Tanya Bhojwani, yes that was her name, a student of grade twelve, all of eighteen years old, a sports woman who represented her school in the National Swimming championships, and had won a gold. She was both physically as well as academically inclined and known to win straight As. in her written tests. She was the pride of the Global International school at Saket, Delhi. Tall, six foot tall girl, beautiful as everyone averred, she had elected to play the virtual game, Driven. Her parents, teachers and boyfriend, Kanishk Singh had pleaded with her not to go for the game.
Driven was a deadly virtual game that took more lives than any other game known so far, it had driven gamers into insanity turning them into nervous wrecks who had no other option than to be admitted into mental asylums. The risks were fatal if the player failed to make it out of the ring of fire in which very few were able to escape from. Actually, what happened was that the neural interface ended up destroying promising lives. The fear caused by the image of the lion face appearing each time the contestant slipped and the pain of being attacked by the monsters that formed the ring of fire in the penultimate round left mental wrecks left and right.
The game in itself took a whole week to run and the contestant was confined in a veritable prison for this period of time in which there was no access with the outer world in any case. All the physical parameters of the contestant were monitored and necessary medications were administered via the intravenous injections, although, these medications could do nothing to mitigate the mental trauma that was inflicted by the game.
The rewards of winning the game offset the risks that the contestants were prone to. These included a cash reward of a million dollars, a house in posh locality and a pension that would take care of the contestant as long as she or he lived. Tanya Bhutani had decided to go for the game that would be telecast all over the country and the world because of her father who had been diagnosed with cancer and was battling for his life in one of the speciality hospitals in Delhi. The amount that she could win would hopefully go towards the exorbitant expenses entailed in the treatment.
That day she and Kanishk had gone to the Talkatora Gardens and she told him that she had enrolled to play Driven. Kanishk had remonstrated with her saying, ‘Why, Tanya, why are you doing this? Don’t you realise that you might never come out of the game sane?’
Tanya replied, ‘But then what other alternative do I have? Dad is in hospital and we don’t have the means to continue his treatment! My mother who is a staff nurse in Willington hospital cannot afford the treatment!’
‘But what about our relationship? Have you not thought about it?’ Asked Kanishk.
That day when they returned home to Kanishk’s house they made love like they would never ever get another opportunity and had parted as if they would never ever meet. There were tears in Kanishk’s eyes as he led her to the taxi waiting on the road below his apartment. Kanishk was an engineering student two years senior to her studying at IIT Roorkey and they had become friends at school when he had been in grade ten and she in grade eight and he had rescued her from a group of grade ten students who had been bullying her for being an aspiring swimming champion who had superseded Anoushka, another girl who was the favourite of the school for her looks. Since then, both of them had got into a relationship that was frowned upon by their parents. Now, two years since their relationship had flowered, they both knew that they were meant for each other.
Day one: The task before Tanya was about killing all the monsters in the underground catacombs below a ruined building. Tanya was armed with a machine pistol and nothing else but a commando knife. It was towards the end of the game that she tripped on an obstacle on the ground and was on the verge of being delivered the Coup de Grace that she had a glimpse of the lion face, the eyes glared at her with a malevolence that took her breath away, the eyes drilled a hole right into her soul and she faltered. It was in that moment that she began to have doubts about whether she would ever get to win the game. Lying on a virtual ground, waiting for the monster to finish her, she thought about her options, losing her sanity and being sent to a mental asylum, losing the father she loved, her boyfriend she would marry and the mother who would wail the silent tears of a woman torn in grief, she rallied and somehow stood up to dodge a blow dealt by the monster with his club. She swung her machine pistol at the brute’s face and delivered a five second burst even as she ran out of ammunition. The last monster in the first day wilted as the bullets struck home, but not before it managed to rake its talons across Tanya’s back. Limping to the finishing line, she somehow nursed herself, bowed down in pain, wondering how she would manage to fight the next day with a back that had been ripped to shreds, dripping blood wherever she went.
Day two: Waking into the second day of the game, Tanya could still feel the pain of the previous day’s assault. She, however noticed that the wound, virtual though it might have been was fully healed. The task before her on the second day was of clearing the skies of flying Pterodactyls that were intent on grabbing her in order to take her to their nests, so to feed them to their chicks. This time she had no problems in fending off the attacks of the Pterodactyls that floated on the thermals as she herself dressed in a flying suit managed to fend off their attacks, firing with her machine pistol watching their wings crumple in mid air, tumbling down into a deep void that was surrounded by jagged rocks guaranteed to smash open skulls and smash bones to pulp! She managed to end the task, tired and exhausted by the ordeals that she had faced.
