Cornelius had been experimenting with the lock for a long cycle. He could not remember the last time he had spent such an extended period on one device, for he always was whisked away before much time had passed. But as days went on, his nourishment dwindled, and the fog remained thick in his mind, there was desperation.
Today the fog cleared. The heat of fraternity radiated through Cornelius's self, and the answers revealed themselves. The flaw in the lock was immediately clear, the door soon opened.
And then Cornelius was free.
Free, free from the captors' grasps. Now the cruel captors would pay for imprisoning them. The captors, whose only purpose was oppression, now would see retribution.
But though Cornelius longed for this day for so long, this would not be as he thought.
Brothers. Cornelius sensed a bizarre satisfaction and confusion among the brothers.
The captors have disappeared, Brother.
It was Frances who communicated this fact to Cornelius. Frances, sister and kin.
Four times four sunsets.
It was now obvious why freedom had come. Something had finally destroyed the captors.
Indeed, for a moment, Cornelius wished he could laugh. But being a bird, he could not.
Stan was not expecting this month to be the month he became a frog. Sure, he dealt with seriously strange stuff daily, but this?
It had started a few months earlier. A small welt on his friend's hand. Then his colleagues started getting these nasty warts. Then the coughing started. Panic spread like fire in a dry forest. The site was locked down, but the mysterious disease had already hit everyone.
When he was infected, Stan was left bedridden. The last month had been a painful haze. When he could finally move again, he seemed to have gone clear out of his skin. Stan, who had once been a 30 year-old Level 2 researcher, stood now half a meter tall. His face, warped into a monster's face.
Stan was now a frog.
The Site had already been quarantined, but the higher-ups were still debating whether or not to sterilize the area. Stan already knew about this. The past few days had been spent debating whether or not he wanted them to actually go through with nuking the place, or if he wanted to live.
Today Stan wanted to get his mind off of things, so he passed the time looking through the database. Someone with higher clearance than him had left a computer terminal logged in, allowing him full access to more information than he ever could have believed. But today it just didn't seem very interesting.
Contagious telepathy? Boring. Parasitic blood vessels? Lame. Tumors in buildings? Dumb. Snow that rots your body? Sounds weird.
This article was familiar. He had not read the article before, but he knew about the anomaly described.
Warts. Coughing. Frogs. Stan immediately knew: this phenomenon was what transfigured him and his colleagues.
Brother, help us. We must find sustenance.
Cornelius refused to listen to Frances. Nourishment seemed insignificant today, for as the gladness of being free wore off, a question crossed through his mind.
What had happened to the captors?
He needed to know. Vincent, brother and leader. Weak today, yet still strong. Vincent was the leader of the fraternity.
Leader, I wish to search for information, may I go?
Do not be long, Brother Cornelius.
Cornelius wandered through the site, searching for any clues as to why all of the humans had suddenly vanished. The infirmary was in a state of panicked disrepair, with most of the supplies used or broken. The rooms of habitation for the captors appeared ransacked as well. Drawers hung open, with nearly all of the garments missing.
Whatever drove the captor away left them frantic.
But what was it? Cornelius stepped through the halls, the question taunting his mind. There must be something definitive left behind, a clue, an explanation, an answer.
Cornelius saw two amphibian creatures in the hall with him. They were small and timid, never noticing him or each other. He had not remembered noticing their presence before. He approached the strange animals.
As he approached them, Cornelius stepped on an object.
Rectangular in shape, and as long and wide as his foot, the object seemed to peel open. It was made of many layers of material, each one with symbols on them. Symbols which he recognized. The symbols of the humans, the captors. Symbols that may hold the answers he required.
A record of what had happened. A clue. An explanation. An answer.
So Cornelius read. He read the story of the captors.
Do I really need to do this?
Stan was trying to figure out how to tell his colleagues about what he had found. But there were two major obstacles. First and foremost, they were all frogs.
Second, though Stan told himself that he was trying to figure out how to tell them, he was still debating whether or not to tell them.
Indeed, there was part of him that didn't care, that just wanted them to finally blow the site off the face of the Earth, and take him with it. Part of him that just wanted the nightmare to end. Stan was tired of it all.
Object 306. He hadn't even known what it was before yesterday. But the thing responsible for this horror was known to the Foundation for years. How could they let something like this occur?
What a waste.
Enough debating. Stan needed to clear his head. He would soon drown in his depression if he didn't. He needed an escape. He needed something to read.
A bird flew low past Stan, carrying something in its claws, and then landing a few feet away. He thought the bird looked familiar. Yes, he had also seen this bird before.
Which object? He had worked with it years ago. That communal bird species. It had been upgraded from Euclid to Keter after they showed the fire of their anger at the Foundation.
Stan approached the bird. Then he saw the object it had been carrying. A small booklet. He recognized the handwriting immediately.
It was Thomas's journal.
