"I follow you all the time and copy your every move, but you can’t touch me or catch me. What am I?"
Zakya's eyebrows furrowed as she read aloud from the sliver of paper to the rest of her teammates, her mind suddenly drawing a blank when trying to solve the riddle. Just when the young woman had thought that her team had found a pretty nice rhythm and were pushing through these challenges fairly quickly, the staff member in the Arts Building had informed them that for their next task, they'd be solving riddles. Of course, she'd still held out a little bit of hope, wishing that the riddles wouldn't be anything too complicated. But as she stared down at the words in front of her, she couldn't help but feel disheartened. "Uh... any ideas?" The young woman said weakly, shooting quick glances at both Samuel and Hana.
The scavenger hunt was something that Sam neither approved or disapproved. All he knew was that riddles made his head hurt. ”I… have no idea. A stalker?”
Pondering the riddle, Hana ran through possible answers. A few sticking out to her as possibilities but none she was sure of. It didn’t help that when it came down to stressful situations like this where picking from multiple possible answers was necessary. Her indecisiveness came out. Especially as Hana narrowed it down to just two answers plus the one Sam suggested. Hana’s brow was furrowed as she looked to her teammates, one of her hands playing with the hem of the sleeve of the other arm. “Stalker is possible. But also reflection maybe. Or maybe shadow. Like in the Peter Pan movie.” Hana suggested just loud enough for them to hear. As far as Hana was concerned, one made more sense than the other but she wasn’t going to be the one to decide if she could help it.
"I mean... all of those seem like good answers to me." Zakya said, her voice filled with uncertainty. "But which one do we pick? Stalker makes sense, but then again... stalkers can touch or catch you, can't they? We should go with reflection. Or... shadow." It was then as Zakya looked to Sam for his input that she started feeling a subtle pain arise in her chest. Though she wasn't planning on showing it just yet, she was starting to panic.
”Reflection and shadow both make sense. But your reflection doesn’t really follow you, ya know? Like you kinda have to force it to be there in like the mirror or water or something. I’d say the best bet is probably shadow.”
"Okay. Let's go with that, then. Final answer, shadow." Zakya said, shooting a look at the faculty member close by. And after nodding his head, signaling that the answer was correct, the staff member handed Zakya yet another slip of paper. The young woman took a deep breath before reading this riddle aloud. "I am the beginning of everything, the end of everywhere. I’m the beginning of eternity, the end of time and space. What am I?"
The first thought for the answer that came to Hana’s mind was ‘nothing’. But the more she thought over it the less it made sense. Eternity didn’t truly begin with nothing and time and space were endless. No. The riddle had a simpler answer than that. Riddles almost always seemed to have a simpler answer than what one's mind originally comes up with. But the simple answer of this riddle eluded her. Was it possibly something more visual looking at the riddle itself? If it was, Zakya had a better chance at figuring it out first until Hana was able to properly visualize it.
Why did the challenge have to be riddles? Out of all the ‘mental’ challenges there could be, why the one that was going to make Sam's head hurt the absolute worse?
Because the staff hated them. That’s why.
”I… I remember there was something like this I had to solve in middle school once or something. I bet the answer is something like a letter? Those seem to be a decently common theme.”
It was then that Zakya offered the boy nothing but a blank stare in response, her brain slowly trying to process what he'd said. It had made perfect sense, sure. But the more she tried thinking about what the answer could be, the more frustrated she became; why did they have to end up with such a stupid challenge? Solving riddles? Zakya let the slip of paper fall to a table nearby as she began massaging her temples with the tips of her fingers. "Hell if I know," the young woman said, letting out a deep breath. What was wrong with her? Why couldn't she figure it out? At the rate they were going, another team was destined to beat them; Surely she'd be the reason why they'd lose and miss out on the grand prize.
It wasn't long before Zakya lifted her head once more and shifted her gaze back to Hana. "Come on girl, please tell me have some good ideas. Something like what Sam said... a letter?"
A letter? The answer could be a letter. Wait. Hana closed her eyes as she visualized each word in her head. The Everything, everywherE, Eternity, timE, spacE. It made perfect sense. “That makes perfect sense. The answer is a letter. The answer to the riddle is E. The first letter of everything, the last letter of everywhere, the first letter of eternity, and the last letter of both time and space.” Hana looked to Sam and smiled. “You were right. It’s a letter.” The girl then turned to the faculty member, “Final answer, the letter E.” Hana answered before awaiting to see if they were right. The faculty member nodded and handed the final paper to Zakya.
"Okay, so by the looks of this... our next challenge is in the gym." Zakya said, quickly unscrambling the letters that revealed their next destination; she was very thankful that there were only three letters this time, so she didn’t have to rely on Sam or Hana to come up with the answer. "Come on! We still have a chance."
”I’ll race you guys there!” Sam called back at the girls as he began to speed off.
Hana began running after him knowing full well she was gonna be the last one to get to the gym. Just because she enjoyed walking and hiking did not mean she was good at running. As she ran though, she worried about what sort of challenge would be in the gym. Probably not one she would be good at.
