The Beast that Shouted 愛 at the End of the World

this tale contains themes of violence and suicide.


The night is cool and dark and heavy, and Researcher James Talloran is at the center of everything, staring into his boyfriend's strangely dispassionate eyes and wondering what the odds are of falling hopelessly in love with the same person over millions of lifetimes.

He has to force himself to recognize Draven's features, and that scares him. He stares at his face for a while, green eyes, dark brows, deep olive skin, slightly crooked nose, deliberately taking note of everything to force his brain to register oh, I know you and then oh, I love you.

"Draven," Talloran mumbles. It comes out more desperate than he'd wanted it to, and he reaches for a hand that he hopes is still there under the sheets. "What day did we meet, again?"

Draven’s eyes open, but not at the same time, and the rest of his face is too still. "That's not important," and it's uncannily calm, like a voice from behind a one-way mirror, "go back to bed."

Talloran blinks, and Draven's eyes open, and then keep opening, and then keep opening, and then keep opening, and his maw

There it is, he thinks, as he's pinned to the bed and something that burns like cigarette ash drips onto his neck. He's learned to look without seeing by now. His teeth are burning and he feels something clawing at his neck, par for the course whenever he gets too close to it. A pit of dread sits unhelpfully deep in his stomach, but it's not deep enough anymore.

Draven stares at him for a long moment, breathing heavy and deep and animalistic, his handsome features twisted and twisting further. Then, his head furls up like a wilted flower, unfolding into several thousand spiders that skitter, fluidlike, over his shoulders, and Talloran muses oh, this is a new one.

For a moment, as Draven 3999 he it gets a firm grasp on his leg with a warm and familiar appendage made of legs and barbed talons, Talloran finds himself wanting. It's an odd state of mind, like the fuzzy haze between wakefulness and sleep where you're still trying to catch and keep your dreams. The years and years of life spent on edge and waiting are nothing but another form of torture, and yet he misses that stupid, empty dream, misses the thoroughly false sense of comfort and companionship it offered. Ignorance isn't bliss, but it isn't pain, either; at this point ignorance feels like the comforting embrace of absolutely nothing at all, lying thickly in his mind. His head hits the floor.

A window shatters, and the lilting cacophony of glass scattering across the floor strikes him as sounding something like a song. Talloran's dragged across the floor, facefirst through the glittering shards, and, for a moment, he scrambles for purchase on nothing—but it's nothing, of course, so he gives up, lets his hands curl as his lip splits open down the center. Blood stains the pieces embedded in his palms and neck a brilliant ruby, and he coughs up copper as he's dangled over the streetlights below. It drips down his brow in beads that catch the fluorescent streetlights. He feels like vomiting, but doesn't.

His leg is starting to dislocate. Talloran lets his body go limp and looks down, and, for a moment, it's beautiful.

3999 leers at him in the corner of his vision, something covered in smaller somethings that's both indistinct and overbearing at once, and it stares with things that are not eyes.

He1 stares back, head pounding and heart still, and mouths do it. Do it, you fucking coward.

It pulls its lips back, showing off too many teeth to fit in something that could be called a mouth, all hollow and dripping with liquid words. Talloran idly considers the notion that they've offended it, a possibility so distant it almost makes them laugh.

The sound shouldn't be familiar, but it is; the simultaneous scuttling of a hundred thousand tiny legs working in unison to slam their limp, pitiful body into the pavement. Their vision blurs the world together in a lovely way as 3999 rears back, cracking their hip joint like a whip on the pivot. It throws them down faster than gravity can carry them

and they fall up.

They aren’t killed instantly on impact, which is either a miracle or a freak accident; Talloran’s not sure if there’s even a difference at this point. The feeling of their bones shattering under their own weight is difficult to compare to the flash of pain before death and the darkness between reality resets, sensations they distinctly feel that a human mind isn’t supposed to experience.

Calmly, they assess the damage; there’s not much else they can do, mangled as they are. The dulled agony in their chest registers to them, correctly, as a crushed ribcage, and they're losing blood at an alarming rate, internal and external. Their glasses are shattered, but their vision is still unnaturally clear, graciously allowing them the privilege of watching themself bleed out. It's always been like this.2

How strange, Talloran philosophizes tiredly, that their heart, in its frantic attempts to push life through their body, is killing them faster.

They’re distantly aware of the fact that, were this a movie, they would have gotten up about now, spitting out a mouthful of blood and a pithy one-liner. This isn't a movie, though, and their too-conscious-for-its-own-good mind is acutely aware of the fact that one of their ribs just punctured their left lung. 3999 leers over them, staring and staring and staring, and Talloran's lungs are swimming along with the rest of the world and they just can't bring themself to care. It scrambles down the building, which is angled impossibly, and grabs them by the broken ankle of their dislocated leg and they just can't bring themself to care.

