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Murder Game

Continuing with our Halloween celebrations, we disrobed back into sailing-appropriate gear, and a queue started forming in the deckhouse. The formality of the atmosphere reminded me of awaiting passport stamps at immigration when we left South Africa all those weeks ago. On reaching the front of the lengthening queue, I was confronted by Marretje, sitting sombrely at a desk with three envelopes. I was told to take a slip of paper from each. The first envelope was labeled, ‘location’, then, ‘person’, then ‘weapon’. I could tell you what my cards each said but that would make you an accomplice to murder.

Some people tried to argue that the specifics they drew were unfair- that their murder would be too tricky to succeed- but we know the cards never lie. The game was set, and the only ways out were to win or die trying. A period of five hours ensued before the murders started. A calm before the storm. Suspicions were already rife as each sailor postulated their fate. The last communal sentiment was nervous anticipation of the moment when the clock struck 20:00 and crewmember would turn on crewmember. The drama of the weather, with sharp rolling and engulfing spray, the sun slipping behind clouds and then the horizon, enhanced the atmosphere.

It was so quiet when it started. The eight o’clockie (voyage crew update meeting) had just ended and we all sat in individual booths of the deckhouse, no-one braving the risk of joining another, eyeing each other anxiously.

Something you should know about me when it comes to games- and please do keep this to yourself- is that I aim to act nonchalant, oblivious to any tactic. Sometimes I will ask questions on basic rules or pretend not to be listening when they are explained, declare myself confused, forget when it’s my turn etc. Under the surface, however, I like to scheme and plot, trying to figure out everyone’s individual tells and playstyles. This doesn’t often work- sometimes my ‘oblivious act’ is a little too real- but when it does, I can catch the other players by surprise. By now, we have all played enough games with one another to know the competition. Joe jumps the gun. Thando is an all-or-nothing risk-taker. Marretje bends the rules. Cato is incredibly competitive. Hans plays the nice guy but only to his own advantage. Ayla always wins.

My strategy led me to innocently retire to my cabin, where I took a shower and watched a movie before bed, knowing I was safe. Some may say this is the coward’s way out, but I refuse to die on the first evening. By breakfast this morning, Clara was already dead. The specifics remain secretive, only for the murderer and witnesses to know, but I heard it happened at the elephant’s table. Marretje was next. Something about a spatula. It was a quiet kill, the object and location an easy combination. As I’ve been writing this, again unbudging from my corner of the deckhouse, Hans came in and crossed his face out on the crew list. He was number three. I am yet to find out any details on his death.

That brings us to the air of suspicion and mistrust that I began my last blog. The game is all in fun, of course, and the atmosphere is still friendly. The victims die with grace, understanding it must be so for the game to continue. But I would be lying if I said that I would pick up a dropped object for someone, take something to the bin for them, or help them carry anything without thinking twice. They’ll have to try harder than that.

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