Library of Babel

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PERPLEX CITY, SEASON ONE
The search for the Receda Cube on Earth


For information related to the person(s) known only as "Combed Thunderclap", the author of these pages, see: Combed Thunderclap


Discovery

One of the Leaked E-mails hinted at a "library" subdirectory:

From: Garnet Reed
To: Henrik Tanner
Subject: Internal Security
Sent: 17 August 2006 06.54pm

Well, there's some 'library of something or other' subdirectory off the main path, for example. I only saw it for a split second and I couldn't get into it, but it clearly doesn't belong there, whatever it is.

Message 1: Waking

This led to a hidden page:

http://perplexcityacademy.com/libraryofbabel/

The page has an animated Flash file with an id of "Thunderclap". ("A Combed Thunderclap" is a reference to the Jorge Luis Borges story, "Library of Babel". For more information, see "Puzzle Card Symbols".)

An eye opens, and text slowly appears. A transcript follows. The strikethroughs indicate words that are erased in the animation.

Text

Waking. It was like waking into a new world from a dream of all the old. Or. No. Like opening my eyes although I knew they were already open.

For a moment I thought I could see… everything.

---

This is not important: I did not kill anyone. I have not killed anyone. Unless by my silence by remaining silent too long. But I can’t. I can’t.

---

I must continue in silence because what would I say, how would I convince anyone of what I tell you now?

That I did not kill anyone.

---

But someone did.

---

There are so many possibilities, numberless scenarios and how do I know? How can I know which one is the truth? Like the books in the Library of Babel, each permutation may be the correct one, but is infinitely more likely to be deceptive. A phantom. A dream.

---

I thought it was a dream. Or a beautiful simulation of a place I have seen so many times before in photographs or video. I knew it at once: the yellow cars driven along the streets, the steam rising up from the sidewalk gratings. I thought: how marvellous. How real. I stumbled and fell. I grazed my hand and the blood was real and the pain was real and I began to understand.

---

I didn’t kill anyone. But someone did. And they’ll be looking for me.

Image Analysis

The two paragraphs before the last have some letters that display before the others. This may be simply a visual effect or it may be a clue.

Image of first appearing paragraph

Image of second appearing paragraph

There are also strange images above the eye, at first they were thought to be kanji. Later arkai discovered that they are just letters turned sideways. These letters seem to spell "Waking" (just like the first word of the animation).

Image of the eye, negatived.

Extra Text

On 2007-01-12, various pieces of what appear to be 3P messages started cropping up in some of the LoB animations. In Waking, we have:

08012070645 - To all operatives: Project Visor status report. Have encountered radical diffculties.

and:

Hypothesise that these are caused by unpredictable meteorological differences. Several thousand readings have been taken of which:

(For an collected, ordered set of messages, see Library of Babel: Project Visor Leaks)

Message 2: Realise

On 01-SEP-06, the babel page was updated to show a series of book-ish images, in various forms of hiding. Clikcing the opened book image below the message section takes us to the old message section.

Firstly, the page showed a slew of leaves.
Image:Hidden-babel-1.JPG

Once cleared, text is plainly visible. There does not appear to be anything else of note at this point.
Image:Hidden-babel-2.JPG

Then comes the interesting part. After a certain amount of time (about a minute?) the leaves blow away, and the page turns blank. Moving the mouse over the page reveals a new much more hidden message.
Image:Hidden-babel-3.JPG

Finally, clicking in the upper left corner of the page reveals yet another message. Sometimes, this one is initially slightly obscured by leaves, but is plainly visible.
Image:Hidden-babel-4.JPG

Text

I realise I should tell you what happened. So that you'll understand. Because I'm going to need your help. I only hope that you find this first. I know that there are others looking, that they may find what I have hidden. So, help?

This is how it was, then. I stumbled onto it. I never intended to steal anything. In fact, it was more that it stole me. I touched it and we were gone. I didn't know that could happen. I didn't know anything. But I'm starting from the wrong place again. You'll have to excuse me. It's been a long time and I haven't known who I could tell, or if I could tell anyone.

Begin at the beginning, then. I am a person, a real person, a single individual in Perplex City. I buried the Cube on Earth. And I will try to tell you how, but the hows are less apparent than the whys, and even they are obscure. Remember this: don't look for me, I know you're already trying. Because those other people? They're looking for me too. And if you find me, I don't know who will travel with you.

Fellow-travellers can be dangerous: I should know.

Extra Text

On the 19th of Jan 2007 the following message appeared in very small print on one of the leaves:

19012701215

To Earth operatives: Package onboard, in transit to secure facility. Not long now.

Message 3: Dissolution. Dissipating. Everything.

