Chapter 10 - The Last Dying Remnant of the Imperfect Past
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For a second, Huxley had seriously considered the possibility that he hadn’t made it. That he had succumbed to his dream and chose not to leave. The idea that he died in his sleep became increasingly likely. That was until he recognized that he was thinking. If he was thinking, then that must mean that he was still somewhat conscious. And if he was conscious, that must mean that he was still alive, right?

That question kicked him out of his thoughts and back into reality.

It came to him slowly, one sense at a time. The sounds of buzzing fluorescent lights, high-pitched birds cawing in the distance, and a machine beeping beside him filled his ears. He smelled bleach and blood. Opening his eyes, he was greeted with the sight of a cheap hospital room.

A fan spun lifeless on the ceiling. On either side of the room were large wooden cabinets containing glass vials full of dark liquids, ritual herbs, and exotic stones that seemed to emanate a sense of calm and pleasure. Huxley sniffed and turned his head, realizing the damage the poorly-made hospital pillows had done to his neck as it swelled with pain. His head hurt.

“God,” Huxley mumbled to no one. Beside his bed, right next to his head, was a heart rate monitor machine which showed a steady 75 beats per minute. A nurse probably put it there, hoping that the annoying screeches it made might help Huxley wake up sooner.

He rose to a sitting position before his body screamed at him to lay back down. He ignored it, though, and carefully wrapped his arms around his knees so as to not accidentally pull out any of the tubes that were connected to them.

“Hey, you’re talking again,” came a familiar yet strangely alien voice. It was Emma’s voice. Emma was here.

Huxley craned his neck around to the other side of his bed, where Emma was sitting not uncomfortably in a plastic chair covered in shade. Sunglasses were on her face again, more to block out her eyes than anything that produced light. She was still in uniform. Her body unfurled from its sleeping position, and Emma rubbed her throat.

“I am.” Huxley’s voice found its strength quicker than he had thought.

Emma laughed. “Does your voice do that every time you see me? Pull away like it's scared?”

“No,” Huxley scooted back, unleashing more torrents of pain which he quickly suppressed. “I just didn’t think anyone was in here.”

Emma stood and walked around to the other side of Huxley’s bed. Her eyes were focused on the medical equipment, which listed out every possible metric of health. She didn’t seem focused on any one chart, choosing instead to browse each one for a few seconds before moving onto the next, often not knowing what it was even showing.

Emma sat at the edge of Huxley’s bed. Her weight caused Huxley’s legs to drift towards her body, and he pulled them to the other side. She peered over her shoulder.

“Sorry,” he said, turning a half-shade redder, “Your body is… I mean, the weight of your body is making my legs move.”

She smiled with her lips closed.

Minutes passed with them in this position. Huxley slowly sank further back into his pillow, which was now starting to become stained with sweat. Emma poked at the machines to try and see different charts. Most of her attempts failed. Eventually, she crossed her arms and just watched the heart rate monitor jump up and down.

Huxley manifested the best smile he could. “Hey,” he began, “I’m sorry, but where are we right now?”

“At your home facility in Texas. Site-49, I think the name was.” Emma didn’t move her eyes from the screen.

Huxley’s smile grew larger. “Oh. Why aren’t we at the base? The one in Arizona?”

“Their medical facility doesn’t have a subtherium section.”

“A… A subtherium section?” His smile disappeared. His mind went into overdrive, analyzing every perceivable pattern on her face. Her closed-lip smile, her posture, the way the sunlight bounced off of her glasses perfectly as to conceal her eyes.

“Oh, shit. No, I don’t mean that kind of subtherium section. Just injuries that were caused by subtheriums.” In one motion, she raised her hand, removed her glasses, and folded them inside of her coat pocket.

“What? Wait, what happened?”

“You don’t remember?” Emma walked back around to her seat. A small mountain of papers was sitting on the ground. She fingered through them for a minute or two before producing a folded, coffee-stained, crumpled-up report that had been filed the previous night.

