“It is good to see you again, truth-seeker. Let’s begin.”
Evans’ eyes darted from Deeds to the man. He’d heard of the hat — something in the two-hundreds, maybe? — and the hidden man that had stolen it right from containment. Was this him, with his wrinkled face in a slight smirk?
“We’ve met.” The man set the block of wood down on the desk, and motioned for Deeds. “This would go much quicker if you allowed me to catch you up with minimal interruption.”
Mr. Deeds removed a portable drive from his tailed jacket’s inner pocket and held it out in his palm. “From Twelve in the surveillance department, sir, as you asked.”
“Thank you.” The bearded man grabbed the drive and leaned over the seated researcher to insert it into his office computer. Evans noticed a wooden pendant, shaped like the “S” on his hand last night, hanging from a thin chain around the man’s neck. He gathered up enough composure to ask, “How did you take the bell? What happened in the test?”
“Watch the first file.” Evans gave the man a lingering look before turning to the computer and double-clicking on Site23C_IntRm57_1445020512.ccv. On the screen popped up an overhead view of the room he interviewed Deeds in, a room whose cameras were supposed to be off. He saw the banter leading up to the first question and found himself holding his breath as the point he had forgotten before approached.
Dr. Grant cut him off. “No details, Researcher Evans. Continue with your interview as planned. Contact us only when it’s complete.”
A pause. “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 effect of SCP-055’s memetic properties?’ Didn’t even know we had a fifty-five.”
Deeds frowned a bit. He did that whenever he was thinking about something difficult.
“Well, sir, while I am capable of relaying to you information regarding SCP-055, I am afraid that no Foundation personnel would be capable of acting upon it. In fact, even this conversation regarding it may convey enough information to cause you to forget.”
Evans scribbled some notes. “So it’s a self-keeping secret?” “That is all the Foundation is able to ascertain, yes.” Turning to the second page, Evans read, “‘Question 2: Is SCP-055’s presence in containment inimical to Foundation interests?”
“I’m afraid so, sir. It currently houses an organization using it to undermine the Foundation.”
Evans looked up from his notes, a worried expression on his face. “It —”
A red-headed man seemingly appeared out of nowhere near the table, holding a newsboy cap in one hand, and a block of wood in the other. “I must admit to some pleasure at watching the realization.” Stuffing the hat in his jacket pocket, he removed a Webley revolver and pointed it at Evans. “No movements, if you would, man of measures.” He walked forward deliberately, with a slight limp, set the block of wood on the table, and took the bell. “Now then, scientist.” He looked at Evans and lowered his pistol. “How did you feel when you first read the notes on what your Foundation calls ‘662,’ and found that they had tortured and killed him over and over?”
“Remember, scientist, they cannot hear you. Your overseers and directors cannot monitor what transpires here. I am a walker of twilight, a shadow on the wall. Take measure of yourself. How,” he asked, tilting his head to the side, “did you feel?”
He didn’t understand why he was being asked, but he stammered out, “I — I felt upset. It didn’t help anyone to do that.”
“But you did not report your feelings to Doctor Mirth, who carried out the tests?” The man glowered. Deeds looked between the two men conversing, a neutral expression on his face.
“She’s the assistant director now. Sympathizing with SCPs gets you reassigned, and I wanted to work with Deeds —”
“That is enough. I will see you soon.” He paused. “They will treat you better if it appears as though you fought back.” The man shook the bell in his hand, the faint ringing coming from the edges of hearing. “Deeds, could you cause the scientist some harm?”
“Of course, sir, quite easily.” Deeds stepped up and circled the table. The rest of the video file consisted of the well-dressed butler disregarding Evans' yells, shoving him to the ground and kicking him once, hard, in the head as the red-haired man grabbed the notes and wood block, replaced his cap, and walked out the door of the interrogation room.
￼￼Evans sat rigidly in his office chair, the man behind him and Deeds across from his desk, as he watched himself lying on the ground on the video. Unsure of what to do, he stayed stock-still. “Why the wood?”
“The second file, if you please.” Evans thought to himself that it was stupid to expect a direct answer. He complied and opened Site23C_ResQtr5_0042030512.ccv, ready to discover the other gap in his memory.
