The needles were bamboo, six inches or so in length, streaks of rainbow stain running down their length. The yarn was Angora wool, pure white. She had seen a skein in a local craft shop and studied it; this one in front of her was purer, whiter, superior in every regard.
She inhaled deeply, exhaled. She began the home row, wrapping, threading, wrapping, threading. She inhaled deeply, exhaled. Wrap, thread.
The Headache dimmed, ever so slightly. It was a proper noun at this point. The headache began on a Sunday afternoon, remained through the evening, and she felt it still the next morning. That was thirteen years ago. Her…condition rendered painkillers unusable; anything that could impair her judgment could expose her. She couldn't let her guard down. She could never let her guard down.
Inhale, exhale. Wrap, thread. Eighty-eight stitches on the home row, then she inserted her free needle into the loop nearest the end of the needle. The Headache dimmed ever so slightly more. Josephine smiled, knitting and purling down the row. She didn't have much interest in the end result, an end pillow for a love seat, but the point was the repetition. The relaxation. An audiotape of Pachebel's Canon in D played in the background, and the headache dimmed further.
"I hardly see the point of further discussion," the old man said. smirking. The smirk was always there. "You never seem to unearth anything new."
"You claim you're here voluntarily," the researcher said. "If you're so annoyed by our line of questioning, you can simply leave, can't you?"
"That would be remarkably impolite, I feel," the man said. "I simply think you're not having an adequate amount of fun with this."
"Fun?" the researcher asked. "SCP-343, this is my job. My job is to make new discoveries into beings such as yourself, and there is no part of you inclined to help me. You would be more than happy to lead me on a wild goose chase of contradiction and invention until my superiors sent me to a microbiology lab in the Arctic Circle."
The old man paused for the first time in their conversation. "That was remarkably forthright, Dr. Castile. I admire forthrightness. I see so little of it from individuals such as yourself, researchers, bureaucrats. Very well, I'll tell you a secret. I'll tell you something I haven't told any of your people before. Lean close, Richard."
The researcher, taken aback for a moment, leaned his head close to the other man in the room. The old man across the table leaned close as well.
"Richard, I have no idea how I got here."
Josephine was well into her third row of the pillow when she realized the headache had almost completely faded away. She was amazed. It had been literally years since she had felt so at peace. She had a list, a very, very long list of ways she had tried to find relaxation, tried to find peace, from her burdens. Her burdens never ended. So many enemies, Josephine had thought (she would not let those thoughts get in the way of her knitting). So much work to be done, all the time. Josephine felt the throbbing intensify momentarily, then fade again. Her hands bobbed forward, caught the yarn, pulled backward, and formed the next stitch. One step at a time. Each motion deliberate, yet inevitable. Each step optional, yet destined.
The headache was gone. She felt so much relief; she had been so burdened, burdened with the work of evading the Beast. That was her name for those so-called "scientists", those animals that hunted beings that were different than they were. Her Inquisition. Her witch hunters. On days when she questioned herself, days when she doubted herself, she wondered if she really was a witch. Something unnatural. Something that needed to be confined.
The yarn was perfect, floating in the air in front of her. The skein unraveled itself, feeding inch after inch, foot after foot into her handiwork. She had seen a skein in a local craft shop and studied it. She had created this one from pure thought, pure imagination; she had vibrated quantum foam and Platonic form and rearranged molecules and humors and atoms into something new, something that had never existed in the universe before. This was what she did. This was what God or nature made her to do, and she would do it. The headache returned for a moment, then passed as she began a new row.
"You don't know why you're here?" Researcher Castile asked. "You're God, you're here of your own will, but you don't remember doing it?"
"Did you…I mean, that isn't…I lied, child," the old man, SCP-343, said to the other in the room. "It is tricks, games. I play with you, as I always have." The old man's eyes stopped tracking the researcher in front of him. "I am here and God and always will- -be here- -lied, child, it is tricks- -" The old man jerked forward suddenly, ramming his head against the top of the table. His arms hung limply by his sides as he rammed his head against the table again.
"What are you—"
"Gerald Clifton, Cleveland, Ohio," the old man slurred through a broken nose and several broken teeth, blood streaming from a gash in his forehead. "I was born in 1912, please. Let me die. I feel it controlling me. She controls me. She'll come back any minute."
"What are you talking about?"
"It isn't me talking. When you talk to me. 'God' is what it wants you to see me as. It watches you. It sits inside me and makes me talk. Kill me. Let me die. It will come back for me, it will lie to you again." The old man seemed his age for the first time that Researcher Castile could recall. Seemed…human. Seemed normal.
