The Mind as a Canopic Jar

rating: +14+x

I climbed a hill, the breeze pushing low grasses against my heels, the sun merely a brighter spot in the blanketed gray sky. I pulled my coat closer to my body with my right hand. My left fiddled with a tascam recorder in my pocket, and over my shoulders I carried a backpack full of all the other wires, cables and plugs I required to hook this device into that and the other one once I reached the top. That, and a notebook.

A final footstep took me to the crest of the hill, from which I overlooked the area of effect — the land claimed by the tower. It was a valley, flatter than any natural landscape could ever hope to be, that stretched to the horizon. Covered in the light blue that distance paints objects with, a single black tower stood in the middle of this expanse of flat nothing.

I took out my binoculars. It wasn’t necessary, but I wanted to look at it.

Through them I saw its girders, its stalagmite shape, the only thing giving this plane depth. Some red lights blinked at its top, and the wind that so whipped around my cold fingers seemed not to touch it at all. Stationary. Static, even. Not merely immobile, but immovable.

I lowered my binoculars and pocketed them. Once more, it was only a short black line with a blink of red on top. A safe distance away. I was safe here. So I had been told, in any case.

I was new to this project. SCP-084, that is. The tower. The Foundation had been recording its broadcasts for some years, but so far it had all been gibberish and static. We knew it seemed to be more active when human ears were listening in, so it wasn’t in their best interest to set up something that simply recorded its output. Every week, someone was sent up to the top of one of its bordering hills, and told to get out a radio and a notebook and record. This week, that was me.

I took out my equipment, set up the radio, and put my recorder in front of it. I found a nice rock to lean against, and then placed my notebook on my lap. In position, there was nothing left to do but turn it on.


It was what I had expected. Purely static, white noise that melted into the wind almost instantly. Like most that had come before me, I wrote my first note: Nothing new. In the world of the Foundation, most of the research was not innovation but instead routine. There were things that had to be monitored, there were things that had to be looked at, there were measurements that had to be taken, and the majority of the time they meant nothing to no one. But they had to be done, because eventually, they might mean something to someone. Which was why I had eight hours ahead of me that consisted mostly of sitting against this rock, listening to the wind, and holding my coat close to my chest to stay warm.

I closed my eyes and attuned my ears to the static and the air, content to perform my own kind of meditation under the circumstances. I worked long nights, and rest was more than appreciated.

Then something squirmed onto the airwaves.

My ears perked up. It wasn’t always that SCP-084 was reactive, and this time it was reacting fast. I sighed. No such rest for me. I grabbed my notebook, opened it, placed a paperweight from my pocket on a corner so the wind wouldn’t be so bothersome, and wrote at the top:

SCP-084 Audio Notes

Sometimes, what human ears heard and what was picked up by the recorders was different, so I was supposed to write summaries on everything I heard. With pen in hand, I waited for the distorted noise to resolve itself into something comprehensible. It didn’t take too long.

“— what you can expect down at the Clackamas Car Convention. Personally, I’m most looking forward to the rat rods, I love those beat-up things.”

“Well thank you, Ed. I’m sure plenty of vintage automobile enthusiasts will be all over it. Speaking of cars but in darker, more local news, we report on the car crash of two unidentified individuals in Klamath Falls. CCTV footage showed the car crashing into a seven-eleven on the outskirts of town. The driver quickly removed themselves from the vehicle, went to the passenger side, and hauled what looked like a limp child out of the car. Clearly alien to the area, the father was lost and afraid, not to mention the visible wound on their thigh. With potentially little time to spare, the father began to —”

The sounds melted into static again. I wrote my final bullet point on the locations described, and set my pen on its side once more. Interesting, I thought. The transmission had been more continuous than in the past. Usually, it was mostly garble, or at most several sentences. That didn’t necessarily mean that this meant anything, but it was interesting to note. I picked my pen back up and wrote that in as an afterthought.

It came back with a usual pattern, of mostly incomprehensible static with voice tones or hints of music, with a word or phrase here or there. I penned in ones I feel I caught, such as “sail,” “home,” “couple of,” and a brief weather broadcast that said something like “it’s going to be cold” before cutting off.

I wasn’t one of the people that was supposed to put all of this together. I was just the guy they sent to record it. Still, there was plenty of time to think when the broadcasts stopped short and went to static, and it was something to fill my time. To come up with theories, I mean. There were some themes that you caught onto over and over again if you listened to the static long enough. Stuff like houses and families and death and journeys.

