By Karen Wang
A question has been plaguing the staff of the U Post. A dark and frightening question.
“I don’t know where they’re coming from,” said editor Sarah Naidu. “They just keep appearing and appearing.”
“It’s really weird,” said co-editor-in-chief Ryan Ricks. “Like, super weird. I don’t like it.”
“What are you even talking about?” asked editor Keegan Priest when confronted with this pressing issue. He was still confused after the U Post staff spent ten minutes explaining the dire situation to him. “I don’t understand what the big deal is. They’re just fun personality quizzes.”
But are they really just “fun personality quizzes?” Or is there something much more sinister behind their “fun” facade?
Personality quizzes have been popping up on the U Post, with no author attributed to them, leaving only one question in the minds of the U Post staff and fanbase: who exactly is writing and posting these quizzes?
Join me, co-editor-in-chief Karen Wang, as I work to uncover this grave mystery in the first edition of Searching for Answers, a new U Post series uncovering the mysteries of University High School one at a time.
Phase One: Research
Before beginning my full investigation, I knew I needed to follow in the footsteps of all the great investigative journalists before me. I needed to dig up every last bit of information I could get on the subject in question.
A quick perusal of the Merriam Webster dictionary informed me that a personality quiz is defined as “any of several tests that consist of standardized tasks designed to determine various aspects of the personality or the emotional status of the individual examined.”
I contemplated this definition for several hours, spending a grand total of four sleepless nights debating the precise meanings of the complex and vague words “any,” “that”, “of,” “to,” and “the.” Once I decided on their intended meanings, I moved forward with my research.
I spent two weeks taking every personality quiz posted on the U Post website, making sure to change my answers so I could get an exhaustive list of all possible outcomes from each quiz. I then compiled these outcomes into a spreadsheet for future analysis.
A strange sense of deja vu struck me as my eyes watered painfully from hours of exposure to the artificial light of the computer, but I quickly dismissed it as simply sleep-deprivation induced paranoia. Spending an entire weekend taking the same personality quizzes over and over was not great for my mental or physical health.
My research gave me several leads, but I knew that I needed to get some more information before this investigation could really get started.
Phase Two: Interrogation
In order to get a complete picture of the subject in question, I sat down to interview all of those implicated in the case.
I first approached co-editor-in-chief Ryan Ricks, who looked bewildered by how intensely I stared at her for five straight minutes before asking my first question.
It was a hopeless case. Ryan kept insisting that I was wasting her time and that I already knew the person behind it all, both of which were baseless lies. I continued to push her with more pointed questions until I got an answer that piqued my interest.
“Oh, now that I think of it, there has definitely, 100% been a mysterious shadowy figure sitting in the corner of room 103 when we have staff meetings,” she said exasperatedly. “Because that’s incredibly realistic and not weird at all, right? Why would you even ask that? You don’t ask leading questions when interviewing someone. That’s, like, rule number one of journalism.”
She sighed dramatically. I continued to glare at her. “Can you just leave now? I’m trying to work on my homework and it’s really awkward with you looking at me like that.”
I acknowledged her request and approached my next target, a new set of questions already forming inside my head.
Editor Sarah Naidu stands with her arms crossed over her chest, her eyes narrowed as she asked me quietly, “Karen, are you okay? This isn’t like you.”
“This is me. I’ve always been like this. Maybe you just haven’t been paying enough attention.” I tried to bait her into getting angry. I’ve seen sequences like these in crime documentaries. If I get her angry enough, she’ll accidentally reveal information to me. “Are we even friends? Or has everything been a lie? Have I just been a fraud this whole time?”
“Karen, what is going on? First, you show up to school looking like you got run over by a truck and then you corner me in the bathroom to ask me about the U Post’s personality quizzes,” Sarah said. “Can I just wash my hands? Please?”
“No,” I answered. “You have information that I need.”
“I really don’t,” Sarah replied. “You’re the only one that ever uses the personality quiz maker. None of the other editors even know how to make a personality quiz.”
“But I shared my knowledge with you all by creating a tutorial and emailing it to you,” I insisted. “Someone must be using my supreme tutorial.”
