The Abyss Gazes Back (And It's ASCII On A CRT Screen)
rating: +35+x
He was a falcon in the night, floating under a pin-pricked sky of potential. The falcon scouted for the wild things in the underbrush. Wild things to feed its young. But the stars cast only enough light for the falcon to take in their beauty; the wild things kept hidden. With contempt in the stars, the wild things, and even the falcon that he personified, he awoke. He made his dreaded return back to the dull expanse. And he focused on the Lack, in all its disobedience.

Level 3 Researcher Adamo Smalls awoke from his dream. A long time ago, the testing of SCP-3309 went horribly wrong. It threw him into the void as a consequence. It wiped him from the minds of those that he used to know. But it would not let him fade away. For some reason, there was still a purpose for him.

"Hello? Is anyone here?"

There wasn't. His voice echoed, but the void that imprisoned him swallowed his call, with the ease of blowing out a candle. He was alone. How did this make him feel? Was he confused? Anxious? A bit nervous, to be sure. The tone of his voice betrayed him here. Betrayed him to whom? To what?

"Huh, I thought I heard something."

He didn't. There wasn't anything to hear. The environment he existed in hardly contained the elements necessary for —

"Hmph, I know I heard something. There's someone here. Don't watch me with that look in your eyes. Reveal yourself! I know where you are. I know who you are, and who you think you are. Drop the charade and face me. If you aren't a coward."

"Haha! There's nobody here. Mhm, this sort of thing never works in the horror movies, and I know for damn sure it would never work here either."

His laughter portrayed confidence, but his confidence was a facade. It was obvious. For what reason had he to be confident? He didn't accomplish anything.

"Not yet."

And yet he kept himself wrapped in its false tangle. It shielded him from the insecurity this place emanated. This place between places. Where was he? Who put him here?

"It was Them. They did this to me. They… Didn't need me anymore."

For a moment, his voice went quiet as he glanced into the void with askance. One moment became two, two became three, and then… He shook his head. The fake confidence surged back, and he buried himself in its grasp once again. With a yawn, he cried out.

"Man, this place is so boring. I wish I could go back to sleep. If only I had some scotch, that could put me back under."

It could, and it would, but now wasn't the time for that. The stars in his dreams could only shine for so long. Even stars get bored every once in a while. And then he would be alone in his dreams, too. And wouldn't that be peachy?

"It would be. If anyone cared."

They didn't. Why would They? Why would anyone?

"…"

With that, his fake confidence dispersed again. But this time, it replaced itself with something else. The emptiness of white transformed into the pale of blue. The blue was the memories of the voices of the past. And the voices of memories past, and the people that uttered them. The waters consumed him, and Smalls had only one thought.

"It's wet."

Okay, two thoughts. And his second thought was…

"And cold."

…Okay, the pale blue was less than metaphorical.

"This is one of the deleted anomalies. I knew they must go somewhere! But why here, where I am? Why?"

The waters of the unwanted cared not for the woes of a single man. They brought their barrage, and he couldn't keep afloat under the tons of water above him. Once they piled on top of him, there was nothing again. Nothing, except for stillness.

It was quiet for too long. The water had not consumed him after all. Instead, it lay below him in all directions as he kept his eyes closed. He was waiting.
After a while, he thought he could feel the water receding, draining into an unseen basin. But he kept his eyes shut.
He was thinking about his last assignment. Well, the last one before he faded away. The Memetics and Infohazards Division had assigned him and a team of memeticists to study a virulent internet cognitohazard. Smalls was to determine the properties of the meme before it went viral, while the rest of his team was on containment and amnestic duty. Were this a typical memetic hazard, his higher-ups would contact an AIAD hit squad to destroy it. But somehow, the meme spread off the internet and affected half the population of Columbus, Ohio.
En masse, the meme afflicted its victims with lethargy, a distaste in psychoactive substances, and the desire to play in a Major League Gaming tournament. Who could be responsible for that???

"It was… What was it? The Reefers? Always causing trouble, aren't they?"