On 18-SEP-06, the main Library of Babel page was updated once again, this time with a much more exciting, dramatic, and artistic animation.

Text

Sometimes I asked myself if I planned it all. Of course I planned it

I planned what had to be done, I planned how to do it.

But I didn’t plan the end, only the beginning. The beginning is easy to explain, but dangerous. The end is harder, but safer.

I’ll start with safe.

There was no flash or bang or choir of angels.

---

There was a sense of dissolution, of dissipating, a sense of everything.

---

And then there was hard stone under my feet and steam and yellow cars and an intense cold. And a sound of ringing in my ears.

---

I stood up.

---

Blood on my hand, but that was not important.

---

People walking, uninterested, barely looked in my direction. I thought: people. Just like us. No different at all, after everything that’s been said.

---

There was ringing again.

---

I looked around. There was me, and the Cube, and the planet Earth. So far away from home it can’t be counted. And where should I go, and what should I do? Shelter first. There were buildings all around. I knew enough, I’d done enough research. And you’re not so different. Somewhere there would be a hotel or a library, somewhere warm I could sit and think.

I began to walk. There was the sound of ringing again.

[ringing sound]

I looked around. A small cubicle, a device with a keypad and handle was ringing. Something my research had not prepared me for?

I walked past it.

[ringing sound]

After a minute or two, another such device, ringing.

I walked on.

[ringing sound]

At the third ringing cubicle I wondered if I should do something. Was the ringing a warning? An elderly woman, smothered in a thick overcoat walked past without stopping and said:

---

Are you going to answer it?

---

I realised the meaning of the device.

---

I picked up the handset and put it to my ear.

---

On the other end a voice spoke.

---

It spoke my name.


Message 4: The arrangements have been made.

On 11-OCT-06, the main Library of Babel page was updated yet again, this time with a 45x15 box of scrolling characters, sections of which formed themselves into words to form the below messages. The final message is left slowly fading in and out of focus. The background has the words "Receda's Revenge" upon it, very faintly - this update coincided with the updating of the Receda's Revenge site.

Text

THE ARRANGEMENTS HAVE BEEN MADE

WHAT?

I SAID

THE ARRANGEMENTS HAVE BEEN MADE

I THOUGHT AGAIN OF THE INFINITE LIBRARY, OF THE WORDS ON WORDS ARRANGED ON OTHER WORDS.

OF THE WAY THAT WORDS PILE ON ONE ANOTHER, CREATING AND UNDWINDING MEANING.

OF THE PRECISE PATH LEADING FROM THE PAST TO THE FUTURE OPENED BY THE MEANINGS WE INFER.

---

"YOUR TICKETS," THE VOICE SAID, "HAVE BEEN BOOKED."

"YOUR ROOM HAS BEEN RESERVED."

"THE CAR WILL PICK YOU UP."

"YOUR ITEMS HAVE BEEN ORDERED."

"HAVE A PLEASANT JOURNEY."

"YES," I SAID, "OF COURSE, CERTAINLY."

---

NOTHING CAN DO THIS, NOTHING AT ALL. NOTHING CAN DO EVERYTHING, NOTHING CAN BE EVERYWHERE.

I THOUGHT: I HAVE BEEN TRAPPED. I THOUGHT: I AM AN INSTRUMENT.

---

"PLEASE WAIT WHERE YOU ARE, THE CAR WILL FOR YOU ARRIVE SHORTLY"

---

I STOOD ON THE CORNER, DIRTY-GREY SNOW SLOPPING AT MY FEET, OBSERVING THE TIDEMARKS OF SALT ON THE PAVING STONES.

I WAS COLD, I REALISED, VERY COLD.

I NEEDED A COAT. COULD I PURCHASE ONE?

WITH WHAT?

A THOUGHT OCCURRED.

I HAD BROUGHT ONE OR TWO ITEMS WITH ME - NOTHING USEFUL, NOTHING CONSTRUCTIVE.

COULD I SELL SOMETHING? FOR MONEY?

---

A CAR PULLED UP AT THE CORNER OF THE STREET, HONKED ITS HORN ONCE.

THE BLACK WINDOW PEELED DOWN.

INSIDE, THE DRIVER SPOKE MY NAME. THIS COULD NOT BE NORMAL. EVEN HERE. NOT USUAL.

I NODDED ASSENT. THE BACK DOOR OF THE CAR OPENED. I STEPPED INSIDE.

WAITING FOR ME ON THE SEAT WAS A COAT. IN MY SIZE.

