They were stringing up gold garland all over the house. Mistletoe adorned every doorway while elves stared down mischievously from their various shelves. The entire dormitory looked like a collision at the intersection of holiday kitsch and cheer.
Precariously perching on a wicker stool, she placed a Foundation Star atop their over-sized tree. As the wooden support collapsed beneath her, she felt a moment of free fall before strong arms stopped the fall. Smiling wildly, she threw her arms into his.
The sterile interview room looks the same as it has every other day of the year, save for a single scraggly wreath clinging to life on the inside of the door. Adileh Khayyam watched as two muscle-bound goons in the Foundation's honorable armed forces escorted a nervous young woman towards her station.
As she sat down, Adileh made note of her posture. Every ounce of her desperately wanted to escape. Muscles tensed and pulsated underneath skin with hair standing on end. The cheap aluminum table rattled from her trembling as she leaned into it.
Adileh let her lips split apart with practiced precision. It was her second most practiced smile, after the one she used for people she knew were going to die. "It's alright. I'm not going to hurt you. I know you must be very confused."
For a few moments, the woman said nothing. She only stared at her lap, where hands might lie. Leaning forward, Adileh grabbed her hand with a practiced motion. "Have they explained to you what happened?"
"They said… that I… they said…" shaking her head, she glanced into Adileh's eyes before darting back to her lap. "Amnestics. I requested amnestic treatment."
"That's right." Adileh scribbled gibberish on her clipboard. "Now, this is important. Do you remember anything about it? Anything at all?"
Pausing, the woman pursed her lips and stared intently at the empty space on the wall.
Access card that didn't belong. Memetics. Why had he been in memetics?
A man by the name of Vang, he said, who had some interesting ideas and liked talking to him. That was all. Just that and nothing more.
They got each other stockings that year. She gave him a razor, and the newest Call of Duty. He gave her a bleached crocodile skull that he'd painted for her.
For awhile, that was enough.
A pen tapping on a clipboard jolted the young woman back to reality.
Slowly shaking her head, the woman grabbed at her temples. "No. Nothing. Not even… paperwork or procedure. How deep…"
"Don't worry about that. Your cognitive functions have not been affected. This is your first amnestic treatment, so-"
"How do you know?"
Closing her eyes, Adileh looked up from her papers and nudged her head to shuffle hair aside. "I'm your doctor. It's my job to know."
Drumming her fingers on the table, two accusing eyes peeked through the mess of hair. "So… you did this to me, then."
"No, sweetheart. You chose this. It was for your own good, and you believed that when it happened." Reaching into her jacket, Adileh pulled out a small tape recorder. Pressing play, a less anxious woman's voice began speaking, clinically, reading a consent form.
Watching as the young woman stared into the recorder, Adileh wondered if she could even hear what was playing.
"I'm so sorry."
She'd felt the weight behind his face when she punched him. How could he? How could he be so stupid?
Cognitohazard research 101 was avoiding exposure. Had he even tried?
Was he tired of trying?
Falling, he broke apart, and so did the floor. It was a kitchen now, and he was fixing her breakfast the morning after. The eggs drifted in her eyes as she struggled to bring them to her mouth.
Looking down, there were whole eggs running around her plate. Rubbing her eyes, she opened them to see sunny-side-up eggs enjoying the sunrise through her front window.
Was this before, or after the scrambling?
Looking up into Adileh's eyes for the first time, the young woman spoke in a pleading voice. "Do you know… how bad it is?"
Adileh clinked her pen on the table. "My work is psychological. As in, if you had been dosed with multiple serious amnestics, it would render you psychologically unfit for service. As you can see, since you are not wearing an orange jumpsuit, that is not the case. Fortunately."
The woman shuddered at the mention of an orange jumpsuit. "What happened? Did… I do something?"
"Oh, honey, no…" A smooth silken voice escaped Adileh's lips. "You volunteered. I'm afraid any more detail might trigger memories that are 99% gone. Give it a few days, and even this interview will probably be a blur. The important thing is, nobody is angry at you."
Tears began flowing from the woman's eyes, and she slumped onto the table. "Thank you… please… I just… want to help. I don't want to be bad to the Foundation."
His face had been so red, and she had been so angry.
Why was she so angry?
They walked in circles and someone was coming for them. He was very angry.
Cirlces of anger and circles of logic. Something was wrong.
Tearing down garland and there's an acid burning on her face. Dripping from her eyes, everything burns.
The fluorescent lights were buzzing above their heads.
"I know you don't…" Adileh's voice faded as the woman's eyes crossed. Looking down to her clipboard, she began to write down everything that had happened so far. Disorientation, dissociation, trance-like fugue… standard symptoms of Class-B amnestics.
Flipping the page over, gunmetal-grey ink told the woman's story. Foundation researcher for ten years, in biological science. Had irreplaceable experience and knowledge with some anomaly or project.
In the field for why the patient had been treated, some Foundation doctor with a sick sense of humor had written disobedient hysteria. Scratching it out with her pen, Adileh began to write something and hesitated.
Why had they stolen the past this time?
For a moment she remembered looking asleep.
He had been looking at her with such pitying expression. Something awful had been happening for a long time.
Then, he said it. Those words. What were the words?
A house of inconsistent horses has a secondary effect…
"Can you hear me?"
Snapping back to reality, the woman placed her hands on the table looked into the space around Adileh's eyes. "Is there… when will I be thinking straight? What… when?"
Finding their hands touching, Adileh looked back into the void. "Stay with me. We're both here in this room. There's nobody else. Do you understand that?"
Absentmindedly nodding, the woman began shaking. "When can I go home?"
"Do you remember having a home?"
Pausing, the woman placed a finger on her lip. "I don't know. I must live somewhere. The Foundation takes care of me."
"Of course they do." Rhythmically rubbing the hand, Adileh saw a small pale band around her ring finger.
Frowning, a discomforting thread of thought that had been twining inside her twisted into a knot.
Memories fade to rot in time, as all things must.
Relationships will fade and wane, and pass into oblivion.
Accept these truths, and you will be free.
Nothing lasts forever.
The Foundation will take care of me, too.
Withdrawing her hand, the young woman leaned back into her chair. Pleading eyes stared from someplace far away. "I'm done. I want to go. Can you…?"
Nodding, Adileh pressed the hidden security signal. Within seconds, they were there.
The woman instantly regarded them with reluctance before rising and stalking with them out of sight. Creaking as it closed behind them, the door shut and left silence.
FROM: Doctor Adileh Khayyam
TO: Superintendant Roger Click
RE: Ethics Committee Incident Report ████-████
On ██/██/████ Junior Researcher H████ deliberately exposed himself to the memetic agent of SCP-████. Following this, the subject deliberately infected his live-in partner, Junior Researcher M████████. It is believed to be deliberate due to the steps Junior Researcher H████ took to hide his activities, including illegal usage of Foundation access cards and security data. Researchers V███ and ██████ have been reprimanded and placed under closer observation due to indirect connection to this activity.
Following amnestics treatment, Junior Researcher M████████ is to be reassigned to another project and the former Researcher H████ has been demoted to D-Class. My only further recommendation at this time is continued observation of Researcher M████████ to ensure the success of the amnestic treatment.
Have a happy new year, Foundation personnel!