Population Control(led)

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It's hard to get the image of a sky that's 90 percent bugs out of your head, even if you've seen some pretty gruesome stuff in your line of work. Our hands were already tied since everything up and went crazy and people stopped dying. When entire ecosystems got thrown out of whack, we could barely do anything with what The Foundation gave to us on loan in Oregon.

Marshes became bug paradises, although people who lived near them called them hell. Entire houses were swarmed by termites, devouring it in a matter of days. Cicadas were so loud and so plentiful that you couldn't go outside in the Summer without earplugs. And the mosquitos, god the mosquito swarms were as thick as mud, you had to practically wade through them in special suits if you wanted to go places without losing most if not all of your blood. When a swat doesn't kill them and they live more than a few weeks, bugs become less of an annoyance and more of a horror story. God knows what life is like in places like Louisiana and Florida right now; they had to be evacuated after the first six months.

We did our best to make sure these animals didn't suffer, but… it's hard. It's hard to figure out what's actually suffering and what's just us not being able to hear them crying about the pain. We knew when we signed the Boring Agreement that we would have to agree to some less than savory stuff, but we never thought we had to deal with this, this… "torture apocalypse".

A lot of the workload got to some of our people. Nandini couldn't take the stress of being head of the Veterinary Department, poor woman. She just up and left when she saw a mountain lion with her stomach burst open writhing with maggots, still mewling weakly in pain. She'd usually euthanize the poor girl in this case, but… obviously that wasn't an option right now.

Hell, when The Foundation called us to visit them in order to do something to deal with this problem, a lot of us didn't even want to show up. I myself almost considered breaking that agreement just so we didn't have to deal with so much of this weight. In the end, I went alone; someone had to handle this, and it's more or less my job to protect people that need protecting.

I was outfitted in a hazmat suit with a 'friendly' little Foundation logo on the breast, hurried out of a van, and into a fairly ominous-looking concrete building. When I asked, I was told that the site name was classified; all I needed to know was that it specialized in chemical containment. If they thought a little pesticide was going to stop this, I would have walked out then and there, but I had to keep on… if there was a way to stop this, I had to at least try to hear it out.

It took an uncomfortable amount of time in an elevator before we reached our destination; a stuffy little room secured by a few too many airlocks than I thought were necessary. Hey, I guess they had to be safe, considering what could be stored here. Dr. Violet Mesmur, a woman who said she was on the Ethics Committee, greeted me as warmly as Foundation members are known for. She seemed relatively calm and collected at least, but that made me think that she had no idea what was even going on outside. I didn't know if I should have felt angry or jealous, but that didn't matter. I needed to be focused, eyes on the theoretical prize.

"Mr. Wilson, would it be wrong to assume that your operations are at least somewhat well-known in the United States?" Dr. Mesmur asked.

I cleared my throat before I replied, "W-well, we've been trying to get ourselves out there, as I guess you know. We do videos on the animals that we're allowed to show, like when we raised a small family of Pileated Woodpeckers after their mother and father got eaten by predators," I took a breath, stopping myself from getting too invested in the tangent, "I wouldn't want to get cocky, but at least we're known pretty well in the Pacific Northwest."

Dr. Mesmur nodded, then spoke, "Mhmm, well, you're going to be a face now. We're busy enough dealing with the human population, trying to keep everyone from taking advantage of their newfound immortality for… less than savory actions."

Dr. Mesmur instructed her assistant, who had since been standing silently nearby, to 'Get the cylinders'. As they flitted away, I felt a little sad that in our brief interaction that I never bothered to ask their name. I'm usually much more on top of getting to know people, but I guess, you know, life kinda stressed me out.

"You're already intimately familiar with animals, I would assume. From what I've read about you and your organization, their preservation and safety seems to be a bit of a passion for you, no matter what kind of animal it is," Dr. Mesmur remarked as she turned back to face me.

"Well, heh, you're pretty on the nose there, pardner. Not exactly hard to see, I'd say, but that's not the point you're getting at, is it?" I replied.

