Subterfuge

Author: Saumyaa Sinha

Smoke filled the little cellar. One couldn’t tell if the pungency was from the cigar tobacco or the wine or the rapidly rotting body of Louise Baer.

***

“This is ridiculous. It cannot possibly be expected from me to wait this long,” he mumbled under his breath, sitting on a chair so high it seemed he was nothing but a furniture talking.

“They are arriving shortly sir, if you could just be so kind as to-” the assistant began.

“I don’t believe in kindness, its blasphemy blinds us, and if it isn’t clear enough then perhaps there is no use in this pathetic wrangle, you understand?”

“Very well understood sir, maybe that’s why you’re here,”, a steady unwavering voice answered back, the lack of humor in it terrifying.

“Ah Miss Davis, kind of you to finally see through to your commitments,” he spat, as he swallowed the woman from the top of her smooth haired head to the glistening tip of her heel.

“You are, if I’m not wrong, sitting in my office, Mr. Smith, traveled 32 miles for my help on a petty case you have twisted for yourself, and you, fragile little man, have the audacity to run your mouth to an attorney with the power over 15 states. I’m not the one in the mess here, sir.” She smiled, walked over to her desk and sat on her chair, fingers entwined in front of her.

“Miss, you have me all wrong,” Mr. Smith smiles, the demeanor of his body changing. Women can be intimidating. Especially if they have a degree in law. “I did nothing. I need you to prove that”.

“That’s all pretty well, but tell me first, I beg, why did you kill him?”. She asked, simply skimming through some papers at her desk, not bothering to look at the man sat opposite to her. “The bench warrants did give me quite a headache this morning,”.

“This is preposterous!” Mr. Smith raged and got off his chair, slamming down his hand on the rosewood table.

“Now you be careful, that’s real wood,” she raised an eyebrow and that was enough for him to sit back down.

“I have come here to tell you Miss, that I have killed no one. I am a businessman not a murderer!”

“But Louise Baer WAS your rival”

“Yes but-”

“And you did threaten him not once, but on three different occasions”

“Miss, I agree but-”

“And if he were to die, his shares were to be automatically transferred to you?”

“That’s true, but-”

“And you plead innocence? Did you come here to waste my time, Sir?”

He sighed, slowly rubbing circles around his head with his fingers. This woman was maddening. He dropped his voice to a bare whisper. “I did not kill him. I don’t know who did it. But it wasn’t me,”.

“Hmm,” she said undeterred. “Mr. Smith, do you know what the state police department found during their investigation? A pipe. Much like yours. Here let me refill that for you,” and she bent over the table to grab the pipe out of the bewildered man’s mouth. “Porter!” she shouted and a skinny man, wearing a suit two sizes too big for him came running into the room, with his hands behind his back.

“Yes Ma’am?”

“Fill this up for the kind gentlemen here,” and she smiled at Porter, who rushed to do his job. “Now, where were we. Ah yes. The murder you didn’t commit,”

“Miss, I swear I did not-”

“I heard you know the Bostons?” she said, finally looking at the shaking man.

“Yes, yes, I met them briefly last year during the annual business meet. What has that got to do with me,”

“Oh it’s very much got to do with you, Sir. Did you know, if you were to break the contract or, well, god forbid, were to have been demised, all money under your name would transfer to him?” she questioned, plainly.

The man gulped. “Yes, I am aware,”. Porter rushed back in the room and handed the pipe to Mr. Smith, who hurriedly took it and had a couple of swigs instantly to calm his mind.

The attorney smiled. “If you were to be convicted Mr. Smith, you’d have a death penalty. And if I were to somehow reverse that into a better disposition, you’d still have lifetime imprisonment,”.

“I came here to seek your help. Please,” he begged.

“I am helping. You’re just too stubborn to see it. There is only so much I can do Sir,” she smiled again.

The man was frustrated. This woman didn’t believe him. She wasn’t going to take over his case. Lord help! He cried. “I’ll give you as much as you ask,” he pleaded.

“Oh, your money is something you don’t need to worry about Mr. Smith, I’ll just say two things to you now. First, here, this is my wedding card, do come,” she slid a crisp golden envelope towards him. He picked it up and the swirly golden writing frustrated him even more. How could she do this at such a time? “And second, it really will be quite painless, you won’t feel anything sir,” she smiled.

The woman undid her smooth bun and got off her leather chair.

“Miss, what on Earth are you talking about, I-” he choked on the tobacco. “I don’t underst-” Mr. Smith clutched onto his throat with both hands.

She sighs. “I must take your leave now Sir. My fiancé is waiting,” and with the finality, she walked out of the room. “Porter, take care of this mess,”.

