ENTRY 145: The Faceless
Wherever transhumanity goes, it makes legends—some new, some old but adapted to the syntax of the times. One of the most popular, spread on chat-systems throughout the Mesh, is about a small, out-of-the-way site on the Mesh, which takes the appearance of an endless void and a sphinx without a face. Beyond this, the details vary: some claim that it can only be accessed at certain times or in certain ways, though never with a passcode; visitors are said to sometimes go mad, or feel the faceless sphinx pursue them in their dreams. A thousand variations detail what happens when the sphinx catches you, including a sizable amount of erotic fanfiction. Entire XP epics have been produced around the legend of The Faceless, and more than a few petals.
Of course, the site is real. At any given time hackers and fans have whipped up at least a dozen variations, based on different parts of the legend and their own abilities. Some of them are traps containing digital threats; others are mere artistic efforts. Most tend to suffer a degree of vandalism once uncovered, hackers expressing their opinions of the juvenile story in no uncertain terms. Naturally, there is a sizable subsidiary body of legend about those cursed hackers who defaced the sphinx and suffered for it… Mesh scripts tend to focus on the face, subtly playing with the viewer’s senses—drawing their attention, making them feel uneasy, holding their gaze—simple tricks, but sometimes very effective.
Folklorists on Titan have spent years collecting, collating, and tracing the legend, cross-referencing with different pieces of art and fiction, tracking its spread, permutation, and source. Some think they even seeded the story deliberately, to track transhumanity’s vulnerability to memetic warfare, but the most popular study traces the Faceless legend back to an anomalous artifact said to have been discovered on Mars (or Luna, or Pluto, or an exoplanet…), represented by some damaged holographic stills—and indeed, the very earliest surviving images of the Faceless are remarkably consistent.
In these images the body of the sphinx is not that of an unmodified terrestrial lion, nor is the faceless head particularly human; it has six legs and a rusty hide stretched taut over a skeleton with too many bones. Most images the face region jagged and splintered as though broken off; a minority has it carefully sanded blank or eroded away, or even replaced with a gaping hollow.
Using the Faceless
At the most basic level, The Faceless is an internet legend updated to the Mesh, and can be played straight: gamemasters can use variations on the Faceless for any number of adventures where the plot revolves around someone believing (or trying to make others believe) in the legend of the Faceless—someone visits the site and ends up brain dead or insane, babbling about the sphinx for example—or else the site is set up to prey on those aware of the legend, and contains a basilisk hack that activates when a critical audience threshold is reached. On another level, there may actually be something to the whole Faceless legend, a seed of truth that the player characters can track down to uncover a pre-human artifact…and possibly the individual or group that has been working to cover up its existence, so that the Faceless remains just a legend.