I can hear my mother right now: "Dante Cunningham!" she'd scream. "You've been on the Internet for four hours!" Or that's what she would be saying, had I not moved out two years ago. I would say that it was the best decision of my life, except for the fact that she was the one who decided for me. Yup, my own mom kicked me out of the house. But I'm glad she did.
My new place has cable internet, which is great. No more dial-up! I don't have to worry about being in bed at a certain hour, or the amount of time I spend online, or the electricity bill I'm running up. I pay my own electric now. It's good to be self-sufficient. I can make my own choices. There's no one but me to fault if something goes wrong, but that's not really a bad thing. At least if there's something wrong with me, I can fix it. Not so with other people.
That's one of my big frustrations with the Internet, actually. You can't really fix the people out there. I mean, there's a lot of information on the Internet, don't get me wrong; I love it. But there's also a lot of people on the Internet. People with opinions are one thing, but people with incorrect information? Unconscionable! That is what caused me to fall in love with the WikiWikiWeb.
When it was first introduced, Internet-aeons ago, the WikiWikiWeb was a neat idea. It was a website that anyone could edit, without a Java applet or clunky Flash interface. All you needed was a web browser and some free time. Which was, of course, the main problem with it. It was heavily prone to vandalism; a fact I became aware of when I went to make my first edit. I had to e-mail the creator of the WikiWikiWeb because I could not edit it! It turns out that someone from the college I was attending at the time had caused the entire school to be banned for vandalism. I was whitelisted and allowed to play, so long as I did not make excessive or antisocial changes to the webspace.
It was interesting for a little while, but soon became boring. There was just not much to do with it, except for making small, ridiculous articles about yourself and other people in the Wiki that either disappeared or were altered beyond recognition within a week. I wrote the concept off as a fad and moved on to other cutting-edge sites.
That is, until one day I was sent a link from something called the Wikipedia. It was a Wiki website, to be sure, but it contained useful factual information, was massive, and seemed relatively stable. I was floored. It was an encyclopedia where you could correct factual errors, omissions, and even the odd typo! I was in heaven, or so I thought.
I programmed my copy of Mozilla Firefox with a keyword to allow me to do Wikipedia searches from the location bar. From any website, I could just hit F6 and then type "wiki [whatever I want to look up]" and it would take me to the Wikipedia article most relevant to the search term. Once on a given Wikipedia page, I could click any number of internal links that would take me to related articles. It's basically what I used to do with my summer afternoons in the library as a kid, except without so much bookmarking and heavy lifting. And like the library, I'd gotten good at flying back and forth between the pages. I became something of a World Wide Web-slinger; and, recalling my childhood nickname, I took the handle of "Spider" on there. I could cover fifty or so lengthy articles in a six-hour period; the problem being that I would spend six hours (or more) at a stretch on there. My friends would joke with me about my disappeances. One even said I "got sucked in there" over instant messenger; like when you've been in the bathroom too long for someone else's comfort and they ask you if you've "fallen in." It's every bit as funny, too. Or it was, until it really happened.
It's rather a long story how I came to be where I am now. I've always been a fairly big fan of Blue Öyster Cult; to the point where I tend to get mad when someone says: "Oh, they did that song about the Reaper, right?" Yeah, they did "Don't Fear the Reaper," but they also did so much more. One of my favorite songs by them has always been "E.T.I." which stands for "Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence." But intelligence here is the military kind of intelligence; strategic information either about a pending invasion or of a pending invasion about us on Earth. It's a cool concept. I never realized how much depth there was to their music until I read the complete BÖC FAQ on the Internet. I didn't find this through the Wikipedia; it was much earlier than that. Though through their entry on the Wikipedia, I did find the article on the "heavy metal umlaut," but I digress. Through that FAQ, I found out about a book called "The King in Yellow" by R. W. Chambers. The book is actually a collection of short stories that are unrelated except for that they all refer to a play called "The King in Yellow," believe it or not. The play, which is never printed in more than an excerpt at a time, supposedly drives mad anyone who reads it. It was a charming device, and I loved the book. As time passed and my circle of friends grew, I was referred to more and more works which seemed to share the concept of people who are driven mad by something they see or hear. I've always been delighted by this concept, but I lacked a name for it until I read the Wikipedia article on "The King in Yellow." From there, I found myself on a page titled "The motif of harmful sensation."
I'm not superstitious, but I honestly wonder if I would have clicked on the link had it been named that. Instead, the link simply read: "go mad or meet horrible dooms," which piqued my ravenous curiousity. But click on it I did, and suddenly I had a name for the very literary device I loved so much. Or rather, it had me.
When I say that I "found myself on a page" I must stipulate just how literally I meant that phrase. I was disoriented at first, and it took me awhile to adjust my perception to see where I was. It's not that my eyes were blurry; I could see quite well, but I suppose my brain needed some time remap itself to the space I was encountering. I was in a large, empty space; surrounded by words, concepts, and the likenesses of famous people. Some of them had an almost internal illumination; my thinking mind was quicker than my subconscious in apprehending that they were links. I moved towards the one titled "The King in Yellow" and walked around it. As I approached, a book revealed itself to me; the words its title. The words themselves glowed blue, until I moved to touch them, when they turned bright orange for a moment. And then I was "through." That's the only way I could think of to describe it.
I was in a slightly smaller space, this time. It was white all around, just as the previous room had been, but I could just sense claustrophobia. I remembered the article was a "stub"; basically too long for deletion but too short to be a full article. The article-space had chosen to manifest itself to my brain in this fashion, and I was most intrigued.
I had to stop myself, though. I realized that from here I could return to the Motif article; indeed, in the outside world I had found that article through this one. But what if I had "clicked" on an article with no return passage? Or with a disguised passage? I knew that I could return through the words "go mad or meet horrible dooms" because I had clicked them before. But were I to look for a link titled "motif of harmful sensation" I would be lost. And I had no breadcrumbs or thread to retrace my steps.
I drew close to the words "go mad or meet horrible dooms," which now seemed to gibber and cackle, as if they were going mad and meeting horrible dooms. It was all so bloody obvious I'm almost ashamed to admit I was scared. But you weren't there, in this empty and deadly silent infinite, yet cramped, space, and you didn't see these ethereal words floating before your eyes suddenly jerk to life. I steeled myself to get closer and I was rewarded with the sight of a purplish glow; the link was lit differently because I'd already visited the page!
Emboldened and somewhat distracted by my discovery, I reached out and passed through the link back into the harmful sensation page. My heart sank, as I'd sort of hoped that maybe I'd manage to undo the event that brought me here by repeating the apparent cause. But here I was again, and here I am now, gentle reader, sitting cross-legged on the "floor" of an infinite white space, surrounded by abstract notions. I'm literally immersed in ideas, but I haven't a clue what to do next.