The Unfinished Game
By: Lauren Thompson
My opponent picked up the rook moving one, two, three- knock! He kicked down my last knight sending it rolling off the board. Damn! He glanced at me briefly as I shifted in my seat, visibly cringing, but said nothing. His gaze back on the board; his face cradled by his hand, fingers obscuring the sight of his mouth. His poise, his stillness was unnerving. I shifted in my seat as I considered the board, ‘should I play my queen? My rook?’ I analyzed possible countermoves, my fingers drumming on the armrest of my chair.
I felt his eyes move from the board to me, observing, analyzing. I tried to focus on the pieces in front of me, yet my eyes seemed to take in the details of the room instead. The claw-foot mahogany table that sat between us, carrying the ornate chessboard; the rug beneath with it’s red, tan and black swirls; and the fireplace next to us with bookshelves flanking each side. The resulting atmosphere was old, engrossing, fulfilling. I concentrated again on the chessboard…such unusual pieces.
I’ve never seen anything quite like them in my life. Most appeared to be hand carved, with three simple ridges, one at the bottom and then two in the middle, pressing against each other, not quite fully fastened. However, not all the pieces were of the same material. It appeared as if only three-quarters of the set was actually carved, whereas the rest was made of marble. Also unusual was the fact that there were three colors rather than the traditional two. My pieces were white whereas his were red and black; the red pieces were carved but the black ones were normal pieces you could have found anywhere. The incongruity puzzled me, there was something sinister about the board…I just couldn’t put my finger on it.
The silence continued and sweat trickled down my back, I took a nervous sip of water from the glass on my side of the table as my stomach roiled. I shifted again and steepled my fingers under my nose as I made a production of studying the board. I sat up straighter and gripped the arms of my chair.
I felt my brain go blank as I looked back down at the board. “these pieces are so intricate…. Did you make them?” I asked, trying to get my brain to calm down.
I sat looking at the board waiting to hear his answer, but the silence dragged on. I looked up to find his gaze boring into me. His eyes were fixed on me – as though my question had caught his interest, as though his prey has just made a move that would make it an easy kill for him. There was no emotion in those eyes- they were glazed over- black as an abyss.
I felt a chill run down my spine and my hands started to shake. I gripped the armrests more tightly.
His hand still covered his mouth as his gaze drilled into me.
I shifted back in my seat leaning against the backrest and looked back down at the board. Just make a move. Finish the game and go home. My right hand hovered over the board as my left continued to grip the chair, knuckles white.
I sensed him lean back in his chair, his first physical move since the game began.
A springing, slicing sound, like that of a blade suddenly broke the silence. My vision went black as gut wrenching, burning pain shot through my hand to my arm. Shaking I looked down at the hand that rested on the armrest of the chair.
Bile rose in my throat as I fought against the hysteria bubbling up inside me. I surveyed the bloody stumps that had been my fingers. A keening sound rose from me as I fought to remain calm. I closed my eyes but the image remained burned into my retinas. Oh God! My three middle fingers- were gone! A blade had sprung up from the arm of the chair, slicing from below, it rested, slick with viscous red fluid, against the nubs that were my fingers.
I opened my eyes, it had to be a nightmare! I needed to wake up!!! At the back of my mind I knew that I wasn’t asleep and the pain- the burning, unending pain… shot like spindles through my core. I almost gave into the darkness threatening at the edges of my conscience. What had happened?! My fingers rolled on the floor. I looked up, choking on a hysterical sob, snot and tears mingling on my clammy skin. I dimly registered the heaving, screeching sobs. They were from me. I looked back up at my opponent. I had no words.
His hand had dropped from his face, revealing a cruel smile playing along his lips. It dripped with venomous pleasure. “Yes,” He began. “I carved them.”
He smiled even more. “For more chess pieces of course…” I glanced back down at the board… more pieces…. Then it hit me…. the ridges…… Finger bones. As soon the words popped into my head another slicing sound filled the air.