SCP-542, Herr Chirurg to the staff close to him, does not get sick, not from viruses nor undercooked food. Milk of magnesia does not cause him to retch, sedatives take longer and stronger doses to relax him, and for all these years he has lived, he has developed quite a tolerance for all things introduced to his body. But even then, after all that time…he still gets a little tipsy when presented with drink.
A bottle of peppermint schnapps, three-quarters empty, and a glass to match it rest on the table before him. In the corner, the old victrola gently plays a crackling song, the woman’s accented voice accompanied by simple piano and violin. The music is old and sad, perhaps from the era of World War II, or even before.
The mixture of song and drink is always a potent one, and has put a distant look of nostalgia in his eyes, and he leans back in his armchair, smoking jacket draped about his shoulders, looking quite contemplative. With slow, steady movements he fills his glass again and sips slowly.
“Penny for your thoughts, Chirurg?” Dr. Rights asks, packing up and putting away the antique chess set her and Chirurg compete with often. She knows well that the schnapps make him think, though she admits that, more often than not, she cannot begin to fathom what is going through his head. But at the very least, he is a calm drunk, prone only to occasional ramblings and pleasurable conversation, beyond rare bouts of guilty depression.
He is very quiet for a long while, letting out only a soft sigh, and she wondering if, perhaps, he has nothing more to say to her tonight.
But that could not be further from the truth.
“Elizabeth-Marie.” He says, German accent thick and voice soft.
“Who?” Dr. Rights asks, perking up as she takes a seat across from him in another armchair. He rarely mentions his past, much less names and specific people. But she likes stories, both for their content, and the expectation that she knows more of his past will come to light with them.
But she did not expect that part of the past to come to light. Ever. Her jaw dropped in surprise, but Chirurg didn’t seem to notice, eyes focused on some spot on the ceiling, thinking of the past. His too-wide mouth had the corners turned down in a soft frown, and he seemed far more gentle and…older than he had in a long time.
“You…you have a…uh…”
“Had. It was a very long time ago…Vor einer sehr langen Zeit…She has long since been gone.” He sighed softly again, and Dr. Rights shifted back into her seat, frowning a touch herself.
“So she…she didn’t have your…unique traits, then, I assume…if she, you know-“
“Gestorben?” He looked down at the doctor with a soft sigh. “It is fine to say it. I have had about…oh…seventy years to come to terms with it.” Dr. Rights nodded, and Chirurg cleared his throat. “…But you are wrong…she was unique…just like I am. But there are things not even I can survive.”
The containment room fell remarkably silent, even with the record still crackling along, after that. But the silence, as all silences are, was inevitably broken.
“Isabella, that was her mother, and I had just moved to America when she was born. Oh, what a time it was…you couldn’t go for a single block without hearing jazz and swing following you, and everywhere was so alive…” Dr. Rights made a mental note, as he spoke, to add the 1920’s as a possible time and location for him in his file. “…but…Isabella, poor Isabella…she was beautiful, but she was weak, and her heart failed her not long after giving me little Elizabeth-Marie. Meines schönes Kind, Elizabeth-Marie…she looked so much like her mother, but…to my chagrin…she had my mind. A smart little scamp, always getting into trouble, and smart enough to get herself out of it. A trend that certainly never stopped…not even when we learned that she was…like me, unterschiedlich.”
He stopped and cleared his throat again, finishing the glass he held in his hand and setting it to the table, eyes still distant, remembering.
“…We moved often. America, Canada, back to Germany, France, England…of course, nowhere we went would a woman so smart as meiner kleiner Elizabeth-Marie ever be treated as the doctor, the genius she could have been, but…that was the time. We figured that, eventually, times would change.” His expression darkened and he laced his long, thin fingers together before him, brow furrowing. “They did.”
Dr. Rights regretted her question a moment after she had said it, as she found herself curled up in the armchair, huddled down defensively as Herr Chirurg loomed over her, a burst of speed having carried him over the coffee table to stand before her, hands gripping the sides of the chair and face inches from hers, eyes dark and angry. After a second of being stunned, she made a small motion with her hands towards her observing peer. It was okay, he hadn’t attacked her…yet.
“…People are not born monsters, du dummer kleiner Doktor. Even if their lineage predisposes them towards it, life is what makes people monsters. Das Leben ist, was Leutemonster bildet. Die Schmerz bilden Leutemonster. Sie sterben wieder, oder Sie werden ein Monster. Das sind die einzigen zwei Wahlen.” He said harshly, before releasing her chair and stepping back, sitting down heavily in his own armchair.
Dr. Rights had nothing to say.
“I would like to rest, now.” Chirurg finally mumbled, closing tired eyes, and Dr. Rights nodded.
“…Good night, Herr Chirurg.”
“Guten nacht, kleiner Doktor.”
It wasn’t until later that night, when Dr. Rights was long since alone as she drove home in the darkness, radio on softly, that she stumbled across a static-filled, crackling recording of a woman’s voice, low and accented, perhaps from World War II or even before… and bit her lip.
You die or you become a monster.
No wonder people working at the SCP Foundation chose to die young.