Entropy (Or, How Things Fall Apart)
rating: +31+x

He'd already decided to go to work. He definitely needed to find a new shrink. Would they have to be Foundation approved? Dammit.

5:15 AM. He needed to leave by 7:00 AM to make it to Orientation, room 207 (2+0+7=9). So 30 minutes to shower. 15 minutes to get dressed. An even 60 minutes to find breakfast and eat. Plenty of time.

Andrew let gravity force him deeper into the mattress. A little too soft for his liking. Maybe they'd let him switch it out. He would need to ask, but asking meant drawing attention to himself. And Andrew dreaded drawing attention to himself.

The Shrink calls it Anxiety. Capital A. No, the Shrink used to call it Anxiety. With the move and the new job, he'd have to find a new shrink. Or he could just leave the new job.

5:25 AM. 30 minutes to shower. 15 minutes to get dressed. 50 minutes for breakfast. Not bad.

If they'd even let him leave. They said something about "amnestics" that would remove his memories, but the idea of forgetting anything about who he was is more terrifying than going back into that prison. The orientation had been fascinating.

No! Terrifying.

Exciting. The idea of getting to apply his knowledge.

…In the imprisonment of human beings. Chest tightness, quickened pulse. He took a deep breath, held it for 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. And exhale.

He shouldn't enjoy any part of the job. He shouldn't even want to enjoy any part of that. If he stayed in this job, his only moral option was to let himself suffer as penance. So he should just leave. Maybe sneak out, and become a fugitive, hunted by paranormal bounty hunters. Fuck, they probably have Terminators hidden in a hole somewhere. He couldn't fight a Terminator.

5:45 AM. 30 to shower. 15 to get dressed. 30 for breakfast.

Okay. Options in order of least to most terrible: 1. Suffer in an immoral job as a jailer, 2. Have his memories erased, or 3. Brutally murdered by paranormal Terminators. He would have to go to work; there's not really a better option.

Shit! 4. Abducted by a paranormal Terminator, have his memory erased, and be forced into the job anyway. Why? He'd already decided to go to work. He definitely needed to find a new shrink. Would they have to be Foundation approved? Dammit. He'd have to draw attention to himself for that. He should just ask one of the instructors today and get it over with.

Maybe he needed an increase in dosage. How many doses did he even have left? (3 pills a day. The last refill was 13 days ago. Plus the 9 pills left over. 60 pills left. 20 days of dosages. But there might be as many as a 3-day delay for refills.) He'd have to find the shrink and get the appointment within 17 days. Cold sweat. Calm down, push that to the back until he talked to the instructor.

6:00 AM. 30 to shower. 15 to get dressed. 15 for breakfast? Maybe he could shower faster? He wouldn't solve anything laying here.

Andrew forced himself to sit up against the force of the anxious gravity, swung his feet to the ground, and braced himself against the weight of his neurosis. Shower first. If it's 6:03 AM, then he has 27 minutes …

10:09 AM. 6 minutes until this kid should be done flapping his gums.

Andrew was tired, and his head was pounding. And would this kid ever shut up? Everyone here should know how to write up a testing and procedure log. Are they hiring fucking undergraduates?

"… As for the experiment log, you're really free to do anything. But please, for the love of god, be clear in your recording. I'm sure you're all aware of a certain incident involving sharks, and I don't want to see anything like that again. Just… promise me you won't do that. Please?

I think that about ends this lecture. You're all free to go. Oh, before you leave, if I see any of you making any HILARIOUS comments at the end of reports I will find you and we'll INVENT Keter duty just for you. That's about it. Anybody have a fucking Tylenol?"

It was like being back at University. Another bored Junior Professor giving another droll lecture. Research Assistant, actually. Andrew had hoped that this orientation would at least be interesting enough to keep his mind from wandering, but this train wreck of a researcher was anything but engaging.

10:13 AM. 2 minutes early. 37 minutes until the next lecture.

Time enough to travel to the other side of the facility to get to the next lecture room, room 211 (2+1+1=4). You would think that they'd have everything in the same room since his group seemed to be the same for each and every orientation. They probably just wanted him to learn the layout of the facility, or maybe new employees got less restless when you let them switch rooms like this.

