Cat's in the Cradle
rating: +77+x

Doctor Jack Bright stared ruefully at the simple bowl in front of him, filled with a creamy French Onion soup, the smell alluring enough to make his assistant sniff the air and lick his lips. He didn’t do any more than this, however, as he could tell that the doctor was in a foul mood. The last thing he needed was to become the object of ire of one of the most particularly infamous Senior Staff members.

The old doctor rubbed his temples and suppressed a groan, waiting for his headache to go away completely. It was bad enough when he first learned that he was going to be testing this, and, for whatever godforsaken reason, couldn’t opt out of it, for all his power and influence. If there was one thing that Doctor Bright couldn’t stand, it was being told what he could and could not do. If there were two things that he couldn’t stand, then the second thing was headaches. And if there were three things that Doctor Bright couldn’t stand, then the third thing would be the fact that the bowl was filled with French Onion soup. He already knew how this test was going to turn out, and he was not going to enjoy it in the slightest.

“Is everything alright, doctor?” The assistant shook his head and ignored the delectable aroma for a moment to show concern for the man with the tall and youthful body.

Bright turned to face him, as the pain began to subside. “It's nothing. I’m fine, Hector. Just a little migraine.”

He wrote something down on a notepad to the right of the bowl, before picking up a recorder to the left of it. He looked back over at Hector, and, figuring he knew to keep quiet, hit ‘record.’

“This is Doctor Jack Bright, recording testing log SCP-348-3278-1. Primary goal of this test is to discover whether SCP-348's effects will alter accordingly if the consciousness of a body comes from one who holds a different biological father. Why someone felt the need to know this, is a question that will have to be answered another day.” He wondered if he should edit that part out, before deciding “to hell with it.” No one had the stones, or even a particular desire at all, to try and discipline him for an off-hand remark, especially since everyone knew that it wouldn’t stop him from making more in the future.

“For reference, the body I am currently in, D-7251, was that of one Thiago Branco. Records show that Mr. Branco had a close relationship with his father. If this is correct, and if the soup is indeed intended for D-7251, then I should feel as if ‘something is missing’. In the unlikely chance that there be a message at the bottom, it will be in Portuguese.”

He ended the recording, neglecting to mention the obvious question of what would happen if the soup was intended for him instead. Those with the proper security clearance and need-to-know could guess at that. Everyone else could mind their own goddamned business.

He picked up the bowl carefully, and slowly brought it to his lips. He wondered if maybe Mr. Branco’s favorite soup was French Onion. Maybe he and his father would bond over bowls of it throughout his childhood. Maybe this test would turn out differently than Bright expected.

He took the tiniest bit of soup in his mouth.

Nope. He could never be so lucky.

Hector saw the doctor grimace at the taste, before setting the bowl down, picking up his recorder and his pad and pencil, before standing up and walking briskly out of the room.

“Tasted god-awful. Glad that’s over with. You can have the rest, Hector, I don’t give a damn.” Before his assistant could even make a sound, Doctor Bright had exited the testing room.

Hector processed what had just happened, before shrugging and deciding to save questioning it until after he had finished the soup. He took the bowl back to his office, letting the guard on duty know that he’d bring it back within an hour, and sat down with it at his desk. (Being the assistant to Doctor Jack Bright afforded Hector certain privileges that would be unthinkable for most other personnel to have.)

He nursed it, on and off for twenty minutes while he worked, occasionally taking a bit of onion into his mouth. He didn’t know what Bright was on, but this soup wasn’t bad at all. He was surprised that he had finished it so quickly, and even more surprised when he noticed that it had a message at the bottom.

He wondered if he should tell anybody that it did, but, upon reading it, he decided it would be best that he not mention it. Word would inevitably get back to Doctor Bright about what it had said and that Hector was the one who first found out and told someone. He didn’t want to think about what the doctor’s reaction to that might be.

Hector took the bowl back to the guard on duty, and told her he was ready to bring it back to its locker. The two of them walked to the vast rows of containment lockers, passing by a few dozen before reaching one that was labelled with tape with “348″ neatly written in black marker on it. The guard, (Katherine, it said on her ID badge), deftly spun the dial, and opened it up. Hector slid the bowl on the shelf inside, and Katherine shut the locker, giving the dial one more spin for good measure.