Incident Report #: SUB-XXXXX
Personnel Involved: Interviewer Huxley Williams, Researcher Emma Sandaran, [PUT OTHER NAMES HERE FOR THE SOLDIERS AND THE COMMANDER]

“We were kidnapped by the Sarkics. It was something we couldn’t avoid. They took a few other soldiers and Commander Enrique hostage. We tried to save them. We didn’t.” Emma’s tone became more grim as she continued. “They put… something on you. If your head hurts, that’s probably why. We don’t know what it did, but your brain activity was off the charts for a few hours afterwards.”

Alpha-1: Penetrating in…

(Alpha-1 holds up three fingers, lowering each one in a non-verbal countdown. He closes his fist, and the team engages. An explosion is heard, followed by the sound of many gunshots, screams, and monstrous grunts.)

(Alpha-2 is hit in the shoulder and crouches back into cover. More gunshots come their way, with one lodging in their leg and preventing them from walking. Alpha-3 assists them in their escape.)

“They sent someone else in. The top dogs. Guys that spend years running the same drill over and over again until they can clear a room blindfolded. They suffered some injuries, but they were mostly okay.”

(Another explosion is heard, followed by the sound of sparks.)

Alpha-3: Holy… A massive entity just burst out the side of the location! We should be able to make it out. It got caught on some… (grunts) some fucking wires.

Command: Understood. Alpha-1, retreat and help Alpha-2 and -3 escape for now. We can always—

Alpha-2: Holy shit!

(Loud noises are heard. Distortion. More explosions, followed by the sound of suction.)

Alpha-3: Mac, Mac help!

(Alpha-2 loses all life signs. Seconds later, it regains them. Its heart rate increases to 120 BPM, and its brain activity reaches dangerous levels of intensity.)

Alpha-3: This wasn’t in the plans.

Alpha-1: Run. Hey! Can you hear me, you have to go! (groans) Fuck it!

(Gunshots. Alpha-2 loses all life signs again. They remain this way for the remainder of the mission.)

Emma snatched the paper out of Huxley’s hands. “Most of that isn’t important, don’t worry,” she said with a smile. Huxley gazed at her with glass-like eyes.

She sorted through the small collection of documents in her hands until finally coming across one that was slightly different than the others. It was cleaner, with no folds or creases, like it had drifted off of the printer only moments ago. Emma’s face softened upon viewing its contents.

“Here,” she said. “This is where they found us.”

Huxley’s eyes dashed across the page. Most of it had been redacted, large black stripes covered the paper like it was zebra skin. In fact, he noticed that the page was still somewhat warm and wet to the touch, and the redaction wasn’t perfect, leaving tiny peeks at bunches of letters. For a few seconds, Huxley tried to connect the fragments the redactor had failed to cover up into a single narrative, but there were too few pieces.

He gave in, and began to read the untouched sections.

Alpha-1: I see something.

(A gun cocks and Alpha-1’s breathing increases.)

Command: Is the subject a threat?

Alpha-1: No. They look like they’re in a coma. They’re not moving like a dead person, but they look too alive. Their skin is still pink.

Alpha-3: It’s probably a source. It has that… head leech thing on, see? Like the soldiers back there.

Alpha-1: God. Imagine being alive in one of those things.

Alpha-3: You really shouldn’t. They’re dead anyways, it doesn’t matter.

Alpha-1: No, wait. I—I think they’re breathing.

Alpha-3: What?

Alpha-1: Look at their chest. Yeah, they’re breathing. It’s real slow, but it’s there. Requesting permission to extract the subject.

Command: If you can manage to get the… leech off of their ████, ████ █ █████ █████ ██.

Black ink drenched the rest of the page. Huxley gave a sigh of defeat and handed the paper back to Emma.

“So, they flew me back here and took that thing off my head?” Huxley asked.

Emma nodded. “All while you scared us shitless.” Her laugh this time felt more genuine, he could see it in her eyes. “You flatlined a few times. It was amazing. Well, it was pretty fucking terrifying watching that, but once I got through it it was pretty funny. Watching the doctors scurry around like that. Hey, don’t do that again, okay?” Emma playfully punched Huxley in his arm. It hurt just as much as the real thing.

“Mm,” Huxley grumbled. Just as soon as Emma gave any signal of genuine happiness, it was buried in so much saturation that Huxley couldn’t bear to look at it anymore. He glanced around the room, at all of the dust particles floating in the air and being illuminated by the morning light.

