Worse Than Fear
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Jo Lowe was not the brightest person at Site 118. She was not the most skilled, or the most punctual, or the most professional. It was usually for one of these reasons, or one of her many other shortcomings as a Junior Researcher, that she found Dr. Devane knocking on the wall of her cubicle. This, however, was not one of those days. The area around his widow’s peak had reddened slightly, a sign which Jo knew well. She braced herself as he extended a manilla folder stamped with the word ‘REJECTED’ in bold red letters.

“You’re lucky Director Ownings just stamped your proposal instead of handing me a box of confetti,” he said as Jo sheepishly retrieved her file. “You do realize that this goes against the very nature of the skip’s containment procedures, don’t you?”

“I don’t think it does,” Jo replied. “Otherwise I wouldn’t have suggested it.”

“The version of Manos: The Hands of Fate without the ‘riffing’ is perfectly acceptable,” he said. The word ‘riffing’ came out of his mouth like a hairball. “It falls exactly within the parameters of 2006’s containment procedures. Had your proposal been about the original, unedited films featured on this Mystery Piece Theater program-”

Mystery Science Theatre 3000.”

“Yes, that. Had your proposal featured the original films-”

“But that’s just it, Doc,” Jo interrupted. “2006 has already seen half of those films, some of them multiple times. Joel and the bots already riffed one of his favorites. He loves Ro-Man. How much more will he love watching people talk about Ro-Man?”

“The Director is afraid this might give him the wrong idea, Ms. Lowe.” Dr. Devane’s voice was measured and steady, but the telltale red blotches were starting to appear on his neck, just behind his ears. “The films shown to 2006 are specially chosen to demonstrate to it the absolute nadir of horror filmmaking while simultaneously convincing it that they are the apex. In this way, the Foundation can contain him by preserving his ignorance of the world’s true horrors.”

“That’s why I only ever pick Hays Code-era films,” Jo added. “They feature no nudity, virtually no gore or violence, and they’ve got a goofy, family-friendly charm their modern counterparts tend to lack. This way, 2006 won’t accidentally learn about things like blood-covered zombies or torture porn or shooting squirrels because they’re gay. At the very least, I think 2006’s containment procedures need serious revision. The phrase ‘low-quality horror film’ really isn’t as specific as O5 command probably thinks, since that covers everything from Ed Wood to-”

“Yes, I’m aware, Ms. Lowe,” Dr. Devane said curtly. “We hired you so you can use that expertise to create short lists of films for SCP-2006 to view. Films which, according to its containment procedures, must be of low quality and must be used to demonstrate to it that these represent the pinnacle of fear in the human condition.”

“I know,” Jo said as she attempted to hide her exasperation. “What I’m trying to say is that in order to understand how to successfully protect people from its negative effects we may not have to contain it at all. We could potentially reclassify it as Euclid, maybe even a Thaumiel.”

“Ms. Lowe, this simply is not what the SCP Foundation is for. We understand 2006 to a perfectly acceptable degree, and its containment procedures are in place for a reason. If it breached containment and learned what really scares people-”

“It would result in something more akin to an episode of Scooby Doo than a breach of 682 or 106’s magnitude,” Jo said, interrupting him for a second time. The blotches behind his ears were beginning to spread down his neck. “My experience with 2006 tells me it doesn’t want to hurt people. It wants to scare people. In its mind, those are entirely different things.

“I’ve seen the print-outs," Jo went on. "When it successfully scares somebody, its brain chemistry, or whatever you want to call it, spikes in ways that are extremely similar to a five-year-old blowing out a candle on a birthday cake or a mother holding her newborn kid for the first time. I’m not sure it understands why humans feel fear, or what it would even do with the concept of nuclear war. I think it would help us if we asked it.”

Through this speech, Jo’s supervisor continued to look at her with his level, measured gaze. She could see him taking deep breaths in and out through his nose, and she noticed the redness spread across his face. She changed her tactics.

“What is the purpose of life, Dr. Devane?”

“I’m afraid I don’t understand the question, or why you’re asking.”

