(inspired by a most vivid dream)
Rows of ebony and ivory tried to direct my every step, right and wrong, now and then … a game I didn’t want to play but found myself being lured into anyway. As a matter of fact I became so predictable in my moves that my opponent found enjoyment in watching me squirm as I attempted a new journey only to find the same worn away path through the dark wood that I had tread for so many years. The trophies, money, fame, popularity were doldrums to his senses, but the look in his eyes the first time he won the game was a gaze that hollowed out your own sockets as fear froze your very soul.
Of course, I was only a child at the age of six back then , in the year sixty-six, and to a child darkness, monsters, and bullies haunt your waking hours as well as your nightmares. I tried to flee, scream, and even distract myself by staring at my stained second-hand sneakers with the soles worn thin, but all I could feel was that immobilizing, penetrating stare encompass me. Then he proceeded toward me and without saying a word, extended out his hand. He didn’t gloat or tease me? He had accepted my inadequacies? Dumbfounded, I returned his compassionate gesture and the deal was sealed.
The years passed and he was always there guiding me through difficult times, which always seemed to outweigh the good ones, selecting others that I would associate with, none of which held anything of importance in high regards including associations, and most importantly making sure that I kept playing the game and he kept graciously winning. So here we are again, I sit across from him staring at a jackal’s grin pretentious in patience, impatient to deal death. Beaten, worn and weary, barely able to lift the marionette’s string affixed to my left hand to make my first move I heard two words “Immortal Game”. What was it, who was it, and how was I supposed to play it? I frantically listened to hear more but only the silence of a departed tomb reverberated. I felt a sharp tug at my hand followed by a searing pain the string snapped, and a crimson red trail oozed down to the tips of my fingers and onto the heavy wooden table upon which the game rested. In the spilled blood, stained into a vertical wooden board, I found a message clearer than any of so many years prior… “Pawn to King 4”.
Each move written for me, but why was I following? I couldn’t beat him yet I looked into this king’s eyes and saw something never seen before… confusion. Come this far and no further! Hounds of hell besieged a perimeter they could not breach. They bared their teeth, snarled and glared. These pawns paced back and forth, but their own master’s smell of brimstone cloaked my scent. His hands trembled. He shifted key minions back and forth grasping them so tightly before releasing that the imprinted open wounds encrusted the fingers on his right hand. Frustrated that a captive had been wrested by a bishop’s crook from his scaly grasp.
He summoned the horseman to track me down. A bounty was placed alive or dead. Hoof beats echoed inside my head, and surely my demise to be dealt by a rider’s swift sword from a onyx beast that stood fifteen hands. Shadows darted in front of my eyes, my next move skewed from my sight, but even paralyzed in blindness my cries were heard. I had my own horseman and he came to me that night. His armor shown so brightly the darkness retreated back to my opponent’s side. Atop the pure white steed, he released a wrath of promises long forgotten but renewed in me the right.
I finally saw the king’s face peering up from where he fell. A scaled appearance of multicolored flesh of every race covered a flattened cranium, two small slits that protruded from a semi raised area had begun to flare and shut tightly in a repetitious motion, and a single contorted line that stretched across two high set jawbones served as a portal for a forked tongue that continued to spit venomous lies. The more I focused on these features the more they changed into familiar faces that I had trusted and encountered throughout my existence. The one constant that kept distracting me was his eyes, no longer did they have the power to burn and bore into my soul. They had become fragile slate orbs of mirrored glass that were saturated with scores of fissures. Between each fissure was an image of a spectator that accompanied him to each game. I had seen them hundreds of times before, but where were the rest? The ones that had always offered me a kind word after my defeats? I didn’t see any of them. I lifted my hand to cover my eyes not wanting to look upon this monstrosity any longer, and there, in the wine colored stains of my handprint my witnesses stared back.
As I turned to leave, the enemy raised his right hand, with fore finger and middle pressed together he placed them first on his throat, lingering with a slight tap only for a moment, and then advanced to his lips a gesture that spoke to silence a man that could broadcast his defeat. The hand then moved slowly straight across his left palm as to slice the sensitive nerves one by one. The twisted features of his face changed to a desperate plea that needed a Saviour’s rescue but stare too long and realize a mirrored image of one’s own soul staring back.
I too raised a finger, but to my forehead, and made a gesture of a long vertical motion followed by a shorter horizontal. There in that scarlet outline the final move was made. All his pieces removed from the board