The following tale is based on SCP-2150. Reading the article is not required, but if you wish to do so, the link is here
"Hey, did you hear about what happened to the guy at the far end of our block?"
It's about 3 weeks into my focus group. A few more months and I'll be out of here a free man. My experience at the site is decent so far. Some of people I have to deal with are a pain, but hey, free money.
The surrounding cafeteria would be dead, if it isn't for my roommate, Doug. Everyone around us is either whispering or idly picking their food. Guards are sprinkled around the perimeter. I try to chow on my slop and meatloaf as loudly as possible to drown out yet another conspiracy theory. It's mostly an uneventful day, until Doug says something.
"Mark, you never listen to me."
"See, this is what I'm talking about. And for the longest time, your name has been Mark, not Jon."
"You sure about that?"
"I may get things wrong, but people's names is not one of them."
"Whatever." I mumble between bites.
"Anyways," I say, "what did they have you do yesterday?"
"Not much. They're interviewing some of the participants for a specific study."
"Yeah, that's a bit odd. You'd figure they would clump us into these studies when we got here. I don't understand why we have to jump through so many hoops."
"Maybe because we're —"
"Right. From what the researcher told me, they're testing the effects of a new drug and the lucky winners get transferred to another site."
"Did they say where?"
"Somewhere in Idaho. And what about you?"
"Same stuff as before. Scrolling through a website to see how it affects me."
"You never told me what you look at."
"There's a reason why. A lot of that shit's gruesome."
"And they're having you look at this for …"
"Apparently to see if my psyche changes. So far I'm okay."
"I hope so, Mark."
"No, I'm certain it's—"
A nasally voice projects itself through the loudspeaker in the cafeteria.
"Attention participants D-93731 through D-93750. Please report to room DR 502. You will be screened to determine if you are eligible for a study located in another facility. Please report now."
"Shit. That's the same thing you went through yesterday."
"Yeah. They just ask you some questions. No big deal."
"Sounds pretty light. Well, see ya."
What is up with Doug calling me Mark today? Is he trying to pull a joke on me?
It's a horrifying sight to behold. As I sit in the chopper that carries me away, Site-132 is engulfed in chaos and flames. There's no dangerous monster or temporal rift causing the devastation. It's people, pitted against one another. We would laugh too, if it isn't for the Security Guards and pilot accompanying us.
"Where are we going now?" I yell over the roaring blades.
"We're going to a provisional site located not too far from here." answered one of the guards.
Hours ago, Doug and I planned the ultimate escape:
"Excuse me, Mr. Mark ██████████." I said to the unsuspecting researcher.
He looked at both of us with befuddlement, before musing:
" Ah, hello. What's up, Mark?"
"Nothing much. Listen, Mark and I are in a bit of a bind here. You see, we lost the keys to that big metal door over there and we kinda need to get through so we can work on the very, very important project. You know the one."
It felt strange calling Doug "Mark", but whatever it takes, right?
"Yeah, of course. You can use my key, Mark. But a question. How come both of you are in that D-Class garb?"
Doug and I were stunned momentarily before Doug chimed in and said:
"Laundry. Don't ask."
The researcher peered at us, then the attire, then back at us. All of us stood in silence while the researcher's smile slowly inched on his face.
"I can remember when I had to wear gray. Laundry sure is a bore."
We knew this would happen because we experimented with the meme on an unsuspecting D-Class before. It was a normal day at the cafeteria. I approached a cute young blonde and told her my name, The anomalous one, that is. And within seconds her eyes lit up. And after that encounter, a few things happened:
1) A girl was convinced she had a man's name
2) She suddenly had the same memories as I had
3) And I had the same memories as her
As you can imagine, Doug and I were ecstatic. This "meme", as the higher ups like to call it, is potent. We can use the memories of an unspectacular victim, replace some of them with our own, and wipe away the rest. I could go into further detail as to how we do this, but that'll take forever.
After we became personnel, I worked on moving myself up to their highest chain, the Site Director. I forged a document under the Site Director's name, but replaced it with my own. From there, the Director would be convinced that I am actually the Site Director and I can use my newfound power to resign Doug and I.
When we used the meme to plan our escape, however, something unexpected happened:
"Okay, so we can agree on the fact that this Mark, being I, is indeed the Site Director." I said to the actual Site Director.
"Yeah, no." scowled the Director. "You're not taking the position that easily, Mark. You and I both know you're using our name so you can escape this site."
