The Meeting
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Had it been only mere seconds? It had felt like years. Time itself was being smeared out, a single moment spread to infinity. But there she remained; Dr Lilibeth Orion, 61, 5 feet 7 inches, PhD in astrophysics, former employee at the international research organization The Foundation .

Loving mother and wife. Childless and widowed.

She had slipped through a hole in the floor of a cottage, and was still falling, tumbling through the void that lay beneath it. That is to say, she assumed she was still falling; there was no wind resistance, no sense of direction or gravity. Alone with nothing but her thoughts, her mind began to wander, and as it did, a stinging regret began burning inside her.

Lillibeth wanted nothing more than to go home, but where was home now? Her old apartment? The Foundation?

Somewhere up ahead, debris began to float towards her. At first it was just a few chunks of concrete and splinters of wood, but then came a book, strips of vegetation with wilted blue flowers, PVC piping. A computer terminal drifted along, inexplicably still powered despite no visible power source.

What the hell, she mused to herself, if somebody comes after me they’ll need to know what happened here. She grabbed the clunky monitor and keyboard as it floated by, carefully appending a warning to SCP-2508’s documentation. Procedures dictated the document would need to be printed and put by the door, but who knew how much of the cottage was even intact. The best she could do was hit the print button and hope for the best, hope that whatever poor soul followed in her footsteps wouldn’t make her mistakes.

Off in the dark, the faintest sound of a printer could be heard, reverberating in empty space. As soon as Lillibeth took her hands off the computer terminal, it continued drifting past her, until it ascended above her and was lost again in the inky blackness.

“Thank goodness you’re still alive,” a familiar voice called from within Lillibeth’s head. It belonged to that shadowy entity- the “immune response”- she met in the cottage right before it collapsed. She couldn’t see it, but its presence could be felt.

“Leave me alone,” Lillibeth murmured, “can I not even die in peace?”

“You’re not going to die,” the shadow replied. “Come with me, I can take you somewhere safe.”

“Where? Some holding cell while you rebuild that prison up there?”

Silence pervaded the dark.

“I tried to tell you,” the shadow spoke, “you need to stop lying to yourself. That transmitter- the place you’ve been all these years- it didn’t choose you. It’s the other way around.”

“Liar. I never agreed to any of this.”

“Yes, you did. And the fact remains, the transmitter needs constant maintenance, and it’s unusual locale requires isolation. The ideal candidate is one that is already looking for such a place. A fresh start.”

Lillibeth didn’t want to admit it. She wanted to curse and flail and fight until there was nothing left. But she was too tired, she had no fight left to give. The truth was, after losing her family, Lillibeth’s life went into freefall. The grief seemed to have no bottom. She tried filling the hole with work but it was a band aid solution at best. Things didn’t start to actually improve until after she became the resident of SCP-2508.

Perhaps she had always known, in some small way, that the whole time when she was trying to escape, the place she was trying to escape to no longer existed. Maybe SCP-2508- that little house house- had become the closest thing to home she had left…

…And she had just sent it down the deepest darkest pit, along with herself.

“Even if you’re right,” Lillibeth sighed, “what then?”

“I–” the shadow began to answer, but before it could Lilibeth felt dizziness wash over her. Her eyes blurred momentarily, and by the time she shook the feeling off, she was no longer falling through the abyss. She was seated in a large red armchair in a spacious office overlooking a beach. At the far end of the room sat a desk, and behind that stood a gaunt man in a dark freshly pressed suit. He was faced away from her, peering out at the waves.

Lilibeth heard seagulls for the first time in 20 years.

“I apologize for the wait,” the man said, “I would have come sooner, but the universe conspires for events to happen at precisely the right time.” He turned towards her, greeting her with a warm smile like that of an old friend. “And here you are.”

“Where is here?” Lilibeth asked, her head still reeling.

“A small pocket dimension, much like your cottage. Although unlike your cottage, two square feet of this island occasionally overlap with a backyard in Salem, Massachusetts.”

A moment of silence came over the room.

“My name is Centaurus,” the man spoke again, strolling off to the side of the room where a mini bar was built into the wall , “and this is my office. Would you like something to drink?”

“No, I just need a second. It feels like I was falling for a lifetime. How long was I out there?”

Centaurus poured himself a glass of what Lilibeth assumed was something alcoholic, then began to walk back towards his desk.

“You used to work at The Foundation. You know as well as anyone that this universe of ours is a strange place. It’s full of idiosyncrasies, quirks, and anomalies. Well, here’s one more. Normally, underneath that cottage is a maze of maintenance ducts and a back door. I know you’ve seen that.”

Wherever this was going, Lilibeth didn’t like it.

