"They crawl up the mountain, bare hands on the sharp volcanic rocks. The sun beats down on them. It is a grueling test. The island has a secret that it doesn't want to reveal.
They draw close to the man at the top of the mountain, keeping their guns trained on him. He has no weapon. His body is fragmented like an image in a broken mirror, various pieces floating without connection, the brightness of the sky shining between them, the blood of his insides bright red. His head is like a balloon floating several feet over the rest of him.
'Hello, America,' the head calls, breaking into a sickly smile. The whites of the eyes are clustered with red hemorrhages. Sweat rolls down the face."
What you just read is an anonymous Redditor's reply to an innocent photo of a man posing with his enormous LEGO battleship.
The cryptic user _9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9 has been commenting on seemingly random Reddit posts with sinister, and often gruesome sci-fi vignettes, ever since he created the account six days ago. His posts, which remind me of a sort of prosaic Lovecraft, quickly caught the attention of a growing number of users.
And, as it goes with all Reddit mysteries, people have picked apart every last letter in 9M9H9E9's stories, and come up with some pretty convincing cyphers, theories, and dark suspicions about the poster's identity.
If you cruise through 9M9H9E9's comments, you'll see a lot of talk about flesh interfaces (shudder), LSD, and trench warfare. His writings evoke creepypastas and stories by the SCP Foundation—an online horror community borne out of 4chan's /x/ paranormal discussion board. References to lost cosmonauts, the Russian Sleep Experiment, Hungarian serial killer Elizabeth Báthory (aka "the blood countess"), and macabre Soviet mythology seem tailor-made for internet readers.
A few of the characters the author has embodied are a Japanese researcher considering suicide by LSD overdose, an American GI who discovers something sickening in a Viet Cong tunnel, a US Marine who meets death at Iwo Jima, a friend of the Manson Family who walks into a "giant space pussy," and perhaps the most revolting of all: a child whose mother has been replaced by an avatar made from desiccated animal parts.
9M9H9E9, as The Verge pointed out, appears to be describing an "eerie alternate world" accessible through portals created by his mind. In a now-deleted manifesto directed at other Reddit users, he called himself a "30-something American male," and pretty explicitly admitted to substance abuse. There were hints at possible psychosis, but the author remained in character and insisted his writings are based on things that actually happened to him.
_9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9 expands his fictional empire for our sci-fi hub, "Terraform": The Flesh Interface
As for the flesh interfaces he keeps referring to, 9M9H9E9 said this: "Obviously I can't define a flesh interface in terms of purpose or composition or mechanism. I can only list the various phenomena which are related to them. Chief among these is the creation of an incident zone wherein objects are spontaneously segmented; in other words, parts of the objects simply disappear, yet the objects continue to behave as if the missing parts are still present."
Reddit user HotGrilledSpaec suggested a flesh interface is actually a body that has undergone "gnosis," which is the opening of someone's mind after an experience that allowed their consciousness to transcend their physical body. Psychedelic drugs can elicit mystical experiences similar to the concept of gnosis, so perhaps this is what 9M9H9E9 believes he's experienced.
My colleague Sébastien Wesolowski over at Motherboard France noticed that some Redditors believe the author is a member of r/DigitalCartel—a paranoid group of users that revels in conspiracy theories and psychedelics. 9M9H9E9's has been compared to one of the subreddit's most prolific posters Anatta-Phi, which has only stoked the theory that the two are somehow related.
There are a ton of other theories out there, and this dedicated subreddit and Genius annotated history of 9M9H9E9's comments are pretty good places to start if you feel like donning your tinfoil hat and going to town on possible hidden meanings.
But something suspicious is definitely afoot. The original subreddit dedicated to discussing the user's posts, r/9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9, has since been locked by moderators. Over the last day or so, various messages have popped up on the page, and according to Reddit user SquirtingTortoise, it even temporarily redirected to pro-Bernie Sanders and pro-Donald Trump subreddits, but I haven't been able to verify that.
At one point, the subreddit displayed a message that a few users interpreted as a cipher: "We need lisense. to continu, more followers will be trainned. ideas can be assasinated to. there are no coroborators to the flow. sometime there are accidents. oter times there are meracles. in for a fennig, out for a pound."
Presently, the subreddit just says "The End," and links to a pastebin featuring morse code. When the morse code is translated to binary, it says: "the horse's eye (yellow sand) is leaving everyone nervously contemplating eating dark mother eggs." What the fuck.
There's no evidence of ciphers or code in 9M9H9E9's history, and it doesn't really make sense for him to have tanked the subreddit. Some users are accusing the subreddit's creator of gamejacking r/9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9, and trying to hijack the anonymous poster's identity.
Of course, the whole thing could also be an elaborate promotional campaign on behalf of some enterprising brand. This wouldn't be the first time Reddit obsessed over a creepy video or a brand has covertly infiltrated a platform to push their product. I'm just hoping it's not a viral marketing stunt for some nootropics startup.
We still don't know whether 9M9H9E9 is one person or several. Perhaps someone is merely taking advantage of Reddit users' penchant for solving mysteries and dabbling in the paranormal, by crafting an intriguing narrative and planting cryptic riddles that ultimately lead to nowhere.
As of right now, 9M9H9E9 is still posting. There's an active Wiki dedicated to discussing his new writings, and I'll update this story if anything new comes to light. Until then, may you and your flesh interfaces be well.