Don't Knock on Strange Doors
rating: +10+x

Hello, readers. My name is Dr. Cullough. If you're reading this newsletter, you must be interested in my previous work in designing initial containment measures and ascertaining what, exactly, anomalies do. Either that, or you're irresistably attracted to my natural charm. Or your supervisor's making you read this. One of the three. In this newsletter, I'll try to explain the process I use when I'm investigating a new anomaly. Hopefully, the following text will be useful to your future work. Assuming you're in the containment business, at least.

Today, I'd like to talk about SCP-4328. About three months ago, I was assigned to investigate the anomaly and draft up a set of containment procedures for the object. I took the next plane to France so I could see the door for myself. I always try to see what I'm writing containment procedures for in the flesh. If you really want to contain an object, you have to be there to feel it; whether "it" is awe-inspiring terror or devastating boredom, it tends to help you get a read on the anomaly.

At first, I couldn't really tell why they'd called me. The doorway was a thirty minute drive from the closest city, out in the middle of a meadow. It just stood alone, not attached to a building or any kind of wall. If it wasn't for the barbed wire fence around it or the tent containing an overkill amount of scientific equipment, you could've convinced me it was some kind of postmodern art. After a brief inspection of the door, I had an interesting conversation with the provisional head researcher, Dr. Atmos.

"So, what comes out of the door?" I asked, feeling the doorframe with my fingertips. It seemed to be some kind of pine wood, with brass hinges. There was a flower carved into the front of the door; I did not recognize it. According to the report I held in my hands, neither did any of the on-scene researchers.

"Nothing, so far" said Dr. Atmos.

I turned to him. The only thing that stuck out to me about him was his fantastically well-groomed mustache. It almost made up for the middling amount of gray hair on the rest of his head. I cleared my throat. "Nothing? Let's get to it, then. What happens when you open it?"

"It opens up to another dimension."

"Another dimension? What are its laws of physics like? Has the vacuum killed anyone yet?"

"…no. It appears to be some kind of Dark Ages cathedral, inhabited by communist humanoid flowers."

"The flowers. Do they kill people?"

"No, actually. Not yet, at least."

Of course, this was all I needed to know. With immovable anomalies like these, the most important thing to consider is deception. One approach is to build a massive government installation about it, and amnesticize anyone who gets too wise about it. This approach is often taken by people who like using exorbiant amounts of resources for trivial anomalies. The more sensible approach is to hide it in plain sight. Most civilians won't think twice about something if it looks like it belongs there.

I cleared my throat. "Put a glass case around it, station two security guards. Put a plaque on the case saying that it's some kind of art installation. Write something artsy-fartsy on the plaque. I thought it was postmodern art coming in, I doubt civilians will be wiser. The guards don't even have to know; save costs by hiring them from the civilian populace. Just in case, put a padlock on the door."

Dr. Atmos had a blank look on his face, as if he had spaced out for the past thirty seconds. "What?"

"I just wrote your Special Containment Procedures for you. Is that all you needed me to do?"

"No, actually." He looked down and prepared to say something. "We need you to go inside."

I was taken aback; I physically stepped back a few steps. "Are you crazy? You want me to step into this anomaly? Don't we have D-class to waste on that kind of thing?" In retrospect, I shouldn't have said that in earshot of the D-class personnel they were keeping on site.

"We've reached a metaphorical wall. The inhabitants have told us next to nothing about the Flowering Soldier, their creation deity; we can't decide if they're unwilling or unable. Their system of writing is too primitive to contain any significant information. In addition, we've explored about three square kilometers of the interior, and we've found nothing that we didn't already find in the first few rooms we explored."

"So, you can't find anything?" I replied. I opened the door. Inside, the flower people pretended not to notice me. They romped around the room, moving around plants and such. He was right; it looked just like the set of a cheesy vampire movie, crossed with Resident Evil. "Interesting. Who built the door?"

"We don't know. We've been looking for Group of Interest links, but we've turned up nothing."

"First thing we need to ask is who didn't build it. I can tell you one thing; someone from here didn't." I pointed to the inside of the door. "There's a flower insignia on our side of the door, but look at their side. It's much more intricate, like writing. Who'd put the less interesting part on their side of the door? Have you worked out what it means yet?"

"Something along the lines of 'don't enter, unless you want to disappoint the Flowering Soldier.'"

"Yeah, I think it's like the 'employees only' sign at a Walmart. Whoever made the door didn't want the flowers coming into here." I looked around. "What's out here? There might be might a clue."

"Have you ever thought that, maybe, 'whoever made the door' just didn't want the flowers escaping? You know, like we do?"

"Then why make a door? No, there's something out here the flowers want. Has anything ever been out here? Historically. Witch burnings? Celebrity murders?"

The researcher gestured. "Caesar apparently led his troops through this meadow during his campaigns in Gaul. So, we can tell it's at least 2000 years old."

