In the Beginning...

The morning was cool, yet not uncomfortably so. Dewdrops and tranquility reigned supreme. Flowers, streams, and trees were present in perfect proportions. Birds chirped sweetly and beautifully. The air was fresh, clean, and sweet-scented.

At rest, in the center of this place, sat a man, calmly sipping the milk of Paradise. He was simply dressed and sat on the ground. He was the greatest ruler the world had ever known.

Kublai Khan regarded his wondrous Pleasure Dome and drank. Many thousands of men had died, nations had been conquered, and treasuries exhausted so that he could have this one perfection, unparalleled anywhere, any time. He did not think of these things. They were not in keeping with the serenity he had brought to himself.

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An Ancient Book

There exists an ancient tome, written in a forgotten Mongolian script, that used to lie in a place that may or may not have existed. Through some unknown means, your great-great-great grandfather came into possession of it.

He kept it and treated it with the utmost respect, although he could not read it. The book was passed on through the family, from father to son, a corporeal connection to ancestors who lived in the vast central Asian steppes.

Its contents had, however, remained a mystery until recently. Your father was a gifted linguist, and he succeeded in interpreting the script after years of intense study. Unfortunately, he died of mysterious causes soon after his breakthrough with the text, and now the book has passed into your hands.

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A Revelation

Curiosity over something ancient and surely fascinating won an easy battle with fear relating to your father's death, and you read what you could of the book. Due to the age of the text, many words and passages are unintelligible, but enough remains to weave an intriguing picture.

Apparently the book was a sort of a combination of a diary and a collection of essays. It seems to have been written by a man of keen intelligence and a thirsting curiosity and inquisitiveness. He attacked philosophical, religious, and scientific topics with relentless, yet open-minded, logic. The diary end of it seems to deal mostly with day-to-day events relating to the control of a vast empire. The man seemed sensitive, and he treated the empire as a sort of game, something to be run with the utmost skill, but not to be taken so seriously that it interfered with his other pursuits excessively.

The passage that catches your eye most readily, however, has nothing to do with the empire or philosophical topics. It deals with something that you, and it seems he too, feel is far more important.

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Dreams

"I have done something wonderful! The experience was better than any of Xitian's opium could ever hope to match! Last night, when I lay in bed, I fell asleep without the loss of conscious faculty that usually accompanies that state. It happened like this. I was drifting off, my thoughts wandering aimlessly, when I became conscious of a tremendous pressure at the base of my spine. It wasn't painful, but it was a strong tickling, urgent sensation that made me more than anything want to move. But at the same time I realized that I had fallen asleep and that to move would be to wake. So I held tight to the thought that the sensation was merely some transient initial state associated with the physiological shift from waking to sleeping and remained still.

"Soon this idea was vindicated, for the urgent, tickling pressure gave way to an odd floating, tingling sensation that flowed throughout my whole body; I felt like I was flying around, or floating in the middle of space. Then I began to dream, but it was so unlike any time I've ever dreamt before.

"I was fully aware and in control of my actions, but how far beyond the normal realm were the actions I could take, and how fantastic the worlds in which I moved! Ultimate beauty was within my grasp, beauty that would never exist in the waking world..."

The passage becomes unintelligible after this, but a few lines down there is something about a "garden" and some sort of "dome" containing it. A few pages later, however, there is a description of how the author achieved the unusual state that he described. Eagerly you begin to practice his techniques, and, to your surprise and pleasure, you begin to get results...

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Outside House

It seems to be midafternoon, and the temperature is quite comfortably warm. You are standing on a dirt road out in the country. You are dreaming.

But this is difficult for you to keep in mind, since everything seems so real. You find that you keep managing to forget this substantial fact.

The area surrounding you is vast, but everything seems to be artificially taken care of: the grass is cut fairly short, shrubs are neatly trimmed into hedges, trees are well-kept. A bit strange, you reflect, but overall, the effect is quite pleasing.

There appears to be some sort of a structure to the north, and you hesitate to call it a house, although it is approximately house-sized and shaped. It appears to be a perfect cube, white in color, and about fifteen feet on a side. There is a door-shaped outline in the middle of the cube along the bottom, but you can perceive no means of opening anything there. You can make out some letters just above the outline:

T E S S E R A C T

Looking to the west along the road you can make out some sort of town. Looking east, you seem to see a similar looking town a bit further away. There doesn't seem to be anyone around.

