The Cycle of Alexandria

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Warning: A depiction of suicide is graphically described in this story.

Year 1

It was over.

Lincoln Abrams, Watcher of Alexandria Eternal, was surprisingly disinterested in the details of the cataclysm. He had ordered the archives sealed off two weeks ago when O5 Command had informed them that SCP-2000 had been destroyed. The Library spoke to him, in the strange way that it did, and had made it clear that this was not the sort of apocalypse that the Foundation had prepared for. This was not going to reset and be uncovered as century-old ruins a month later. This was the end.

The true end.

And so he gathered the half-dozen archivists that he had come to know and care for over the years at Base Camp. They were all family, in spirit if not blood, and shared the same purpose: custodianship of Alexandria, the record of every human life that had ever existed. A task that now seemed more important than ever before.

Avon Travers, Liu Xiaoqi, Martin Harrison, Felix Martinez, and Arthur and Melissa Brand all stared at Abrams expectantly. When none of them spoke up, he did so himself.

“It’s true,” he said, quieter then he was trying to. “There aren’t any humans left up there.” A few of them went pale at the confirmation of their suspicions. “Before we lost contact with Overwatch, they told us they couldn’t hail anyone outside of the exclusionary sites or the moon base.” He paused. “We’re not extinct. But…”

“The books have stopped appearing.” Liu spoke up, her thick accent making her words no less impactful. “In three days, I saw one new book. One.” Hundreds of thousands of new books appeared - had appeared - on a given day. “There are no new babies being born. There may not be for many years.”

Silence reigned for a few moments. Melissa quietly began sobbing into Arthur’s chest, the latter joining his wife shortly after once he realized she was crying for their dead children. The rest of them looked at the floor, lost in their miserable thoughts. The rest except for Lincoln, who took a moment to collect himself and pressed forward with his plan. For the sake of Alexandria, he had to be strong.

“The Preservation Protocol has been activated,” he said. “Our primary objective remains the same: we will catalog and copy every book in this archive. But we no longer do it for benefit of the Foundation.”

Some of them looked up at that, surprised.

“The Foundation is gone,” Felix said, his voice giving the impression that he had kept his composure better than any of them. “It doesn’t matter if some remnant of it survived or not. If we try to go up there, we die. And our communicators don’t work anymore. For all intents and purposes, the Foundation is gone.”

Again, silence descended upon them. This time, it was broken by the familiar whirring noises of Marvin and Molly. The latter held something made them all gasp: a pen. In the Library, that was like pointing a gun at someone.

“What the hell is that thing doing down here?” Martin demanded.

“Relax, Martin-”

“The hell I will! What kind of Watcher brings a pen down here-”

“It’s part of the Protocol, idiot.” To demonstrate his point, he reached towards Molly as if to take the pen. When he attempted to, the robot shocked his finger with a mild electrical pulse - far more mild than the one that would actually shock someone if they attempted to take the pen.

“Molly has the pen, not me.” He turned around towards all of them once again, and their expressions said they were worried, but no longer terrified. “As you might have realized, we don’t have any resources down here beyond the few weeks’ worth of rations supplied to us. The Foundation anticipated this, and instructed me to equip each of our robotic companions with a single pen.”

“You’re going to write in the books?” Melissa spoke up, her voice sounding somewhere between outraged and awed. “You know what Alexandria thinks about that. Do you remember what she wrote about Waylon-”

“We are not Waylon.” Avon interrupted. “We respect Alexandria, and the power She holds over us. We would never abuse her.”

“Which is precisely why none of us will ever touch those pens, myself included,” Lincoln said. “Marvin and Molly will use them to extend our lives and provisions in the manner that Theopoles once did his. They will grant us exactly what we need to survive. No more, no less. Alexandria will understand.”

“How do you know that?” Martin asked.

“Because I spoke with Her.”

In the darkness, he heard a voice speak: 'You are not the last. But you have no way to reach those that survived.'

Lincoln closed the book for a moment and breathed in deeply. He knew that this day might come eventually, but he still felt somewhat overwhelmed at what was now demanded of him. He had to ask if there was a way out.

“Can we undo this?” he asked into the darkness.

The normally gentle breeze briefly became a gust of wind. The whisper of Alexandria was almost - almost - audible for a moment. And for the first time ever, he had heard her without having to read the book. The single word was clear, and vehement.


He opened his book again.

