Detective and Mystery

Johnny Ong, CCST02, "Telling Stories in Cyberspace," University Scholars Programme, National University of Singapore

Reading Afternoon gives me a feeling of playing a game with the writer in which the reader is the detective trying to solve a mystery. Each lexia shows a path (link), sometimes in a linear manner, looking towards a supposedly straight end exposing to the detective (reader) what the mystery (the story Afternoon) is. Then at times, a crossroad with a few paths lies in front of the detective and guides the detective to another plot. Or sometimes, when the detective has seen some of the evidences (content of the different lexias) that lie along the other paths, it leads the detective to think about the previous paths and reconsider the accuracy of the respective areas that the initial paths were leading him or her to.

In the beginning, there are clear instructions that give instructions to the detective in order to stay or survive in the game. Nevertheless, are the instructions 'directories' or are they setting the boundaries for the detective within the game?

"I'm not sure that I have a story. And, if I do, I'm not sure that everything isn't my story or that, whatever is my story, is anything more than pieces of other's stories." -- me, a lexia in Afternoon.

As one begins the game, one can see that there are many plots with different characters, interwoven together that adds to the mystery. I would like to focus on the character 'I'. Character 'I' seems to be the most mysterious of all. Character 'I' appears in all the game spaces (lexia) linking the other different characters. Nevertheless, the puzzling part with this possibility is that 'I' been able to appear in all the spaces jumbles up the time line, which is conveniently left out, other than in the lexia 'begin', by the game master (writer) who is also Character 'I'.

When one enters the game to play, one will notice that many of the lexia in Afternoon are loaded with sensual description that emphasize sensory receptivity as a paramount human attribute. The importance of sensuality in Afternoon comes to the fore when we account for the detective's experience in apprehending the story. With these personal experiences, the detective may be caught off guard as he relates it closely with his personal experiences and gets lost in the game focusing on his instincts (personal experiences relating to the stories) other than the facts (important contents in the other lexia) to crack the mystery. It is virtually impossible to see the entire game as a whole as Afternoon has a few clear beginnings and ends, and one often comes into a part of the story in the middle or towards the end of it. It points to the impossibility of separating the players' spaces as a discreet entity, which can then be examined and understood.

I, as one of the detectives, can't help but earnestly look for what I want out of this story. And it is this desire to finish this game that the game master is exploiting, but what I find frustrating but fun is that it is near impossible for me to end it. Nevertheless, the more I cannot solve the mystery, the more excited I become and would want to explore the game. Hence, allowing myself to be revolving in a web of excitement, experiencing the unexpected.

Afternoon Discussion overview Hypertext Cyberspace Web