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People Have Been Writing This Story On An Amazon Forum For Four Years

BuzzFeed News spoke to the users who wrote the pun-filled, innuendo-laden tale line by line.

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On 27 September 2011 a user on Amazon’s fiction forum started a new thread with a single sentence.

In an attempt to encourage other users to write a book within the forum, user "knocked out 73 just woke up" kicked off proceedings with: "It was a dark and stormy night."

Others immediately began adding their own one-line contributions.

And on 9 July 2015 the story came to an abrupt end. After almost four years, 400 pages, and 10,000 posts the thread reached its capacity.

It is now locked forever and can never be edited.

BuzzFeed News tracked down those who saw the epic tale over the finish line to find out how they did it and what motivated them to continue writing the story for all those years.

The story – described as a nonsensical fun adventure, part sci-fi, part comedy, part sea-faring yarn, filled with continual innuendo and numerous characters in countless locations – ended in a rather underwhelming fashion.

A user named Twoddle Bungler finished the story with an epilogue and then tantalisingly just typed “…”

What seemed like a deliberately unambiguous climax actually turned out to be a mistake.

"I tried to reserve a very last post to prevent interlopers. I typed '...' and went back to edit my previous post. As soon as I hit Return, on the last-but-one, the thread locked," he wrote in a different thread.

Speaking to BuzzFeed News, Twoddle Bungler, aka TB, who didn't want to give his real name but said he was retired with a background in music and technology and lived in the south of England, said he had been contributing to the thread since December 2011.

"I enjoyed knitting together apparently irreconcilable events," he said. "I also enjoyed the rush of creating an occasional extended adventure-type narrative.

"I had no idea that it would end. I saw the thread as a series of episodes with an overarching theme. It was only when HB and PC [users Handybird and P. Cobb] pointed out that threads have a maximum number of pages that I had any thought of the need for a conclusion. Only at the last moment did I rush to tie up loose ends and finish storylines."

Twoddle Bungler, Handybird, and P. Cobb became the main contributors to the thread and relentlessly drove it forward.

BuzzFeed discovered that P.Cobb is the username of Paul Cobb, a graphic designer in Birmingham.

He joined the thread in November 2011, when it was already on its 60th page, he said.

The story developed into a series of treasure hunts, with the plot moving through locations around the world, including some imaginary ones, Cobb said.

As the number of contributers began to twindle, the diehard users tried to install some form of structure to the story.

However, Cobb said, they had to regularly deal with people trying to derail the thread by jumping in and typing things like: "Then they all died. The end."

He told BuzzFeed News during a series of email conversations:

The disrupters ranged from the mischievous, who got a kick from planting obstacles in our way, just to see how creative we could be in finding a way around them.

Then there were the critics who didn't 'get' the humour and who felt we were attempting a genuine book. The reactions from these varied in animosity from sarcasm disguised as pretend contributions, to literary snobbishness where we were accused of ripping off the styles of a range of writers, some of whom I'd never even heard of.

Then there was the sheer outpouring of bile in the form of personal attacks telling us to get a life. Fortunately, there were long spells free from attacks as well.

He said that the attacks on the thread would sometimes make him question whether to continue, but they usually caused the dedicated users to close ranks and “come back out with all guns firing”.

He revealed he used the Amazon story as practice for writing his own young person’s adventure-fantasy novel, which he has now completed, although not published.

Cobb said he thought that would be it after the thread finished. "However, the 'last ones standing' developed an understanding and, dare I say, a bond," he said.

Meanwhile, Twoddle Bungler said it was Cobb who held the thread together, sometimes singlehandedly.

"Without him the tale would never have reached its epic proportions," he said. "I like to think I created action when action was needed."

Twoddle Bungler also admitted to experiencing a "sense of bereavement" at the story's enforced ending.

Handybird, whose real name is Jools, said at times she was worried she was being more of a hindrance than a help.

She initially became involved in the thread due to boredom at work, she said.

"A lot of my ramblings were unashamed nonsense and once the thread became more 'structured' if you will, I believe it was PC and TB who held it all together and I'm very grateful that they did because I thoroughly enjoyed the experience," Jools said.

"I was often very conscious that I was open to criticism but I always felt that I had others, particularly PC, on my side, he was an inspiration throughout. Strangely, now that it's over I'm quite happy to leave it that way. PC and TB can do with it what they may."

And what do they plan on doing with it? Well, nothing, really.

The group has already moved onto new threads and new stories. Twoddle Bungler said he was considering writing a piece of software to extract certain story elements and characters from the thread for future use.

But for now they are happy to let the thread to fall down the rankings of most popular Amazon forums and follow a new adventure somewhere else.

Despite having spent so much time in each other's company online, they have never met in real life and have no plans to do so.

"I think that's one of the things that made the whole experience so very special," Jools said. "Over the years a few of us developed a sort of, 'bond', if you will? There was, if I dare say, a weird chemistry that evolved over time.

"And more importantly, and I think the others will agree, we became friends without actually knowing anything about one another. We definitely appeared to share a sense of humour and indeed, of the ridiculous at times. So no, for myself I think I would prefer it if we can stay the way we are? Who knows, one day maybe."

You can read the story in its entirety here.

And the sequel here.