“What is the purpose of life?” Jo repeated. The doctor looked at her as though she had just asked him why cat piss was leaking from his ears. “I’ll tell you what I think it is: I think we’re here to make life better for each other. We’re here to make the world a better place, to make each other happy. You’re probably thinking that’s naive, and you’re probably right, but that’s how I feel.”

“Ms. Lowe, it is our job to make life better for the entirety of the human race. We cannot cater to the needs or whims of these anomalous entities. It goes against the very principles upon which this organization was founded.”

“I’m not saying we give 2006 its own themed carnival,” she said. “Not yet anyway. I’m just saying that we can loosen up containment procedures and maybe even change its classification with a few tweaks.”

“Your enthusiasm for this particular project has been duly noted, Ms. Lowe,” Dr. Devane said finally, some of the redness receding from his cheeks. “I will recommend testing sessions with some of the Mystery Science Piece movies that 2006 has yet to see. Will that be an acceptable compromise?”

“I suppose,” Jo relented. “But doctor, I think Dr. Louef and Dr. Wensley are blowing this all out of proportion. I don’t think 2006 wants to scare people. I think what it wants is to make them happy. It just doesn’t understand the difference.” Dr. Devane took a deep breath and the let out a deep sigh.

“You’re young, Jo,” he said, his voice calm and almost vulnerable. “I do genuinely appreciate your enthusiasm, and frankly, I wish more of our personnel had your attitude. However, the fact of the matter is that the containment of these entities is done for a reason, and whether or not we agree with that reason, we still have to follow procedure and keep it contained. You'll understand given more time in your position. I'm confident in that."

He smiled warmly. Jo tried to return the smile, but it felt forced, so she dropped the attempt. Dr. Devane turned and left her workspace, and Jo sighed before swiveling back in front of her computer. She needed to prepare for the next testing session with 2006. She needed to know whether the comedy she'd chosen was droll enough to pass through 2006's quality control.


‘I’m sorry, Ranger Brad. I guess all this talk of horrible mutilation has me on edge.’

‘That’s all right, Dr. Armstrong. This horrible mutilation has a whole lot of people on a whole lot of edges.’ Jo didn’t laugh at the line, at least not outwardly. She hadn't laughed at Manos, not at Boggy Creek 2, not at Leech Woman. This was small potatoes.

“Are they scared, Miss Jo?” SCP-2006 swiveled its bony skull head towards Jo Lowe and fixed her gaze with its hollow eye sockets. Jo paused for a moment longer than she meant to before forcing her eyes wide with pretend fear.

“Oh no, oh dear!” Jo shouted at the top of her lungs. She clutched at her chest as though her heart was pounding like a jackhammer. The bucket in her lap flew into the air, raining salty, buttery popcorn down on the the SCP and the Junior Researcher. “Please don’t hurt me! I don’t ever wish to become the Bride of the Lost Skeleton!”

“Relax, Miss Jo, it’s only me,” SCP-2006 said through fleshless skeleton lips. Its tone of voice had the slightest edge of irritation. “I’m glad I’m scaring you and all, but I wanna watch the movie with you.”

“Oh, SCP-2006,” Jo said as she let out a loud, melodramatic sigh. “I nearly died from the scare you gave me.”

“I wasn’t trying to scare you, not this time,” SCP-2006 replied, and it shifted its face to that of a dark-haired man with a glorious black mustache. It crinkled its forehead in disapproval, and Jo was left wondering if this was the reason it changed its face to begin with. “I want to watch this scary movie with you. It’s very scary. Skeletons are very scary.”

“The Master would approve,” Jo agreed, and the disapproving look faded from SCP-2006’s face. It jumped to its feet and threw its arms up gleefully, the red handprints on its black cloak waving in sympathetic excitement. “2006, do you like it here?”

“Of course!” SCP-2006 leapt up onto the back of its seat as it shifted into a rubber pterodactyl of enormous size, somehow not falling off the headrest. It turned its glued-on googly eyes to face Jo, and as one of the eyeballs rolled haphazardly back and forth in its plastic case, she stifled a laugh. “This place is full of the best scary movies, there are all sorts of people to practice my scaring skills on so I can keep them top notch, and best of all, I can sit down and watch movies with you!”