Emma continued laughing and talking quietly to herself as she sifted through the papers again. Once she reached the bottom of the stack, her face froze before tightening up.

“Hey, Huxley?” Emma asked.

“Mm?” Huxley replied.

“While you were under and that thing was still on your head, your brain activity was… wild. That happened with every person, but yours is different. Every other person’s brain just lit up in random patterns, but yours was very precise. The doctors said it was the same areas associated with dreaming. Did you remember… seeing anything while you were unconscious?”

Huxley looked up for a moment, before tightening his lips up in the most casual way he could. “Nope. Or if I did, I don’t remember any of it. I don’t remember much from that night, either, so that thing probably just took a chunk of my recent memory.”

Emma looked satisfied by that answer, continuing to finger through the sheaf. She hadn’t looked into Huxley’s eyes, and he was glad she didn’t. Because if she did, she would’ve noticed how they were shaking with fear. His pupils grew the size of black orbs and his breathing quaked for a moment.

He remembered everything.

The lynching, the alien, the man by the sea. Every word of every conversation and every movement he made during that twilight period in his mind. He could still feel himself sitting on the jagged platform above the pool, like how a singer remembers the words of a song or a dancer remembers the tiny intricacies of their performance.

Huxley’s heart felt like it was going to beat out of its chest. They called it a dream. Maybe that’s all it was, a long, long miserable dream. But it felt more than that at the time. It felt like reality. Like the shackles that had chained him down to this plane were lifted for a few hours and he got to experience what it would be like to be who he wanted. And then, like a flame extinguishing in space, it was sucked away from him and he was spat back into the real world.

He wanted it back. All of it. He even desired the pain. Anything to get him out of this place, out of this limbo where he didn’t know who he was supposed to be or what he was supposed to do or where he was supposed to end up. If he were being hanged, then that was his ultimate fate. If he were to become a god, then that was his ultimate fate.

But here, none of that was certain. Fortunes changed on the daily, and even the largest accomplishments could crumble seconds later. He hated it. He hated it so much.

“Are you okay?” Emma asked. Huxley suddenly realized that he was gripping his chest. He quickly returned his hand to its original position and flashed a weak smile.

“Yeah, just a little pain. It’s nothing.”

That was all it was, at least to Emma. And what Emma knew was all that mattered in that moment. Huxley remembered the sly way she flashed that grin at him when he answered.

It was night now. The moon filtered into the room with just as much power as the sun. Whenever Huxley tried to close his eyes to sleep, it felt like invisible pliers wrenched around his eyelids and forced him back to wakefulness. Even in a situation like this, his primal senses still had control, so his body feared sleep.

He uttered a quiet profanity. His sleep cycle lasted for around fifteen minutes, and he broke it down to four stages in his mind. First, he would roll and twist and turn until he had found a somewhat comfortable position in the bed. Then, he would close his eyes and hope that his body took too long to notice, allowing sleep enough time to slip in. He would inevitably fail — the third phase.

And the fourth phase was this. These thoughts that were flying around his head like flies in an abandoned building. He had to tell Emma the dream. She had taken his confession well enough, so all he had to do was do it again. But did she really take it well or was she just putting up another front until she had the opportunity to sell him out? She was her mother’s daughter, after all.

Huxley turned to his right and pulled the pillow close to his head, restarting the cycle. But still the thoughts remained. What if the reason she hadn’t told anybody was that she wasn’t sure if he was going to live, and wanted to spare her reputation the embarrassment of having worked with a subtherium. Wouldn’t her reputation still suffer the same fate if she did it now, though.

No, Huxley decided. Because she would be known as the employee that was willing to sell out her own partner to achieve the SCP Foundation’s ultimate goal. She would be the perfect role model. The sexy, faceless woman they would put on all of their posters and television advertisements. They would write poems about her, and the first line in each would be exactly the same: Join the SCP Foundation today and be just like EMMA SANDARAN.

“Fucking…” Huxley muttered to himself. He had to stop thinking this way, that everybody wanted him dead. That was what the man in his dream told him. He had to trust her. Even if she sells him out afterwards, at least she’ll have to live with the guilt of knowing that she betrayed someone.

