Monday, May 07, 2007

Short fiction: The Re-Match

Okay, we've established that poetry time is not the cat's meow here in FWG-land. Let's toss some prose up and see if it flies, shall we? Here's a little vignette I spat up spur-o-the-moment yesterday evening - just to explore an idea that was on my mind. It's rough draft. I'm posting it here because it will likely never find life anywhere else - being too vague about a subject too rare for there to exist any mainstream appeal. Also - my short fiction is almost universally abandoned after the first draft. The working title shall be:

The Re-Match

The chamber was round as was the table that stood in the centre of it. Square in shape were each of the twelve windows spaced evenly throughout the single encompassing wall and square was the board that lay on the table. The board was further divided into sixty-four smaller squares each identical in size but alternating in appearance. Every other cell was carved of white marble, the remainder, black.

Small simple figures carved of the same two materials, eight of each, faced one another across four vacant rows of the playing field, each shoulder to shoulder with the others of their breed. Behind the whites, stood a row of slightly taller white figures, formed in the shape of regal or clerical persons, of horses and of castle towers.

Well behind they, in a great chair, sat a figure dressed in a suit of white silk. Opposite him, behind the array identical but black, sat another who might have been the brother of the first, so similar was his face, creased with age below waves of grey - nearly white - hair. Each wore shiny shoes on their feet and shiny gem-encrusted rings on their fingers which, for their appearance might have been crafted by the same fine jeweler that forged the ornate fruit-filled bowl flanking the game board to one side or the two jeweled goblets that together with a crystal carafe flanked on the other.

Gold clinked dully against gold as fingers found the stems of the goblets and rich wine was brought to each man's lips. The movement of the gems on fingers and vessels brought a subtle but swift shifting of coloured light rays refracted and scattered throughout the room and into the conical ceiling as a dusk-bound sun pierced the room through four of the windows, lighting the gemstones and the men's faces and some of the more easterly of the twelve tapestries that hung between every window threading together scenes of battle both gory and of glory; each a fray of man, beast and blood.

In the beams of sunlight dense seas of dust particles flowed through the air in united rhythm like the stars of galaxies. The men withdrew the golden cups from their lips and returned them to the table; the motion bringing harsh disturbance to the floating galaxies of dust, stirring unfathomable havoc; sweeping small worlds away on their whim.

"Bishop to king's bishop five," said he who sat behind the dark ranks. He crossed his legs, clad in black trousers, knee over knee, in the manner women tend to do with ease while many men can not. Pinched between weathered thumb and weathered forefinger, he tugged at the cuff of his red silk jacket, first with one hand upon one sleeve then the other hand upon the other sleeve. He rested his hands then, palms down, the first upon the higher knee and the second upon the first. His limbs all carefully stacked, he dropped his goatee-covered chin, lowering the stern gaze he cast at his clean-shaven opponent.

The man in white sat squarely, forearms capping the arms of his chair. "King to king's knight," he said. Between them the game board and the four ranks of pieces remained untouched and in symmetry.

"Bishop to king six," said the man in red. "Check."

The man in white smiled briefly. "And so begins the inevitable conclusion."

The man in red did not return the smile. "You'll lose the plateau, you know. And soon."

"I know that, Lorcan."

"And there'll be no mercy for your men. They'll be eradicated."

"I realize."

"And the entire hinterlands are doomed to follow. You realize that too."

"So it would seem."

"And there'll be no mercy, Dugan. Not even for the women or children."

"King to king's rook." Said Dugan, looking down at the motionless chessboard.

Lorcan reached down and lifted a blood-red apple from the fruit bowl. He held it by the stem between finger and thumb and twirled it slowly back and forth, setting the apple gently spinning. He held it before his eyes. The reflection of a sun-filled window remained fixed in position as the apple's slick surface moved back and forth. A tiny shadow intruded upon the reflection. Lorcan turned his head toward the window where a dark starling had just alit on the sill. It stared back at him.

"One of yours?" asked Lorcan.


"Nor mine. Bishop to king's bishop five." Lorcan offered a deliberate laugh. "What would your servants say, I wonder, should one walk in here now, and see us together?"

"Not a likely scenario. As you've no doubt observed, there's no door to this room. King to king's knight."

"They'd fall dead from the shock, I expect."

Dugan slipped a hand beneath the breast of his white jacket and pulled out a dagger. He held it out, over the chessboard, gripped at the very base of the blade, spinning it forward, proffering the handle. "And what would your people think, knowing we were here together?"

