Pre-Partum Anxieties
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rating: +29+x

Samson Center for Psychological Studies
October 32nd

Cassandra Pike had been in the SCP for as long as she could remember. She was sick, they all said so. She was crazy. She never took her pills, never was good for anything. That's what the doctors told her.

The SCP was a monolith of a building, a monument. The ceilings were higher than any human could possibly reach, but that was all right— the nursing staff wasn't human. And they always made sure that she took her medication on time, even if that medication always looked like M&Ms.

Some part of her knew this was wrong, that endlessly watching the same episode of Pinky and the Brain in the common area wasn't what she should be doing. She was smarter than this. She should be… should be doing what? What, exactly?

"Having thoughts again, Cassandra?"

She stiffened. "N-no, Dr. Daniel."

"Good. Would hate for you to have another lobotomy. I dare say that there's barely any brain left after the first dozen, and you're my favorite patient."

"Y-yes Dr. Daniel." She swallowed. She didn't belong here— but that was her delusions talking.

She thought she had a husband, friends, played a fictional game called "Dungeons and Dragons" with them in a state called "Wisconsin"— what a comical name. None of it was real, she was sure of that now. But those delusions she could live with knowing weren't real.

She had the trouble grasping the idea that she'd never actually had a child.

Site-87 Sublevel 3
Personal Quarters of the Pike-Mattings Family

"Pregnant?!" Katherine Sinclair's jaw dropped, her concentration along with it— the energy of the spell faded, and her red hair fell around her face. "Dammit, why didn't you say so before?!"

Montgomery Reynolds ground his teeth, an action that Claude thought looked somewhat ridiculous when contrasted with Reynolds's dreadlocks. "We could seriously have endangered her and her child with this ritual. This is why we ask for full disclosure!"

Claude Mattings winced, rubbing his arm. Though Reynolds had gotten considerably thinner in the last year (at Sinclair's behest no doubt), he still towered over Claude by a head and a half. "I— look, she was in trouble, and you were the first ones I thought to call. You were busy getting set up, and—"

"Lucky we didn't draw blood." Sinclair nodded at Monty, who placed the lancet back into his pocket. "We're going to have to try a different tack, then."

Claude Mattings looked at his wife as Reynolds stepped away. She was hovering half a foot off the ground, experiencing some kind of seizure, turning over in the air. Vomit stained the floor beneath her from the rotations she had been doing, and her hair kept falling over her face and into her mouth.

"How far along is she?" Sinclair asked, reaching into her bag.

"Three… maybe four weeks? She just had a positive test. I— I was ordering pizza to celebrate when this started." Claude rubbed at his face.

"Were you experiencing any fear or anxiety at the time?" Reynolds produced several pieces of rope, using them to anchor Cassandra and arrest her rotation.

"N-no, just… well, I was anxious about what would happen, what we would have to do. V-various procedures we'd have to go through, declaring the pregnancy, ultrasound, mental competence evaluation…" He sighed. "Look, you've been playing D&D with her for years, now. You know she has… episodes. I was worried about that."

"Could be what triggered it," Sinclair agreed. "We're going to have to make a new circle. Mattings, you're on chalk duty again."

A large part of the floor space in their quarters had been cleared. Sinclair and Reynolds had set up arcane totems, sigils, and symbols in addition to incense burning around the apartment, all attempting to ward off dozens of evil entities, all or none of which might be assailing his wife.

"Is there anything else I can do to help?"

"Secure everything sharper than a Q-Tip. I saw a man get lobotomized by a toothpick once while doing one of these." Sinclair knelt by Cassandra. "And… a large part of this is going to be in her mind. Depending on what hold this thing has, she… she could be in a lot of pain. She could simply not want to leave, or not think it's an option. After you're done with the sharp stuff, come over here in the circle."

"Right." Claude went into the kitchen and began locking the drawers; standard issue in Foundation apartments, for situations such as this. "Sinclair, I— I don't know what I'm going to do if she—"

"She won't." Sinclair tidied her hair and began looking through her tome once more. "All right, now that we know that's a thing… Monty, there's a ceremonial torch in the bag. Closest thing we have to a symbol to Eilethyia, and we need all the protection we can get here."

Cassandra Pike shoveled Jell-O into her mouth. It was green, the only color they had available, and awful. It was also the only thing she remembered eating anymore, the one bit of light on an otherwise dour October day. What was today— the 42st? The 43nd? Something like that.

