The second he opened his eyes, his heart sank.
His mouth was slick with a thin film that tasted like peppermint and batteries. His sinuses felt greasy and his eyes felt cold and small.
Something had clearly gone wrong, but the fact that he even knew what amnestics were was a sign that everything hadn’t gone completely sideways. With eyes that felt brittle, he surveyed his surroundings: Foundation dormitory, not a Quarantine Unit. Good. Not a room he recognized, but in this situation that didn’t mean much. No other personnel. No obvious danger. No apparent injuries. The only sound the lazy buzz of an air filtration unit in the ceiling.
He sat up and the taste briefly intensified. Images flitted through his head like frightened birds, the sound of alarms and a panicked babble of voices, but nothing he could hold onto. Whoever had mixed his dose had done so carelessly.
“Or in a damned hurry,” he muttered. He ran a hand down his face. “Well, let’s see the damage. Not much happening here. All right, J… “
A sharp ribbon of pain arced from his jaw to his temple, but it was peripheral to the panic that suddenly bloomed in his chest. In times of stress, he knew it was his habit to talk to himself in the third person, to give himself playful orders out loud to lessen the tension. Not this time, though. Oh no. The anxiety of the situation had just gone sailing merrily into the stratosphere.
He could not remember his name.
From a great distance, he heard the tight hiss of his breath as terror coiled itself around his heart. A very tempting idea unfolded in his mind. He should just get up and run. It didn’t matter where. It was time to flee. It was time to dig a den, put his back to a wall, bare his teeth, and hide forever. His temples throbbed the word: Hide. Hide. Hide.
Mercifully, training kicked in. BACE: Breathe. Assess. Calculate. Execute. He clamped his eyes shut and inhaled as deeply as he could, exhaled till it hurt. Again, his lungs swelled in his chest. His body began to belong to him again. Exhale, the rabbit hammer of his pulse dulled. He sat and breathed for what felt like a very long time, and then he made himself breathe some more. He pushed down the desire for empty action. After what felt like an hour but was truly only four minutes, he let his eyelids, now soft and relaxed, slowly slide open.
Assess. He stood up, his movements intentionally slow, measured. He walked to the far end of the room and pressed his back against the wall. Assess. Starting at the left of the room, he drew his gaze rightward, forcing his eyes to halt on each object and truly see it, to receive the information each individual datum could offer him about his current situation. He fought the instinct to scan, and discussed with himself each thing he saw. He assessed.
- White wall. Blank. No photos. No personality. Not a personal dorm. Clearly general purpose.
- End table. Wooden. No drawer. Purple inhaler on top. Aerosol amnestics delivery system. Trigger warning on the front showing black. Already been used.
“Self administered,” he muttered, unaware he’d spoken out loud.
- The bed. Standard Foundation gray. Still made. He’d been lying on top of the blanket. His indentation was still visible. Red smudges. Still tacky judging from the shine. Blood.
His discipline broke and he looked down at himself. He was dressed in a black button up shirt and gray slacks. His clothes were stiff with drying blood. His hands were tainted with traces of red. He must have washed his hands in too much of a hurry to worry about fingernails and creases. He checked himself for scratches, cuts, any sort of injury. Nothing. Whoever had done the bleeding, it hadn’t been him, but they had been close enough to share.
On the far right wall was a mirror and a sink. He shot over to it. Water drops in the white basin offered a hint of pink. He looked in the mirror. The face was familiar, thank God, but the maroon smears from his hands still made him look a crazed stranger. He stared into his own eyes, searching for an answer he knew he didn’t possess.
“I really hope you didn’t hurt anyone,” he said to his reflection, holding the eye contact. The face looking back at him was harried. Exhausted. He’d always grown facial hair slowly, but his stubble had grown long enough to go from prickly to the beginnings of a beard.
“Assessment,” he said. “You, my friend, have a had a shitty couple of days.” He held his own gaze a bit longer, but the blood stained face didn’t seem to have anything further to add to the matter. He turned his back to the mirror and leaned against the sink.
“Calculate,” he said to the empty room, addressing the four beds as a professor to a class. “It is my calculation that I have been affected by some type of anomalous bullshit and gone and injured someone. I also calculate that since I am not in a cell or restrained, that I am in for several less than ideal surprises on the other side of that door.” He turned and looked in the direction of the room’s only exit and saw the note.
don’t read the report
don’t look around
go straight to red phone call MTF
He immediately recognized his own handwriting.
He had taken amnestics once before. He had volunteered apparently. When it’s your decision to forget something, they let you record a message for yourself for when you wake up. That time he had woken to a medic who calmly explained his situation and had left him in the company of his recorded self. It had been weird to watch. His pre-amnestic self had looked like some essential element been ripped from his spirit. He had been sitting in a chair, but his whole demeanor felt hunched. His affect was as flat as a steel plate, but somehow his calm words felt like sobs, his unblinking stare, a wince. He had said that the amnestics were necessary. His post-amnestics self believed him one hundred percent and had never been too curious about what had broken that other version of himself so deeply. He had moved on easily.