There was a knock at the door. Huxley jumped and started searching the room for weapons. Why would any rational person knock? Who did they expect to answer? The door creaked open, and Huxley’s shoulders sagged when he saw the familiar form of Emma. She had returned in the dead of night. A new folder of papers was in her hands.

“Hey, Emma! What are you doing here so late?” Huxley’s voice died out by the final word. She was crying. Emma, the woman that had been kidnapped only a few nights ago and had seen Huxley on the brink of death, was crying here in a hospital room miles away from it all.

Emma composed herself over the course of a minute, with Huxley anxiously watching from afar. She stepped into the light that creeped in through the window and threw the papers in his face. They scattered across the bed.

“Why,” she asked in a low, shaky voice. “Tell me why.”

“W-What?” Huxley responded.

“You know what you fucking did, Huxley…” Emma leaned forward and put her hands on the edge of the bed, rocking it slightly.

“If this is something to do with the kidnapping, I genuinely don’t remember.”

“O-Oh.” Emma’s face flashed red, only being offset by clear tears. “They did a toxicology screening. They found…” Emma sniffed back tears. “They found benzodiazepines. That’s sleeping medication.”

Huxley’s face went white. He felt lightheaded. His arms began to shake as he wondered what she was going to ask next.

“H-Huxley?” she asked.

“Yes?” he answered.

“Did you… Did you try to fucking…” Emma took a deep in, her hand on her chest. Then, in that same breath, she slammed her hand back onto the bed. “Did you try to fucking kill yourself!?”

Huxley tried to speak. He wanted to speak. But his tongue swelled in his mouth and his voice wobbled and his throat closed up. For a few seconds, all he could do was breath. In and out, in and out.

“N-N-No,” he finally managed to say.

“You liar!” Emma stormed to his side, nearly knocking him off the bed in the process. Tears flowed from her eyes like waterfalls. “I saw you take them! I saw the bag, Huxley. Don’t try to lie to me.”

“I didn’t!” Huxley’s body had finally mustered enough courage to put up a protest. “Or… I don’t remember if I did.”

“But I do! I remember everything, I saw you. I saw you staring at me and I saw how empty your eyes were and I saw the life drain from your body and you died. I saw you fucking die, Huxley.”

“I-I don’t know. I was really sleep deprived that night and I don’t know what I was doing, but I wasn’t trying to—”

“You knew when you put them in the bag. You weren’t at Site-49 for days. Did you forget then!”

The accusation stabbed a hole into Huxley’s mind. And that hole made him bleed and as he bled, he lost his strength and when he lost his strength, he couldn’t fight his memory anymore. He remembered what happened that night back at the Site, when he crushed the pills in his hand and stared at the bag like a hungry fox stares at a rabbit. Did he want to do it then?

“It wasn’t like that,” he decided. “I didn’t want to die, I just… I just…”

Huxley realized he was crying. Small, malformed tears fell from his misplaced eyes onto his hospital gown. He was on the verge of hyperventilating. His right leg shuddered uncontrollably. It was like he was a robot and every part of him was breaking at once.

“Huxley…” Emma stopped fighting her tears, and she leaned against his left leg. Cold tears fell through the sheet and stained his leg. “Stop. Please stop. I know.”

“Y-Y-You don’t. I w-wasn’t.”

“Is it because you told me?” Emma’s voice became whiny, almost child-like. “Were you scared because… because I’m her daughter? What did you think I would do?”

“Nothing!” Everything. She would humiliate him, she would manipulate him, she would murder him. She would take a knife to his throat and cut off his head and mount it on her wall like a trophy.

“I’m sorry…” Emma weeped. She said it with such patheticness, such defeat that it made Huxley feel guilty. “I’m sorry. You hate me. I didn’t mean to. I’m sorry.”

“Shh, no! Don’t be sad, it’s not your fault.”

“Shut up!” She screamed with a terrifying ferocity. Huxley shriveled up like a child. “Don’t act like I’m the victim here, Huxley. You are! You’re the one that almost died, not me.”

“Hey, listen. Even if I did try to… you know, do that, it probably wouldn’t have worked. I took that kind of sleeping medication every day. My body must have built up some kind of resistance. And my brain was working the whole time! That means that I must’ve been fine, somewhat.”

