Chapter 12 - Faded Man

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Huxley was already awake when the sun came. He was pacing around his room aimlessly. It helped him to think, even though he had nothing to think about in that moment. Ideas would form in his mind only to be eradicated before they could reach a conclusion. Nothing finished; nothing connected.

Heels clicked against the ground. Huxley's mind swarmed to the sound like flies to a herd of dead cattle. They were Honey's footsteps. Every morning for a week now, she would walk down the long hallway to his cell, unlock the door, and beckon him into another group session with a big smile on her face. He would always accept.

But this morning, there was something more.

He leaned close to the door and picked up on another set of footsteps walking alongside Honey. They were softer, more anxious. A normal pair of ears would have ignored those differences, but Huxley's were different. They amplified them to the point where each step sounded like a gunshot going off next to him. He pressed his hands to his ears to keep his head from erupting.

Honey was speaking with someone. The thick vault door couldn't block out all the sound, allowing Huxley to stitch together the pieces.

"Is this him?" The voice was not Honey's.

"Mhm." There was silence. "If I may ask, are you nervous at all, ma'am?"

"What? No, of course not."

"I can moderate if you don't feel safe."

"I know him. I won't need it."

Honey chuckled. "You're a little uptight today, aren't you?"

"Can you please open the door? I don't have time to talk."

There were a few clicks then a loud bang. Huxley was already back in his bed, blanket covering all but his head. He knew it would be strange if they found him standing in the middle of the room for no reason. His legs flared with pain.

Honey said in her over-enthusiastic tone, "Huxley? Are you awake? You have a visitor today!"

She stepped out into the light. Oak brown hair, dark eyes, pale white skin, messy uniform. He didn't even need to hear her speak to find her name.


"Hello. Are you Emma?"

Yes, that's who she was. She was a woman named Emma Sandaran. She was the daughter of the Hero of the SCP Foundation, the Mother of modern mankind. She was the woman that Huxley had spent day and night with as they tried to convince a community of Sarkic inhumans to voluntarily commit genocide.

She grinned and her teeth were stained with anxiety. "What, do you not recognize me?"

"I wanted to be polite."


She surveyed the room as Honey closed the door. Memories of her voice filled Huxley's head. Her authoritative glare, her mean laugh, her winding words — it all came back to him in at once in a single cacophonous mess.

"Alright you two," Honey said, "I'll be waiting outside if you need me, but I promise to keep this confidential. If you need me, all you have to do is yell!"

The sweetness in Honey's voice ran out. Her words sounded grating to the ears, as if tailored to inflict as much pain as possible. Both Emma and Huxley needed her to leave. They needed to be alone. Huxley's foot raised up and down with excitement until the door finally shut. Now, finally being alone with Emma, a torrent of fear washed over him. They were trapped in this concrete box together.

Emma couldn't stand still. She paced around, refusing eye contact, refusing to start the conversation. Their ceasefire lasted for a few more unbearable seconds until Huxley lost his nerve.

"Emma, why are you here?" he said in a low voice. "You were supposed to be leaving. You should have been in New York."

"I'm leaving today." His words bounced off her without leaving a scratch.


Emma waited for another attack from Huxley, but he just lowered his head. She couldn't tell whether he had ran out of ammunition or didn't have the strength to fire what he had. It was another unanswerable question, and she was absolutely sick of those. She wanted to be sure about anything, but that seemed to be an unreasonable request recently.

"I'm sorry."

Huxley perked up. Emma held her face up because she was afraid that it was going to fall onto the floor. She said, "I'm sorry for… telling them. I made you go through all of this. I've been an angry bitch to you this entire time." There were no tears, no inflection in her voice.

"Emma, you weren't being a bitch. You were in a tough situation—"

"Don't try to apologize for me. At least don't do it while you're still here. Not while you have to live like this. I don't have to hide who I truly am just so I can survive. I don't have to distance myself from others just to feel safe. Okay? Fuck, everybody already knows who I am. Everybody knows what my mother did."

"Don't disrespect your mother, Emma. She did a lot of good."

"What?" Emma's face tightened. "Don't talk like that. I thought you hated my mother. That's what you said. She was the reason you're here. She was the reason for everything. What are you doing?"

"I don't know what you mean."

"Are you okay, Huxley?"

She grabbed his shoulder.

Huxley looked away to the wall. The blanket slid away, exposing his flesh to cold air. "Do you know where David is?"

"David? No, I haven't seen him. I don't think he works here anymore. He got transferred to a different Site."


