djkaktus (De)Construction

djkaktus (De)Construction #2: The Life and Times of SCP-049

Hey everyone, and welcome back to djkaktus (De)Construction. In each installment of this series, we'll take an extant SCP article, sometimes good and sometimes bad, and break it down into its constituent parts to talk about what's good or bad, and what works and what doesn't work. In the previous post we talked at length about SCP-049 and why it's probably not... good.

But as promised previously, after a thorough dismantling of the Plague Doctor we're going to take a step back and look at what you might do to make SCP-049 good. We'll take a look at the things we criticized SCP-049 for and how to find suitable replacements for them, as well as address some of the larger, overarching concerns in the article. Some things we'll keep, most we'll throw out. Hopefully by the time it's all done, we'll have something that, while resembling the original, is fresh and new and (God willing) good.

Just as a forewarning, while I've had the good fortune of success on the wiki I'm by no means an expert. These ideas are simply my own, and aren't by any means an exact science. Your mileage may vary, and all that.

Let's get into it.


Part One: Starting From The Top

Before we get too deep into SCP-049, we should address the larger concerns about what the entity is. At it stands, SCP-049 is a humanoid entity of some kind that resembles a medieval plague doctor in appearance and, by way of touching people to kill them and then fiddling with their insides, creates pseudozombies that go out into the world and kill kill kill. He goes on at length about how he thinks he is the cure, he chats with SCP-035, and is a generally straightforward spooky boi. 

So let's talk about what he could be, then. In my mind, behind every good humanoid stands a good backstory. It doesn't need to be long or complicated, but it does need to be compelling. The idea that the Foundation just found this guy wandering around in England doesn't strike me as compelling, so we'll spruce that bit up first. I'll expand on this more in the description section, but definitely expect that to change.

Similarly, what this fellow's anomalous abilities are should be altered too. "Touching people and killing them" seems too straightforward for something that's supposed to be frightening, and his whole "surgery" shtick is a little too vague and open ended for my liking. The old adage of "don't show the monster" rings true here, but the previous article could've definitely used a little more showing, and a little less telling. We don't need to expand at length about what he's doing here, but giving people enough of an idea to make it scary will go a long way.

To that end, I think we'll scrap the bit about him killing things by touching them. Nothing about that is probably suitable for a modern SCP, it's just not interesting and readers will scream "OP!" as soon as somebody with that power comes out swinging. Additionally, he won't be making zombies anymore. Zombies are played out and there are way more interesting ways to go there, anyway. Instead, I want to lean heavily into the Bubonic Plague, the horrifying disease that ravaged the population in dark-age Europe. Our doctor very well could have been an actual plague doctor from the old times, who experienced the horror of those years first hand. Tying him into the actual disease, and turning that into a threat, is where we'll find our wheelhouse in this one.

Lastly, this is not a cheery plague doctor. Instead of the cartoon caricature of a villain we have currently, we'll try and swap out some of his more jovial characteristics with some that are a little darker. He was a doctor, he did what he could to try and save people, but people died in the millions anyway. The effect that had on him has to be evident.

With this all in mind, let's take a look at our article.

Item #: SCP-049
Object Class: Keter

Object class upgrade, but nothing else new here. I think the need for that change will become apparent shortly.

Special Containment Procedures: SCP-049 is to be contained within a hermetically sealed glass containment cell at Site-77. The seals on this chamber are to be checked and maintained every eight hours, and defects in the chamber's seal are to be considered an emergency-level event and must be repaired immediately by assigned containment engineers. Under no circumstances are any individuals to enter SCP-049's containment cell, or interact with the exterior of SCP-049's containment cell without proper hazardous exposure equipment. 

Right of the gate we're going to start with a gut-punch. SCP-049 is in a sealed box, and under no circumstances should anyone go into it. The seal is paramount, and breaches in the seal are a containment-breach level issue. Already the reader is wondering "wtf, why? What's in this box that's so important that we keep it in the box?"

Interaction with SCP-049 is forbidden to anyone except qualified research personnel. Any individual who shows signs of illness after interacting with SCP-049, or after maintaining SCP-049's containment cell is to be immediately moved to on-site medical quarantine for evaluation. 
Individuals who show symptoms of the pathogen 049-Yersinia-Inactive are to be kept in quarantine for further analysis. Individuals who show symptoms of the pathogen 049-Yersinia-Active are to be moved to a hospice quarantine and held there until they are deceased. The bodies of individuals affected by 049-Yersinia-Inactive or Active are to be incinerated and the ashes placed in sealed containers for further analysis.
In the event of a breach of containment, Site-77 is to be immediately evacuated and all personnel screened for the existence of 049-Yersinia before transfer off-site. Individuals found to be infected with 049-Yersinia are to be moved to quarantine. In the event that no proper screening procedure can be initiated, all personnel are to be contained within Site-77 to begin experimental drug trials (see Addendum 049-3: 049-Black Water Protocol for details). Any individual attempting to leave Site-77 during an SCP-049 containment breach lockdown is to be terminated on sight.
My proposed image change for SCP-049. Not perfect, obviously, but a few changes really make this, I think. 

