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It's hard to get the image of a sky that's 90 percent bugs out of your head, even if you've seen some pretty gruesome stuff in your line of work. Our hands were already tied since everything up and went crazy and people stopped dying. When entire ecosystems got thrown out of whack, we could barely do anything with what The Foundation gave to us on loan in Oregon.
머리 위의 하늘의 90%가 벌레로 가득 차있는 것을 상상하는 건 쉬운 일이 아니다. 온갖 섬뜩한 것들과 맞닥뜨리는 일을 하더라도 말이다. 우리의 양손은 모든 것이 미쳐돌아가고 사람들이 더는 죽지 않게 되었을 때 이미 묶여있었다. 생태계 전체가 시궁창에 빠져버렸을 때, 우린 오레건에서 재단이 빌려준 것들을 가지고도 딱히 할 수 있는 것이 없었다.

Marshes became bug paradises, although people who lived near them called them hell. Entire houses were swarmed by termites, devouring it in a matter of days. Cicadas were so loud and so plentiful that you couldn't go outside in the Summer without earplugs. And the mosquitos, god the mosquito swarms were as thick as mud, you had to practically wade through them in special suits if you wanted to go places without losing most if not all of your blood. When a swat doesn't kill them and they live more than a few weeks, bugs become less of an annoyance and more of a horror story. God knows what life is like in places like Louisiana and Florida right now; they had to be evacuated after the first six months.
습지는 벌레 천국이 되었으나, 근처에 사는 사람들은 지옥이라 불렀다. 흰개미 떼들이 집을 통채로 보금자리로 삼아, 며칠만에 전부 먹어치워 버렸다. 매미는 너무 시끄럽고 그 수도 상당해서 귀마개 없이는 여름엔 밖에 나갈 수가 없었다. 그리고 그 모기들. 맙소사, 그 모기 떼는 진흙 더미가 돌아다니는 것처럼 많아서, 피 대부분을 잃고 싶지 않다면 특별한 방호복을 입은 채로 그 속을 걸어서 돌아다녀야 했다. 손바닥으로 때린다고 죽지 않고 수명도 고작 몇 주가 아니게 되자, 벌레들의 지위는 단순한 짜증 정도에서 공포 소설로 상승했다. 루이지애나나 플로리다에서의 삶이 지금 어떨지는 신만이 아실 것이다. 이렇게 되고 나서 6개월 만에 사람들이 대피해야 했으니까.

We did our best to make sure these animals didn't suffer, but… it's hard. It's hard to figure out what's actually suffering and what's just us not being able to hear them crying about the pain. We knew when we signed the Boring Agreement that we would have to agree to some less than savory stuff, but we never thought we had to deal with this, this… "torture apocalypse".
동물들은 피해받지 않도록 최선을 다했으나…어렵다. 뭐가 정말 고통스러운 거고 뭐가 그냥 우리가 그들의 아픔에 관한 울부짖음을 듣지 못하는 건지를 구분하는 건 정말 어려운 일이다. 보링 협약에 서명할 때 그다지 기분 좋지 않은 것들에 대해서도 동의해야 한다는 건 알고 있었지만, 이런, 이런…"고문성 종말"까지도 상대해야 할 줄은 꿈에도 생각하지 못했다.

A lot of the workload got to some of our people. Nandini couldn't take the stress of being head of the Veterinary Department, poor woman. She just up and left when she saw a mountain lion with her stomach burst open writhing with maggots, still mewling weakly in pain. She'd usually euthanize the poor girl in this case, but… obviously that wasn't an option right now.
거기서 발생한 업무량의 다수가 우리쪽 사람들을 괴롭혔다. 난디니Nandini는 수의학과장을 맡은 데에서 오는 스트레스를 견디질 못했다. 딱하기도 하지. 퓨마 한 마리의 배가 몸부림 치는 구더기 떼에 터져버렸는데도, 여전히 고통에 찬 울음소리를 약하게 내는 꼴을 봤을 때 그냥 자리에서 일어나서는 떠나버렸다. 그런 경우에는 보통 그 가엾은 퓨마를 안락사시키겠지만…지금 상황에서는 고려할 만한 것이 아닌 건 자명했다.

Hell, when The Foundation called us to visit them in order to do something to deal with this problem, a lot of us didn't even want to show up. I myself almost considered breaking that agreement just so we didn't have to deal with so much of this weight. In the end, I went alone; someone had to handle this, and it's more or less my job to protect people that need protecting.
젠장, 재단이 우릴 불러다가 와서는 작금의 문제를 해결할 방법을 찾아보자 했을 때, 우리 중 다수는 얼굴도 내밀기 싫어했다. 나마저도 이런 엄청난 중압감을 피하고 싶어 그냥 협약을 깨버릴까 생각까지 했으니까 말이다. 결국엔 나 혼자 갔다. 누군가는 이 상황을 해결해야 하고, 보호 받아야 할 이들을 보호하는 게 더도 말고 덜도 말고 내 일이니까.


