Chapter 14 - Post-Foundation
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rating: +8+x

FATHER leapt through the hallways, from shadow to shadow and from wall to wall. He always eluded the light, but never escaped it fully. His shoe or his arm or the top of his head would get caught in Huxley’s vision, allowing him to continue his pursuit. But he could still feel his body wearing down. He had slowed to a stumble and his nails were bloodied from being scratched against the walls for so long.

There was something wet on his legs. Huxley didn’t look down and tried not to think about it. He decided that he had cut himself earlier on. Even when his legs started to sway in an off-kilter way, not going straight forward but flinging out to the side a little, he continued running. His tunnel vision flattened until the only image he could see was the man in front of him.

“FATHER!” Huxley screamed. “It hurts!”

DON’T CALL OUT TO HIM.

He wanted to drill a hole into his ear. He needed to be free from that goddamn voice. It took an extraordinary amount of willpower to stop himself from digging his fingers into his ears.

DON’T LISTEN TO ME. DON’T LISTEN TO ANYONE. JUST GO.

Everytime he let out a breath, he felt lightheaded, every time he took one in he felt like he was about to explode. The voice swirled the thoughts around in his head. One minute, it would be ordering him to stop, to not speak with FATHER, to give up hope. The next it would be whispering to him how that was the only thing that mattered. Eventually, Huxley gave up trying to reason with it. He just ran for the sake of running.

FATHER turned right, Huxley turned right. FATHER turned left, Huxley turned left. The facility seemed to lose its will to fight him. Corners became fewer and fewer. The hallways grew shorter. The slopes flattened and the ground became solid and firm.

He lumbered through an exceedingly long hallway. But by then, the walls had cut the game short. There was no exit — only a single pair of wooden doors. It was the entrance to the gymnasium. FATHER had no place else to escape. He had no place else to hide from what was coming to him. The only thing that could stop Huxley was death.

He was halfway through the tunnel when Huxley’s vision started to blur. The wooden doors melded together before collapsing into the concrete walls. The lights shot out suddenly. A power outage left the two in almost complete darkness. Huxley could barely make out FATHER’s shape.

“No!” he shouted. Fear gripped him as FATHER came closer to the doors. Huxley would not let him enter that place. If he did, he would know what Huxley did. FATHER would finally realize the thing that Huxley did to him.

“FATHER. Wait!” It wasn’t the way that this was supposed to go. Huxley was supposed to catch the specter in his hands, comfort it and confess then. That was how spirits left. But now it was happening too fast. FATHER had all of the power over Huxley, he was forcing the subtherium to confess, to admit the things he did to him. That was something Huxley couldn’t survive.

He was twenty meters away. Then he was ten. Then five. “Stop…” Huxley croaked, his voice rusting as he began to taste a warm, metallic liquid in his throat.

Huxley’s legs were weak. He lost his grip on the wall as FATHER looked back at him, grinned, then phased through the doors. Mountains of sound rattled his ears. Beneath his feet, he could feel something moving. Something larger than mountains and older than he could ever imagine. It was the machine deep beneath the SCP Foundation, the one that convulsed and screeched and spewed rivers of amnestics into the oceans. It was something nobody could stop and nobody could tame.

He heard it cry. He heard it hate.

The sound was overtaken by deep blue static. Huxley felt something that felt like tears on his face, but he couldn’t feel them when he dried them with his hand. The static overtook his senses. One by one, his senses fell away. The only thing he knew was that he was walking. He was alive and he was walking.

“I’m sorry…” Huxley apologized to the leviathan beneath. It didn’t care. The Pulse filled his vision with millions of deep blue pixels. He raised his hands, but he couldn’t see them anymore. They were just lines in the blue void that engulfed him. His eyes vomited tears like dirty water from a broken sink.

The only thing he could hear was his heartbeat smothering his brain. He apologized again and again, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, hoping that it would mean anything. There was the sound of a door being opened. Then Huxley felt the ground collide with his face as he collapsed onto the gymnasium floor.

“I’m sorry… I’m sorry… I’m sorry…”

FATHER turned his foot. He swiveled around and stared at a mutilated Huxley.

“I’m sorry… I’m sorry… I’m sorry…”

FATHER knelt down beside him. Huxley trembled.

“I’m sorry…”

Then FATHER whispered, “You’re everything that anyone could have ever wanted.”

Huxley screamed. An electric fire crashed into him as he felt every nerve in his body wailing at once. His skull was splitting in two. His heart beat a thousand times a second. And his legs burned. He looked down at his knees, his eyes raw with tears.