Emma peered at him with a new, ominous stare, like the stare of a creature from the shadows made towards a human who had the privilege of living every day in the light. Her tears stopped falling, leaving her voice gutted.

“Do you know why you flatlined three times?” she said.

Huxley took the opportunity during this brief period of calm to bring his feet closer to his body. His ankles were swollen and his legs ached from exhaustion, but they complied.

“I saw the surgery they did. They laid you on this steel table and covered you with blue sheets. And it was so dark, I couldn’t see any of the surgeons, but they had a spotlight trained right on your head. When they finally pulled it off, I could see your face emerging from it, Huxley.” Emma’s crying returned, although much weaker than before.

“They were so worried — I was so worried. It took all night, but you were fine, your heart was beating,” Emma gripped a loose part of the sheets as she spoke. “But do you know why it took all night? Because each time they tried to take that leech off, your heart would stop. And they would all just start running and shouting at each other and…”

Huxley reached out to try and comfort her. His hand barely even registered on her shoulder.

“They just kept it there for hours. What could they do? That leech, that goddamn parasite, it was the only thing keeping you alive. It let you stay alive. It wanted you to stay alive. It let every other soldier die, but not you. It chose you, Huxley. You. You. Fucking you.” Emma looked away, more from frustration than shame or disappointment. A long silence followed, then she ended it.

“And you didn’t even want to live.”

She stormed off. Huxley tried to call after her, pleading with her that no, he didn’t want to die. He wanted to stay alive, he wanted to stay with her. But she didn’t listen. The door slammed, leaving Huxley alone in the dark. He thought that he might cry at this moment, but his body felt empty. It was almost calm.

He wondered if he did die during that dream, and the world he woke up in was one where everything was backwards. Where silence was as loud as screaming, where confirmation and denial were one and the same, where thoughts he once believed were hidden were actually being broadcast to every person on the planet. A world where Emma knew his every thought, but he couldn’t scratch the mountainous wall that surrounded hers.

Maybe, maybe not, he decided. It didn’t matter now.

Huxley didn’t sleep that night. The closest he got was a kind of half-sleep state where his dreams seemed to penetrate into reality in an oddly calm way. Old men and women sat upside-down in chairs that were bolted to the ceiling, fish swam through the air, and occasionally a large shadow appeared on the far wall in front of Huxley’s bed. He welcomed it all.

The door creaked open and Emma walked in. Huxley’s dreams vanished instantly, and he became quite aware of his surroundings. She walked with an anxiety-fueled confidence, placing one foot in front of the other like she was worried the floor would collapse if she stood in one place for longer than a second.

“Did you not change?” Huxley asked. Emma was still in her uniform, which was now wrinkled and stained and dirtied from days of constant work.

She didn’t answer, choosing to stare at the freshly-printed stack of papers in her hands rather than take one look at Huxley. She thumbed through the first ten pages and placed them gently in front of Huxley. He took it out of instinct, not seeing what the words even said.

“These are for your treatment,” she said.

“I thought I finished my treatment. I’m in recovery,” he responded.

“It’s a different kind of treatment.” Emma took a seat in the chair besides Huxley’s bed. She covered her face in reports and lab results and a dozen other pieces of paper that didn’t relate to him at all.

Huxley looked at the first line of the top page. His eyes went white.


“Are you serious?”

Emma rearranged the papers in her hands into a neat pile. “Yes,” she said.

“Who gave you the authority? No, who gave you the fucking idea that you could do this, huh? How long have you known me? A week, maybe less? And I trusted you, I told you because I trusted you. I may not have ever seen you again, but I thought that you weren’t going to do something like that. You told me you wouldn’t. You promised me. Fuck you, Emma. Fuck you.”

She put one leg over the other while maintaining eye contact with Huxley. “This will help you—”

“Shut up.” Huxley looked away, trying to end the conversation, but Emma continued to speak.

“You have shown suicidal tendencies, and it’s in my opinion that that stems at least in part from your condition. This will be good for you, this will help you, Huxley.”

“Don’t say my name,” he snarled, turning back towards her suddenly. “And I didn’t try to—”

“But you don’t know, do you? You don’t remember anything from that night. And I do, and it certainly seems like that was what you were trying to do.”