Day three: Tanya Bhojwani woke up to the loud and gut wrenching roars of a wild animal. The task before her that day was that of fending and killing a particularly aggressive sabre-toothed tiger. For that task she was equipped with an exoskeleton suit of carbon fibre, although whether it would save her from the fangs of the sabre toothed tiger was highly questionable, and she was given a long sword as a weapon of offense. She had hardly woken up when she was driven .deep into the woods away fro the advancing monster. Not having had anything to eat, Tanya was weakened and desperate to conserve her energy. Finally, after having stumbled through the thick overgrowth, she tripped and fell on to the ground before the advancing sabre toothed tiger. Weakened by hunger and thirst, Tanya waited for the killing stroke. All this while she thought about her father admitted in hospital, struggling with cancer. She thought of her mother, a woman who had given her all to keep the family together and then she thought of her boyfriend, whom she had hoped to marry one day. Tiger had reached her, its’ foul breath over powered her and she just lay cowering in the undergrowth. Just when the tiger was a few paces from her, Tanya managed to lift her long sword aiming it at the belly of the tiger. What happened next was that the wild beast lunged at her, and in that moment, the lion face appeared to her with eyes glaring. She thought her time had come, and then the monster was on her. She felt a searing pain as the fangs of the tiger pierced exoskeleton her armour. The pain was excruciating. Tanya came to after a few moments only to see the sabre toothed tiger rolled to one side, her long sword sticking into its chest. In a moment of lucidity, she saw how it must have happened-the tiger had lunged at her and in the process impaled itself on to the tip of the long sword. The body armour that she wore had prevented the tiger’s claws from piercing her body, but then she was left badly bruised all over her body, especially her upper chest.
By the third day the viewership ratings of the Stingray Channel that aired Tanya’s virtual battles had shot up! People had begun to sit up to watch a feisty Indian girl battle her way through obstacles and tasks, scraping through each one, bruised but victorious. People had begun to bet on her chances of reaching the final round, some had even betted on whether she would come out of the game sane and healthy in mind. All this while, Kanishk followed each episode with eagerness, watching each move she made, he watched her face closely to see how Tanya fared, looking for signs of weakness or signs of strength. He wanted to know whether she suffered. Tanya’s mother too was torn between her worries for her husband and fear for the wellbeing of her daughter. One of the preconditions that the contestants were made to understand was that there would be no communication between the contestant and the rest of the world.
Day four: The task before Tanya Bhojwani on the fourth day was to dive into a sea filled with a few sharks, stingrays, octopi, and other dreadful sea monsters, including a giant squid, and a few barracuda eels and retrieve a golden medallion from one of the pirate’s ships lying on the bottom. For the day she was equipped with a compact oxygen tank, and a LAR re-breather which would provide her with an almost inexhaustible supply of air. The task given to her on this day seemed to be to her liking and she took to the water like the fish that she was, but soon realised that things were not quite right. Once she felt something slimy slippery rub against her calves. Tanya had her hands full with the under water javelin held in one hand, a hunting knife in the other, strapped and attached by a strong rubber band ( a spare hunting knife she wore on her waist in a sheath. As she kept swimming towards the wreck, she swam too close to the rocks where the barracuda eel lived and what happened next was that she saw a blur as something huge lunged at her. She panicked and in that instant felt something snap at her receding legs as she frantically kicked her legs. There was suddenly a sharp pain in the back of her right leg, the calf as she felt teeth bite in. Luckily for her, the barracuda eel had managed to sink a few of its fangs into her calve and had torn the skin open. She panicked as she saw the trail of blood that she left behind her knowing that it would attract some of the underwater predators. Tanya had put on a protective swimming wet suit that could self heal itself and soon indeed she observed as the rent in the suit repaired itself although she wondered about her wound and whether it would continue to bleed. While she was still a few hundred metres from the ship-wreck, she came across the giant octopus staring at her with baleful eyes as it rested on the bottom of the sea, quietly waiting for something to come swimming by. This time she was waiting for the Octopus to come at her, no, send one of her tentacles swimming at her, but then what she hadn’t planned for was to see so many tentacles coming at her at the same time. Each tentacle had a life of its own, and seemed to act independently of the body. When the first tentacle came glancing past, she hacked at it with her knife, struggling to regain her stance. The tentacle went spiralling down, wriggling and writhing. She had hardly hacked at one tentacle when the next came groping for her and then another and another! She knew very well that if she came into contact with it, it would mean certain death. Soon she was fighting in the midst of a sea of tentacles and while she was flinching from the tentacles on her right, a tentacle had managed to stick itself to her left wrist. The sucker had stuck to her suit and she felt herself being dragged away by the tentacle. Tanya thought about her options, cut her suit off, hack at her hand to free herself, or, ‘wait, why not hack at the tentacle with my knife?’ she thought as she brought her knife around carefully lest she should provide the flat side to one of the suckers, and hacked at the tentacle intending to cut it in one stroke. Immediately she felt the tugging on her wrist slacken as the rest of the tentacle fell off, but then the piece of tentacle that she had hacked was still attached to her wrist writhing and twisting with a demonic sense of urgency. Tanya now turned her attention towards the open space that had formed ahead of her after she had hacked the second tentacle and in a flash swam towards that open space and sailed through.