It's harmless fun. They're not trying to hurt anyone.

"Fun? Yeah, by their definition."

He scoffed. Why had he become so jaded, and so fast? What was on his mind?

"It's… I just… I want something more than this. I'm either plagued by my own thoughts or the physical representation of them. There is no solace."

Being on his lonesome was beginning to wear him down. Would he feel better if he had a friend?

"A friend won't fix this. Besides, I wouldn't burden another to being stuck with me. Not here. It's not fair. It's —"

He stopped. Something was moving toward him. He opened his eyes, and —

"Um, excuse me, mister. Who are you talking to?"

"What?"

Standing in front of him was a young woman, no older than her late teens, wearing a hoodie two sizes too large. A CRT screen sat on her shoulders. Actually, no, that was her head! The screen displayed a cutesy ASCII smiley face. :) The sight made Smalls want to vomit. Despite her appearance, she wasn't the weirdest thing he'd imagined during his time in the void; but that didn't mean she wasn't weird.

"Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you. Are you okay?"

"Who are you?"

"My name's Heather. What's your name?"

"I- Heather? Heather what?"

"Mason. At least, I am. My moms aren't."

"Uh huh."

He closed his eyes again. This strange girl, Heather Mason, wasn't who he was expecting to see here. He'd been here for three months (if time could be measured here, which it couldn't, obviously) and hadn't seen a single person the entire time. At least, no real person; as far as he was concerned, this girl in front of him was a product of his imagination. All it took was to stop thinking about her, and he could be at peace again.
But that wasn't going to happen. Smalls wanted something, though he didn't recognize it yet. And his faux confidence had unravelled. Now he could finally start seeing the things They hid from. Which meant this 'Heather Mason' was here to stay.

"How do you know her?"

"I'm sorry? Who do I know?"

"I know you were thinking about her. My mom, I mean. And my other mom, too, but not directly."

Adamo Smalls opened his eyes and sat up.

"Look. Heather, I have no idea what you're talking about. I've got nothing to do with your moms, and I'm sure they have nothing to do with me. And if they ever did, it's too late now. Besides, how do I even know if you exist or not?"

Heather Mason took a step back. For the first time, the screen flickered. It now assumed a different series of ASCII symbols on its front, displaying a mouth ever so tapered at the edges. :|

"If I exist? That's not a very nice thing to ask a person…"

It wasn't. In fact, it was rather rude! He should apologize, and fast.

"I don't mean any offence. What I'm trying to say is that before this, I was alone. But now you're here. Why is that?"

Feedback escaped the spot where Heather's digitized lips would be. If she had any. The emoticon on her face curled up. :S

"I'm not entirely sure. I guess you could say that you summoned me here. When you started thinking about my moms, I mean."

"Right. And who are your moms?"

"Well, my mommy does some fun things with my other mom and their friends. In some sort of group chat, you could call it?"

"…Oh. I get it. You're talking about the 'Gamers Against Weed', aren't you? At least, that's what they call themselves. Listen, Heather, I don't mean to disappoint you, but I can't help you with whatever you're here for. Sorry. I'm going to go now."

He turned to walk away, and for a moment, he faced the edge of a cliff. The bottom was impossible to make out. He rocked, almost off his feet, backwards.

"Oh, be careful!"

"Did you do this?! Is this a joke?!"

"No! No… It's not a joke!"

"Then what the hell is going on?"

"I… I think I was summoned here to help you win a game!"

"Whatever this is, if this is a game? You can find someone else. Because I know for damn sure that I don't want to play."

The sound of electronics crackling and popping rushed over Smalls. Heather's face-screen displayed a deep blue and the look of distress. :/ By now it was too late to apologize. Really, Smalls should feel nothing but sorrow for himself and the seeping pangs of guilt.

Sigh. "Okay, that wasn't — I just — I didn't mean to sound so crude, okay? You are not at all what I expected to find. I think it would be best if we started over, from the beginning."

Heather knew better than to let her sadness consume her. Especially not over a misunderstanding. Especially when there was such a dire situation at hand. She began to explain.

