Chapter 11 - 99.6%
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rating: +7+x

“Think of it like a group therapy session.”

Despite appearing young enough — her face was round and healthy, and her voice was clear — the woman sported a mane of elder gray hair. It was the only thing Huxley could focus on as she spoke.

“Why would I need therapy? I thought the treatment fixed everything,” he countered. She smiled. The edges of her lips quivered slightly.

“Don’t think about the treatment too much. It doesn’t do as much as you think. You'll still retain your core memories, so don't worry about having to relearn how to drive!" She giggled. "The treatment only removes memories that relate to you being a subtherium. If you're really lucky, you might only lose a few years. Most employees still keep their positions afterwards!"

"What do I have except those memories?" Huxley studied the color of her eyes: sapphire blue, milk white. "Every time I looked in the mirror, every time I carried myself up a flight of stairs, every time I remembered my childhood. All of that will be gone?"

"Memories can be changed? You'll still have looked into the mirror, you'll just remember seeing something else." Her voice seemed to get higher with each syllable, like it was trying to fly away.

"…Okay." He looked down at the two folders the woman had given him. She said they would help him adjust to his new life. It took a considerable amount of strength just to open one of them. There was something about them that convinced Huxley's mind that they shouldn't be opened.

On the inside was a massive, black-and-white image of a group of hideous monsters smiling cheerfully at one another and waving at the camera. Their bodies looked like melted sacks of flesh, blood, saliva, and black, oily bones. They were only human in that they had eyes, a mouth, and a rough approximation of a face. There was one researcher, a man holding a clipboard, facing away from the camera. At the bottom were the words 'PHOTO TAKEN DURING ACTUAL MEETING' written in translucent gray font.

Huxley imagined that there must have been hundreds of other photos taken, yet this was the one they chose. These were the subtheriums that the Foundation wanted to show to the world. These were the ones that they knew people would be able to accept. That meant that there were hundreds, thousands of others that were too grotesque, too inhuman, too incomprehensible, too wrong to be shown. Huxley felt something vile in his throat.

The woman continued, “You get to talk to real subtheriums. People that are going through the same decision as you are. There’s one meeting every day, 0900 hours. It lasts for one hour or so?”

“You don’t have to call me that.”

"Call you what?"

"A person. I'm a subtherium."

The woman laughed. “I don’t believe in all that classification bullcrap. You look like a person. You sound like a person. What’s the point in saying otherwise?”

“It’s right. It's correct.” He would have felt angry, but for some reason, her voice put a slight grin on his face. "People say it. The dictionary says it."

“The dictionary isn't real? They're just words, Huxley. What's gonna happen if I say the wrong thing, are the word police gonna arrest me?"

“I don’t know. Maybe.”

She laughed again. It rumbled in her throat and mouth. It was so powerful it brought her hands to her knees. There was something so inviting about it, as if it were beckoning Huxley to join. Before he realized it, he found himself chuckling a bit. He bit his tongue, his face glowing a dull red with embarrassment. If she could draw out a laugh this easily, it wouldn't be difficult for her to get him to say anything.

The woman wiped the happy tears from her eyes. "So, do you want to do it?" Her voice emanated warmth, but Huxley soon grew cold.

Who was this woman? What did she do? Why was she laughing in that syrupy, almost manic way? Huxley recognized those thoughts. They weren't screaming at him to run away, but they were just as concerned with his survival. They could see the walls closing in. He needed to escape.

"You say that like it's a choice. It doesn't matter if I say no."

The woman frowned. "Yes, that's partly true. If you don't seek treatment for your condition, then it will have to be um, forcibly purged."

Huxley was quiet. He lost all motivation to continue reading the folder. It was all pointless.

"But you're missing something! Look at the back, at the very back of the last page."

She reached over and flipped to the last page. It was filled from top to bottom, from left to right with tiny black letters. Even when squinting, it was impossible to make out a word. It was like the page didn't want to be read at all. At the bottom, there were two dotted lines.

"That's a very, very important part. I fought to have that page put in there, actually! It basically says that if you finish the program — that means you'd have to get my signature — it would exempt you from the humanization process! You would get to leave as you are, and nobody could make you do it again. Unless you like, commit a crime. That'll definitely get you sent back."

Fear and excitement rushed through Huxley's heart.