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Old Town

You walk down the road for about a mile, enjoying the country air. The road seems to be made of clay, more or less. Eventually, you arrive in the town. It apparently consists of a single, main street, onto which all of the buildings face. This street runs the entire east-west length of the town and exits on the other side. There is a small alley leading between two of the buildings, and you notice a little grocery store, a pub, and a general store. None of them seem to be in operating condition at the moment, and the whole place seems deserted. Nevertheless, these places might have some interesting stuff in them.

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Ye Olde Pub

This building appears small and nondescript, but you noticed a faded painting of a red and gold dragon over the top of the door. According to your limited (and somewhat prejudiced, you will admit) knowledge of Merry Olde England, this could only mean one thing. You open the narrow, wooden door, and your expectations (hopes) are confirmed. This is a true pub in the finest tradition of 18th century England.

The bar is made of dark, lacquered oak that is polished and worn smooth on top, and brass tap handles poke up behind it. The shelves on the wall behind are lined with sturdy pint glass mugs. Apparently, the bottles are kept out of sight, probably beneath the bar. The Brits didn't believe in showing off a bunch of liquor bottles. There are a few tables here, along with benches and couches. A dartboard hangs in the corner. There is a doorway to the northeast and a door to the northwest, as well as the exit to the south. Also, you notice a small scrap of paper sitting on the polished bar.

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Merrydown Cider

Merrydown Fine Ciders
Yorkshire, England


Item			Type		Quantity	Price
----			----		--------	-----

Cider, sparkling	ES		2 barrels	10
Cider, smooth		S		2 barrels	 9


Total charge: 19

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Ye Olde Pub

You are in the front room of the pub, soaking up the cheery atmosphere. It's a little weird to see this place empty, though. In addition to the exit to the south, there is a doorway to the northeast and a door to the northwest. There is a small scrap of paper lying on the polished bar.

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Have another...

This is a room full of tables, chairs, and couches. The tables next to the couches are low, coffee-table style. These are usually great places to sit, drink, and hang out. You can almost hear the boisterous conversation and singing that must have gone on here when this place was used. You notice that a lot of the tabletops are covered with various carvings, etchings, and scrawlings, and that there is a sort of mounted parchment hanging on the wall. The only doorway is the one you came in, to the southwest.

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Drunken Carvings

The drunken carvings are a crazy collection of initials, rude remarks, logos, and everything else that occurs to the minds of people who wish to leave their mark of uncreativity for posterity. Much of this, however, has been rendered illegible, either by wear, or by the scrawlings of later writers. One thing that you are able to make out is a snatch of an English drinking song that you happen to recognize from your school days. It stirs up warm feelings, as you remember shouting this out drunkenly and defiantly into many a joyful night.

It's a shame the whole world over,
That the poor get all the blame,
While the rich get all the pleasure,
Ain't it all a bleedin' shame?

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Drink beer!

The parchment seems to bear the words of an old drinking song, a song that has probably been sung in England for centuries, by all kinds of men, ordinary or otherwise, whose only common feature was the fact that they liked to drink beer. Not the weakest of connections, when you think about it...

Drink beer! Drink beer! Oh come drink beer with me!
For I don't give a damn about any old man who won't drink beer with me!
So break out that old silver goblet with that golden crest upon it,
And we'll all have another glass of beer, more beer!
For it's not just for spite that we go out at night,
But to raise hell while we're, drink a little while we're, get a little while we're here!
So we will drink to our dear old friends,
And we will raise our glasses high, raise them high!
We will drink, drink, drink to our fellow Englishmen,
And we'll be loyal 'til we die, until we die!
And we will praise our sacred brotherhood,
And laud it to the sky, to the sky!
And when the day is done, we'll drink just one,
To England! England! England!

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Old Town

You are standing in the main street (and only street) of the old town. The road leads east and west here. You notice a small alley leading off to the side, and the prominent buildings include a little grocery store, a pub, and a general store.

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Taproom

You open the door, and it creaks loudly on unoiled and rusty hinges as you do so. Revealed before you is a room full of barrels of various sizes. Some of them have lettering on them, and quite a few of them have spigots attached.

You investigate a few of the barrels, and you find various wines, beers, lagers, ales, and other assorted spirits. One barrel that especially attracts your attention is labeled, "Merrydown Cider", with "Extra Strong" stamped underneath in smaller letters. There is a spigot on this one, and you find yourself unable to resist. So you maneuver so as to get your mouth underneath the tap, then you twist the handle. Liquid pleasure comes pouring out in the form of excellent tasting, highly alcoholic fermented apple cider.

You remember when you were first introduced to this delight way back in your 6th form days. "Ah, Merrydown," one of your friends was fond of saying, as you dreamed about the upcoming weekend and the intoxicated joys it would bring. Yes, those were the days...

