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Tabula Obscurum
Chapter I
Spring

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It was the perfect secret. A place that no one, living or dead, had any knowledge of whatsoever. The man's eyes fluttered open to the soft white paint of the ceiling. This room, a bedroom like so many countless others, was perfectly undiscovered. And at this moment, it was also the entire extent of this young man's universe.

He sat up from his resting position atop the comforter. He was in a double bed but only the one side, the side he found himself on, slouched and sagged with the indentation of a regular visitor. The pillows and the comforter didn't go together. In fact, not much in here did. As he scanned the rest of the room he had no choice but to wonder who owned these things and what might inspire a person to cram these disparate things together.

Despite not having even the faintest clue what was going on, he didn't feel panic although he couldn't understand why. Why should he when this was his apartment? Wait, was it? If it were then why would he feel like a visitor to a foreign land? Why wouldn't these things be familiar?

As he placed his feet on the floor, the blood rushed to his head in compensation. How long was he out? A book lay atop a nightstand at the base of a brass lamp. He reached for the thin journal and peeled off a sticky note that adorned the black leather cover: 'Read me'., it said.

Inside the front cover in a lazy but elegant cursive:

"To remind the self of better days. Please read me.
Immediately.

-Jacob Bellinger"

His brow furrowed; the name meant nothing but then again to a man that cannot recall much of anything, how would he give such a simple thing meaning? There was literally nothing before he woke up. No names, no friends, no faces, no place. Yet he was keenly aware that he should have those things. A disquiet tingle worked its way down his spine. He gripped the book between thumb and forefinger and walked to the bathroom.

The face in the mirror seemed familiar but it wasn't him. Like he had assumed a face, a role, an identity but without the comfort of knowing you wore an abstraction. No curtain to peek behind nor puppet strings to snip, just a body he didn't recognize and eyes he found foreign.

The man leaned in close as the lights shone brightly to illuminate this strange mask he wore. The soft wrinkles, the scars, the laugh lines, the pockmarks. Were they earned? Were they worth it? In this moment, they just…were. On this face. His face.

As his dull blue eyes scanned himself, again and again, the man began to understand the first thing he had truly ever (technically) pieced together. There legitimately were no answers. His fingers quaked subtly as he raised the book and flipped to the first interior page; perhaps it would provide the comfort he quickly grew to crave. With each breath, his chest shuddered and heaved greater than the last, the blood suddenly pumping hot through his neck and to his ears.

He read.


//'Hello Jacob. This is our record, our safe place as we try to reclaim our past and help provide a future.

Don't lose this, and keep it close at hand. Yes, your name is Jacob and mine was too. But now it's yours and all that comes with it. I'm sorry I can't do more to greet you, to brace you for this. The Gray came upon us all, so very quickly.//

His head woozy, the newly minted Jacob's knees gave out and he slumped onto the off-white polyurethane rim of the bathtub. Perhaps his body knew what the rest of him was struggling to catch up with. He continued his read for he could do little else.

//'We know next to nothing about what happened, but what little I do know is what the other Jacob left for me. This is not the first time our name has been passed on and I can only hope that with this letter, you will figure out what we could not and make this the final handoff. Your name is Jacob Bellinger and you are or were a Level 3 Researcher with an institution called the SCP Foundation.

Secure. Contain. Protect. Learn those words first and keep them in your mind and in your heart. They are the only guidepost you'll have the time to cling to and it's the easiest way for you to identify like-minded people in these difficult times.'//

His head pounded as his heart settled on an obscene pace to hold, the man ran his fingers through his hair and grabbed a big handful. It was shaggy and thick and already becoming damp with his sweat. "Get a grip, get a grip", he repeated to himself. These words, this Foundation, meant something but what?

'We have no idea what year it is. Judging by the history books we have recovered and read, the year 2015 is the last one people wrote down before this thing happened. We call it The Gray. Maybe this is a time loop, maybe it isn't. Maybe we're all dead and this is purgatory. The reality is you, me, we are still capable and we can't accept this lying down. Please leave the bedroom and enter the rest of your apartment. On the kitchen table, I have prepared some materials for you to review. It's the best briefing I could find time to make. We don't have much more than a day or two for you to get with the program. Turn to the next page when you're in the kitchen.'

This man, this Jacob, snapped the journal shut as a tense breath stalled in his throat. This was a lot to swallow yet he had nothing to blockade this story with. What was his name? Jacob Bellinger didn't fit right but what better idea did he have? He patted down his pants: pockets empty. What was he even looking for? His hands remembered something that his mind couldn't and he was powerless to ask them for clarification.

"What is my name? What does my wallet even look like?" He thought out loud as he stood suddenly, the pangs of fear shooting up the back of his neck and compelling the primal parts of his dormant mind to do something. He ran from the bathroom, through the bedroom, and he pulled the door open. A quiet space awaited him in contrast to the panic that followed closely behind. A couch, a coffee table, a small dining table. Microwave and electric range. No food out on the counter. Barely any decorations except a small single pot coffee maker and a framed painting of some…abstract impressionist thing. Who lived here?

He raced to the front door, locked and bolted shut as it was. With unfocused fury, he flipped the deadbolt over and began to undo the chain practically ripping it from the door frame but something stopped him before he could finish. A feeling, strong and invasive from the back of his head like a drill boring into his skull. Why? What is it he was missing?

Why open this door at all? He didn't even know what was out there.

A hallway to what?

What city was he even in?

What would the answer to that even mean?

For a moment his every thought froze in his head as he tried, in vain, to sort the mess. Jacob turned around, his back pressed flat against the door. On the table lay two manilla folders stamped with a black logo and three words that were the first familiar thing in this deeply confusing new life: Secure. Contain. Protect. Although the clock letters gave him a measure of calm to read, if there were any answers in that folder, they could wait. Someone, somewhere, had to know something.

Jacob flung the door open and made a break for the stairwell at the end of the hall. He pushed on the handle of the fire door and stepped out from the eerie quiet of the apartment building and into the light.
The air smelled fresh and wild with all the possibilities of spring, but a gust of wind came upon him and carried only the stink of fear and confusion.

He was not alone in his ignorance. Down the street, others wandered out one by one into the late morning sun.