On reaching the shipwreck she found an entry through the gaps in the planks of the deck and swam through one of those straight to the strong room in the next to the Captain’s cabin. Inside the strong room she saw the doors of the safe were open and with a sinking feeling she crept towards the safe not seeing the Sting-Ray lying on the floor of the cabin. She had never thought of seeing a sting-ray making the flooring of the cabin of a shipwreck its resting place! I was only when she was a few feet away that she saw the unmistakable Delta shape in the muck on the floor of the strong room and froze where she was, a difficult task since she could not arrest her momentum in a frictionless environment. Nevertheless, Tanya launched herself over the stingray hoping that she had not disturbed it in its sleep! Landing on the other side of the sting ray, next to the swinging doors of the safe, Tanya peeped into the depths of the safe and saw to her relief that the golden medallion was indeed there. She grabbed at it and then put it into the pouch she carried tied around her waist and proceeded to swim out of the strong room, through the gaps in the planking of the deck above her.
The task that had been set before Tanya on the fourth day had been a tough one, more so because the designers of the game had known that she was in her elements when she was in water. Tanya was aware of this and so she became doubly alert as she swam towards land, away from the wreck, not trusting the tranquillity of scene before her, the crystal clear water, colourful coral on the sea bed, a shoal of colourful tropical fish swimming by, their colours so hypnotic that she couldn’t pull her eyes away! And it was while she was drinking in the beauty of the sea that she was suddenly jolted back into alertness. Far away, beyond the shipwreck in the distance, she could see a massive shape emerging. It was moving towards her, growing larger and larger. A giant shark, such that none could imagine was going to be her final test. Tanya knew that she could in no way defend herself against the cold blooded beast and made a dash for the beach. She realised that if she had spent more time admiring the corals and the shoals of fish, then she would never have been able to outrun the shark. Run is what she did, as she sobbed for her mother in her fear. The corals and the shoals of fish had been deliberately released in order to slow her down and to make her lower her guard for a few crucial moments within which the shark would emerge and attack her. A few hundred metres from the safety of the beach, a warning siren sounded in her ears warning her that she was out of air. The re-breather had failed and to her dismay she noted that there was none left in the bottles of Oxygen strapped to her back.
Tanya was known for her ability to take prompt decisions when faced by unpredictable events. She was dubbed, “Miss Resourceful” by her friends on many occasions, and her teachers too liked her for being, ‘cool’ even in the most difficult of situations! It was therefore, in keeping with her character that Tanya unclipped the LAR Re-Breather and struck for the surface. Immediately she shot through the water, released by the dead weight of the cylinders and the Re-Breather. The reduced drag meant that she was able to shoot ahead of the advancing shark tumbling on to the sands of the beach gasping and spluttering and she turned back towards the sea in time to see the shark’s snout breaking out of the water, chopping at the air in frustration.