My proposed image change for SCP-049. Not perfect, obviously, but a few changes really make this, I think. 

So now we're getting into the meat of this bad boy. Something about SCP-049 makes people susceptible to a pathogen, either 049-Yersinia-Inactive or Active, which requires immediate quarantine and leads to, at least in some cases, death. This is probably all we need to say about the containment procedures at this point, since the reader has no doubt got the gist of it by now: 049 is in a sealed box, and should never ever be let out. Also, if there's a containment breach, yer fucked.

Part Two: The Description

Cool, now that we've got our containment procedures on lock, let's take a look at ole beak-face here.

Description: SCP-049 is a humanoid entity, roughly 1.9 meters in height, which bears the appearance of a medieval plague doctor. While SCP-049 wears thick robes and the ceramic mask indicative of that profession, the garments appear to have fused onto SCP-049's body over time, and are now nearly indistinguishable from whatever form is beneath the robes. X-rays indicate that, while SCP-049 does have a vaguely human skeleton beneath its outer layer, there are several major differences and the entire skeletal structure appears to have been severely damaged at some point in the past.

The wording on this isn't perfect, but I think it handles the issue a little better. The robes and mask weren't originally part of his body, but they've become part over time. Plus, a little bit of a lead in to its discovery there at the end.

Contact with SCP-049, as well as coming within a certain distance in open air and being exposed to surfaces SCP-049 has recently touched or come into contact with will invariably result in the afflicted person suffering from an extremely virulent infection of the Yersinia pestis bacterium (footnote: Bubonic Plague). The exact means of exposure are currently poorly understood, however, it is believed that the bacterium have evolved over time to not simply spread quickly with significantly more aggressive symptoms, but also actively seek out non-infected hosts.
Individuals exposed to SCP-049's anomalous strain of bacteria (049-Yersinia) will always become infected (footnote: Researchers currently believe that as little as 5 parts per billion in open air is enough to infect an entire room of subjects). Infected individuals can then be identified as having one of two types of the pathogen; 049-Yersinia-Active or Inactive.
Individuals affected with 049-Yersinia-Inactive will briefly experience flu-like symptoms, but will eventually recover and feel no additional ill effects. These individuals, however, can still spread the anomalous disease, and will continue to do so even after recovery. There is currently no known cure for 049-Yersinia.
Individuals infected with 049-Yersinia-Active will experience similar flu-like symptoms that, instead of subsiding after a few days, will become dramatically worse over the course of several months. Individuals infected with 049-Yersinia-Active will experience severe nausea, fever, sweating, palpitations, lesions, hardening and flaking of the skin, bleeding in excess from the eyes, nose, and ears, broken bones due to severe muscle contractions, extreme neurological pain, swelling of the legs and feet, swelling of the internal organs, blindness, paralysis, and eventually, death.
Throughout the duration of the sickness (which typically lasts between 2-5 months untreated, and longer if administered symptom alleviating care) individuals will continue to spread the 049-Yersinia bacteria, only ceasing production of the bacteria after their death. Due to a buildup of the bacteria within the bodies of the afflicted, the corpses of 049-Yersinia victims are extremely toxic and must be incinerated immediately after death. It is unknown if the ashes of deceased individuals are also contagious.

Alright, so there's a lot here but I think it paints a much more dramatic picture than "kills you, makes you a zombie and then you die". SCP-049 spreads an extremely aggressive disease that tortures its subjects for months before killing them, or in a best case scenario, creates walking, talking bacteria mills to spread the disease elsewhere.

Alleviating symptoms was rare in historical medicine. While occasionally a doctor might get lucky and find some tonic or plant mixture that would help the afflicted, it was more likely that the disease would run its course regardless and the doctor would be little to no help. Modern advancements have made many illnesses minor events, but don't take that for granted. In the old times, if you got sick, chances are you were going to get sick, and you might not ever get better.

Anyway, let's push on with this description.

