Clean Up Act
rating: +8+x

"I got a dollar and a dime, gonna clean up the green slime, dead bodies are a no-no, alarm says I gotta go go…" sang the translucent and bearded janitor sweeping up gore and blood in some forgotten cell whose walls had been ripped open like gift wrapping by over-sized claws. He looked over his shoulder every few seconds and his muscles were tense, like he imagined that someone was watching him. There was no SCP-447-2 on that Site, but life in the Foundation was full of surprises, and Boris prided himself on being ready for everything. There had been a containment breach last night, and while Boris hadn't exactly predicted it, he had insisted to his colleagues that something felt off and tense about work. Of course, being a level 0 Janitor, nobody paid him much attention. That didn't bother him. Honest. One hundred percent. It had been mostly like that all his life. What DID bother him was when people gave him extra work for no good reason, like when some stupid D-Class decided to not follow orders when exploring some monster's hidey hole or whatever. Such was the life of a janitor: never showered with praise, but only with more filth.

It was about lunchtime, and Boris had trained himself to be entirely immune to all the gut-wrenching sights that often followed the experiments and containment breaches in the Foundation. He felt his stomach rumbling, and a smile forming on his face as he thought of that sweet lady that served food in the cafeteria. Even though neither of them were exactly icons of material success, Boris still found himself fearing rejection on the grounds that she was too good for him. Just too nice and caring for his gruff and no-nonsense self. He finished cleaning up the last puddle of blood, and paused to admire the pristine reflection on the wall.

Boris flinched back in horror as his reflection turned into the visage of a rotting carcass covered in black slime. SCP-106 invaded the cell, grinning morbidly and sniffing the air like a jackal for new victims. The corpse-demon slowly and awkwardly shambled in the direction of Boris, who suddenly realized he was trapped inside the cell. The janitor wielded his mop like a sword, hoping to God it would hold off the monster long enough for help to come. But something very strange happened. The Old Man stared in the general direction of the janitor, paused a few feet away, and attacked with its claws. When nothing happened to Boris, the Old Man tilted its malformed head in confusion and melted into the ground.

After calming down and realizing that his hard work had been ruined by SCP-106's black slime, Boris screamed profanities and threw his mop onto the ground. "Why can't I ever get to work with the clean and nice ones for a change?" He lamented. But before he could dwell on that, there was the matter of why the Old Man hadn't been able to affect him. Should he tell his colleagues about this? Would he be considered an anomaly as well? Maybe it was better to play it safe. He waited until more personnel came into the cell and observed them from behind a smashed and corroded computer bank.

The personnel which entered the cell completely ignored Boris as usual, but something they mentioned caught his attention. Something about sightings of a new spectral class entity around the area of the containment breach. Boris followed them outside the cell and down several corridors where the freakish aftermath of last night was still visible, and blood and gore were the least disturbing things there. Giant egg sacs had burst open, fungus-like growths had spread over the walls and at least one mutant nervous system still crawled about.

Boris carefully maneuvered around all the anomalies, avoiding detection by other personnel for the moment. He needed to confirm if something was true, because if it was, then all his years of work for the Foundation meant nothing. He would be locked up forever same as all the others, probably without so much as a lousy commemorative gift for his dedication. And as he entered his room, all his fears were confirmed: he had been considered dead in the containment breach, his meager possessions had been transported elsewhere and his room was going to be occupied by a new personnel. Boris looked at his translucent and tattooed arms, and only now their abnormality registered on his mind. That could only mean one thing.

He was dead and gone.

He dropped to the ground and slumped against the wall, holding his wrinkled face in his hands. This couldn't be happening. Not after all this time, not so close to retirement. What was he supposed to do now? Clean filthy cells for all eternity? Atone for some sin he didn't know about? Find answers?

After a long time of breathing heavily and sobbing, Boris regained his composure. He always prided himself on being ready for everything, so he weighted his options. Number one? Fuck no. Number two? That can wait until his soul passes on to the other side. Number three? That was useful. Even if he got locked up after all, maybe he could help find whoever was responsible for this damn breach and get some measure of peace.

