Main Office (Part I)
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I had no idea where I was, or how I'd gotten there.

It was a simple room. I’d almost call it an interrogation room, but it was off. There was no two way mirror. No cameras, no metal loops so the so called public servants could chain you to the table…

It was just an empty brick room with a table in the middle and a chair on either side.

It smelled faintly of mildew and dust. And the only light was a bare incandescent bulb hanging down on a chain.

A man walked in through the room’s only door. He looked faintly middle eastern and he was dressed in a worn turtleneck and slacks. He had unkempt hair, a scraggly beard, and he’d gone grey long ago.

There was something in his eyes though. It felt like he was measuring you for your coffin. He sat down on the other side of the table and let out a breath. “I know you’ve already chosen,” He said, “but I wanted to take a moment and explain to you just what you’re doing.”

I narrowed my eyes. I remembered my last decision just fine and I wasn’t about to let him talk me out of it. “I don’t know who you are, but I need to stay alive and free for my son. You from the Foundation or something?”

He shook his head. “Only through a quirk of naming. Look, frankly it would be better for me and the world if you stayed around, but you’re not signing yourself up for an easy life.”

I got up, looking down at the old withered man. “ Sir, with all due respect, you just met me. You are in no position to judge how easy or hard my life has been, and considering my recent… I don't even know, demonic illness? I'd say I've had it at least as rough as any other single mother who worked their way through med school. But I'll keep living for as long as I'm useful because that is my job as god damned doctor and parent.”

I waved him off. “So get out of my face and bring on the feathers. I’ve got shit to do.”

He sighed. “You know you’ll be haunted right? By yourself and an endless stream of monsters. Even the power you’ll get is monstrous. The best you can say about it is that it’s been digested and stolen.”

I put my hand on my hip and stared him down. “Sometimes you need a fecal transplant. Why do you want me dead so badly anyway? Think I’m some kinda threat or something?”

He shook his head and looked up at me. “No… I’m just…” He looked away, “I don’t even know what I’m doing to be honest. Repenting for past sins? Praying that you won’t repeat my mistakes?”

He got up and dusted himself off. “I suppose I’ve postponed this long enough.”

And that’s when he fell to the ground, foaming at the mouth and convulsing.

I rushed over, years of emergency medical training kicking in in an instant. I pushed away the table and chair so he wouldn’t bump into them and carefully put him on his side. There wasn’t much else you could do for a seizure…

But it didn’t stay a seizure for long.

I’d never seen anything like it. His skin went gray and his pupils shrank. His corneas widened as his eyes grew a muddy shade of brown and his jaw cracked sickeningly as a muzzle extended from his teeth.

I stepped back. Then I went for the door, but of course it was locked. I pounded on it and cried out. “Help! Help! Something is-”

I felt a strange weight on my shoulder.

The old man was gone, and in his place was a hulking, spindly, misshapen figure with massive batlike wings and huge fangs. It’s visible veins pulsed an ugly purple as it stared down at me with disgust.

I plastered myself to the door, staring up into its hungry jaws.

“What… What are you?” I asked.

It bore its fangs in a parody of a grin.

Your future, Dr. Davis.”

Then it bit down into my neck and tore out my throat in one swift crunch.


My eyes shot open in fright and I stumbled into a sitting position. The bedsheets felt unfamiliar and damp.

I thought I was blindfolded. I couldn’t see anything, but more than that I felt… wrong. I knew the muggy feeling of painkillers. I knew the disorienting feeling of aching muscles and the sticky dribbling feeling of waking up from a night terror, but I’d never felt so… off.

It felt like my skull was sitting on my face wrong. Like my lips were impossibly chapped, like there were needles all over my skin, but they didn’t hurt, exactly…

I couldn’t feel my pinkies. Or my pinkie toes. Everything was wrong and I didn’t know why.

“Latisha? Can you hear me?”

I blinked. I recognized that voice. “Frasia? What’s going on?”

“You were asleep for a little while,” the kind voice began, “Do you remember what we did? To treat your illness?”

The words were like ice water poured right into my veins. “Oh…” that explained a lot.