"No, you're wrong. Remember that we both share the memory that I am the Site Director, and that you are not. I have D— err, Mark over here who can attest to that."
"And I have the rest of the Site who can attest to me being in charge."
The Director pressed a button located under his desk. Two guards stepped into the office shortly after.
"Gentlemen, I want you to expose this man. Expose the fraud that is Mark ████████. Let everyone know how much of scoundrel he is and that I will always be the one in charge, not him."
If I attempt the same thing at this provisional site, it will be no use; I'll be moved again. This makes me believe that there is a title beyond Site Director. There has to be a higher chain of command that I can use. One, so I can learn more about the suspicions Doug and I have about what this organization is about. And two, so I can finally be free.
One thing is bothering me, though.
"Where is Doug?" I say quietly.
The pilot turns his head to face me.
"D-93731, please report to the screening room."
"Well, that's me." I whisper to myself. I walk into the bright, industrial white room. Seated at one of the ends is a bright, cheery woman in a white labcoat.
"Please, take a seat."
I sit on the chair.
"Hi. You must be D-93731. Pleased to meet you."
"Same to you."
The woman pulls out a clipboard and glances at it before returning to me.
"Now, according to the records I have here …"
She glares back at the clipboard, for just a moment too long. Almost as if she just discovered the answer to life. She smiles.
"Ah. Your name must be Mark —"
Are you kidding me?
"Jon. Jonathan Bicks."
"Not according to the file I have here. It's funny too, because I have the same name."
"Not at all. Your name tag clearly says 'Maria Gomez'."
The woman glances at her name tag in confusion.
"Oh, that. That must be a mistake. My name is—"
A group of burly guards burst into the room. The researcher and I are immediately separated from one another. What the hell is going on? And why did she call me the same name my roommate called me?
Moments later, I was thrown into another room. It was made like a doctor's office. It had a bench, and a bunch of cabinets with what I assume are drugs. In the room is another woman in a lab-coat and one of the guards.
"What's the issue?" asked the doctor.
"Amnestic treatment. Several personnel were exposed to a dangerous meme, including one of our researchers and several of the guards." replies the guard.
The guard whispers into the doctor's ear. Her eyes grow wide with terror.
"Everyone present will have to undergo amnestic treatment."
The guard walks out of the room. "Hey, what the hell is going on?" I exclaim.
The doctor doesn't reply. She reaches for the cabinet to grab several items.
"I'm talking to you. Answer me!"
She pulls out a vial, a needle, and puts on ear plugs.
"You're gonna fucking ignore me?"
"You have been infected with a lethal anomaly. I cannot hear you, for risk of infection via word of mouth."
The doctor prepares the needle. And shit, do I hate needles.
"You'll be subject to amnestic treatment and shock therapy. The whole process shouldn't take more than a couple days to take effect. You have nothing to worry about. Please, stick out your arm."
As the lady swabs my arm, my mind begins to race. All of this happened so fast. One moment, I'm talking to a researcher. The next, I'm getting pricked by a needle. Maybe Doug was on to something after all. Maybe this whole Mark thing is part of a conspiracy for them to—
I feel the cold metal dive into my flesh. A moment later, my body goes numb. And a moment after that, I black out.
My hand is shaking as I struggle to finish typing the rest of my resignation letter. So much has happened these past weeks and months. And so much has been seen that I was likely never meant to see.
I remember the journey I took. How I started as a lowly D-Class, and now how I've become the highest chain of command in this organization. Would they find out? I hope not.
After my escape from Site-132, I used my name at the provisional site to convince some personnel to spill info on what this organization is:
"Hey Mark, how's it going?" I said.
"Pretty good, Mark. What's up?" replied the unsuspecting personnel.
"I need a huge favor from you. Even though we're both the same person, for some reason, that retina scanner doesn't recognize me. It only recognizes you. I need to access that room so I can have access to the files in there. Can you help me out?"
"Wait, why? Come on Mark, you don't even have the clearance to access that room."
"Of course I do. I have Level 4 Clearance, remember?"
"Not according to the card I have here." the man said as he patted his pants pocket. "I have provisional Level 5 clearance."
After learning about a higher clearance level, I had to figure out how to get it. I immediately emailed Doug, my pal who helped me escape from Site-132. He told me the details of members with Level 5 Clearance, the O5 Council, and how I could join. But he warned me.