"W-Wait," he said, "Then why aren't there any subtheriums working for the SCP Foundation? I've never had one as a coworker. Wouldn't everyone take this option?"

"Not a lot of people… like it. You should have seen this place when it was first implemented. Strikes, walkouts, a few attempted insurrections even. People hated it. They said it went against the mission of the Foundation."

She went to grab Huxley's hand, but he pulled it away. She nodded and said, "Around… around half of those that finish the program end up taking their own lives — most within a few years. The ones that survive don't do well. If you look human enough, you might be able to pass as a cripple. People won't hunt you down then."

Huxley kept his gaze low. He wondered how long his stubborn will would continue to survive and suffer. Was it just waiting for the right moment to turn on him? He didn't know. It took him minutes to think of a response.

"I don't know," he said. "I don't know if I want to go out there again. At least if I get wiped away here, I would be doing my duty to the SCP Foundation, right?"

"Some would say that."

There was a pit in Huxley's throat. His mind kept flipping between 'yes' and 'no'. It didn't want to choose, but it couldn't dissociate no matter how hard it tried. It was face-to-face with reality. Huxley had to choose.

It wouldn't matter in the end, he thought. His life was never going to be full of happiness. It was unfortunate, but it was true. He might as well just accept it. This would not be difficult.

No. Hell no. This would absolutely be difficult. It should be difficult. Huxley was being forced to choose between decades of abuse from the hands of his neighbors and suicide. He could not make that decision. He had to stop being so melodramatic. This wasn't suicide. He would still be alive. Everyone would still call him Huxley Williams and he would still be a senior interviewer working at the SCP Foundation researching methods to eliminate the remaining subtheriums. His body would still be here.

But still, something would be gone. Something that he could not wager. Something that he had fought for years to keep, to survive, to grow. If he chose death, it would be an admittance that the world was right. His kind never had a right to be here and never had a right to live.

He closed his eyes. He would count to three, and once he got there, whatever word came into his mind would be his decision.

1…

2…

3


The Site gymnasium had been abandoned for years. Huxley only had faint memories of it from early in his career. That was the nature of Site-49. Everything was either abandoned or occupied by researcher who never stayed around for longer than a month. The tunnels in-between apartments felt more alive than ever. Huxley fought that feeling in the back of his head that they were trying to trap him inside and leave him to starve to death.

There were no staircases today. That struck Huxley as strange, because he almost always encountered one no matter where he went in the facility. Instead, the floor began to slope down as he and the woman continued. It didn't inspire much trust in him, but he was not willing to show that to her. It was so ridiculous how terrified he was. He couldn't even ask her for her name. It was so ridiculous Huxley laughed.

"What's so funny?" she asked.

Another oddity occurred. Huxley's face didn't immediately revert to a stoic frown. It remained in that off-color expression. "You never told me your name."

"Oh. You uh, you never asked. My name is Honey, like the company."

Huxley burst out laughing again, his face blushing now in confusion. "I'm sorry. I don't know why I did that. I'm in a… strange part of my life right now."

He could not, in five-hundred years, have possibly imagined that he would be murdered by somebody named Honey.

"Um… Honey, how long have you worked here?"

"I just got here last week," she said. "It's definitely weird! Heh. But I've seen weirder."

"I've been here for years. There's a staircase by my office on the left side. It only goes down a dozen steps or so, but it's the only way up. There's no ramps or elevators. Every day, I have to walk up and down that staircase to do my job."

"That's like, really weird, Huxley. Why wouldn't there be ramps here?"

Huxley smiled further. Her confusion, so pure and genuine, fueled his mind. "Something with the building code. Did Director Flynn ever tell you I can recite the building codes for the nearest twelve Sites word-for-word? I know all of them front-to-back. That's how I do my job. And every day, when I wake up, I have to walk up these steps. All twelve of them are hell."

The two rounded a corner. Honey's breaths became fatigued. She was getting tired of this, but Huxley was only getting more excited. He felt like an actual interviewer again.

"Why not just — huff — get some help? You said it was — huff — short, right? Get like a guard."