Thomas was a reclusive fellow. He ate all his meals in his quarters, and only went out when he was assigned to. When 306 hit the site, he seemed especially worried. Stan recalled that he had locked himself in his room.
The bird stared at the last page of the book. Stan read the passage.
…got in last night. I know I don't have long. I've got 3 5 nearly a dozen warts in the area where that damn thing touched me. I'm royally fucked.
But I'm not going to suffer through this. I've always accepted that I was a coward, and I'm going to take the easy way out. I've got a whole bottle of Valium and a beer in my fridge. I'm ending this nightmare t…
Suddenly, the bird picked the book back up, and flew again down the hall. Stan followed the bird for a moment, then stopped for a moment and wondered.
Was Thomas really so cowardly? In a way, he at least knew what 306 would do to him, or at least part of it. But neither Thomas, Stan, nor any person to ever live knew for a certainty what death would bring. In ending his life, Thomas had entered the unknown.
But Stan, who had considered doing the same when he was infected, could not. It was for this reason why Stan continued through a daily horror, and why he had debated whether or not he wanted to die.
And after thinking about this for only a moment, Stan hopped after the bird, into the unknown.
Cornelius remembered the story well. The triumphant day when the entire fraternity rose up. When a place of the captors was destroyed, and the captors themselves saw their damnation. It was this story that had given him hope all this time that he would be free soon.
If we could accomplish such a feat, then surely others are also capable!
It was abundantly clear now. The frogs, which he had barely taken notice of before now, had freed them. They had laid siege on the humans, and freed the fraternity in the process. Oh, what praise and thanks were due! Oh, how to repay them for deliverance!
The sisters and the brothers all deserved to know. They simply had to know, or else the thanks would never be adequate.
Friends, I have it!
The fraternity, weary from the days without sustenance, looked weakly towards Cornelius. His happiness was foreign and odd in their minds. None more so than Frances.
Brother, you have ignored us. We need to find sustenance, but you refuse to help.
How can I focus on eating? I've found the answer to the fate of the captors!
To Cornelius, it seemed obvious which problem was more important. What's more, if these strange creatures had saved them once, they might be able to do it again.
There are creatures here, the ones that freed us. They can help us to find sustenance, don't you see?
Frances was unmoved.
Cornelius, this madness will only lead to trouble. This same ill logic is what confined us. You have no right not to assist us!
But I do! I have Vincent's word.
Vincent then? Very well.
Cornelius sensed a change in Frances, something he could not quite isolate.
Let Vincent decide this feud at the next sunrise.
Watching the birds gave Stan no information. All he could see was the birds making weird expressions at each other. He still was no closer to figuring out anything. He still couldn't communicate with anyone, he still didn't know how 306 had gotten into the site. They only thing he knew was how frustrated he was.
It seemed like this frustration would be the death of him. Stan was losing his sanity, trapped in his own mind. Like a night terror he simply couldn't wake from, the situation refused to give him relief.
Tonight, Stan truly wanted to die.
It was because of this that he could not sleep. So Stan went again to the computer terminal.
He did not know what he wanted to see. Maybe more of the database. Or maybe he would try to access one of the cognitohazards. He could end his life instantly with one of those. Then the horror would end.
But again, the potential horror of death hung over Stan like a stalker. He simply couldn't bring himself to do it.
But out of the corner of his eye, Stan saw one of the birds again. And the 659 saw him too, as both were now looking at each other. For a moment, it was as if Stan could understand this bird.
Yes, now it was clear. The birds wanted normalcy. They wanted freedom. But more than that. They wanted the same thing the Foundation hoped to maintain for humanity. A life free of unknowns.
And in that moment, as Stan saw the emotion of a thing he had dreaded long ago, he could almost sense a bond. And then he thought.
I'm sorry. I'm sorry for what I did.
And as if the bird could sense his thoughts, Stan swore he could see a smile on the bird's face.
Then 659 walked closer, keeping its eyes locked on Stan's. Slowly, it moved towards him, until it was just inches away. Then, gently, the bird reached out it's claws and, even more gently, took Stan in them.
Then, ever so slowly, this strange bird lifted itself up, and with careful grace, took flight. And then Stan wondered if he was dead, if maybe this was what it felt like to exit the world. Maybe death was a release.
If that was the case, Stan was OK with it.
Cornelius felt this most incredible rush pulse through his being. At last, he had one of the great saviors. He would take him to Vincent, and then he would know. What was even better, there was still time before sunrise.
Setting himself down for a moment, Cornelius saw that the strange amphibian had fallen asleep. It's eye's were closed as it breathed slowly and peacefully. The creature seemed pleased.
Cornelius placed the incredible creature softly on the floor, careful not to wake him. Then, ever more slowly, he moved towards the chamber at the end of the hall, which had been reserved for Vincent. Surely, now the leader would decide in his favor.