Eventually, you close the tap, cutting off your precious supply of elixir. You'd love to stay here and get drunk at your leisure, but you figure it would be kind of boring by yourself. A little wistfully, you leave the room.

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Publix

The small grocery store has some faded green lettering stenciled above the door.

		J. D.  S A I N S B U R Y

You open up the door and go inside, half-hoping to maybe find some food. Instead, you are sadly disappointed. Rows and rows of empty shelves are all that remains. A quick look confirms that the cash register is empty as well. Oddly enough, the place is perfectly clean. There is no dust, no dirt, not even an odd wrapper on the floor. You don't even smell anything. It is almost as if the place had never been used, or, if it had, it was very cleanly and thoroughly looted. You don't see any sign of rats or roaches either... very strange.

After thus finding nothing of interest, you go back outside.

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Proverbial General Store

Well, this place does seem to be deserted, but any intentions you had of helping yourself to some of the wares while the shopkeeper is away are shattered when you see the inside of this store. It has been entirely stripped by looters. The large front window is no longer existent, and the door has been forced open as well. The sign along the top is hanging from one side, and it reads, "Deddington General Store". Ah, the proverbial small-town general store, stocking everything the residents could conceivably need (which wasn't much) in one place. There doesn't seem to be much point in going in, since evidently everyone else already has.

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Outside House

You are outside the strange house, which is to the north of you.

The road stretches away east and west to the town.

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Blind Alley

You decide that this alley is worth investigating, since you never know what you might find in it, or, more importantly, what might come out of it when you aren't looking. So, you walk on down this passage, which seems to be a lot longer than you at first thought. There is various debris lying around on the sides, which you care not to touch, let alone search through. You are soon distracted from this anyway, however, as you hear a strange, melodic humming coming from near the end of the alley, behind some obstructions.

Not being the most cautious of sorts, you continue to walk down towards the source. Before you get there, however, the humming stops, and a scraggly old man pops out.

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Scraggly Old Man

The man is old, skinny, shabbily dressed, and has a beard which is wild, unkempt, and scraggly. He peers at you with clear, light blue eyes.

"So you're the one I've been sent, eh?" He places extra emphasis on the words "you're" and "I've". Unable to think of an appropriate reply to this, you stand and stare at him.

"Well, I guess I'd better tell you what it's about, then," he rasps.

"You see, you can do whatever you want, and you don't have to worry about the long term consequences. I mean, you're really dreaming, so it doesn't matter what you do, since it's only within the mind anyway. Most people have trouble getting used to this fact, though, and they continue to act fairly conservatively for a while. That's why people's dreams usually fall far short of their potential. So what I'm saying is relax, and things will be made more enjoyable thereby!"

He pauses and examines you for a while, eyes moving up and down appraisingly. Then he speaks some more. "Listen, while you're here, don't just wander around for the hell of it. There's something you should try to find, for your own edification. Remember this: there are 8 cubes in a tesseract, and each of the first 7 will contain a clue as to the reaching of the last. Find the last, and you will have found a Way Between the Worlds.

Seek it, and you shall benefit."

These last few words seem to echo oddly, and you observe that the old man seems to be glowing and sort of hazy. Your head feels strangely light, and you are not sure if you want to go to sleep or throw up. Swiftly, blackness encloses...

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Parlor

You have just entered the house, and it seems like you have entered a different world as well. The room you are in is roughly a fifteen foot cube, to be sure, but the congruence with the outside ends there. First of all, incredibly, there is a doorway in the opposite wall, to the north, through which you can see the interior of another room. From what you saw of the outside of this building, you are certain that this room could not be there.

Furthermore, the furnishing in here is opulent and luxurious, a total contrast to the stark, white exterior. The floor is completely covered by an intricate oriental rug. Along each side wall, there lies a carved antique sofa of grand, yet comfortable, appearance. There is an ornate wooden liquor cabinet on one side of the far doorway. On the other side is a tall, majestic grandfather clock. The stained wooden paneling walls are hung with several paintings. The lighting is coming from brass fixtures on the two side walls. The light is soft, warm, and a little on the dim side. Overall, the atmosphere in here gives an impression of warmth, coziness, and relaxed fascination.

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Parlor

You are in the parlor. The paintings line the walls, the grandfather clock and liquor cabinet lean up against them, and the sofas sit on the rug which sits on the floor. The doorway to the north still beckons, and the entrance to the south is still there.

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Grandfather Time

Grandfather clocks have always had a unique hold over you. There's just something about their presence, their dignity, that brings across the infinite, powerful, and mysterious nature of time. Grandfather clocks seem to somehow hold mastery over that unmastered element, and rather than measuring it, they look as though they set its pace.

