Why am I here? This place gives me nightmares, but never really the right ones to discourage me from coming back. The horrors and chills are the waking kind, which manifest in the darkness when I’m alone and still walking through a silent hallway, trying to find a light switch and freezing every time I hear a thump or a crack or a creak.
These are the nightmares that evaporate the instant the sun shines again, these are the nightmares fueled by curiosity and the reality that no one really knows what tomorrow will bring. Why is there something eerily familiar about SCP-173 that draws me to watching footage of it, when I know that in several hours’ time, I’ll be looking over my shoulder every few minutes trying to get the image out of my head and trying to convince myself that the Sculpture is not right behind me?
Why am I here?
Inherently, I feel I should know.
It’s because the nightmares fascinate me, have always fascinated me.
Fear—deep, dark, enthralling, exhilarating, it reminds me that I’m alive and reminds me that things are in motion all around and that here, regardless of what office or hallway or containment area one walks in, there is danger lurking in the endless streams of numbers that chronicle years of the anomalous and threatening and horrific.
I’m going to visit 1457 again. I don’t know why. There’s something calming about immersing the mind in the woes of others. Even though the memories feel like mine, may even have been mine all along, I know that they’re not mine and cannot harm me.
But as such, I’ve seen things that I couldn’t have prepared myself for. Muted gunshots in the dark, skin being peeled off inch by inch with a black knife to the cacophony of screams of pain and insanity, needles, electric shocks, was it always an observed effect of 1457 to force relapses on someone receiving memories?
I’ve tried to steel myself against it. Train myself through use of 1457 to become resistant to these sort of things. Empathy, which I once believed to be my strongest quality, can no longer be used as a shield.
Before, when I saw those pairs of broken eyes, I would be able to do something about it. Now, all these memories, all these stories, all these tragedies so close they’re almost tangible and yet completely beyond my reach and my help—I don’t understand how a butterfly could have possibly witnessed all of them.
I’m not the spectator anymore.
1457 removes the protections that distance offers. This little life form carries the deaths of mothers and fathers, the sights of suffering friends, the crippling hopelessness of being without anyone else to confide in, without anyone else who knows the extent of the pain and the meaning of the tears.
It’s all useless.
It’s not like anyone else will volunteer. I’ve applied for medication, but I’ve heard whispers that until my mental health starts to show serious signs of deterioration, all my requests will be denied.
The Mourning Cloak even somewhat remembers me now, flies to me whenever I enter its containment area, becomes agitated if I happen to have forgotten to remove the sterilized gloves. Looking back, I can understand the sudden order requiring me to feed this being. I once spent my time counseling the heartbroken, once spent my time untangling complicated tales of anguish, once spent my time sharing away pain. And I happened, just happened, to get that score on the EI test.
Emotional intelligence. I once thought it meant something different, I once thought that conquering my fears meant admitting I had them and refusing to confront them until I was ready.
Things are different now.
I don’t know where these memories have come from, but with each broken heart or shattered soul or scarred mind, I don’t know if I’ve become stronger or weaker. These are bootlegged experiences, false images, and maybe in the end all I am is desensitized because I know that the memories don’t mean as much, don’t strike as hard to me.
But what happens when these memories are replaced by realities?
I swear, with all this strain, I’m surprised I haven’t developed a heart condition.
The butterfly doesn’t care, or perhaps it doesn’t know enough to realize how uncaring it is, but then I never know, maybe no one really knows, maybe no one will ever know. It lives to eat and make sure it keeps eating.
And so another hour passes as I’m taken through a whirlwind of death and disease and darkened dreams. The butterfly remains perched on my shoulder, serenely folding and unfolding its uneven wings, tilting its antennae gracefully as I slump forward, head in my hands.