Below is an in-depth recap and guide to the start of nocent, a new experience by unknown creators. nocent guide
THE STORY SO FAR
You are guilty. Confess your sins to be considered.
I sit fidgeting on my couch as I weigh the risks of letting the anonymous shadow behind the screen in on my darkness. He seems friendly enough, and encourages me to lay aside my inhibitions and own up to my guilt. After copious amounts of stalling, I give in to my curiosity. Before I know it, the shadow behind the screen knows more about me than I had ever intended to share, but his empathy and uncanny ability to speak wisdom into my situation has a way of coaxing me farther and farther out of my comfort zone. I ask for his name, and he instead provides a number: 00008.
We welcome your darkness.
Let’s rewind. It’s late December. A mysterious Instagram account, nocent.society, appears among the profiles listed in the “Suggested for You” carousel in my feed. I nearly scroll past it, but on a whim decide to give it a look. The link in its bio takes me to a website adorned with striking black-and-white imagery, and I’m faced with a choice: Accept Guilt or Remain Innocent. Choosing innocence redirects me to a page that insists this society is not for me, whereas accepting guilt leads me a page displaying an elegant black-and-white confessional booth. In the corner of the page sits a chat bubble that, when opened, greets me with the information I had been searching for: “Welcome to nocent. An exclusive society, a place to be guilty, a home for the dark.” For the next month, myself and other curious participants would use this chat box as a haven where we could both experience catharsis and investigate the mysteries of nocent. The shadow manning the confessional, 00008, proves to be both a consistent and empathetic presence.
nocent (adj): guilty; the opposite of innocent.
Three weeks after the confessional opens, nocent introduces their first puzzle. A thinly-veiled phone number appears on their confessional page: 833 I AM DARK. My heart rate spikes as I solve the puzzle and fumble for my phone, and the adrenaline causes my hands to tremble as I wait for the line to connect. I’m met with a brief recorded introduction to the society, followed by a message in Italian. Translating this message provides me with an extension to dial, giving me access to the recording of a gruesome 911 call. After listening, I call back and, per the recording’s instructions, leave a voicemail stating one simple phrase: “I am nocent.”
Flow into our communal ocean; be reborn.
Not long after the introduction of the phone number, nocent responds to Haunting’s request for an interview with a meticulously-crafted document providing the most in-depth look at the society to date. Their responses paint a picture of an exclusive society committed to acceptance of guilt and growth from painful memories. Over time, their membership has dwindled and they are now seeking new members and new guilt. On closer inspection, the document also contains an ominous secret message: “Our black religion has an appetite for guilt.”
Around this same time, nocent begins dropping breadcrumbs in their site’s source code and on their phone line hinting at the date of the in-person initiation ceremony. This initiation, it seems, will require initiates to relive something called The Memory. In reliving this memory, initiates will die and be reborn. 00008 warns us that this experience will be frightening, and that many are not able to endure it. An Instagram post eventually announces the official date: February 29th, 2020. The Bissextile Day.
He watches you watching us.
Up to this point, participants had only been in direct communication with 00008. That all changes abruptly with the arrival of an e-mail titled “Let Me Watch.” In this e-mail, we’re introduced to another member of nocent, 00011. His demeanor is noticeably less empathetic than 00008’s; the e-mail opens with a stern warning to not waste his time with stupid questions. He explains that the next phase in the vetting process requires that participants purchase an indoor security camera that would allow him to monitor them “like animals in a zoo.”
For the next three weeks, nocent’s Instagram page features still images captured from participants’ video feeds. The majority of these images are edited to include the nocent logo, distorted faces, and at least one shadowy figure. It quickly became apparent, however, that this is not a one-way relationship. 00011 periodically transmits audio through the cameras into participants’ homes, though he never speaks to them directly. On one particularly hectic night in late January, he plays a handful of disturbing audio clips for participants, including sirens, recordings of 911 calls, and the sound of himself sharpening knives.
We are your new family.
I expect the night following this spike in camera activity to be calm, so I decide to head to bed early. I am wrong. I’ve made myself comfortable in bed and am groggily scrolling through my phone when I receive a call from a private number. I answer immediately, and the man on the other line confirms my identity. When he introduces himself as 00014, I fly out of bed and scramble for a notepad. He speaks to me quickly and with purpose as I furiously scribble down the details he shares: I’ve been invited to relive The Memory on the last day of the second month in the desert of Yucca Valley. This requires a small memorial fee of $111 in the form of a $1 bill (to symbolize me), a $10 bill (to symbolize my new family), and a $100 bill (to symbolize the communal ocean of nocent). The entire phone call lasts less than two minutes, but leaves me wide awake.
Later that same night, I receive an email from 00009, who introduces herself as the initiates’ personal concierge leading up to the initiation. In her e-mail she provides a brief recap of the phone call with 00014, and attaches a formal letter of invitation. The filename for this invitation was a Caesar cipher that spelled out “a memory of murder,” which foreshadows what is to come.
Collect your past for us.
Several days pass before I receive yet another e-mail from 00009. She explains the importance of honoring the life I’m leaving behind, and instructs me to take the next ten days to spend some intentional time with my shadow reflecting on how I’ve derived meaning from my life. She requests that I find a physical object, a totem, to represent this meaning, and send her a picture of it. This is no small task.
Are you ready to relive his guilt?