The door closed with a thud. Mr. Smith brought the card close to his face, his pipe falling onto the carpeted floor.

 

You are invited to the harmonious wedding of

Gloria Davis and Charles Boston

 

Smoke filled the cabin. One couldn’t tell if the pungency was from the cigar tobacco or the burning carpet or the slowly rotting body of the dead man.

Chess and literature: a weird parallelism

Author:  Aditi Chandrasekar 

Chess has always been more than simply a game. Since time immemorial, it has been used as a metaphor, an inspiration and a lesson. Consequently, chess and the most prominent art form, literature have been intertwined for centuries. The game has made multiple appearances, and has even been a significant leitmotif in many renowned works throughout history. For example, in ‘The Tempest’, William Shakespeare depicts a chess match between lovers Ferdinand and Miranda. In the classic ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ by Walter Tevis, a chess prodigy struggles to handle the emotional rollercoaster that is the competitive chess circuit. Chess was an important participant in many of 20th century novelist, Vladimir Nabokov’s works, either as an aid underpinning the theme or in explicit scenes featuring the game. 

Arguably, the primary objective of poetry is to evoke emotion out of the reader, comparable with the objective of the game to “checkmate” the opponent’s king (here, the opponent’s king is equivalent to the reader). Chess’ game play consists of two distinct parts-strategy and tactics. Chess strategy involves achieving long-term advantages during the game, while tactics concentrate on immediate movements. These two aspects of the game play cannot be separated, because strategic goals can only be accomplished through tactics, while tactical manoeuvres are based on the strategy of play. Identical to the concepts of strategy and tactics in chess, the aesthetic appeal and the grammatical structuring of poetry are two inextricable components, which when bound together appropriately, produce a lovely work. 

Prose, with its carefully woven story-lines, is very similar to chess. Every move on the checkerboard is analogous to a development in a story’s plot. A game of chess is typically divided into three parts: the opening, the middle-game and the endgame. This can be compared to the structuring of an essay or a novella. Another obvious similarity is that each piece in chess has its own way of moving, much like the characters of a story. Each character in a tale has a set of qualities that the writer appropriately utilities to advance the story. It is not a surprise then, that this evident correspondence was addressed in one of the first works ever published in English- William Caxton’s book ‘The Game and Playe of the Chesse’, uses different chess pieces as metaphors for different classes of people. Chess strategy is similar to literary devices used by writers in their works to assist future happenings in their story, like epigraphs or foreshadowing. 

Much like chess’ ever-evolving metaphorical meanings through the ages, the world of drama has seen drastic advancements as well. Drama is thought to have originated from religious observances during the Middle Ages, while modern playwrights use theater to express opinions about current events, typically cultural or political. Chess, as much as it is a game, is also a performance. The chessboard can be thought of as a miniature stage on which the performance is carried out. Mine, a popular form of drama, bears a resemblance to chess in the sense that observers have to make sense of the internal meanings that the silent performance represents. The expressionist core of chess has been addressed by many, most notably by Fernando 

Arrabal, a Spanish playwright, once said of chess “I know of no spectacle on Earth that can keep thousands of spectators enthralled for five hours.” 

FIFA World Cup

A dramatic retelling of a FIFA World Cup match

Author: Aditi Chandrasekar

The day was the 16th of June in the year 2018. The time was 11:00 PM. The deep-voiced reporter on my tiny television was talking to an Icelander. “So, do you think Iceland is going to win today?” he asked in a jubilant voice. The reply came almost immediately-a flat voice saying, “No way. Argentina has Messi.” 

Indeed, it was going to be a David and Goliath contest. The hours preceding the match saw a lot of buzz about the possibility of Messi equalizing Ronaldo’s hat-trick in the previous day’s match. Some were ambitious enough to hope for a 4, or 5 goal streak in the match. The teams were now walking onto the field. All I felt, as the camera swept towards Lionel Messi, was a weak anxiety. The world was watching him expectantly. 

The referee’s whistle sounded and the first “thwack” on the ball reverberated through the stadium. As the match progressed, I felt my heart slowly sinking into my stomach. Iceland was dominating. Within the first 9 minutes, they had already made two very close shots. On the white and blue side, Messi missed two shots within the first 7 minutes.

Just as all hope seemed to be lost, Sergio Aguero scored his very first world cup goal quite brilliantly. The only thought that crossed my mind though, as the camera panned across everyone’s elated faces, was that Jorge Sampaoli, the Argentinian manager, looked like an ecstatic glazed donut. Instantly, I felt the need to jot this down in a notebook, and I did. My mind was already cultivating an idea for a comic based on all the football veterans as foods. Icelander Finnbogason’s nutmeg goal snapped me back to reality. My mind reeled with questions as the blond haired beauty broke into a celebratory run-Was this really happening? Could Iceland actually beat 3-time world cup champions Argentina? Should I make Maradona a burnt macaroon in my comic?

