Kalki Evian: The Ring of Khaoriphea
The game was tense now with the ball staying mostly aerial in an end-to-end play. Qin looked at Friuli. She sat there with a misplaced sense of calm, detached from all that was happening. This was confounding, since she had been so excited about the match all day. He turned back. Everyone else was nervous. Ninety minutes had passed and the countdown began to the three minutes that remained in injury time. The fans around were glad enough to see the game through, even though a draw was a striking contradiction to what they had expected for most of the match. The ten men in blue were fighting hard against the eleven in white, each of whose lions printed upon the shirt seemed to roar with added ferocity. The seconds slowed in anticipation and in the very last minute, the tragedy occurred.
The ball went out for a goal kick and the Icislian goalkeeper – a tall man with muscular build – kicked it far towards the opposite end. No one expected it to reach that depth as the players had hardly made their way back to the Alpian half. Pierre Bueche – the Alpino winger – had twisted his ankle in the preceding run and had fallen on the ground in his own half while his team had charged forward for that winning goal. Now with the ball coming back, he found himself in the unlikely position to save his team, with the two nearest defenders far wide. He made a strong run towards Damien Best who was a mile ahead of the pack and charging at extraordinary speed to reach the ball before the goalkeeper could, oblivious to the most unexpected Alpino running in from the sidelines. The three reached it with a second’s difference. Best got the first touch as he managed to shove it away from a diving goalkeeper and shoot it in just before he suffered a heavy tackle from the last man that ran into the space between him and the goal. The ball hit the net and the world was overtaken by shock around Qin – one that could resonate for years to come.
Qin switched over to his personalized highlight to recapture the pristine moment. He could hear the commentator’s excited voice as the ball neared its destined goal. The picture, however, stopped at the first touch that Best lay on the ball. It had hit his hand and was potentially subject to be disallowed. The player’s intention was suspect but unproven and the commentators could only gawk at the way the play had concluded. It would cause uproar of epic proportions if Alpi were to get knocked out on foul play. As of now, it seemed like that was exactly what had happened. It all seemed quite heart-breaking but despite all our technologies and regulations at play, human behaviour continued to be a curious case of its own. The victorious hardly ever submitted to the other’s plight. If he did, he would be termed foolish in every manner of judgement, which would come from critics and audience alike, more than they would have otherwise, unable to resist the opportunity to grab such a rare spice on offer.
So it was that normalcy resulted. Icisles had won the game. Everyone jumped around with no pair of feet able to hold itself to the ground. It was a huddle bouncing like a spring in white as players climbed over a fallen Best. One white shirt had not moved. Best lay static and flat on the ground.
It took the players some time to realize this as they began to leave the field and the other blues ran in first. The whites stopped their celebrations as reality dawned and one of them signalled for the paramedics. More feet came running in and inspections began. Something was wrong and the buzz around the stadium could testify to that. Stretchers were brought out while doctors pulled out the defibrillator. They treated him for a while but nothing changed. Anxious minutes passed before a doctor in that team signalled at the touchline. The entire team disappeared and was followed by each of the players thereafter.
“They were projections?” Qin asked, unsure as to what he was more startled by. The system was still running as the audience was subjected to what was a routine end-of-the-game protocol by the advertisers and organizers. Amidst it all, word spread around. Damien Best had been pronounced dead.
Qin was still struck speechless as the projections faded off in silence. The system waved a goodbye as the two were logged out of the stadium and off that jubilant world of tragedy. Blackness took over until lights and silence returned gradually around the room. Qin turned to Friuli with widened eyes. She was looking straight as if the visuals were still on. Shock took over as he saw her sit with lips fashioning the lightest version of a smile. It was as if she had found the events satisfying. It seemed heartless but Qin waited. At length, she stood up, still not looking at him, and declared, “The best game ever.”
It was now upon him to find out why.
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© 2015 Malay Upadhyay