“The blindfold is there to help you adjust. This is a lot, I know. It’s best to take it slow.”

“Is Johnny safe?”

“I… I’m right here.” my child’s voice was wavering, uncertain. “Your… your legs. Are they okay now?”

Shockingly, my legs felt… fine was the wrong word, but they definitely weren’t hurting any more. And in spite of the strange, static riddled feeling I felt when I focused on my body, I hadn’t felt quite so clear headed in months.

Whatever had happened to me, I was going to live. It was something worth holding onto.

I… smiled? I tried to smile at least. My lips didn’t work the same way… I didn’t think I had much of them left to be honest.

I reached up to the blindfold, but I missed. My nails felt so sharp, and everything was so gangly and awkward.

Claws, my mind provided. I had claws now.

“You're still adjusting,” Frasia said, “do you want me to take off the blindfold?”

I nodded. The motion was beyond bizarre.

She took off the blindfold and I looked myself over.

The beak took up less of my field of vision than I was afraid of, but it was still a huge, mottled thing. My feathers were jet black, but my head was all wrinkled skin.

I looked at my claws. They were shaking.

Johnny ran up and hugged me. “You’re okay Mom. You’re okay…”

I hugged him back.

I was crying, but my baby was here.

It was going to be okay.

Somehow.


I was able to get up walking again in a few days. It would have been sooner, but I’d sprouted dozens of pains when they rushed my transformation to get those dang parasites out of my legs.

My head was still spinning from how much everything had changed. Four weeks ago I was Latisha Davis. An aging free clinic doctor with no real prospects and an itchy knee.

Now I was an eight foot tall vulture monster. It would have been funny if it wasn't actually happening.

It was surprising how much it bothered me. I’d never turned heads with my looks or anything, but it was hard to get over the fact that I wasn’t even human anymore. Every piece of my body looked wrong, moved wrong, felt wrong.

To her immense credit, Frasia had set me up in the best place to convalesce she could find. The only thing I could complain about was that the house we were staying in didn’t have any windows… or any doors to the outside.

I asked Frasia if I was a prisoner and she said of course not… Though she had to amend that some of my Earth was now unavailable to me due to a complicated treaty my new family had with the group she called “The SCP Foundation”.

Still, in theory I could go to countless other Earths, or who knows how many other places besides. It was the main benefit of taking up the map.

The map… the thing I’d bound myself too was beyond strange. I could feel it in my pocket every time I moved, or from across the room if I dared to put it down. I could ignore it if I absolutely needed to, but it always called to me.

When I opened it up, I didn’t just see words or spirals. I saw little fragments of a thousand lives. In this place, a man buys bread for his family, here a slug monster gives a rallying speech before an army, there a salamander lounges on a warm rock and looks up at a sky filled with floating mirrors…

I knew its power was immense. I knew in my bones that far from being trapped, all I would have to do was speak the words and I’d be… anywhere.

But I had enough common sense to keep it in its case.

It was enough to hold it back, for now.


“What is this place, exactly?” I asked Frasia one morning over a cup of tea in the house’s tasteful little breakfast nook.

She took a long sip, (a delicate process with her beak). “An acclimation dimension. We find that those who undergo the change need time to process.”

I’d have raised an eyebrow if I had one. “You mean they need time to… I don’t know, grieve?”

The owl woman looked down. “I wasn’t going to phrase it that way, but… yes. That.”

I sighed. I sensed this would be a long conversation. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful to you and yours. And I get what you’re trying to do, but there’s some real talk we need to have.”

She tilted her head. “Such as?”

I cracked my knuckles (an odd process with claws to say the least, but it was comforting I could still do it.) “For one thing, there’s no hotel in the universe that doesn’t charge you anything. What do I owe you?”

She stared at me. “This place is a convalescence chamber. We don’t charge our own blood for healthcare. We barely charge anyone for healthcare if we can avoid it.”

I shrugged. “You got that good single payer shit then, I respect that. But that means I’ve got taxes to pay right?”