They were both bent in unnatural directions, broken bones jutting through his flesh like spikes. Large black patches of flesh surrounded them, dribbling blood. He was like an animal that had gotten run over by a large car and it left his body mangled and hurt. His voice started to strain. The pain didn’t leave. Everything looked blue and everything felt red. Waterfalls of the colors stained his clothes and body and left a long trail behind him as he crawled forward.

Huxley’s throat shredded itself. His ears were ringing. The world dimmed. The last thing he saw was FATHER’s face slowly moving away, slowly fading into the cold darkness of everything.


Then there was a soft light.

He felt the morning light on his face. It was warm, and brought life back into his body. Something tight was wrapped around his legs, which still thumped with pain. The air reeked of stale bleach, like a hospital. He squeezed his eyes shut as he realized where he was. He was back in his hospital room again. Not even FATHER could break him out of it.

He opened his eyes and saw nobody there. The sun was still rising and the light was still shining and not a single fucking thing had changed and all Huxley wanted to do was scream “Let me leave! Please, just let me leave!” but the Site kept refusing. He could have done all of that, but he didn’t. The raging, suicidal fire inside of him was calmer now, almost satisfied. He hated it.

The scene was disrupted by the sound of a sneeze. Huxley turned towards the sound and saw somebody sitting next to him, face buried in a small notebook. There was a bundle of unkempt hairs on her head and stains on her uniform. She was leaning back, cross-legged, like a child trying to sleep where they shouldn’t be. On her gray hands he saw seemed like hours worth of sweat caked into her pores.

Honey lowered the notebook. They stared at each other for a few minutes as Huxley slowly tilted his head back to the ceiling.

“Hey,” she said in a dry voice that had already lost all of its energy. “What is that, three times you’ve almost died now? If there were a Christian here, they’d probably say God was looking after you.”

Huxley didn’t respond. Blinking felt like it took minutes.

“Yeah, that’s what they’d say,” Honey continued. “But I don’t follow any of that, so I don’t know what I’d say. I guess that I’m, um, happy that you’re still here. You know, twenty years ago, they wouldn’t have been able to save you. You would have lost too much blood. But now we can pretty much bring anything back from the dead if we really wanted to. Isn’t that great?”

Huxley swallowed, and tasted hot blood. His throat burned. It was still sore and so fragile that it could easily break with the slightest of sounds. He looked down and tried not to cry.

“You know you can talk back, right? The surgeons didn’t take your voice box, did they?” Honey chuckled to herself.

Another minute passed. A bird chirped outside. A plane passed overhead. The soft drone drowned out the bird’s song completely, and Huxley didn’t get a chance to hear it again before it flew away.

Honey nodded like she was trying to read his thoughts. “Okay. I’ll take that as a ‘no’ then.”

“It’s morning.”

Huxley’s words stunned Honey for a moment. She waited for him to say more, but Huxley simply stared at the patterns on the ceiling, his eyes glazed over. His brain was already dead, it was just a matter of making his body realize that as well.

“Oh…” Honey realized. “And, um, you know these things take time and it’s fine if you want to take more. Remember Huxley, I knew a subtherium that was in one of these programs for six months before making a decision. The SCP Foundation is the wealthiest organization in the world, it can absolutely make room for—”

Honey got so wrapped up in the nervous thoughts that were tumbling out of her mouth that she didn’t notice Huxley staring past her. Eventually, she stopped. The room fell silent. Huxley lowered his head.

Honey knew what he was feeling, but she had never had the time to find a word for it. It was something she had seen in every patient, this look of utter acceptance. It was like watching an injured animal that knew it was going to die crawl into a hole. There was no reason for why it did that, but still it would use whatever energy it had left to move itself out of the way. There was something intimidating about it. At that moment, nothing could hurt it. It was invincible.

Her chest quivered. It was a sensation she hadn’t felt in a long, long time. It was her job to oversee people as they made this decision, and during her many years at the SCP Foundation, she had had this conversation hundreds and hundreds of times, but for some reason, now it felt meaningful. She felt like she was talking to her first suicidal patient again.

“I want… I want to show you something, Huxley,” Honey said. “It’s not what you’re thinking of. It’s something… special to me.”

Honey slid off of the chair and walked to the other side of the room, behind the wall of heart rate monitors and body temperature checkers. She grabbed the crumpled gray mass in the corner and unfolded it in front of Huxley.

It was his old wheelchair. Instantly, Huxley’s eyes were drawn to it like he was gazing at a long-lost lover, but there was a hint of repulsion in his eyes. There was a part of him that didn’t want to look at it again.

“They never actually got rid of it after that mission. They just put it in storage, with the rest of the evidence. I found it and brought it back here. I said that it would help with your recovery.” Honey rubbed the armrest. There were dozens of cuts in the rubber. “I want you to take you somewhere. I want to take you in your real wheelchair.”