"You didn't want him to go, didn't you? He was your friend."

"We're not friends. We talk. Sometimes we eat lunch together. It was stupid of me to assume anything more. I shouldn't be surprised he left."

"Oh, come on Huxley. Don't…"

Emma's voice gave up. She wouldn't fight this point anymore. If he wanted to wallow in his own pity, then that would be something he would do alone. The two stared at different spots for a long time. Emma tasted something toxic in the back of her throat. It was a question; it was a terrible, paranoid idea.

"Huxley," she began, "if you hate me, just say it. You don't need to act like what's happening to you is right. You're not a… you're not a bad person." She took a step forward into uncomfortable territory. "I couldn't think about it for a while. I wouldn't let the thought enter my head. I would beat myself up about it at night so much that I had to start taking sleeping pills just to get a good night's rest. I know I shouldn't feel guilty because of what you're going through, but it's still… so hard. I can't stop thinking that I'm just like her. Sometimes I imagine her standing over me, this big smile on her face, whispering what I should do like I'm a robot that needs to be commanded."

Another nudge forward. Huxley sat up and pressed his back into the cold wall, but Emma didn't care. She leaned in. "All the time, every day, those thoughts popped up in my head. I couldn't work some days. I would read about a subtherium and freeze up. So this is me… taking responsibility for what I've done. Huxley, I did something really reckless and weak. I fucked up. And I'm sorry."

Huxley grinned, then frowned, then grinned again. He couldn't fit Emma's words in his mind correctly. "Emma…" he said, but couldn't continue. He didn't know how. Something had to slip out of his lips for the conversation to continue, but nothing was coming to mind. After a very awkward minute, he scrapped together a sentence that made any kind of sense.

"You r-really don't need to apologize. You were… you were just… um…" He tried to stand, but his legs refused and he let out a grunt of pain.

"Have you been walking?"




"Why were you walking?"


Something inside Huxley changed. He felt like he could control himself again. He considered something for a few seconds, then he shrugged and said, "Emma, I don't forgive you. You're a murderer, and that's all you'll ever be."

Emma was pale.

Then the tears began to flow. Her hand tried to defend her face from his gaze, but it was pointless. Huxley could already see the embarrassment and the fear enveloping her. He didn't know what the fuck was inside of him to make him say that, but he felt no regret over it. Even when Emma became crippled with guilt, he couldn't take it back.

Finally, some malfunctioning piece of muscle in his brain started to do its job. He reached out to her with guilt, saying, "Hey, hey. Don't cry. Shh, it's alright Emma. Don't cry."

Emma wanted to destroy him. She wanted to stab him in the chest and scream at him for hours until she was so choked of breath that she'd collapse on top of his lifeless body. But when the thought came to her head, it made her feel so sick and evil that she cried even more. It was disturbing. It was disgusting to be thinking those things. The lapels of her coat were gray now.

She opened her mouth to apologize, but didn't. If she apologized, he would forgive her. The last thing Emma wanted was to be forgiven. She wouldn't be selfish enough to get any kind of reassurance. That was the only way things made sense. She was the bad guy. Was she, really? Or was she just a cog in an evil machine, innocently slaughtering millions while remaining none the wiser? There was an answer to that question, but she couldn't find it.

It was too painful. It was too difficult. It was a question that would take a philosopher a lifetime to answer — and all of the philosophers were either dead or working so they could get enough money to fly away to space. She couldn't be like them. She cared for Huxley. She wanted to help him. Still, whenever she saw his face, she couldn't suppress that voice in her gut that told her to destroy it. It was lesser. It was lesser. He was lesser than her. He was a disgusting spot to her cool, modernized Irma Grese-style eyes.

Maybe this wasn't worth the trouble. Huxley wasn't worth the trouble.


"F-F-Fuck you."

The daughter of Rachael Sandaran turned and left.

“What did she say to you?” Honey insistently tapped her foot on the ground like she was scolding a child.

“She said a lot. I can’t remember." There was a sting of guilt in Huxley's side, the same one that came from when he lied, but he knew he wasn't lying.

“Well, just tell me what you can remember. It sounded like things got… heated in there, to say the least. Do you want to tell me what happened?”

Huxley kept her face out of view. “I don’t remember much.”

“Hey,” Honey grabbed his chin and brought his eyeline up to hers. He instinctively slapped her hand away. She yelped and pulled it away.