At least the first lecturer had been able to give him the email for a shrink. Dr. Kenneth Hart. Fuck, he could already see the "Have Hart" posters. Every fucking shrink had cheesy bullshit like that. But anyone who would write him a new script was fine by him. He would just have to endure the so-tell-me-about-your-day bullshit. Anything was worth it to keep the numbers under control and keep the panic attacks at bay.

10:20 AM. 30 minutes.

Andrew collected the paperwork given to him. Carefully arranged them into a neat stack. The sample file to SCP-173 (Prime, 40th. 1+7+3=11…) on top. He still had a hard time believing that there was a mobile statue who broke necks (…1+1=2). Just another thing to worry about. He'd probably get assigned to that, forced to keep his eyes on it for days on end. Hands numb, heart pounding. Deep breath, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Exhale.

10:21 AM. 29 minutes.

Time to go.

Andrew needed to report to Standard Humanoid Containment Cell #307 (Prime, 62nd. No, 63rd. 30*7=210…). The memo listed the anomaly as SCP-4597 (Prime, somewhere in the 600s. 45*97=4365…). He could probably assume it was "humanoid" (…2*10=20, 2*0=0), whatever that meant in this hell hole. And were these Containment Cells for Standard Humanoids? Or Standard Containment Cells for Humanoids? (…43*65=2795, 27*95=2565…) What kind of fucking monster would this be? Vision blurring. Increased heart rate. Deep breath. 5,4,3,2,1.

That's better.

1:07 PM. 38 minutes until he needed to be at the Cell.

Cell. Why did they have to call them "Cells"? Couldn't they have come up with something more euphemistic? But, no. Euphemisms wouldn't work. This was immoral work, and they needed to look it full in the face. Working at a place like this would be miserable. Should be miserable. It's what they deserved. We. We deserved. As long as he was here, Andrew was part of this.

If they were cells was this whole facility one behemoth life form? A macro-system of suffering and containment. Suffering, Containment, Penitence. A collection of macro-systems within macro-systems. A super-system? Or would that be a supra-system?

1:15 PM. 30 minutes.

He needed to start moving. Cell #307 (Prime, 63rd. 3*07=21…) was on the 3rd (Prime, 2nd.) underground level, so he needed to get to the elevator. (… 2*1=2) Or he could take the stairs. Had he even seen any stairs? What if they were locked on the lower floors? He could get trapped in the stairwell. He could also get trapped in the elevator. How deep did those shafts go? Could he survive the fall? Calm down. Deep breath. 5,4,3,2,1.

Fuck. He needed to see that shrink. He needed some stronger meds. This was all a macro-system and he was a particle of the micro-system - erratic, unorganized, but somehow contributing to the whole. Complicit in whatever was happening here.

It was the 622nd prime. (6*22=132…)

1:37 PM. 8 minutes.

Andrew was early. He was usually early. Being late was a failure, and failures were noticed. Scrutinized.

The outside of the cell was nondescript, a standard metal door with a slot presumably for food and a little door to look inside, a large white door that looked like it retracted into the ceiling like a garage door, and a monitor - currently off. Andrew knew that he could easily open either of those doors and see what was inside; he had passed a few that were padlocked.

The idea of seeing what was inside of there terrified him. What if it was a monster? What if it saw him looking?

1:40 PM. 5 minutes.

Everyone had started to gather. Mostly the same people from his orientation group, but a couple of new faces. Andrew didn't know any of their names. He watched them talk to each other - mingle. He envied them that those interactions should come so easily. Effortlessly. No. Interactions led to unpredictability and instability. The macro-system would remain more stable the fewer interactions between the particles possible.

1:41 PM. 4 minutes.

Where was their instructor? It was almost time to start. Was the instructor going to be late? That would probably make this whole meeting go late. And then what would happen to the schedule? The next meeting would be late. And then dinner would be late. And then they'd all get to sleep late. And then… Calm down. He needed to be calm. This was just the Anxiety.

1:46 PM. -1 minutes.

Andrew was sweating. The hallway was cold, uncomfortably cold, but Andrew was sweating. The instructor had just arrived. 1 (Non-prime. Non-divisible.) minute late. Maybe her watch was just off by a minute.