I flipped to a page near the back, and kept up a series of tallies I was making. That marked the hundred-and-sixty-eighth time the word “home” had cropped up, and the eighty-second time “cold” had. “Sail” was sitting at a modest five mentions, and “couple of,” as a phrase in isolation, was a new one.

I flipped to the next page, and wrote some. I noted that the concepts of journeying and home were strange in connection to the anomaly in general. It was common knowledge that the people inside were trapped there. There were no journeys because no one could leave. It was what made me unsure that “home,” however much it popped up, was referring to the area of effect. I had toyed, at a time, with the idea that whatever lies at the center of SCP-084 was trapped with the rest of it, but I simply had doubts that the tower itself wasn’t the source of the anomalies. I felt like if it wanted to leave, it could leave.

I let out a puff of air. On the other hand, it was a tower. Maybe that was a rather stupid idea.

The static started to warble, and I immediately flipped to my frontmost page, ready to take more notes. It started up:

“For a sobering departure from our broadcast today, we’d like to give respect to the people who lost their lives in the Camp Fire of 2018. Today marks the anniversary of the beginning of that terrible event. Many lives were cut short, including those of the brave men and women who tried to save as many as possible. A moment of silence for the uncounted deaths of those who could not be saved, may their souls be at peace.”

The broadcast went silent, but without any static. I cocked an eyebrow. Would there be a continuation? I jotted down some bullet points.

Noise did start up again, but not one I expected. There was a loud burst of static that was gone as soon as it had come, and then a steady beep. I felt like I recognized it, but it was mostly notable for being the first pure… sound I had heard SCP-084 make. It wasn’t speech, it wasn’t music. Just a beeping.

The skip was acting up today, wasn’t it? I said as much in a note. Strange behavior, I wrote, simply and plainly.

Once I was comfortable with the reliability of the beeping, I flipped to the back pages of my book once more, and clicked the pen until I could think of something to write.

Home, journeys, death, families. I took a deep breath, which blended into the wind. I didn’t have much new information, so I decided to wildly guess at something just based on what I’d heard today. It was an exercise. Figure out what sounded like a likely option if I had heard the day’s broadcasts in isolation, and then compare those possibilities to the others I had written, find common threads.

I clicked the pen one final time, and leaned over my notebook to write.

Today’s themes so far. Crashes, disasters, saving. Failure to save? It seemed likely. Man takes child out of crashed car. Firefighters mourn the loss of those they couldn’t take with them. Home, journeys, family, death. Journeying family, I write, and then pause.

Journeying family crosses cold expanse, crashes, child dies.

Alright, I thought. Let’s take that as fact. Then what is all of this?

I looked out towards the tower again. The blinking red light, in time with the beeping of the radio, out in the center of the flat, like a leech latched onto the earth. The stasis of the place. The people that couldn’t leave. I clicked my pen absentmindedly.

Maybe the child hadn’t died, but was dying. The anomaly keeps people from dying.

I put my pen to paper. I cross out dies, and I write, dying. Anomaly equals preservation.

The beeping stopped, but the static didn’t return. I instinctively flipped to the front of my book, and waited for some new sign.

It came soon enough.

Clapping. It sounded like it was a radio show in front of an audience. Then, a zealous announcer:

“That’s right, the thousand dollar prize is yours! Congratulations on your winnings, Austin.”

“Hey,” a second voice cut in, “I’m just excited to make a quick buck.”

Then the static returned. I was struck silent and still. Shaking myself out of that state, I quickly wrote: Very very strange behavior, fearing safety, turning off. In haste, I made a single bullet point, game show win, and then closed the notebook.

That was too much behavior outside of SCP-084’s norm, and I wasn’t too sure about the consequences of continuing to listen. We knew that the broadcasts responded to the presence of listeners, but this felt too directed. It felt like it had noticed not just a human element, but me. Like it was looking over my shoulder at my notes and nodding.

I wasn’t having any of it.

I reached over to the radio, and turned it off.

I reached over to the radio, and turned it off.

I… reached over to the radio, and turned it off.

It was beeping at me. That same beep as before, that consistent beep, beep, beep, but all I had to do was turn it off. So I reached over to the radio, and turned it off.

I stood up.

I hadn’t turned it off. It was still beeping, there was still that soft, fuzzy background noise to it, like fur rubbed against a microphone. I was looping. Every time I tried to push the button, I hadn’t pushed it.

Only one thing mattered.

I grabbed the tascam and my notebook, stuffed them in my backpack, and left the rest of it there. This was supposed to be outside SCP-084’s area of effect, but something had changed, and I needed to leave before the journey was impossible. Before here became home.

