"…so there's that. And then I persuaded him to go to 078’s cell and covertly switched the power on. Several weeks after that he hung himself on a pipe in the maintenance." Doctor Bright smirked in satisfaction and leaned back, perfectly balancing his chair on its hind legs.
Doctor Bright laughed.
"What do you know, I'd almost forgotten this story. Now I remember; that's exactly how it happened." He scratched his three-day stubble in thought and slid his hand over his greying hair. "Makes you think, right?"
Harsh midday heat was streaming into the cafeteria; the sun’s rays almost melted the glass, making every surface they touched scalding hot. It was stuffy indoors, and the doctor tugged at his shirt collar, trying to let some cool air under his clothes.
“What did you expect?” Bright, the one that had been silently standing in front of the coffee machine and attentively listening to the conversation, finally spoke up. “We’ve been in these bodies for a long time now, each one has their own destiny, their own memories. We become more independent and start mixing things up. I, for one, remember this story differently.” He reached for the cup, which filled up with fragrant coffee and waited for him on the tray. Turning around, he accidentally brushed the ukulele on his back against the edge of the table and the instrument gave out a quiet major chord.
“Shut your mouth,” Bright snapped at him and squinted his eyes, looking to the right and upwards, where the ever-vigilant red eye of a surveillance camera was glowing under the ceiling. “And quit dragging this fucking piece of wood everywhere with you, didn’t I tell you?..”
“No one cares,” the Ukulele man smirked. “Who watches these cameras of yours? Who makes protocols? Who works with confidential documents? What can possibly leak and where, be so kind as to tell me?”
Bright got off the chair and came right up to Bright. The second one sized him up with a mocking glare, even though in his present state he was half а head shorter than his ‘stable release’.
“The whole outside world still has no clue as to what is going on in here. If you keep allowing yourself such lack of discipline, then it will become a habit of forgetting about such things.”
While the two men were locked in a piercing gaze, the third one was calmly finishing his sandwich.
“Would you stop that,” he drawled lazily. “Or have you forgotten how these ‘internal conflicts’ usually end? Do you need reminding about the events of three years ago? When one of us was just asking for it, and we had to…”
Bright, without taking his eyes off the hack musician, made an imperious gesture, silencing the man.
“That is still up for discussion. In much… cooler surroundings,” Bright finally let the Training and Development Director be and returned to his table. His face became a picture of melancholy again. “If it keeps on like this, the whole thing is really going to backfire.” He took the first thing that his hand landed on — a paper napkin — and fanned himself with it.
“There is something you’re wrong about, Alto,” Bright told him, chewing down the last piece of his sandwich. “I mean, that we are becoming independent…”
He didn’t have time to finish his sentence because the cafeteria door flung open, and a young assistant appeared in the doorway. She was out of breath and holding protocol folders marked with yellow and red labels.
“Doctor Bright, you are being expected in the conference room. Consilium started five minutes ago.”
Of the three men, only one turned around.
They were reading just another Euclid that required a revision of containment procedures. Bright was sitting at a huge oval table, wearily fanning himself with some protocols. Light was hurting his eyes, giving him a headache, and he squinted in irritation, turning his head this way and that way, but he couldn’t get away from this brightness. Light was everywhere. Finally, he attempted to hide behind the papers but he could feel the others throwing sideway glances at him. Running out of patience, he slapped the pile of papers against the desktop and interrupted the speaker, saying loudly:
“Doctor Light, light is in your line. Do something about it already.”
The room became dead silent. A heavily built woman with carefully done fair hair glared at the troublemaker.
“Doctor Bright, the shutters are all yours.”
“The shutters aren’t enough. Get some drapes.”
The air in the room seemed to be rich with methane — just one spark would have been enough to blow it up. Bright leaned back again, sinking into his round ergonomic armchair and sizing everybody up with his hooded eyes. He knew each one of them loved to get up to things, and they all had had their times until they felt their mayhem was getting completely out of hand and had to take it under control. He also knew they were ready to tear him apart right now because every last one of them was him, and he hated to be interrupted.
“Go on, doctor,” the woman, whom Bright had called Light, broke the silence. The speaker coughed and started reading from where he had been interrupted at.
“…SCP-213 was moved to intensive care after being observed having a seizure in its containment cell. Examination of SCP-213 shows an additional ten nodules have appeared on its back. A perfect distance of 5 cm separates each one. SCP-213 continues to report no pain from the lesions…”
Bright shivered despite the heat. He recalled his own bouts which with time came more often and lasted much longer. Before he could just convince himself that it was all just a side effect that he could just wait out, bear with it, and it was like a payment for his gift. But time and again, he was becoming more afraid that one day he simply wouldn’t recover from it.