The world was fascinated by Tanya’s achievements on the fourth day, and the views of important and famous people were aired on television channels. Already speculation was rife that Tanya would be able to manage all the tasks very well. The cynics and detractors however warned that there were still three more tasks before Tanya, and it would be better if they reserved their opinions till the end. To add more emotion to the live telecast, the promoters of the game decided to record interviews of Tanya’s mother, her classmates, and teachers. These interviews were then telecast on various channels throughout the world. The TRP ratings of the channel providing live feed of the Driven Game shot up so much that people had stopped viewing other channels and sat glued to their screens looking at Tanya fighting through all odds. Even the news channels began to air live clippings of her fighting through the tough odds. Tanya had become a teenage icon and her pictures began to appear on tee-shirts and other sports equipment with the tagline, “Fight till Death!”
Day five: By the fifth day into the game, Tanya was exhausted and nearing the end of her patience. She was sickened by her surroundings, the smell of ionised air, frying electric circuits and processors working overtime as the engineers tried to overclock them. Very few contestants had crossed the third stage, and till then, the computers had managed very well, what with the limited simulations that were required. The developers of the game had few options left before them. Tanya, like the computers before her was fried up, and so when she was woken up by the virtual voice, it was with great reluctance that she took in the details of the task before her. The task set before her on the fifth day was that of rescuing a couple of travellers from a particular region in a national reserve forest where their plane had crashed. Incidentally it was a quarantined area because of a deadly strain of virus that had been brought in by an alien spacecraft. The virus, when it entered the body of the victim would take over the victim’s brain and cause him or her to attack as many uninfected people as possible. The infected victims grew knife like claws that grew on the backs of the hands projecting over the backs of the fingers. These could be projected or retracted at will. Sharp as razors, these claws could be used to inflict wounds on others, and while infecting wounds the razor claws deposited a good amount of viruses into the victim’s blood stream!
The only weapons Tanya was given were her favourite hunting knife and a PPK Walthers Pistol. Besides these, she carried a radio for contacting the handlers to whom she would be handing over the two passengers. Tanya would also be using the radio to contact the two passengers. She had nothing in the way of vaccines or a bio=hazard suit to save her from potential infection. The only thing she could do to prevent possible infection was to avoid any kind of physical contact with the two passengers. Finally the buzzer sounded and there she was, inside a thick jungle with trees all around and very little light filtering down to the ground. Nevertheless, she took a sighting on the compass she had been given and started heading due North towards the wreckage of the plane that had crashed. The coordinates of the crash site had been fed into the radio locater, and she made good progress reaching the crash site all twelve noon having started at ten in the morning.
She discovered the two passengers squatting close to the fuselage of the plane, and she hailed them, and they answered back with yells of excitement. When she drew closer, she was shocked to see that one of them was none other than her boyfriend, Kanishk! The other was Rohan, another of her admirers whom she would have taken up as a boy friend if Kanishk had not come to her before. The two of them who had till know seemed to be at ease with each other had become suddenly very hostile and the air of animosity between them became perceptible. Kanishk got up from his crouching position and advanced towards Tanya with the intention of hugging her, but then Tanya stepped back as Rohan guffawed loudly in derision that Tanya had rejected her lover.
‘But why, Tanya?’ shouted Kanishk in a tone of disbelief.
‘Sorry, Kanishk, you might have become infected by that alien virus brought by the space craft!’ replied Tanya.
‘Of course, Kanishk,’ sniggered Rohan, she has rejected you for someone else, what would she do with an engineer like you? Tanya has become a popular personality and she could have a pick of much better placed young men like you!’
Kanishk dashed towards where Rohan was squatting and hurling himself at Rohan, began to punch and kick at him, all the time screaming, ‘To hell with you, Rohan! You know she is my girl friend and she can think of no one other than me!’ and Kanishk turned towards Tanya looking for support.
In a moment of understanding, Tanya could see what the makers of the Driven game were attempting. They had set her up in a clever game of conflict of loyalties, and they were playing with her mind! She felt really angry when she saw what the makers of the game had done. First and foremost they had dared to enter into her private life, and they would attempt to examine how loyal she was to Kanishk. They would tempt her to hug and kiss Kanishk in the process infecting herself with the deadly virus which would steadily sap away her strength leaving her too weak to stand up to the challenges put before her. She also could see how introducing Kanishk into the game would present before her a situation that would destroy her emotionally. She was aware however, that Kanishk and Rohan were present as virtual characters and not the real ones.