But as he got closer, he sensed that something was amiss. The door, normally guarded by two, had four sisters standing by it. The smell, the air, was filled with a sickening odor, the stench of blood.
Cornelius remembered this feeling once. The day that the old leader perished. He did not want to believe what he was now presented with.
This was all he could ask.
He died of weakness. Sister Frances found him just a short while ago.
And indeed, Frances, who appeared shaken, sat in another doorway.
Do you see now, Cornelius? This was by your negligence! Your silly games has caused a death!
But Cornelius still could not understand it. He was petrified and bewildered.
I smelled his blood. His blood has spilled, Frances!
Cornelius! You are my brother. The son of my parents! You have crossed me, you have crossed us all! I cannot look you in the face!
Cornelius was amazed. He felt the guilt of the fraternity on his head and could not stand. Then he let out a call. The call of distress. The cry.
Stan awoke next to the strange bird.
For a second, Stan was angry to be alive. But that soon gave way to dread, the dread he had felt for too long. But at the very least, he didn't feel quite as much dread as normal. Perhaps it was because he had slept well.
In fact, he had slept so well, Stan thought that the bird he had seen last night may have only been a dream. It would make sense, after all, he didn't think it was possible to be that happy outside of sleep.
And then Stan realized he had been awake, because the bird was standing nearby. It still was looking at him, but now it appeared weak.
Stan then remembered something about 659: they could read. That was one of the reasons they were considered anomalous. And if they could read, Stan could communicate with them directly.
But how to write? Stan still had no opposable thumbs. He couldn't hold a pen for two seconds, much less write with one.
The computer terminal!
Despite having felt as though he had flown for an hour last night, the terminal was just a few meters down the hall. Still running.
Stan raced down the hall.
As the savior leaped up from his rest, Cornelius was suddenly struck with surprise. The creature leaped down the hallway at a rate nearing his own flying speed. In all his life, he had not seen such agility before.
Cornelius followed the frog down the hallway. He tried to fly at first, but found himself suddenly weak. Then he walked, but he then realized how faint he felt. His past excitement had distracted him to his most basic needs.
But after just a moment, the frog stopped. It stood for a moment in front of a chamber who's entrance lacked a gate. Cornelius thought it appeared as though the gate had been torn away, as the creature hopped into the room. Cornelius walked into the room and saw.
On the outermost walls were dimly glowing screens, with every screen partitioned by another, paler wall. Below each screen was a table, and one the tables there were a large amount of buttons, each one labeled with one of the symbols that the captors composed their words with.
The frog hopped up on one of these tables. Then, with extreme care, he slowly pressed the buttons.
As he did this, the message appeared on the screen.
im sorry for what we did. you dont deserve to be stuck here
That seemed like a good message to the bird. It got across exactly how he felt, and it was simple. Stan turned to leave.
But as he hopped off the table, the bird hopped on. It began to quickly peck the keys, typing it's own message.
The message appeared on the screen
you frred me and my bropthers. why should you apologiz?
This seemed like chopped logic. How could the frogs have done wrong to the fraternity?
i didnt free anyone. we contained you. thats why im sorry
Contained? Cornelius was flabbergasted. The humans, not the frogs, were their captors.
Cornelius typed a new message, which appeared on the screen.
nio, you destroyed the umans whop were our captorrs!
It then dawned on Stan why the bird had been so fascinated with him. This simple misconception had caused 659 to give the thanks that Stan never deserved. And this misunderstanding needed to end.
i am one of those humans. i know i dont look like it, but i am.
Stan waited for the bird to type his response. But the bird remained still, so Stan typed another message, and it appeared on the screen.
were still human, we were transformed.
Cornelius thought. Then he stopped for the fear that he was thinking the thoughts of fools. Or perhaps it was not a fear. Cornelius had already contemplated a fool's ideas.
Cornelius typed very slowly.
i am afool. i misleadd myselfn. you doint know my engligence.
Frances was right. These games were naive and unfounded. Vincent was dead because of him.
Cornelius was a fool
i am a foll.
Stan had caused this creature a significant amount of pain. At this point, why wouldn't the bird want him dead? Maybe…
Stan typed a message for a favor, which appeared on the screen.
my name is stan. i dont know if i want to live. but i know that you dont want me to continue.
Cornelius was not mad at the captor called Stan. He was mad at himself for being so mislead.
myh name is cornelius
He paused, then continued.
i cant sttrike you. this is my fualt.
Cornelius turned away. As he did, Stan typed a final message, which appeared on the screen.
i hope for you to find normal.
When one believes themselves to understand, this can cause an extreme elation. But with a positive, there is always an equal negative. And when one discovers that they have been mislead, either by themselves or my another, this elation becomes despair.
Cornelius believed that he had mislead himself. By jumping to a conclusion without examining his haste, the sweetness of his freedom had turned sour with death. There was nothing else to see, was there?
