“Welcome to the annual MIT fest, TechTatva! I’m Jay–”
“–And I’m Raj–”
“And today, we ask the age-old question, “Who dunnit?”. We’re watching the MIT students race against time in the second round of the Murder Mystery, in a treasure-hunt-style search for answers! How are we feeling today, Raj? Who do you think will be the lucky winner?”
“Oh, it’s hard to tell, Jay! All I know is, time’s ticking, so our contestants better hurry up!”
Veer grimaces at the jovial crowd around him in contempt. The students of MIT laugh and chatter away as their ice golas melt off their sticks and their pani puris smear their faces. He jerkily moves out of the way and tsks discontentedly as the players near him splash water on each other’s faces, laughing merrily. What a bunch of losers, he thinks as he pushes his way through the throng of MIT students. He crumples up the useless clue in his hand and curses his rotten luck. Sighing moodily, he trudges through the stalls near the Academic Blocks, muttering the occasional expletive under his breath.
Around the MIT campus, the wind howls and the decorations adorning Student Plaza rustle. Renewed laughter echoes on the painted walls, and the students are invigorated with excitement.
“Oh, I can almost feel it, Jay! The spirit of TechTatva is here!”
A gust of wind blows past the food stalls, making a mad dash towards the Academic Blocks.
Veer pushes his way through the crowd, grumbling and cursing his friends for signing him up for this stupid murder mystery. Sure, the food at the food stalls looks, smells and tastes mouthwateringly delicious, and the games are tempting to play, but that didn’t mean that Veer wanted to be pushed into three hours of just walking around campus with nothing but a stupid riddle to go on! Really, stupid friends, stupid game, stupid people laughing at everything, stupid riddle, and stupid TechTatva.
A student lingers by the ice gola stall, his hand flitting hesitantly to his pocket, his eyes glued to the machine longingly. The trees around him dance with the wind. The flaps of the stall flutter. A cold breeze whooshes past him. The apple-flavoured gola looks very tempting…
The wind chills his soul as it brushes through him. The hair on his arms stand on end.
Without another moment’s hesitation, he plucks out his wallet and buys one dripping, apple-flavoured ice gola.
“It’s getting close, Raj! Oh, yes, it’s gaining on him!”
Clutching the crumpled riddle, Veer makes his way through the streets of campus, begrudgingly admiring and appreciating the students’ talent. Okay, so the paintings on the wall aren’t half-bad. Big deal! So what if the colours and ideas look totally awesome? That doesnt make this stupid fest any cooler! He scoffs at his thoughts and haughtily tramps on, hoping that the excitement buzzing through the crowd at Campus Store does not infect him.
“There it goes! Look at the screen, Jay! It’s moving at a superhuman speed!”
“You’re right, Raj! I can see it; I can see it! We’re almost there!”
There is a nervous excitement in the air, and the wind zig-zags through the crowd, knocking people on their feet as it goes. The students hoot with peals of laughter, the spirit of TechTatva taking over their bodies.
Veer breathes an audible sigh of relief as he reaches the large pillars of Student Plaza. He lets a wave of triumph wash over him as he lethargically reads the lines of the riddle, ambling towards the centre. Suddenly, Veer stops in his tracks.. God dammit. God. Damn. It. He seethes in anger and frustration as he looks at the squashed up clue in his hand. Did he misunderstand the clue? That would equal a total of 1500 steps wasted. He tugs at his hair and kicks at a rock at his feet, then immediately moans in pain and clutches at his foot. “Ow, ow, ow,” he mutters, trying not to look like an absolute fool in public. With a fresh wave of fury, a new slew of curses, and an aching foot, Veer hobbles back down from Student Plaza. He takes a few steps back and squints at the entrance sceptically. A circle of happiness and memory, the crumpled words in his hand read. A feast to your eyes, standing in its glory through different hues…
Veer looks at the paper and then looks up at the banners.
Red, green, blue. Red, green, blue. Nope, nothing there.
What about the decorations? Something in the bats, maybe? Or a secret message amongst the minions?
He stands there, becoming increasingly baffled by the minute.
The wind flutters the little bats and rockets and UFOs up and down, and stirs up sprinkles of laughter and toothy grins out of people, as it does every so often.
“Er, Raj? Are you seeing what I’m seeing? The strangest of phenomena seems to be happening!”
In a corner, a student tugs on one of the decoration lines as if trying to bring it down, with a mischievous glint in his eyes.
“This is wild, is it… distracted?”
The banners rustle and strain against the force, as the student chuckles tipsily.
The spirit whooshes in and out of him and he yanks the banners up and down with it.
Veer, who’s cluelessness has turned back into annoyance, almost like it’s missed him, marches in the opposing direction. His watch starts telling him off too; 5 minutes left it reads, the alarm blaring infuriatingly. Think, Veer, think. What could it possibly be?
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is a first, the spirit’s lost sight of the target, it’s found a more amusing task, it seems. What do you think about this interesting turn of events, Jay?
“Ooohh, the crowds are booing. We hear ya, people!”
“Raj, I’m afraid we can only watch and find out. Remember, it’s a race against the clock here!”
Veer flips through all the possibilities. Circle of radiance…feast to your eyes…
Was he even at the right place?
Could it be the wrong circle he’d come to?
At the Student Plaza, the wind momentarily stills. The student stops in his tracks, his eyes losing their glaze. He blinks, disorientedly, shrugs and moves on.
“Aaand it looks like we’re back, Jay! With just 3 minutes on the clock; not bad, not bad at all!”
“Now wait a minute, Raj.”
The wind is fully still now, with not even a breeze bending through the roundabout.
“Do we have a disappearance? What’s going on?”
Veer turns around to look at the Student Plaza one last time, and just as he does so, he feels like he’s been socked in the face, with realisation.
“Ohhh! What an entrance! Jay, it looks like someone really has a flair for spectacle!”
A man stands to the side of SP, trimming the bushes with a huge pair of shears.
What you seek lies in chaos and order, where one gives way to the other.
The bushes! How had he not checked the bushes!
“But the question is, Raj, is there enough time? We’re so close to starting the countdown!”
Veer sprints towards the bushes like his life depends on it. He does a quick scan of the premises. As he moves, the man with the shears gives him a knowing smile, almost suspiciously. Veer walks towards him, about to ask him something, but the man just steps aside and looks at the place he’d just been in. Veer peers closer. and right there is a blood red cross staring back at him.
Veer spits out a stream of curses, and scrambles for his phone, almost dropping it in the process.
He snaps a picture of the site and rams the enter button.
The screen turns bright white as a new message pops up. Congratulations on solving the riddle! You’re ready to move to the next round!
“YES! HE’S DONE IT!”
Veer throws his hands up in victory, thinking that maybe TechTatva isn’t so stupid after all. He can almost hear the words.
“And there you have it, folks! Veer Solanki, the winner of TechTatva ‘22’s game of Murder Mystery!”
Veer sprints back to the stairs of, strangely energised and ready to take on the next challenge.
How are you feeling after that victory, Raj?”
“Jay, I’m super pumped! It was a close one, but the spirit of TechTatva pulled through!”
“Right you are, Raj! Well, folks, we’ll be back after a short break, with the 3rd round of the Murder Mystery, I’m Jay–”
“–and I’m Raj!”
“Keep watching Spirit Watch to get the latest updates on Round 3. Next up we have a crowd favourite, the Ghost of Detective Holmes!”
Overhead, a gust of wind blows above the enthused crowd, its low howl sounding similar to a sigh of relief.
Written by Akanksha Banerjee and Radhika Krishna for MTTN
Featured Image by Hitarth Dixit for MTTN