As the two of them left to go back to their respective duties, the bowl sat in the dark of the locker, the faded blue message on its bottom still visible. There were precious few people alive who could know its context, and one of them had made it clear that he had no intention of giving it any more thought. He didn’t have to read it to know what it said.

"You have every right to hate me"

She stared at the bowl in front of her. Bits of celery, a couple of potatoes, and even a few clams stared back at her as they lazily floated around. The researcher standing by the door wrinkled her nose in disgust.

“All you have to do is have enough of it to tell us how it tastes,” the researcher, Denise, said, wanting to reassure the young woman that she wouldn’t have to finish what was sitting in front of her.

The woman looked at the bowl for a second longer before responding. “Would it be alright if I had all of it?”

Denise raised an eyebrow, but nodded. Why in God’s name would she want to actually want to have all of that stuff? The smell was so abysmal it made Denise’s skin crawl. It made her feel like she was being watched. Like she was being leered at. Why the hell was that woman able to stand smelling that stuff, let alone eating it? Denise shrugged. Maybe it was just a welcome change from her usual diet. Lord knows that couldn’t be much more pleasant.

The young woman brought the bowl to her lips, blew some of the steam away, and tasted its contents.

It was warm and rich, but those were the only two specific words she could use to describe it. Everything else, she couldn’t put her finger on. She couldn’t tell if the actual taste wasn’t that bad and it was the aftertaste that left something to be desired, or vice-versa. The texture seemed thicker on her lips, but runnier as soon as it got past her teeth. The potatoes were firm and salty, but by the time she was finished, she swore they were almost sweet, somehow.

As she relayed all of this information to Denise, the researcher kept as straight a face as she could, ignoring the urge to cringe every time the girl paused to take another slurp. Thankfully, the girl was finished quickly enough, and Denise walked up behind her, looking at the empty bowl from over the her shoulder.

There was a message at the bottom of the bowl. When Denise read it, she had to suppress a shudder, noticing that she had been righter than she would have liked to have been in her assessment as to how the bowl made her feel. If the young woman sitting in the chair was similarly disturbed, however, she didn't show it.

”Alright,” Denise said, doing her best at ignoring how perturbed she was, “you’re done here. You can go ahead and leave.”

The girl walked out of the room, nodding to the guard on the other side of the door. Together, the two of them walked back to her suite.

Denise sat down in the now-open chair, pushing the bowl away to the edge of the table, making sure not to look any more at the message inside of it. She pulled her notepad and pencil from her coat pockets, and began to write down her observations of the test.

The young woman gingerly sat on her soft bed, reflecting on what had just happened. It certainly wasn’t the best thing she had ever tasted, but it was certainly better than what she’d usually been having for the longest time.

She tried to remember what exactly it had tasted like, but it was hard. Like remembering something from years ago rather than minutes ago. The message came to her clearly enough, however, and she wondered if it had anything to do with the letter that she received on her last birthday. Despite having the chance to only read it once before it was taken away, it too came to her as clear as day.

She was certain that the message had been from the same person who sent the letter. She didn't know how he did it, but she knew her father, whoever he was, was making good on his promise.

Deciding that she would save her thoughts for after a nap, the young woman rested her head on her pillow, and drifted off to sleep, dreaming about the face she could never quite remember upon waking up.

Upon SCP-166 being brought into its presence, SCP-348 filled with what appeared to be New England-style clam chowder. This researcher observed a very unpleasant odor emanating from SCP-348, but SCP-166 made no mention of such a stench, if she even noticed it at all.

SCP-166 described the taste of SCP-348 in vague terms. The taste, texture, and other qualities were noted as seeming conflicting, and the only definite terms SCP-166 used to describe SCP-348 were “warm” and “rich.”

Of particular note is the message that manifested on the bottom of the inside of the bowl, as has happened in some previous tests.

This message read, “I'm still keeping an eye on you, sweetheart. Every day.”

On 06/16/2015, at approximately 0830 hours, SCP-348 was found to be missing from its containment locker. In its place was a handwritten note, reading “Just borrowing it. Will have it back soon,” and signed with an illustration of a black queen chess piece. Assuming that the Black Queen is going to return the item as the note implies, all security personnel are to be prepared for this event. Standard protocols for capturing intruding parties do apply.