Huxley kept glancing between the chairs and the monitors beside him. They spat out hundreds of sheets of data that nobody would ever look at, creating pointless piles in the printer trays. Slowly, he nodded.

Without a word between them, Honey carefully helped Huxley up off the bed and placed him into the chair. She took her time, maneuvering each leg into its correct place. She could see him gritting his teeth, but she ignored it as she began pushing him through the first of many hallways.

Honey only took a step a minute so as to not reopen the myriad of wounds on his legs. She took ramps even slower, but Huxley would still grunt with pain occasionally. It felt like hours had passed before they rounded the first corner.

Huxley observed his surroundings like a child in the backseat of their parent’s car. His gaze attached itself to the rust patterns on the walls, on the reinforced plating on the doors, and the cracks in the concrete below him. The Site continued placing slopes in front of them, never staircases. Honey couldn’t tell whether this was because the Site took pity on Huxley or dumb luck.

It took only three turns before she saw it. The two came upon an extremely short, unlit hallway that seemed to lead to nowhere. The walls here were blank and partially unfinished. Some parts didn’t have any reinforcement at all and others seemed to have never been painted at all. At the very end was a tiny light-blue door. It bore the words ‘SERVICE ENTRANCE. NO ENTRY’ in messy white paint.

Huxley held his breath as Honey pushed him through. On the other side was a balcony that overlooked a room he had never seen before. There was only a small space to stand, large enough for one or two people, surrounded on either side by massive ivory pillars. A storm of light shined upwards, and when he moved to look down he was nearly blinded.

“It’s clinical.” Honey stood, her hand caressing the railing. Her age had finally caught up with her. “And it’s quick. There’s only a few seconds of fear before the patient’s memory gets wiped. The transformation is instant.”

“I can see it.” Those were the only words Huxley could find. It was like he had finally seen a ghost. There were dozens of ways he could describe it, but the mere fact that it existed at all obliterated every single one until the only thing left was a mere statement that it was there, that he could see it.

Honey would have laughed then. But she just looked down at Huxley. She meekly placed her hand on his shoulder. He accepted it. “Are you okay? Do you think you can handle this?”

Huxley paused. “I don’t know.”

It was shaped like a cross. A superstructure hundreds of meters wide and thousands tall, as if a deity had stabbed it into the Earth thousands of years ago. Thick walls of steel, decorated with shredded metal designs that covered every wall. At the center of the cross, where the cacophony of stone and metal met, was a massive chamber made of glass walls with intricate, golden frames. There was something inside. It was a monster. It was a subtherium.

A platform surrounded the chamber, carved with the same intricate designs. Dozens of faceless, white-labcoated things walked on top of it, frantically typing away at computers and printing out test results and bickering with each other. It was like watching ants trying to operate a computer. There was no sense of understanding, only that doing this had made the machine work before, so we must do it again.

An alarm sounded as the walls to the chamber closed around the subtherium. Red warning lights flashed as all of the researchers took a few steps away. White gas flooded the chamber, hiding the monster for a moment. Then, there was a guttural groan so loud it rattled the platform and caused some of the researchers to collapse. It was the voice of something below.

Just when the platform seemed about to break off and fall into the dark pit below, it was over. The gas cleared and the doors opened. Inside was a lone naked woman. Two security guards, clad in night-black armor and carrying heavy machine guns, escorted her out. She didn’t fight them. Huxley’s eyes drifted to the long, long line of subtheriums behind her. Guards flanked each one, their fingers resting on the triggers of their firearms.

“Is this why this place is…” Huxley mumbled. Honey shook her head. She didn’t know.

“The machine can alter reality,” she said. “I don’t know how, and I don’t know how they found it. I didn’t know it was real for the longest time. I thought it was just a codename for a medical procedure. But it’s not. There’s no magic here. It's just like rewriting bad lines of code. Anything that goes in becomes whatever the SCP Foundation wants it to be.”

Huxley’s eyes stinged, but no tears came out. He wasn’t holding them back, there were just none left. He looked up at Honey. “Why… why are you showing me this?”

She sighed. “I’ve been working here for a long time, Huxley. A lot longer than you have. Next month will be twenty-six years. I joined back when they had those old recruitment posters up as colleges.” Honey chuckled. “I had no clue what I was doing. They placed me in some Site in Ohio that closed a week after I got there.”

Honey shook her head as another subtherium stepped into the chamber. She turned and sat, refusing to look any longer. As she spoke, the sound of the machine slowly faded into the background.

