HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE !
Isla, December 6th, 2017
“Kann ich dir helfen?”, Isla turned. She didn’t know what the guy had said, couldn’t understand the German words falling out of his mouth. Was she in trouble? Had she done something wrong at last? She was about to explain the situation, when he took two steps forward and plugged the envelope out of the ivy covered wall. It had taken him all of about three seconds to do and had looked almost insultingly easy, as she had tried – and failed – to do the same thing for a good five minutes now, hopping repeatedly on the wet grass.
“Bitte”, he held it out to her, still not realizing that she did not speak his language. This time, however, his open gesture and the crooked smile painted on his face were enough to bring the message across: “Thank you”, she mumbled, turning bright red on the spot and looking down at her next clue. The last one had been easy enough to dismantle, and yet a full twenty-four hours had passed since she had found it stuck to her suitcase. Back at the airport, the short flight had left Isla more exhausted than she was prepared to admit, rendering her unable to do more than to stare at all the other people rushing towards the luggage belt. She registered their excitement to be home again or to be starting a new adventure, even saw two girls with identical backpacks sharing a laugh about almost mixing them up, before deciding to go for a coffee in the city together. But Isla hadn’t been able to move. She hadn’t had energy left to fight herself to the front of the line, let alone to heave her suitcase from the belt. Back then she had still been under the impression of being stranded at a foreign airport without even so much as an inkling of how to find her next clue. She had thought that Oliver – having successfully brought her to Salzburg – had forgotten to tell her where to go next or what to do from there. Was she supposed to scout through the entire city looking for another envelope? Did he expect her to ask each and every person working on this airport for the next clue? Frustrated she had lowered her head into her hands, the burning scent of iron biting her nose instantly. During landing she had all but forgotten about the damage her fingernails had done to her palms, but the sight of dried blood had made her panic even more. And so she had remained sitting in her state of self pity, completely ignoring the luggage belt, which had started to move and had brought her suitcase travelling through the small arrival hall. Once she had finally gotten up to face whatever challenge Salzburg would be throwing at her, her bag had been starting its third round, a white envelope glistening at the back side of it.
“You are welcome”, the young man said, pulling her out of her thoughts. He had seamlessly switched to English once he had realized his mistake and grinned at her sheepishly: “I’m Finn.” Isla looked at his extended hand a second too long, before finally shaking it with a smile of her own: “Isla”, she answered: “and thanks again for the envelope, I would have never been able to reach it otherwise.”
“That’s alright. How did the poor thing end up there anyways?”, he said, the crooked smile reappearing on his face.
“Oh, that’s a long story”, Isla shrugged, not sure if she wanted to get into the whole ordeal with a complete stranger. But Finn looked at her so expectantly that she decided to give him at least a short version of what had happened on her birthday and the time since: “My brother has organized this crazy paper chase for me, with all the clues revolving around Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. I just stumbled across the first envelope in my room one day and since then he has somehow managed to send me all the way to Salzburg”, she ended. Isla still had trouble wrapping her head around how Oliver had planned all of this. How had he managed to stick a clue onto a suitcase that had only just left an airplane? And what about the one she held in her hands now? On the one hand it seemed completely impossible for her brother to organize everything so fittingly, but Oliver had always been the most well-connected person she had known, picking up friends without even having to try. Therefore, Isla would not put it past him to have people in Salzburg, who where in on this entire game. Maybe, so she thought, the guy in front of her was one of them. He seemed a few years older than her and from the way his eyes glistened with almost child-like excitement, she could imagine him and Oliver getting along just fine. But then, the same excitement seemed so genuine that Isla just couldn’t imagine him having known of this paper chase before.
“Oh my wow”, he exclaimed now, proofing her point and looking longingly at the envelope still clasped tightly in her hands: “That’s such a cool idea. Chapeau to your brother!”
“He is a tiny little bit crazy”, she smiled, finally relaxing into this conversation. She had never had her brother’s talent to talk free and openly with strangers and her travel, as well as the short interaction with her AirBnB – Oliver had thankfully arranged a place for her to sleep – had her longing for some solitude already.
“Well, have fun!” Had he read her mind? She was just about to thank him one last time, as she changed her mind: “Wait …”, he had already walked a couple of steps, before he heard her quiet words and turned around with a question mark seemingly painted on his face. Isla didn’t quite know why she had done it and yet she felt sure that having a native ally could only be beneficial for the rest of this quest: “I-I’m sure you really have better things to do, but do you maybe know what he could mean with this?”, she had taken the seconds after his departure to rip open the envelope and look over the written lines – but for the first time, she had no idea what her brother was talking about. Of course she had known that Oliver would make his clues increasingly more difficult and a part of her even felt like cheating by asking Finn for help, but she had a feeling she wasn’t just doing herself a favour by handing him the little poem. The guy’s eyes had once again started to shine, as they moved over her brother’s lines.