"No, that's ridiculous," I closed the door and began to walk to the other side. "We live in a world of planes, cars, mass surveillance and horny teenagers. I doubt that no one's walked through this meadow in two years, let alone two thousand. This is recent." I knocked on the other side of the door, which didn't have a flower insignia. "What happens when you go through the other side of the door? Same thing?"

Dr. Atmos quickly consulted his notes. "Huh. We don't know?"

"What? What do you mean?"

"We've… never actually done that. We've always just gone in through the flower side, I guess."

"So you've never once tried to go through this side of the suspicious door? Are you serious? How many tests have you run?"

"We've been pretty occupied actually exploring the cathedral."

"See, this is what you left-brain types miss. You're so busy with what's behind the door, that you never take a close look at the door itself." I quickly removed my hand from the doorknob. "I don't really want to be touching this."

We got one of the exploration agents to open the door for us. It tooks quite a bit of budging to open it; unlike the other side of the door, which opened easily. It didn't open into the cathedral with the communist flowers, as before, but into a much smaller bunker. The walls were covered in several electronic monitors, displaying several numbers whose meanings I couldn't ascertain on first glance. Across from the door was a console with enough buttons and levers to make my head spin with possibilities.

Letting the agent go first, I cautiously entered through the other side of the door, with the head researcher following me. Very quickly, we realized the floor was a viewport into the cathedral. Through the grates, we could see the flowers working at the flesh along the walls of the room. They didn't seem to notice us.

"Employees only," I thought to myself. This is what they didn't want the flowers to see.

"Hold on, I found something," whispered Dr. Atmos. "There's a note attached to the wall."

Operational Procedures:

  1. Don't go aboveground. For all intents and purposes, aboveground no longer exists.
  2. Cultivate an excess of flesh. The flowers are too stupid to realize whenever a little bit here and there goes missing. Pipe it aboveground.
  3. Don't let the flowers change levels. Namely, don't let them know you exist. We have enough room down here to hold all the docile ones. We don't need any of them to change sides.
  4. Keep insulation levels to above 50. Do whatever you need to in order to keep it low. Blood sacrifice is permitted in emergency cases. Just don't violates rules 1 through 3.
  5. You may hear weird noises from aboveground and below, like high-pitched roars. They can't hurt you, and the flowers can't hear them. Don't react.
  6. A door with a red sphere may appear in some places in the compound. Ignore it. Don't even look at it.

I looked behind myself to discover that the door we'd just came in through had a red sphere. I turned away, because if there's one thing I learned from cognitohazard training, its that if someone tells you not to look at something, don't look at it.

"Keep whispering," Dr. Atmos said quietly, "we can't let them know we're above them."

We took some time to examine the room. The numbers on the monitors fluctuated, but none of them seemed to exceed twelve (a worrying prospect, given rule #4 on the sheet). In some kind of maintenance closet, we found several mundane cleaning supplies. Dr. Atmos discovered that what appeared to be a steam valve was actually a cylinder containing a ladder.

Now, here's a quick rule for when you're investigating an anomaly: always let someone else go first. Assuming you can't get your hands on a nice drone, it's easy enough to requisition a D-class. Of course, I was following this rule by letting the agent go up the ladder first. Unfortunately, that agent didn't follow the rule. In retrospect, I should've said something to him. The next time we saw him, we had to catch his dead body after it fell back down the chute. The head was messily severed at the neck.

Thankfully, we caught the body. I don't know how the flower people would've reacted if I'd dropped a headless cadaver down the chute, which, if Dr. Atmos' later investigations are reliable, leads down to the cathedral. From whatever was above, we heard a cutting scream that made me freeze up for a second. "Scream" is the best word to describe it, but it was more like a high-pitched roar. Naturally, Dr. Atmos and I disobeyed rule #5 and ran out of there in a panic.

From the after-incident report I read, that stirred the flower people up into a bit of a frenzy. They had to send a D-class in there to calm them down; apparently, they were just in murder mode. Last I heard, no one's really gone into that room without wool slippers and a seminar in noise reduction.

Anyways, there are a few lessons to be learned from this.

  • Be Inquisitive. Anomalies are almost always more than meets the eye, and there's some clever way to achieve some additional behavior. Open the other side of the door. Replace the picture in the painting frame. Submerge the anomalous eggs in boiling water. Sometimes, your investigation turns up nothing. Sometimes, you've just discovered a whole new world behind what might only be a Safe-class to the untrained eye.
  • Contrarily, Be Cautious. Anomalies are just that: anomalies. By definition, we don't know what they'll do next. Before you replace the picture in the painting frame, make sure you're doing it in a room made of reinforced concrete. Also, do it with a robotic arm. You never know if a monster is going to hop out of the frame and demand the soul of your firstborn son.

Thanks for reading my spiel. In my next paper, I'll tell you why you really shouldn't be drinking orange juice, and not just because of the sugar.

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