The instructor started to speak, but Andrew couldn't hear her. It was like she was underwater. He closed his eyes. Deep breath. Focus. He could still feel his concentration wavering, thinned out, but he was able to grasp her words as they came.

"…entities is a human male - nearly biologically normal. 4597's skin regenerates at a greatly accelerated pace often quickly enough that the healing process can be seen with the unaided eye. As you'll see, the subject is outfitted with safety gloves to prevent their compulsive picking. The prevention of this compulsion is two-fold …"

1:49 PM. -4 minutes. Paperwork was up next at 3:30 PM. Could this last for 105 minutes? Fuck. He hoped not.

God, this guy wasn't a monster. He had some fucked up habits - picking his own skin off. But scratching and picking were a compulsion. Andrew understood compulsions. And it even regrew at an accelerated rate. Maybe the accelerated growth made the skin itch?

1:50 PM. 100 minutes. (Perfect square…)

This guy shouldn't be locked up. He just needs a shrink and a good dermatologist. This whole place is fucked.

(1*0*0…) Cold sweat. Numbness in his extremities. Deep breath. 5,4,3,-

Andrew felt the floor begin to fall out from under him. Everything was too close. But it was all impossibly far away. Fuck! This was a full-on panic attack. He needed to get it under control. (No, 10*0…) Chest tightness. Shortness of breath.

It was like he was at the bottom of a well. (No, 1*00…)

Deep breath. 5,4, - He needed to take a deep breath. Any breath. Inhale. 5, -

Darkness. (…=0, Zero.) Cessation of compulsion.

There was a metallic droning. Gradual awareness. A cold breeze. He was sitting.

The chair he was sitting on was firm, comfortable. And he could smell something floral.

A voice.

"Hello, Andrew. Are you with us? You passed out."

He grumbled something, tried to be coherent. Probably failed.

"My name is Dr. Kenneth Hart. You had emailed me earlier today to request a meeting, but I hadn't anticipated it being this soon."

Was it bergamot? He had been at the cell, looking at that teenager. The one with the skin condition. 4597. (Prime, 622nd.) No. He couldn't spare the attention for that. Where was he? Kenneth Hart?

"Andrew, are you okay?" Kenneth's voice was calm, measured. Professional. Fucking shrink.

"I - I'm fine," Andrew managed to choke out. At least he could get the meds sorted out. But when had he passed out? (4*5*9*7=1260…)

"From what I hear, it sounds like you had a panic attack. Have you had a history of panic attacks?"

The panic attack. Falling. That's it. "Occasionally. I think I need a higher dose of clomipramine." 250mg. (2*50=100…)

Kenneth leaned forward. (…Perfect square, 1*00=0) "Occasionally? I admit that I haven't had time to thoroughly review your file yet, but -" Kenneth slapped the file across his knee- "just on a quick inspection, I count at least 30 panic attacks in the last year."

Shit. (…12*60=720…) Why couldn't this just be easy? "Yeah, well, I guess. I guess that's why I need a higher dose."

"If all you want are some more drugs, I can write you a prescription. But more of the same isn't going to change anything, and you know it, Andrew." Bergamot. The smell was bergamot.

Uncomfortable silence. Shrinks! All he needed was a stronger dose so that he could focus on his work. (…7*20=140…)

"Is that what you want? To be dependent on the drugs? The clomipramine is supposed to be helping you make progress. But you still have to make that progress." This wasn't a tone Andrew was used to from shrinks. He sounded… Angry? Why was he angry? Chest tightness. (…1*40=40…)

"I- I can't make progress! I've tried and tried and tried!" Numbness in the extremities. Why couldn't this just be easy? His hands were shaking. There was tea on the table. Two mugs.

Kenneth put a hand on Andrew's shoulder. "What's happening right now, Andrew? You're having another attack, right?"

Unfocused vision. Cold sweat. (4*0…)

"I need you to answer me. Andrew, you're having another attack, right?"

Deep breath. "Ye-Yes."

"Okay, stay with me. Focus on my voice." Kenneth's voice was reassuring. Something to latch onto. Deep breath. 5,4,3,2,1. A little better.

"This is where we start."

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