Cycle 7

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Sleep Journal
Operative: Saffron K.

The collected works of Saffron — Sleep Journal, Cycle 7

Introduction to the Exodus, the Obsidian Infirmary, and Augmentation.

I awoke in my cot with the familiar smell of ferns and pollen and recycled air cutting through the fog of my drowsiness. The restricted outpost Athenaeum is a sweet and musical place; every rest I am sung to sleep by the hum of hydroponics and humidifiers, and every waking morning I am graced with the gentle droning of fans and the clicking of timed circuit boards controlling scheduled grow-lights. I spent the last cycle scouting the broad leaves of our Sepiavines for blots and infection, trimming sick leaves and quarantining mildews away from the rest. The plants are flourishing, I saw new budding, and I look forward to picking ripe berries in the coming days. Save a few current events, most days I could almost be bold enough to say that life is… enjoyable. However despite the pleasant ambiance of Athenaeum, today I woke up in a foul mood.

For me, times were not always so pleasant.

I dreamt last night, again of the Exodus. It’s been many years since we were rooted out from Alpha Point yet the memories never truly fade. I dreamt of Jacob. Marley. Candice. But I cannot remember their faces — just hazy heirlooms of identification that stray loosely in my mind. Jacob's long hair, tied into a sleek black ponytail. Marley's collection of rings adorning each hand, his only remaining connection to home. Candice and their little dances… I never knew if they were out of sheer confidence in her own skin or a deeper anxiety of being around others that made her move like that. Otherwise, their faces? It’s a sobering melancholy to realize even in my dreams their faces are distorted, hazy smudges: just nightmare Jackson Pollock's smeared together with features stolen from the countless others I’ve seen die before my eyes.

My regret is numbed, but the melancholy is insidious. It sneaks up again when your guard is down and paints the day in shades of slate-grey hatred. I hate waking up like this, so it’s to the journal I go.

Before the Backrooms I would journal quite a lot, actually. Baseline living offered ample resources for the act of it — a personal indulgence that cost little more than time out of your day. Not so much the case in Limspace. Time, resources, and energy overtook such small pleasures once thrust into these repressive environments. Before the Leviathan's assault, the act of taking a moment to journal was the farthest thing from anyone’s minds, even with the infinite storage of the Precursor Terminals to tap away your thoughts into. But look at us now: working together to send hundreds of notepads and carts of stationary across the supply chains for everyone to start up the practice and keep it personal. The practice will be a welcome one with plenty of benefits, I’m certain of that.

It’s good to write down these hazy memories from the Exodus. So much history was lost, and it’s about time I put in the work committing my account to the page. I have exhaustive hours of work ahead of me, but the duty of preservation of knowledge is well worth a cramped wrist or two.

Jacob… Marley… Candice. So many others — a vile number of innocent lost souls. But that was the point. The culling of Alpha Point, kept secret for so long through the silence of the dead. Most of you have never heard of it. Indeed, most of you weren’t alive before it happened. My dark dreams are reason enough to write down these stories, but the importance of keeping these memories alive is what is prompting me to turn these casual sleep journals into more professional accounts. From the journal to the terminal: committed to permanent record.

My name is Saffron; UNCB citizen and survivor of the Exodus.

As we were shoved from Alpha Point with the butt ends of rifles and the edges of machetes, we knew it was a death sentence. "Die here, now, on your knees at the hands of the supreme commander Rathin and his chosen tribe — or die in the wastes of the Backrooms by whichever means you see fit." Once their threats were demonstrated, staining the carpet of The Halls slick with innocent blood, we chose the wastes. A frantic, fearful escape. An Exodus: banished from the one place we called home. Beyond the fringes of Alpha Point lay fear, danger, death, and the unknown. Yet into it we walked with nothing but the clothes on our backs and the bonds of our exile.

I recalled turbulent flashes of locations in my dreams, the breezy claustrophobic hallways of The Sub-Basement twisting up with the rancid smell and shaking metal walkways of the Bloodpool Catwalks. Hazy dreamscapes of endless shopping malls contorted with memories of The Flooded City's terrifying flooded concrete dwellings. Each shift in level in my memories would trim away more and more people who were casualties of the journey.

The Baker sisters took a few dozen people to settle in The Office, finding comfort in the quiet of the storm and gambling on a hope that they could find enough food to stay alive. Years later I would hear that their community was also torn asunder from infighting and politics; dwindled into yet more nomads — worse for wear and fewer of number. Morimoto and Elberg would eventually take a small group of people through a doorway that slammed shut ferociously and without warning, locking them on the other side. Never to be seen again. Others simply lacked the fortitude to keep up. Many others would be lost to the entities. I dreamed of Jacob, his body contorted into a twisted and unnatural rigor mortis. Marley… whispering through tears that everything was going to be okay before he, too, was dragged screaming into the darkness of The Darkness. Poor Candice, murdered at the hands of one of our own over a scrap of food. I still miss her hands upon my chest as we slept between marching. She would shudder and clench up in fear if left to sleep on a cot alone, so it was only kind to share her bedroll. Comforting for us both, really.

Dreams have a way of bringing you back there, in mind and body. I awoke this morning with cramps in my neck and raw indents in my palms where I had been squeezing my hands into fists while I slept. Perhaps I, too, was just like Candice in the past. Unable to sleep and raw with nerves, shaking alone in my cot. It's been so many years that I cannot remember. Most nights are not like this anymore.