Frasia swirled her tea with a talon. “In theory, yes… If you want to get down to the brass tacks, the organization you have joined is what you’d call a co-op. Everyone who takes up the map has a share in the profits from our sales. As for the company management, we elect the papers’ editors once a century, which means anyone that wants to stay in power has to play at least a little nice with us poor working stiffs.”

I narrowed my eyes. “Once a century?”

She tilted her head. “We haven’t covered that yet? We don’t age.”

My feathers slicked down in shock. “We’re immortal?!”

Frasia made an uncertain gesture and her feathers flattened slightly. “Immortal is a… loaded word. You’re not invulnerable. It takes at least a few high powered rifle bullets to put a Wandsman down, and we heal very quickly, but a determined party could definitely murder you. You could also fall into a pool of lava, get thrown in an industrial trash compactor, be deprived of all oxygen for two hours give or take… you get the picture. But barring all that, yes, you could be around for countless millennia.”

I slumped back in my seat. “Jesus, Mary and Joseph…”

She put a gentle talon on my shoulder. “There’s going to be a lot of stuff like that to take in… Hence the acclimation dimension.”

I shook myself. “Okay… So I’ll be around for a while. So what do I need to do to pull my weight?”

I swear she was smirking. “Want to get in the saddle already? Well, for starters you’ll probably want some training.”

“Training for what?” I asked.

“Oh whatever role in our organization strikes your fancy. Some folks like to charge off into the jaws of nightmares in hopes of a thrill and the more sensible among us like to educate the public. There are support roles too. Some folks maintain the enchantments that sweep the floors, and keep our people fed. And some unfortunate souls end up working…” Frasia shuddered. “The Gossip Rag beat.”

I nodded. At least some of that sounded doable, but I was pulling more than just my own weight. “And Johnny? What are you going to do with him?”

Her feathers slicked. “Well I’m absolutely not going to put him in any more danger if I can avoid it! Although given your child’s gifts I can’t say I don’t worry about him.”

I got a sinking feeling. “When you say gifts…?”

Frasia nodded, though she looked more than a bit sympathetic. “He’s a magician Latisha. And a powerful one too. He clearly took after his mother.”

I stared at the strange owl in her clean, simple dress with a teacup in her claws. She hadn’t dodged anything, but every answer she gave just raised more questions. “… I’m magic too?”

She nodded. “All Wandsmen are. But what we have is added on top of what we were born with. You had mana flowing through you long before you claimed the map’s power. It’s just locked away.”

I blinked at her. “So… What can I do with it?”

A beak shouldn’t be able to form a smile, but I swear Frasia’s did. “You know, I think I know just what you need to bring you up to speed.” She pulled her map out of a hidden pocket in her dress. “Fancy a trip?”

I was more than a little hesitant. “What about Johnny?”

“I’ll be fine Mom,” Came my son’s voice from down the hall.

I looked him over. He was leaning against the wall in that oh so confident teenager pose that never failed to make me nervous. If what the two of them told me was true, he’d literally saved my life.

But he was 17. And when I looked at him part of me still saw a three year old.

Still… he’d been safe here for days and I couldn’t hover over him forever… Though I suppose I could now literally hover? No one had prepared me for this part of parenting.

“Just stay safe, okay?” I said.

Johnny gave me a salute and I supposed that was that.

Frasia offered her talon and I took it in mine. Then she pulled her map from her feathers and said ”Main Office, Homeroom.”


A thousand images of a thousand worlds flashed before my eyes in an instant, and I landed on my feet in a dimly lit, but massive lecture hall.

There were a few others scattered in the seats around me… they were clearly other Wandsmen, though for the life of me I couldn’t tell much more about them in the dim.

A great booming voice called out from the front. “Welcome all! Please be seated.”

Frasia sat down and I sat down right beside her, utterly mystified as to what could be going on.

Then the lights came up and I nearly crapped my pants.

There was a bird at the bottom of the room. A bird the size of a skyscraper with a beak that looked like it could snip a battleship in half.

Then a massive screen lit up behind it, with a powerpoint slide displayed prominently.

“Welcome class!” Said the titanic roc in front of us. “Welcome to Orientation!”


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