This was different. This felt like theft. He was still in the middle of whatever needed to be forgotten. Whatever trauma he had suffered before, he’d shed like a jacket on a warm day. Just let it drop to the sidewalk and walked away from it. This was more like a tangle, a maze he didn’t know why he’d wandered into. Every time he encountered something that had happened in the hole in his memory, he felt like a stranger inhabiting his own body. The inconsistency of his knowledge inspired a dread that was a low hum all around him. How could he know his face and his handwriting, but not his name? How could he be certain what else he had forgotten? How could he ever know what he’d forgotten to know he’d forgotten.
“And why in God’s name was I cryptic with myself? Jesus Chri…”
His hand shot to his temple as a lightning bolt of blinding agony screamed from his right shoulder to the top of his head. His legs surrendered and he fell bonelessly to the floor, shrieking. The pain was terrifying, but also infuriating. Is this what he needed?! Some sort of insane skull cramp on top of all this confusion and fear. As fast as he’d fallen he leapt up, grabbing the sink and pulling himself in front of the mirror, and locked eyes with himself. The mirror shattered, his fist pounding it four times before he even realized he’d moved his arm.
Glass had found purchase in his knuckles, and rather than enrage him further, he suddenly found himself numb, stunned at what just happened. A single jagged blade of the mirror had survived his assault and hung like an icicle in its metal frame. He met his own eyes in it.
His voice was empty, toneless, like the voice he had heard on that recording all those years ago.
“Assess. There is something very wrong with me.”
He spent the next few minutes pulling slivers of glass from his knuckles. His numbness had given way to morosity and dread. He knew his self-maintenance was procrastination. He knew that whatever that outburst had been, it was what put him here. He could remember enough about his life to know that he wasn’t prone to rage. Something had happened to him.
He pulled the last splinter of glass from his hand with a hiss. He wrapped his hand as best he could with one of the gray pillow cases and surveyed the room one last time, his unwounded hand on the door knob. His tantrum had sent glass, twinkling and red, well across the room. He considered it a moment, and then collected the largest shard he could find.
"Execute," he muttered. He wrapped the pillow case around the duller end of the shard and, so armed, left the room.
The hallway was chaos.
The emergency lights were flashing, but someone must have disabled the klaxon. Several storage lockers had been flung to the ground and lay on their faces like fallen soldiers. Scattered papers littered the corridor, the occasional drop or smear of red punctuating them under the strobing lights. He stood in the doorway, listening for the sounds of destruction or violence that one would expect to accompany such a scene, but all he could hear was the air system and the rush of his own blood.
He did not recognize this place.
Nor could he remember the last project of which he was a member. The last thing he could recall was lunch with… a man. Some man. No name for him either, it seemed. He sighed and stepped out into hall. His room was at the corner of an L-junction. He turned right, heading away from the lockers, papers, and hectic lighting. This way was marked with a red line on the wall labeled, “Command.” This would be his best bet to avoid any breached Containment Units and other personnel. He would follow his own advice and call in a Mobile Task Force. The fact that they required calling and weren’t already on their way meant someone had tampered with the automated system.
“Wouldn’t be so hard,” he muttered. “ All you’d have to do is reroute power from communication to the perimeter defense grid and no one would…” His jaw tightened. It wasn’t exactly a good sign that he was so well informed on the matter.
The red line lead him through several turns. Sites were typically designed to be confusing to those without training, especially if it housed human Skips. Breaches were easier to deal with if escapees were lost and confused. He, however, moved with the confidence of someone who knew where he was. Whatever his information his mind might be missing, his muscles remembered. He barely noticed the red line as he moved towards Command. As he walked, he was met by silence. The place felt deserted. There were no papers or objects strewn about, but every emergency light had been smashed. The fluorescents above had been safe in their steel cages, but halos of yellow glass twinkled every twenty meters below each warning unit, the crunch of glass marking a slow beat as he walked.
He turned another corner and the ghost taste of amnestics whispered up his throat. The murmur of voices drifted through his head, this time with a woman’s voice in front, panicked, saying, “That’s impossible. I thought it was only with a K.” His vision doubled and he swayed, the heel of his bloody hand pressed against his forehead. When he steadied, he looked around with a deeper déjà vu than he knew could exist. He knew this place. He must have been here a hundred times. A thousand. He knew this place was his as sure as -
“As sure as I know my own name,” he chuckled.