Above all though, the greatest nightmares are of the Obsidian Infirmary — a hell difficult to put into words. When I was separated from the few surviving remnants of the Exodus survivors, I was taken against my will… dragged away kicking and screaming just like Marley had been. Yet unlike Marley — I was not taken by any creature or beast of the darkness. I was kidnapped by other humans, and to this day I still ponder whether or not death would have been preferable. When you are considered a lesser being in the eyes of another human, the cruelty they can muster is unimaginable.

Taken, starved, and treated as an object for pain, my captors were preparing me for the next years of my life. Dragged to the Obsidian Infirmary: a level secret and abhorrent where I would be strapped to a bed and subject to unfathomable cruelty over a timeframe that I cannot articulate for certain.

I dream of this place quite often. Though I wish I would not.

Had it not been for the famine, the poorly-planned overpopulation of Alpha Point, the violent militant uprising of Rathin and his small army of nepotism: I never would have experienced the Infirmary. I cursed it all, for years. The needless loss of life. The cruelty of the Exodus, the uncaring nature of the Backrooms. The sad reality is that no matter anyone's best intents — whatever humanity you may think you have; life comes down to one truth. The strong will protect their own, and the weak will die. A person will do whatever they can to stay alive, and a scarcity of food will turn any man into a beast.

Looking back now years later, I know that I cannot blame any single man for what happened. It was simply fate. And when this familiar slow rush of fuzzy, bleak hatred for all things roils into my stomach, I need to remember that for all my misfortune — despite all my torture since the Exodus, I am still alive. That life is the greatest blessing of all, even one rife with tribulation.

I dreamed of Jacob's words to me. "You're not done yet. You're never quite done yet." Reaching out to me after I had collapsed in desperation and exhaustion, Jacob had grabbed my elbow. And I, looking up, grasped his. "C'mon then. You're not done yet, are ya." I kept walking for the rest of that day, remembering his strength.

It was his mantra in times of trouble, and it quickly became mine as well. I recall it from time to time, and wonder how many thousands of times I whispered that to myself while I was strapped to that terrible bed. When the practitioners of the Infirmary cut into me, I wasn't done yet. When they added things and removed other things, I still wasn't done. When they degraded me out of boredom or whatever twisted, fiendish pleasure they got out of it — I still wasn't finished. Never ready to give up.


I live now with the remnants of a lifetime of torture and surgery. Along the length of my neck, inserted with surgical precision into the vertebrae of my spine, rest eight lances adorned with CSF1 Polyps. They are strange alien corals that facilitate extended periods of wakefulness with few residual effects on my psyche or body. Before my rest, I had been awake for a period of over one hundred and forty hours without sleeping.

My ears, which I believe had been harvested from some sort of beast native to Limspace, were grafted onto me without anesthesia. They can pick up sound in a unique way that used to surprise me, but now that I am used to them it is hard to describe just how different they are from a humans.

They had something grow on the pupils of my eyes which festered for many days, and I recall screeching and tugging at the straps so hard that I bled in my discomfort. After the procedure, I found sources of light dizzying and overstimulating, and now prefer to live in dimmer environments that my eyes are more accustomed to perceiving.

As the CSF Polyps mature and I am nearing my time of rest, I am required to peel the developed sacks from their mounted lances so that a new polyp can take its place. It regrows, feeding off of my spinal fluid, filtering the grey matter of my brain and sustaining itself on my cognitive functions. This symbiotic relationship grants me the effects of a waking sleep — staving off fatigue and keeping me awake for days at a time. It’s awful; having to kill these polyps as they mature and ripping them from their mantles every week or so.

The uncanny nature of what I now am is not lost on me. No longer human, if you think about it. Not in the most basic sense of the word. I have to ask myself at times: how much has to be stripped away or tacked on to a person before their 'humanity' is lost? As if humanity was a resource that could be expended; or a foundation that could be chipped away. Whether or not polyps parasitically needled into my brainstem remove me from humanity is not something I can have an opinion on anymore.

I simply am, simple as that.

I’ve made my peace with it all. Trying to remove any part that 'isn't human' would be horrific. And truly; how apt is it that survivors of the Exodus would return changed and different? I was ravaged by the journey, but those who are strong enough to survive the Backrooms become one with the Backrooms. These changes prove it to be true. The longer we wander the stranger we get. Perhaps I am an entity, no matter. I will strive to have my actions define what I am. I will continue to pursue the humanity I was born with, even if this place — these hellish Backrooms — seems determined to strip us of that humanity at every turn.

But these abstract thoughts, dark dreams, and discussions on humanity; my thoughts on them matter little in the end. All of this personal account pales in comparison to two facts: that life in Limspace is fragile, and another Exodus could happen to any colony that isn't careful — and that the soulless torturers of the Obsidian Infirmary have not been put an end to. We know neither their identities nor where they live in the system, and that is a thought that still terrifies me. I shudder to think of how many have been dragged off to the Infirmary and left to die at the hands of their instruments and experiments. I write these terrible facts in the hopes to bring attention to them.

Old horrors plague my thoughts, and I shall detail them all exhaustively in time. The famine of Alpha Point and the Exodus of the people there is history that should not be forgotten. The bodysnatchers of the Obsidian Infirmary: they continue to operate without recourse or investigation. The names and legacies of the few hundred who were driven out of the fold of society so long ago — they deserve to be remembered. I hope that these tales may even prevent tragedies in the future and save others from similar fates.

I shall tell you it all, article by article. Consider this simply an introduction. For now, I must tend to other work: my plants require care, and the Leviathan has left us with plenty to do.

Stay strong, and remember: "You're not done yet. You're never quite done yet."

May our yearning paleolithic gaze, robbed of a horizon, still ever catch the glimmer of a far-off guiding light.

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