The Yamaku Foundation
The gate looked far too pompous for what it was. In fact, gates in general seem to do that, but this one especially so. Red bricks, black wrought iron and grey plaster, assembled into a whole that didn't feel welcoming at all. I wondered if it looked like what a gate for a school should look like, but couldn't really decide. Probably no. Of course, I didn't want to get stuck on thinking about the gate for too long, so I entered through it with a brisk pace that felt surprisingly good. Moving forward feels good.
So I walk toward the main building of Yamaku Academy with this brisk pace. I'm alone, as my parents are taking my stuff to the dorms, and there's supposed to be someone waiting for me. The grounds are incredibly lush, filled with green. It doesn't feel like the kind of grounds a school would have, more like a park, with a clean walkway going past trees and the smell of fresh-cut grass and all other park-like things. Words like "clean" and "hygienic" pop into my mind. It makes me shudder. I shake them off. Stay open-minded now. It's your new life. You have to take it as it comes. That's what I tell myself.
A few big buildings loom behind the leafy canopies, too big and too many for just a school. Everything seems off; it's different from what I thought I knew about schools. It's an uncanny valley. Even though I was told this is my new school, in the back of my head it doesn't feel like one. I wonder if the feeling is real or caused by my expectations of a school for the disabled. Speaking of that, I don't see anyone else here. It's kinda eerie. It makes me wish there was somebody here so I could anchor myself to something tangible instead of having this feeling I stepped into another dimension. The trees hum with the wind and the green hues flashing all around me catch my attention. It makes me think about hospitals again, how they say that the operating rooms are painted green because green is a calming colour. So why am I feeling anxious, despite all this greenery?
Only after I stand in front of the haughty main building, I surprise myself by realising why the gate bothered me: It was the last chance I had to turn back, even if I had no life I could return to. But still, after entering, there was absolutely no way I could go back anymore. Feeling nervous and with this realisation set in my head, I open the front door.
A tall man with bad posture notices me as I enter. We're the only people in the lobby, so it's only logical.
"You must be Nakai." The tall man does not trip over the name as I partially expected. More than that, though, his tone is far more serious than his appearance would indicate and disarms me of any kind of intelligent response. I settle for a nod which I hope is not too feeble.
"Officially, I'm your homeroom and science teacher. My name is Mutou." Although there is no variation in his speech as he delivers this line, the content seems comical enough. I decide to try and roll with it.
"Do you have an unofficial name?" I respond, which seems to confuse him for a moment before he gathers himself. That is not the reaction I expected.
"Yes. It is also Mutou." The exceedingly dry delivery amuses me, momentarily suppressing my suspicions. "Follow me, Nakai." Unfortunately, they are rekindled immediately. An image of Mutou as a clandestine government agent appears in my mind, but I suppress the ensuing laughter. I'm almost beginning to entertain the possibility...
I follow him. We walk for some time, I realise as I begin to grow weary. Mutou eventually takes notice. It's interesting that his attention is this far away from my health, given that this is a school for disabled students. Or at least, that's what it's stated purpose is. I have no doubt that what I am being shown is not related to my education, though it might well prove to be a learning experience.
We pass through the entire school without paying much attention to the layout and ultimately end up at a circular gravel path in the midst of a small woodland. The trees here appear transplanted, but are otherwise unremarkable. Mutou gestures for me to walk the path. I oblige against the protests of my lungs and feet, though something about my method seems to displease him.
"Could you repeat that in the other direction?" I could use a rest right about now. For that reason, I also lack the energy to defy Mutou's instructions. Taking another tour around the trail, I am rather alarmed to find that my journey does not simply end. I walk uphill for what might as well be an eternity before Mutou calls out to me, his voice far closer than could be reasonably expected. My first thought is that this is a hallucination. I reverse direction again, and find myself going downhill at the expected place. Mutou watches on with an unreadable expression as I seem to forget my fatigue and focus on figuring out this puzzle.
I solve it in fairly short order, though the inference I make would be more surprising if I wasn't just about ready to keel over. This path violates the laws of physics as I know them. However, I succumb to sleep before any further thoughts can occur. Fortunately, I do not crack my head on the stone.
I wake up in my dorm room. My body seems to have appreciated the respite, though my mind is practically thrumming with activity. A path that one can travel forever, but only in a particular direction. It's behaviour is consistent and it feels more real than a figment of the imagination, possibly because this man who is masquerading as a teacher specifically led me to it.
However innocuous this path is, it behaves in an alien manner. I can only begin to suspect the existence of countless other things with far more sinister properties. Furthermore, the outward appearance of the institution as a school for the disabled can only mean that other people with possibly debilitating problems are in a position to encounter them. I steady myself with a breath. I'm already beginning to pity people I don't know for being crippled. I sincerely doubt that Yamaku would force responsibilities on people that can't cope with them, for practical if not moral reasons. I am beginning to suspect that my newfound cynicism will be a useful asset to deal with this change.
I consider the possibility that I've already seen too much. Certainly, going mad from the revelation seems like a possible route. I hear knocking on the door and promptly answer. It's Mutou, and I suspect when I am escorted to an underground chamber that I already know the course of this conversation.
"Is this the part where I join or die?"
"Nothing quite that serious. Yamaku does still teach students. You could visit here for the rest of your last year and learn everything you need to go to college." The wording catches my attention. He is careful to explain that the alternative would give me a normal life without telling me that I would actually be educated properly. I would not be surprised if Yamaku had the means to simulate a highschool experience, now that my mind is already open to the possibilities of the supernatural.
On the other hand, what's their insurance if I try and leak secrets to the public? Even what precious little I know now could undermine Yamaku.
"However, we would of course need to administer amnestics."
I am apparently easy to read, given the promptness of the response. I have acclimatised pretty quickly if my greatest concern with taking the amnestic is that it might cause an unforeseen complication with my heart. I have other reasons to avoid it as well. Mired as I am in the present, it is difficult to imagine a more drastic way to move forward than to become part of a government conspiracy.
Mutou seems to understand that I am considering the position, because he forges onward, giving a speech that seems rehearsed.
"You may call it Yamaku as most people do, but our operational name is the SCP Foundation. Our job is to Secure, to Contain and to Protect. As you may have deduced, creatures and objects with anomalous properties exist that could make humanity extinct. Many people come here believing that they have been sent away from the public eye to be with the other outcasts."
I can't say that wasn't one of my thought processes. He continues onward, heedless of my agreement.
"Originally, that might have been true, but the opportunity now exists here to contribute to society as no-one else can. To find these things. To recover and study them, and make them work to our benefit when we can." Some emotion bleeds into his voice, indicating that he believes in what he is saying. That he is a human and not some kind of automaton gives me some measure of relief. "If you were looking for a purpose in life, Nakai, you have found it. The question is whether you are prepared to accept the burden of knowledge."
I find the concept of willingly blinding myself to the truth to be disturbing. I could make friends that never existed and graduate with qualifications that I never earned. My life expectancy has never looked so low as now, when I wonder how the stress and fear of managing eldritch beings will get to me, but then I consider what it would be like if I lived as normal a life as I could and blundered into the latest otherworldly creature. My existence would be even more fleeting. At the very least, choosing to have some control is a comforting choice. An empowering choice.
"I am." It's as complicated as my answer needs to be.
AN: When all else fails, try to make something less expected than the Spanish inquisition. That's what I'm going for, at least. We'll see if this breaks open the creative well and allows me to continue Sprout to Saviour.
As with Pillars, The Yamaku Foundation will be updated based on whim and continuously listed as complete.
Incidentally, this story and all subsequent stories will lack disclaimers, since I am beginning to find them trite to create.