SCP-049 is sentient and will respond to questioning. It speaks rudimentary French and understands small amounts of English, but is typically heard speaking to itself in an Eastern European dialect of unknown origin. SCP-049 has not been forthcoming about its origins, or the nature of 049-Yersinia.

So we've touched on the major things here, but only touched on them. Your description is a way to get all the facts out there, but you still want to leave some room for dessert. And in a djkaktus article, dessert means:

Part Three: Addendums!

Addendum 049.1: Discovery
SCP-049 was discovered during an archaeological investigation of a medieval site near Orleans, France. The archaeological team reported digging beneath the ruins of a collapsed church, and finding a man there. After bringing SCP-049 out from under the church, one of the archaeologists attempted to remove SCP-049's mask, resulting in the entity becoming hostile and attacking the team with sharpened steel spikes worn on its fingers.
After intervention by local police was unable to apprehend SCP-049, and gunfire was unable to subdue the entity, Foundation assets embedded within the French military intervened and attempted to contain the entity. Shortly after doing so, and after examination of the archaeological team and the law enforcement officials who had responded to their call, every individual who had come in contact with or had been exposed to someone who had come in contact with SCP-049 began showing signs of 049-Yersinia infection. After analysis by Foundation hazmat teams, all individuals (and SCP-049) were moved to quarantine.
Two nearby farmers who had come across the scene were not found until three days later, by which time they and their families had all been infected by 049-Yersinia. After a full exposure analysis, hazard teams concluded that no other infected individuals remained outside of Foundation containment.

I don't like the idea of SCP-049 just showing up one day to spread his sickness. I think it works much better to say that he had been trapped somewhere, maybe going mad over the course of hundreds of years, and that he was accidentally released. I think this goes a long way to show, now that the reader is aware of how virulent 049-Yersinia is, how close the Foundation came to losing an entire large city (Orleans) to 049-Yersinia exposure, which very well could have been catastrophic. Like, "The Crazies" catastrophic.

Now, let's meet this SCP-049.

Addendum 049.2: Initial Processing Interview
Note: The following interview was conducted by Foundation personnel shortly after SCP-049 was moved to a sealed containment cell. Due to translation issues, Dr. Bryant's questions are presented in their original English, and SCP-049's response are presented in as close an English translation as is possible.
[BEGIN LOG]
Dr. Bryant: Are you sentient?
SCP-049: What?
Dr. Bryant: Can you speak?
SCP-049: Speak? Yes. What is this place?
Dr. Bryant: You're being held here for examination. What did you do to those men?
SCP-049: Those men?
Dr. Bryant: The men who found you. The ones who are sick.
SCP-049: No. Not sick. Being cured.
Dr. Bryant: What?
SCP-049: I have seen... horrible things. A darkness that swept over my home and... turned my people to ash. A great pestilence, suffering without end. I did what I could, but so many perished... and so many turned their eyes and did nothing. 
Dr. Bryant: What do you mean? Did nothing?
SCP-049: The sick cried out for help, and they were stepped over. Abandoned. Fear overcame empathy. They rotted and died. Their flesh cries out from the ground. For comfort, for compassion. For justice. I tried, and I was punished for it. Broken for it. Beaten.
Dr. Bryant: How can we cure those men? What are they sick with?
SCP-049: They are sick with apathy. As are you all. I have festered in the darkness for a thousand years. The dead cry out for a reckoning, and they will have it. I will have it. 
Dr. Bryant: What are you saying? 
SCP-049: The pestilence was never the sickness. The sickness is human nature, and there are none who stand untouched by its grasp. You are sick, sir. You are all sick, and I am the cure.

Some notes here:

  • Creating a language barrier is hard, because you still want to be able to communicate intent with your audience. Providing a translation of speech is a good way to do it, because then your translator is filling some of the gaps left by the barrier. It's probably not perfect, but it's certainly an attempt.
  • SCP-049, I think, needs motivation. Where before he was more than happy to walk around and say cryptic things about how "humanity is sick", this interview provides him with something more concrete. Apathy, in 049's eyes, is what makes people sick. An unwillingness to sacrifice comfort for the betterment of your fellow man. Having seen the worst of this first hand, 049 is lead to a dark place. And in a dark place, he becomes the Plague Doctor.
  • It would be a bad rewrite if I didn't find a way to fit "I am the cure" in there.

Some people might point out that this interview is needlessly dark, and while I don't think that's absolutely unfair there are a few things I think need to be said about that. As I mentioned earlier, this is a different plague doctor than the current 049. This plague doctor has witnessed the scourge of the bubonic plague ravage Europe, and has seen the worst of human nature during that kind of disaster. His reasoning might not be perfect, but you can sympathize with him and understand why he'd think the way he thinks. 