￼Evans saw himself from last night, reading his book of 962-authored haikus, making notes in the margins. He noticed the man again, removing the hat and ringing the bell. Deeds entered quietly through the door, again holding a block of dark-stained wood.
“I have been looking into your records, scientist.”
Evans jumped out of his chair quickly, knocking it over. He looked around wildly. “Who are you?! Deeds is here, how did you get the bell? How did you get in here?”
“Do not panic. This is not for you to remember now. I am here for a simple purpose.”
“And what's that?” Evans edged closer to the drawer that contained his Foundation-issued pistol. He wished he knew whether it was loaded or not, he hadn’t touched it since he arrived.
“I have seen your work. I have read of your admiration for many of the strange gifts which the world has grown for us. I have seen your admiration for the anomalous, and the humanity with which you treated what most of your Foundation fellows perceive as an object for research.” He stepped forward and looked straight into the wall-mounted camera, straight at the Evans of the present, sitting in his uncomfortable office chair, sweat on his brow.
“There are many people who believe, like you, that the unusual need not be held in chains, treated like livestock, isolated and shamed. Many are within the concrete and steel walls of your Foundation. One of them, in surveillance, just shut off the camera in your office.” Evans looked up and saw the red blinking light shut down.
“Another, in Security, has just locked your door.” A click. “And one affiliated with Logistics has ensured that neighboring researchers in your hall will be occupied with meetings.” Evans, watching the tape, understood. Evans, in his quarters last night, did not. He flung open the drawer that his pistol was stored in, only to find an inkpot and a small brush.
The red-haired man handed his hat to Deeds and stepped forward, taking the brush from Evans’ hand, dipping it in the inkpot, and tracing the figure of a wavering snake on the back of his hand. “The wood, as I imagine you will have asked by now,” he looked back at the camera as he finished the marking. “ Is from the Forest of Ophiuchus, whose trees emanate an aura which causes all the unenlightened who perceive it to forget of its presence. Many years ago, its wood was used to construct a chamber for our usage, unable to be remembered by those who do not walk our twilit path. Your Foundation, in whose site we built it, know it as ‘zero-five-five.’ We call it The Tall Grass.”
￼The video cut to black and the man with the cap resumed speaking, this time in the present. “It is the place for a Serpent to hide. Will you join us?”
Evans turned his chair to truly face the man for the first time. “What do you want me to do?”
“Help us stop those who would abuse their powers, unchain those who do not deserve to be chained. You will start by making sure that Regina Mirth never tortures or kills another innocent.” The man looked gravely serious as he said this.
Evans inhaled. “I don’t think I could k-kill the assistant site dire—”
“She has authorized the interrogation by torture over thirty-five anomalous beings and Foundation staff. In only three of those cases was any new information gleaned. She had Deeds eviscerated three times.” Seeing still the worried face of Evans, drained of all color, the man made his final point. “She authorized Agent Antoun to kill you in your debriefing yesterday.”
Evans looked sick, and felt so tenfold. He nodded to himself for a few seconds, looked up at Deeds, and looked back to the man. “I’ll do it,” he said, haltingly.
“Fáilte. You are now to be granted true sight, the chance to remember always our purpose and yours. Stand, and greet me as I greet you.” Evans lifted himself out of his chair, weakly.
“I am L.S., a walker of twilight and seer of all. The Garden is the Serpent’s place.”
“I am Nathaniel Evans, a walker of twilight and seer of all. The Garden is the Serpent’s place.”
“Good. To forever remember the Wood of Ophiuchus, you must forever be imbued with its property. Deeds?” The butler stepped towards the two, setting his stained block upon the desk. “Yes, sir?”
“Grant him true sight.” Mr. Deeds stepped out of the room, returning after just a moment with a needle-thin splinter of wood no more than a few centimeters long. L.S. held Evans in place firmly as, in one sudden motion, Deeds slammed it into the researcher’s right eye with his palm. Evans felt an explosion of pain and doubled over, clutching his face, as screams echoed through the empty block of offices.