incorrective unconsciousness
rating: +32+x

I hate that I know it's fake. I can tell by counting how many stars there are in the night.

When I dream, I always know that everything can be counted. If they couldn't, that meant I made a mistake, so I'm not sleeping. It's a great way to make sure everything is accounted for so I don't fall to a memetic or a sleep-related anomaly. It's not 100% foolproof, but it helps reassure me. Every night when I sit on the porch for a little while, I count the stars. Even as they expand rapidly, I can count them all.

Shit, it's starting to center on myself.

Every day, things are the same as normal. The world is at ease. Life is normal and uneventful. There's the ideal family. Maybe not perfect, or even nuclear, but the bond they have is as ideal as any family can hope for. A father and daughter, living together in peace, trusting each other more than anyone else could. A father named Adamo Smalls, and a daughter in high school named Heather Mason, living together in peace, each of them with two normal human heads. He'll come home from his 7-5 job, take care of the house, and help his daughter out however he can. Sure, they don't talk to each other much, and their viewpoints aren't the same, but they're still family members and close friends.

I can't accept it.

This is cruel to say, but I know it's fake because I have no daughter. All I have is an attempt at one. Heather. That's what she calls herself. But anyone else in my position could realize the illusion and see who she really was: a girl who found herself in the wrong dream. Pretending to be her father is misery. There's no way for me to escape, because I have no idea how much is fake and how much was Hell.

Please, don't get it wrong; of course I'm playing along for her sake. I did the moment I realized the situation I was in. Even a now-gone person like me knows to act as if I was a decent father, even if I couldn't ever be one in reality. For her sake. I knew about her story.

How couldn't anyone? Sometimes, odd tales get told throughout the Foundation, and because it's the Foundation, no one could make up something big, dumb, horrible, or weird enough to shock anyone anymore. All we heard was the truth, no matter the department, provided what went through our own personal grapevine was stuff anyone sharing had information to. Harmless stuff.

"Did you hear about the cursed slot?"

"Don't you know, we have a Snapchat skip now."

"But we have a giant arm that's underground."

"Don't we have that ghost that posts online? The gender ghost one."

"How about that kid with the TV head?"

Everyone hears the same spiel at some point. 'Don't humanize the anomalies.' But how do you get through the day like that unless you're a monster? Being fed little bits of info about the more harmless skips helps me get through the day at times. If the Foundation were real, which it isn't in whatever world I'm experiencing.

My office job consists of letters and numbers and symbols that blur together now. I interact with people existing only as shadows in the night. I come home to my fake daughter, who smiles at me in such a real way that I'm almost convinced. I help her with stuff. I fight with her. I'll sometimes try to talk to her and be met with silence, and sometimes I'll find that she's gone to spend the night at a friend's house. Those are the more bearable days.

This girl believes she was here with me her whole life. She talks about stuff I don't remember, but still know. She does her homework for a school I've never found, no matter how much I've looked. She's ended up in this dream with me, however it's taken form. My fake daughter will be the only one to remember me.

Each day that passes makes me more unsure of whether I want to go back home or stay here.

Every dream plays out the same way.

I'm an employee at the Foundation. No one's at work. I search the halls of the Foundation, trying to find someone to talk to, something to connect back to reality. The more I look, the more things fall apart. No, falling apart isn't the right word. Everything just disappears. Gradually, my world is consumed until it's just me, left in the space between the world I had once occupied. There's a man above me, so I try to run to him. He doesn't look at me, respond to my calls, but instead continues to stay out of my reach, no matter how long I run for.

After days of running, he's finally within grasp. My arm involuntarily stretches out to him, but stops when he turns to speak to me. The words are inaudible, his lips unreadable. I can tell what he is attempting to say though.

"You coward."

My memories get ripped out, and my eyes gouged. In doing so, I see Heather. No. It's SCP-3090. Her body shakes as she backs away from me, question mark displayed on her TV. Ah, right, she would be scared of Foundation employees, wouldn't she, I think to myself as the in-between we're in folds onto itself. That's when I wake.

It's still preferable to the day-to-day existence. Even these nightmares about purgatory are ideal for me. No matter what's happened to me, I can still dream.

"Dad?" Heather looked up from her console. No matter how happy she wants to look, she keeps escaping into video games. Pretending to be a normal daughter, she tries to talk to me about the games she plays from time to time. I always assumed teens liked playing violent video games, so it surprised me that she never did. She told me why one day.

"I hate violent games."

Strong words for a teenager.

"Hmm?" I sounded back. Whenever she asks a question, she has to spend a few seconds thinking of what to say first, always looking down and away. She looked scared, but I wasn't sure if she was scared of asking, or of me.

"Are you alright? You, um, you seem more tired than usual lately. You almost fell asleep right now."

"Oh, I did? Sorry. But yes, sweetie." That term felt like sandpaper in my throat. "Work's been busier than usual, but I'm fine." I was sleeping more, even at work. But that wouldn't have instilled confidence in her.

"Okay," she muttered as she leaned onto my shoulder and went back to playing. There was no way for me to tell what she was playing; all I saw was a TV that was off and her intently focused on it. That's just how things are here.

Last night's dream was not the same.

In the dream, life went on like normal.

When I woke up, I saw Heather sitting on the side of the bed, staring out the window. No. It was SCP-3090. She looked despondent for the first time I could recall, shaking as a pink substance dripped out of her TV head. Everything else still seemed to be the same. What would a real father do here?

"Hey," I said.

"H… Hi…" she muttered.

"So you found out." SCP-3090 nodded. "When was that?"

"Like… n-now. I guess." Her voice was hoarse. 'Now' seemed to be a generalization; who knew how long it had been for her. What could I do to console a child I didn't know?

"I can't be your father you know." Almost immediately, she moved to hug me and buried herself there. "Don't expect me to take care of you. I'll just… look out for you. While we get through this."

I felt guilty for encouraging any kind of parental behavior, or even getting close to her. If I still existed in the Foundation and acted like a skip's parent, I'd be facing demotion at the very least. Who was going to stop me now anyway? At least we could remember each other's stories here.

Read FloppyPhoenixFloppyPhoenix's entry to the Original Character Tournament here: The Abyss Gazes Back (And It's ASCII On A CRT Screen).

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