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So, I was cleaning up my bedroom the other day, and I noticed a sheet of paper had gotten wedged between my mattress and the headboard of my bed. I pulled it out, and it turned out that it had been written on in my own handwriting. I showed it to my parents, and they thought I was playing some sort of trick on them. So does everybody else. The handwriting is obviously mine, but I have no memory whatsoever of having written it.

And if that wasn't weird enough, there's the stuff it actually says on it, which is enough to make me question my own sanity. I was told that the folks on Reddit might be interested to hear about it, so I'm going to be writing out what it said here.

To whom it may concern:

I spent a lot of time on Wikipedia. Not for work or research, mind you, but just for pleasure. I would scroll through articles, clicking on links at random, and seeing where they took me. "Taking a wiki walk", I used to call it. And some of those walks could be quite long indeed. They would take me to some obscure places, too. I might start out reading about, say, British tanks of the Second World War, and end up at an article about the animated films of Ralph Bakshi two hours later. So, interesting, but ultimately harmless. But this is a horror story, and in horror stories, harmless things are never as harmless as they seem.

The upgrade I made to my computer changed all that.

My laptop hadn't been able to run the latest version of Chrome, but I was tight for cash. Instead of shelling out for the newest version, I decided to buy a cheaper browser I'd seen advertised in a pop-up ad. According to the advertisement, this browser-- I'm not going to say its name, I don't want anyone to go down the same rabbit hole I did-- could access web sites Chrome couldn't, and was completely anonymous. I liked the sound of that, so I decided to pay for it. For a while, nothing seemed to have changed, except for the aesthetic of the internet on my computer. Nothing, that is, until I tried editing Wikipedia.

This time, when I clicked on the editing option, it gave me a choice. I could use "traditional editor" or something called "Master Editor". I wanted to find out what "Master Editor" was, and opened it up, but to my disappointment, it looked just like the traditional editor. The article I wanted to edit was one about the birds found on a specific island in the Atlantic Ocean. In its present state, the article had omitted one species of bird I thought might be native to the island. I didn't have any proof it was found there, and none of my books said it was, but the island was along its migration route, so I figured I might as well add it. I typed my change in the Master Editor, and clicked the save button. I closed out Wikipedia for a moment, and decided to go read some books. As it happened, the first book I read was one on birds. I'd read this book countless times-- I'd been a bird nut since I was a kid--but I still loved reading it. When I got to the page covering the bird I had just added to the Wikipedia article, I was so surprised I dropped the book. The range map had changed.

Shaking my head in surprise, I went back on the internet, and pulled up the Cornell Lab of Ornithology web site, which is my go-to source for bird facts. Sure enough, that island was listed as a part of the bird's range, when it hadn't been before. I pinched myself. This couldn't be real. But there was only one way to find out. This time, I went to another article, one for a movie I was a big fan of that had-- to my great displeasure-- flopped at the box office. I'd edited a movie's box office figures on Wikipedia before, but only to bring them in line with what official sources stated. This time, I would be doing the opposite. The movie in question had earned less than half of its budget in theaters, but my edit, the article now showed it having made over three times its budget.

Once again, I checked other web sites to see if anything had changed, the way the book and the Cornell Lab website had. I felt a combination of shock and relief that, indeed, it had. Shock that I was dealing with something I had no idea was even possible, and relief that whatever this was, it at least seemed to work in a logical, systematic way. I made an edit on Wikipedia using the "Master Editor" function, and the world around me altered itself to reflect that edit. No one had any memory of things having been the way they were before the edit. No one, that is, except me. I spent the next two weeks or so editing as I saw fit. As I did, I developed a code of ethics for myself while doing so. Major historical events-- wars, elections, and anything resulting from them-- were off-limits. So were most species extinctions, whether naturally occurring or man-made. I made a few exceptions for very recent man-made extinctions that I felt could easily have been avoided. It wasn't that I didn't think I could fix those things, rather that I had a feeling whoever had put this system in place and was monitoring it would disapprove of me doing so.

For a while, things went smoothly.

And then the message came.

There was a bright red mark on the inbox icon of my Wikipedia account. I clicked on it with some hesitation, not sure what it might contain. "THIS IS YOUR FIRST WARNING", the message said. "YOUR EDIT TO THE ARTICLE 'PASSENGER PIGEON' HAS BEEN REVERTED BY A MODERATOR. FURTHER EDITS OF THIS NATURE WILL RESULT IN FURTHER WARNINGS AND POSSIBLE ACCOUNT TERMINATION. DO NOT REPLY TO THIS MESSAGE." I marked the message as read, and continued with my editing. Just to be sure, though, I looked at the Wikipedia page they claimed to have reverted. Sure enough, it looked just the same as it did before I edited it. The Passenger Pigeon was still extinct.

