The William Penn Iteration
rating: +15+x
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Image taken of sky during containment by Researcher Talloran of both the users of /r/SCP_3999 and noted American fiction author Flannery O'Connor. All rights reserved

Frank Talloran was dying.

He stumbled down the wide street's sidewalk, clutching his heart. It was raining heavily. Behind him walked Curly. Curly was tall and fat and almost completely bald. His ratty waistcoat was damp with the heavy rain. He limped as he walked, his legs curiously stiff, and he used a sinister umbrella as a cane. This was a handsome umbrella, unnaturally red with a wooden handle. It was not open.

"Now, now, Frank! The only way yer're gonna get out of this mess is iffin' ye accept Jeezus as your lord and savior!" Curly said.

Frank could not find it in him to speak. His lungs were collapsing and every drop of foul March rain on his skin felt like a needle. Poison began to work his way up his veins, slowly melting them. Behind him, Curly kept pace. He was driving Frank out of town, down towards the woods path which meandered through a stand of ancient pines that had been there earlier than the state.

"I hope ye and yer boyfriend burn for your sins, Frank. I'm not a bad guy, I just want to save ye!" Curly sneered.

"Go to hell," Frank slurred out. He saw only a red miasma.

The highway wound it's way out of the city under the blue-grey-purple stormy evening sky. The rolling cloud formations were larger than any mountain, dwarfing the land below like weird waves seen from the seabed. Night was falling. Frank felt like his eyeballs were on the verge of popping. He stumbled and instantly Curly was upon him, hauling him to his feet and shoving him along.

"This way, Fatso!"

Frank was not fat. On the contrary, aside from a little feminine softness about the hips he was skinny as a rail. Young too, long brown hair flopping across his face. Along the edges of his mouth there were little smile-like scars, the remnants of a childhood accident he could not remember. He had known Curly since then, when Curly insinuated himself amongst the family. He was a chubby boy so Curly had started calling him Fatso. Since then he had always known Curly's torment. He worked as a hand at the house, but in recent years he had taken a special liking to torturing Frank.

The winding road turned off into a grand interstate buzzing with cars but Curly and Frank did not walk there, turning off down a little dirty rut that swarmed and turned through the ancient pines. Off this road was the path that Frank feared. In his dreams he had imagined walking down that path when it turned dark and watching it end in a strange vast building with a terrible image of three arrows pointing inwards.

"Move it Fatso! Come on! Do ye want to be saved or no?" Curly was practically frothing at the mouth now with hatred and righteous fury. "Move it Fatso!"

Frank's body began to heat up, and he felt for an odd moment like his feet began to fly. They seemed to him to stop working and to start floating limply above the rotten leaves and muddy wet clay. Curly began to slap him on the back again and again, sending waves of pain as roiling as the cloud cover up Frank's body. The four pairs of feet crunched pine needles.

Frank saw Draven ahead, briefly. A phantom made of dying nerve cells. He remembered meeting Draven at the little railroad diner and how handsome he had seemed. Soon they had opened a stationary shop on Elmhurst and 2nd. The courting was brief and furious and for a little while all the world seemed incredible and new and beautiful but soon word began to spread and one day a group of people from the local Baptist church had thrown a brick through the window. Mr. Kondraki, Draven's father, who spent most of the day cooking in the little restaurant where they had met, seemed accepting if uncaring at first.

Curly did not.

He had starting convincing Frank's parents to start going to the Baptist church, a tall tower-like structure in the middle of a field. Nobody would talk about what went on in there but word had it there was a preacher from Georgia who both loved and hated those inside. Someone of firey sermons who never showed his face no made any sort of judgement down on anyone.

Frank's parents and Curly were too scared of the preacher to talk with Frank about him.

And it was Curly who quickly caught word and thrown the brick. Curly, who since the day he said he came up from city of Tidder to find work, didn't understand Frank. Any time Frank's parents sent him out to the fields to help the hands Curly would rave and rant and roll his eyes and scream about the devil child who was so incomprehensible to normal man. And his own fat belly would jiggle in his jeans as he ranted. "Get that Fatso away from me! I don't want to see his face!"

"Why not?" Sulper would say. Sulper often spoke on behalf of the other hands.

"He's something of the age. Something the preacher says is bad and good. The preacher hates us and I hate this Fatso!" said Curly.

"Suit yourself," said Sulper.

The churchgoers started spreading the word to the Methodist church and the Presbyterian church and somehow to the Catholic church and small synagogue and then it felt like the whole entirety of the town was throwing bricks in the windows.

On the muddy road, pain-Draven waved sadly. Frank began to scream a roar of pain. His bones felt like they had started to crack. "I am sick of your horror, Curly. I am sick of you." he muttered. Curly did not hear. The path seemed to stretch. Ahead was the dirt path, barely visible in the dead undergrowth that seemed to stretch into darkness.

