The Tall Grass and the Bell, Part One
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It had been a good first few months on the job for Junior Researcher Evans. Unlike most of the psychologically-trained new recruits, he wasn't tending to traumatized victims of unspeakable horrors. He didn't have the stomach for the stories swapped in the cafeteria. When your typical lunchtime conversation consists of “I had a D-class just stare straight through me and say, ‘the botflies, the botflies, THE BOTFLIES!’ until he hyperventilated and passed out,” one has trouble keeping up much of an appetite.

Evans, though, had a much better go of it: Analyzing the communications of skips from a nice, safe distance. Late nights reading the newest manuscripts of an authorial tower by desk-light, attempting to glean some reason from the dark ramblings of an ambulatory heart — it was all more interesting than anything he'd done before his work here. But, after a while, he yearned for the bigger work the Foundation was doing, the sort of thing the cafeteria crowd would pause their own stories to listen to. He arranged a meeting with the assistant site director to inquire about a research opening that the intranet claimed “could impact the broad strategy of all Foundation operations.”

“But, in the end, while it seems altogether likely that I could harness the coal fire’s energy, sir, the possibility of SCP-1179’s coincidental return or agitation by such an action would likely render all attempts to recover a net resource gain from said activity impossible.” Mr. Deeds folded his hands and nodded as he finished his statement. Researcher Evans sat across the small table (on top of it: Deeds’ bell and a tray containing a pot of coffee with cream, sugar and two mugs) taking down notes in the one-windowed interview room.

This had become routine for Evans since his promotion: Ever since it had been discovered that Mr. Deeds was capable of knowing the feasibility of any of his potential actions, knowing even confidential information without prior briefing, the overseers made the call to schedule thrice-weekly interviews where he would evaluate prospective containment procedures or new projects before their implementation.

“Thank you, Mr. Deeds. I’ll see you on Wednesday.”

“A pleasure, sir. I’ll take these away,” he said, picking up the tray and making for the closet provided for his easy disappearance.

The interview was moved for Wednesday, to a windowless interrogation room, a makeshift closet purpose-built for the occasion. The table contained a speaker, microphone, and a manila envelope containing today’s questions. As he rang the bell to summon Mr. Deeds, he heard the voice of Dr. Grant over the intercom. “You will not be monitored by live audio surveillance today, due to the unique properties of your interview’s subject.” During these instructions, Deeds had arrived, clad in his usual vest and tails. He took a seat when Evans nodded to it and listened to the speaker. “We can only hear you while you press the button. Do not relay any information about the content of your interview over the intercom, only use it to inform us of its conclusion. Take extensive notes. Understood?”

Evans leaned forward and pressed the button on the mic. “Understood.”

“Good. You may open the envelope and begin the interview.” Evans did as asked. While undoing the string, he looked up at Deeds and said, “How are you today?”

“Quite fine, sir.” As Evans took the sheaf of paper out of the envelope, he asked, “Ready for today’s questions?”

Deeds saw the item number on the front of the paper and considered this for a moment before responding. “I am not sure it will prove useful or advisable to ask today’s planned questions, sir.”

Drs. Grant and Cubbins sat in the recording room, the usual array of camera monitors switched off for this interview, waiting in silence for news from Evans and 662. The crackle of the intercom grabbed their attention.

“Eliza, Deeds said it wouldn’t be ‘advisable to ask’ the questions I’ve got here. I think it has to do with —”

Dr. Grant cut him off. “No details, Researcher Evans. Continue with your interview as planned. Contact us only when it’s complete.”

A pause from the other end, then a reluctant-sounding, “Fine.” Maybe this would finally be the way to crack this damn thing’s effect. None of the other research had. Grant and Cubbins returned to the tense silence, hoping.

“Fine,” Evans said, making his objection known with an impudent tone before lifting his finger off the button. “Orders are orders.”

Mr. Deeds nodded. “I’d understand that better than most, sir, if I may say so.” This elicited a small chuckle from the researcher, who flipped open the stapled packet of papers to the second page and began to read. “Question 1: Are you capable of circumventing the —”

Evans blinked repeatedly. Everything was a haze, and he was dizzy. His arm was hurt, feeling like a bruise, and he reached up to brush something off his forehead, seeing blood on the tips of his shaking fingers as he brought them away from his face. His heart was racing and his eyes were wide as he looked up onto the table. The bell was gone. Deeds was gone. Only the microphone sat on the table, recording nothing. He lurched in a panic and slammed on the intercom button. “He’s gone! The bell, Deeds, he’s gone!”

There was static and silence from the other end for just long enough to process this, then Cubbins’ voice: “What? What do you mean?”

“I started asking the questions, then I felt dazed, and Deeds and his bell disappeared and I’m bleeding. It all happened in an instant, I didn’t see anything —”

He could hear Dr. Grant yelling into the hall. “We have a high value Safe-class containment breach, threat level bravo! Scramble all security, immediately! NOW!” Under the noise, a frantic Cubbins said in a strained voice, “David, it’s been twenty-three minutes since you indicated you were beginning questioning.”

Agent Antoun left the interrogation room, rubbing a hand on his shaved head and sighing. “He doesn’t have the bell anywhere on him, and he passed a polygraph. Evans is still feeling disoriented from the lost time, though. I’d suggest giving him a few days’ rest before putting him back to work.”

The Assistant Director frowned, scowling. She found no happiness in Evans appearing innocent — they still had a missing SCP that could be deadly in the wrong hands. “Fine. Remand him to his quarters. Keep up the all-personnel search for 662. We’re on lockdown?”

“Nobody’s left the Site since the bell went missing, ma’am. It’s here somewhere, along with whoever took it.”

Evans couldn’t sleep. He and Deeds had been meeting three days a week for the last month. Evans felt as though he let the butler down. Try as he might, he couldn’t remember anything about the twenty-three minutes between turning that page and waking up. The blood tests showed no trace of usual Foundation amnesiacs. He’d go mad just thinking about it.

Even though it was just past midnight, he stayed up, poring over his favorite 962 writing, a book of three hundred haikus entirely about elbows, making notes in the margins. Anything to take his mind off of the day. But, just then, he swore he could hear a faint ringing. He turned around to look for the source of the noise —

He was on the other side of his room, looking at the door. Haze filled his mind, again. He was sitting just a moment ago, or so it felt. Disoriented and dreamlike, he looked over at the wall mirror. No injuries, not this time. But as Evans went to check his watch — a half-hour had passed — he saw black ink on the back of his hand. A wavering shape, like a sideways “S,” looking as though it had been applied by a narrow brush. Everything else in his quarters were just as before, except the book. Gone.

An uneasy and fitful sleep followed for Evans. Even after his first Keter file access, he never had trouble getting to sleep. He still managed to drag himself to his office the next morning, though, having to show his ID for everything down to the morning coffee because of the lockdown. He sat down at his computer, read his assignment for the morning — “compile a full and accurate incident report of the disappearance of SCP-662” — and began to type.

He was interrupted after just a minute of work by the ringing of a bell behind him. The door swung open, and Mr. Deeds entered, carrying a small block of dark-stained wood. He whipped his head around to find the source of the ringing, and saw a red-bearded middle-aged man with bright-green eyes removing a tweed newsboy cap, holding the same block of wood.

“It is good to see you again, truth-seeker. Let’s begin.”

Part Two >

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