Lastly, some people might say "ugh he's just mad people are apathetic? Whatever. That's not very cool." To those people I say, fuck off. A legitimate gripe about the state of human affairs is better than "oooOOOoooOOOoooh you've all got the ~pEsTiLeNcE~ ooOOooOOoh". Fuck with that.

Anyway, there you have it. My proposed edit to SCP-049, now with 100% more plague. Is it perfect? No. Is it good? Hard to say. This isn't the way I would write an article, but it might be the way I would rewrite it. Without making severe thematic edits, this is probably as true as I can get while still providing something fresh and new. I don't know if SCP-049 can ever be good, but right now I'm just shooting for passable and, frankly, not embarrassing. 

If you want to see what this would look like in the SCP format, click here!


If you like this series, great! I'd love to hear your thoughts about it. Feel free to write in to contact@djkakt.us, and let me know what you think. If you'd like to propose articles to be reviewed in this series, great. If you want to tell me how much of a jackass I am for not liking the things you like, awesome. If you want to give me money, smash that donate button. Do whatever, I don't care. 

Thanks for reading, and I'll see you next time!

djkaktus (De)Construction #1: The Pestilence of SCP-049

SCP-049: Misunderstood legend, or smoldering pile of refuse unworthy of a landfill?

SCP-049: Misunderstood legend, or smoldering pile of refuse unworthy of a landfill?

SCP-049, written by SCP author Gabriel Jade in December of 2009 (making it nearly 8 years old today!) is one of a group of early SCP articles that has garnered a significant amount of attention since its introduction. For early fans of the wiki, there was a lot to love here: a creepy humanoid with a mysterious past that treats the normal human condition like some form of pestilence. Indeed, SCP-049 seems determined to rid the world of that pestilence utilizing his own archaic and destructive means, and in his own words, “Good doctor, my cure is most effective.”

A character model from an actual video game.

A character model from an actual video game.

SCP-049 also received attention due to its inclusion in the niche horror indie game "SCP Containment Breach", where the character antagonizes the player character and, as SCP-049 is want to do, administers its cure, much to the protagonists detriment. 049's part in the game, as well as its growing popularity on the wiki, has sparked a wave of young fans who laud its creep factor and often present it as a shining example of what makes the Foundationverse great. This has lifted SCP-049 even above many of its contemporaries (including those in the often maligned Heritage Collection) to the lofty position of more than nine-hundred net upvotes.

But does SCP-049 deserve the praise it gets from the fans? Should SCP-049 be shown to new authors as an example of the best the wiki has to offer? Is SCP-049 a literary achievement? All of these questions and more will be answered on this, a djkaktus Deconstruction.

Part One: Item #, Object Class, and Special Containment Procedures

The opening of the article is honest enough. The item number and object class are all in line, though that's not exactly anything to write home about. Then we get to the Special Containment Procedures.

SCP-049 is to be contained in a secure holding cell in Research Sector-██.

Alright, good so far. Site designation is showing some age, but nothing out of the ordinary here.

SCP-049 is not to be removed from its cell unless approved by a Level Two or higher personnel, before which SCP-049 must be heavily sedated.

Since most researchers are typically considered Level 2, this isn't exactly a limitation. Notably, this line says "a... personnel", and personnel is a plural noun, but whatever. Nobody's thought to make that edit in eight years and I certainly won't be the first. In the next bit they say "SCP-049 must be heavily sedated" and while we're given no indication as to how this is done (especially since we're also told they can't remove the mask and his skin is like leather), again, all fairly harmless here.

Even so, at such times SCP-049 is to be accompanied by two (2) armed guards and guided by an iron collar, secured to two (2) iron poles 2 m in length, and held firmly by two (2) Level One or higher personnel while in transit. 

The first thing worth noting here is the parenthetical notation (or the "two (2)" you see in here a few times) which is wildly out of date and wholly unnecessary. I've worked in professional environments for years and haven't ever once seen anyone use parenthetical notation. If you're going to use the numeral, why not just use the numeral by itself? Using the numeral and the word just breaks up the flow of the piece, and that's exactly what this does to this section (and others later!). Reading it feels choppy, because every so often you're forced to stop and read the same word twice for no reason. A relic of a bygone age, no doubt, but one that wasn't present in other, better, old articles.

It's worth noting that these security protocols are laughably inadequate. As we'll later find out, this is an entity that can kill things by touching them, and the Foundation's answer to transportation is to have two lackies push it around by an iron collar while two guys hold guns behind it? Alright, cool. If it works, I guess.