In the darkness, he heard a voice scream: ‘NO.’ Then the voice spoke: ‘I did it once. I will not do it again. Not when your kind can rise once more.’

That last line made him raise his eyebrow. Rise once more? Before he could contemplate what that meant, he heard the customary breeze and looked down.

In the darkness, he heard a voice speak: ‘Watcher, humanity has suffered its greatest ever blow. But through the Foundation, it will live on. Your task is to document what comes next, and wait for those who will one day replace you. Marvin and Molly will extend your lives as necessary - a practice I am not fond of, but I see that it is needed in this case. Do you understand what I ask of you?’

At that, he put his book back in the nearby shelf and walked back to the nearest Camp, his mind racing. The implications of what Alexandria had just told him were…stark. The Foundation - the Foundation - was going to restart civilization, using the few thousand souls that had survived the apocalypse outside of Earth to do so. It would not be a pleasant civilization. But more than that, it would take them a very, very long time to discover a way back to Alexandria. They might never find it at all.

We will be down here for…millennia. Theopoles will seem an infant to us when we are finally relieved. If we are finally relieved.

Still, the choice was clear. He had made a commitment to this place, and would not break it. “I will do as you ask, Alexandria. We will watch You until those that come after can find their way here.”

As he walked, he heard a gust of wind, and knew She was pleased.

Year 3

The sight that greeted Lincoln was one that was as tragic as it was predictable. Arthur and Melissa Brand, archivists of Alexandria Eternal, lay dead. They were beside the human and horse skeletons that had been discovered by Marvin and Molly so long ago, and had sharpened one of the ancient, brittle bones enough to slit each others’ throats. They were holding hands, and would have seemed peaceful were it not for the blood pouring out of them.

“Marvin came and told me about this,” Avon said, carefully looking away from the gruesome sight. “They knew you had everyone’s books confiscated right after the end of the world. They wanted to die, but they didn’t have a way to because they couldn’t write their deaths. So…”

“I should have seen this coming,” Lincoln said quietly, the regret in his voice obvious. “All they ever talked about was how much they missed their children, and how painful the end must have been for them.”

“Why didn’t they…you know?” Avon couldn’t bring himself to say the blasphemous words.

Lincoln could. “Because we love Alexandria, and we know never to abuse Her for personal gain,” he replied. “They loved their kids, but they also know She is the closest thing we have to God. So they found a way out that would sadden Her, but not anger Her.”

“What do we tell the others?”

“The truth,” he replied. “We hold a ceremony, and designate this area the Corner of Death. From this day forward, any archivist who wishes to die will ask Marvin and Molly to write their fates, and that request will be granted. Their bodies will then be laid to rest here.”

Avon’s eyes widened. “But…we made a promise to Her.”

I made a promise to Her,” Lincoln corrected. “I will stay here as long as I must, even if that means I must stay until the heat death of the universe. You may go, and I will not judge you. But I will be Alexandria’s constant, as She has been mine.”

Year 13

Liu Xiaoqi was smiling again.

Molly had work to do once more, and so did she. New books were being added to the shelves. Yes, it was at a fraction of the rate that they had come at before the end. But the sounds of new shelves and books being created was indescribably wonderful after over a decade of empty silence. Now she, Martin and Felix had begun making a record of the next chapter of human history. Marvin and Molly used the Pens (they thought of them in capital letters now) to give their computers an infinite source of power, just as they kept their provisions continuously replenished.

They worked in shifts, and when they were not working they read of the new world that was being created. Alexandria spoke of Site 23, a nexus for survivors that the Foundation was using to rebuild in what had once been Australia. The books of Clef, Rights, and many other high-ranking staff had been permanently taken from their shelves and kept at Base Camp, as it was clear they were playing a very important role in the resurrection of humanity.

As Lincoln had predicted, it was far from pleasant. Alexandria’s disgust with the treatment of the D-Class personnel was evident in every book they had read, and truthfully Liu shared that disgust as well. So much time in the Library had made it clear to her that every life was important. But just as their benefactor tolerated their life extensions for the sake of Her occupancy, they had to accept that this was the way things would be with the Foundation in control.

But despite all of that, she still smiled. Because although She never said it, Alexandria was happier when new lives were being added to Her. And what made Her happy made them happy.

Year 37

“What was it Einstein said about insanity?” Martin Harrison asked rhetorically.

“You know he didn’t really say that,” Felix replied.