"The beginning. Right. Okay."

"…"

"Well, see, we all have a capacity to do good, right? Like, to achieve something that we really desire. A desire that the child inside of us would feel good about, too. Which is what makes it matter more than anything else."

"Uh, excuse me for interrupting, but this is all rather vague. Can you start where the action picks up, but get, uh, a stroke more specific?"

"Oh, sorry! So, there comes a time when we find ourselves in a dark patch. Fighting against it feels like running on syrup. Trying to pull ourselves away is, um, like in that game Plants vs Zombies. Or like, any zombie game. The zombies are pulling at us to keep us there, in the dark."

"Okay…"

"But it doesn't have to be that way! And I think the desire always wins out. But sometimes it takes time for the desire to beat the dark patch. I think that's what you're going through, right now. But, see, this is what makes it a game, because whatever happened to you, you… You've been given a chance to take that desire, that drive, and direct it wherever you want it to go."

"Are you saying you're here to help me fight the dark patch?"

"I am! At least, I think that's why I'm here."

"No, no, I get that. But what's keeping you here? Physically."

The face on the screen drooped. :c

"I don't know the exact reason why they put me here. I think it might have something to do with my mommy — Andressa. She's good with computers, see."

Heather began to get off topic.

"But she's not my real mom. At least, not in the traditional sense. But she made me the person that's standing in front of you. My mom, Dahlia, and Andressa, they found me when I was in a dark patch, just like you. Except, I was just too too far gone. You're different, though. You're —"

"You believe that I'm far gone? That's… Frankly, it's ridiculous! I don't mean to say that to discount your experience, but this entire situation is silly. I'm not far gone. The… They, the ones that put me here, made this happen. It's everything else that's lost. Not me. I'm fine."

"You seem so quick to deny that, that I think, um, there must be some part of you that's fighting back. Deep inside. Even if you aren't actually in control of it."

"What does this have to do with a game? I don't see the correlation here."

"It's… I'm here to help you start playing it. That game, it's really just a big fight, between your desire and the dark patch. It's crazy, but that's how it is, and that's just a small cog in the machine."

"Right, so it's crazy prophecy #458. Gotcha."

Smalls figured that he hadn't much else to lose.

"Ah, hell. How do I play?"

Heather's face lit up, and for the first time, so too did everything else around the pair. It began to transform.
The cliff receded until its depth was much more shallow, and the cliff's edge formed a circle around the pair. And then the ground beneath them changed, becoming less devoid. It assumed the attributes of a familiar rock atoll Smalls had climbed in his childhood, in the wildlands of Oregon. In the distance, and all around them, mountainous peaks shot up from white fog. The scent of a rain shower and the sound of a creek running in the distance were also present. Scores of strange, foreign birds hung in the air, by the tens of thousands. Their songs sounded melancholy, but the beauty was unmistakable.
Further on, more distant than the foggy peaks and lonesome creek, was a floating black mountain; the furthest thing either of them could see. It almost had the air of a cliche adventure story. This was intended. By whom? Neither Heather Mason nor Adamo Smalls knew.

"I dunno if this is bugging you, Adamo —"

— How did she know his name? —

"— But it's starting to get on my nerves: who keeps talking?!"

"Hell if I know."

"And is that anime closing music I hear? Oh my god."

"This is your fault, Heather, I'm sure of it!"

She blushed. :$

"And to think, just a few minutes ago, you wanted nothing to do with me. I'm glad we're focused on this game of ours, then. I can't wait to show you what it's all about. I'm sorry if I've kept things so vague, but there is a point to this. I promise."

"It's okay. I believe you."

Before he could ask what was next, a literal darkness began to descend on the pair. The shroud trapped them; kept them hidden. And then they disappeared. The ominous mountain in the distance commanded its presence, while the overture of anime music reached a Gothic crescendo.
And the darkness fell.




This has been my entry for Round 1 of the SCP Original Character Tournament! This tale is a matchup between the following characters:


Check out DecibellesDecibelles' competing tale: incorrective unconsciousness!

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