Chapter 8 - Sleep

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Huxley never enjoyed the nighttime. The cold, the wind, it all felt hostile to him. There seemed to always be a stalker in the trees, one that was ready to pounce on Huxley the second he let his guard down. But despite all of the fear it brought, Huxley preferred it to daytime. In the light, he could see everyone, but everyone could also see him. He could watch them recoil in fear as they looked at his broken body. At night, everything was blanketed with heavy shadows. If he was quiet, nobody would know he was there.

That was why the soldiers kept to the shadows. They embraced the night, they forced it to do their bidding. They abused that natural fear, toying with their enemies like an animal. The idea made Huxley smile.

Was he an animal now? He didn't have the will to think as Emma silently pushed him along an almost invisible trail that led around the back of the settlement. Soldiers surrounded them. Their long rifles were pointed in every direction. Huxley suppressed a laugh. He couldn't fight the feeling that these defenses were pointless. They were killing existential horrors with a piece of steel it took a machine half an hour to make. Why did they need to go through this process of appearing weak when they weren't?

One of the soldiers near the front of the pack — a familiar old man with that managed to retain his dark hair, maybe a captain — pointed a fist at the ground. The group silently came to a stop. The man looked back at Emma. There was a look in his eye, but Huxley couldn't tell what it meant. His mind was racing and yet it couldn't come up with a single thought.

"I'll take him," Emma whispered. He felt a familiar jolt in his spine as Emma began dragging him back. The soldiers soon disappeared into the trees. Emma and Huxley were alone.

He turned. "Wait, where are we going?"

Emma ignored his accusatory glances as she pushed him further away from safety. They were nearing the main entrance now. His wheelchair was getting louder and louder. The Sarkics must have heard them by now. They absolutely must have. Huxley could already feel their gazes etching themselves into his neck. He tugged at her sleeve.

"What the hell are you doing? Why are we going in the open?"

Again, Emma was silent. A black fire stirred in the back of Huxley's throat as they approached the wall. In the corners of his eyes, the world started to change. The trees seemed to bend, the wind stretched, and terrors crawled out of the shadows.

"Emma…" Huxley dug his nails into Emma's wrist. It wasn't enough to hurt her, but it was enough to get her attention. "Why aren't we with the soldiers? There… um, there could be animals here."

"There aren't any animals here," Emma replied coolly. "If there was, they would've eaten the meat from the walls."

"It's still dangerous—"

"Huxley, tell me something. Do you remember anything we talked about an hour ago. We talked with a woman back at the base. She outlined the entire plan. Did you remember any of that?"

"Um…" Huxley looked down. He searched through his memory, but it was jammed and swollen. His brain was exhausted. It couldn't even begin to remember what had happened.

"You didn't." She sighed. "We're leaving the soldiers behind because we don't want to give the impression that we're going to attack. If they think that, they'll kill us and Commander Enrique."

Huxley drew his arms closer. How was it so cold? How was he still awake? "Yeah, that makes sense." It didn't.

They made it. Huxley recognized the rotten smell that infested the air. Emma stopped and made her way around the wall alone. Huxley wanted to call out to her that it wasn't safe, but when he tried, his tongue rolled into the back of his throat, gagging him.

Emma presented her hand as if to touch the wall. Nothing happened. She was probably hoping that it would fall like it did for the other subtheriums. The thought made Huxley cringe. The word itself was enough to cause every nerve in his body to spike at once. He clenched his fists in order to keep his eyes straight. Neurons fired, ideas formed, suspicion grew. That conversation that seemed like it had doomed him now felt like a distant fantasy.

But it was real. It had happened. Emma knew the one thing that could break Huxley entirely. She could tease it out for years, forcing him under her servitude. What was she waiting for? Dozens of opportunities to strike had been presented to her. All it took was for her to tap one of the soldier's on the shoulder and whisper that one phrase. Then there would be gunshots and a dismembered monster.

Emma paced back and forth, eyes trained on the ground. Her acting was bulletproof. She even stopped and snorted in frustration a few times. Still, Huxley knew what was on her mind. His lips burned with shame. The words were fresh in his mind. When he had spoken them, it felt like committing a sin. He felt like he had murdered somebody in cold blood, but he couldn't find the victim, no matter how hard he searched. None of it mattered.

"It's Huxley!" His throat shouted without him realizing it. Emma snapped towards him. More words tumbled out of his mouth before he had time to close it. "It's Huxley and Emma! We're the people you spoke to earlier! We want to open a line for negotiation!"

There was silence. Emma stared at him, fully prepared now to murder him herself. Then there was a snap and a rustle of leaves.

"Are you… armed?"