Zakya was the last to start running, but sped past Hana in less than a couple of seconds; though she wasn't fast enough to catch up to Sam by the time they'd reached the gym, she was thankful that all of her time spent on the treadmill paid off and she wasn't nearly as out of breath as she probably would've been a few months ago. The group arrived just in time to see a basketball rack in the center of the gym floor, and Zakya's eyebrow raised in curiosity as she quickly scanned over the rules for the challenge. "So, we have to shoot ten free throws as a team. But each of us has to get at least one before we can move to the next challenge..." To be honest, Zakya had a whole lot more faith in herself when it came to shooting hoops than she did when solving riddles. Of course, she didn't have some Michael Jordan level basketball skills, but how hard could it be to make a couple of shots?
Okay. Sports. Sam could do this.
Though not as much of the Jock Type as Theo, or the fastest like Sol didn’t mean that Sam couldn’t hold his own when it came to physical activity. Basketball was a pastime that he liked to use to help clear his head. Feeling down? Shoot some hoops. Your ex got you fucked up? Shoot some hoops.
”This’ll be a breeze for me. You guys manage to get one, and then I can shoot the rest or something so we can get this over with?”
Being last to arrive just as she predicted, Hana took a moment to catch her breath. It didn’t wear her out too much but she still needed a moment to rest before being able to focus on the next task. Once she was good, Hana joined the rest of her team only for her face to pale. They had to shoot free throws and everyone had to make one shot. Sports were not her forte. She honestly rarely ever came to the gym as it was.
Hana could feel her heart begin to race as she stared at the basketballs. There was no way she was gonna get one of those to the basket, how do you even properly throw one? Swallowing her anxiety and clearing her face of any signs of the nerves she felt, the small girl turned to her teammates, “I’ve never thrown a basketball before. I don’t know how to shoot a free throw?” She slowed her words down as they felt odd on her tongue and she was unsure if she was using the terms correctly. Her horoscope had told her she would learn something new today. This must be what it was talking about. Hana had to learn how to at least make one free throw.
"Here, I can show you how!" Zakya said, not hesitating to grab a ball from the rack and stand at the free throw line. As the young woman expected, her first shot did not go in, and instead bounced off the rim and began rolling off to the left side of the gym. "Hm...Second time's the charm?" Zakya said sheepishly, shaking her head as she reached for another ball and prepared to shoot once more. This time, however, she succeeded, more than likely by luck. And once she did, she let out an enthusiastic squeal, clapped her hands, and turned towards her teammates.
"Okay, one down... nine more to go," Zakya said as she tossed a ball to Sam and another to Hana. "You're up."
The ball slipped through her hands and Hana raced after it as it began bouncing away. Eventually catching up to the ball, Hana grabbed it and ran back over to the free throw line. From there she tried to do as Zakya did but looked extremely awkward and missed the shot completely. Hana frowned slightly before going and grabbing another ball. Trying to copy Zakya’s movements once more to get the ball in the basket, only to once again miss the shot completely. She continued to try another ten more times before slight frustration got to her and she used her hidden frustration to give the ball a bit more power. To her surprise the ball went in the basket, most likely pure luck. Smiling happily she practically skipped off to the side proud of herself for making the basket even if it took a little bit. Now it was up to Sam to finish the last eight off.
Sam watched as the girls made their shots. Zakya had managed it fairly easy - a slightly surprising fact. She had sunk her second shot easily, leaving Hana up next. Giving an encouraging nod or smile as needed, Sam stood to the side as Hana tried again and again to make the basket. Tempted to suggest that she take a small break, Sam watched as she finally made her shot. Shooting her a smile of congratulations, Sam stepped up to the line.
In one fluid motion, the young man had made his first basket with ease. Turning to look at Zakya he asked ”Did you want me to keep going, or do you wanna make another few shots?”
Zakya had been watching with her arms folded as Hana tried to make her shot, internally screaming each time she missed. To say that she was relieved to see the ball go through the hoop after what seemed like a dozen tries would be an understatement. “Please, just keep going,” Zakya said, letting out a deep breath, “You have a better chance than either of us, and the quicker we get this done, the better.”
Simply shrugging his shoulders in agreement, Sam continued to pick up the balls from the ground as he made each shot. Both luck and skill were on his side, allowing them to finish the task pretty quickly. ”All right guys. Is that… was that the last thing, or did I miss count?”
“That was all of them!” Hana glanced to the staff member for confirmation, the staff nodding to confirm they were done and giving them the next piece of paper. “We should be close to being done, right? What’s next?” Hana refused to take the paper from the staff member and let one of the others take it and take the lead. She simply waited for the next instruction, ready to do whatever was needed next.
“We should only have one more left, and by the looks of this we’re headed to…” Zakya let her voice trail off for a brief second as she looked down at the scrambled letters. “The Lecture Hall.” And without wasting another moment, Zakya began to lead the way towards their final challenge, a slight pep in her step as she did so. She wasn't sure if their group had moved fast enough to win the scavenger hunt, but she was determined to continue going as quickly as they could to increase their chances of winning the grand prize... whatever that turned out to be.
"Come on," Zakya called out to Sam and Hana, "Let's win this thing."