"You're being controlled by an external force? Is that what you're telling me?"
"Let me die," the old man pleaded, tears streaming down his face, blood dripping into his eyes. "Let me die free, please."
Josephine neared the end of her sixth row when she realized something was amiss. The headache had left her, but it pulsed ever so slightly as she paused. Too relaxed, she thought. I let go of one of them.
She closed her eyes and her mind left the room, the house, the area code that her body inhabited. It traveled from one predetermined location to another, isolated location. They would have been impossible to find if she didn't know exactly what she was looking for. The people who had built prisons on those locations had designed them to be impossible to find. She checked containment chambers across half a dozen Sites before she found what she was looking for at Site 17. Gerald, she thought. I'm so sorry I needed to use you.
She concentrated further and found herself in the same room- -
Researcher Castile was furiously scribbling notes. "Gerald, how long have you been controlled by this entity?"
"I have no idea," the still-sobbing old man replied. "So long. Most of my life. She put me here. She wanted you to find me. She wanted you to catch me. She watches me, and watches you through me. She needs spies. She knows what you would do to her. She fears you. So many others. She's so old, at least a century, maybe closer to two. She's so tired."
Castile perked at this. "More? Other beings controlled by the same entity?"
"Many," the old man replied. "I can tell you at least that- -" The old man stopped talking suddenly, his eyes closing, his head sagging downward.
His head rose, his eyes locking on Researcher Castile, and Richard knew he was looking at someone different. Something different.
"So smart," said the voice coming from the old man's mouth, contempt dripping from each word. "So lucky. Such a breakthrough. Such a promotion," the voice said. "I bet you can already see the commendation."
"Am I speaking to—" A flash of light blasted across the table. Castile tried to speak, heard only croaks; he had been rendered mute.
"So lucky," the voice repeated, the air in the room seeming to circulate faster around the old man. "How lucky are you now? Think you're so smart. Hunting. Think you're such a good hunter. Think you're all such good hunters. Worthless. God, so worthless." The old man did not rise; rather, the chair he sat in seemed to melt into the air, the table rolled forward without effort, and the old man suddenly was standing at his full height.
"Think you caught God. You caught a drifter, fool. Think you're studying God. God studies you, you fool. You child. I study you. Every cruelty. Every injustice. Think you can catch me."
"Wh….what are…" Castile croaked.
"Forget it," the old man's voice said, and Castile forgot. The notes he had written disappeared, graphite pulling off of the page and reforming on the pencil. Another chair materialized behind the old man, and the old man's form sat within. Castile felt something…missing, felt something leaving him. Felt something gone.
The feeling lasted only a moment, then he began. Nothing unusual here for Castile; just another SCP, another containment test. Just a moment of discomfort, nothing more. Foundation researchers felt that uneasy feeling all the time. Nothing unusual here.
"Okay, beginning interaction with SCP-343," Castile said, looking at the smirk on SCP-343's face. The smirk that was always there.
The headache returned as Josephine returned to her body. Stupid girl, she thought. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Almost gave it all away. Almost let them find you. She forced herself to focus on the headache, make it stronger. You deserve this. Stupid girl. Throbbing, blinding pain drilled through her head. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
She was floating fully in the air now, and the pain in her head bloomed brighter until she screamed. A bright flash of light. She opened her eyes and looked around. Her anger faded into shame. She reconstituted some clothing around herself and disappeared.
LEVEL 5 CLEARANCE ONLY
CODEWORD: "GREEN KING"
FROM: OPERATIVE AMBER
TO: OPERATIVE MAGNUS
TWO MORE EVENTS DISCOVERED. INTERVIEW BETWEEN SITE 17 RESEARCHER AND SCP-343. VIDEO ATTACHED. RESEARCHER WAS COMPLETELY AMNESTIZED BEYOND ANY KNOWN CHEMICAL METHODS; MRI SUGGESTED CHEMICAL PATHWAYS AND NEURAL DEVELOPMENT OF MEMORIES WAS LITERALLY REVERSED AND ELIMINATED. COVERT VIDEO SURVEILLANCE OF SCP-343 AS PER "GREEN KING" PROJECT ALLOWED FOR RECOVERY. INTERVIEW ENDED AT 1523 HOURS ON 11/02/13.
KEYHOLE SATELLITES DETECTED AN ENERGY SURGE IN AN ISOLATED AREA OF SONORA DESERT AT 1525 HOURS. RESULTING CRATER RESEMBLED THERMOBARIC WARHEAD DETONATION SITE.