The last bit is pretty pointless. Perform experiments on it in special experimentation rooms (and it mentions a document that doesn't exist) and keep a camera on it all the time. Oh, and if anything weird happens call Dr. ████. You know, the one married to Dr. ████? Whose daughter is Researcher ████? The ones who live on ████ Street? Those ████s.

Part Two: The Description

The description opens with a basic height and weight, which is fine. This, though,

however, the Foundation is currently incapable of studying its face and body more fully, as it is covered in what appears to be the garb of the traditional “Plague Doctor” from 15-16th century Europe.

is weird, because the description then says,

This material is actually a part of SCP-049’s body, as microscopic and genetic testing show it to be similar in structure to muscle, although it feels much like rough leather, and the mask much like ceramic.

So are the robes and mask not part of its body? If they are, then why were they able to determine that, because we've already heard the Foundation can't study its face and body. If the mask and robes are part of the body then they've already studied the body, right? Or do they think there's more body underneath the part of the body they've already studied? How would they know about that inner-body if they hadn't studied the outer-body, which they already admit to have studied, but also said they couldn't study?

more fully

But fully enough to determine that the robes are leathery muscle and the mask is ceramic though, right? Is the mask attached to the face? Is the mask also part of the face? If you've looked at this thing enough to know that the robes are part of the body then would you not also have taken a look at the mask to figure that out too? Seems a little half-assed to say "well these robes are genetically similar to muscle and are part of its body, but we're not even going to start yanking on that mask because who knows what could be under there, am I right?"

Whatever. The next line isn't great either, where it says: 

██████, England

██████, England

It was originally discovered in ██████, England, by local police. Mobile task force [REDACTED] responded to a suspected outbreak of [DATA EXPUNGED]. All civilians within a .5km radius were given class A amnestics as part of the initial containment procedure.

Ah, of course. Good ole ██████, England. A lovely place to visit on holiday. It's weird that they would redact the task force name and the town name, especially when you consider redactions for a moment. In fact, let's take a brief intermission to take about redactions.

Part Two.5: Redactions and Expungements

re·dact

rəˈdakt/

verb

past tense: redacted; past participle: redacted

  1. edit (text) for publication.

    • censor or obscure (part of a text) for legal or security purposes.

ex·punge

ikˈspənj/

verb

  1. erase or remove completely (something unwanted or unpleasant).

With these in mind, let's consider why an organization would want to redact or expunge something. 

Imagine, if you will, a document describing an attack on a group of civilians by some sort of monster. It was bloody and vicious and horrible to describe, but for an official report the writer does so. However, someone up the chain decides that the description is needlessly descriptive, and that detailing how people were torn asunder does nothing to benefit the article. So they expunge the details, let people draw their own conclusions, and move on. People might wonder what was there at some point, but the decision has been made to remove it from the record, and it's gone.

A redaction is different in that a redaction is an obfuscation designed to hide something from somebody for, as mentioned above, legal or security reasons. The data isn't gone completely, like in an expungement. The information remains, only hidden in some way. You'd use a redaction if you were going to show someone a sensitive internal memo that contains information you don't want them to see. You'd give them the redacted version, but the unredacted version would be kept somewhere secure. Easy.

The point here is that redactions and expungements both have their uses, but they both require a reason for their use. So what purpose then, I ask, would the Foundation have for redacting the name of a mobile task force and the name of a town that 049 was found in. Is it a security reason? For the mobile task force I could actually buy it, since there's no reason to believe there aren't secretive MTFs out there performing secret work, and you wouldn't want their name laying around. But the name of the town? What is the security reason for blanking the name of a town?

I should be clear here: this isn't a deal-breaker. Plenty of authors with plenty of articles have and continue to do this sort of thing, myself included. I've tried to get out of the habit of it, but it still doesn't have an excuse. These examples are fairly harmless, too, but I want you to keep this lesson in mind because we're going to be coming back to it shortly.

Part Three: The Rest of the Description

Oooh boy. 

The first half of the first line is already a mess. It reads:

--SCP-049 does not speak-- (See addendum A-1), although it seems to understand English perfectly well...

Just a note here that I've marked in the strikethrough because apparently Squarespace doesn't support it. Regardless, imagine the strikethrough in there as it appears on the 049 page. This line now reads:

(See addendum A-1), although it seems to understand English perfectly well...

And that's the first line of the paragraph. Notice the issue? Anyway,

...and is completely docile until it tries to perform surgery. SCP-049’s touch is invariably lethal to humans.