“Don’t grab my face.” Huxley's hands were shaking. "Go away… please. I need to process things right now. Y-You said I shouldn't run from my problems, right?"

"Um. Yes, Huxley, but—"

"This is me doing that." Even without looking, Huxley knew she was staring. "This is me… facing everything."

Honey took in a deep breath. “You should discuss this with the group. I think it would be better if you had somebody else to talk to that maybe wasn’t me. You need understanding, and the other patients can give you that!”

That wasn’t what he needed. Huxley wasn't sure if he knew himself enough to know what he needed. No matter how hard he tried, he could not unravel that final knot in his head, the one that kept him away from his real self. Maybe all he wanted was for Emma to come back. Maybe he just wanted Honey to leave. That was ridiculous. Wanting Honey to leave would be pushing help away. That couldn't be what he desired. Could it?

“Okay,” he said. Honey nodded and grabbed his wheelchair. “Wait! Could I, uh, walk to the meeting room?”

“You want to walk?” Honey waited for him to take it back only to be disappointed. “Huxley, you can't walk five feet. And how far is the gymnasium, 50 or 60 meters? You'll hurt yourself."

"You can support me. I can walk and you can support me. And if I can't walk anymore, then I can push myself in my wheelchair the rest of the way."

"That's not a good idea."

"Please, Honey." Huxley's gaze turned blue. There was a small glimmer of empathy in Honey's eyes, but she turned away.

"No. I'm sorry, but I can't do that. I can't allow you to just go hurt yourself like that." She placed his wheelchair in front of him.

Huxley stared at the polished steel thing. It didn’t look like something that belonged to him. He would never own something that blank. His old wheelchair was weak and had been falling apart for years, but it was certainly and undeniably his wheelchair. This new one was better in almost every way: it turned easier, it glided across the floor, not making so much as a squeak as it did. But it wasn't his. It would never be his. The SCP Foundation's logo was predominantly visible on the side, having been burned on by a machine in a supply line.

It didn't matter. It was metal or destruction. He gave a weak sigh, “Okay.”

Minutes later, Huxley was crawling through the tunnels again, his eyes following the river-like cracks in the ceiling. Any amount of clarity he found in this place had eroded away. The air amputated, the walls mutated and mutilated. Site-49 was dead. It was just another nearly abandoned building in the south of a country that could not fund it anymore. It was an item of the past.

Honey heaved. "Every time I do this — huff — it gets harder."

Another corner, another ramp, another long hallway. Then in the distance, Huxley spotted that familiar pair of wooden doors. The lights dimmed as they approached, each bulb getting slightly less power than the one before it. Eventually, they were walking in darkness. The bright lights of the gymnasium shocked his eyes so bad that Huxley started to see static. Sounds filtered in, malformed and incomplete.

Those three subtheriums were seated in exactly the same places they were the last however many fucking times Huxley had seen them.

"How long have they been waiting for us?" Huxley whispered to Honey.

"Oh, I don't know. Hopefully they weren't bored while we were gone. I'm sure Richard kept them entertained."

She wheeled him towards the circle. Greetings were shared, but Huxley couldn't hear it. There were colossal walls of black, oily noise all around him, separating him from the world. The others didn't seem to notice. They were all focused on Honey, their minds trying to find any kind of escape plan. What were they doing here if they were not trying to escape? Did they enjoy this kind of existence? Or were they so empty that they didn't mind it at all? Huxley wondered the same things of himself. Would that be such a bad fate?


The group had their eyes on him.

"Huxley, do you have a question?"

"What? No. No, I don't."

"You weren't listening, were you?" There was silence. Honey play-groaned, then made her way behind him, squeezing his shoulder as she spoke. "We're trying a new activity today. It's based on the COTA Method. We want you to visualize a person in your mind — not yourself, but someone you maybe want to be. Now, develop them. Give them a name, facial features, a history, a journey, hopes and dreams, career opportunities, anything and everything."

"You want me to… use a new name?" Huxley retracted his arms. Honey squeezed tighter.

"No, Huxley! I told you, don't visualize yourself. The point is to help you identify the flaws that you see in yourself through a character of sorts. Think of it like a stage name or a username. Something that you can use as a mask of sorts so you don't feel so embarrassed about sharing things."

Huxley swallowed. His foot rattled against the footrest. Honey's words didn't fit correctly in his mind. It was like he was acting in a play but didn't know any of the lines. "Can the, um," he stuttered, "can the others share first?"

