Atzak I
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As you lie sleeping-


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ATZAK

PART ONE


You wake up when an alarm rips through the silence of the sleeping quarters. You blink the sleep away from your eyes, and glancing around the room you confirm your first thought; the others' sleep was just as fitful as yours. A room full of men who had dreamed the wrong dreams. A man at the other end with a uniform and a gun barks an order, and the day begins.

You stumble towards the door after getting dressed. Your head pounds. It always pounds after waking up. Everyone's does. You go over the same mental checklist you do every day, the one that they said you should. Your name? Of course you know your name. Where are you? On a submarine. Why are you here? You'd rather not remember, but it's there.

Any friends, family?

Ah, but that's where it gets fuzzy. You see children, maybe. You didn't yesterday, but there they are. Playing in your yard outside of Pittsburgh. But you never lived in Pittsburgh, you remind yourself. You had a child, but she died young. And you never lived in Pittsburgh. But why do you remember this so clearly?

They told you that this would happen. Said they were studying something in the water down here, some chemical, that made people hallucinate things. You don't know much about science, but you figure it's probably something radioactive. Like those people who got their brains fried when they dropped the bombs on Japan. You pause for a second to wonder if they ever remembered things that never happened to them.

You're all ushered into the cramped hall, where you're assigned a job. There are twelve of you, but there were thirteen last week? Maybe not, you can't remember. "Don't worry about your memory", they've said. "It'll all come back to you as soon as we surface." Have you surfaced before? You can't remember if you've been on here long enough to have gone back up and seen if your head would stop aching so badly. Would you even remember if you had? You could've sworn there were thirteen of you last week.

You grab a mop and get to work. Custodial today, just like yesterday. The day before you met with the psychologist all day to talk about how you felt. You liked him, he at least looked at you like a person. "Please, call me Anand," he had said. He asked about your family, what you could remember. Had you told him about the children in Pittsburgh? He asked about your parents. Asked about your earliest memory. Asked you about your dreams.

He looked anxious, you had noticed. You saw it on the faces of the other prisoners every morning, the lingering dread. That's what they all called it. The doctor at the clinic told everyone it was something about nitrogen, made people feel nervous. Said the pressurized metal tube you were all in didn't help. You believed him, but the light beading of sweat on Dr. Anand's forehead didn't help either.

You mop for a little longer, but a crewman comes up and shakes you. Says to report back to the bunk. How long have you been working today? Can't have been more than about fifteen minutes. "Ten hours," he said. That's impossible, you just got here.

So you shuffle back towards your bunk, stopping only for the quickest and coldest of showers. All of you report back to your beds, and are asleep when you're told to go asleep. Nobody wants to stay up. Why would they? It's not like any of you can remember enough to talk about for more than a few minutes. There's a bed empty next to you. The guy above you remarks that there was someone there last night. No there wasn't, that bed has been empty since we got down here.

When you sleep, you float weightlessly in darkness. You feel a chill wind, and fall for a long time. Above you is only dark and empty eyes.


You awaken the next morning to an alarm. You shuffle out of bed and get dressed. You go through your list. Of course you know your name. Of course you remember the old woman you shot. Of course you remember your wife in Omaha. You've both lived there for years. That doesn't make sense, though. How could you have shot someone in Savannah if you lived in Omaha?

Oh well. There was probably a reason. You have a hard time remembering things anymore. You wonder why.

They line you up against the wall to assign jobs for the day. The guy next to you gets to mop, like he always does. Great. You wish you got to mop. Instead you're stuck cleaning toilets everyday. Disgusting. The crewman pauses in front of you, reading from a list of names. He nods to another man standing next to him, and the two of them lead you towards the back of the ship. You briefly recall that you've never been back here. You ask what you're going to be doing today, but it's not until you've reached the back that you realize you never actually asked.

There's another man in a white coat there. He introduces himself, but you can't hold his name in your head very long. It was weird, anyway. Some long name, probably paki or something. He says that they're going to need you to collect a sample of water from outside the submarine for analysis. Easy enough, you think. You and your husband Aaron were divers in Brisbane for years. The man smiles, and shakes your hand. Says they appreciate what you're doing. "It's a very important part of what we're trying to do here." He says you'll be allowed to return to the surface after you're finished.

You smile and nod. Something about his face encourages you. It's been a long time since somebody told you that you were worth something. That you were helping them. In fact, you can't even remember the last time somebody said anything nice about you. You become determined to do as well as you can, and who knows? Maybe when you get out of this, you can work for these guys. Put your life back together. Actually make something of yourself. Make somebody proud of you.

You put on a reinforced diving suit, and something about it seems familiar. In your minds eye, you remember putting the suit on before. In fact, you even remember a little more than that. Walking down the hallway again, which is weird since you've never been back here before, and getting chosen out of that line. You remember looking to your right as you walked away, and you see yourself standing in that line. How is that possible? The doctor notices your face, and comes to comfort you. Says he understands, and that it's just the water. You take a deep breath, and feel better.