"Astute. You'll essentially be tasked with using something we've been developing and perfecting for the last few years on the animal population to stop their growth," at this point, the assistant came in, holding a box with three vials of something light blue inside them, "And considering the fact that it is… somewhat questionable, having a recognized face take action rather than us, a 'shadowy organization', should remove a few of the road blocks."

The kind assistant set down the vials on a table in front of us, each one sporting a neat little label. Dr. Mesmur gingerly took the leftmost vial, labelled 'SCP-3287-1' and held it, looking at it. She didn't bother to look at me as she continued to talk.

"It's a gaseous sterilizing agent. Simply expose any living subject to it and within 60 seconds they will be instantly sterilized. Or at least, that's what's in this vial," Dr. Mesmur said, setting down the first vial carefully.

"Bit of an obvious question, but what are in the other two vials then?" I asked, gesturing towards the other vials.

"Well…" Dr. Mesmur began, finally turning towards me, "Technically, we don't know. Plenty of people have theories, but none of them are confirmed. We've tried dozens of tests, but… we'll just have to go on a gut feeling here because we'll be needing you to either confirm or deny what these substances actually do."

She sighed, which I assumed was her signifying she finished what she was saying. I stayed quiet when she finished, assuming she'd have something more to say, but that never happened.

After a few seconds, I finally said something, "Are you asking me to try to figure out that theory or are you waiting for me to agree to using these things?"

Dr. Mesmur sighed, "I'm sorry, I got… distracted. The working theory is these vials are, well, retroactively sterilizing their subjects. If you use these gases on the right animals, you could easily stop problems before they even happen, or happened in some cases. Obviously you'll need to be briefed with how to properly use this, but you will need to give verbal and written confirmation that you consent to using this, should it… go wrong."

"Go wrong?" I asked.

"You could be erased from existence. Nobody would remember you, your organization would never exist, anything that you did for humans and animals alike would never happen," Dr. Mesmur said flatly, "I need a yes or a no before we can continue."

You could always count on the Foundation to gamble everything but their own skin on something if it meant that they could maybe learn a shred of information about it. They really just asked me if I wasn't just willing to die, but willing to risk the lives of every poor critter I had saved in my years upon years of working. What they said was absolutely crazy! It was inhumane! It was… it was…

It was the only shot we had. If I didn't do it, everyone would be damned to a world of locusts and mosquitos and mayflies and horseflies and wasps and… well, I don't exactly need to list them all out. But even they know that it's theoretical; they apparently hadn't even tested the damn stuff. It's just… I'd need to decide. I'd need to be the one to say whether or not I was willing to wait for a definitive solution or risk everything for one that could help us now before it gets too bad.

I gave my answer.

Surprisingly, life was relatively easy once people started becoming immortal. Something about what happened made a lot of the animals sterile, so we didn't have to deal with issues of overpopulation and whatnot. Our main problem was just making sure animals didn't suffer too much if they got into scrapes. Sure, we couldn't euthanize them, but we did our best to make sure they were at least taken care of as best as we could.

Of course, a few people started going stark raving mad once they found out they could live forever, but they thought immortality meant no repercussions. A lot of the fine folks at the Foundation said they got that covered, but if anyone ever decides to do something like break into a zoo and release all the lions or something like that, we handle it. Oddly enough, we've been dealing more with domestic stuff than anomalous stuff ever since this all happened.

It's still a bit hard when an animal comes in, hit by a car with its legs crushed but still breathing. It takes a while to get used to it, but considering how much has been done to improve the quality of life for humans, a bit of that was given to us to help these animals suffer as little as they could. Needless to say, the Veterinary Department's a bit overworked, but Nan just says she'll be fine as long as she has enough of her noir novels to read on her down time.

You know, you'd expect something everyone is calling 'The Apocalypse' or 'The Rapture' to be scary and dark and full of madness, but sometimes it's good to just be a guy who works with animals at a time like this. Being able to nurse them back to health, seeing them running and happy again… it's like these animals are making me, making us all feel a little more human.

I thank whoever's up there every day for my organization, though sometimes I gotta thank someone a bit more down to Earth. If it weren't for those doctors over by the Foundation, our organization would probably have faded into obscurity. Instead, they decided to let us do our thing, and I think a lot of us appreciate that. I certainly do.

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