of occurrence, in pages of events, in volumes of a lifetime. Bits and pieces yet persevere in reckless chaos, but they are not long for this world. I shall not push them, for they will come in their own time, when they find what they seek. When they reach the end. Soon. Then… then, my tale could be told. At long last, my words will be heard.

I'm… what was I doing again? I don't know if it's just lack of sleep, or if I'm coming down with something, but it's getting really difficult to keep focused. It's like most of my brain is busy doing other things, and I'm forced to deal with what's left. There are no records of SCP-921 ever doing something like this to anyone, but then again no one ever came this far into it. It doesn't really matter anyway. Any desire I had of going back faded when I entered this place. Back there, I was Mike Levine. Failed husband, failed father, failed researcher. In here… I don't have to be myself. In every vista I view, in every step I walk, in every breath I take, I become someone else. I dive into another memory, another… yeah, I suppose I can call them that. Another secret. Something about these memories elude my understanding. It's as if whoever they belong to went into a great deal of trouble to keep their true meaning hidden from anyone but themselves. But you know what?

It doesn't matter. There's someone's world in each of them, and they are all so beautiful I am never more than a step away from crying like a little boy. And no two views are the same. The edges of a keyhole, as my eye spies on a pair of bodies writhing within. The distorted lens of my spyglass, as hands are shaken and lives exchange hands. The identity of the atom that would shatter worlds, trapped within the safety of my mind, until it is unleashed for all to see. Whispers and secrets, all of mankind's, all pass before me between blinks. Heh. Almost sounds poetic, if you don't think about it too hard.

There's not much further to go on. Tomorrow. Tomorrow will be the last of it.

A Time to Tell

Sarah. I think I finally understand now. I think I can finally see why…heh. It's a bit too late now, isn't it. I can feel myself sinking into the floor of this final chamber, but I'm not afraid anymore. There's not really a me to be afraid. There's nothing that most people fear more than losing their sense of self, but me? I embrace it. I know that as soon as my head drops beneath this floor, there won't be much left of me, not as I was before at least. That's okay. The only thing I regret is that you'll never get to see what I saw, never get to live as I did these last couple of days. Oh, and being as bitter as I was. I regret that too. I think I… I think I want to go now.

I think it's time to be someone else.

I do understand. Why this place doesn't act like the rest of SCP-921. Why 921-2 never speaks here. Why I now think the way I do. Why I wouldn't go back.

There are no walls here, beneath the end. Which is a bit funny, considering what he is. This whole place was built on his bones, but he has none left to shield him where he is weakest. I feel sorry for him, really.

The Spine of the World, he calls himself. The Curator of Memories, He Who Remembers. It's a bit sad. I don't think even he buys all of those grand titles. He says he called me here because he felt a need in me, some desire to become something other than myself. That may be true. I suspect, however, the need was truly his. He just wanted to tell his first—his last tale. He wanted someone to listen, someone who could pass it on. Someone who would remember. It's all he ever wanted. This place made me into the book he needed me to be, the very way I think into a tool with which to document. To document what he cannot.

They were four, when the knot was struck. Four torn by one man's arrogance, by a blade that was quick where the mind was not. Four, scattered to the wind by the sundering. Four, left to replace what was once their souls with bits and pieces of others, like ethereal parasites, each with a different preference. For years, for decades. For centuries. Four, who finally became something much more and much less than human. Four. He always repeats the number.

One fed off ambition. In him was conquest, the desire to rule, and the ashes they leave in their wake, sometimes. He is Pulse.

One fed off creativity. In her was art, the very spark of making, and the mire of madness that drowns them, sometimes. She is Blood.

One fed off secrets. In him… well, no one knows. Such is the nature of secrets. He is Breath.

One refused to feed. In him was everything, and nothing. He did not posses the brutality of the others, the will to take. All he ever wanted to do was to document. If he fed off anything at all, it was stories, sensations. Memories. He watched the others grow, and in his cave, he wept, for he knew they would ruin all that he sought to preserve in their hunger. And so, around him, he formed this place. A museum of memories. A time capsule, so that something may remain, so he could still tell his stories. And here, right near his heart, he built memorials for his brothers and sister. He is Spine.

He cannot speak here. There is a bit of irony in that. His heart belongs to the others still, and so he must be silent where their spirits linger. And so, he called me here. So that their stories could be told, so that they could have a voice. He knows that they ever prepare themselves to war with each other, each with their own aspect, though he little understands why. He never could.

But I can.

He wants me to tell you their tales, for he cannot. And this, I shall do. He has molded my mind into a form that would be suitable for such a task, and indeed, it is. But he was wrong about one thing. When the telling is done, when the Spine of the World finally breaks, I shall not stand aside as he has. There is a convergence coming, a gathering of the aspects. They mean to finally settle whatever score lies between them, and they will stop at nothing to do so. He expects me to stand aside, and document. To watch as the culmination of humanity's unthinking wrath bends the world around it. As the stories burn. But I cannot.

If there is to be a convergence, then I shall attend it. Not because he's forcing me to, or because I have to. Because I want to.

Before coming here, I was alone. I was hanging on to routine like a drowning man to a sinking piece of mast. It wouldn't have lasted, not for much longer. I was surrounded by people, but they didn't see me. Worst, I didn't see them. It's so easy to forget that you're not the only one out there, that behind those porcelain masks we call faces there's a spark, in each of us. There's…humanity. The Spine showed me what the others would do, if given the chance. They would take away this spark, and pervert it. They never meant to, but that is what they will do. In their blindness, their single-mindedness, they will take humanity and make it into what I was, before I was called here- into masks with nothing behind them. Into a people with no stories to tell. The Spine seeks to prevent that by hoarding all the stories we already have, but he doesn't understand something very, very important. He doesn't understand the very thing that he made me understand, when he called me here.

Stories are nothing if there's no one left to listen to them.

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