“…The source of SCP-213’s effect appears to be a parasitic infestation of unknown origin inhabiting its body. This life form has not attempted to communicate, but does observe any persons in SCP-213's presence through the lesions present on SCP-213’s body. SCP-213 has exhibited panic over this development and requested several times the entity be removed from him. Any requests of this nature from SCP-213 are to be denied.”
The doctor took off his glasses, wiped his eyes, and put the glasses back on again.
“The only option in subduing the parasite activity we might have at the moment is to put the subject into induced coma.”
“Even considering all the escape attempts from the subject, isn’t it easier to review the terms of his containment based on his weak points? As I see it, his powers of disintegration have their limits,” an academic looking man with a clipped beard noted. “The study of this guy has strategic meaning that goes beyond the interests of the Foundation. I bet our friends will soon be interested in him. I’m not sure O5 will approve of this coma idea…”
“Oh, they will,” Bright said and smiled.
The concilium finished at 1 PM, and the members started to leave. Bright was sunk in his armchair and throwing a pen into air. He didn’t want to go anywhere. A fair-haired smart-looking man also stayed behind without any visible reason. He was slowly gathering his papers, clearly buying himself time.
“Doctor Gla-a-ass,” Bright called out, drawling lazily. “It’s been a long time since we’ve had a heart-to-heart talk. It strikes me as strange. Has it ever crossed your mind that I might need psychological help more than all your patients?”
Doctor Glass was one of the last among the senior personnel that had been converted. There were two reasons for that. Firstly, Bright tried not to start his expansion from the people whose specialty differed so much from his. It could cause difficulties while he still had to actively hide from the members who retained their personality. Although psychology wasn’t a science one had to waste half of their life on mastering, its methods and views were still vastly different from the medical ones.
Secondly Bright wanted the psychologist to remain himself longer.
“Doctor Bright,” the man he had called Glass replied. “It’s good that you’ve stayed behind. I wanted to talk to you about staff recruitment.”
Bright dropped the pen onto the table and covered it with his palm.
“I'm all ears.”
‘Glass’ circled him and sat down on the chair to the left. He tilted his head to the side, watching Bright’s face. Jack frowned — when did he have time to get all these psychological antics?
“You don’t look so well,” ‘Glass’ noted.
“It’s the heat,” Bright spit back. “You are a terrible psychologist. Let’s get straight to business.”
“Anyway, I was thinking how we could improve our recruitment system. If you plan to keep… using the amulet so actively, then certain matters of psychological diagnostics become moot. Maybe instead of this you would like to offer some other parameters that are important for you. How would you like to see your new personnel?”
“Look through their medical files. I don’t want any hemorrhoids or prostatitis. Take women; I want there to be at least one woman per every male member. Two of every kind of animal. Maybe then they’ll start doing something useful. And request thicker shutters in here. And chairs. I want chairs like this one in every conference room.
‘Glass’s’ face showed a familiar expression that was already getting on Bright’s nerves — it was like he was looking into a mirror.
“You know those questions don’t concern me. And no, I will not pass them on. And no, I was not reading your thoughts. And no, neither do I now.”
Bright stared at the other man.
“What makes you think you know what’s going on in my head?” Bright didn’t even notice how he switched to a less official tone. “You think if you are in a shrink’s body, you’ve been served all his tricks on a silver platter? You think you can see through anybody, huh?”
“I think, doctor,” ‘Glass’ straightened up and squared his shoulders, “that I know perfectly well what’s going on in your head for the same reason you know what’s going on in the head of each Overseer. As you have unequivocally hinted today.”
Jack bared his teeth venomously.
“Haha. Ouch. What a burn, doctor Glass. I can see it steaming. Get out of here. I’ll look at your personnel offer and send you a list of my recommendations.”
‘Glass’ got up, stared at Bright savagely for several more moments, then took his folder off the table and headed towards the exit.
‘Why do I hate myself so much,’ Bright thought bitterly. ‘Damn it, I shouldn’t have sacrificed the shrink.’
It covered him as he was walking from the conference room to his office. He pressed his shoulder against the wall, trying to keep on his feet although his head was spinning and the surroundings blurred and coiled into a spiral. He was in many places at once, his skin was touching thousands of surfaces at the same time, it burnt, it froze, it pressed, it got wet. His vision was full of millions of various pictures: bright, dull, dark, colourful, green, grey, all colours of the rainbow, and his hearing was drowning in a cacophony of interlacing sounds. He was watching, running, thinking, recollecting, hitting a ball with a bat, crying, laughing, watching porn, reading reports, feeding fish, hurting, sleeping, playing the ukulele. Millions of contradicting feelings, memories, thoughts, and each of them was shouting ‘Me! Me! I’m the real one! I am you!’ And it was him. He was inside himself, alone with himself, running from himself to himself, locked inside his head, knowing nobody and nothing anymore, apart from himself. Creating and devouring himself every minute. Surrounded by ghosts, lonely and empty, lost in his own depths and forgetting himself.
He slid down the wall, gripping his head with his hands.