“However, at the exact moment you fall through that cottage- that point in space time- there is a hole. Punched through the fabric of reality. Always has been, always will be. No maintenance ducts, no back door… You’ve had a brush with the infinite.”

“I was…” Lilibeth trailed off.

“Outside of space and time, yes.”

“How is that even possible?”

“I’ve asked myself that same question. My colleagues and I have tried to study it, but as far as we can tell it’s just part of the shape of the universe.” Centaurus produced a black briefcase from one of his desk drawers. On the top Lilibeth could just make out an engraving: the Hebrew letter Aleph, followed by a superscript Zero: ℵ0.

“Aleph Null,” she whispered, catching Centaurus’ attention.

“You’re familiar with the symbol?” He asked.

“Mathematically, yes, but I’ve seen it somewhere else too. There was a book that mentioned a group called Aleph Null, but they protected people from places like that cottage—”

“Do you still believe the cottage is some kind of prison?”

“I don’t know what I think,” Lilibeth confessed, “but I’d hazard a guess you’re affiliated with whoever is responsible for the cottage, not that Aleph Null group. So why the symbol?”

Centaurus smirked. “You seem to misunderstand the situation. That group you read about is merely a small aspect of Aleph Null, one meant to discourage the disturbing of our various sites. They are one piece of a greater whole. So am I.”

“Why should I believe you?” Lilibeth rose from her seat, but stopped as she felt a wave of disorientation pass over her once more. Her knees grew weak, causing her to sit back down.

She never made contact with the chair. Just like before, it felt as though she had become decoupled from time, and was strung out across infinity. Her vision blurred as she began seeing double, then triple. She shut her eyes just long enough to take a few deep breaths, and when she opened them, both her and Centaurus were standing on the beach outside.

“Something’s wrong,” Lilibeth sputtered, “what did you do to me? How did we get outside?”

“We walked. You know, with our feet?” Centaurus chuckled.

“No, I don’t remember that.”

“Yes, you do. I told you, Lilibeth, you had a brush with the infinite. You’re just not used to experiencing time spatially.”

“Stop trying to confuse me,” Lilibeth held her hands to her temples as she could feel herself being pulled in a million directions at once. Time was melting around her.

“Don’t fight against it,” Centaurus put a hand on Lilibeth’s shoulder, “it’s like learning to walk again, but you get used to it. Lean into it, let it take you where you want to go, I promise it will make sense.”

In Jay, Vermont, the bus arrived late one September morning. Off stepped a dozen or so passengers, slowly shuffling to their jobs in the cold rain like usual. Among these passengers was a woman in her early 60’s, Dr. Lilibeth Orion. Another was a gaunt man in a freshly pressed suit; Centaurus. The two made their way across the street, where they stopped in front of an apartment complex. In one of the windows on the third floor sat a woman, casually working on her laptop. She couldn’t have been over 30, and the family resemblance was apparent.

Junior Researcher Emily Orion had been working at Site-162 for several years now, primarily on research into SCP-067 in Maine. That was back in May. The object in question had since been explained, and she had been reassigned to Site-162’s safe objects wing. All things considered, it had been a quiet and uneventful summer.

Outside, Lilibeth looked into the window, her lips curling into a smile. “This isn’t a dream,” she said in a half whisper, “but my daughter died over 20 years ago”.

“Strictly speaking, this isn’t the same Emily,” Centaurus corrected her. “Do you remember how we got here?”

“Yes,“ she replied, but felt something else at the back of her mind. Memories flashed in her head; memories both foreign and yet somehow familiar. The one which stood out now was that of an ancient structure; a tangled web larger than large, a cascade of forms bending through higher dimensions. And it was alive.

“But I remember other things, too,” she continued, “things that haven’t happened yet. I remember Aleph Null, the construction of the cottage, you and my friends and I all working together… and the other Hyperpatterns.” She turned to face Centaurus.

“You said part of me was outside of time. That means it always has been, always will be. I feel… untethered. And I think you are too.”

Centaurus nodded thoughtfully, “Similar story to you and your friends, really. We are all parallels of each other after all… What are you seeing right now?”

“Possibility space. My life, every trajectory it takes. All of my possible futures and pasts. Including ones where my husband and daughter are still alive.”

In the window, Emily closed her laptop and casually disappeared into another room.

Things were coming into focus now. Lilibeth hadn’t been seeing double back in the office, she was seeing other timelines. Except where before they had been a blur they now appeared almost crystal clear, a near infinite array of potential futures and pasts all happening at once, eternally. She needed only to focus her attention on a moment, and there she was. No teleportation or dimensional hopping, just a simple change in perspective.

“Are you going to go inside? Say hello?” Centaurus asked. Lilibeth mulled the thought for a moment.

“Yes, but not yet. There’s still a lot of work to do."

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