Rising and breathing in slowly, the janitor searched his memory for a mental map of the Site. He remembered that the breach had started in a laboratory three floors down to where he was. If he was a ghost now, he should be able to float and pass through walls without being seen. Reaching the laboratory, he found that it was under quarantine. Some personnel in hazmat suits were present to determine the extent of damage, retrieve samples and determine the most likely causes of the breach. The laboratory was covered in much the same biological anomalies as the corridors above, albeit in smaller quantities. Boris noticed that on one of the walls were words he could just barely decipher: "Follow The Jackal". Along with it was an image of a stylized and skeletal jackal.

He didn't remember any anomalies by that name around these parts. Was someone trying to intimidate them with cryptic nonsense? For what reason? Whatever it could be, the personnel had to see this. But how could he show it to them? He wasn't even sure if he should do it, they could find out about what really happened during the breach. Even so, he couldn't leave without helping them somehow.

Wait a minute. He was holding his mop even though he was technically intangible. Maybe he had some form of telekinesis? He reached out with his mind and clinked two coffee mugs together to call the attention of the personnel to the mysterious words.

They approached carefully and with hesitation, when suddenly one of them started choking and retching inside his hazmat, followed after a minute of agony by his helmet bursting open with fungal growths that overtook control of his body. The rest of the personnel struggled in vain against the growing tendrils of the creature, and were crushed into fine paste. The fungal mass squirmed out of the hazmat suit and down cracks in the laboratory to look for a more appropriate environment. Boris was left alone for a long time, surrounded by death and giving a thousand yard stare. His shock was interrupted when a skeletal jackal with pale glowing eyes walked inside and sat beside the corpses. It sniffed them with interest and walked circles around them before releasing a long howl. From the corpses emerged luminous spectral entities not unlike Boris, but they seemed to still be caught in a torpor.

Before Boris could say anything, the jackal left through a portal along with the spectral entities. The janitor didn't skip a beat and followed the jackal inside, hoping to find some answers, any answers. But what he found when he made it to the other side were only more questions. He was in the waiting room for a what seemed like the clinic of a therapist, but the decorations seemed oddly Egyptian. There was a solemn but soothing air to the place, like all of one's worries could be put to rest here.

All around Boris were sharply dressed and smiling people with the heads of animals attending to the lines of spectres with remarkable patience and modern equipment. There were magazines from across the eons and realms here and there, and occasionally one of the strange workers would come in with refreshments despite everyone being dead. A very pleasant and sophisticated music played that further soothed the nerves of the recent arrivals. Some of the spectres chatted like old friends while others refused to believe this was their final destination.

The rich sights were not enough to stop the gruff janitor from cutting the line and demanding to see their manager, or whoever their boss was. A lady with a cat head calmly told him that his number would be generated soon. He was even offered a massage by the cat lady, and immediately refused with a huff. This wasn't the time for pleasantries! But rules were rules, he supposed, and so he sat on a surprisingly comfortable chair and read a magazine about exotic cooking recipes. Soon enough, he heard someone call out his name.

He went through a golden and jewel-encrusted door to the therapist's office and found the jackal inside, but with a humanoid shape, dressed in a sharp black suit and carrying a golden cane. His smile was eager and went from ear to ear as he motioned with his cane to a couch beside him.

"Greetings, Boris. I hope my staff treated you well?"

"The hell is this place?" he shouted without any elegance.

"Rude. This isn't Hell. Can't you tell where you are from the decor? Or perhaps you think the staff are wearing costumes and this is all a prank?"

"Do you have any idea of who I am?" Boris felt both out of place and amazing for getting to say that at least once.

"Of course I do, it's part of my job. I know you have seen enough wonders and terrors to last a dozen lifetimes. I was just pulling your leg."

"I ain't got time for that shit! I came here to get answers!" He crossed his arms and put his foot down.

"Calm down. You do, in fact, have all the time you need. And I will answer to the best of my ability. But first, I must weigh your heart."

"Wait a minute." Boris slowly put two and two together. "You're Anubis?"

"The one and only."

"And this is the Egyptian afterlife?"

"We have made some modifications for the sake of modernity, but otherwise correct. And before you ask, I do not know why you were sent here instead of your preferred afterlife."