She never saw anyone else in the asylum, other than herself and Dr. Daniel. Surely they must exist. Nobody would build a place this big and just put two people in it, it would be a waste of time and money. Then again, that's what she was: a waste. Or so Dr. Daniel told her.

"Cassandra." Dr. Daniel came up behind her. "It's time for another test. Are you ready?"

"Let me finish my Jell-O first?"

"Of course."

She polished it off, and let herself be wheeled down the endless halls, to another new room, down a long hallway stained with blood. She swore she saw a woman curled up in the corner, and glaring at her out of dirt-covered windows, Above, vaguely humanoid forms looked down at her through grating, and—

"W-wait…" She frowned. "I… I've seen this."

"What are you talking about?" Dr. Daniel frowned. "You've never been in this room."

She shook her head. "J… Jacob's Ladder. Film from the 90's. Kept me up at night after s-seeing it."

"Movies? What are movies?"

"They…" She frowned. "Nevermind."

She was placed onto a table, screws applied to her head. It was painful, but it was necessary. "So what if the last 5,923 treatments didn't work?" Dr. Daniel asked, letting the screws dig themselves in. "Nevermind that most patients only take two or three. But that's what makes you my favorite, Cassandra."

She winced, tears coming from her eyes as the screws penetrated bone, finding empty space on the other side. For a moment, she felt pressure on her stomach, and heard something that sounded like a meow.

"…did she just meow?" Reynolds looked up from his prayer, both eyebrows raised.

Another meow came from Cassandra Pike's mouth, a sound that improbably echoed throughout the apartment. Several more came; they were curious sounds, searching, pondering, trying to find their way.

"Sinclair." Claude glowered at her. "If my wife turns into a cat, I'm going to burn all of your Harry Potter stuff."

"About a month too late for that." Sinclair scratched her head. "This ritual is meant to bolster mental defenses in order to drive out the invading force. Maybe the meowing is a manifestation of that?"

"But why a cat? A— a tiger or even a dog would be more useful."

"Does she particularly like dogs?" Reynolds asked, resuming his chant.

"…I don't know." Claude ran his fingers through his wife's hair. "Cass, come on… come back to me, from wherever you are."

The same episode of Pinky and the Brain played again. Cassandra laughed at the exact same times, with the exact same snort on the end of her laugh that always made her husband—

Right, she didn't have a husband. Or a child. Those were all just delusions, according to Dr. Daniel. And why not trust the doctor? It was so much easier than the alternative. The operations hurt less if you trusted Dr. Daniel— she learned that on her first day here.

As she was laughing at Pinky's exact same cry of "Narf" for the dozenth time, the channel changed. It wasn't supposed to do that— Dr. Daniel had removed the batteries from the remote control and put them in her skull three months ago. It was some kind of nature program, displaying a pair of Birds of Paradise doing their courtship ritual.

It changed again. Some history documentary, talking about strange towns in Wisconsin— Dr. Daniel was right, it was an absurd name for a state, not like…


She didn't know the names of any states. How? She was from one, wasn't she? She was American. She had to know something. What was this?

The channel changed again. A soap opera, featuring… herself. And a man who was tall, thin, had a wispy beard and looked very sarcastic. They were both dubbed over in Spanish, and seemed to argue for several minutes, before messily kissing each other.

"What the hell is going on?" Cassandra tried to stand, but the wheelchair kept her bound in place. "What— what is this?" Who's doing that?"

In answer, there was a meow, and a grey tortoiseshell cat came into her view. He had two pieces of white fur on him: one that ran the length of his belly, and a white bib beneath his neck. He looked up at her and meowed again, before clawing at her leg— just like he used to.

"O-Oliver?" Cassandra swallowed. "W-what— where am I? What is this? Wh-where— where's Claude? What's going on? Where—"

"Ah, Cassandra, there you are."

Dr. Daniel's voice sounded, and Oliver scampered away. Cassandra reached out a hand to him, feebly.

"Hum. Seems we have a pest problem. No matter, are you ready for your treatment? Today we're going to be attempting a hippocampectomy— do you know what a hippocampus is?"

"I can't say that I remember."

A pause from Dr. Daniel, and then a laugh. "Was that a joke? Maybe you are improving! Your state has been so dour, lately. Soon you may not need any more treatments."

