Of Goats and Sloths and Flu

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October 5th
8:00 PM

Robert Tofflemire walked alongside Director Weiss and Katherine Sinclair down a long, dark, disrepaired hallway that he was sure never existed within the site. Sinclair was talking, the hall illuminated by her flashlight.

"Sloth's Pit has enough secrets to fill up the archives of Site-87, and then some. Just last month, we found out that there were bootlegging tunnels running from under the Black Garden across the state border." Sinclair tapped her flashlight with the palm of her hand as it flickered. "Site-87's only been here for forty-two years, and Sloth's Pit has had one-hundred and twenty-seven to generate all sorts of anomalies and oddities."

Weiss nodded. "That's why we need to get a leg up. So, we formed an… agreement. Not one that we're particularly happy about."

"Not one either side is happy about." Sinclair's flashlight sputtered, and went out. "Ah, nuts."

The sound of someone whistling the opening chords of When Johnny Comes Marching Home echoed through the tunnel, along with the sound of something rapidly spinning, and the rattle of hooves against the floor.

Sinclair fiddled with her light, whistling the next part of the song in response. Then, keeping to the tune, a voice rasped out of the darkness.

"The boys will scream, the men will shout

"The ladies guts will lay out

"And you'll all be dead…

The flashlight blasted on, illuminating the matted, yellowed fur of a figure with the head of a goat. His mouth was foaming, his left eye was missing, only a massive scar in its place. He was wearing a tattered uniform belonging to the Union Army, and had a bayonet over his head, ready to plunge down.

"When Johnny comes marching home!"

The Goatman swung the bayonet down. Sinclair didn't even flinch as the blade stopped so close to her face that she could feel her hair getting sliced.

Robert had drawn his pistol, eyes wide. The cartridges clicked in the barrel, dead. "What the—"

"Still got that Civil War story going on?" Sinclair asked this in the same tone one would ask where their friend got their hair cut.

"Blame the History Channel. 'Demons of Gettysburg' indeed." The Goatman leaned against the dilapidated wall of the hallway, looking at Robert. "…so, I'm guessing he's why you're calling in the favor?"

"He's the instigator of this phenomenon," Weiss confirmed, "But not intentionally so."

"'Phenomenon'?" The Goatman snorted, storing its bayonet where its left eye should be, wiping the foam from his mouth. "No, no. The green lights in the sky every Perseid shower is a phenomenon. This is… well, something else."

Robert fell back against the wall at the sight of the bayonet entering the Goatman's skull, hand over heart, a pounding in his chest.

"How little warning did you give him?" The Goatman shook his head.

"We had to make this a rush job," Weiss admitted, looking back at Robert. "Agent Tofflemire, the Goatman will be… explaining the finer details of this phenomenon to you."

"We're going to let you get to know each other," Sinclair turned about with the director.

The Goatman offered a hand up to Robert, a grin on his face. Robert just stared at the bayonet though its eye.

"We have work to do."

"We have an understanding, the Plastics People and I." The Goatman led Robert further down the tunnel, a lantern in his hand that he pulled from seemingly nowhere. "We owe each other a boon. I owe you for helping get rid of the Black Autumn, and in return, you will owe me. Anything I want."

"So, this is for entirely selfish reasons," Robert said, keeping his pistol out. "Why doesn't my gun work?"

"Part of my fiction at the moment. Guns don't work around me, supposedly because my 'vengeful aura' dampens the powder."

"That was on the Used-To-Be-About-History-Channel? Seriously?"

The Goatman stopped, let out a loud snort, and then a bleating laugh. "Used-To-Be-About… that's a good one. I'm saving that."

Robert responded with a nervous chuckle. "Where does this lead, anyway?"

"Somewhere cursed."

A few minutes of silence later, they came upon a hatch in the ceiling, with a short set of stairs leading up to it. "This is pretty well stuck so give me a bit…" The Goatman took the bayonet from his face and wedged between the edge of the hatch and the ceiling. It burst open, and sunlight came through.