The door was labeled Room 2841 and was the first he’d encountered so far that was open, even if only slightly. A dented folding chair was partially jammed under it, giving him only a narrow view to the interior of this his room, but it was brightly lit. Inviting. In the terrible tangle that his life had become since waking, this was the first familiar thing that didn’t fill him with dread. A thought of the note that his former self had written flickered through his mind before he dismissed it with an unconscious frown. Danger or no, this was safe territory. He would briefly investigate, arm and bandage himself properly, and find a phone to call a MTF to come save him from this nightmare. At that moment, he knew for certain that there was a red phone right next to the stapler on his desk. With a minute nod, he stepped over the chair and forced open the door.
There was a lot of blood. Most of it was pooled around the head of the man lying on his side in the corner. The white lab coat was pristine where it wasn’t sprinkled with blood so red that it all but glowed. Beside his head, face-down, was small sculpture of a sphere on an oak base. He didn’t have to turn it over to know there was a plaque on the front, engraved with the phrase “The Worst Ones Are Spheres,” a gift from this dead man on the ground in front of him. He had died surprised, a look of confused alarm frozen forever on his face, slightly distorted his newly concave forehead. He slowly approached the body and crouched down in front of it. He was certain of two things: This man was his friend and he had killed him.
But he didn’t know his name.
There was nothing left to do. He stood up and walked to the red phone. He reached for it, but as his eyes lit on the open amnestics cabinet, his hand drifted to a halt. The deja vu was back. She had opened it. She… She had said that he was infected and she had run for the cabinet… and… and she…
Like a man asleep, he walked towards the purple, metal container. Purple was the color of all amnestics related equipment, but the color of the stuff was actually clear. All the worst ones are clear, his mind babbled as he opened the cabinet all the way and looked inside. Two of the holders were empty: one self admin, one weaponized. He had used the inhaler in the dorm. Who had used the other? He stood, staring into the shelves, not seeing them, groping in the darkness of his mind.
Though he stood like this for minutes, staring, unmoving, eyes wide, he gained nothing from it. His daze cleared and he turned back to the phone. He stepped towards it and something snapped under his shoe. He lifted his foot. Glasses. Her glasses. Not far off, the weaponized amnestic. The voices murmured, hers as loud as if she were right next to him, yelling, “Containment breach!! It’s not just K’s anymore!! It’s jumped! ” He could picture her lurching towards the cabinet. He had seen her over his shoulder.
The images were rapid. He had run at her and she had shot him. Sprayed him in the face, but he had hit her arm and half the dose had misted uselessly to his left. He remembered the taste, peppermint and batteries and the way the world swung sickeningly in front of him as the drug sank into his nervous system. He remembered her panicked face. Her shouting. “My husband is named J…” She had flinched then, cringing away from him. “I can’t stay and help you. Take this,” jamming the inhaler in his hand. “It’s your only hope.” And he remembered wanting to choke her and telling her to run. Reaching for her and only getting her glasses as she fled.
Ok. All set. He’d had enough. Investigation over. Whatever had happened, it had happened to him and he needed help. Send in the cavalry. He picked up the red phone and an operator answered immediately.
“I need help. There’s been a breach. There’s something wrong with… people are dead. Need assistance.”
Fuck. Why hadn’t this occurred to him? He’d need his clearance code, followed by his name, if he expected to be interviewed instead of simply terminated.
“Ok. Listen. I’ve been amnesticized. I don’t know my name. I need some goddamned help. My code is easter, seven, griffin, wind chime, but i can’t remember my name.”
“Verify.” Cold. Emotionless. By the numbers. Goddamn it.
His eyes searched frantically. Something in this place must have his name on it. A report was spread on his desk. He was about to move on when he saw the phrase, “violent outbursts.”
“Await authorities,” said the voice, gray and hard as slate. “Do not resist.” The line went dead.
He barely heard. He put the phone back in its cradle and read the report.
Description: SCP-3145 is an anomalous infection affecting people whose first or last names begin with the letter K. Vector for transmission of infection seems to be an airborne virus, though testing for the presence of a physical viral agent has been inconclusive. Early symptoms of infection are irritability, paranoia, and irrational emotional responses. Full onset of SCP-3145 symptoms manifest approximately eight hours after exposure, at which point infected individuals will become violent, especially at hearing a name beginning with the letter K. To date, the only treatment for SCP-3145 with any success has been amnestics specialized for name recollection.
Off to the side, there was a hurriedly scrawled note.
His skull was a cauldron of agony. His teeth clenched until they would break. He dropped the report. He blinked, reptilian, shaking with rage. The shard of glass exploded in his clenching fist. His eyes moved to another sheet of paper. His handwriting.
“It is my recommendation that until we know how this disease works, no one with any K’s in their name should be allowed to be part of SCP-3145 Research.”
And he’d signed his name.
Dr. Jacob Jespen
This time when the pain came, it was greeted with a laugh.