Cassandra ground her teeth together, clutching at the armrests of her wheelchair.

It was as Sinclair was re-kindling the incense left in the kitchen that she came upon Pike's cellphone, which was in a dark blue and very durable case. She frowned, looking it over. "…what's your wife's PIN for her phone?"

"6321." He chewed his lip. "Her great-grandmother's birthday. I only know it so that—"

"Not the time." Sinclair keyed in the PIN, and found herself looking at a list of regulations for female personnel regarding pregnancies; specifically, a section on what would happen if a parent was found 'mentally incompetent'. "Oh hell."


"Has…" Sinclair pinched her nose. "Has she had any of her 'episodes' lately, Mattings?"

"No. She's been keeping up with her medications. I make sure every night, and she has three different pill alarms on that phone."

Sinclair tapped on the phone, her face falling. "Medications which she can't take."

"What?" Claude stood, almost breaking the circle. "What do you mean?"

"A lot of antipsychotics haven't been tested on pregnant individuals." Sinclair opened the pill alarm app, and compared it with a webpage that had been opened by Pike. "And… she's on two that are untested, and listed as 'of concern'."

"Is that it?" Claude swallowed. "S— she was afraid of not being able to keep the baby? Because she'd have to choose between medications and…" He looked down at his wife, and ran his fingers through her hair. "Oh, Cassie…"

She didn't respond, except to foam at the mouth, and let out another odd meowing sound.

"This will probably be the last lobotomy you ever need," Dr. Daniel said with a smile in his voice. "Honestly, it shouldn't have taken this long for them to work. Your brain's a pesky little thing, you don't need it anymore."

"Mnnn…" Pike squirmed against her restraints. "A-and what if I don't… don't want it?"

"You signed away your right to consent when you came in here." Dr. Daniel shrugged.

"And… when did I come in here?" Her hands clenched the armrests of her wheelchair. "I don't remember being checked in."

"Of course you don't! Your chronic amnesia is part of the reason you're in here."

"I don't have amnesia," she said. "I remember quite a bit. For instance… earlier, I talked about a film called Jacob's Ladder. You said it was a movie. I never used that word before."

There was a long pause, and a clattering of tools against metal, and then the floor. Though Cassandra couldn't see it, she was fairly sure Dr. Daniel— whatever he was— had just flipped a table. "It's always something with you fuckers! Why can't you just roll over and be afraid?!"

Cassandra chuckled, a grey cat suddenly appearing in her lap and starting to claw at her restraints. "I've had my femur broken and felt a bone splinter travel through my body. My husband was once replaced by some kind of narrative body snatcher in the shape of a sloth. I've been scared shitless that he's been going to leave me for years because of my mental issues." The image of the cat tore through the restraints, leaving some soft scratch marks on her skin. "This asylum shit would barely fly at one of those haunted houses in Duluth. You are actively bad at this."

She stood from her wheelchair, only to find herself back on the floor. She spoke too soon— her mind had registered her as being in the wheelchair for so long that she couldn't feel her legs.

"Well." Dr. Daniel loomed over her. "If you're not afraid of me, then maybe I can fulfill your husband's fear of losing you and your child." Pike felt a straight razor at her neck.

"Ollie!" She called to her cat. "Sic 'im!"

There was a yeowling sound, and a streak of grey flashed in at Dr. Daniel. There was a series of unearthly screams as flesh was torn from… she wasn't sure it even had bone, whatever it was. But she crawled away from it, eventually able to stand. "Gotta… gotta get out of here…"

She hobbled through the hallways, as Dr. Daniel kept screaming, as light washed over her being.

"Should that be happening?" Claude's eyes widened as something started pouring out of his wife's forehead— a strange, inky smoke that seemed to fill the circle around her. "W-what's going on, Sinclair?"

"Whatever's in her is being evicted." She frowned. "Don't breathe it in."

Claude nodded, scooting back towards the edge of the circle, careful not to break it. "Is— is that a good thing?"

"Generally? No." Reynolds stood at the edge of the circle and looked at it. "But during an exorcism like this? Yes. Draw another circle on her forehead, see if you can't contain it."

Claude felt in his pocket, finding a ballpoint pen. He held his breath, starting to draw another circle on Cassandra's forehead. About halfway through, the smoke lunged at him, letting out a screaming sound.

