Meme—in the cultural domain, memes are imitations. They are thoughts or ideas that are spread from people to people, and as they do so, they may transform into different variations. In this way, they could be considered the building blocks of culture and civilization and are similar to a kind of genetic organism. This is why scholars called them “meme.”
They could be anything relate to religion, rumors, news, knowledge, ideas, habits, customs, and even slogans, proverbs, phrases, words, and jokes. All of these could become memes.
It was like, before an exam you saw someone reposting a picture of a koi fish. Out of superstition, you believed that after reposting, you would score 50 points higher than you might have had otherwise, and so you clicked on the repost button. Other people who saw your post might also choose to believe it and forwarded it, thus further spreading the memetic infection of “images of koi fish bring good luck.”
The SCP Foundation considered memes as “cognitohazards.”
Memes carried dangerous information that could be obtained through the five senses, and thus, they could directly harm the body and the consciousness of living things. They were constantly being copied, inherited, and mutated, spreading rapidly. They were difficult to eliminate and could not be reclaimed.
Just like a virus.
A fairly well-known memetic infectious item was the Fifth Meme, item number SCP-CN-00122. This abnormal meme was difficult to describe by normal means. If one had to describe it, one would have to write it down as a sentence with five characters. This allowed the host to infect others, with the content being the source of infection. Humans who see the characters would become infected, and the message describing their infection would become the carrier of the infection. The ability to describe other things, to speak, and to use sign language would also be affected. The same held true for letters and numbers, which could be regarded as words. Only symbols were not. Experiments had also confirmed that other languages were also equally affected.
Even when buried in normal text, the infected content would still be infectious. This included, but was not limited to, electronic words, printed words, and handwritten words.
The item was discovered on 9/15/10, when a weird phrase began circulating on the internet. It was brought to the attention of an agent, who reported it to his superior. When he was reporting it, they discovered that he began speaking in an abnormal language. The agent was later amnesticized by C Memory Clearing and returned to normal. A mobile task force, known as the “Fifth Collector,” was later dispatched to clear the information, search for the infected, and trace the source. But they could not find any useful information.
Memes and cognition, injurious and nostalgic, Dong Zheng first understood these from the SCP multiverse. But he didn’t expect that he would encounter such a thing in the Pure White Realm.
Dong Zheng took a deep breath, focused on his consciousness, and forcibly cleared the contents of his mind.
At the beginning, Dong Zheng only believed that people would subconsciously imitate these memetic contents out of curiosity or due to other psychological factors, resulting in the so-called contagion phenomenon.
But he really didn’t expect that there would be an actual meme.
If Murphy existed as a cognitohazardous meme, what was her method of transmission?
From the moment he’d met He Xiufang, he hadn’t written any words or painted any images. Could it be that Murphy’s infection wasn’t reliant on an actual carrier?
Was it in his voice, in his movements, in his gaze, or something else he didn’t even realize?
After all, he, who carried Murphy, must have become one of the infected.
So, had the two prisoners he’d met in the hallway earlier also become infected?
Dong Zheng didn’t know.
He carefully controlled these thoughts, gathered them in the central area, and took the initiative to destroy them before they spread out, so that Murphy wouldn’t be able to detect them. Now Dong Zheng only felt that him listening to Murphy’s call to go to her and then promising to help her escape was like opening Pandora’s box. It may become a disaster the outcome of which no one could predict.
But the clown should know about Murphy’s existence.
Since this prison was inside the box he owned, he must certainly know the dangers contained within it. Since the clown hadn’t appeared to fix things, this must have meant that matters may not be as serious as he thought?
Dong Zheng could only comfort himself this way.
The vitality of youth was dulled by the chill of early spring. The wind poured in through his collar, wiping away his sweat. The early morning air was bitingly cold, making the nose of people who breathed it in feel pained.
Cui Zuojing pushed himself hard, striding with legs heavy like lead. He panted, and when he spoke, his voice was unclear, “I really…I really can’t walk anymore.”
“Hold on for a bit more. It’ll be over soon.” Luo Yan, who wasn’t far ahead of him, stopped and turned around to wait for him. Seeing that the weight on Cui Zuojing’s back was about to slide down, she pressed down on the heavy object on his arms and helped drag it back up to his back.
The lightly outfitted Cheriyu Nana walked ahead of them, followed by Victor, who carried things that were twice as heavy as Cui Zuojing’s but they seemed to weigh like nothing to him.
Only Cui Zuojing was struggling. For his 16-year-old body, the high-intensity training was still a bit overwhelming. He secretly told Luo Yan, “Let’s rest for a moment, let’s rest for a moment. Fu Zhe won’t find out.”
Luo Yan was also very tired. She estimated the second half of the journey, and decided to stay together with Cui Zuojing. They sat down on a bench in the corner, and Cui Zuojing took off the backpack that was weighted down with lead bricks. He stretched his sore shoulders, mumbling vague complaints to himself.
They had just recruited Nana, forming their current team of five. Because of this, they needed to break each other in, and so Fu Zhe ruthlessly arranged a series of custom-made training activities for them, with the hope of letting everyone support and understand each other in common hardship.
