Magnum Opus; or, A Diatribe In Defence Of Cliche
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It was a dark and stormy night, and two men sat in a cave. They stared deep into the fire, listening to the torrents of water that crashed through the undergrowth outside. Finally, one spoke to the other.

"Tell me a tale, Fred."

And so the tale began.

It was a dark and stormy night, and two men stood in a cave. Confused and dazed, they stared deep into the fire, listening to the torrents of water that crashed through the undergrowth outside. Finally, one spoke to the other.

"Tell me a tale, Fred."

"But I-"

And so the tale began.

It was a dark and stormy night, and two men stood in a cave. One slipped as the world was built around him, falling into a pool of half-written rainwater. The other, dressed all in black, stared deep into the fire, listening to the first man's shouts of bemusement. After what seemed like hours, he spoke.

"Oh Fred, won't you tell me a tale?"

"I don't-"

And so the tale began.

It was a dark and stormy night, and a man was running from a cave with rain pouring down his face. The embers of a fire long since extinguished wafted after him, stinging the back of his neck.

He twisted and turned down the mountain path, stumbling over half-baked ideas and narrative devices. He came to a lake, rippling and deep, and heard a crunch behind him.

"Hello Fred."

A gulp from the hunted man, and the faint rustle of paper as the figure approaches him.

"What do you want from me?"

"You know what I want. It's all I've ever wanted." His voice becomes harsh and distorted as he nears the lake. "I want you to tell me a tale."

And so the tale began.

It was a dark and stormy ni-
"No."

And so the tale began.

It was a dark and stor-
"No!"

And so the tale began.

It was a dark-
"NO"

And Fred dove into the lake.

And Fred's skull cracked on the cave's stone floor.

And Fred let the fire consume him.

And Fred broke free.



The doctor pinched the bridge of his nose, and stared at the blotchy mess of paper in front of him. It had seemed such a good idea. "Containment of Narrative Entities Through Recursive Storylines." He'd devised an ominous antagonist, too, and a perfect setting. It would have been beautiful.

He leans back in his chair, and a heartfelt sigh escapes his lips. The world had no sense of justice, that was the real problem. In a story it would have worked. The struggle to contain the unknown, the chasing of Fred through layers and layers of story until he finally submitted, the triumph of good over evil. There was no plot to the universe.

Unless, of course…

He jerks forward, mind spinning. He'd written about a metafictional entity, right? Something that could trap SCP-423 in an endless network of ever-more-complex narrative. So the plot, from their point of view, would be hunting him down. The chase, that was the tension, the inevitable submission the enemy.

Except he'd been bloody stupid, hadn't he. He hadn't written a hero, a Foundation agent who could fight for the good of humanity, he'd gone and written a goddamn antagonist.

Thunder crashes outside, and the doctor jumps to his feet. He runs to the window and throws back the curtains. Darkness. A cold sweat breaks on his forehead as he hears the floorboards behind him creak. Floorboards? No, not floorboards, not floorboards at all.

Stone, hard and wet and so very, very cold.

He feels a hand on his shoulder, and a voice in his ear.

"Hello doctor."

The triumph of good over evil is a played out trope, but still. Cliches are cliched for a reason, right?

"It's me, doctor. It's Fred. I have a question for you."

Time seemed to stand still as the two men, writer and written, stared into the fire.

"Won't you tell me a tale?"

And so the tale began.

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