This particular clock seems to drive these impressions home in an especially strong manner. It is tall, but not awkwardly so, and it is just the right width for its height. Its wood looks as solid as the earth itself, and the motion of its pendulum is solemn and irresistable. It seems as if the clock owns the room...it has always been here, and it always will be. It has greeted countless visitors since time immemorial, and to everyone it has presented that same steadfast, wise exterior. The secrets of the Universe may well be locked inside.

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A Liquor Cabinet

Whether it be genuine interest, or just the subconscious desire for a drink, your eyes are drawn inevitably to the liquor cabinet. Such an exquisite receptacle for something as ugly as intoxicants, you wonder - perhaps the one is needed to offset the other.

The crystal includes wine glasses, brandy snifters, shot glasses, and everything else the affluent host would need to properly serve beverage. A drawer below holds corkscrews, bottle openers, and other such acoutrements. The collection of bottles is quite impressive: expensive brandies, fine wines, a good selection of blended whiskeys and scotches; not the most discriminating of connoisseurs could complain about anything lacking.

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Paintings

The paintings seem to span many centuries, both in style and scene depicted. Some of them are wild, surrealistic-looking scenes of primeval swamps and seashores with reddish-brown haze and flashes of lightning. Then there are pictures of dinosaurs, done in lifelike colors. They make the dinosaurs really look alive and expressive, so unlike the illustrations seen in museums. Then there are scenes of various periods in history, from all parts of the world. You didn't realize that any artists had ever devoted themselves to East Asian history, or African tribal warfare, but here it is. There are also some far-out space scenes, and conceptions of other planets. Futuristic worlds are depicted, in many different versions. It seems every different artist has his own view of what the future will be like.

You also see some really realistic portrayals of contemporary, 20th century events. You even recognize some of the famous figures depicted therein. Slowly, it begins to dawn on you that all of these paintings are not really paintings after all. They are photographs.

A sudden chill runs shivering up and down your spine, and you wonder...

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Antique Sofas

The antique sofas consist of carved and decorated wooden frames with cushions built into the surfaces. The cushions are a pale olive green color, and the wood is dark and old. Despite their old design, they look quite comfortable. They are definitely fine specimens of furniture if you've ever seen any, almost asking you to use them.

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To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

Why not sit and have a rest for a while? You've been walking around half the day it seems. You sit down on one of the sofas, and find it is, if anything, more comfortable than it looks.

Soon you are leaning against one arm, staring lazily at the stately motion of the pendulum in the grandfather clock. So regular, but slow! You try to wave your own hand back and forth with the same faultless precision and find you cannot do it. The effort contributes to your drowiness however, and you slump back into a more comfortable. horizontal, position on the couch. So strange, that we cannot be regular, you think...


You slowly open your eyes, surprised that you have slept. Memories of dreams too strange to describe into this world flash through your head. Seeing animated shapes in shifting clouds, hearing words in waterfalls...
They are gone, too fragile to hold onto.

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The Fourth Dimension

TESSERACT -

The tesseract is, literally, a four-dimensional hypercube. Such a concept is difficult for us three-dimensional creatures to imagine directly, so it is easier to extrapolate it from lower dimensions. Suppose we take a point. This is a zero-dimensional thing: it has no size in any direction. If it is taken and moved in one dimension, it leaves a trail known as a line. This is a one-dimensional object, possessing only length. If we drag this line along, perpendicular to itself, the resulting trail is called a square, which is a two-dimensional object. Now, in the same manner, the square can be lifted perpendicular to its plane, and this defines a cube. Imagine this process carried one step further. The cube is moved along in a direction perpendicular to itself (which we can't even visualize). This would create a tesseract.

In the same way as a line is bounded by 2 points, a square by 4 lines, and a cube by 6 squares, the tesseract is bounded by no less than 8 cubes distributed symmetrically in four dimensions. If we were to perceive one of these things in our world, it would appear to be a single cube from the outside, but from the inside, one would be able to pass freely between the 8 boundary cubes (which interface in planes), of which the one entered is but one member. This would be no different from an imaginary line creature moving around a corner in the outline of the square, or a plane creature from face to face on a cube.

The cube entered is a visible part of our three-dimensional universe, but the other 7 cubes are not necessarily, though they might be - in which case they need not be anywhere near each other in our space (think of the case for lines and a square). A further startling point is revealed if one considers that a normal cube is really made up of an infinite number of flat, two-dimensional squares stacked on top of each other. Thus, a tesseract actually contains an infinite number of cubes, quite a fantastic possibility...