Almost makes you wonder whether or not they should do more to contain this guy than just drag him around on a leash, if his hands are invariably lethal to humans. It actually gets worse, check out the next bit.

After contact with SCP-049’s hand(s), the victim (hereafter referred to as SCP-049-2) suffers [DATA EXPUNGED] and dies within moments. SCP-049 will then attempt to kill all humans it can see in a similar manner, supposedly to avoid interruption, before returning to SCP-049-2.

So it kills somebody by touching them, and then suffers...

Oh.

Well, I mean, it must be so awful that none of the higher ups in the Foundation would want anyone to know about it, ever. Right? After all, it's been expunged. 

So 049 kills everyone it can see so nobody will be interrupted, and then goes back to the first guy he... did something to. And then:

 It produces a bag made of [DATA EXPUNGED] containing scalpels, needle, thread, and several vials of an as-yet-unidentified substance, from somewhere within its body (research has been unable to locate these tools when inside of SCP-049 through X-ray and similar techniques) and begins dissecting SCP-049-2, as well as inserting various chemicals into the body.

Lord help me. What in the world could this bag be made of that nobody in the Foundation would ever want anyone to know about it ever. Then we've got an "as-yet-unidentified substance" which is honest enough, which it pulls from somewhere within its body, but the Foundation hasn't been able to find out where they're from even after using X-rays and-

the Foundation is currently incapable of studying its face and body more fully
Pictured: What an X-ray looks like

Pictured: What an X-ray looks like

...what? Have you seen what an X-ray looks like? If there was a doctors bag in there, you would know. What the author meant to say here was either that their X-rays can't see inside of SCP-049, or that the bag of unidentified material doesn't exist within SCP-049. Why not just say either of those things?

And moreover, if you're looking at this guy with X-rays then how are you going to sit here and tell me you're not able to more fully see what's going on inside this guy? You mean to tell me you can put him through an X-ray but you can't stick him in an MRI? Even if for some reason you're only able to do X-rays of him, that would still give you enough information to be able to tell what is going on with his face. 

But I'm getting too caught up on this. Let's keep going.

Pictured: another X-ray

Pictured: another X-ray

After a period of a few minutes, SCP-049-2 will resume vital signs and appears to reanimate. However, SCP-049-2 seems completely without higher brain functions, and will wander aimlessly until it encounters another living human. At that point, SCP-049-2's adrenaline and endorphin levels increase to approximately three-hundred (300) percent as it attempts to kill and ██████ any human beings it can find, before returning to its mindless state and wandering until it comes across more humans. At this stage, termination with extreme prejudice is allowed. Failure to enforce this protocol outside of testing scenarios (see addendum T-049-12) is punishable by termination.

He's making pseudozombies, is what he's doing. Puts some weird stuff in them, they wake up, they go on killin'. I don't know how a three hundred percent increase in endorphins would be beneficial to a creature with no higher brain functions, but whatever. It's going to kill and ██████ any humans it comes across. When it gets to that point, shoot it. If you don't shoot it, somebody will shoot you. You know the old Foundation motto, "Shoot, Shoot, Shoot."

Regardless, none of this thus far as been terrible. It's been bad, but there are plenty of bad articles on the wiki that are probably fine. The next line is pretty rough too-

Detailed autopsies of SCP-049-2 have found several unusual substances (along with usual substances in large amounts) within the bodies, including [DATA EXPUNGED]. However, several have yet to be identified (researchers with level 3 or higher authorization, refer to Addendum C-1).

-but it's more of the same. Pointless or bad expungement, unusual substances, whatever. None of this would be uncommon for a newbie coldpost.

+908

Yeah, I know. We're getting to that. But before we do, we need to talk about the next section.

Part Four: A Trainwreck (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Shit All Over Dialogue)

The first addendum, titled "Addendum A-1" is where SCP-049 slips from boring to "clusterfuck of horrible". It starts out honestly enough; SCP-049 starts speaking for the first time since it's containment. That's cool. Let's see how this plays out.

SCP-049: “What is this place?”

A fair question.

Dr. ████: “What? It’s a labo…” [There is a loud crash here, from Doctor ████ dropping the recording device in shock.]

Ole butterfingers here just can't hold onto that recording device, poor guy. This line actually got me thinking, why was this guy carrying a recording device at all? According to the foreward, they were moving 049 between containment sites when he started talking. It also mentions that the doctor was recording some notes at the time on his handheld recorder when 049 started talking. Who records their notes while transporting a dangerous anomalous entity?

SCP-049: “A laboratory? It is quite marvelous. I now find it no wonder I’ve seen so few victims of the disease in here.”

