This was originally the opening scene of Immemorial. It was written around July 2018.
I thought the idea of an extremely weak antimeme was mildly entertaining and I had the idea for SCP-8473 ages ago, but mainly I wanted to explore Marion Wheeler's (lack of a) personal life. I really liked this scene and it was with a fair amount of regret that I cut it. But, as more than one of my editors rightly commented, the scene is disconnected from the main part of Immemorial, in terms of plot, theme and tone. There's some fairly serious stuff going on in the main chapter, and this scene just isn't part of it.
It's hard to say what happened to SCP-8473 during the events of CASE COLOURLESS GREEN and Your Last First Day, which occurred just over an hour later. Cutting this scene did allow me to stop worrying about that particular loose end.
"Cyclomnemophage" is the word Dr. Alan Stover invented to describe SCP-8473, and Marion Wheeler wishes he hadn't. She feels this every time she re-reads SCP-8473's entry. Run-on sentences, invented terminology without clear definitions, experiment logs made bafflingly obtuse by the omission of crucial details. Stover's still out there, circulating somewhere in the greater Foundation, one of the few people to exit the Antimemetics Division alive and secure other work. A fine researcher and a lovely person and a powerhouse of anthropological knowledge, the man simply could not write.
SCP-8473 is the ancient Johorean demigod of forgetting how to ride a bicycle. Interned since prehistory in a metre-tall, heavily worn graven idol, it is talkative, laid-back, dirtily funny and strangely compelling company. The idol stands immobile on a short plinth, lit from above by subdued yellow-orange spotlights which throw its heavily-analysed engravings into sharper relief. SCP-8473 speaks from it, apparently directly agitating the air near the idol's surface to do so.
"You need to take a month off in Barbados starting today," SCP-8473 tells Wheeler, "or you're going to explode like a guitar string."
Wheeler slouches unhappily in a chair on the far side of the room, staring at nothing, really. This is not part of any scheduled experiment, and the recorders are off. She's on her break.
When SCP-8473 speaks, its intended meaning is always perfectly clear to all present. But the rendered vocalisations only make up about half of what it says. There's a faint telepathic side channel. This means that written transcripts of its speech never come out quite right according to anybody who was there at the time. It's something to do with godhood, but research into the fine details has proven unrewarding. So when it says "guitar", and the word "guitar" is what appears in the vibrations of the air and on the audio recording and on the transcript, Wheeler knows in deep-veined, shared-memory sort of way that it doesn't mean a guitar; it means a sapeh, a Malaysian stringed instrument similar to a lute.
"I don't have time to go on vacation," she says.
SCP-8473 asks, "Do you drink?"
Anybody else, Wheeler would punch for asking this question. Punch or, if they worked for her, fire. But then, when was the last time she spoke to someone who didn't work for her? Someone outside of work? A shop? She must visit a supermarket from time to time, right? She must get food somehow.
She axes this line of thought. "I don't drink. Well— I don't remember the last time I drank."
"Would you remember, though?"
"...Maybe. I have a cellar. There's a refrigerator down there. And I know for a fact that there's champagne in the refrigerator. Waiting for a special occasion."
"What special occasion?"
At length, Wheeler discovers that she can't answer this question. Instead she says, "I don't drink. I can't. I smoke."
"Tobacco. Nicotine," Wheeler says. She rummages in her suit jacket's inner pocket, and waves a cigarette packet.
SCP-8473 has no face. It's a block of rock. Still, it is plainly clear that it is revulsed. "Ah, sayang, you can do better than that."
"I need to keep my head clear. I'm on call every minute of the year. We're so short-staffed, there's no one else. What if something breaks containment while I'm 'elsewhere'? What if a... zed zed double-asterisk kay class scenario breaks out?"
"I'll take care of it," SCP-8473 says.
Wheeler almost laughs, but turns into a long, hacking cough.
Based on radiometric dating of the rock and a humiliating amount of wild guesswork, SCP-8473 has existed for at least seventeen thousand years. What it did during the millennia between its birth and the invention of the first actual bicycle is a matter of strident debate. The Foundation's collective opinion is that SCP-8473 did nothing, and probably did not have its current form. In SCP-8473's own version of events, the bicycle was invented dozens of times in all parts of the globe since prehistory, only for SCP-8473 to engulf, consume and negate all human knowledge not only of the riding of bicycles but of the mechanism of the bicycle, before lapsing back into dormancy. A periodic process; a bicyclecycle. The Foundation's version goes on to note that there is literally zero archaeological or historical evidence to support SCP-8473's version of events. SCP-8473's version goes on much further still, but by this point the Foundation's version has become exasperated and gone to look for aspirin.
SCP-8473's only confirmed anomalous property is its capacity to — sometimes — eat the part of a person's memory where they remember how to ride a bike. The process is painless and instantaneous. They have to go and learn again, which for adults is generally relatively easy. Other than that (and the fact that it's a semi-telepathic talking rock, which by Foundation weirdness standards doesn't even move the needle), SCP-8473 can't do anything. It is not a powerful entity. It is, in fact, the least powerful god on the Foundation's books.
Wheeler, then, considers its capability to personally deal with any kind of existential threat to humanity comical.
Wheeler is sure as Hell a theist, a polytheist at that; she believes in all the gods and all the devils and all the destinations, and she has even seen a few of them, but she would not say she has religion. To observe a religion would feel too much like taking sides in an unbearably complex, high-stakes conflict. Another one, that is. One too many. But sometimes, because she exists in a culture which is like this, she finds herself using turns of phrase like "Oh my God", and when she catches herself doing that, she retcons her own meaning to be: this god. Her God is SCP-8473.
Is that enough for a faith? A squirrelly, pointless little faith in an immobile, ineffectual God she visits on breaks? Who basically only listens, except for when it gives bad advice?
It says again, "I'll take care of it. You need to relax. The inside of your skull is a prison cell, and you need to get out of it." It gives her a commandment: "Go home tonight and drink that champagne. The whole bottle. Become incapable and unbalanced. Do this in my honor."
"What's the occasion? I give in, I can't think of one."
"The occasion is that the world hasn't fucking ended," SCP-8473 replies.
That... is actually almost good enough. "I'll think about it," Wheeler says. She gets up to leave. "I need an actual cigarette now."
"Stay! Smoke in here."
"I can't," Wheeler says. "There are tedious geochemical contamination reasons. And American workplace law. Take it easy."
It shouts after her, "And get laid!"
"Ms. Wheeler! Ms. Wheeler!"
Wheeler closes the door just too late. Someone is running up to meet her outside the containment unit. Wheeler recognises her as Dr. Eli Moreno, a trainee field researcher who joined the Antimemetics Division only six months ago.
It looks like Moreno had a question, but she has just become confused and distracted by a different question. "I— Did SCP-8473 just tell you to get laid?"
"Yes," Wheeler replies, levelly. "Can I help you with something?"