The voice came from behind the wall. It spoke with the calm and the shallowness of an old man. Huxley looked to Emma to answer, but she was silent. He said, "No… we're not. We don't want to attack you. We just want to talk."

"I understand. Are you here for Lieutenant Commander Enrique?"

"Yes, we are. We want to…"

The words stopped coming. A chill snaked itself down Huxley's spine. He froze. Something was watching him. An undetectable shape, but one that absolutely existed. He peered out to the woods. After a minute of searching, he caught a flicker of movement. He saw it climbing over a dead tree.


It was stark naked, its skin was a metallic white like metal, its face was riddled with spikes, horns, tusks, teeth, jawbones, and antlers. Blood dripped from its mouth onto the ground. There were long scars along both of its elongated arms. It scrambled towards Huxley.


"We want to see if we can negotiate for his safe release!" Emma yelled as if he hadn't said anything at all.

Another snap. He only had time to close his eyes and wait for the FATHER to tackle him and take a bite out of his throat. After a few seconds though, he opened them. There was no trace of the FATHER: no malformed shape in the dark, no monstrous growl, no misshaped trees. All he found was a quiet forest that was illuminated by a few soft white beams. It was a hallucination. No, it was a dream. It was a tiny moment where Huxley had fallen out of consciousness and met what was waiting for him when he would go to sleep.

If he got a chance to sleep.

Emma rested her hands on her hips as she waited for a response from the voice over the wall. Eventually, a small hole began to form. Flesh separated and bones snapped as the hole spiraled out into a doorway.

"Come in. Now," the voice commanded. Inside there was a hundred tiny orange lights staring at the two of them. Those warm dots were so mesmerizing. It was like looking into a waterfall of light that twisted and turned with the breeze. They called for Huxley.

There were soft footsteps as a young boy approached the doorway, his face wrinkled and cracked. His eyes held that same orange glow. It was youthful and it was free. Its gaze almost caused an eruption of emotion in Huxley's chest, but he refused to let it grow. The boy held out its hand, beckoning. Huxley's wheelchair rolled forward. Invisible hooks were sinking into his arms, reeling him closer, closer, closer.

"Wait!" Emma's voice broke the spell. "We're not going in there without some protection."

The boy said, "If we wished to kill you, we would have done so already."

"Nice wording. But we're not just worried about you killing us. We don't want to end up like Enrique, either."

The boy smiled. It wasn't clear whether it was real or forced. The fire in his eyes grew hotter, almost breaching the surface. "Of course. And you won't, so long as you don't harm us."

"Why are your eyes orange!?" Huxley piped up. Emma held up a hand, but he ignored it. "I'm sorry. Why are your eyes orange?"

The boy smiled. "It only happens when we see somebody we l—"

"Stop!" Emma's voice startled even the trees. "Huxley, just be quiet for a moment." She stepped between the two, cutting off Huxley's view of those eyes.

A deep wound formed in his stomach. A voice in his head jabbed at him to look again, to peer into that boy's eyes. There was warmth there. There was safety there — a kind of acceptance that was quickly dying within him.

Huxley tried to push himself forward, but his wheelchair refused to move. He looked down to see that one of the tires had gotten stuck in a small groove. Uttering a quiet profanity, he leaned to the opposite side. It wouldn't budge. He started to panic. He had to see the boy. He had to see his — its eyes.

He gave up and threw himself out of the chair entirely. He stumbled for a meter or two before grasping onto Emma for support. "We can't Emma," he said. "I thought about it. You can't. It's like a game, Emma. We have to stop… playing." His legs gave out and Emma, a severely confused look on her face, held him up like a child.

"What?" Her gaze burned him. Her eyes were black holes and her irises were watch towers that fired waves of light at him. It pierced his skin, it rocked his body back and forth. "Hey. Huxley! Huxley! Are you alright?"

"Don't touch me! Yes! I'm fine!" Huxley tried unsuccessfully to break from her grasp. "Listen, I know you're nervous about getting killed, but that's what's gonna get us killed. Okay? We can't talk to them like suspects because they're not! We're talking to real… you know. Real subtheriums. Things that know when you're not being honest with them."

"Huxley…" The watchtowers in her eyes grew dim.

Huxley cackled. The image was hilarious. He wanted it to be a short laugh, but it soon expanded longer and longer until he started to get embarrassed with how long he had been laughing. She had given up her hand without even realizing it. Damnit, he had tried to stop playing the game. He knew every thought that was inside her head. He was the overseer. He was the captain. The game was over. He was the victor.

