Interlude: Basileophobia
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rating: +25+x

Takes place shortly after Pre-Partum Anxieties

Johnathan Everett King, SCP-[DESIGNATION PENDING], sat in his cell at Site-87 and contemplated his miserable existence. Sure, the Department of Gastromony ensured humanoid anomalies like him weren't eating gruel and actually got edible dessert, but it was autumn, and autumn meant a larger focus on apple-based products; his meal for today was a Salisbury steak (long since eaten), applesauce, apple juice, and an apple turnover. King tapped on the cup of applejuice; each time he did, an apple seed floated up from the bottom. He sighed, and looked around.

"Hey, guard?" he called, coming up to the one-way mirror of his cell. "Dr. Kola? You were supposed to come and collect my tray, like, half an hour ago. What gives?"

After two minutes of no response, Dr. King tried the door of his cell. Its lock was still engaged; wishful thinking on his part. He sighed, and rubbed his face, turning back to his plate. Might as well see if the applesauce was any good. Not like the cyanide in the apple seeds could actually kill him.

He sat down to eat, spilling his apple juice in the process. He sighed and shook his head. Maintenance would be in to clean up soon enough. But he soon realized that maintenance didn't need to, because the juice wasn't juice anymore; it was made entirely of apple seeds, which were flowing over the concrete of his cell, filling the concrete at first an inch thick, then two inches, then five, and then—

King had had this exact nightmare before, hundreds of times. He kicked at the seeds with contempt, stomping on several of them. "Gonna have to try harder than that, asshole!"

The seeds coalesced into an upright form, growing muscles, skin and fabric as it took on a humanoid shape. Soon, a man with a tin pot on his head, overalls, and a startling lack of shoes stood before King. He smelled like rancid apples. "Are you honestly going to treat your ancestor and namesake like that, J—"

In response, King punched the apparition of Johnny Appleseed in its liver. Predictably, its form parted as apple seeds spilled from it, but it still doubled over in pain. "Yes, I am. Because you're not really John Chapman. You're that fear bug that's going around."

Johnny Appleseed vomited a stream of beady black apple seeds into King's face. They were stopped when King began strangling it. "I'm not some greenhorn researcher or neurotic agent you can scare with cheap theatrics. Either sit down and have a conversation with me, or fuck off back to Arkansas."

The Appleseed Apparition flowed from between his fingers like grain. It looked at him and scowled. "How do you know about Arkansas?"

"Because Randall Owings, one of the top phobologists in the Foundation, was my son's godfather. And I think you're his pet project— if that's the case, then he's dead. So fuck you for that."

It grinned. "You have a son? Oh, I will revel in torturing him—"

"Shut up." King loomed over the specter and scowled. "He's not even in this city. He works at an aquarium in Chicago. You couldn't get to him if you tried."

It flowed across the table with a rattling sound, taking the seat opposite of King's lunch tray. "Very well. We shall speak."

King sat down and grabbed his plastic cup of apple juice; he was alarmed to find it upright. "So, you're a perception-altering anomaly. Wonder if anything you're doing right now is even real."

"It takes a lot of energy change my appearance, you know." It pulled a flask of cider from its suspenders. "So a bit of trickery is necessary."

King sipped at his apple juice. "Tell me, do you think you have any actual power over me? Over this city?"

"As we speak, I am exerting my influence over it." It shut its eyes and shuddered. "There's a girl named Nancy who lives at 15 Summer Avenue. She's deathly afraid of clowns, and there's one trying to get into her house right now. She told her mother she was a big girl, that she could stay home alone while she went to get groceries. Now, she is hiding in the closet, trying desperately to not cry, for fear of me finding her." It grinned, opening its eyes. "That's the kind of power I have."

King shook his head, tapping his spoon against the tray. With each tap, an apple seed appeared. "Your file described you as being 'affable and friendly' after you scared someone. What changed?"

It laughed. "Let's imagine, for a moment, that I am wearing a monster costume of some form." With that, it suddenly shifted, appearing in the form of a man in a rubber suit. It stank of sweat and blood. "Not very scary, yes? If I jumped out at you and went 'shaboogely', you'd be startled, but nothing much else would happen… if I laughed it off, said 'gotcha!' or something. But if I persist, keep going, then you start getting uncomfortable. Now, imagine you're locked in a room with me." It slammed its hand on the table and began crawling over it, towards King. "You can't escape. I can get as close to you as I want. I still don't say 'gotcha'. I still come closer, and you start to notice things about me— the suit doesn't seem to have any sort of seams, the eyes blink when they shouldn't be able to, and you have this overwhelming urge to scream."

King backed away from it, gritting his teeth. "Party tricks. I know your game, asshole."

"Don't interrupt." It was upon King now, its rubber maw at the doctor's throat. "But then you realize— there is a seam, over the head, of course there is! That's where the mask would be. But…" It backed away, pulling at its head. It stretched and contorted in a way a mask should. Then, with a sound of snapping rubber, it came off, and the whole rubber suit fell, empty, hollow. A voice whispered from all around him. "This is more fun, don't you think?"

King swallowed, looking into the suit. A black, granular mass began flowing from it, covering the whole floor— one inch, three, seven, up to his waist. King had had this nightmare before, of drowning in apple seeds, and waking up in an apple-scented hell.

He backed up against a wall of his cell that should have been blank— instead, he found his hand on a large key that was sticking out of the wall. His eyes widened, and out of sheer surprise, he turned it, falling backwards into a room that was full of coatracks. He continued to tumble backwards, and watched as a man wearing an old-fashioned bellhop's uniform shut the door behind him.

"Got to you just in time, it looks like!" The man offered a hand to Dr. King. "I'm the Doorman. You're our new hire."

"New hi—" King paused as The Doorman helped him to his feet. "Ah, crap. You're with that Union group, aren't you?"

"Got it in one." The Doorman led him further in, heading towards an elevator. "This town is going down the toilet because of that thing you just met. We're planning an evacuation, but we can't do it without an Orchardist." He turned towards King as he pressed the call button. "Without you."

"Why the hell do you need someone who grows apples to help evacuate? You must have a The Firefighter or a The Paramedic or hell, a The Emergency Coordinator or something."

"Yes, but we don't have an Orchardist that helped build a portal that can punch through space-time and cross into another universe." The Doorman pinched the bridge of his nose. "Dr. King, I can appreciate that you utterly hate your powers. But when— not if, when— this thing tries to break down the barrier to the Nexus and escape, we need someone like you."

King frowned as the elevator opened, stepping inside. "That… is the first time in years that anyone's acknowledged my work with Tyler Bailey." He chewed his lip. "What's your sales pitch, then?"

The Doorman smiled, pressing a button for the 293rd floor. "The Janitor is in a meeting with the Firefighter right now. He'll talk to you shortly."

Addendum: In October of 2020, SCP-[DESIGNATION PENDING] was found missing from his containment chamber in Site-87. Video feed was interrupted while he was consuming dinner, and the chamber was flooded with over 500kg of apple seeds. To date, SCP-[DESIGNATION PENDING] is missing, currently presumed terminated.

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