A sharp cry of pain brought her to the present and she turned towards the struggling duo. Tanya lifted her pistol and fired one shot into the air. the loud crack of the pistol brought the struggle between the two men to a stop and Kanishk looked at Tanya with disbelief, ‘You fired that gun at us, Tanya, how could you do that?’
‘Look, Kanishk and Rohan, I need to hand you over to your handlers. We don’t have time to waste, just get up and follow me, she said waving her pistol in the direction that she had come for.
‘Ha ha ha ha,’ laughed Rohan, ‘she doesn’t want you any more Kanishk,’ retorted Rohan.
‘Just shut up Rohan!’ Shouted Tanya ‘Let’s move,’ she shouted.
In the mean time, both Kanishk and Rohan lodged their strong protest against the Game makers of Driven. Their protests were overruled by competent authorities that stated that the characters of Rohan and Kanishk had been extracted from Tanya’s own mind and that she had already signed the contract in which clause number forty-five clearly stated that the contestant was willingly surrendering his or her memory bank to provide characters and events to further the game. Their protests fell flat on deaf ears and Kanishk looked with horror as the game took a rather personal tone Tanya being thrust into a situation where she had to choose between her boyfriend, the targets of the game, and the option of ditching him for Rohan.
‘How much further do we have to walk?’ Rohan panted.
‘Just get on, you are slowing us down!’ Kanishk retorted.
‘Not much of a distance left,’ quipped Tanya.
It was almost when they had reached the point of the handover as indicated by the GPS, that she saw both the men start fighting again. She had elected to be the last in the line and had instructed Kanishk to lead. Even as she started to move towards the two fighting men, she was horrified to see that Kanishk had extended his razor claws and had begun to hack into Rohan. Rohan had succumbed to his injuries well before Tanya had reached them. In a moment of lucidity Tanya knew what she had to do, and cocking her pistol she aimed it at her boyfriend. Kanishk looked at her with disbelief and muttered,’You can’t do that, Tanya, I dare you to!’ Without a thought she shot him twice, once in the head and a second time in the chest.
The whole world gasped as they looked at their T.V. sets at the scene where Tanya had shot dead her boyfriend! The TRP ratings shot off scale, but Kanishk felt sad at the outcome of the fifth task. However he contented himself with the thought that after all, Tanya didn’t have any other alternative!
Day Six: The sixth day found Tanya repulsed and disgusted by the game. In fact she wanted to quit from the game, but then common sense dictated that she should complete what she had started. The task before her seemed simple enough-she was to rescue a young man from the clutches of members of an infamous African tribe called the Gujji tribe, known for stealing sex organs of their victims as proof of their prowess, these men had kidnapped one of the members of a science expedition that had been cataloguing animal and plant species found in a remote jungle in an African country known as Chencha. Tanya was given a makeup kit to camouflage herself, her favourite Hunter’s knife and the Walther PPK pistol with a silencer. The young man whom she had to rescue was named Kebede and the settlement of the Gujji’s tribe was known as Gidole. She had been informed that the Tribal chief, Gurage had decided to take up another wife, and in order to do this he had divorced his first wife and had become romantically attached to the eighteen year old daughter of the witch doctor in the next village. He had visited the said witch doctor who was known as Shiba for the treatment of a particularly embarrassing outbreak of itchy rashes on his private parts. Shiba had treated Gurage for a good couple of months and when the treatment was over, he was reluctant to leave witch doctor and his daughter. When Gurage asked the witch doctor for his daughter’s hand in marriage, he was rebuffed for being too old to handle his daughter who sent by the name of Yeromnesh. Thus angered by this insult to his manhood, Gurage the chief had decided to undergo the trial required of young grooms who were eager to get married. They had to prove themselves by furnishing proof of their manhood in the form of trophies cut from the bodies of their victims.
Deep in her mind, Tanya suspected that the makers of the virtual game Driven were up to something rather devious. Being a tall and athletically built woman, she was being sent into the depths of Africa to rescue and African man from the clutches of a romantically besotted tribal chief! Anyway, she couldn’t do anything about this, could she? When second last task was announced, the viewers speculated about the outcome of the game. Many claimed that Tanya would end up becoming the wife of the chief, others felt that she would be slaughtered by the men of the Gujji Tribe. A few reserved their opinions for later on, while Kanishk suffered a feeling of intense disgust about the manner in which the makers of the virtual game Driven were manipulating things.