They have you stand in the airlock, with a tether attached to your back and a light strapped to your shoulder. They hand you a nylon satchel filled with glass tubes. "Just a few samples, from different distances," they say. "Won't take more than a few minutes." You nod. You feel good about this. You're excited, if nothing else, to get out of the submarine for a while. But something feels odd. As the chamber floods, it starts to feel familiar again, and you feel dread.

The water reaches your shoulders, and you look back towards the airlock door again. There's no porthole here, nobody can see you. The water reaches your head, and you go under. The world around you becomes muffled and slow, and that feeling lingers. You can't shake the uncertainty, the feeling of apprehension. Like you've done this before, and then something—

But you really don't have the time to finish that thought, as the exterior door opens and you're pushed forward by rushing water. You hear a voice in your head, and recognize the doctor. He reminds you to turn on your shoulder light, so you do. It doesn't help much, but then the giant submarine behind you turns on its floodlights and that helps. Your stomach feels funny.

You're floating now, suspended weightlessly above a darkness that stretches on forever. The water here rocks you back and forth, slowly. You think you can make out shapes on the edge of your vision, but it's so goddamn dark. You paddle forward a little bit, the satchel of glass vials clasped in your right hand. For the first time in a long time, at least as long as you can remember, you feel freedom. You're alone out here; no alarms, no toilets to clean, nothing to mop. Only silence and something to do. But you're not really alone.

Something in the back of your mind, something innate and substantial, some part of your consciousness that predates consciousness, starts to tingle. You feel a creeping up your spine as you pull out the first vial, a creeping that makes you begin to sweat against the cold. Your mind starts to rush. Why are you out here, anyway? Aren't you supposed to be doing something? You look around, and realize that you don't know where you are. You're underwater, but where? And how far down? How far do you have to go to get to the surface? You look up and only see darkness. Aren't you supposed to be doing something?

A reassuring voice in your ear tells you that you need to swim out a little further. You feel something in the voice, something that doesn't feel normal, but you swim out anyway. You're not sure why, your body just starts to act. All the while, you feel the shroud of forgetfulness being pulled over your mind. You just have a hard time remembering things sometimes, is all. But your body resists. Like it would try and fight off disease, your mind fights back. Do you remember your name? I mean, you could remember it if you really needed to. It's on the tip of your tongue. What did you do? Started working as a doctor at the SCP Foundation. What? You squint, and kick forwards, and don't notice the shapes moving on the edge of your vision.

You fell out of a fishing boat and sank for a long time. That's how you got here. Then why are you wearing a diving suit? I was looking for something in the water. Samples. Samples of what? Off a fishing boat? Samples of water. Samples of fish? There's something moving in front of you, can you see it? Hang on, you're trying to remember. There was definitely a boat, and some other guys. You got lost, and you couldn't remember how to get back. You have a hard time remembering anymore.

You realize the voice in your head is gone. You realize you can't remember your name. You look in your right hand, where there should be a satchel of glass vials. That isn't right, you didn't have anything in your hand. You're down here collecting samples. Samples of fish, right? You're a fisherman. What's your name?

Somewhere behind you, the lights go off.

In the darkness of the sea, illuminated only by the light on your shoulder, you feel that strange familiarity once more. The familiarity is followed by horror, and the face of a creature appears in front of you. You've seen it before. You've seen it before. Your mind forces back the veil for only a moment, and in your lucidity you remember your dreams. The wrong dreams. Dreams of darkness and silence. Dreams of hanging weightless over the void. Dreams of dark and empty eyes.

Dreams of the eel.

The creature rises up slightly, and you're suddenly aware of its incredible size. You see, in your mind's eye, endless lengths of brimming flesh, wrapping and coiling down into the abyss. You see your own face, unaware that you're next in line. Oblivious to this. Oblivious to the dark god in front of you. You see the eel moving all around you, all at once. A long, single line, endlessly twisting in the darkness, and at the very front a slowly opening jaw, and dark, empty eyes.

You see your mother in front of you, taking you to church. You sit with the congregation and pray. This memory is real. This memory is real. Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. A part of you, some animalistic instinct, begins to panic. Your body twists against itself. You try to look away, but the eel is everywhere around you. Your breathing quickens, your heart rate accelerates. You scream desperately, begging for them to pull you back, begging for them to hear you.

You cry out to God, and beg forgiveness. Beg for mercy. Beg for anything to brace against as the silencing darkness buffets you like a rag in a hurricane. You cry out for God, as you've done so many times before, but God isn't there. Your mind scrambles for anything else to hold on to, but it's empty. You used to be there, but you're not anymore. All that remains is sublime recognition, and solitary fear.

The eel hovers above you for a moment, jaw open. You look up, and you beg it for absolution. You ask for an answer to a question you… you can't remember… but you ask for something, anything at all. An acknowledge… an acknowledgement… of kindness? Or malice, or… anything at all. But as it comes down around you, and your mind is obliterated, the shell that used to be you struggles for one last thought…


































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