“Don’t do this. We’re not in an interrogation room.”

“I know. This isn’t an interrogation, I’m just trying to help you.” Emma leaned over and directed Huxley to read further down the paper.

Physical Transmogrification: The quickest form of transformation. The subject is submerged in a liquid container composed of 5% [REDACTED], 17% [REDACTED], 77% [REDACTED], and 1% other anomalous and nonanomalous mixtures. Upon activation, the subject’s body is irreparably altered to a standard, nonanomalous state. If deemed appropriate, the subject may then be classified as a human.

“No, no. Just stop,” Huxley pleaded. “I hate you. You know I’m never going to accept this, right? You know that.”

Emma smiled. It wasn’t a smile of glee or joy or maliciousness. It was something deeper, something that couldn’t be expressed with words and emotions and facial expressions. Huxley wanted to look into her eyes — the only true entrance to a person’s soul, according to people he had heard about a long time ago — but he couldn’t bring himself up to her gaze.

“It’s not your decision, anymore.” Her words chilled his heart, taking his fear with it.

He turned to her, meeting nearly eyeball-to-eyeball. “You never wanted to help me. You never wanted to help anyone. I don’t know why you hate your mother, you’re just like her.”

Emma’s breathing grew stiff and quiet. Although absolutely nothing in her face or body showed it, Huxley knew instinctively that he had hit her. And he had hit her hard. She broke eye-contact; it was only for a second or two, but even one moment of hesitation meant weakness. Now, Emma was the one that didn’t want this to continue. Emma was the one that wanted to shrink into an infinitely small point and disappear. Now, Emma knew she lost.

She stood and began to walk away. Her confidence had withered away to nothing. She placed her feet haphazardly in front of one another. Once she had reached the door, she accidentally tripped and had to slam her hand into the wall awkwardly to stop herself from falling.

Emma looked back at Huxley one last time, trying to put up some kind of last-minute attack. Huxley responded simply: “And you don’t need to take off your glasses in here. It’s not like you ever want to.”

The door closed quietly. Emma disappeared, the last traces of her being the sound of her footsteps becoming quieter and quieter. Huxley was alone in his room, alone and grinning. His grin turned into a smile, and that smile turned into a laugh, and that laugh turned into him holding his gut, trying not to hurt himself.

It was hilarious, it really was. Huxley could see Emma’s next steps in his mind, almost in real time. She would walk right up to the Site Director’s office and knock on the door. Slipping on her best expression of happiness, she would reveal everything about him. How he was a subtherium that constantly struggled between fighting his inhuman instincts and following the tenets of the SCP Foundation. He would fully agree.

A team of nurses flanked by large men in body armor wielding riot shields and batons would burst through the ceiling and the walls and the floor. Huxley wouldn’t resist. They would knock him unconscious anyway. They would drag his body to a surgical room lit by overpowering stage lights and filled to the brim with his coworkers who would all be clapping and cheering and celebrating his death. Huxley would be among them.

The roof would open, and a trillion-dollar, 48-inch, stainless steel, thaumaturgically blessed buzzsaw would descend from heaven itself, travelling over 24-and-a-half billion miles just to split Huxley's brain in half. And once he started seeing sirens and hearing spots in his vision, the scientists would deposit the rest of his brain into somebody normal. A mannequin human. Someone who would later go on to kill the rest of the subtheriums and live inside a house built on top of the pointless position they once held in the universe.

And everybody would laugh and smile and cry. They would cry because they were sad that they weren’t able to be the ones to vanquish Huxley. To split his bones and throw him into a hole in the ground and suffocate his soul with dirt and concrete. They would laugh because they knew someone did. That was the fun of it all. It was the goal. It was the game. Everybody knew what would happen to Huxley except for himself. And it was funny and it was hilarious and it was great because every single person on the planet knew that the last dying remnant of the imperfect past didn’t have a single clue that they were the ones who were supposed to die but of course none of them remembered it because none of them were intelligent enough to form that thought in the first place, nor cognizant enough to place that thought into a sequence which could deliver them to that conclusion.

That thought made Huxley laugh. So he did.

Later, he cried a little.

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