“Whatever, the quote still fits.” He shook his head and sighed, as they continued reading through the biographies of the former Site 23’s leaders.

Doctor Mann took his SCP objects away from Site 23, venturing into the southern lands with the intent to continue his research.

Site 23 was destroyed, and its former inhabitants scattered and searched desperately for a new place to take shelter from the harsh desert in.

“Humanity’s fucked yet again,” Martin said, the disdain in his voice clear. “And it’s the Foundation’s fault. Yet again.

Silence reigned for a few moments before Felix took a deep breath and said what he’d been wanting to say for 15 years.

“I can’t go on anymore.”

Martin was both saddened and relieved by the words, the latter emotion coming from not being the first one to have to say it. “Neither can I. I have given decades to Alexandria, and I have accepted her verdict on humanity’s fate. But…”

But the years that lay ahead would be more of what they had endured for decades now. The endless routine of reading the books, cataloging them, and keeping a comprehensive record of the civilization that was rising from the ashes. They could do that while Site 23 seemed to be a beacon of hope, even if it was a very brutal and unpleasant place.

Now, though…

“I want to see the sun,” Felix said. “We both know the air is no longer toxic, even if there is little useful shelter or sustenance. We will not survive long, but I think I have gone on long enough.”

Martin nodded his agreement. That night, Lincoln reluctantly opened the door to the Library for a few seconds before immediately shutting it again afterwards. It would be a long, long time before such a sequence of events would be repeated.

Year 674

“Watcher, I must go to the Corner of Death.”

The Watcher known as Lincon heard the words as he was hunched over a book chronicling the life of the founder of Kalefheit. They surprised him - not the request itself, but that the Man known as Avon would remember his declaration of the Corner of Death, in the time when the End had been in living memory of a normal human.

“May I ask why?” He felt it polite.

Avon sighed and looked off into the distance for a moment. “Watcher, I am bored.”

The Watcher nodded with understanding. Over the centuries, they had learned that boredom was their greatest enemy. The human mind was not meant to comprehend the lifetime after lifetime they had spent down here in the dimly lit shelves. They had watched and read as what had once been called Australia slowly clawed its way back from the disaster that had befallen the planet. But that was so very far away from what had once been called Egypt.

So far away that they knew their watch would continue. And continue, and continue. Nothing, not even the indescribable monotony of his duty as Watcher, would ever make him abandon the pledge he had made to Alexandria. But he still did not cast aspersions on others for reaching the end of their Watch and wishing to move on. As now it seems Avon had.

“I understand,” the Watcher replied. “Marvin?”

Marvin's original purpose as an assistant to the archivists had fallen into obsolescence after Avon had decided to spend a hundred years wandering through the Library in an attempt to memorize its entire layout. He had not done so, but he had still managed to traverse a sizable chunk of it. Lu (their names having long become phonetic) did not need Marvin either, for she and Molly spent all their time chronicling the lives of the newborn, now coming in at dozens a day.

And so Marvin accompanied the Watcher. As the latter spoke, Marvin produced a Pen and made for the location where their books were kept that only the robots were aware of. Even after all this time, they did not trust each other with the Pens.

“I am sorry to see you go, but I will honor your memory as I have all those archivists who have passed on,” the Watcher said.

Later that night, Avon was laid to rest next to the skeletons of the Ancient Travelers, and of Arthur and Melissa Brand. Thus Alexandria had four left to tend to Her (including Marvin and Molly, which She always did), and She knew they would stay until the next cycle began.

Year 4025

Kallin stared at the towering vestiges of the Old World. Alexandria did not disappoint.

I knew what they built was magnificent, but this city tells me so much with just the remnants of its outline…

Great ruins of metal and stone jutted out from the crumbling edifice of a city that had obviously been much larger than Kalefheit. Unlike the ancient buildings in his home land, which had long been plucked clean a thousand times over, as he got closer to the coastline it became clear that this city was untouched by humans. Indeed, he may have been the first soul to visit it since the dawn of the new age.

It had been a month since he had met the magician in Abirtleit, and a week since he had sailed from the coast towards the supposed direction of the Portal. The magician claimed he had used an ancient spell to summon a gateway to something called “Alexandria Eternal”, and had all but demanded Kallin go. Alexandria needs a new Watcher, and I am too old to make the journey. He had no idea what a “Watcher” was or why this old man knew about this place, but he had taken the journey to humor himself. It had been a decade since Meilar had vanished, and he was prepared to face his end.