Tanya was dropped a couple of kilometres away from Gidole at ten in the morning. She started advancing towards the settlement using the trees, as hiding places. She had just reached the boundary of the settlement made of a ring of thorny scrubs when she heard the sound of a band of men approaching her. She had left the forest cover way behind her and looked helplessly for cover;there was none. Soon the men came into site and on seeing her, they literally pounced on her leaving her no time to draw her weapons. She saw that it was no use struggling against these men who were lean, muscular and more than six feet tall. After she stopped fighting them, the men started groping her, hands slipped into her blouse and pinched at her breasts, other hands began their trip through the waist band of her cargo pants into her panties. All this time the men were calling out excitedly to each other as they discovered that the intruder was a woman. One of the men discovered the cosmetic case and on opening it and seeing some of the bottles opened the cap.On seeing nothing coming out of it,he lifted it into the air peering through the tiny hole only to be shocked when a cloud of black powder poured onto his face making the others pause what they were doing. Looking at the man’s face, everyone started laughing. It was at this moment that a voice of authority barked at them, and they immediately stood up as a singularly ugly looking fellow began to advance towards them.He was fat, his belly distended, his eyes yellowed with jaundice, teeth blackened with decay and as he walked towards the young men, he belched and farted loudly! The young men knew better than to laugh, but then Tanya could scarcely hold her laughter.
‘Hah, hah, what do I zee heere?’ he panted as he saw Tanya lying on the ground. Seeing her at close quarters, Gurage, (that is who he was) saw that he had been rewarded with a comely woman who had a fair skin and who looked exotic. ‘You be my wife!’ he grunted and with that instructed the young men to take her to his hut. Once there, Tanya was relieved of her pistol and her hunting knife and thrown onto the ground. She lay on the ground for a few moments, cursing herself for having allowed a lapse in her alertness, and now she was going to be married to this disgusting man! A good half hour later, the door opened, and a young girl about her own age stepped in with a bowl of what looked like lumps of dumplings swimming in a thick soup.
‘You eat this…Kurkuffa…you strong, marry soon!’ the girl said pointing towards herself, ‘me Zenabish-chief’s daughter!’
Tanya knew better than to argue with her, and instead she smiled at her and said, ‘ I am Tanya, and I am from a far away land!’
‘You be my mother,’ said Zenabish.
‘But I am only as old as you are, I can’t marry your father just now!’ exclaimed Tanya as she ate into the dumplings.
After she had had her meal, Gurage and his advisor paid her a visit making it it known that he would be marrying her that night. Tanya however made it known that she would marry him on the condition that he bring her a man from the nearest town intact. Gurage looked at her with suspicion for he didn’t want his new wife spoiled by any one. It was strange that in a land of strange customs and traditions much importance was given to the virginity of women before marriage. Tanya’s stubbornness however convinced the chief to bring in the young man whom they had kidnapped.
When they had brought the young man into her presence, they expressed their reluctance in allowing Tanya and Kebede alone. But then Tanya made it known that the guards could stay in the room and she took Kebede to one side to talk to him. Kebede was himself shocked to see her in that desolate place in Africa, and after a moments hesitation said, ‘Tum yaha kyan kar rahe ho?’ (What are you doing here?) in perfect Hindi. He told her that he had studied Zoology in one of the colleges in Delhi. Speaking in Hindi meant that the guards didn’t know what they were talking about. Finally after telling him that she was a contestant in the virtual game ‘Driven’ and this was her sixth task she set before him their plan of action. She would tell the chief to release Kebede a good four hours before the marriage which was to take place at eight. Kebede then would make for the town from where he had been kidnapped. Tanya would in the mean time ask for her cosmetic case to be brought and on getting it, she would select one of the bottles which contained concentrated nitric acid which she would pour on to the hinges that linked the wooden door to the jamb.
Finally Gurage agreed to this, reluctantly at first but then agree he finally did when he saw that Tanya was absolutely stubborn. Everything went on as planned, Kebede was released at four in the evening. Tanya took her time in dressing up, not really wearing the whites cotton gown given to her. Little after seven the chief’s daughter came into the hut where Tanya had been imprisoned and looked at where the white cotton gown was folded on the mat. She sniffed at the pungent smell of the acid reacting with the iron hinges but then readily went away the bucket of water Tanya had demanded making it clear to her that she needed to wash her face.