I was outfitted in a hazmat suit with a 'friendly' little Foundation logo on the breast, hurried out of a van, and into a fairly ominous-looking concrete building. When I asked, I was told that the site name was classified; all I needed to know was that it specialized in chemical containment. If they thought a little pesticide was going to stop this, I would have walked out then and there, but I had to keep on… if there was a way to stop this, I had to at least try to hear it out.
난 가슴팍에 '친근하고' 작은 재단 로고가 새겨진 위험 물질 방호복을 갖춰 입고, 승합차에서 뛰쳐나와 꽤 불길한 느낌이 드는 콘크리트 빌딩 안으로 향했다. 건물에 대해 묻자, 기지 이름은 기밀이라는 답이 돌아왔다. 내가 알아야 할 건 이 기지가 화학 물질 격리에 특화되어 있다는 것 뿐이었다. 만약 이 사태가 작은 살충제로 해결될 거라 생각했다면, 바로 걸어 나왔겠지만, 난 그럴 수가 없었다…만약 이 상황을 끝낼 방법이 정말로 있다면, 적어도 들어라도 보는 게 맞을 것 같았다.

It took an uncomfortable amount of time in an elevator before we reached our destination; a stuffy little room secured by a few too many airlocks than I thought were necessary. Hey, I guess they had to be safe, considering what could be stored here. Dr. Violet Mesmur, a woman who said she was on the Ethics Committee, greeted me as warmly as Foundation members are known for. She seemed relatively calm and collected at least, but that made me think that she had no idea what was even going on outside. I didn't know if I should have felt angry or jealous, but that didn't matter. I needed to be focused, eyes on the theoretical prize.
목적지에 도착하는 동안 엘리베이터 안에서 상당히 불편한 시간을 보냈다. 그 안은 내 생각보다 더 많은 에어록으로 보안이 이루어지는, 비좁은 작은 방이었다. 뭐, 이곳에 보관되어 있는 것들을 생각해봤을 때, 이 정도는 해야 안전하다고 생각하나 보다. 자신이 윤리 위원회 소속이라 밝힌 바이올렛 메즈머 박사Violet Mesmur가 재단 사람들이 응당 그러하듯 따뜻하게 날 반겼다. 그래도 다른 이들 보다는 침착해보였지만, 그런 태도로 인해 그가 밖의 상황이 어떻게 돌아가는지 모르고 있다는 인상을 받았다. 거기에 분노나 시기의 감정을 느껴야 했는지는 모르겠지만, 상관 없었다. 집중해야 했다. 이론적 포상에만 눈을 고정시켜놔야 했다.

"Mr. Wilson, would it be wrong to assume that your operations are at least somewhat well-known in the United States?" Dr. Mesmur asked.
"윌슨 씨, 당신들이 하는 일이 적어도 미합중국 내에서는 잘 알려져 있다고 해도 문제는 없겠죠?" 메즈머 박사가 물었다.

I cleared my throat before I replied, "W-well, we've been trying to get ourselves out there, as I guess you know. We do videos on the animals that we're allowed to show, like when we raised a small family of Pileated Woodpeckers after their mother and father got eaten by predators," I took a breath, stopping myself from getting too invested in the tangent, "I wouldn't want to get cocky, but at least we're known pretty well in the Pacific Northwest."
난 대답하기 전에 헛기침을 했다. "뭐-뭐, 그보다 더 나아가려고 하고는 있습니다만, 그건 이미 알고 계시겠죠. 내보여도 된다는 허락을 받은 동물들의 영상을 찍어서 올리고 있습니다. 부모가 포식자에게 먹힌 뒤 저희가 기른 소규모 도가머리딱따구리 가족 같은 녀석들 말이죠." 난 심호흡을 하며, 이야기가 너무 옆길로 새지 않게 했다. "자만하려는 건 아니지만, 적어도 태평양 연안 북서부 지방에서는 잘 알려져 있다고 할 수 있겠네요."

Dr. Mesmur nodded, then spoke, "Mhmm, well, you're going to be a face now. We're busy enough dealing with the human population, trying to keep everyone from taking advantage of their newfound immortality for… less than savory actions."
메즈머 박사가 고개를 끄덕이고는 말했다. "으흐음, 뭐, 이젠 당신들이 앞에 나와야 해요. 우린 인류 개체수를 처리하느라 바쁘거든요. 사람들이 새로이 발견한 불멸성을…좋지 않은 행동에 사용해 이득을 취하는 걸 막고 있어요."

Dr. Mesmur instructed her assistant, who had since been standing silently nearby, to 'Get the cylinders'. As they flitted away, I felt a little sad that in our brief interaction that I never bothered to ask their name. I'm usually much more on top of getting to know people, but I guess, you know, life kinda stressed me out.
메즈머 박사는 계속해서 조용히 근처에 서 있던 조수에게 '보관 용기를 가져오라'고 지시했다. 그들이 멀어져가는 동안, 난 이 짧은 대화 중에 둘의 이름을 물어보지 못했다는 사실에 약간 슬퍼졌다. 난 보통 새로운 사람과 만나는 일을 그다지 즐기지 않는다. 그렇지만, 뭐, 삶으로부터 스트레스를 어지간히 받았어야지.