Honey nodded and pointed to somebody Huxley couldn't recognize. "I decided to choose the…" Words patched themselves together and split themselves apart. "…representative of how I am…" the sentences spilled into one another. "…like how I sound, not so much how I look…" The world became an oily photograph, brown from age.

Honey shook her head. "Just call me Honey." She cackled.

He suddenly recognized that she had no power in this organization. She was just another head-on-a-stick that was being puppeted around by whoever had control over the SCP Foundation. Huxley never understood why they cared about facades anymore. Who is going to stop them if they chose to slaughter tens of thousands of innocent souls? The people? The people are the ones supporting and worshipping them. It wasn't like the SCP Foundation was trying to hide the things it did, they documented it themselves in their own history books. It just so happened that nobody cared to read them.

But how could that be true? Honey was trying to help him. Emma was trying to help him. Where were all of the terrible people plotting behind his back? Where were the monsters lurking between the walls and inside of the security cameras? Where was… where was he?

Of course, Huxley knew what happened to him. Everybody did. It had sent ripples throughout the entire organization. Emma knew about it. Honey knew about it. So why didn't anybody talk about it? Why was it only reserved for shadowy arguments and the nightmares of bureaucrats? Why was he allowed to create his own legacy for himself while hundreds of thousands of better people were tossed into the trenches? Huxley knew there had to be an answer there somewhere, but it eluded him for years. He spent days combing through old records and emails and therapy sessions trying to find a motive behind it all, but there was nothing. He had gradually come to believe that there wasn't an answer.

That was until it slapped him in the face. It grabbed him by the neck and pinned him against the wall and dug its claws into his stomach and ripped out his heart. It screamed at him for hours, about how stupid and blind and hateful he was. Huxley should have figured it out a long time ago. People didn't ignore the history books because there were afraid of what they would find. They didn't ignore them because they hated him.

They ignored them because they simply did not care.

"So what name did you pick, Huxley?"

He turned to her.

"I want treatment."

Then, everything turned white. Huxley felt nothing but calmness as he was obliterated.

I chose the name Alto. It's Latin; it means 'high or elevated one'. You can figure out the real reason why I chose it, though. It's not a very popular name anymore, not since the leaks came out. Once everybody realized the kind of man he was, they stopped building new statues. Heh, it's funny. I thought that more would happen, honestly. I thought the people would tear down all his statues, but they're still standing there. We still celebrate his holiday, you still teach your children about him. I don't know why the protests stopped. I don't think anyone does.

I found out something about Alto. Did you know there aren't any pictures of him? None at all. I've found dozens of photographs of all the other researchers that were canonized: Talloran, Gears, Kondraki. But there isn't a single photograph of Alto. Instead, there are… stories. I found thousands of them on the database, some in the containment procedures of abandoned files, others in the personal drives of researchers who died on facility grounds. Each one described an encounter with Alto of some kind. It was all so unreal. This many people couldn't have interacted with Alto in this short amount of time and have no evidence of it. It was as if they had made it all up as a joke.

Sometimes, though, when I'm trying to sleep, I think of those stories. I imagine myself as him, running away from the world, fighting things that others cannot comprehend, burning every bridge I come across. Nobody knows my face. Nobody knows my name. I am an enigma to them, a phantom that is not beholden to any law known to man. No historian, no protestor, no madman would be able to stop me. I was destined for something greater than them. I would forever be known as one of the great men of the SCP Foundation.

Then I looked up his personnel file. Clef was relieved of all duties in 1999 after being found guilty of unbecoming behavior by the Ethics Committee. His secretary lost her job, and he drank himself to death a year later. Somebody spray-painted the words 'SLEEP COLD DEAD BASTARD' on his gravestone.

I know what I am. I'm never going to be a perfect being like Talloran or Kondraki, but maybe I can get somewhere close. If I am lucky, if I push my mind and my body to their limits, if I abandon all relationships and future prospects, I might have a shot at being just forgotten by the end of this. If I fight for the rest of my life, I might be able to escape the vultures long enough to fling myself into the ocean. I… I made plans, but there was always something coming up. A pointless interview or another mission. I never found the time to do it.

Don't look so worried, I'm not in that place anymore. I'm somewhere else. Somewhere far, far away.

Maybe I can help you. You want to be in the light, don't you? That's how the saying goes. You live in the light so I may sleep in the dark. You can be the next great hero of the SCP Foundation. You can have your own day. All that you need is my blood, and I don't want it anymore. All I want is sleep. I'm so tired. I've been tired for years.

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