---

FLYING

FLYING

LIKE A BIRD

ON THE WING

ON THE WING

AMAZING

FLYING
ON
THE
WING

Extra Text

The following text is split up and "corrupted" across various places in the animation:

66% have a margin of error of more than 1000 miles; 14% fail entirely; 12% give a non-Earth location; 7.3% produce internally inconsistent data; 0.7% give a precise location.

However there has been no repetition in the locations thus produced.

Message 5: To Begin.

On 30-OCT-06, the main Library of Babel page was updated once more. On this occasion, the screen is filled with seemingly random grey letters, which move together and turn white to form words, then separate and fade back to grey. Certain phrases remain on screen, these are marked in bold in the following transcript.

Text

Things are over here,
Over and ended except that,
As you can see,
Not quite over for me.
Or for you.

I wanted to do this slowly,
Quietly,

But when no
One else
Is speaking
A pin-drop
Is as
Loud as cymbals

When no one else is moving, creeping is running

I think of books,
Books within books,
Words within words.
A play within a play.


Hamlet, William Shakespeare


The play’s the thing, it seems.

So again. I have things to tell you.
Things you’ll need to know
And I know that you’re running in circles,
Around and around and around and
When you’re in a circle
You need to know
Where it
Starts.

Unlike black, I do not despise the circle.


The wonderful O, James Thurber.


It starts where it ends, and where it
Starts is by finding the secret location.

Borges is one place to begin.


The library of babel, Jorge Luis Borges.


The letters which are arranged and rearranged,
in mathematical certainty,
in search of meaning.
Think of the names of the books:

The plaster cramp, axaxaxas mlo.

Of course, the books in that library have no author.
But authorship is critical.
Think of Pierre Menard or
Of Johannes Valentinus Andrea, or
Of Gunnar Erjfjord.
Authors creare worlds,
and worlds seep one to another.


History of the land called Uqbar, Silas Haslam.


Things have been closed here, closed up tightly, with
No gaps, no room to breathe. We are all imprisoned,
But our minds are free. Papillon, Henri Charriere
And yet. It all begins with the arrangement of things,
With asking a question and answering it.

I’ve given you
all you need to begin. Be simple.
Start by answering the obvious questions.

Everything leads on from the answers
you already have.

I don’t know how much I’ll be able to help you,
But I’ll help you where I can.


Oh whistle and I’ll come to you my lad.
Montague Rhodes James.

With the message done, the book titles and authors left behind form up into a grid, and a set of numbers appears. Dragging a letter in the message with the mouse reveals it's number.

hamletwilliamshakespearethew
onderfulojamesthurberthelibr
aryofbabeljorgeluisborgeshis
toryofthelandcalleduqbarsila
shaslampapillonhenricharrier
eohwhistleandillcometoyoumy
ladmontaguerhodesjames
127 77 28 64 160 176 11 30

Solution

The mention of a secret location is a reference to Season 1 Card #223 - Secret Location, or more specifically the meta information on that card. Using the information given here by Combed Thunderclap, the hidden message on the card has been successfully decoded.

Extra Text

On 2007-01-12, the following text was hidden in the animation:

Recommendations: 1) We are continuing to refine and refocus our systems. We believe we may be getting closer. 2) Imperative that investigations continue in the city. Someone knows

Message 6: Time Ticks On

On 11-NOV-06, the main Library of Babel page was updated yet again. This new animation was much more graphically advanced than the other three, and, rather than simply have text on the screen, the narration was red by two narrators at the same time. The message spoke more of CTs journey on earth with the cube, and contained some cryptic puzzles.

Text and Narration

At the bottom of the screen:

be patient, this may take a while

In the animation:

the time has come.
click.

Time ticks on and on and on. The days have bled together and I am a different person now, quite different, to the one I was. It's been almost three years. 1,095 days. 26,297 hours. 1,577,846 minutes. And there are the deaths. Days not lived and hours not perceived. I wish this had been different.

There was a clock in the hotel lobby. The car dropped me off at the door. I wrapped the cube in the coat because I did not fully understand that no one here would know it, that no one would shout "stop! thief!"

I spoke my name to the clerk behind the desk whose red nails clicked on the marble surface as the hands of the clock ticked round and round and I thought now. Certainly now I will be discovered.

The red-nailed woman said:

"Yes, the suite is booked for you, yes, the charges have been taken care of." She smiled as she said this.

She said:

"And your travel documents."

She handed me an envelope. I tipped the contents into my hand. There were tickets, there was a device the size of a deck of cards with a screen and a keypad, there was a small turquoise book with blank pages. On the front it said: Laissez Passer, Nations Unies. In the back of the book was a picture of me. I recognised the picture. It is a serious picture, I am in a business suit. It was taken in Perplex City.