Lorcan reached out and gently took the long knife's handle into his grip. "Bishop to king six. They’d not be surprised at my presence here. Of course they’d never understand why I don't kill you." He held the blade to the apple and pierced the skin. "Check," he said. He began to peel the skin from the apple in a single narrow strip.

"King to king's rook. Tell me, is there much profit in the annihilating of a civilization?"

"None," said Lorcan. "The order won't come from me." He finished baring the apple. A long single coil of skin dropped through the air and just prior to hitting the floor, it vanished. He began carving off pieces of fruit and delivering them to his mouth on the point of the knife where he removed the morsels using his teeth. "Bishop to king's bishop five," he said between bites.

"King to king's knight."

Lorcan finished with the apple. "Delicious," he said. He dropped the core and it too dissolved into the air. He placed the dagger down on the table. "Bishop to king six." He issued a long sigh. "Check."

"King to king's rook," said Dugan.

"And thus we weave yet another stalemate. How dreary." Lorcan rose from the chair. The bird on the sill fluttered instantly away. The man strode to a standing coat tree and removed the long black cloak that hung from it. With a great sweeping gesture he pulled on the garment.

"One day I'll defeat you, Dugan."

"Of course you won't. Why claim such a thing?"

"I will and you know it. Why deny it?"

Dugan frowned. "Are you speaking of chess or the war?"

"Both are trivial. I speak of neither."

"Oh," said Dugan softly, rising from the chair. He moved toward the other man. "So you speak finally of that which we've never dared discuss. That contest which you won already long ago. Though perhaps you never realized it."

"You mock me."

"I don't. My people are wholly defeated in that arena."

"If that were true, I would recognize the despair in their thoughts."

"No, Lorcan. You won't. I told you. They are defeated in that arena. They no longer recognize themselves. They're wholly defeated and wholly deceived. What more do you want?"

Now Lorcan frowned and deeply so. He moved to a window and stared unblinking into the brilliant sun. "Of course. I see now. You speak the truth. Such a strange victory. I never sensed it. But what happens next?"

"It's already begun," said Dugan. "We fight for escape."

"I had no idea." Lorcan shook his head back and forth, beginning to smile.

"And yet you prevail while you sleep, so steep is your advantage. But still, one day we shall win."

Lorcan's smile faded. "So you shall, clearly. But temporarily. And that time is so very far from now. Much sooner I shall see you in my study for a re-match."

"Of course."

"Until then." Lorcan walked forward, vanishing into the wall.

"So very far indeed," said Dugan aloud. "So very far."

copyright © 2007 Fantasy Writer Guy


Anonymous said...

You have such ... finesse! I like it.

Kathleen said...

I like it, but I hate short stories because I feel like I'm missing so much! I want the whole story!!!

Have you read The Eight by Katherine Neville?

Babs Gladhand said...

Oh. I really, really like this. I want more. And next time, can someone get stabbed? Just for me? Or maybe beaten with a tape dispenser. Or with a can of Glade air freshener.

Fantasy Writer Guy said...

Crazymom: Thanks! But go easy on the flattery please. Flattery is strictly not kosher here. Criticism is much more useful to me. There are certainly flaws in the piece.

Kats: I know you hate short stories. I'm shocked that you read it. You're not obliged you know!

Babs! How perfectly delightful to sense your presense here! You've probably been busy after the vacation. I do hope that grand Arkansas and all the fine Arkansoonians are treating you well. If not, let me know and I will send more tape dispensers and air fresheners for your arsenal.

I'm not sure your suggestions would fly very well in the realm of metaphorical chess-playing omnipotent mind-manipulating shape-shifting super-power beasts but I sure like them. Maybe some satirical story is in order. Bumbling half-witted knights and wizards doing battle with commercial household products. I'm thinking mini-episodes posted here on the blog. Wonder if there's an audience for that sort of thing...?

Kathleen said...

If it hadn't grabbed me in the first few sentences, I wouldn't have, but I had to know...but I want TO KNOW IT ALL!!! ;-)

Babs Gladhand said...

Fwig - I'd be an audience for such. Seriously, having someone getting tortured by a strip of fly paper is my idea of funny.

I'm weird.

Anonymous said...

I'm no critic.

I meant it floooows so much better than any story I could have put together. You went to school didn't you? ;)

Fantasy Writer Guy said...

Supermom: I dropped out of highschool where the curriculum is an absolute discrace and then I really started learning.