Mmmmmm. "Quite". Every high school freshman's one-way ticket to Sophisticatedsville. This actually gets better later on, but we'll get to that. "I now find it no wonder", though, is a sterling example of how not to get that thought across. Maybe "it's no wonder" wasn't sophisticated enough for this medieval plague doctor.

Dr. ████: “Y…eah. You see, I'd thought you incapable of speech. I’m somewhat startled you, um, can.”

Jesus skinnydipping Christ this might be the worst line in the entire article. It's like it's been pulled straight out of one of my old G-Gundam fan fics, where every protagonist was some shivering idiot who couldn't string three words together without saying "um" or "uh" and every woman struggled to keep from throwing herself at me. 

Also, "I'd thought you incapable of speech"? This isn't how normal people talk. If he had just said "I didn't think you could talk" or even "I didn't think you were capable of talking" it would be fine, but "I'd thought you incapable of speech" isn't just grammatically incorrect (it should be "I'd thought you were incapable..." or "I thought you incapable"), it's also the kind of thing you'd expect somebody who has never heard another person speak outside of a video game would think people say. 

SCP-049: “Oh, my, yes, good sir. I simply prefer not to. Most victims of the disease are quite melancholy and do not react at all well to conversation. I have seen you several times now, and have not detected the disease in you, therefore I assume you are also a doctor?”

"Good sir", basically the VIP ticket to Sophisticatedsville. And there's our old buddy "quite" again. The gang's all here.

Dr. ████: “Yes, actually. Call me [REDACTED]… but, what ‘disease’ are you talking about?”

Because there's clearly a security or legal reason for why this doctor's name isn't included in this report. I can let this pass, but you won't be able to convince me this is better than just making up a name to add in there. The redaction isn't justified anywhere else in the article.

SCP-049: “Why, good doctor, the Great Pestilence. What else?”

"Good _______", a variation of "good sir". Not the same as the VIP ticket but we're getting pretty close.

Dr. ████: “Great pesti… Oh, the Plague. Should have seen that coming. But, no one here is infected, I can assure you.”

This line actually had promise, if you can believe it. I don't understand the need for the comma after "but", but maybe I'm just picking nits.

mrrrr curr ers merst erfurkturv .

mrrrr curr ers merst erfurkturv.

SCP-049: “Oh, good doctor, I can assure you, the Pestilence is here, and I can sense it. It is my duty in life to rid the world of it. My cure is most effective.”

Good doctor again. The middle of this is fine, but then we reach the end, and the line that launched a thousand memes. "My cure is most effective". But we're not done just yet.

Dr. ████: “Your cure? Your cure has cost us hundreds of lives! Your cure is faulty!"
SCP-049: “Good doctor, my cure is most effective.”

It's probably worth noting here that this entire interview is single line spaced, and is an absolute nightmare to try and read through, especially on small screens. The space bar is your friend, kids.

I'm curious too how the doctor knew what 049 was talking about when he said "the cure". He doesn't question it, he doesn't say "oh, you mean that thing you do where you kill people by touching them and then sew them back up and they're zombies?" It's not the greatest leap ever made, but the fall might make your ankles sore. 

[SCP-049 lapsed once again into silence, and no further attempts to make it speak were effective.]

Of course. Snooty bitch.

Closing Statement: “We managed to get our tests done for that day, trying to figure out what causes it to perform surgery, or, more accurately, what it detects as the 'Pestilence’. So far, research has shown us no correlation between any of the D-class personnel it has performed surgery on. We’re still working on it."
Dr. ████

Fine, that's whatever. It's fluff that just tells us they have no idea what's going on. 

Then we skip an addendum (going straight from A-1 to C-1) that isn't there and dive straight into the final part of the article. To summarize, SCP-049 is left unsupervised for five minutes (AN ENTITY THAT CAN KILL THINGS BY TOUCHING THEM), during which time it breaches containment and goes for a stroll. It runs into SCP-███ and they have a chat. That SCP-███, by the way, is SCP-035, the only other talking mask in the first series. They talk for a while somewhere there aren't any cameras, and then 049 is all skippy-doo afterwards.

A few things about this bit.

First off, why even blackbox the object number? You go on to say "that damned mask" so we all know you're talking about 035, so what's the point of this? Is it an in-universe thing? What purpose does it serve to not tell a researcher reading this article that 049 and 035 are buddies? At least it's not as bad as an unnecessary redaction, but-

...finding out what the hell he and [REDACTED] talked about during their little chat.

Jesus take the wheel.