In my hotel room, the video-screen welcomed me by name, and the music playing on the sound system was my favourite Earth composer. I took little notice of any of this, lay on the bed and fell into a sleep as deep as the world.

In my dreams, I wandered the streets of Perplex City. There was meaning in every street, in every turn, in every paving stone. I saw these numbers laid out before me:

(7,8) + (6,6) + (7,8) - (6,6) - (-5,5) - (-5,5) + (7,5) + (6,5) - (6,5) + (7,5) - (6,4) - (6,4) + (8,4) + (8,4) - (8,3) - (-5,-2) - (8,3) + (6,-4) - (-5,-2) + (6,-4) + (7,-4) - (7,-4) + (8,-4) + (-4,-6) + (8,-4) - (6,-5) + (-4,-6) - (8,-5) + (6,-5) - (6,-2) + (8,-5) - (-4,-8) - (-4,-8) + (-2,-7) - (-3,-8) - (-3,-8) + (6,-7) - (6,-2) - (-2,-7) + (6,-7) + (7,-7) + (7,-7) -

and then I dreamed no more.

When plotted, the sequence creates this Pattern.

Solution

The code at the end was finally decoded by ilikepucks to reveal the proper order of the Wave 4 number strings. [1]

Message 7: A journey.

On December 11, 2006, the page was updated again. In this one, a set of 16 glowing blue keys spin and swirl seemingly at random around the black screen. One of the keys is a hotlink: a small two-toothed key with a perfectly round handle. When this key is clicked, the others fall away, and the message begins. This key begins in the middle of the bottom of the animation when it begins.

Text and lines

The round-handled key settles in the middle of the screen.

a journey, it transpires.
the whole thing has been about a journey

Four small four-pointed stars form a square around the key in the order upper left, upper right, lower right, lower left. The key moves to the lower right corner of the animation:

And the thing itself,

A line is drawn from the upper left star, one unit at a time: west, west, south, south, west.

The key moves to the lower left:

a maker of journeys,

A new line from the upper right star: east, north, north, east, east, east, north, west.

The key moves to the upper left:

a joiner of points.

A third line from the lower right star: east, south, south, south, east, south, west.

The key moves to the upper right:

Travel, solidified.

The last star gets a line: west nine times, southwest

The stars are then labelled in the reverse order, lower left, S; lower right, D; upper right, R; and upper left, L. The animation screen splashes to white in a flurry of percent signs and monarch butterflies.

Motion, held fast.

A large, central, rectangular area of this last screen seems to be a link or hot spot, but it does nothing obvious when clicked on.

Extra Text

On 2007-01-12, an extra key appeared at the start of the animation. This key contains the following text:

12012700533 To all operatives

Project Visor recommendation 2. We believe we are close to a breakthrough Continue work on Visor. We shall keep you appraised

Message 8: Flying

Another update occured again, on the 3rd of January. This time it is split in three;

  • The first section looks like rotation on a combination lock (no punctuation or capitals), with a percent sign rearranging itself to the letters "Mod", four dots and a Clavus key;
  • the second has letters and puntuation marks in groups of three in a spiral shape;
  • The third has words on a clock-face.
  • The conclusion shows the last 3 words, alone in bolder, stark contrast.

Text

and flying
it was not
as i expected
i thought there
would be wind
a sense of motion
exhilaration
it was a box with
blinking lights
and plastic sealed food
this is the moral
i suppose
if you travel
fast enough
it feels the same
as standing still
but nonetheless
there were fluffy
clouds like
whipped dessert
outside the
window
i wondered what
it would be like
to touch them


i had put the cube in the bag before my journey.
a bag of the correct size was waiting for me in the hotel room, of course..
at the airport all bags had to be passed through a machine to examine the contents.
i felt suddenly afraid, with that same fear.
someone will see it, someone will know, someone will say 'the cube! stop thief!'
i placed the bag on to the conveyor belt.
there was no shout, no attack.
i glimpsed the screen showing an image of my bag.
it showed an assortment of objects within, just like everyone else's.


in a distant place i was met by another car
the driver holding a board with my name written on it
on the back seat there was an envelope with my name on


     and
    a
   shovel.

Extra Text

On 2007-01-18, a message appeared on this page:

18012700448

To Earth operatives: We have gained access. A genuine non-repro Earth artefact dating from the time of the original theft has been discovered, confirming our initial hypothesis. Our contact will schedule package pickup tomorrow. Earth teams on standby - anticipate successful completion imminently.

Index File

Extra Text

Inserted 2007-01-12:

05012072313

With immediate effect, operatives are to cease utilising previous communications method. Security has been breached. This channel to be reserved for essential communication only. Message ends.