"See? I don't have a gun!" Huxley pulled all of his pockets inside-out. Excitement overflowed into mania. His legs stopped hurting. "You're safe! We can talk and be honest. That's what I'm going to do. Be honest. No more fucking games."

"Huxley!" Emma yanked him back. Huxley bit into her finger and tried to tear it off. She yelped and flung him to the ground. He instantly saw a thought enter her mind. How much of a beast he must look to her right now. "What the fuck is wrong with you!?" She glanced out to the woods, out to where the soldiers were hiding. They were too far away.

"I hate you! You liar! Stop speaking to me like that. I'm not a criminal! I'm not a criminal!" He scrambled towards the boy, who was now backing away slowly. "Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. You all share a mind, right? Talk to the boy, the boy that I spoke to today. He understands. Speak to him."

Emma grinded her teeth before reaching out again. Huxley was still under her care, whether he liked it or not. The boy was slowly backing away. The way it moved was strange. Emma realized what it was doing. It wasn't backpedaling out of fear. It wanted Huxley to chase it. And he was too far gone to escape this monster's gaze.

"Huxley!" she roared.

She grabbed the back of Huxley's neck and wrenched it towards her. She held him clear off the ground before rushing back to the entrance. She barely had time to stop herself before slamming into a wall. There was no doorway. There was no exit.

She swore through gritted teeth. Huxley continued muttering things to himself, about how he hated her and how he wasn't a criminal. He was like a doll in her hands as she frantically punched the wall. There had to be a fault. There had to be something that could be broken. After a few moments, she abandoned that naïve assumption.

"Fucking…" Huxley was quiet now. The moonlight gave shape to the eyes in the distance. Hundreds of them emerged from their homes and temples. Their faces were blank. "Huxley, what did I…" She looked down at the man that was swinging from her grip, unmoving.

Horror consumed her face. His skin was almost transparent, like he was already a ghost. She put her ear to his chest. He was breathing, barely. His eyes were open, but there was something dangerously wrong with him. He didn't breathe, he gulped for air; his heart didn't beat, it vibrated wildly in his chest.

Her next actions played out like a slideshow in her head. She loosed her grip. Huxley landed on the ground. She crouched over him. A low drone played in her ears, making her feel like she was moments away from waking up from this nightmare. It never did, though. She attempted to resuscitate. The monsters approached. She attempted to resuscitate. The monsters were closer. She attempted to save him. She failed.

Emma sat there, a dying man in her arms, utterly alone. She thought she was crying. She might have even spoken a few words to him, her last words. But none of that registered in her mind. It was all swallowed by that monotonous drone in her ears. She was not meant to be here. She was meant to be at Site-53 putting on a cheesy smile and taking postgraduates on the same predetermined tour of her facility. The eyes were all around her now. They swallowed her vision. Emma felt herself disappearing.

It was warm in here.

That was the first thought that bypassed the static. It took a minute for Emma to adjust her eyes to the dim interior of the temple. She was still breathing. She was still thinking. That meant that she was still alive.

She shook herself awake. Emma's hands were bound to the leg of a pew by something wet and warm. She tried not to think about what it could be. Squinting into the darkness, she made out the slumped form of Huxley. His knees were pulled up to his chest like he was catatonic. Quiet snores were rumbling in his chest. She sighed.

In the corner of the room were two figures: large humanoids. Their heads were too big. They pulsed and squeezed like tumors. She looked away before her eyes could make out any more details. Peering closer, she could make out the camouflage patterns next to a different pew. There were soldiers here. They were slouched against each other, all under the same spell as Huxley.

She turned her attention back to her partner. "Hey… hey, Huxley," she whispered. "Hey, are you awake?"

He groaned in response. One of his eyes slid half-open.

"Okay." At least he was awake. That relief left soon. "What the hell happened back there? We were supposed to stay outside and talk, not walk right into their arms. Why would you do something like that?"

"They… lied to me."

"Of course they were going to lie to you, Huxley. We're the fucking…" She took in some deep breaths. "We're the SCP Foundation. They don't like us, Huxley. Why do you think we needed the soldiers?"

"You're doing it again… the voice…"

Emma restrained herself from breaking his leg in half. "Okay, fine. What do you want me to do? You said that I should be direct and straight-forward. Then you said that I should stop being so bitchy. Then you said that I should stop being so calm. This is ridiculous. When I give you the simplest order, you can't follow it. When I try to be nice to you, you say you hate me. So what should I do, Huxley? What do you want me to say?"

"I want to sleep!" Huxley cried out. Emma whipped him and put a finger to her lips. "I want to sleep… I'll do anything, I don't care. I just need to…" He sobbed into his shirt.

"Stop, Huxley."