It feels all too familiar, and not just because they've experienced this hundreds of thousands of times, and then it clicks as the shifting form of teeth and spiders drags them along the concrete—you fucking hack, Talloran thinks, trying to project their thoughts at it because they know it lives in their mind too, you think you're some comic book supervillain, don't you?

The world wavers. Reality flickers like a candle, and something crawls into their throat.

3999 can talk—they've seen it happen, deep and heavy words that crumble in their ears like concrete, fraying reality at the edges with their raspy tenor. Always calculated, always cruel. It doesn't speak now, though; it waits, stares, breathes down their neck. Waiting for them to react, to lap up the sights and sounds of their pain. It's paused in its shifting, erratic movements, apparently waiting to see if Talloran will keep talking. Daring them to.

Talloran's never seen it stop like that before. Not from anything they've said or done.

They cough, thick and sticky with blood and pleural fluid. A spider skitters out of their mouth and down their neck, and they don’t blink.

At first, 3999 was Hell itself. Worse than that—Hell folded in on itself, chewed up and spit back out and chewed up again by a vile, petty god.

3999 was the universe deciding suddenly and violently that it hated them.

3999 was the world they knew twisted on itself at the last second, hostile and incomprehensible and impossible to even begin to cope with.

3999 was a slow, permeating rot of everyone they knew and loved and everyone they didn’t, laughing and lunging and dying in a rotating cast of mockery and manipulation.

3999 was a dance with Death, a touch and a kiss that they didn’t want but couldn’t refuse.

3999 was dead gods speaking in unintelligible tongues, puppeting them on writhing strings of viscera.

3999 was an itemized list of torture implements, procedures and checkboxes designed to kill their loved ones in the most efficient way possible, over and over.

3999 was missing memories, an empty bottle of pills on the counter, and a vague, distant feeling of utter nauseous disgust with themself for what they'd done before the last dose.

3999 was hands around their neck that left angry purple bruises where earlier there’d been gentle caresses, empty apologies, screaming late at night.

3999 was flames, teeth, eyes, love, vomit, talons, blood, hate, gazes that were loving until they weren’t, faces that weren’t familiar until they were—

3999 was everything and nothing, forever.

There could be nothing else.3

This past few thousand years, though, things have become… strange. Repetitive, borderline fetishistic rituals. Bizarre nightmares, creepy fanfiction, liminal spaces, rapidfire and clinical. Bits and pieces cribbed from popular media, shoved haphazardly down Talloran's throat in sharp fragments. Strange, humiliating punishments that felt like they were orchestrated by disturbed kindergarteners. Cliche lists that looked like they were written by a crazy person. At the time, it had all blended together, just more of the endless torment. Now, though, as they bleed out with fragments of bone scattered on the pavement, they see it for what it is with sudden, startling clarity: 3999 is starting to run out of ideas.

They focus their thoughts, direct them pointedly, anemia addling their mind.

You.

It’d be letting them talk, normally. Their ribs are crushed, lungs punctured, and yet they’ve been through worse and found themself on the other side with inexplicably functional vocal cords. If 3999 willed them to speak, they could—but it wasn’t like Talloran had much of anything to say, those times their lungs refused to give out. Maybe it just wanted to hear me scream, they muse morbidly. It doesn’t seem too far from the truth.

3999 is hard to look at directly; something about it just doesn’t compute correctly in their brain, leaving them with that awful burning itch in their throat behind their teeth, threading their consciousness. They don’t care, though. They’re dying again. They don’t care.

I’m done with this. I’m done with you.

The cracks in reality exacerbate, and it’s trembling, wavering, struggling to maintain its form. Talloran wonders how unhealthy it is to inhale spiders and teeth and tongues, then remembers that they’re done caring.

It’s clicking, hissing, on the verge of words, rearing back like a snake about to strike. Their heart lurches violently in their chest—it’s reacting, they realize. It doesn’t want them to talk because they’ve pissed it off. Somehow, in the utter depths of their apathy, they’ve managed to anger a god. Their chest contorts in something approaching a nervous laugh, and 3999 whips around and pierces their right arm straight through to the bone, sending bits of itself crawling under the skin.

It doesn’t matter. 3999 notices, 3999 reacts, 3999 is angry and Talloran has to will their heart not to beat out of control because this is something, anything, this is what they’ve been looking for this whole time, a way to fight, a way in, a way out—

They breathe, steel themself. Willing the fluttering, terrified hope out of their chest isn’t much different, practically speaking, from how they’ve been deadening their overwhelming despair for millions of years to keep 3999 out of their mind. Excitement is an emotion—something it can exploit, something they can hang themself on.

Sound crunches deep in their ears. An interview begins.

Interviewed: Researcher Talloran

Interviewer: SCP-3999

<Begin Log, [INTEGER OVERFLOW ERROR]>

SCP-3999: You're sick.[SYSTEM ERROR: DATA CORRUPTED. PLEASE SEE A NETWORK ADMINISTRATOR FOR MORE DETAILS]

Researcher Talloran:

No.