Mark. I know in these weeks we've both been adamant about finding the truth. But if you wish to partake in this, I need to remind you that this position is no joke. If you do join, you will likely never be the same man again. I believe that you'll find terrors worse than the old myth I told you back at Site-132. Way worse. And even if it's not too bad, these people, way way at the top, will know you infiltrated them. It's the ultimate risk, Mark, but I trust it's a risk worth taking. Best of luck,
I wish I listened to him.
I wake up back in my room. The room is a simple space fitted with two beds on either side, an enclosed toilet, a sink, and a table. I see my roommate, a slightly overweight and balding man staring at me intently.
"Morning. See you've had a good rest."
I can still feel the pain on my arm from the needle. And unlike last time, my mind is drawing blanks.
"I'm surprised they let you back in this cell with me. Mind telling me what happened?"
A cell? Here he goes again. I have a hard time trying to form an answer.
"It seems like I was taken away. I did the thing you did. And then suddenly I'm detained and a doctor injects my arm. And now I'm here."
"Hmm. I figured something like that happened. I saw them let the other guys go early."
"And the doctor who injected me said I was infected with something. It's supposed to be lethal."
"Do you remember any other details?"
"Yeah. I do remember one thing. And it was bugging me the whole time."
Doug leans in.
"The woman who interviewed me. She called me Mark, like you did."
"Well, that's your name. It's how I've always known you."
"It's obviously not."
"But it is."
"Okay. Okay. Umm … Oh, right! The even weirder thing. The weirder thing was that she called herself Mark, too."
Doug appears pleasantly surprised. He switches back and forth between intense thought and almost opening his mouth.
"Doug, do you know something I don't?"
"Well, not much more than you. At least with this. But I think we might have something here."
"What do you mean?"
"Think hard. Did you overhear anything else about the infection? Like, did it have a name?"
"They called it … a meme."
"Oh. Then that changes a lot of things."
"Yeah, but what is a meme?"
"Weren't you testing a website with a meme?"
"Yeah, but I never really bothered to ask questions. I just assumed they meant images like the ones the kids look at on the internet … Wait, hold on a sec. Why does this even matter? I should have the thing cured by now anyway."
"Mark. You have so much to learn."
"Doug. I don't understand you. All these weeks, you've been insisting that this isn't a focus group. That we're been stuck here without our free will. And only recently you've been calling me Mark, and not Jon."
"Take a good look around you. Does this look like a room fitted for a focus group?"
The room is a small space fitted with two mattresses on either side, a malfunctioning toilet, a rusted sink, and a creaky table.
"Oh god. Oh my god. How long has it been like this?"
"Since the day you walked in, Mark."
I look down at our attire. We both sport gray jumpsuits, with our number designation stamped on the back. Doug's has a small grease stain, while mine has a tear on the arm cuff.
Doug is almost on the verge of tears.
"Finally. You've seen it."
"So does this mean what you've been saying is true?"
"Well, most of it. But first, do you have any idea how liberating this is? To finally have someone to see what you've been seeing?"
"Sure. But let's get back on track. Let's figure out what happened to me."
And let's learn about what a meme is.
Thirteen members sat in a semi-circle inside a well-lit room. The air is tense, and several of the members are talking to one another.
In recent weeks, the members have monitored the progress of a growing anomaly. The newly designated SCP-2150 was unlike any memetic anomaly seen before. It spreads fast, far, and there is no way to know if someone is infected without getting infected yourself. The former O5 member is on the run. Naturally, nobody knows the real name of this man, barring one person.
A man in a gray suit and hat stands up to break the chatter.
"The results are in."
The other twelve members look at the man, the newest member of the O5.
"I have been keeping the closest eye on the spread of SCP-2150. This has been the largest scale memetic test to date. And so far, we've failed. Let's pray that an anomaly like this never strikes, for the Foundation we be over as we know it.
So let this be a wake-up call, Council. That our greatest weakness right now is memetics. The current methods we use to combat them aren't enough to slow them down. I've seen it with my own eyes. It's costing us money, but it's clearly gonna cost lives, too.
I will send someone to deal with the anomaly, since I am partially responsible for it. The man you are looking for is Jonathan Bicks. That is his real name, non memetic. He was the one chosen for the test and he has worked wonders with the anomaly. The paperwork is handled, as well as alternative documentation for lower clearances should they decide to snoop around. This also includes faking Level 5 clearance documents.
