Urban Exploration
rating: +22+x

The museum was a fortress — an abomination of empty rooms and hallways. There were no scientists in the laboratories or monsters in the cells. Windows were broken and security checkpoints were left unmanned. Within the walls, vines had been allowed to wrap around the facility, snaking in and out of the walls and ceiling. It was easy to get lost in its walls, and even easier to be forgotten about and left to die within.

At the end of a winding path that wrapped halfway around the building, closed off from humanity, was a park. It was a small installation: a box that could hold only seven or eight people at most. Patches of grass grew out cracks in the rust-covered floor, most already dead save for one underneath a hole in the wall where sunlight shined through. It was as if it had been designed to be ignored.

Before the Pulse, it was a place where sunken-eyed scientists could rest for a few minutes before returning back to the trench that was their everyday life. There weren't any windows. Instead that role was filled by stale paintings of what the outside might have looked like: green trees, green bushes, blue rivers, white clouds. The colors had faded, and now everything was a sickly brown.

It was quiet. Those scientists were gone. They'd been gone for decades.

“Hey,” Bick called out over his shoulder, “check this out.”

He stepped through a vault door that was slightly ajar. His backpack couldn’t fit through the narrow gap, so he left it outside. Once inside, he took in the scenery. Fresh air clashed with a horrible, metallic taste, both so strong that it felt like the air was attacking him. In the center of the room was a statue of a soldier, stone musket in hand. At the base, buried under a crowd of leaves, was a plaque. He knelt down to get a better look.

“You know we’re not allowed back here, right?” said Joan, his foul-mouthed friend of eleven years. By some evil force of nature, they had been blessed with both the ability to sneak up on anyone and a loud, obnoxious voice. Bick’s heart jumped a beat, and he shook his head.

“The guide said we could look around,” he said.

"Yeah, but I don't think they meant like this far out.” Joan slipped through the door and tried to pull Bick’s backpack through. With a little effort, it squeezed through the gap and fell to the floor with a soft thud.

“I don't think he cares. Plus, we're still in the main building, so it doesn't matter. We'll find out way back.” Bick uttered a quiet thanks, picked up his backpack, and unzipped the main pocket to reveal a pair of triangle-shaped objects wrapped in three layers of tinfoil. He grabbed one for himself and tossed the other to Joan.

“Unless you walk at half a mile an hour, no. We’re definitely in a different area.” Joan leaned back against the side of the statue like they hadn’t even noticed it. They began to rip through the layers of tinfoil. “Dude, you’ve got to stop wrapping your sandwiches like they’re bombs.”

“I didn’t get sandwiches.” A smirk grew on Bick’s face as he tossed his backpack into one of the corners.

“So what? Is this like the fucking Schrödinger’s cat of food? I’m never going to find out what’s inside until… How much money do you spend on this? Apparently not enough for your dumb ass to realize how—”

Joan tore open the wrapper with enough force to eject the cold slice of pizza inside. Almost in slow motion, Bick watched it fly through the air and land squarely on the statue’s chest. Joan froze up like they had just murdered someone. They carefully approached their mess and peeled off the remains of the pizza, only managing to save the crust and some of the sauce. Bick nearly collapsed in laughter.

“Man, you know what? Fuck cheese. Nobody even likes it anyway. The sauce is better.” Joan shot out excuse after excuse while Bick devoured his fully-intact slice. They didn’t bother to clean up after themselves.

“Heh, it’s like an anomaly.” Bick said.

“Hah! Uh…” Joan replied. "Yeah. Those things."

As his laughter died down, silence fell upon the two. Joan slumped down across from him and chewed on their meal. Bick's eyes began to wander the room, eventually landing on the hole in the wall which overlooked the ruins of the facility. A long line of buildings stretched out across the mountains like a wagon train of concrete. At the center of it all was a windowless tower, so tall it breached the clouds and the sky above them. Its presence created a kind of dull tension within Bick, like he was looking at the skeletal remains of what was once a massive beast.

Painted on the side of the tower in bold black lettering was the word “Site-19”.

Bick wondered if he could ever work here. The tour guide had told them that, before the monsters faded away, thousands of people would fill these halls. Scared people, terrified people. People that appeared to almost be like him, but were in actuality worlds apart. They were the unfortunate few that had protected humanity for thousands of years while people like him stayed blissfully unaware. In a strange, juvenile way, it was frustrating to him. Compared to those scientists, what was he? Nothing but a civilian, useless and ignorant.

Bick knew he could never sign away his life for somebody else’s safety. At least he could find solace in the fact that he had not been one of the countless number of people who had fallen prey to these abominations, only to have their existence wiped away with crude drugs and even cruder distribution methods.

“What’re you thinking about?” Joan asked.

“Nothing." Bick lowered his gaze to his food. “I guess I’m still trying to process everything. Like, how did they keep this all under wraps? This place is giant, it’s like a city.”

“Didn’t the tour dude say something about how they put up a forcefield that stopped people from seeing it? They probably did something like that. The history of this place is wild. I can’t believe they got away with half of the things they did. I can't believe they were even able to contain half the things they did. We were probably fucked if the Pulse didn't happen.”

