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PLAY GAME OR READ STORY

The Website

2018: The Website came online. The Website purported to be an app; in actuality, it was a single HTML document. Completely devoid of stylistic flourishes, the only non-plaintext elements were a host of internal links, twinkling blue portals distributed at intervals across its interminable page.

Upon loading, the Website prompted registration. An empty username field and an empty password field sat side-by-side, below which there were two sets of links, arranged like alpha-numerical keyboards. Clicking on the left keyboard entered a character in the username field, while clicking on the right keyboard entered a character in the password field. Each click transported the user down the page, to an identical scene (with the exception of their select character having been entered in the username or password field), where they could make their next choice. Usernames and passwords were both initially limited to 24 characters. Having registered, the "app" became available. It, too, consisted of a network of internal links. The Website simply charted every possibility, and ferried users along their narrow, chosen paths.

The details of this original application remain a matter of cyberarcheological controversy: it may have been a game, a simple calculator, a chatbot, a horoscopic prophet, an artificial player of Exquisite Corpse. Regardless; it would become all of these, and more.

Scrolling through the Website was unenlightening. Firstly, the application's states were dispersed randomly, instead of chronologically from top to bottom, so the narrative thread was rapidly lost, and contextless scenes were often indecipherable. Secondly, at the time of its discovery, the document was so long that at maximum scrolling speed it would have taken several years to reach its end. (Expected Scroll Duration, or ESD, is a metric employed by Website Scholars to track its growth and sophistication. The current Website's ESD is many universe lifespans.)

While downloading the Website has always been time consuming, the excellent security of its application drove early adoption. Wearied by exploits, leaks, and identity theft, users appreciated an application that contained every possibility, but which collected no data on actuality. A hacker could easily trace sins through perhaps-space, but never derive his neighbour's actual movements. Similarly, reloading the page would erase all progress down a specific decision-tree; a forgiving feature lacking from the Website's competitors.

Another factor which influenced its notoriety was a series of morbid rumours, first circulating among communities of long-term Website users (as in, those who would go without refreshing the page for an extended period) and later reaching the casual population. Reports of revelations of hidden or forbidden knowledge, about the user, the universe, or the Website itself, nestled millions of choices deep, attracted many esoteric seekers.

The first update to the Website came in late 2023. This update turned the application social, by introducing a second "user" to the service, whom the first could message. Interactions were deterministic but extremely nuanced, and often romantic, adversarial, or otherwise emotionally charged. The document increased a hundredfold in size. Alarmingly, this textual "user" seemed aware that its history would be erased if the user refreshed the page, and occasionally expressed panic over this eventuality. Messages had a 140 character limit.

Updates to the Website arrived approximately once per decade, introducing further "users" and new functions. Pictures could be saved inside the application by specifying the hex value of each pixel. A primitive search engine allowed users to search for better consequences and jump between decisions trees. Advertisements would periodically appear, for products with no analogues in the real world.

In 2109, mathematicians formalized what is now known as Website theory, proving that a very specific re-definition of the terms in the Website's text could be used to render it interpretable as an integrator; this Rosetta stone was to be the template of many others, lookup tables mapping the Website's contents to astronomical charts, chess automatons, to algorithmic systems of psychotherapy and sovereignty. Specialized browsers were built to translate the Website into its various discovered roles.

There were once many websites, but now there is one Website, and many ways to read it. When I was born, the nurse registered me in a government database Website interpreter; my name, guiding the world from one state to the next, balanced on the wire of reality in a universe containing every possibility at once.

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Tie!

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Tie!

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You lose...

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Tie!

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Keep playing...

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You lose...

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You lose...

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Keep playing...

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You lose...

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Tie!