"Alright, fine. Can I ask you a question?"

"But of course. I'm here for that."

"Can you use your authority to help me find the person who killed me?"

Anubis gave a hearty chuckle. The chuckle slowly turned into howls of derisive laughter.

"That's not how it works, my friend. Any requests like are reserved for after the deceased has passed the Weighing of the Heart."

"Well, what are you waiting for?"

Anubis conjured a clipboard and cleared his throat.

"What have you never gotten in life?" asked the Egyptian god.

Boris paused and wondered. "Respect and recognition, I suppose. People always overlooked me even when I did my very best to impress and please them, and it hurts. Even my folks treated me with indifference most of the time, it was awful. So I guess things stayed pretty much the same when I started working for the Foundation despite all the crazy shit. If only there was an anomaly that would make people actually notice me, you know? But no, it's always something that leaves a hideous mess."

"What have you always gotten in life?"

"Orders. Always being told exactly what to do, the way to do it, like I'm fucking stupid and don't know what 2 + 2 is. That hurts too sometimes, but not as much as not getting a simple thank you. What makes it worse is how some people feel entitled to boss you around because they're soooooo much better! But I bet my bottom dollar that these pussies wouldn't dare unclog a toilet if their lives depended on it. The important people depend on us but they don't wanna admit, see? It's why they throw a shitfit when we try and fight for our rights."

"What did you give up to get what you most desire?"

Boris realized with dawning horror that if he opened his mouth, he would be compelled to answer truthfully. The answer he could give would surely damn him to being devoured by Ammut, but the alternative was going and risk eternal imprisonment in the Foundation. Boris pondered and pondered, for a time beyond time, shaking and averting his gaze. Anubis' comforting smile did not falter for a single moment, and the Egyptian god eventually got up to hold Boris' hand.

"If it's any consolation, no one will know but me. And I don't judge, ok?"

Boris swallowed hard, shoved his face into his hands and began to sob uncontrollably. Anubis just patted him on the back and offered him a glass of water.

"I caused the containment breach! I did it, OK! I gave up orders to try and get respect and recognition! I just…I thought I could maybe stop it after it begun if I planned carefully enough but…oh GOD, people are DEAD because of me! All because I wasn't satisfied with being a janitor and wanted to be a hero!"

Boris pulled his thin hair and curled up into a fetal position, alternating between sobs and screams. After several minutes, Anubis managed to raise the janitor and give a big, reassuring hug.

"Boris, people die working for the Foundation every single day. You made a mistake, we all do. That doesn't make us anomalies, that makes us human. You were very brave today, admitting your mistake. I can do nothing but congratulate you, and wish you a long and peaceful rest. Tell me, would you like one last meal and song?"

Boris eventually swallowed his crying and chuckled. "Thank you. I always did love that vegetable soup my grandma did for me and my brothers. I saw it on one of your magazines back there, actually. As for a song…how about Kino's 'A Star Called The Sun'?"

"As you wish. Do try to savor them, because…well, remember what it was like before you were born? Think of it as the closing of a cycle."

"You don't have to use fancy words with me, Anubis. I'm gonna stop existing, I get it. But it's not like I ever existed very much in the first place. My biggest regret is never asking Cindy out on a date."

"The lady in the cafeteria, I assume? I'll let her know if she comes. With your permission, of course."

"Just tell her that she is beautiful just the way she is, and that age is just a number."

"Wise words."

The meal and the song were savored, and Boris felt ready to venture into his final destination. He was guided outside the clinic and into the labyrinthine depths by two workers with lamps, and on the walls he could see the marking in several languages of the people who had gone before him. Many grew increasingly more desperate as they neared the bottom, where there was a watery pit with something cthonic swimming inside. The workers nodded and left one lamp to light the chamber as they closed the massive circular stone door.

As Boris walked down the steps into the pit, he could see a pair of reptilian eyes and an impossible, all-devouring maw that was contorted into a confiding grin. The creature seemed at once incredibly familiar and yet totally unknown. Whatever it was, Boris knew its character in one simple phrase.

"You…are NOT disgusting."

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