"No! If everybody else can do it, I have to do it. I was doing it for almost a decade. My legs would burn and I would fall, but I would do it, because I know that at the end of the day, the pain doesn't matter. For me, the SCP Foundation always comes—"

Huxley slammed into a pair of wooden doors. The slope barely had enough room to level out before ending. His mind took it as a sign from the walls to be quiet. He looked behind to see Honey struggling, one hand on the wall, to reach him. Once she did, they stared at each other in silence for a minute. There were no signs on the doors, but both of them knew what was on the other side.

Huxley gulped down his fear and allowed Honey to push him through. They entered into a basketball court, and the first thing Huxley noticed was the scale of the place. The room felt one hundred kilometers tall and a few thousand wide. There were five mustard chairs in the center circle, three filled with things that Huxley couldn't bear to look at.

Honey squeezed his shoulder and began to wheel him forward. Huxley didn't resist. For a woman that lost her breath just from a small slope, she had no trouble pushing him around. There was a confidence to her as if now she had full control over him. Huxley didn't have time to process the situation before being thrust into an empty spot, surrounded on both sides by subtheriums.

"Hello, everybody! Sorry to keep you all waiting. I was busy getting our newest member. He'll be joining us from now on. Can you say your name for the group, please?" The woman patted him on the back.

Huxley looked up. On his left was a man in an intricate gray suit. Wiry white hair burst out of its scalp and face to the point where it was impossible to discern where its beard ended and its hair began. An oxygen mask was loosely strapped to its face. The man stared at Huxley with a beady, twinkly, suspicious pair of eyes.

“I’m… Williams.”

“Hey, Williams,” said the thing to his right.

It was some androgynous being, nude but with no genitalia or facial features. It held an air of arrogance, like it was from a place that was above reality, like it wasn't supposed to be on Earth at all. Each word was uttered like it had been molded and shaped for years to resonate perfectly with Huxley's ears. Its skin was a dirty gold, and it looked monstrously beautiful.

Honey said, “We use first names here.”

“Okay. Then my name is Huxley. I thought we were doing it the, um, traditional way.”

The being laughed, then there was a long stretch of silence. Huxley noticed that the black basketball lines were starting to peel off.

Honey clapped. "Okay! So I bet we're all wonder about our new member here, aren't we?" She waited for a response. "Alright. Well, either way, it would be good for us to learn a little bit before we begin. So, Huxley, why don't you introduce yourself?"

Her voice was eerily similar to Emma's. It was an overly sweet mixture of fear and plastic. That was the different between her and Emma. Emma could hide her fear. She could talk for hours and hours and maintain that sweet tone, the one that kept an iron grip on everybody around her. With Honey, however, the fear was the only thing Huxley could hear.

"There's nothing much to me," Huxley said. "I worked at the SCP Foundation for a while. I thought I trusted someone. We had an argument and now I'm here."

"Oh, don't be so pessimistic!" Honey replied. "You'll lose yourself if you focus on the past too much. We have to focus on the now, the present, the things that we can improve about ourselves."

"You told me to talk about my past."

Honey laughed playfully. "No, I didn't actually! I asked you to introduce yourself, and you started off by talking about your past."

Huxley tried to think of a counter, but couldn't. He gritted his teeth and looked down.

The being next to him piped up, "Hey, don't play around with him. He's new."

Honey threw her hands up, surrendering to its point.

The being turned to Huxley and said, "She doesn't mean to insult you, man. Honey's just like that sometimes. She's got a good heart though."

"I'll find out what she's got for myself." Huxley sneered. The being sighed.

Honey waved his attention back to her. "Hey! Let's not talk over each other, okay? Now, one at a time, let's introduce ourselves to our new participant. We don't want him to feel overwhelmed."

"I'm not overwhelmed."

"That's great, Huxley!"

Honey waited for one of the other members to bite. The man in the gray suit began tapping on his leg. Her eyes darted towards him and, silently, she ordered him to begin speaking. Huxley could hear oxygen spewing out of the gaps in the seal of his mask as he spoke.

"Hello, Mr. Williams. My name is… Robert, I think. Heh, it's hard to remember that name after all this time. Don't feel guilty if you forget it. If you were to call me by it, I would assume you were talking to somebody else." The man crossed its legs and leaned forward, forcing its gaze onto Huxley. "People call me SCP-014. Or, these years it would be more accurate to say that they call me subtherium oh-fourteen these years."

"We don't use those designations here, though," the being said.