I started walking down the hill. The wind felt incredibly strong, like it was ready to pull me off of my feet at any moment. Once I was making good headway back towards my car, I decided it was a good time to pull out my phone. I dialed, and put it up to my ear. It gave me a message that the number didn’t exist, but I spoke anyways.

“O’Roark, encountered undocumented behavior, potentially in danger, site-bound early, requesting screening upon arrival..”

Finally, the dial tone yielded to another human voice. “10-4. You have reached a secure line: anything to report?”

“Yes,” I replied, holding my coat as tightly to my body as I could and nearly yelling over the wind. “I believe SCP-084 responded to me. Specifically me. It seemed aware of my presence.”

“Did it show you something?” The

“What?” I was taken offguard. “To whom am I speaking?”

“O’Roark, we need you to stay put and record as much of SCP-084’s message as possible.”

“Sorry sir,” I responded, “I can’t do that.”

“O’Roark, we need you to stay put and record as much of SCP-084’s message as possible.”

“Sorry sir,” I responded, “I can’t do that.”

“O’Roark, we need you to stay put and record as much of SCP-084’s message as possible.”

“Sorry —” I stopped myself in the middle of the statement, and threw the phone on the ground. Another loop.

And that beeping wasn’t getting any quieter. That soft static was building, even though I was getting further away. It felt like my thoughts were being drowned out by that fuzz and auditory snow, like laying a weighty blanket over my struggling conscience.

I just kept moving down the hill, sometimes stumbling in my rush. It wasn’t a long hike back to the car. I just had to get there. I just had to get there. I careened down the hill, in that state of nearly-falling while my body above my waist bent over and in front of my legs, so that by the time I was at the bottom, I nearly plastered myself onto my car. I fumbled the keys out of my pocket, opened the door, got inside, and turned it on, and turned it on, and turned it on —

“Shit!” I yelled out loud to myself, and that seemed to break the pattern, because I turned it on and it stayed on this time. I pulled out of the spot, and got onto the road. A low hum of adrenaline was running through my body, but I was mostly keeping it together. On a road this straight and flat, it was easy to climb in speed, and I wasn’t yet fighting the urge to get away as quickly as possible, so I went from 30 to 50 to 80 in short order. In some miles, I would reach the gate that kept the general populous out and the Foundation in. I breathed. I waved my right hand erratically, testing the looping effect that I had experienced, and finding myself able to move fluidly and purposefully.

My breathing slowed. Not to normal, but to a more reasonable pace. I had escaped. I was going home.

Home, journey, disaster.

The car radio startled me by turning itself on. “The world watches the sky tonight,” is all I heard before my attention was pulled to the figure in my passenger seat.

I lost my focus.

I veered off the road, and I crashed into a ditch.

There was an object. Piercing through space. Like a spear sailing across the heavens. And it had a moon. Orbiting it. It was so beautiful. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.

And it ended so, so fast.

“Right eye looks good,” the doctor said. “Left eye too.”

He took the flashlight away from my face, and I could see again. “What can I say, you look normal,” he said. “You took a bit of a tumble but you didn’t even suffer a concussion. You’ll be sore for weeks, and I recommend you try to take walks so that your legs don’t get worse.”

“Thanks. I’ll do that. And my meme screens?” I asked.

“Came back clean,” he smiled. “You’re fine. I’m sure the cause of all this will be investigated shortly. For now, I think you should just go home and get some rest.”

Home, family, disaster, journey.

“Of course. Be seeing you, Dr. Hornswallow.”

“You as well, O’Roark.”

I shook my head violently all of a sudden, and put a hand over my head. “Are you okay?” asked Hornswallow.

I looked up to him, and chuckled. “Sorry. That’s probably going to happen for a few days. I’m still running on fumes and the adrenaline of the whole ordeal hasn’t really gone away.”

Hornswallow smiled. “Fair play. Well, why don’t you take the bus home? I don’t think you’re fit to drive.”

We both shared a professional laugh.

“Thanks. Goodbye for real this time,” I said.

He curtly waved as I exited his office, and made my way down the hall. As soon as I was sure he was out of sight, I smacked the open palm of my right hand against my head several times, like I was trying to get water out of my ears.

Except it wasn’t water. It was that damn static. That fuzz.

It hadn’t let up. It was still there, in the back of my head, that blanket holding down my thoughts.

But I hadn’t told anyone.

I couldn’t tell anyone.

Once I had made it to the bus, I sat in the back corner, and pulled out my notebook. The vehicle started up, and the rest of the passengers were too in their own worlds to pay me any attention. Perfect, I thought.

I flipped to the last pages, and readied my pen.

For now, all I could think to do was listen.

Preserve, preserve, preserve, preserve.

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