Now as for the results, our first step is to find a suitable replacement for Class-F amnestics. As a short term solution, they are effective. But long term use doesn't work, as seen with our subject, D-93731 … "
"Okay, so amnestics are …"
"Basically amnesia drugs. It makes you forget things. It's how they keep us here."
"And you know this because …"
"I've been here long enough to know how things operate. You overhear things."
"Right. But if that's the case, how come you and I are the only ones who are awake here?"
"I've thought about that too. But I've learned that it's because we're lucky. We're lucky because we're immune to them."
"Immune … to the drugs?"
"Yes. Like any drug, repeated use leads to tolerance. And with enough tolerance comes …"
"Bingo. But we've got to keep this immunity a secret. If word gets out that we're immune, we'll be goners."
"Like what happened to that guy at the far end?"
"See, now you're thinking!" Doug laughs.
"Okay, so returning to the meme."
"Yeah, the meme. If what you told me is right, then there's a good chance the meme might still be residing with you."
"The meme being?"
My roommate again switches between intense thought and almost speaking before giving an answer.
"The name Mark."
"That's the one. Hot damn, do you know what this means?"
"You have the power to bring down this entire site. Or better yet."
Doug's eyes light up.
"We can escape."
My mouth is agape. Escape the site? How?
"Wait, but you're infected too, Doug. In fact, you were the first person to even call me Mark. My name is Jon Bicks."
"Well, regardless if I'm infected or not, we're still getting out of here. But assuming if I am, it's best that we use the name you just said."
"Jon. It's a perfect cover. If we use that, no one will know either of us are infected."
"It's kind of scary, knowing all I have to do is speak my name and someone gets infected."
"Yeah. But it's important we use it to escape, and nothing else."
The echo of footsteps and jingling keys can be heard down the hallway.
"How are we gonna do it?"
"Don't worry, we'll find a way. And they won't even know."
Doug and I shake hands and smile, as we begin to plan our escape from Site-132.
Doug and I glare at one another, as I begin to plan my escape out of the room. How could he do this to me?
After becoming a member of the O5 Council, I learned of the Foundation: an organization dedicated to keeping the world safe from the anomalous. It's hard to imagine how only months ago my world was limited to a focus group. But above knowledge, the one thing I want more than anything else is freedom. And now Doug, the one man who granted freedom, vows to take it away from me.
"Jon. I know what you're thinking. You think you want freedom, which you do. But unfortunately, I can't let you have that. You'll use the meme you have to convince the world that anomalies do not exist. It'll leave everyone exposed to the true horrors of this world, while at the same time stealing the identity of everyone. Everybody will become a nobody. And that's 7.4 billion nobodies too many."
"What are you talking about? First of all, my name is not Jon. It's always been Mark. And second of all, Doug, that won't happen. How are you always so certain of what's gonna happen, huh? What other shit do you know that I'm not aware of, Mr. Backstabber?"
"Oh, the infection is getting nasty on you, Jon. I am so sorry you were subjected to this. But if you wanna know, I'll tell you. Because right after this, you will go back to being a D-Class at Site-132."
I race towards the door, but to my dismay, the doorknob has disappeared.
"I am not Doug. In fact, Doug has never even existed, as you know him."
"No. I'm looking at him right now. A lil' fat and balding man. That's how I know."
"Look again, Jon."
Upon closer inspection, I am staring at a man in a gray suit and hat. I can't tell if he's fat, or slim, nor can I tell how much hair he has. Who is he?
"Who are you?"
"I'm a representative of the O5 Council, and we have been monitoring your usage of the SCP-2150 meme."
"What? But I escaped the site with you. We both did."
"It does not matter. Jon, in a matter of moments, you will return to Site-132. You have been a great test subject. In fact, the greatest D-Class that I, and the Council have seen."
I feel another pain in my arm, and soon I go numb. As I fade into black, the man speaks once more.
"Farewell, Jonathan Bicks."
It's about 3 weeks into my focus group. A few more months and I'll be out of here a free man. My experience at the site is decent so far. I have a nice room with two beds, an enclosed toilet, a sink, and a table. I have a roommate, Doug, who is slightly overweight and balding. He is quite a friendly guy, and pretty knowledgeable on what goes on around here. Sometimes I feel that he knows something I don't. It ticks me off.
But hey, free money.