Isla, November 19th, 2017
Her vision had become clouded with strange figures. They all seemed somewhat human, but wore tall wigs crafted of ice and snow that made them appear grotesque and somewhat outer-worldly. One in particular, though, seemed fairly familiar; looking at her intently, shaking his curly, white hair, willing Isla to recognize him. Yet, she could not think of a name before the figures dissolved, leaving behind nothing but an avalanche of snow, a pile of murderous white, threatening to drown her in its depth. The icy flakes seemed to be everywhere, making it hard to see or to breath, fighting – and winning – a gruesome battle against her consciousness. Minutes later the struggle had ended, Isla’s limp body loosing feeling and colour rapidly until she finally woke up. It took a moment to disentangle herself from both, the nightmare and the awkward sleeping position she was in, having collapsed onto her desk of pure exhaustion hours before, and another to convince her that she was not, in fact, dying of suffocation. With fresh air back in her lungs, her memory seemed to return as well, forcing her to remember the piece of paper still curled in her clenched hand and the riddle Oliver had placed onto it.
Hours before, her first reaction had been to laugh. For some reason, the image of her science geek brother leaning over the note and crafting his little poem had seemed all but ridiculous to Isla. It just felt so off and yet, she could clearly make out his voice and touch in every single one of the words, written clumsily on the page. She had recognised the peculiar way he had always dotted his i’s and had imagined him furrowing his brow in concentration while coming up with all the rhyming couplets. Furthermore, the paper chase layout had had her brother’s name written all over it. After all, it was him who loved travelling around the world; him, who could enter a room and be friends with everyone within the first five minutes; and him, who seemed to be confident with the prospect of having to use his arms and legs to talk in a country where he otherwise wouldn’t understand the language. Isla had never been any of those things. Sure, she had enjoyed her life in South Africa in a way that might have seemed adventurous to her European friends, but deep within she had always been too scared to take the final step, to join the life her brother was living right in front of her very eyes. Therefore, her second reaction had been to scrunch up his note in a sudden streak of anger, leaving it curled up in a corner of the room. She knew her brother well enough to know that nothing good could come out of a paper chase like this. For him to taunt her now, with a riddle he knew she would not be able to resist, seemed almost cruel. And yet, she couldn’t help herself, finally picking up the note once again, reading its lines over and over, immersing herself in the riddle until the words started to make sense to her.
Most of the riddle seemed easy enough. Her brother had given her an easy gateway into his puzzle, knowing how much she would enjoy fitting all the little pieces together; knowing he would be able to wrap her around his finger so much easier if he gave her a sense of achievement from the very beginning. Isla knew her brother well enough to expect harder riddles after this one, but for now she sat thinking about this answer – almost in spite of herself. She had been on the verge of solving everything, when sleep had finally caught up with her and had thrown her into the restless world of dreams and nightmares, Isla had only just about managed to escape. Now, she looked down onto the piece of paper once again, trying to fish for the answers within her head. She had come to the conclusion that the serenade Oliver was talking about in the poem had to be Mozart’s kleine Nachtmusik. She had been listening to it, when she had first laid eyes on the note, after all. Furthermore, as it had turned out, Oliver had only given her this one serenade within the multitude of different vinyl records from different composers. Again, Isla was forced to shake her head at her older brother. He had really wanted to reel her in, had even admitted so much himself in the very last part of his riddle. There were, however, two more things that concerned her. Firstly, she didn’t really know what to make of the part about Mozart’s past, for Mozart – obviously – was the composer of this particular serenade. But: “for where he lived, before he grew, is where you’ll find your second clue”? Did Oliver talk about growing in a literal sense and meant the place Mozart lived in as a child? Or did he refer to more of an artistic sense of growing, and therefore talked about the place he lived in before he had gotten famous? Isla remembered thinking about this question right before she had fallen asleep and felt almost ashamed of her own stupidity now that she had rested a little bit and saw things a lot clearer. Realistically, it did not matter, what Oliver had thought of when he had crafted this particular clue, as both versions had the same answer: Salzburg. Isla knew she should have been able to answer this questions much quicker, having been a self-proclaimed Mozart fan for years, but for some reason her first thought had always gone to Vienna, a city Mozart had really grown in – age-wise and musically. The smaller city, however, seemed to be the answer to her riddle, which brought up the ever more disturbing part of the entire thing: “At last, what I need you to know: I really do want you to go!” Did he really, honestly, believe she would leave for a city she had never been to, just because he wanted her to? There was so much wrong with this idea, Isla couldn’t even wrap her head around it. Surely, Salzburg was very pretty – she remembered having a picture of the city as the December image on her wall calendar – but that did not mean she would hop onto a plane and go. But was she ready to abandon the paper trail before it had even really started? Would she regret not going for it? Then again, how did Oliver expect her to find the money for a spontaneous vacation? The situation seemed stuck and yet Isla still cared enough to open up some of her Mozart books, reading up about his birth city and even wandering over to her beautifully illustrated wall calendar to take a peek at the snow covered view across the river Salzach. At this particular moment, however, the scene was obscured by a large white envelope taped right over the cityscape.
“Oh Oli …”, Isla knew all her darkest thoughts about her brother’s enthusiasm were about to become reality, as she tipped the envelope’s content onto her bed in one quick motion.