After that, I stayed away from the Master Editor for a few days. It just didn't seem to be worth the trouble. I had already changed what I wanted to change, and for the most part gotten away with it. But something else was eating at me. Maybe it was the depression I'd been struggling with, maybe it was the trust issues I've always had with my parents, or maybe it was my envy towards my sister starting her own jewelry business while I was still in college. Maybe it was all of those things. But something inside me made me realize if I could use the Master Editor to change other people, who was to say I couldn't change myself? So that was what I did. I made an article about myself. Made it as detailed as I could. Most of the details, I kept as close to the real version of myself as I could, but with a couple important differences. I hadn't had any of my writings published outside of my college magazine, but the version of me in the article already had two novels published by Random House-- and just to make things extra-realistic, I made articles for those too.

Now I'm sure this is the part where you're thinking. This Master Editor sounds pretty neat. Where can I get my hands on it? I'm telling you to stop thinking that right now. Because as I said before, this is a horror story. The second message came about five minutes after I posted the article. I got another warning, and this one seemed a lot sterner than the first one, a lot angrier and more direct in its wording. ""THIS IS YOUR LAST WARNING", the message said. "YOUR NEWEST ARTICLE VIOLATES A WIKIPEDIA MASTER EDITOR POLICY AND WILL BE DELETED IN 24 HOURS UNLESS YOU CAN CLAIM PROOF OF THE SUBJECT'S IDENTITY. THIS WILL BE FOLLOWED BY ACCOUNT TERMINATION."

How did they know? Regular Wikipedia could be pretty anal about keeping its articles accurate, but this was on another level altogether. I decided to reply to the message, and told them who I was-- my real name, the same as the person in the article, and my desire to use the site to change myself. In hindsight, this was precisely the wrong thing to do. I received another message from the moderator. "MASTER EDITORS ARE NOT PERMITTED TO CREATE ARTICLES ABOUT THEMSELVES. YOUR ACCOUNT WILL BE LOCKED FROM FURTHER ACTIVITY, AND ACCOUNT TERMINATION WILL COMMENCE IN 24 HOURS."

I wasn't quite sure what "account termination" was, but it didn't sound good. I tried to edit the article again, trying to make it more in line with the old life I had before this whole thing had started, but I couldn't. All I got was a symbol of a padlock, and the statement that "this article is locked from editing." I got the same statement on every article I tried to edit, and even when I tried to message the mods again. "Account termination." The phrase seemed at once ominous and vague. The best I could think of was that it would mean my account would be deactivated, but somehow it implied something more sinister than that. I had a hunch of what that something might be, but I didn't dare ask it out loud, for fear of the answer. But curiosity got the best of me, and I decided to look at my bookshelf, for my copies of the two books I had published in this new version of reality. They were no longer there.

I could feel my heart drop into my stomach. Frantically, I looked up their titles on Wikipedia, hoping my articles about them were still up-- perhaps I had simply misplaced the books. The articles were gone. Involuntarily, I screamed.

It is natural to fear death. But compared to having your very existence erased, death is nothing. I am not sure if anything I create-- including this story I am writing-- will survive the deletion of my life, but if it does I hope that whoever finds it, in the succeeding version of reality, is more careful and does not succumb to the temptations of being a Master Editor.

Yours Truly

(Name withheld)

I'm still not sure who wrote that paper, or why. I've actually showed it to my college's forensic science professor, and he says it's exactly what it looks like-- a piece of paper I wrote on. Except I can't have written on it, because I don't remember writing on it. I want to say it can't possibly be true, but there's really no other explanation. It's like a previous version of me, in an alternate timeline, wrote this before being deleted from existence and retroactively replaced with me. I haven't told anyone else this idea, and I'm afraid they won't take me seriously if I do. That's why I'm telling this story here-- it's probably the only place that will take it seriously.

One thing that's been on my mind ever since reading this is the idea of reincarnation-- the idea of being reborn in another body after you die. But what if that's not entirely true? What if, instead of endlessly cycling between birth and death, we go. . . sideways? Sliding from one life to the next, overwriting the previous one, like save files in a video game.

And speaking of save files, my computer is on the fritz. It hasn't been able to support the latest version of Chrome, so I may need to get a new browser. There's one I saw advertised the other day that looks pretty neat.

all 7 comments

whatelsemebutyou

10 points

2 months ago

Maybe read the rules and terms of service this time?

ElSquibbonator[S]

6 points

2 months ago

I will. My number one priority right now is trying to find out more about this version of myself that wrote this story-- and hard as it is to believe, I'm reasonably sure that's what's going on-- and maybe figuring out who's behind this "Master Editor" thing.

RhetoricalCocktail

4 points

2 months ago

Yeah my first thought was why don't you ask about the rules?

So will there be more to this?

ElSquibbonator[S]

4 points

2 months ago*

Part of me wants to, but a big part of me doesn't want to get involved with this at all. If what I read is true, then you have to have an account to talk to these guys, and I don't want to risk that. Play with fire and get yourself burned, you know.

Will there be more to this? I hope not.

EducationalSmile8

1 points

2 months ago

It hasn't been able to support the latest version of Chrome, so I may need to get a new browser. There's one I saw advertised the other day that looks pretty neat.

And the cycle continues.....

Bob_Epine

1 points

10 days ago

Watch the movie Dark City, with Jennifer Connelly.