"You're already intimately familiar with animals, I would assume. From what I've read about you and your organization, their preservation and safety seems to be a bit of a passion for you, no matter what kind of animal it is," Dr. Mesmur remarked as she turned back to face me.

"Well, heh, you're pretty on the nose there, pardner. Not exactly hard to see, I'd say, but that's not the point you're getting at, is it?" I replied.

"Astute. You'll essentially be tasked with using something we've been developing and perfecting for the last few years on the animal population to stop their growth," at this point, the assistant came in, holding a box with three vials of something light blue inside them, "And considering the fact that it is… somewhat questionable, having a recognized face take action rather than us, a 'shadowy organization', should remove a few of the road blocks."

The kind assistant set down the vials on a table in front of us, each one sporting a neat little label. Dr. Mesmur gingerly took the leftmost vial, labelled 'SCP-3287-1' and held it, looking at it. She didn't bother to look at me as she continued to talk.

"It's a gaseous sterilizing agent. Simply expose any living subject to it and within 60 seconds they will be instantly sterilized. Or at least, that's what's in this vial," Dr. Mesmur said, setting down the first vial carefully.

"Bit of an obvious question, but what are in the other two vials then?" I asked, gesturing towards the other vials.

"Well…" Dr. Mesmur began, finally turning towards me, "Technically, we don't know. Plenty of people have theories, but none of them are confirmed. We've tried dozens of tests, but… we'll just have to go on a gut feeling here because we'll be needing you to either confirm or deny what these substances actually do."

She sighed, which I assumed was her signifying she finished what she was saying. I stayed quiet when she finished, assuming she'd have something more to say, but that never happened.

After a few seconds, I finally said something, "Are you asking me to try to figure out that theory or are you waiting for me to agree to using these things?"

Dr. Mesmur sighed, "I'm sorry, I got… distracted. The working theory is these vials are, well, retroactively sterilizing their subjects. If you use these gases on the right animals, you could easily stop problems before they even happen, or happened in some cases. Obviously you'll need to be briefed with how to properly use this, but you will need to give verbal and written confirmation that you consent to using this, should it… go wrong."

"Go wrong?" I asked.

"You could be erased from existence. Nobody would remember you, your organization would never exist, anything that you did for humans and animals alike would never happen," Dr. Mesmur said flatly, "I need a yes or a no before we can continue."

You could always count on the Foundation to gamble everything but their own skin on something if it meant that they could maybe learn a shred of information about it. They really just asked me if I wasn't just willing to die, but willing to risk the lives of every poor critter I had saved in my years upon years of working. What they said was absolutely crazy! It was inhumane! It was… it was…

It was the only shot we had. If I didn't do it, everyone would be damned to a world of locusts and mosquitos and mayflies and horseflies and wasps and… well, I don't exactly need to list them all out. But even they know that it's theoretical; they apparently hadn't even tested the damn stuff. It's just… I'd need to decide. I'd need to be the one to say whether or not I was willing to wait for a definitive solution or risk everything for one that could help us now before it gets too bad.

I gave my answer.


Surprisingly, life was relatively easy once people started becoming immortal. Something about what happened made a lot of the animals sterile, so we didn't have to deal with issues of overpopulation and whatnot. Our main problem was just making sure animals didn't suffer too much if they got into scrapes. Sure, we couldn't euthanize them, but we did our best to make sure they were at least taken care of as best as we could.

Of course, a few people started going stark raving mad once they found out they could live forever, but they thought immortality meant no repercussions. A lot of the fine folks at the Foundation said they got that covered, but if anyone ever decides to do something like break into a zoo and release all the lions or something like that, we handle it. Oddly enough, we've been dealing more with domestic stuff than anomalous stuff ever since this all happened.

It's still a bit hard when an animal comes in, hit by a car with its legs crushed but still breathing. It takes a while to get used to it, but considering how much has been done to improve the quality of life for humans, a bit of that was given to us to help these animals suffer as little as they could. Needless to say, the Veterinary Department's a bit overworked, but Nan just says she'll be fine as long as she has enough of her noir novels to read on her down time.

You know, you'd expect something everyone is calling 'The Apocalypse' or 'The Rapture' to be scary and dark and full of madness, but sometimes it's good to just be a guy who works with animals at a time like this. Being able to nurse them back to health, seeing them running and happy again… it's like these animals are making me, making us all feel a little more human.

I thank whoever's up there every day for my organization, though sometimes I gotta thank someone a bit more down to Earth. If it weren't for those doctors over by the Foundation, our organization would probably have faded into obscurity. Instead, they decided to let us do our thing, and I think a lot of us appreciate that. I certainly do.