"Don't look at me…"

Emma felt an immense amount of pity for the man before her. His body was shivering and his knees were wobbling from the force of his tears. His voice whined like a bird. It was all so… human. She had forced herself to forget about it for a while, but she had to recognize who she was talking to — what she was talking to. He was something inhuman, and he would always be inhuman.

She looked back to the entities. One of them had shifted in their stance. It was staring at them. A silent expletive left her lips.

"Hey, stop. They're gonna—"

The church doors burst open. An old man in long robes marched inside. It glanced at one of the entities and after a brief moment of silent communication, it began to follow the man. They made their way to Emma. The man didn't speak when it strolled past Emma and ignored her premature apology. It didn't speak when it squatted down next to Huxley. It only let out a single grunt as it examined him.

"He's just tired," Emma said. "He won't cause trouble. I'm watching over him."

The man ignored her. It tapped Huxley on the head. "Wake up," it said. "Wake up."

"Go… away…" Huxley mumbled.

The man stood. "You. Get up." Huxley was still. The man reached down and reached behind Huxley to his restraints. It emerged with a thick rope of intestine. Emma resisted the urge to vomit.

The man grabbed Huxley by his shirt and lifted him until he was dangling in the air. Huxley gritted his teeth. He scratched at the man. He didn't leave a scratch. The man gripped tighter before slamming Huxley against the wall. Emma saw the edges of his face growing blue.

"Stop! He can't breathe like that!" The man glared at the entity for a moment. Huxley tried to bite into the man's hand, but only managed to wrangle his teeth around its thumb. The man roared in pain, slamming Huxley against the wall again and again. His hands drooped to his sides.

The man turned back to the entity. "Get the bloodline. He's weak and he knows more than the others." The entity turned and approached the soldiers.

"You won't be able to get anything out of him if he's dead!" Emma's voice was choked with saliva and tears.

The entity picked up a lifeless old man. There was a solidified mass of flesh on his face. Emma could see blood running through its veins and arteries. It was like a leech, sucking the life out of the man. The veins combined into a single large cord at the top that led to somewhere beneath the building. There was one on every soldier.

The entity placed its hand on the mask, and the veins slowly receded. Emma could now see the man's face — Commander Enrique's face. It was cold and deflated. The entity let go and the commander hit the floor, dead. The entity marched back towards them, each earth-shaking step bringing more tears to Emma's eyes.

"Stop…" she croaked. "He'll die from that, you idiot!"

Emma tugged at her restraints. She dug her heels into the floor. She tried to lift the pew entirely. Nothing worked. The only thing she could do was watch helplessly as Huxley was slowly murdered by the varmint in front of her. She was powerless — and that feeling made her want to scream.

The man took one look at Huxley's face and let him fall to the ground. The interviewer took in a few deep, grateful breaths. Tears were falling from his eyes, but Emma could see something fiery within him. She saw a fiery, red hot rage.

Huxley lunged at the man, biting into his arm and nearly tearing off his hand. The man wailed with pain, trying to force Huxley off of it. Huxley trashed at the man's face with his arms, tearing at the man's eyes, nose, and throat. His fingernails tore into the eyes flesh like claws. He tried to jab a finger into its eyes, but his legs failed him. He collapsed to the floor, exhaustion rendering him useless. But as he fell, Emma noticed something fly out of his pocket and land on the floor with a soft thud.

It was a plastic bag filled with purple dust.

Huxley dived on top of it. The man dove after him, pinning his legs and torso to the ground. Huxley reached out and tried to grab it. The man stomped its heel down on his wrist. Huxley screamed like he was burning in hell. He scratched at the floor, splinters stabbing into his fingers. He pushed against anything he could as he dragged himself across the floor. Like a rabid dog with a small child, he bit the bag with all of the force his jaw could muster. He forced it down his throat. Emma and the man were both screaming at him to stop, to listen, to give up. It was all too late.

Huxley shriveled down into a fetal position. His pupils became tiny dots that were aimed squarely at Emma. Even as the man wrapped its hands around his neck, Huxley stared pitifully at Emma.

Then, ever so slowly, his eyes began to close.

Swallow. Swallow. Swallow. Swallow. Breathe.

Hurt. Pain everywhere. Can’t feel my legs, my arms, my face. Disappearing.

I see you. Your face, your eyes, your tears. Are you weeping for me? Nobody weeps for a stranger. But maybe you're weeping for a dying man.

I am not a dying man. I am an abomination.

I hate you. You fucking bastard. You monster, you liar. I hate you. I hope they kill you. I hope they kill me. I’m falling.

I hate you. I hate you so fucking much.

Please leave. I’m so tired. Please. Please just let me sleep.

Help me.

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