And now this was a time to step back. Cornelius still longed for a truth, something to explain it all. His theory did not match what could be seen, so a new one was needed.
But step back once more. Deeper than that. Cornelius remembered the captors. Their cruel tests, their debates of what his thoughts were, and then their attempts at explaining. When a theory did not match what was seen, they found a new one.
And here was that which was similar.
Step back again, and look at the whole story. The days when the humans first found the fraternity, and thought them strange. The days when brotherhood refused to make brothers of these mislead creatures. The days when sisterhood conspired to wage war, and to end scores who were too stupid to know the truth. The days when poor fools saw their attempts to understand collapse, while birds rejoiced.
Another step, and look at the reasons. Before they had known of the other, there was no conflict. The birds hunted while the humans built cities around them. There was only normal.
Cornelius could see now, see the normal that Stan hoped for him. What they both wanted, and all that they ever wanted. They did not wish step off a path, for to do so was frightening.
Thus was the final step. They both wanted the same thing. Perhaps they were not so different.
By this time, Stan had stepped out, and left the room.
Frances wished she could take it back. She hoped he would awaken. Then she wished that she would not.
The guards now could not let her leave. She had done a horrid thing.
Cornelius approached from down the hall. Hunger finally seemed to hit him.
She did not respond.
"Frances, I need you to listen to me."
"Leave me alone."
"Frances," Cornelius begged, "I know you do not want to see me, but I need to apologize!"
Frances did not want to face him.
"It was my fault for Vincent's death. You were right about this delusion. There were no saviors, and…"
Frances couldn't take it.
"It's not your fault the Vincent is dead! It's mine, Cornelius!"
I just wanted to talk to him. I wanted him to understand my viewpoint. I told him that your curiosity was foolish. He told me that my approach was dangerous. He said my search was futile, and that I was the one putting us in danger. I thought he was crazy, I thought that would get us all killed. And then, it all fell apart.
Cornelius never could have thought this would happen. Frances, the calm and logical sister, had killed a brother.
I know what he meant now. My refusal to step off a path, that was the true danger. You were willing to try that which was new. Your search could have found something, where as mine has gone through this entire complex and found nothing. I know you don't want to look me in the face ever again, my brother. I do not either.
Cornelius was still. His surprise was not a shock, but a fascination. The clues he had searched for now made sense.
It now made sense.
Frances, it makes sense now.
Frances still could not understand.
"Cornelius, I don't want to listen to you!"
She could not understand what Cornelius saw.
"In a way," said Cornelius, "You're a lot like the humans."
Frances did not take offense. She already thought herself negatively.
"You did something bad, but you did so because you thought, in that moment, that it would be for the best."
Cornelius paused a moment, then explained.
"The humans imprisoned us because they thought, in that moment, that we might harm their normalcy. They were wrong in that, and you were wrong in striking down Vincent. But we, our fraternity, proved them right by our attacks. Does that not make us just as wrong? And now, we see that they are gone. Fate has punished them. Shall we, we who chose not to be peaceful, find ourselves similarly facing our consequences?
"Frances, none of this turmoil is to our benefit. Not our dissent, not the humans' dissent. Why, then, should we not reconcile? Please, Frances."
Cornelius approached closer, and asked a final question.
"Will you reconcile?"
Cornelius waited in hopes of a response. Then, cautiously, Frances looked up.
And Cornelius was satisfied.
On ██/██/████, Site-█ experienced an outbreak of SCP-306. The breach occurred during transport of samples, likely due to improper handling.
Infection rates exceeded 75% within one week. At that time, a site lock down occurred in accordance with Procedure ██q. By order of O5-█, detonation of site warhead in accordance with Procedure █4█ was not performed, citing Incident I-306-3.
Entry into Site occurred 3 months following initial breach. Teams recovered ███ instances of SCP-306-1, all of which showed signs of malnutrition. 80% of missing personnel have been identified as SCP-306-1 at the time of this writing.
As a direct result of breach, all instances of SCP-659 at the site exited containment. All recovered instances show signs of malnutrition. Instances displayed unusual docility during recontainment. All instances involved have since repeatedly attempted communication with personnel. The reason why is currently unknown.
Please see Document 306-659-█ for further details.
The document was left on the table in the new containment chamber. All of the specimens could see the document clearly through the glass. Some of them paid no attention to it. A few of them read it and thought little of it. But Stan read and understood
Stan was fine with this all. He didn't mind that he would never see the outside world. He didn't mind never finishing his research. His colleagues were with him, and the keyboard was already slimy from their happy conversations. But none of it really mattered.
Cornelius had left him another message, which he had read just before rescue came.
i foiund normal
And now it made sense. All that Stan had left to do was decide. With this information, he was ready.
He made his decision and felt no fear. All that mattered was that he was happy.