He had been shocked when the Portal had been there, some distance out from the coastline, exactly as the old man had said. And he had been even more shocked when his rickety sailing vessel seemed to be pulled to it, as if under the compulsion of a Wonder. Then he had emerged on the other side of the Portal, Alexandria in the distance.

Perhaps I am not to die just yet.

“We are near our end,” the Watcher known as Lu said.

“Indeed,” the Watcher known as Lincon returned. “Do you believe Kallin is ready?”

“Were we? Alexandria cares for all who are destined to Watch over her. He will be no different.”

The point could not be argued, but there was still much that needed to be taught. The Watchers of Alexandria waited, but not for long.

Kallin had felt compelled to walk through the city almost immediately after stepping foot on shore. He was not sure if the compulsion was the work of the gods, or simply his own curiosity. Whatever the case, he somehow felt as if he knew where he was going as he surveyed the decayed ruin of the Old World.

Though it was still an impressive sight up close, it felt less imposing. Time had long since buried much of the streets in sand, but there was still enough for him to see what he recognized as pedestrian artifacts of the Old World. The strange, rusted husks of the metal containers that Meilar claimed had been used for transportation. The entrances to what must have been homes and merchant stores. It felt normal, which unnerved him.

At length he found himself next to a building with a feature that immediately caught his eye: a glistening metallic door. Stepping inside, he looked carefully at the entrance. It had a symbol that he did not recognize, and as he laid his hand on it, he jerked back when he found it was cold to the touch.

Before he could contemplate it further, the door opened. The cold air of the tunnel rushed towards him, but he hardly noticed. The tunnel led into a small room, and even from this distance he could see stairs at the end of it.

This is what I am here for.

He walked slowly through the tunnel. As he reached the end, he heard footsteps. Tensing and grabbing his knife, he waited as a figure came into view at the top of the stairs.

He was…the same age as Kallin, at least in appearance. But something about his posture told him the man was far older than his appearance suggested. Most strikingly, his skin was pale, the palest he had ever seen. At Kallin’s presence, he grinned.

“Welcome,” he said. The word was thick with a strange accent Kallin did not recognize. “We have been waiting for you.”

Kallin’s mouth fell open in shock as he stared in wonder. There were books. Endless, uncountable shelves of books.

“What…what is this place?” He managed to get the words out.

“Alexandria Eternal,” the pale man called Lincon replied. “She is the most important thing in the world.”

Before he could say anything further, the pale woman called Lu placed a book in his hand.

“This is your story,” she said. “If you are to be a Watcher, you must learn your own life before any others.”

And so he did.

Year 4027

“You are ready, Kallin.”

He had been expecting the words, but they still humbled him. “Does that mean…?” He couldn’t quite finish the sentence.

“Yes, Kallin, it does. Our Watch is at an end.”

For two years the Watchers of Alexandria had taken him under their wing and told him of the eternal Library, of its importance to humanity, and of the Old World. It had been both enlightening and shocking. Enlightening to hear of the time that had come before his, and shocking to learn the truth of what they called “Australia.” To think that the ‘Gods’ were once as human as myself…

“The Cycle of Alexandria continues,” Lu said. “We have stayed long, longer than any other Watcher who came before us. But we are ready. Marvin and Molly will guide you when you need them, and Alexandria will care for you.”

“Before we go, Kallin, we have one final request,” Lincon said.

“Request?” He asked, surprised.

They looked at one another, and Lincon did something he had not done in two years - smiled, warmly and genuinely.

“We would like to see the sky again,” Lu replied. “It has been thousands of years since we have left this place. Thousands of years since we have felt the glow of the sun.”

“Kallin.” Lincon walked towards him. “Do you remember the place where you said those two skeletons were? The ones on the surface?”

“Yes,” he replied, already knowing the significance.

“Alexandria has told us that they are the remains of our fellow librarians, whom we once knew as Felix and Martin. As our Watch ends, we feel it appropriate to pay them one last visit.”

“So that we may return to the earth together,” Lu added.

The words carried enormous weight, but Kallin simply nodded and walked towards the entrance. They followed, silently.

Later that day the sun rose on the remnants of the city as the Watch of Lincon and Lu came to an end and the Watch of Kallin began. The Cycle of Alexandria continued, as it always had and always would.

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