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Oriental Rug

This particular oriental rug is covered by a design with pale blue concentric circles that go all the way out to the edges of the room (and beyond, for all you know). You cannot discern the edges of the rug. Between and within the circles there are intricate patterns in reds, browns, and yellows. The rug is of medium thickness and in quite good condition.

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Centeroom

You have a strange feeling as you pass through the doorway and into this room. You feel as though your body just moved in a direction that it had not previously been aware of, and doesn't seem fully aware of now. You don't understand how this space could be here, but now that you are in it, you get the feeling that your are very close to something very important, yet you are infinitely far away from it somehow, as well. In any event, you certainly don't know how to get to it.

Strange feelings aside, this is a very unusual room, and definitely in contrast to the one you just came from. The walls, floor, and ceiling are entirely and utterly black; they are so black that you really can't see them when you look at them. There exists a strong impression that they are not walls, but infinite space, empty only because nothing can fill infinity to any significant degree. Yet when you try to reach into the space, you touch a surface that feels like very thick, very smooth glass - except that it is not cold.

The most disconcerting thing is actually the doors. There is a doorway on each of the four sides of the room, the one you came in being on the north side. Through each one you can see another room, yet for all you can tell it's just a three-dimensional picture of a room floating disembodied in empty space. Furthermore, you notice, there is a hole in the floor with a (non-black) ladder leading down it. Also, there is a non-black ladder going up from there through a similar hole in the ceiling. All of the doorways, as well as the holes, are perfectly square, despite the fact that the doorway you walked through to get here was definitely rectangular.

Eventually, you recover enough from your disorientation to notice that there is a table in the corner of the room, and on the table is some sort of a computer. Next to the table there is (of all things) a chair. Both table and chair are of some strange, ultramodern design. There is nothing else in this place.

SOUTH WEST NORTH EAST DOWN UP

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Centeroom

You are in the weird space-room. The walls, floor, and ceiling absorb all light, and it is very strange to be in here. The computer sits quietly in the corner. There are exits on all four sides, as well as the ceiling and the floor.

SOUTH WEST NORTH EAST DOWN UP

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The Computer

The computer is definitely not your standard Apple Macintosh or IBM PC; in fact, you don't even recognize the design. The display screen is built into the table (sloping diagonally upwards), and is about two feet square. You can see no CPU, and you assume that it's built into the table itself, which certainly looks like it could contain some fairly extensive electronic wizardry without compromising its appearance. Indeed, a slot on the front edge that looks suspiciously like it could accept a disk of some sort seems to verify this hypothesis. Too bad there doesn't seem to be anything in it.

The keyboard looks old-fashioned enough, aside from the fact that it has no apparent attachment to anything else. Of course, it could simply be one of those infrared jobs. In any event, the alphabet is Roman, and the layout hasn't changed, except that there is a strange blank panel on the right side where the numeric keypad usually is. The screen, however, holds the biggest surprise. It is large, as you noted before, and it seems to have some sort of holographic properties. The text is normal enough, white on black, but the graphics are actually in three dimensions. Furthermore, they seem of an extremely high resolution... you can't discern any pixels. It is the information that is currently on the screen rather than its form that quickly catches your attention, however...

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A Link

The graphics show a table and a chair of modern design, sitting amidst an otherwise black background. A figure sits on the chair, hunched over something on the table. Some text is slowly scrolling by beneath this scene, and, gripped by an eerie feeling, you pick a point and start reading:

...
It is large, as you noted before, and it seems to have some sort of holographic properties. The text is normal enough, white on black, but the graphics are actually in three dimensions. Furthermore, they-
...
A figure sits on the chair, hunched over something on the table. Some text is slowly scrolling by beneath this scene, and, gripped by an eerie feeling, you pick a point and start reading...

Around this point, the height of the lines of text shrinks progressively, and beyond it it is so small you can only see white lines. Below that it starts getting larger again, until you can read:

Slowly, without knowing why, you lift your hand and place it down on the pad on the right-hand side of the keyboard...

You stop reading and gasp. You are about to stand up, but it seems like before you can do it you have first to move your hand towards the pad. It feels strange when you touch it, more like a pool of warm water than anything else.

Suddenly you see a different computer screen in front of you, more similar to the ones you are used to. It contains mainly text, black on white, with a few lines and boxes. Your impulse to stand up is gone, but you use a hand to move a mouse which moves an arrow on the screen until it points to two underlined words. They say click here.

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Elasticity

You are standing in the black room again, facing the computer. With a shudder, you turn away, not caring to reflect upon what you have just experienced.

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