Code Turned Crime

This story is about a 16 year old boy who uncovers many dark secrets when finally cracking the Cicada 3301 Challenge, who later gets tangled in a life of crime.

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1. The Beginning of Cicada

I guess it all started last summer break when me and a few friends stumbled upon a strange post on Reddit. Looking back, I wish I never acted out of curiosity, as we all know, curiosity kills the cat, and it later killed the innocence I had once possessed. I was 16 back then, a fairly normal kid with decent friends. The internet always fascinated me, I thought it was amazing how we had access to so much entertainment at the click of a link. I fell in love with the way I could make online friends and talk to people I never thought I would have. It became almost an obsession. Every night I would spend hours searching the web, watching videos and endlessly exploring the links and buttons, each click opening another tab of information. The internet really felt like another home to me, another place to express myself and my interests whilst being able to connect with people who share those similar interests. Although I had fun on the normal side of the internet, it wasn't long until the darker side enchanted my curiosity into the exploration of things I never should have opened myself up to. 

I frequently used Reddit and had subscribed to many categories that peaked my interest. I had started a coding course at school that year and really enjoyed it. One day I was browsing the recently created threads about JavaScript and HTML, when a certain thread caught my attention. It was named Cicada 3301. I had a faint idea of what it was, from what I had heard it was a coding challenge. I clicked the thread, and a title page was revealed. It was all black, with bold white writing in a large font that read "Hello. We are looking for highly intelligent individuals. To find them, we have devised a test. There is a message hidden in this image. Find it, and it will lead you on the road to finding us. We look forward to meeting the few that will make it all the way through, Good luck" It was signed "3301". The mysterious nature of the challenge intrigued me, although I suspected it to be a hoax. After researching the test, I decided to try and complete it. Even if it was fake, I was bored, and I didn't have much to do when I wasn't in school. I decided to introduce a couple of my friends in my coding class to the test, and suggested that we all banded together to complete it. A few of them agreed, the others questioned its credibility. After some convincing and explaining it was only for fun, they agreed and we got started on the first lunch break. 

The first couple of clues and codes were easy to crack, and only took simple coding and unscrambling to work out. Considering most of us were internet geeks, our combined knowledge was more than enough to solve the clues with ease. At the beginning, we only worked on it at lunch time, but after a while, it got addictive and we found ourselves entering online chat rooms with each other and working from out computers at home. We also started to combine forces with other skilled coders we had spoken to on Reddit to share information and hints. After a while, we had completed a lot of it. The puzzles began to get much more difficult, and took much more time to crack. I found myself staying up to almost 3 o'clock in the morning discussing clues with online friends and trying our best to crack the puzzles we were faced with. 

After a while, a couple of my friends lost interest and moved on to other things such as sports to dedicate their time to. I didn't blame them, these puzzles were hard, and they took up a lot of time. However Cicada was the only thing I could think about. Each and every puzzle served as a new challenge unique to the previous. At this point there was only around four of us left from school, and the occasional friend of ours that had some spare time to kill. The four of us that were left worked day and night to complete the challenge, and we hadn't yet heard of anyone who had completed it or even had made it to the final stage. Eventually, two of the four of us decided they wanted to work in their own team, although were still willing to help us and exchange information. It was just me and a boy named Cody left. He was a quiet kid, extremely smart, both socially and intellectually. We got along very well and shared a lot of common interests. He didn't have many friends, and I think that was why he joined us in the first place. 

Me and Cody made a great team, and with the other internet friends we had made we were able to keep a steady pace while completing the tasks. After a while, the people who used to give us information with grew selfish and withheld a lot of information from us. Me and Cody understood that from now on, we were on our own. This was going to make it harder, and was going to decrease our pace, but both of us were still keen on persisting. Cody was much smarter than I was, and at times I felt like dead weight. He kept me by his side though, I was the only friend he really had. I was thankful he kept me with him, because although I wouldn't admit it back then, he was the only friend I had too. 

Me and Cody went on to become really close friends over the next year. We were still knee-deep in the Cicada puzzle, but it was good knowing I had made a friends for life in the process. The puzzles at this point were extremely difficult, and we had to branch out from the coding knowledge we had and learn other scripts and languages. It was a commitment we signed up for not knowing the full extent of, but neither of us seemed to  mind. We were both technologically brilliant, after the amount of things we had to learn for the challenge we decided when we were older we would create a computer science company together. The name of the company would be something like "Locket & Prime" conjoining his last name with mine. I noticed as we got closer that Cody really started opening up to me, he was quite funny, but you would never guess that if you didn't know him well. I truly am glad we became friends, although friendships don't last forever.

At the end of our senior year, we both slowed down on the Cicada challenge as we were focusing on our final exams and weren't able to dedicate enough time into figuring out the new puzzles. Our coding class had a competition for the end of year to see who could code the best game in a period of two weeks. Cody and I were confident we were going to win with our knowledge. Coding games was elementary to Cody, he did it all the time before we had started the Cicada. We created a fantastic game, even to us it was complex. We won the challenge by a long-shot. To celebrate both our winning of the challenge and our friendship that would last a lifetime, we had decided to get tattoo's together when we graduated from high school, which was only in a few weeks. 

We decided on a butterfly, the icon of the Cicada challenge to get tattooed on us. It was symbolic to the friendship we made throughout the years leading up to graduation. The friendship me and Cody shared really did mean a lot to me, and I really was convinced we would be friends forever. Although that didn't end up happening. 

After we both graduated, with our new tattoo's and all, Cody broke the news to me that his family would be moving a couple of towns over, and that he would no longer be planning to attend the university we had both been working towards. This was a shock to me. It took me a couple of days to fully comprehend that our plans for the future were falling through. It was devastating, but we both knew we would keep in touch. Our tattoo's were an every day reminder of our friendship that we knew would remain strong. 

As time passed, we both had started University and as much as we had promised to keep in touch, it was very difficult considering we were both moving on with our lives. I was still working on the Cicada challenge, I assumed he had stopped, after all, we hadn't spoken in months. Like most of my other friends, he had probably lost interest. At this point in my life I was so absorbed in University I forgot about the Cicada for a while. It's hard to fully forget though, and I found myself tangled up in the web of the challenge before I knew it. This time, I was equipped with even more knowledge than before and it was then when I had finally, after many years of work,  completed the Cicada 3301, only to find out that it wasn't at all what I was expecting.. 

 

 

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