Alright, fine. So where did they meet up and talk that they weren't being recorded? Did they plan this out ahead of time? The writing doesn't imply that, since it says that 049 just "came into contact" with 035 and then they talked. 035 is a mask, remember. It isn't animate, not unless it's possessing someone. Did 035 also breach containment? If not, was it in its own containment cell? Did 049 break into 035's containment cell? If not, why? If so, how? We're not led to believe 049 is super strong or intelligent (remember, he can be dragged around by a collar and some poles), so did he just find 035 laying around outside on the ground and they talked there? 

If somehow 049 broke into 035's containment cell where they sat down and had a chat, how was this not recorded? They go on at the end of the article about trying to find out what the two talked about, but where would they have ever been in a situation where they were outside of the range of recording devices to have their talk? Did 049 break into 035's containment cell, grab it, run down the hall to the bathroom and talk to it then?

Whatever. It doesn't matter. What matters is that this is just another example of "series 1 entity breaches containment, runs into another entity, they chat, something is different afterwards". See 682 and 079, or 076 and half of the canon at this point. It was a trope, it's not done so much anymore, and the world is better for it.

Part Five: Here Comes the Devil's Advocate

"But djkaktus," you might be saying, "people like different things for different reasons. Maybe some people just like 049? Maybe there's a reason it's rated so highly!"

That's fair. But I really want you, reader, to think about that for a moment. I want you to think about why you like 049. In case you weren't ready for that kind of introspective request, I've provided a list of some things I often hear used as reasons why people like and vote for SCP-049.

It's old and part of the site's foundations.

Mmhmm. But so is SCP-011, which predates 049 by a year and a half and sits at +275 at the time of this writing. In fact, 049 is the fourth highest rated article in the first 100 slots, after 055, 093, and 096. It is predated by a number of articles within that same block, and yet is an anomaly as far as reception is concerned.

Well it's a spooky humanoid with a mysterious past, I kind of like that.

There are plenty of spooky humanoids with mysterious pasts, and none of them have been as generously voted upon as 049. 

It's really easy to cosplay.

A cursory Google search of "scp-049 cosplay" has informed me that 049 is much harder to cosplay than you all think it is.

You're an asshole.

Not really the point, I don't think.

Fine. Maybe I just like zombies.

Cool, then you've all upvoted 008, right? It's surely probably right around there if it's just-

+397

Huh. Well, I won't complain about that, I don't think 008 is particularly good either. But you can't tell me it's "a zombie thing" and then turn around and not give the same fan fascination to 008. Come on now.

It's really highly rated, so that must mean it's good.

Trust me, that doesn't mean anything.

Some of the best authors on the site have upvoted 049.

No I haven't.

But TheVolgun did a great impression of him.

TheVolgun does plenty of great impressions, but that doesn't make 049 good.

He's great in Containment Breach!

That doesn't make the article good. And still, really?

I don't know what you want me to say.

You've actually already said it, which is why we're heading to-

Part Six: A Conclusion

SCP-049 is a relic of a time when the wiki just didn't care as much about quality pieces of writing. It is generally poorly written, with little-to-no narrative interest and a character that reads like a bad knockoff of better articles on wikis created by users who were angry that they were banned for being too young. It has gained all of its popularity because of a very young userbase who is fixated on creepy humanoid spookies that they can easily "cosplay" (like I said, a generous definition of what's going on there) and show up in their favorite scary video games so Markiplier can shout about them and everyone can get a good kick out of the whole thing.

For a more discerning audience, and indeed one that cares about whether something is "good" or not, SCP-049 is sort of a festering wound on the first block of 100. There are worse articles than 049 certainly, but none of them are as proud of it as 049 is. None of them flaunt their inadequacies as openly as 049 does. None of them are so eagerly upvoted for their shittitude. 

In a series full of great articles like 093, 914, 231, 096, 085 and 140, SCP-049 is an aberration. Something that struck the fanboy jackpot and is now riding its self-perpetuating cycle of success towards +1000 and above. It is bad, and people who defend it as being good are either not talking about the writing or don't know what they're talking about. Everyone is allowed to like what they like and vote on what they want to vote on, but this becomes a problem when 049 is the example that gets paraded around young authors who attempt to mimic it and are disappointed when their attempts end in failure. For this reason, SCP-049 is bad for this community.

However...

SCP-049 as a concept isn't inherently bad. There have been plenty of attempts by better authors to improve upon it in tales and other formats by making minor changes to the original. But what about a broader stroke? Is there a way to salvage 049 while keeping all of the things people like? Is there a way to turn this heap into something worth keeping around?

Find out in the next edition of djkaktus (De)Construction!