SCP-3999: You sick, naïve, self-absorbed, insignificant little asshole.[SYSTEM ERROR: DATA CORRUPTED. PLEASE SEE A NETWORK ADMINISTRATOR FOR MORE DETAILS]

Researcher Talloran:

You can't make me play along with this anymore.

SCP-3999: You're making this difficult for yourself, acting like a stubborn fucking child. It would be so easy if you just gave in.[SYSTEM ERROR: DATA CORRUPTED. PLEASE SEE A NETWORK ADMINISTRATOR FOR MORE DETAILS]

SCP-3999: It would be so easy.[SYSTEM ERROR: DATA CORRUPTED. PLEASE SEE A NETWORK ADMINISTRATOR FOR MORE DETAILS]

SCP-3999: Aren't you sick of it?[SYSTEM ERROR: DATA CORRUPTED. PLEASE SEE A NETWORK ADMINISTRATOR FOR MORE DETAILS]

Researcher Talloran:

Makes two of us.

SCP-3999: Don't you just want to fucking end it all? Throw yourself off a bridge, run and jump and fly and then there's nothing. It won't hurt. You won't feel a thing.[SYSTEM ERROR: DATA CORRUPTED. PLEASE SEE A NETWORK ADMINISTRATOR FOR MORE DETAILS]

Distantly, they worry, but not for themself; for someone else.

No. What's wrong with you?

You're talking to yourself. You find yourself in me, and it angers you. The thought comes from somewhere foreign, but it feels pointed, deeply relevant.

There are things falling from the sky now; razors, ropes, pill bottles, bullets. They ignore it.

SCP-3999: Fucking coward.[SYSTEM ERROR: DATA CORRUPTED. PLEASE SEE A NETWORK ADMINISTRATOR FOR MORE DETAILS]

They don't move. They won't be baited, especially not by something this petty and obvious. There's a wordless understanding between them that if Talloran gives in—if they die by their own hand—their release from eternity will condemn the rest of reality to their fate. Maybe someone else, someone less stubborn and naïve, wouldn't have cared, but they refuse to commit such a selfish act of cowardice just to spare their singular, insignificant mind.

SCP-3999: You can't do anything else and you know it.[SYSTEM ERROR: DATA CORRUPTED. PLEASE SEE A NETWORK ADMINISTRATOR FOR MORE DETAILS]

They don't move.

SCP-3999: I know what you are.[SYSTEM ERROR: DATA CORRUPTED. PLEASE SEE A NETWORK ADMINISTRATOR FOR MORE DETAILS]

They don't move.

SCP-3999: [SYSTEM ERROR: DATA CORRUPTED. PLEASE SEE A NETWORK ADMINISTRATOR FOR MORE DETAILS]

They don't move, don't react, don't even blink. This is how I fight, they think, just to themself, a personal vow to keep safe in their thoughts when their head gets too crowded to breathe.

SCP-3999: What are you?[SYSTEM ERROR: DATA CORRUPTED. PLEASE SEE A NETWORK ADMINISTRATOR FOR MORE DETAILS]

SCP-3999: Why are you doing this?[SYSTEM ERROR: DATA CORRUPTED. PLEASE SEE A NETWORK ADMINISTRATOR FOR MORE DETAILS]

SCP-3999: Aren't you tired? Scared? Lonely? Sick?[SYSTEM ERROR: DATA CORRUPTED. PLEASE SEE A NETWORK ADMINISTRATOR FOR MORE DETAILS]

What I am doesn't matter. What matters is what I will be, and I will be the end of you.

Their chest seizes, forcing up blood and bile from their throat. A sensation almost like peace, like relief, washes over them; 3999's finally letting them go. Giving up, at least on this reality.

And if all you want from me is a reaction…

They're numb to it now, their tolerance for pain and insanity having reached past a point that could be called human. Talloran will live again, and die again, and again, and again, and fight again and again and again and again, because ironically, they don't have anything better to do.4

Then we're both gonna be stuck here for a long time, aren't we?

SCP-3999: Fuck you.[SYSTEM ERROR: DATA CORRUPTED. PLEASE SEE A NETWORK ADMINISTRATOR FOR MORE DETAILS]

Likewise.

SCP-3999: This isn't over.[SYSTEM ERROR: DATA CORRUPTED. PLEASE SEE A NETWORK ADMINISTRATOR FOR MORE DETAILS]

I know.

They don't care, either. It's freeing not to care, to know that all they need to do anymore is sink into apathy so deep and violent that it becomes deicidal.

The air is growing thick. 3999 lashes out, piercing their body again and again and again.

Only

I’m okay, they think as they lay dying. I’m gonna be okay.

Only

<End Log, [INTEGER OVERFLOW ERROR]>

Closing Statement: Someone, somewhere, breathes their last, but it is not James^H^H^H^H^H Ari Talloran.

5

rating: +5+x
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License