Honey jumped. "Oh! Isaac, how about you go next? Then we'll move onto the big guy."

The being, Isaac, frowned. It had no eyes to greet Huxley's. "I'm Isaac. I ain't got a last name. I'm… god-touched, to use an old term. My appearance is entirely aesthetic though, so don't worry about me. I can't do miracles or anything like that."

Honey nodded, then focused on the final chair, the one opposite of Huxley. "Okay, so Huxley," she said, "You're probably wondering who this guy is."

It was a pillar of flesh and bones stacked on top of each other and molded into something stable. It was the worst subtherium Huxley had ever laid eyes upon. It was an abomination. Its flesh was devoid of skin, only bloody muscle that stretched and squeezed past other chunks of meat and fat as it swayed back and forth. Its 'legs' consisted of two meaty trunks that oozed red puss onto the floor. They were connected to its torso: a fat barrel of wet bone that extended up nearly to the ceiling. In the darkness of its rafters was its head; its two dim orange eyes shined down on Huxley. If Huxley squinted, he could make out the deflated features of its fetus-like face.

"This is Geoff! They found him floating off the coast of Florida, near the marshes by Daytona Bay. Lots of mangroves over there. He even blended in with them for a short while, heh! He can speak, but since his mouth is so far away, we can't hear him that well. So we…" Honey retrieved a laminated piece of paper and a small black marker from her coat. "Do this!"

She inserted the marker and the paper into the abomination's flesh. Both got caught between the gaps in the thing's muscles. Tiny brown tentacles sprouted out from its bones and pulled the objects inside. Huxley watched them travel up the thing's body to its head. A few seconds later, it flew back down, in spotless condition.

Huxley grabbed the paper and showed it to Huxley.

HEY

"Well that's… something."

"Mhm. That's how he responds to questions. He's surprisingly talkative once you get to know him!"

"I… I bet he does."

"And… yep! That should be everything. Now, we start every meeting by talking about what our favorite part of the day was and what our least favorite part was. Let's start with you, Richard?"

Huxley settled into his chair. Air filtered in and out of his lungs. Huxley felt time slow down as he retreated into his mind. Even if he didn't want to be here, he couldn't get out of this. He had to interact with Honey. He built a wall in his mind of things he would not speak about and began tossing bad memories, strange interactions, and other unnecessary thoughts in. He was only going to be here for a few meetings. There's no point in giving them his entire life story.

As he tossed more and more of himself behind the wall, he found only a small handful of topics that he allowed himself to discuss: his status as a subtherium, his duty to the SCP Foundation, the procedure itself, how he was feeling on that certain day, etc. It was eerily efficient how well Huxley was able to forgot entire swaths of his life at a second's notice. It didn't matter, though. Nothing did at this point.

That dark, familiar factory inside of his subconscious began to stir.


“Who was that person you were talking about?”

The meeting had ended. Huxley and Honey fell back to their usual positions on the way back to his containment cell. His arms were growing tired as they got closer. There was a feeling in his gut like the world was trying to warn him to run away as fast as he could. The hallways were quiet, the air was clearer, and for the first time this week, he didn't feel anything holding him back.

"What?" Huxley said.

"You said that you thought you trusted someone early on in the meeting. Who was that?"

Huxley's breathing grew labored. "That's not… relevant. It's in the past. It doesn't matter. Didn't you tell me not to worry about the past?"

"There's a difference between dwelling on something and visiting it in a healthy way, Huxley. You shouldn't just abandon your traumatic memories, because they will never abandon you. They lie in wait until you're at your most vulnerable."

They were only a floor, a corner, and a hallway away from the containment wing. But Huxley could tell that she was going to make that short journey feel like a marathon. Huxley wondered if all therapists spoke like her? Did they all espouse shallow messages that did nothing to solve the real issues that were affecting him? Something inside him felt guilty over the thought. Was she not doing everything in her ability to try and help him? Maybe, but he couldn't deny the fact that Honey had absolutely no clue how to relate to the creatures she was trying to help.

Soon, Huxley came face-to-face with a reinforced steel door. It was at the end of a long, unswept hallway that was missing two floor tiles. The walls had corroded from a pristine white to a disgusting brown with hints of yellow stains in the cracks. There was more rust than concrete in some spots. The keypad next to the door was dusty as if it hadn't been used since the day it was installed.