"The hell?" Robert ran forward. "It was 8:00 at night when we left. How can it— I'm not—"

"Like I said." The Goatman climbed out. "Cursed."

Tofflemire followed after, finding himself in a wrecked room. Old reel-to-reel computers had claw marks in them, the floor looked like it had been ripped up, and a portable containment cell was in the middle of the room, torn to pieces. "This is a Foundation bunker…"

"And your lot decided to stick a werewolf in here on Christmas two years ago."

"Three years," Robert said. "I remember because Alice and I were ambushed by—"

"Well, it feels like two years. Let's not argue." The Goatman put his lantern down, and headed out the door of the bunker, which was off of its hinges. "Know why this is cursed?"

"Yeah. It's by the camp." Robert scratched the back of his head.

"Not just that. The camp… it was a place where nightmares manifested. Too many kids being away from home for a week or two, missing their mom and dad, starting stories about the boogeyman in the woods… adds up overtime."

"Probably doesn't help that the boogeyman actually exists."

The Goatman laughed. "True enough. But when they put the guardian totem in place, it quieted down. And then…"

"I know how the story ends." Robert adjusted his body armor and started leaning on his legs, preparing for the trek ahead. "Where are we going?"

"It's time you got a history lesson." The Goatman walked deeper into the forest.

"1918. The year of the Spanish Flu pandemic." The Goatman trudged along a section of the forest that Robert had never seen or heard of. The ground had turned swampy, the air foggy. Frogs croaked in the near distance. "You know why it's called that?"

"I was busy being proselytized to about how Germany was the root of all evil during history class." Robert lifted his boot from the muck. "Then again, the teacher was Polish, so I can't blame her too much."

"Hmm." The Goatman produced another lantern as the fog grew thicker. "It was called that because there was still a World War. No country wanted to report that their own forces were getting sick, but everyone was free to say that Spain was getting hit hard by it, since it was neutral. So, Spanish Flu."

"I think I saw a video about that." Robert had to force his feet out of the muck again. "Crap. What is this place?"

"I'm getting to that." The Goatman held his lantern higher. "Sometimes, naming a thing gives it power— people thought it came from Spain, so from Spain it was supposed to come. But it didn't. It was an American-born disease, and it remained that way."

"Sometimes, try as you might to give something power or weight with a story, reality rejects it. You can call it the Spanish Flu all you want."

The Goatman stopped suddenly, hanging his lantern from a metal hook on the end of a wooden pole. He adjusted the pole slightly, and stepped away from the hook, revealing a wooden cross sticking out of the muck.

"It kills everyone just the same."

Robert stepped forward to inspect the cross.

Here Lies
Sister, Daughter, Mother to Never Be
Laid with her Child, Quinn

"Jackson Sloth's daughter."

"Only survivor of the family," The Goatman confirmed, wiping under his eye.

"Forty-one. Bit old to have a kid. But why is she—"

"Buried out here? She's not the only one." The Goatman kicked at the muck. "You're standing on top of the largest mass grave in Wisconsin."

Robert's looked at the ground. "You mean—"

"Every one of them died of the flu. There were so many from the town, and neighboring counties that they just… dumped them in here, like they were plague victims. Ran out of coffins. They kept a registry, of course— they weren't barbarians."

"How many?" Robert carefully backed away from the grave, as if it would get him off of the land faster.

"Four-hundred or so. Carol was one of the first to succumb. She was with child." He muttered something beneath his breath, something Robert barely picked up on. "Nephew."

He pretended to not hear this, but his heart rate picked up. "Why are you showing me this?"

"Like I said, stories only have so much power before facts take over. The Spanish Flu didn't just kill the Spanish, the Queen isn't a lizard, the Earth is round, and North will always be North." The Goatman sighed. "My stories are obscure and scattered enough that I'm still just that: a story. Nothing concrete, nothing constant."