Soon, my mild opposition towards Iceland started getting tainted with real hatred. 

The ball rolled towards Messi, as though in dramatic slow motion. It fell onto the side of his stud and I let out a long sigh. A loose first touch was the last thing their team needed. Iceland seemed to be more and more determined to park the bus, as the Argentinian forwards openly struggled. In the struggle however, a hand ball by Iceland offered a glint of hope. But just as quickly as the happiness arrived, it escaped. The referee disregarded the hand ball.

I wondered with vain, if this was the ref’s way of apologizing for raking his heels against Icelander Gunnarson’s studs earlier in the match.

As the minutes passed, the nightmares rolled by, one after another. Messi’s penalty kick missed. Messi’s free kick missed. 

The match ended with a saddening free kick miss by Argentina. I sat through the panel discussion that now played on the TV, weighed down by sorrow- “Iceland will feel like the victors in the match even though it was a draw”, “Credit must be given to Halldorsson for being a good goalkeeper.” and other sentences that bounced off my unfeeling self. 

I retired to sleep, telling myself that Argentina would be back on their feet soon enough, unaware of the sad future that lay ahead for them in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

 

The Game of Life

“Was the moon landing fake?”, “Was Avril Lavigne replaced by a clone?” , “Was time travel possible?” These were the questions that consumed me once I introduced myself to conspiracy theories. They overtook the mundane thoughts I generally had: food, the unpredictability of the future and several replays of witty conversations. Even though some of them sounded far-fetched, like the flat Earth theory, there was something fascinating about them. I couldn’t help myself from sleuthing around; I needed answers. The ones with substantial proof made me question everything; Nothing seemed real anymore. Among the several evidence bearing theories, one particular theory intrigued me the most, the theory that stated the possibility of the earth being a simulation. Every other theory had enough shortcomings for me to accept that it might be a coincidence, but this one had more “What ifs” than “That’s absurd”. Of course, saying “We are a bunch of characters in a computer game” sounded insane, but something within me couldn’t discredit all the coincidences that had happened in the past and how they seemed connected to a computer game.

I used to watch Sims playthroughs for fun, but after hearing about this theory, every second of every video became an opportunity for comparison. In the game, the player was allowed to control several people at once. Their likes, dislikes, actions and lifestyle, everything was in the player’s hands but in the latest versions, the people were allowed to have a say of their own. For example, in the earlier versions if the person wasn’t given an action, they’d stay idle till an order was given, however now it was possible that the person would begin to do whatever they pleased if no orders were given and they also had the ability to deny the order and do something else. This got me thinking, what if the orders were analogous to our inner voices. Sometimes we pay heed to them, sometimes we don’t, just like the Sims characters. There were so many tiny factors like this that boggled my mind. In the game, the player had an option to cancel the character’s actions from a lineup. This seemed very similar to something that kept happening to me- I’d go into a room for some reason, then I’d forget why I was there. Another thing about the lineup was that the order of the actions could be changed, just like our order of priority. This was relevant to the fact that sometimes procrastinate homework to do something less important. We could blame that on poor willpower, but what about the times I decided to put nature on hold just to continue scrolling aimlessly on my phone. The game also allowed time to pass by faster at the click of a button. Nothing of that sort ever happened in our world, right? What about the times when time would drag on till the point where we thought our watches were broken? The times when every minute was definitely lesser than 60 seconds? It made sense.

The next 2 epiphanies I had regarding this topic were not as concrete as the previous ones, they were sillier. First, a computer simulation would explain every paranormal experience anyone had ever had, especially strange occurrences involving movement of furniture and other objects, from their original positions. The game had a feature where we could change from “game mode” to “build mode”. Game mode was the mode in which the game was played and build mode was the mode in which we could rearrange furniture, buy and sell objects etc. Second, the character’s wants would show up at the bottom of the screen and you’d have the choice of whether or not to fulfil them. This was a lot like the law of attraction, which states that “if you believe you will obtain something, it will manifest into reality”. Obviously, an object dropping from the sky would be outrageous, but the coincidences involving people getting what they really wanted were too many to ignore.

But if the world was indeed a simulation, that would mean that there would be glitches in the system? It would mean resurrection and immortality weren’t impossible. I was left with so many questions, more than when I began sleuthing around. What if the simulation crashed? Would life continue from a checkpoint, like in the games? Was that why Mandela effects existed? What was the purpose of this simulation? Who created it? And why? Who controlled us? I couldn’t believe anything as it was, everything had something hidden behind it.