“A lot of things would've been fucked if the Pulse didn't happen. Actually, you know how the dude said they had a drug that made people forget things? Amnestics, yeah. That's such a weird thing to me. Like, what if I saw some shit I shouldn't have and I don't even know it?”

“You didn’t. There’s what, around seven-thousand of those things in the entire database? For ten billion people? You’re more likely to get struck by lightning while collecting your lottery winnings on a plane that’s crashing than see one.”

“Yeah, but there’s still a chance.”

Joan’s face tightened up slightly, almost like they knew what question Bick was going to ask next.

He said, “You think — you think we ever saw an SCP and just didn’t realize it?”

“No. We didn’t. I literally just explained why.” Joan gulped down the rest of their pizza and tossed the crust and tinfoil away. They dusted off their knees as they rose. Glancing at their watch, a panicked look came over their face. “Shit. We should probably go.”

Bick didn't answer them, and the two were left in silence again. A gust of wind rushed through the room, blowing at the leaves which covered the statue’s plaque. He saw that he still had half of his pizza to go, but didn’t feel like taking even one more bite. He considered tossing it like Joan did, but chose to wrap it in tinfoil and hold onto it until he found a trash can.

“So, what’s this? Just a statue of some old white guy?” Joan asked, suddenly gaining an interest in the thing they had been leaning on for the past fifteen minutes. They brushed the rest of the leaves of the plaque and studied it for a moment before uttering, "Hey, I think this might be an SCP."

“Really?” In a split-second, Bick was up on his feet, ready to run.

“No, it’s dead. I think it was put here after the Pulse, like a memorial. There’s even a timeline down here of things they did before they died,” Joan continued.

Bick’s heart was still in alert mode, but his nerves had settled down. He walked over to the statue and nudged Joan out of the way for a better look. They did so after mumbling out the barest framework of an objection. Engraved in tiny bronze letters were a few short sentences, each connected to a specific date.

2003-2004 - SCP-011 reaches a human level of self-awareness
11.10.2004 - Containment procedures dropped, custody of SCP-011 transferred to █████████ █████
5.17.2005 - █████████ █████ reports that SCP-011 is romantically attracted to her
8.29.2006 - Most recent psych test reports an IQ of 133
3.12.2007 - SCP-011 and █████████ █████ wed, although their marriage is not legally or publicly recognized
5.25.2007 - █████████ █████ retires from the Foundation and retains custody of SCP-011
12.31.2010 - █████████ █████ falls ill and dies soon after. She is buried with paramilitary honors
2.29.2011 - SCP-011 becomes noticeably less mobile and intelligent. It is often observed within the cemetery which houses █████████ █████
3.12.2011 - SCP-011 loses all anomalous properties, reverting back to a normal statue at the gravesite of █████████ █████, and is transferred to Site-19

Bick looked up at the statue’s face. He studied its flaws and chips and bruises, its somber expression, the tension in its brow. It was an alien thing, an anomaly, but it looked so real to him, almost like a human. Its eyes were dry like rocks in an empty river. There were no folds in its coat or bullets in its musket. It stood just as a human would stand, but the rational part of his mind knew that all it was was a lifeless, mindless piece of rock. It didn't matter if it once walked or loved or died many years ago. Right now and for the rest of time, it would remain in this box: a statue.

“Do you think it could maybe come back? Like, bring itself back to life?” Bick asked.

“Jesus,” Joan said with a snide tone, “what is this obsession you have with these things? Why do you care so much about whether you saw an SCP or whether you were an SCP or whether this SCP is alive or not. It doesn’t matter. They’re all gone.”

“Why are you so pissed off? I'm just saying it's possible. We were both born before the Pulse. Why are you getting so worked up about this if it’s not a big deal?”

“Because you keep…” Joan groaned and pulled at their hair. “Because you keep bringing it up and I don’t want to think about that shit. I don’t want to know if I saw a monster or if I almost died from one or if some shit happened to my family or my friends and my memory was wiped. I don’t want to know and I don’t care. There’s nothing out there. No aliens, no monstrous parasites, nothing. It’s just the normal evil shit that people do to each other. It’s you and me and everyone else.”

All of the words that Bick had wanted to say evaporated in his throat as he watched Joan pace around the room. He tried to think of a response, but nothing came up. Joan couldn't be right, he was sure of that. He couldn't simply leave those worries in the past and forget about them. They were still as real today as they were back then, weren't they? Bick searched for something to say.

“Um. When are we supposed to get back?” he asked.

“We were supposed to be back like, five minutes ago,” Joan said.

“…Fuck me then. We should go.”

Joan nodded and began to push themselves through the vault door. Once they were outside, Bick spoke up. “I’m sorry… about all of that.”

“Don’t worry about it. There’s nothing else, anyway, so there’s no point dwelling on shit that can’t hurt you. It’s just us, after all. Just good ol’ homo sapiens,” they said in that cheerful tone that they used when they wanted to change the subject but didn’t know how.

Bick grabbed his backpack and carefully stepped through the vault door. They rushed through the halls, Joan occasionally saying a joke they had remembered from the night before and Bick following in silence. The sun kept shining, the grass kept growing, and the building kept decaying. He took one last look at the entrance of the park before it disappeared from view, and muttered to himself.

"It's just us."

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