The Goatman pulled out his bayonet— no longer a Bayonet, but an axe. His army uniform had turned into an old, ruined, blood-and-muck covered suit with an undone bowtie, the kind of suit one might find in a funeral parlor circa the 1890s. He looked at Robert with a pair of intact eyes, four horns on his head.

"Case in point." The Goatman stowed his axe. "The… Pit Sloth, it calls itself. Right now, it's not even a Legend or a Story, it's a Lie. A living Contradiction, and it wants to… reconcile that Contradiction. Make itself consistent, and from that, make itself a Legend."

Robert frowned. "The film. The movie, I mean. Black Autumn II. I… can't be sure, but it almost looked like a found-footage film."

The Goatman snapped his hoofed fingers. "There we go. Some shoddy camera work, a few tortured actors, a few hundred missing persons posters… it worked well enough for Blair Witch."

"So, the movie's a way to make it…. Legendary?"

"From what I heard, it was already bursting out of the screen. Play that film in a room full of hundreds of people…"

Robert shook his head. "But someone had to make that film, hire the actors, write a script, use the camera. It didn't happen by itself."

"Then, Bob, the question becomes… who is making the film?"

Dr. Jacob Weaver frowned at what he was presented via teleconference. The film analyst, and his hastily-assembled team, were fidgeting as they looked over the data printed out. "It's not much to go on."

"I realize that, Dr. Weaver." Director Weiss sat on the other end of the call, in Site-87. "But we can't risk showing you all of the details of the film, or the anomaly associated with it. It had… deleterious effects on our staff that viewed it."

Forensic Computer Scientist Peter Dickson cleared his throat. "We appreciate you at least sending the metadata from the video file. Not that it's a lot to go on." Dickson adjusted his glasses. "We know that it was edited on a Windows 7 OS somewhere in the United States, and that the footage was largely recorded on hand-held cameras. This suggests the film was Found Footage in genre. The length of the film is approximately two hours and seven minutes."


"But we can't find out whose computer it was edited on." Dickson took off his glasses and rubbed his temples. "All metadata related to the user, beyond the OS used, is gone. And there are still several million people in the US who use Windows 7. Hell, most Foundation computers still use 7 or SCP-OS. Someone knew what they were doing. They don't want us to trace it."

"No opening or closing credits? Nothing about actors?"

"The NLP was able to tell us that the cast included John Doe, Jane Doe, Johanthan Doe, Janet Doe, and was directed by Alan Smithee." Dickson sighed. "Other than that…"

A smug look crossed Weaver's face. "Peter, some of the only safe frames to view are the credits. And they were edited— sloppily, as well. We're looking over the frames to see if they can recover any of the original—" Weaver's phone buzzed, and he laid it on the tabletop. "That's it now. Transmitting data…"

The opening credits rolled.











"Well." Weiss sucked in air through her teeth. "Shit."

Dickson leaned forward. "Carol and Tofflemire are the agents involved in the incident… but who the hell is Jasper Phineas Sloth?"

Robert climbed out of the muck of the mass grave with the Goatman, kicking mud off of his boots. "This is all pretty trippy, I gotta admit."

"You're just starting to comprehend the fact that this universe works by the rules of fiction. I don't blame you for finding it hard to wrap your head around."

Robert looked down at his soaked-through pants and started kicking moisture off of them. "So, the Pit Sloth wants to be made… not real, but at least solid. Concrete."

The Goatman nodded. "It happens every now and again— a story tries to force itself to become more than a tall tale. It barely ever works. The last time something tried that…" He turned away and began walking off.

"What?" Robert asked, wiping some muck off of his fingers. "You're just gonna leave that hanging?"

"…the last time something in this town tried to force itself into reality…" The Goatman stopped, turning to face him, eyes illuminated by lantern light. "It became the Hidebehind."

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