alex's archive
About Me
Image by @pepperjackets.

My name’s Alex Whalen and I play a lot of tabletop roleplaying games. I’m also a writer, so I end up going overboard on backstory to the point of writing actual stories. Now I’m sticking them here.


Total Word Count: 214,804
Total Stories: 47
Shortest Story: 537 words
Longest Story: 19,173 words
Average: 4,570 words



Jules sat with a chewed-up ballpoint in hand and steadily made her way down a stack of reports. Agents Ryan Garza and Rajpreet Singh, coworkers turned friends during the recent containment breach, stood at the nearby counter. The break room they were in was large and opulent for the site, designed with higher-level agents in mind. In the wake of the chaos securing rogue SCPs had brought, they were determined to make the most of it.

“This is a latte,” Garza said, enraptured, as he sipped from a mug with the words “WORLD’S OKAYEST MOM” on the side. “I didn’t even know you could get lattes without a human in the works somewhere. Why do the higher-ups get all the cool SCPs?”

“That’s not an SCP, it’s a latte machine,” Singh said. She paused by a coffee table with her back to Jules and held a glossy magazine with a smiling woman in a saree on the front up over her shoulder. “I’m wondering more about the brand new Indian gossip rags they’ve got. This is so niche. What the hell?”

“I don’t know what to tell you other than ‘we need to take more training courses and get better missions,’” Jules said. “Maybe once we’re on MTFs we’ll get to sit in these chairs when we do paperwork all the time.”

“Thanks again for that,” Garza said, nodding at the pile in front of her. “You don’t have to, y’know.”

“Y’all saved my ass back there,” Jules said, waving him off. “‘Sides, I like writing reports. I can zone out a little.”

“I’m sure your supervisor loves that,” Singh teased. Jules rolled her eyes at the woman in the decorative mirror on the wall adjacent to the counter.

“He sends me on more missions, maybe I’ll get better at it.”

Garza snorted and fiddled with the latte machine. Singh flopped down with her magazine to unwind. Jules kept plugging away on the paper copies of the documents they would need to turn in covering their parts in the recapture of a few SCPs earlier. Around the fifth page of “and then we turned the corner and fired at what everyone else was firing at while totally calm and not screaming,” Jules kept her word and began to drift. She thought of the moment when Singh tripped her and Garza gentled her fall to keep a researcher with an experimental containment device from taking off her head. She swore her hair was still singed. From there she started thinking about her hair, what she should do with it.

She was growing it out natural for now, just letting it form a fro, but she was thinking of twists. Maybe a little dye for a touch of color. Then she was really carried away. She thought of her childhood, of sitting under her mother crying as the woman wielded a hot comb, of the way her father tried and tried again to get her braids to sit right when the way her hair grew didn’t want to cooperate. She could almost feel it now, his hands warm and heavy on her little head, as he looked over at the work he’d already done on ‘Netta and tried to make Jules’ hair do the same.

Jules frowned at her reflection in the mirror as the memories brought a flash of pain and the feeling of her hair pulling her scalp taut. She was a little too far gone to get anything done if she was recalling that vividly.

Her hair moved in the mirror. She froze.

“Garza,” Jules whispered, trying to make it sound like a cough and keep her neck rigid at the same time. He didn’t look up from his coffee. She tried again, a little sharper, “Garza.”

“‘Sup, Jay?” Garza asked. Then he actually turned to look at her, and coffee came out of his nose. The noise he made was horrific enough to drag Singh out of her magazine and make her look. The glossy paper tore as her hands fisted.

“Stay very calm,” Singh said as she began to hyperventilate.

“I am fuckin’ calm,” Jules said, voice low. “What in the goddamn world would lead you to believe I ain’t the picture of yoga and fuckin’ whale song right now?”

“The cursing,” Singh hissed at the same time Garza said, “The accent.”

“Well, hell,” Jules muttered. There was a sharp tug on her scalp. She jerked her pen up to point at where her tight curls were being teased apart and braided into place. “Help?