Claude stumbled backwards, with Sinclair and Reynolds barely getting a chance to yell "NO!" before his foot crossed the threshold of the circle. Reynolds caught him as the circle shattered, and the black smoke grew to fill the room, before flying up through the ventilation shaft.

Cassandra Pike sat bolt upright with a soft scream, feeling her stomach. "A-am I—" She looked down. "Am I still-"

"Mattings…" Reynolds stood him upright and rubbed at his face. "You just released a phobic entity onto the whole town, one that has been inside the head of your wife. The amount of damage it could cause is imme—"

At this, Cassandra Pike let out a long, loud laugh. "That thing's about as scary as Season 9 of X-Files." She stood, feeling her stomach, leaning on Claude for support. "Actually t-tried to scare me with a fucking spooky asylum in my head. It… was unsettling, but… cliche."

Sinclair frowned. "It… doesn't seem to be capable of creating overly-complex manifestations, now that you mention it." She looked up into the vent. "February's was brutal, but at the same time, it was simple."

"Tofflemire described Hastings's vision as being like a cheap haunted house." Reynolds frowned. "And… hmm. It's brute-forcing itself through fear. It's like if someone showed up in a Dracula costume in broad daylight and jumped out at you from behind a bush."

Claude held up his wife, guiding her to the couch. "Meaning what?"

"Essentially?" Sinclair shrugged. "It's fairly harmless. Probably something the town cooked up, fueled by anxiety of the modern age, but unable to really properly act on it." She snickered. "Wouldn't be surprised if the Goatman and company beat it about the head before it even got to the Site."

Cassandra rubbed at her eyes. "Mmm… You ever order that pizza, hon?"

"I can get it done now." Claude smiled, kissed his wife, and took out his phone, looking at Sinclair and Reynolds. "If you'd like to stay, the place we're ordering from can do their toppings in quarters instead of halves. Could make it a double date."

Sinclair looked at the floor of the apartment, and took out her credit card. "I'll pay. Least we can do for making your place smell like essential oils for a week. Monty and I both like pineapple, but he's a monster and takes it with anchovies."

"It's sweet and salty!" Reynolds yelled from the other room.

"So's ham and pineapple!"

Uncle Mike's Pizzeria was established in Sloth's Pit in 1973, just a few years before the S & C Plastics People came into town. Since then, business had boomed, in part because every other pizza chain had been driven out due to 'potential highly destructive catastrophes caused by the 'thirty minutes or it's free' policy' of the 1980's. Uncle Mike's pizza took a while, but it was all the better for it. The Plastics People were their favorite customers, in part because they tipped like they could print money.

Which, Edward Valentine, his former job eliminated by COVID, was at least looking forward to this as he loaded a large Pineapple, Ham, Anchovy, Pepperoni and Mushroom pizza, a two-liter of coke, and three boxes of breadsticks into his car, beginning the drive down Main Street.

It was at the corner of Main and Harmon that he noticed something was wrong— people were running from a horde of zombies. Any other year, this wouldn't be unusual; just the annual Zombie Walk, where people dressed up as the undead for the sake of the Chamber of Commerce. But these zombies were fast, rotting, and some were even decapitated. They didn't wait for the light, either.

At the next intersection, he saw children running away from a clown straight out of a John Wayne Gacy painting, their mother standing in front of them for protection, driving a heel into its gut; it broke through the clown like tissue paper, coming out the other side. She pulled her foot free, sans heel, and ushered her kids into a minivan.

Another street down, right in front of the town hall, something that looked like a protest was happening. It was almost on fire with its heat and anger, but the people looked unreal, with hairstyles from the 2010s mixed with powdered wigs from the 1700s and 50's style beehives. The signs that they held were complete nonsense, with slogans like "Support and Deny Proposition 2Z3: Illegalize Breathing!", "End face-wearing now!" and "This Sign Does Not Say Anything". Someone peeked out of the door of the town hall, and they rushed in, a screaming flood.

He floored it up to Plastics Circle, where two men and two women stood, looking down at the town, flabbergasted. A tall man with dark skin and dreadlocks accepted the pizza. "Uh… doesn't this… faze you at all? What's happening in the town?"

"Honestly?" Edward looked back down at the city. "I thought it was getting a little too quiet."

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