“Karen, no one ever reads your emails. Seriously.”
With my feelings fully hurt, I gave Sarah an affronted look before promptly exiting the bathroom, more determined than ever to find the truth. I zeroed in on my final target.
“Where were you five nights ago at 11:39 PM?” I demanded.
“Whoa, whoa,” editor Keegan Priest answered with his hands raised. “What are you even talking about?”
“I know you did it!” I shouted. “You’re the only suspect I have left!”
“Did what?” Keegan questioned, a perplexed expression on his face.
“You’re the one writing and posting all the random personality quizzes on the U Post website,” I answered. “I know it has to be you.”
Keegan looked even more confused. “There are personality quizzes on the U Post website? Since when?”
“Playing dumb won’t save you!” I warned.
“I legit have no idea what you’re talking about,” Keegan responded. “But good luck! Let me know what you find out.” He checked his phone briefly before making a choking noise. “Oh crap, I’m ten minutes late to AP Chem. See you later!”
He waved before sprinting down the hallway to class. I watched his form until it disappeared. Then I realized that I was fifteen minutes late to AP Chem. I ran for my life.
Phase Three: Going Rogue
None of my research or interviews were offering any real insight. The spreadsheets I created resulted in dead ends and errors. Something about how you can’t do math using words. Nothing the editors told me helped me narrow down my field of suspects, and I knew that it was quite possible that they were feeding me with nothing but lies.
But then, my encounter with Sarah suddenly popped into my mind again. She had said something about me having access to the personality quiz maker. And then I knew this was the perfect opportunity to take things into my own hands.
With fifteen cups of coffee in my system and a heart full of excitement, I logged into the personality quiz maker. I gasped in shock.
There they all were. All of the new personality quizzes in a single place. I had hit the jackpot.
“I knew it!” I screeched to myself. “Someone has been using the joint U Post account to create these personality determination devices!”
After a quick scolding from my parents about “keeping it down” and “Karen, it’s 4 AM, what are you even doing?” and “this is why your brother is our favorite child,” I continued my investigation into the sinister creations sitting unsuspectingly inside the U Post account.
A brief two-minute nap and another session of poking around later, and I found the key to discovering the identity of the mysterious personality quiz creator.
With no hesitation, I traced the IP address of the creator. I then entered the IP address into Google Maps. After receiving a series of errors about how “you can’t just enter random numbers into Google Maps and expect a reasonable result,” I Googled “IP address” and discovered that it wasn’t a physical address.
“My bad,” I murmured to myself. “Big oopsie.”
I Googled “trace location of IP address” and found myself on a site that could find the physical location of a specific IP address. I cackled maniacally to myself.
I quickly copied and pasted the IP address I had found into the search bar and waited for the results with bated breath.
Carmel, Indiana, USA
No. This couldn’t be right.
I narrowed my eyes and took a closer look. After some more poking around, I overlaid the location of the IP with a map of Carmel. The pin showing the location of the IP address was somewhere in central Carmel. I zoomed in. Then I realized that underneath the pin was a blue circle.
I Googled “what does a blue circle on Google map mean” and learned that the blue circle represented the location of the user.
“What is a user?” I asked myself as I began another Google search. “Oh wait, am I the user?”
According to the Internet, I was indeed the user. And that could only mean one thing.
“Oh my god, someone broke into my house!” I screamed. “Oh my god, what do I do? They must’ve tracked me! They knew I was onto them!” I looked darkly at my closed door, fearful that a burglar would bust down the hinges at any moment. “This job is more dangerous than I imagined.”
Phase Four: Finding Answers
I prepared myself by grabbing my phone, a kitchen knife, and a blanket before embarking on a thorough search of my home.
“They have to be around here somewhere,” I muttered, holding my phone’s flashlight up high while holding the knife in the other. “They have to reveal themselves at some point.”
I searched and searched and searched, more and more on edge as I continued to find nothing. They must’ve been very well-hidden, and thus, very well-acquainted with the layout of my house. Just how long had they been stalking me?