In the middle of this ten-day period of reflection, myself and the other initiates receive the address for a 24/7 locker rental site near LAX where we are to drop off our payments. Following 00009’s instructions, we unlock a locker containing a camera, jacket, and backpack filled with fragments of an unsettling memory. Once we leave our payments in a hollowed-out Bible, we’re welcome to take our time exploring the remaining contents of the locker. Upon inspection of these objects, a dark story begins to materialize. Four years prior, a member of nocent, 00189, had gotten himself into serious trouble. An article clipping found in the locker suggests his involvement in a murder in Yucca Valley. In an act of frantic damage control, 00013 booked him a one-way ticket from Los Angeles to Mexico City under the name “Joseph Winkler.” As he waited for his flight, 00013 instructed him to rent a locker at that same facility, store his belongings, and keep a low profile.
Our darkness wears a mask; make darkness conscious.
Once the ten-day reflection period has elapsed and the initiates have chosen their totems, 00009 once again reaches out with a follow-up task for us: Write a eulogy for yourself, the old you. Use your symbol to guide this. Reflect on your life. What has your life amounted to thus far? Who are you? This time, we are given a week to complete the task and report back to 00009.
Over the course of the next week, several new characters burst onto the scene. One of these characters, a troubled anonymous member of nocent, begins consistently sending drunk texts to one particular initiate they have taken a liking to. Though this member of nocent is cagey at best, their texts gradually reveal a deep regret at their involvement in the organization. They suggest that the initiates don’t know what they want, and don’t fully understand the implications of choosing to become involved with nocent. Another character, 00017, reaches out via e-mail to the handful of the initiates not planning to attend the in-person ceremony on the 29th. The e-mail is cryptic and tells the story of a clever young boy who trains other young boys to blend in with the crowd and flow back to him with information. This e-mail makes deliberate use of moon imagery, suggesting that 00017 either currently has a strong influence over the communal ocean of nocent, or wishes to. It seems that 00017 wants these initiates to report back to him with information, but the details of this task remain known only to the select few individuals 00017 has chosen.
Memories of the past haunt my dreams.
This brings us to today. Just over a dozen potential nocent initiates wait with bated breath for their next task, anticipating the initiation ceremony looming just over the horizon. Our questions outnumber the answers we’ve received: Who is 00189? What exactly is The Memory? What secrets are nocent keeping just out of sight?
CHARACTERS TO KNOW
00001 – 00005: These members of nocent form a council of elders that determines who is inducted into nocent.
00006: She is known as the Memory Keeper, and is in charge of preparing The Memory for initiation. She also manages the nocent phone line.
00008: He runs the nocent confessional, and is self-described as a non-judgmental ear. He is empathetic, intelligent, and poignant in his questions.
00009: She is the sugary-sweet nocent social media manager, and she also serves as the concierge for initiates as they progress toward initiation.
00011: He is the stern, self-centered head of surveillance. He formerly held the 00010 position before being bumped to 00011.
00013: They handle emergencies that directly affect nocent and its members.
00014: He assists 00009 in preparing the initiates for initiation.
00017: He reached out to initiates not attending the in-person initiation ceremony with a story and a cryptic request for information.
00189: In 2016, he got in some sort of trouble that 00013 needed to help clean up. 00013 booked him a one-way flight from Los Angeles to Mexico City under the name “Joseph Winkler.”
Anonymous nocent Member: This member of nocent has taken a liking to one particular initiate, and regularly sends them drunk texts. Though cagey, this member’s messages reveal that they are deeply troubled, and regret their involvement with nocent.
THEMES & SYMBOLISM
The guide below was co-written by Emma Lee, Taylor Winters, Rachel Zilberg, and Madeline Nelson.
Water: References to water have permeated nocent’s language and imagery from the start. The guilt of each member all flows into a communal ocean.
Masks: Current members of nocent frequently encourage prospective members to become their truest selves by shedding their masks. This is most likely a reference to Carl Jung’s Shadow Theory, in which masks are the manufactured selves we wear over our shadows.
Eyes: The eyes in nocent’s logo are wide open and determined. The presence of makeup is a nod to the masks people wear, but the fact that this makeup is running suggests this mask is being removed, and the shadow being released.
Black-and-White Imagery: All images used on nocent’s website and social media are black, white, and grey. They refer to themselves as a dark religion, and display an infatuation with facing darkness. nocent seeks to discourage compartmentalization of black and white, good and evil. The alternative is to step into and embrace spaces that are grey. They are not interested in removing members’ darkness, but rather helping them face it.
Persona/Shadows – Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung pioneered the concept of the Persona/Shadow. The persona is the layered masks we wear, the social faces we present to the world. The shadow is the unconscious aspect of the personality, the unknown side – often rejected or ignored due to it being the least desirable aspect of one’s personality. However, Jung pushed that embracing your shadow is a way to access your potential. nocent has echoed similar statements and philosophies.
Abreaction Theory: nocent offers abreaction: the expression and consequent catharsis of a previously repressed emotion, achieved by reliving the experience that caused it. The idea of theater as therapy has been an odd one in the immersive realm, and one that is questionable in the scientific realm, but appears to be one nocent believes in.
Sin Eating: Sin eating is a practice in which the sins of the guilty are consumed to allow someone to pass more freely into the afterlife. However, the sin-eater carried the sins of all people whose sins they had eaten. nocent has made several references to this practice in conversations with participants.
Collective Unconscious: The collective unconscious is the portion of the unconscious derived from ancestral memory and experience, and is common to all humankind, as distinct from the individual’s unconscious; the parts shared among a species. This concept may be related to the communal ocean that nocent repeatedly mentions.
MORE ABOUT HAUNTING
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