“This job is really good at just… getting you going. Before I knew it, I was in my thirties and then I was in my forties and everything just goes so fast. You don’t have time to think about how you could have treated a patient better because you have to treat another the next day and your budget is always shrinking and you’re constantly worrying about if you can afford to live off-Site for another year. It’s all confusion. I don’t know what I’m doing anymore, I just do it.”

Honey’s voice became shaky. “But… when I saw you in that bad, with those casts on your leg, I think it sparked something. There was this tiny little voice in my head that kept saying Are you helping him? and I don’t… I don’t think I want to do this anymore.” She was shaking. Her eyes were tearing up. “There this, um, log I have. A patient log. I have to keep track of which patients decide to get treatment and which I approve to leave. I was looking through it and… Huxley,” she looked into his eyes, “only twelve people left.”

She stared at him, trembling, waiting for a reaction. When none came, she buried her face in her hands as she sobbed. “I came here because I wanted to help people. I wanted to make people feel happy. But I… I sent thousands to that machine and only sent twelve away.”

“B-But they chose to do that, didn’t they?” Huxley took on a comforting tone. “You helped them—”

“I fucking kill people, Huxley!” Honey erupted. “I don’t help them. I don’t make them better, I just make sure they don’t slit their wrists until their procedure day! It’s those… goddamnit, it’s those therapies they send me. I knew what they did to those people, but I just did it because I was too much of an idiot to think for five seconds.”

She turned away from Huxley, too ashamed to even look at him anymore. Her voice had lost all composure, stuttering and jittering with every syllable. “And I-I try to understand, you know. I think about what it’s like to be in that situation and… it’s like looking at a doll. I see this people — these bright, beautiful people’s souls get crushed. They lose all their color, like they’re rotting away right in front of me. A-And when I was in the hospital room, I saw you and you looked so tired. I can’t do it anymore. I can’t, Huxley.”

Honey continued to sob. She withdrew more and more until it appeared that her body would never unwind again. Huxley didn’t know what to do, and a few grueling seconds passed. Then something else inside him took control. He gently raised his hand and placed it on her shoulder. He comforted her. Honey turned, and for a moment they locked eyes with each other. She saw something inside them, and so did he.

“Huxley,” she asked, “do you want to leave?”

His face lit up. “What?”

“Do you want to leave? The only thing you need is my signature. You wouldn’t have a job anymore, but you’d be able to leave. You would have your memories, your body, everything. The SCP Foundation would never be able to take you back. Unless you, you know, murder someone or something like that.” Honey laughed, and Huxley laughed with her.

Huxley looked down at his hands — his gray, wrinkled, lifeless hands — and said, “I… I don’t know.”

“You only have a few minutes, Huxley. You’re schedule to be treated today, in an hour. But I still have time to sign you out.” Honey grabbed his hand and held it in hers. “I can do that, but if you… want to be treated, then I’ll let you. You wouldn’t have to deal with this anymore. You wouldn’t have to worry about everybody hating you. You’d be safe forever.”

Huxley stared at the ground. He closed his eyes and said something to himself, something that Honey couldn’t understand.

“Just say yes or no. You don’t need to explain why. I just want one simple word, but it has to be your final choice,” Honey said.

Huxley thought for a long time. Then, he opened his eyes and said one simple word.


Huxley sat at the top of a tall hill overlooking a beach. The sun flew high in the sky, showering everything in soft white light. The wind breezed against him gently. In the distance, a bird glided down close to the sea, dangerously close to the water. But it flew with confidence, somehow knowing that it would be okay.

He crossed one leg over the other and leaned his head back against the warm park bench. He gazed into the clear blue sky overhead. A few clouds passed by, but none were large enough to disrupt the beauty of the simple color. A squirrel shot up a nearby tree, rattling the branches.

The sound of crunching grass broke him out of his daydream. He looked down the hill and saw a woman leaning against an oak tree that had lost all of its leaves. Behind her was a sleek black car that was parked on the side of an empty road that stretched around the coastal mountains and cliffs.

Her clothes were professional, like she had just gotten off work. A pair of sunglasses rested on her forehead. If she tilted her head slightly, they would fall down onto her eyes, but for now they remained there. She waved. Huxley returned the gesture with a slight raising of his hand. He wasn’t sure if they were friends or not.

The woman laughed. Even though Huxley couldn’t hear her, he knew the sound was beautiful. It was confident; it was self-assured. It knew that in this moment, on this hill in this tiny outcrop of land, on this road that nobody had travelled down in years, under this sun and these clouds, and surrounded by these waters, nothing could hurt it. Huxley held that image in his mind for a few seconds as he considered how to respond. Then, the woman simply smiled at him.

And Huxley smiled back.

THE END










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