My search ceased as my living room lights suddenly flickered on. I jerked, my blanket falling to the ground as my shaking and sweating hands gripped my phone and the knife unsteadily.
“Karen, what in the world is going on? Why are you holding a knife? Put that away this instant!”
“Yes, mom,” I muttered before trudging to the kitchen to dispose of the knife.
When I returned, my mother stared at me, a mixture of annoyance and concern on her face. “It is the ungodly hour of 6 AM, and I find you wandering around the living room with a knife in your hand and a blanket over your head? What is this, a ghost costume? Halloween was weeks ago.”
“I’m doing important work, mom!” I insist. “You wouldn’t understand.”
My mother narrowed her eyes at me. “I work for a company that makes drugs that treat major diseases and illnesses.”
“Okay, maybe your work is important too,” I conceded. “But this is an urgent matter.”
“Karen, you look awful. Get some sleep.”
I didn’t answer as she wandered off to her bedroom. I knew there was no way I would be able to sleep after the series of disturbing revelations I had just discovered.
“There has to be another way,” I muttered to myself. “There has to be another trail.”
Phase Five: The Reveal
I returned to the safety of my room, knife-less but still full of determination. An idea had popped into my mind as I trudged my way up the stairs. I needed to check the editing history of the quizzes.
“Which UHS teacher are you?” – last edited six months ago
“What you should do to survive the school year?” – last edited three months ago
“What major life decision should you make based on your zodiac sign?” – last edited one month ago
All of these timestamps let me confused and pondering. Who had access to these quizzes and templates? Who had created the account in the first place? Who was the culprit behind these sinister creations?
I searched the U Post staff group chat for answers. I scanned through the plethora of messages until I found messages near the timestamps of the personality quizzes:
You: hey guys i just finished the uhs teacher quiz!
Sarah: Can’t wait to see it!
Ryan: Post it before finals week
And then more:
You: just posted the school survival quiz! hope people actually take this one lol
And even more:
You: the zodiac quiz is live!!! my best work yet
Sarah: I love it!
Keegan: Looks great
And all of these messages pointed to the same person.
I stood up unsteadily, unable to bear the weight of the news. I walked to my bathroom and stared at my reflection in the mirror.
“Who even are you?” I whispered with tears running down my face.
“I’m you, Karen,” my reflection answered. “We’re the ones that made the quizzes.”
“No, no, no!” I sobbed. “This can’t be true! I would never do such a thing!”
“Think back to last May,” my reflection said. “What were you doing?”
“Working on fun interactive quizzes for the U Post…” I trailed off. “Oh.”
“You should get some sleep,” my reflection said. “The conversation we’re having is a hallucination created by your sleep deprivation and excessive caffeine intake.”
Phase Six: Coming to Terms with the Truth
Learning to trust people again was hard. But I took small steps until I was able to do so.
Sometimes I think back on the girl who wrote those quizzes and wonder what I would change if I had to do it all again.
“Nothing,” I murmur to myself. “I wouldn’t change a thing.”
“Karen?” Ryan asks me. “Why are you staring off into space and talking to yourself like that? You know you’re not trapped in a movie, right?”
I ignore her. “And although I may have lost some things along the way, like my sanity and my dignity and my credibility as a journalist, the things I’ve gained are what really matter.”
Sarah stares at me. “What exactly have you gained from wasting your own time?”
“Knowledge, young one. Knowledge and wisdom.”
“I still don’t understand what this whole fiasco was about,” Keegan mutters. “And at this point, I’m afraid to ask.”
I shush him. “You’re ruining the moment.”
He rolls his eyes as I clear my throat. “As I was saying, it’s the things that I’ve gained from this experience that will shape me forever.”
“Are you done yet?” Ryan questions me. “I need you to edit this article instead of dramatically narrating your life out loud for no apparent reason.”
I smile serenely. Ordinary people will never understand what I went through, and that’s okay. I am grateful for what has transpired.
This has been the first edition of Searching for Answers. Make sure to join me next time as I uncover the mysteries of UHS, one by one.