Director Tilda D. Moose

The Black Queen kept the bowl in a small cupboard for three days, telling herself that she would wait until she felt “sick enough” for it. She had found the file on this particular item almost a year beforehand, but it took her several months and several missed opportunities before she finally resolved to request that one of her Little Sisters fetch it for her. She didn’t want to go after it personally, for fear of it somehow manifesting its contents while she was holding it. It might have thrown her off of her game. She imagined such a scenario playing out, with Foundation security teams surrounding her, the infamous Black Queen herself, while she stood staring wide-eyed at a bowl of soup.

She chuckled dryly at the mental picture.

She’d been feeling the cold coming on ever since shortly before she had had the bowl retrieved, but she kept putting it off and off, until eventually, it felt like there was an airtight seal in her nostrils, sandpaper was massaging her esophagus, and she could no longer deny that she was indeed “sick enough.”

Opening up her cupboard, she removed the bowl, setting it down on the plain table in the center of her kitchen. She wondered if she should grab a spoon too, but she decided against it. She didn’t know if she had any clean spoons at the moment, and all it would take for her to talk herself out of the experience would be something as simple as not wanting to have soup with a dirty spoon.

Sitting down in front of the table, she stared at what exactly had filled the bowl in front of her. There were a few wispy won tons, along with bits of pork and onion. She stared at it for a long, long time, before finally taking a deep breath and lifting the bowl up to her lips.

She blinked back a couple of tears when she felt just how cold it was. She’d been expecting that. It hit her like a semi truck, but she had been expecting it. She tipped the bowl further, taking some of the won tons and pork and onions into her mouth. Each time she chewed, or something rolled onto her tongue, she tried to gauge what exactly the flavor was, but it wasn’t anything beyond the bare minimum of what she’d expect from wonton soup. She’d expected that too, but it didn’t stop her from hoping for some kind of feeling to hit her. Anything at all, good or bad, so long as she wasn’t expecting it.

But the soup remained cold, and the pork and onions tasted like nothing special. Her throat might have felt slightly better, and her nose a little clearer, but there was nothing about this meal that she hadn’t been expecting.

She stared at the wall opposite of her for a few minutes, wondering what she’d do now. The bowl would have to be returned eventually. She did promise she would do so, after all, as she had a reputation and an image to maintain. She began thinking about what it would take to sneak past the inevitably heightened security in order to get the bowl back to its locker. Nothing she couldn’t handle with enough time to plan it out. Sighing, she stood up, about to go back to her normal routine just as she expected she would, but far sooner than she hoped that she would have.

But, then she looked back down at the bowl. And what she saw inside of it was not something she had been expecting at all.

The file had said that messages were rare for adult subjects, and, given who it was from (or maybe, if some of the hypotheses she had read were to be believed, who the bowl was emulating), she certainly didn’t believe that the bowl would manifest one for her.

But there it was, plain as day, in faded blue letters. It was in English, which made sense enough to her. He did know Mandarin, but he preferred his first language when speaking with her, as she and her mother had always poked fun at his frequent Chinese malapropisms. She thought it might have even been his own neat handwriting that she was looking at, but it was hard to tell through her rapidly blurring vision.

"I haven't forgotten you Alison."

Alison Chao wept silent tears, each one dropping down into the bowl and settling around the bottom. This was what she had wanted. Something to surprise her. Something that caught her off guard. She wouldn’t have regretted it had it been something that told her he had forgotten her. However devastating it might have been, it was infinitely better than not knowing for sure. But he did remember her. He still thought about her. Still might have even loved her.

Alison breathed deep, and composed herself. She realized that her trembling lips had curled into a smile. She wiped away her tears, brought her middle and index finger to her lips, kissed them softly, and pressed them against the message.

She was just putting the bowl back in the cupboard, when she realized something else that she hadn’t been expecting. Despite how unimpressive the soup had been, she still felt like it would be nice enough to have with dinner. And maybe tomorrow's lunch, too.

She’d only been planning on keeping the bowl for a day or two, but she was sure that a week or so without it wouldn’t drive anyone at the Foundation to drastic action. Nothing that she couldn't handle, in any event. They could make all the fuss they liked; she was going to spend Father's Day weekend with her dad.

On 06/22/2015, at 1330 hours, SCP-348 was found to be returned to its containment locker. Attached to the front of the locker was a handwritten letter addressed to a member of Senior Staff. Security personnel are currently searching for evidence that will lead to the apprehension the Black Queen or any associates of this individual, though nothing of significance has yet been found.

Alert-level has been lowered to Condition Yellow, and security protocols have been adjusted accordingly.

Director Tilda D. Moose

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