Whatever was on the other side of this door would be Huxley's home for the foreseeable future.

There was a plaque on the wall, but the numbers on it were scratched out. The SCP Foundation stopped using plaques after the Pulse. It wasn't necessary. Over the years, the database had been whittled down to a few dozen files, each one separated by miles and miles of dead horrors and solved mysteries.

Honey swiped her identification card and the door screeched open. Inside was an unlit room with barren concrete walls, the only amenity being a wall-mounted bed that barely large enough to hold Huxley, let alone a normal-sized human being. Light flooded the room. At the top of the far wall, he spotted a tiny, dirt-covered window the size of his hand. It was raining outside.

He wheeled himself inside. The floor was surprisingly clean, like this space had actually been cared for and lived in. Three pulsating lights were buried in the ceiling, covered in a plastic covering so Huxley couldn't smash one of the bulbs and slit his throat. With how loud they were buzzing, he could imagine how somebody would be driven to do something like that. On the bed was a light-blue anti-suicide blanket.

"Sorry for the conditions." Honey's voice fell into her stomach. "I heard the blanket's really soft, though. And I can get you a mattress if you really want."

"I've slept through worse."

"Really?"

Huxley waited a beat, wiped away a tear, and turned. "No, I haven't. I lied. I'm sorry."

"Oh."

Huxley examined the blanket. It was as flat as a board and impossible to roll into a more comfortable shape. "I'm supposed to get a cellmate, aren't I? You can't keep patients on suicide watch in a room alone."

"Um… No. I'm sorry. There was a new policy implemented recently. Subtheriums aren't allowed to spend considerable amounts of time in the same room as one another. Studies have shown that they either become more depressed about their situation or… aggressive. We don't have the means to prevent a containment breach anymore."

Huxley grunted. That must have been why they were only allowed one hour for meetings. He rubbed the blanket in his fingers. The old and torn fabric cut into his fingers.

"I really think you should get a mattress."

"That's not the policy."

"Oh, screw the policy. Look at this room, Huxley! The walls are barely standing. The lock doesn't even work. Would you want to live like this?"

"It's not about what I want. It's about what I deserve."

"Well I think that you deserve… something different, at least."

Huxley looked at her through slanted eyes. "Honey, you don't have to worry about me. I can make do with what I have. You don't have to treat me like the rest of them because I am not like the rest of them. Okay?" He didn't look at her. He didn't want to see the look of disappointment on her face. He didn't want to think about the pointlessness of his anger.

"…Okay." Honey tapped on one of the walls. A ringing sounded, loud enough to rattle the walls. "There's a button on this wall here that you can press. If you need me for anything, just push it and I'll be there in a few minutes. I'll be bringing you meals and water whenever you ask. Don't feel like you have to be modest. We have enough food lying around here to feed a nation for years, probably."

Huxley nodded. Honey nodded in return, stepped back, and shut the door. A few seconds later, Huxley heard the familiar sound of a containment lock. He never realized how much it echoed for the subtherium on the inside.

He felt the air grip his throat and lungs. He was finally on the other side, where he was meant to be. The feeling was terrible. There were eyes burning into the back of his neck, hands wrapped around his body like ropes, knives slowly burrowing into his back. He looked the walls up and down and saw it. Tucked away in a corner high above him was a security camera. A small blinking red dot was the only indication that it was alive.

Honey would be watching him through this: monitoring his actions, checking if he was sleeping at night, making sure he wasn't trying to off himself by slamming his head into the walls. Every mistake would be captured and archived.

He expected to be shocked, maybe even devastated. He waited for his anxious mind to stab him, for the fiery rage that had been boiling in his soul to spew over onto the floor, but it didn't. Nothing happened. When he touched his face, he noticed that it hadn't changed. It was still a nothing expression.

Huxley stared at the wall. He could hear the rain. Tears streamed down his face as he watched the droplets slide down the window. He closed his eyes and imagined what it would feel like on his arms: wet and cold and slippery. It would smell like the ocean and it would taste like the earth. It would stain his clothes for hours, refusing to leave until he felt as sad and lonely as it did. He used to understand the rain.

But rain was too slow to escape concrete.










Post-Foundation
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