“What if I told you there was another way, 2006?” Jo began. SCP-2006 tilted its pterodactyl head in what was probably confusion (though it was hard to tell given its current form). "What if I told you you could interact with more people, scare more people, and watch scary movies all day to your heart's-"

The memetic kill agent that flashed before her eyes didn’t give Jo time to finish her semi-accidental containment breach. She slumped motionless in her folding chair as SCP-2006 looked on.

“Miss Jo?” SCP-2006 examined her lifeless body closely. It poked her with one green, rubber wing. She didn’t respond. “Did I scare you to death? I knew it! I knew I was the scariest. No one can say I don’t still got it!” It settled back into its chair to finish the movie.

Jo’s dead eyes stared at the screen, but saw nothing. Dr. Devane sipped his tea and mentally apologized to his underling while he typed up the final memorandum recording her death.


Interviewed: SCP-2006

Interviewer: Dr. D█████

Foreword: SCP-2006 has been lethargic lately, and has shown decidedly lackluster excitement in causing fear and terror in all researchers and D-Class assigned to it. Dr. D█████ was assigned to investigate possible causes for this psychological lapse.

<Begin Log>

Dr. D█████ enters 2006’s cell to find it hovering in a corner in its spherical form.

Dr. D█████: SCP-2006? Are you- oh dear heavens!

Clattering can be heard as Dr. D█████ leaps away from the SCP in mock fear and shock. 2006 does not change its form.

SCP-2006: Oh, you’re scared. Good, I suppose.

Dr. D█████: Well, of course, 2006. You’re the master of fear.

SCP-2006: Sometimes I wish I wasn’t.

Dr. D█████: What do you mean?

SCP-2006: Why didn’t Miss Jo get back up?

Dr. D█████: Miss Jo? Beat. Oh, Junior Researcher Lowe. Well, you scared her to death. You’re the master of fear, 2006. No one else could have done it.

SCP-2006: I scared her to death?

Dr. D█████: You sure did. There’s no one as scary as you, 2006.

SCP-2006: But why didn’t she get back up when the movie was over?

Dr. D█████: I’m… I’m afraid I don’t understand.

SCP-2006: Well, when human beings die, like when a shark eats them or they get their brain sucked out by Martians, they get better so they can do it again afterwards.

Dr. D█████: Ah. I see.

Silence.

SCP-2006: If Jo isn’t getting up yet, can you tell me when she does? And then tell me when she’s coming back? I miss her. I miss movie nights, and popcorn, and rabid nuclear bunny rabbits.

Dr. D█████: I will make sure to, um…

Dr. D█████ trails off before clearing his throat. He screams at the top of his lungs. 2006 does not move or change its appearance.

Dr. D█████: Oh dear, 2006. I thought you were a horrible abomination from beyond Jupiter!

SCP-2006: I’m still right here, doc. I haven’t even changed. Don’t really feel like it.

Dr. D█████: Why is that?

SCP-2006: Fear is the best emotion. It’s fun and exciting and makes your [DATA EXPUNGED] pump like [REDACTED]. It’s something Miss Jo and I could share. You wanna know what the worst emotion is?

Dr. D█████: I… Beat. Yes, I do.

SCP-2006: The emotion where you want somebody to come visit you but you don’t know where they went or if they’re ever coming back.

Dr. D█████: 'Longing'. The word you’re looking for is 'longing', 2006.

SCP-2006: I don’t want to look for it. I don’t want to feel it ever again. It’s horrible and lonely and makes things not scary anymore. I want it to go away until weasels rip its flesh and then never come back.

A longer silence. Dr. D█████ clears his throat again.

Dr. D█████: Well, I think I've got everything I need. Thank you, 2006. I'll see you next month.

SCP-2006: Will you tell me when Miss Jo gets better?

Dr. D█████: Of course. I will alert you the moment she returns.

SCP-2006: Good. Scaring people just isn't the same anymore. Miss Jo is smart. She might be able to tell me why.

<End Log>

Closing Statement: Following Incident 2006-Lowe, SCP-2006’s containment procedures no longer require acting courses. Screening films should be discontinued as well, as it no longer seems to affect 2006’s behavior. Any requests for a 'Miss Jo' or similar individual should be ignored or deflected.

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