The Perplex City endgame story

Part 5: The end

At last...

There isn't actually a textbook for what you do next when you've just dug 100,000-worth of highly sought-after metalwork out of the ground. Beloved Other Half's advice was short and to the point: "don't waste time talking to me, get out of there NOW." Not a bad idea but, being my mother's son, I ended up fussing for the next quarter of an hour about how I was going to avoid ruining my rucksack while carrying a very muddy blue plastic bag, some clay-caked tools and a pair of gloves so filthy that I haven't dared look at them since. In the end I turned the bag inside-out, bundled everything muddy into it, and strapped it under the lid where I hoped it wouldn't be seen by any other Cube hunter armed with the photos from the Library of Babel. The Cube itself I dropped into the rucksack, away from the mud. It's just a shame I forgot to take out the metal secateurs that I'd brought along to deal with tough tree roots. If you ever see the Cube, and it has ugly scratches on its highly-polished surface, don't blame the Third Power, blame the fast hike out of Wakerley Great Wood as the two bits of metal in the otherwise-empty pack banged against each other and against my kidneys.

As everyone now knows, I'd left behind me the hole, unfilled, and a copy of End of the Line propped up by it. Leaving the hole open seems rather sinful, looking back on it, but I can't truthfully say it ever occurred to me to fill it in. It wasn't just a hole, it was *the* hole. The card was left there for a purpose. I'd been carrying it since Thursday and consulted it often, so there was no question of bringing it especially to leave there - we'd talked about maybe burying a box with a notepad and pencil or rubber stamp, like a Dartmoor letterbox, but organising something like that in advance just seemed too much like tempting fate, too arrogant, so we made no special plans. I'm not the only one who had it mind to leave something, according to the forums. Ixalon, bless him, planned to leave a gold card in a waterproof box as a runner up prize - and if he wasn't on the list for a silver leitmark already, that level of generosity ought to put him right up there.

What I had in mind was to send a signal to whoever came to the spot next. I wanted to say yes, you were right, you've found the right place and here's something from the game for you to pick up and hold, a signal that the person who was here before you was a player and arrived in this place by making the same journey you just have. I also wanted to indicate, without broadcasting to the world in explicit detail, that the game was over. I feared that if the find wasn't in some way announced, people would be wasting precious annual leave by booking days off from work to come and search or perhaps spending money they couldn't afford on train tickets or petrol. I even had fears of American players crossing the Atlantic to search for a Cube that wasn't there any more.

And, let's be honest, perhaps I wanted to show off a bit, too. But only a little bit.

There's a line early in season one of Buffy where Cordelia says "excuse me, I have to call EVERYONE I have EVER MET". Having the Cube, and no-one else knowing about it, was a bit like that. On the way back to the car I kept having to fight back the urge to stop random strangers and say to them "this is going to mean absolutely nothing to you but..." I didn't, of course, since everyone from Violet downwards was telling me to keep quiet.

So I did. Very quiet indeed. You see, I knew that once I told anyone official - Mind Candy being the obvious people - everything would change. It's peaceful, being the only one who knows where the Cube is. There are a lot of good things about being the winner of Perplex City, but one thing it's not is peaceful. And while the Cube may be a bit too solid to be really arty, it's still an object of wonder to have on your shelf. The longer I had it, the less I wanted to give it back. The longer things were quiet, the less I wanted them to get noisy.

So I didn't email Mind Candy on Sunday. That's why Adrian came onto the Perplexorum to say metal detectors would work - he didn't know the Cube was already on a bookshelf in Middlesex. I didn't even look at Violet's secret page, for fear of leaving a recognisable IP address (rightly, as it turned out - the source code for the page has a Google Analytics script in it). I thought about posting some photos, so everybody would know it had been found, and then fading quietly away with it still in my possession. I thought of anonymously returning it to Mind Candy. It didn't help when I finally used an anonymiser to visit Violet's page and found that it said:

This whole thing's going to go wild pretty soon and there'll be interviews and parties and all sorts of things. But for now it's just between you and me. I buried it and you found it.

It's a wonderfully moving (and frightening) passage when you know it's directed just at you, capturing as it does a moment of calm that can't last, and it nearly cost Mind Candy any chance of seeing their Cube again. On the plus side, they would have been 100,000 to the good. I don't like to think what the minus side would have been, with investors to please, season two to promote and 50,000 curious players wanting to know what happens next. That was a big reason for finally handing it in. It would have been selfish not to. From what I saw later, they had a plan for everything - except the possibility that their winner might prefer the Cube to the actual prize.

On Monday I went to work at a client's office as usual, but got little done. I was watching the Perplexorum chat logs when Chippy came in to announce glumly that he and Hawk had found the hole and the card, and I watched the word spread outwards from there. It was time to email Mind Candy on the ifounditSPLAT address. Even then, I used a newly-created account to mail from and didn't actually give MC any way of getting back in touch with me apart from that address until Tuesday, when I spoke to Adrian (witholding my number as I did so) and decided everything was probably going to be alright.

Sorry about the wait after that - I really couldn't break my work commitments for Monday through Wednesday, which made Thursday the first possible day I could take the Cube to Mind Candy, sign the paperwork and let them make the announcement. I watched opinion harden on the forums, and had to keep my mouth shut as people drew the obvious (but false) conclusion that a very neat hole and an unknown winner meant someone with a metal detector had done the treasure hunting equivalent of sniping an eBay auction and snuck in to steal the Cube from under their noses. I couldn't blame people for thinking it and being upset - it fitted the observable facts and, as a player, I would have been gutted if the game had ended with the sort of mess that has spoiled the memory of Masquerade.

I was due at Mind Candy's offices at Noon on Thursday, which just left time for the Cube to make one final journey. My parents live near Ampthill, where Masquerade's Golden Hare was buried, so I stayed Wednesday night with them, and on Thursday morning in the snow the Cube made a pilgrimage to where it all began, the point where Catherine's long finger overshadows earth.

After that I took it to Battersea, where Adrian and Guy greeted me in reception and led me to the Mind Candy offices. Amid cheers, party poppers and champagne glasses, I handed the Cube over.

Whatever happens to it next, it's someone else's problem now.

I just hope they look after it better next time.

Part 4

This story of the Cube-finding first appeared on unFiction.

All original content 2007+ Andy Darley. Contact me about re-use.
All original content 2007+ Andy Darley, +44 (0)7905 628 554, www.andthenhesaid.com. Please contact me first if interested in re-use.