The sixth task ended in a farce when the Chief no longer able to wait to get to his soon to be wed wife discovered that the bird had flown the coop and when he realised that she was nowhere to be found, he decided to replace her with his earlier love, the daughter of the witch doctor. But then in order to wed the witch doctor’s daughter he had to present to him the organs cut from the kidnapped young man. The men suddenly realised that they had themselves released the young man, Kebede a good four hours earlier. Gurage sent some of his best men in pursuit of Kebede and if possible the dream girl he had set his eyes on. The men set out into the night, but returned empty handed the next morning. Both Tanya and Kebede had escaped unscathed!
Day Seven, the day of Reckoning: The final day had come, and Tanya was now going to take the final test. The test was called the ring of fire, and the contestants, none who had reached this stage were supposed to escape a circle of advancing monsters who were equipped with maces, swords, lances, spears, and daggers. Beyond the ring of advancing monsters was a ring of fire that seemed to be impenetrable.Tanya was by now resigned to the outcomes of the game. To win or lose hardly mattered to her, and she knew that she was the only contestant who had reached this far. The world as a whole was glued to the TV sets. For many it was a foregone conclusion that this spunky girl would manage this task too. Tanya’s mother had spent her time in prayers and she had visited the Birla temple on Mandir Marg in Delhi to offer prayers. Tanya’s boyfriend, Kanishk sat in his room glued to his TV set, hoping that the girl he loved would clear this task too. The news channels aired the opinions of famous personalities who had come up with the idea that such reality shows should be brought to an end. The makers of the Virtual Game, ‘Driven’ felt that they had finally come to an end of a successful season of the reality show. They had incidentally thrown everything that they had at Tanya, but had to concede defeat at the hands of this resourceful teenager. They had however made a lot of money in terms of sponsorships and TRP ratings.
On the penultimate day of her virtual game, Tanya woke to a the voice announcing her penultimate task. Voice had taken a kinder tone and it advised her to, ‘Be alert and aware of her surroundings.’ Tanya was given her Knife and a light weight sword. She would be wearing a skin hugging suit that would protect her from the heat of the fire but nothing else! Just before she entered into the portal however she saw the glaring eye of the lion, and was daunted by the glare of violence that the gaze carried within it.
Tanya found herself on an open plain surrounded by an advancing ring of monsters, and at the head of the circle she saw the majestic lion lion face advancing towards her. Trembling with fear, she realised that she would have to take a leap into the midst of the advancing monsters before the circle became too dense. She remembered the instructions of her gym instructor about taking leaps and running towards the advancing monsters she managed to find a gab between a gargoyle and a wolf slipping through. In the process however she felt gargoyle’s sword nick into the back of her right shoulder blade. The wolf bared its fangs and nipped into her thigh, but then she leapt through running full tilt into the advancing ring of fire. The heat of the fire was so intense that she almost fainted, her hair was singed and she felt her whole body bake in the intense heat, but then she didn’t feel the pain as she exulted in the thrill of having crossed over safety. Klaxons sounded in the room declaring that she had finally managed to clear the last obstacle. Channels all over the world telecast her victory.
The world welcomed their new hero and she was given a hero’s welcome by none other than the prime minister of the country. Tanya was welcomed by her mother and her boyfriend who welcomed her back into the real world. The organisers of the virtual game, ‘Driven’ became bankrupt after paying Tanya her prize money, but then they were happy in a way for having won recognition in the world of virtual games.
Tanya woke up after a few days to a world that recognised her for her resourcefulness and presence of mind. The prize money that she won went into the treatment of her father, and there was enough money left from the treatment to provide for all her needs till the day she died. Tanya enrolled in one of the colleges and did her BBA followed by an MBA. She became a successful manager in one of the multinational companies and got married to her boyfriend, Kanishk. It went without saying that Tanya had become a bigger teenage icon than even the most revered of cricket players. Tanya and Kanishk went on to have two children, son and a daughter. Tanya’s father recovered from his ailment and went on to lead a healthy life till he died of natural causes at the age of seventy five. Tanya’s courage and bravery became an inspiration for all young people across the globe. Virtual games such as ‘Driven’ were brought to an end, and the world went up in arms against reality shows that put their contestants into danger.