At this time, Luo Yan’s hair was still quite short. Hairs that were too long may inconvenience her movements, which may affect her performance in the box. Between the love of beauty and the need for survival, everyone would naturally choose the latter.
Cui Zuojing saw several deep and shallow scars on her left wrist, layered on top of each other and directly stretching the entirety of her inner wrist—this was an indication of repeated wrist cutting.
Perceiving Cui Zuojing’s gaze, Luo Yan smiled, lowered her hand, and covered the scars with her sleeve.
“Does it hurt?” Cui Zuojing asked.
Luo Yan shook her head. “I almost forget what it felt like.”
After graduating from high school, Luo Yan was directly sent away to study abroad.
Living alone in a foreign country, no one knew when this girl, who was born in a wealthy home and had always been worry-free, was bitten by the black dog named depression. Even she herself didn’t know.
When Luo Yan realized that she might be sick, she was on the verge of collapse.
The first time she tried to commit suicide by cutting her wrist, she was rescued by a classmate who’d came to visit her.
After that, she was sent to see a psychiatrist, but as the day passed, her condition did not get better and instead got worse.
Her parents hurriedly brought her back home, but Luo Yan cut her wrist for the last time in a bathtub on the third day after returning home.
This time, she cut very deeply. Luo Yan knew that the rate of successfully dying from wrist cutting was actually very low since it was very difficult for non-professional people to be able to cut their arteries. The so-called massive bleeding was from the veins and capillaries. The cut would soon clot and the bleeding would gradually stop.
Even as she shook with it, the pain caused by instigating the sensitive nerve made her feel as if she was really, truly alive.
But there was an accident that day.
Her parents were supposed to come home, but they failed to come back in time to find her. The blood on her wrist would not stop flowing and only gushed out more and more.
When Luo Yan realized that something was wrong, she’d already lost the strength to stand up. She breathed a sigh of relief in her heart, changed to a more comfortable position, laid down in the bathtub, and quietly welcomed death.
But God gave her a chance to live again.
“I didn’t have much fun at that time. It’s better to be here with everyone.” Seeing that Cui Zuojing was hesitating over his words, she smiled and added, “Don’t worry. I won’t be like that anymore. Everyone wanted to keep on living. Why wouldn’t I also want to cherish this second life that I’ve been given?”
“It’s best to think like this.” Cui Zuojing fiddled with the little green grass that was desperately striving to grow from between the cracks on the bricks under his feet and said, “We’re all going to leave this place together.”
“No matter what kind of situation I encounter in the future, no matter how hard things become, I will never give up the hope of living.”
Luo Yan looked at Victor and Cheriyu Nana’s back far in the distance. She thought of Nana’s stubborn, lone-wolf temperament and whispered, “I can feel that, of all of us, Nana is probably the person with the strongest will to live. I don’t know what had happened to her in the past.”
As if aware of something, Nana turned her head and looked at them from the distance. Victor stopped, and with white puffs coming out from his mouth and his eyes holding the kindness of an elder, he shouted, “Okay, little friends. Persist, don’t be lazy.”
Cui Zuojing shouted back in agreement and put his heavy backpack back on. Together with Luo Yan, he walked toward the two of them.
—Where are you now?
Cui Zuojing opened his eyes. The machine below was still rumbling, sending many parts to places unknown. His ultimate goal was an unremarkable young man in gray sportswear, passing by behind the transport belt. After looking around to make sure that no one else was nearby, he hid in the group of containers in the corner.
It was already the third day after entering the arena, the last day of the elimination. On this day, all pilgrims with insufficient secret letters would begin desperately taking from others. Meanwhile, those with a lot of resources would find places to hide so that they wouldn’t be targeted.
Cui Zuojng hadn’t taken it seriously the first two days. Until now, he only had five identification cards and seven secret letters. Since there were less than a hundred people who’d entered the factory arena, to ensure that he became one of top three to get an admission ticket, he would need at least 20 secret letters.
Based on the principle that the less complications the better, Cui Zuojing directly found the fattest sheep and planned to callously steal him bald.
After his opponent’s figure disappeared between the containers, Cui Zuojing lowered his body and walked a few steps on the steel frame with his waist bent. He jumped to the nearest window sill, landed on the ground, and quietly closed in on the young man’s hiding place.
A day and a half ago, Cui Zuojing had seen this person being chased by a man and a woman. He’d killed the woman using his ability to reduce his sense of existence. On that first night, the maintenance workers poured in and chased them to other areas.
To make it more convenient to address him, Cui Zuojing directly called him “Kuroko Tetsuya,” or Kuroko for short. Anyway, his ability was similar to the protagonist in that basketball manga (1), so calling him that was particularly accurate.
Later, Cui Zuojing paid close attention to him and noticed that the young man—Kuroko had managed to take a considerable number of secret letters relying on his ability.
As the person involved, Kuroko never noticed that there was a pair of eyes atop the steel frame of the factory building, watching him in secret.
It was time to harvest.
Cui Zuojing climbed onto the container and pulled out a steel sheet from his pocket. Amid the rumbling of machinery, he jumped down without warning toward Kuroko, who was about to rest, and threw him a smile.
(1) Kuroko Tetsuya — the main character from the Japanese manga Kuroko’s Basketball, who could reduce his presence on the court.