Draven moved away after the constant abuse. It ended simply and without much drama, in Frank's memory. Mr. Kondraki just had a new restaurant to open in another place and soon all that was left of Draven was a Draven shaped hole of desire and longing and grief. It was perhaps this hole that Frank had just seen. Frank married little Sadie Louis from up the road and they had little kids and Dr. Glass the pediatrician said they were perfectly healthy, and sometimes he and Sadie of them took little trips out to watch the sunset.

Curly drove them away. Curly was the one who spread rumours that even Sulper believed, about Frank's infidelity, his encounters with other men. Now Sadie was gone and only Curly was left. Just hours earlier he had appeared Frank with the offer of a drink. Seemingly friendly and changed, in the most superficial way.

Frank took it even knowing. He was waiting for it, expecting it, hungering for it. He accepted what was happening to him with a bloated, sprawling resignation

He drank up the way his muscles contracted without his control now. He deserved it. He did not deserve Curly. Before he even knew it he was already on that dirt path. He could not control where his mind went anymore than his body could. Curly has fashioned a little switch out of an oak branch and stopped Frank in his path. With almost gentle, paternal motions he lifted off Frank's ragged shirt and seemed to begin to caress his smooth back. Then he brought the switch down.

"Onwards we go to the Kingdom of God, Fatso! Onwards y'alls gonna git. Git, little Fatso! Git you little homo shit! Yah!" Curly bellowed.

He began to strike Frank's back over and over and over again, leaving red lumps and tearing skin away. The rain washed the blood off and it mixed with the mud staining Frank's jean legs. The woods loomed darker and darker and the ancient pines began to roar with fire as the skies arced with lightning and far away the booms of thunder were like the death-knells of gods.

Frank began to weep and cry and Curly's hot onion breath began to hiccup with laughter. They struggled on in the mud, the mad coachman pushing his tired workhorse to pastures unknown.

The woods opened up. Here there was no terrible building with three arrows but only the wide Susquehanna River, reaching all the way down to Harrisburg and beyond. At this point it was lazy and shallow but destroyed by the driving sheets of rain that soaked the two men to the bones.

Frank couldn't see, couldn't breathe. He began to gasp and choke, his eyes bulging out of their sockets. He started to run, madly. Crazily bouncing along, choking and drooling before he splashed into the water. Curly threw his switch aside and began to limp towards the gasping body. His cheap waistcoat bought for the occasion was ruined, his red umbrella-cane painfully pristine. His step suggested not a care in the world, his face no longer contorted with contempt and anger, but curiously blank.

He waded out after Frank and caught the dying man whom he himself had poisoned. He held him like a baby as Frank stared up at him in fear. "I'm here to save yer soul from yerself. That's why I hated ye. I don't hate ye, Frank. Just what ye are now. I'm not yer maker, merely a reader of faces. I didn't create ye cause I don't look like no Christ changing stones into fishes or what have you. I'm merely a man who likes the old days when men were men and they followed the good books."

Frank stared up in terror. Without warning, Curly grabbed the back of his head and plunged him deep into the raging water. Underneath, Frank could feel Draven slipping away. Draining from history on the current's banks. Instead he felt a deep all consuming love for his wife who was gone. Sadie. How could he have abandoned Sadie?

How could he have abandoned Draven? He found he was changed and began to cry, at which point he found he could breathe. "I'm baptizing ye, Fatso! I'm fixing ye right up!" Curly said over the roar of rain. He plunged Frank in again, and when he brought him up Frank found himself emptier. He felt like less and less of a person. Less and less like Frank Talloran and more like some empty thing.

Curly dipped him again and again and felt his love for Draven dying, his personality fading, his memories blurring and becoming horrifically indistinct. He had visions of his memoirs reduced to a paragraph on a page. A doctorate and the first letter of his name. A nothingness, an unreality. Frank began to sob when he wasn't gasping for air.

The pain was leaving his body. His bones began to mend. Curly grew serene then, and dipped Frank in the river. The baptism continued on and on and Frank felt his mind slipping away then. Felt him changing. On the last dip he felt the memory of his parents fading. With a muted shock, he found he could no longer remember the feeling of sitting on his mother's lap. He could no longer his father's scratchy kisses. Something broke inside him.

He saw a fisherman on the other bank. A teenager, handsome but neither male nor female at this distance. Stocky, tall and standing proud. Frank's mind was too far gone to discern the expression on his face from this side of the river but he swore the fisherman was looking right at him. Right through him.

He wriggled out of Curly's grasp and let himself be dragged out by a sudden current. A sudden whoosh of roaring water and a looming algal mass and everything began to grow black. He had no sense of who he was or if he was. What he was. There was a spreading pain, like underwater someone had dribbled a liquid pain down his head. He blacked out.

He woke up again.

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Image taken of containment chamber during containment of SCP-3999. [DATA EXPUNGED] but it was determined the room never existed to begin with

James Talloran was dying.

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