While Singh fumbled out her inhaler Garza approached in a half-crouch, hands extended, eyes fixed on the movement of Jules’ hair. He straightened out once he was right in front of her, puzzled. He waved his hand. The feeling of fingers working in her hair didn’t pause. He slammed his hand down on the table. Jules jumped but, again, there was no reaction from whatever was braiding her hair. Garza came around her side. She grabbed a fistful of the material of his uniform shirt, eyes wide in the mirror, as she watched him wave a hand through where the wrists of the thing braiding her hair should have been. Nothing. He made an aggravated noise in his throat and started undoing the braid just above Jules’ right ear.

She felt hands grip either side of her head and she felt them squeeze.

“Stop!” she shouted, and Garza jumped back. The pressure evaporated. The braid the hands had been working on was dropped in favor of fixing the one Garza touched. As soon as that was done they went back to moving methodically across her scalp from right to left.

“I know what to do,” Singh said, pager in hand.

Twenty minutes later found half of Jules’ hair done and Dr. Malcolm Burnside seated in front of her, furiously taking notes. Most of the free agents on-site gathered in the break room to watch as the hands braided, Burnside muttered and poked her braids, and Jules kept working on her stack of paper. Another researcher came down and whispered with Burnside for a few minutes, showing him files they both shook their heads over, before prodding Jules' head with some kind of device and ducking back upstairs for more. Garza set a mug of coffee at Jules’ elbow. The side of the mug read “FRANKIE SAYS RELAX.” Jules could’ve beaten him to death with it.

“Well,” Burnside said after another long minute, “seeing as you’re still in one piece, it doesn’t appear to be Keter!”

“You’re just a ray of sunshine,” Jules said. “How is it you’re still single?”

Burnside frowned and made another note. “How’s the pain?”

“Average for having my hair done.”

“How would you describe the hands?”

That was a good question. Jules frowned down at the rows of check boxes she was ticking off.

“Male,” she said, then added, “I mean, there’s no way to know, but…”

But she’d thought of her father. The size, the blunt fingernails against her scalp, the too-hard tug of someone who likely hadn’t spent their childhood having their hair yanked all different ways. Male.

“Interesting,” Burnside mumbled. He made another note then scanned down the page until his eyes alighted on something he seemed to have forgotten. “Oh! How do you feel?

“Like I’m sick of people touching my damn hair,” Jules snapped. Burnside’s eyes shot wide. She almost apologized before he broke out into a huge grin. Then she just gave him a look.

“It’s two-one-seven-four!” he said by way of explanation. “We call it ‘The Hands that Make People Uncomfortable.’”

“You’ve gotta be fuckin’ with me right now,” Jules said. “That’s not a thing.”

“It is!” Burnside insisted, “I just didn’t catch it because, I mean, how could having your hair played with be uncomfortable?”

Jules looked up at the ceiling and thought hard about being anywhere but there. When she looked down and still had paperwork and a smug scientist in front of her, she sighed.

“How do we get it to disengage?” she asked.

“Oh, we don’t,” Burnside said. “It’ll just finish whatever it was doing and then wander off. Short attention span, you know? Once it’s creeped out one person it loses interest, because that person won’t react with the same intensity of emotion again.”

“How the hell do you contain it, then?”

Burnside smiled. “An anxious D-class and a lot of amnesthetics.”

Jules waited while they brought in a shifty-looking man in an orange jumpsuit. Sure enough, the moment the last braid was in place the hands retreated. A second later the D-class jumped and cursed. A contingent of four agents led him away. The break room cleared out as everyone else went back to work. Burnside gathered up his notes and offered her another smile.

“You handled this well, Agent Doherty,” he said, gesturing down at her reports. “You kept working through it all! I’ll see what I can do about recommending you to a MTF if you’ll humor me by coming around the lab and sitting for a few… tests… on your new hairdo. Sound good?”

Jules made a non-committal noise while he wandered off after the D-class. Singh approached with a sympathetic smile.

“Well, it looks lovely,” she said. “So, not all bad, right?”

Jules drained her coffee and tapped the reports against the desk to straighten them.

“Here’s the deal,” she said. “You and Garza are gonna split my shift and finish this.”

Singh frowned but nodded. “Alright. You taking the afternoon off?”

“Yeah,” Jules said. “I’m gonna go buy some clippers and teach myself how to shave my head. Burnside can test these braids in a Ziploc or not at all.”

“But you spent so long growing it out!” Garza protested.

Jules shrugged. “I’m beginning to think, in this line of work, that’s not such a hot idea.”


HTML Comment Box is loading comments...