The man wore a suit of the purest white, from his tie to his shoes, which were white leather, and held a white cane in his hand. Though he was blocking the rising sun from Ray’s eyes, he seemed to make the surrounding area even brighter. The one patch of darkness he wore was a pair of sunglasses which he promptly removed, revealing, to Ray’s horror, that he was, in fact, blind. His eyes were milky white, leading Ray to wonder just how he could have found them in the first place.
“You just couldn’t keep well enough away, could you?” the man in black growled, venom dripping from his voice. “You love meddling in my affairs.”
“Believe it or not, my arrival at this time is pure coincidence,” said the man in white pleasantly, his voice as refined as Black’s, but clearly Irish. Black snorted derisively.
“You know there’s no such thing as coincidence when it comes to you,”
“No, but there’s plently of room for it where you’re involved, as I’m sure you know.” White replied. Ray sat between the two, his confusion etched deeply upon his face, though it seemed the odd pair either didn’t notice or didn’t care.
Without waiting for an invitation, White sat opposite Black, drew a crisp brown envelope from his jacket’s interior, and slid it across the table. Black opened it with clear distaste, as though holding it too long would result in the contraction of some deadly disease. The envelope’s contents consisted of six pages, though Ray couldn’t see what was printed on them, only that attached to each page by a paper clip was a small photo. Whatever the pages meant, Black didn’t seem too impressed.
“I’ve told you before I don’t take your orders!” he snapped, slamming the documents face down on the table, his face as dark as stormclouds. Ray blinked in surprise - the most he could manage in the way of a reaction. He felt more and more numb and more and more tired with each passing second. It was struggle enough to keep his eyes open; curiousity was the only thing keeping him alert.
“Don’t think of these as orders; merely... suggestions,” White said cordially. Black snorted, but White pressed on. “Following these plans would be in our best interests.”
A pause, before a sly grin grew across Black’s face, which was now even younger than before. “Ours or theirs?”
“Need the two be mutually exclusive?”
Black’s grin faded. “This isn’t the first time you’ve given me such suggestions. Yet I always seem to come out worse.”
“Temporarily, perhaps, but in the end all will work out.”
What on earth are they talking about, Ray wondered, utterly bamboozled.
“How?” asked Black, and Ray thought he saw a flicker of regret flash across White’s face.
“I can’t tell you that.”
“You expect me to spare these people with no explanation?”
“Not just spare them,” said White, his tone suddenly becoming more businesslike. “you need to avoid them entirely, them and their acquaintances. And yes, entirely without explanation. I’ve searched for you for the past two years, do you honestly think I’d bother unless they were important?”
Black had a look of disconcertion, but it was quickly replaced with a twisted smirk. Ray felt a chill in his stomach at that. He hadn’t a clue what either of them were talking about, but Black’s smile could only be bad news.
“And what about the boy? Though in truth he’s more of an old man now …”
White looked at him in pity with his blind eyes, and swallowed.
“He– he is not important,” he whispered, turning to face the park. “His survival is irrelevant.”
Black began to laugh, his barking voice shattering the cold morning air. White remained passive, though Ray broiled with rage, despite the fact he could do nothing about it. He knew nothing about these strange men, but who were they to judge his worth? How come they got to assess his ‘relevance’ to the world? Had he the energy, he’d have spat on the both of them. As it was, he remained sitting there looking scared, angry and confused all at the same time, while Black and White continued to ignore him.
“How it must torture you to say that,” Black goaded the blind man. “The so-called champion of life, letting an innocent die simply because he isn’t relevant.”
White’s fists clenched, his anger clear to see from his expression, but still, he said nothing. Black looked genuinely shocked.
“You really are broken, aren’t you?” he murmured in wonder. He paused for a moment, before his wicked smile returned. “Why don’t I give you a chance to save him?” he teased, and gestured to an oak-framed chessboard which now rested on the table beside the sandwich where it hadn’t before. “If I win he dies, if you win, he lives.”
White sighed. “He’s not worth the effort.”
“Oh go on, it’ll be fun,” Black said in a mock plea. “We can see which is truly the best: order or chaos.”
But White shook his head. “I told you, he’s not worth it.”
Black looked disappointed. “However,” White raised a finger, “we might make this a wager of higher stakes.”
Black laughed again. “You have grown cold, old friend. But very well, let’s make this more interesting. What do you propose?”
White’s businesslike voice returned. “Should you win, you’ll have free reign, to do as you please. Not indefinitely of course,” he added hastily, as Black raised an eyebrow, “but at least two years.”
“And if you should win?” Black asked warily.
“You stop this killing, this one and whatever else may tempt you from now on. You stop this vampiric harvesting of lives. In other words, you die.”
“You know, for a man who loves life so much, you have a rather morbid fascination with my death.” Black laughed.
“Don’t be childish, do we have a deal?” asked White impatiently.
Black reached across the table to shake White’s hand.
Ray was terrified, to say the least. His life was hanging in the balance of a chess game between a blind man and a sociopathic serial killer. Needless to say, he wasn’t hopeful of a continued existence. And just how a blind man would go about playing chess, Ray really couldn’t tell, though White seemed confident enough of his abilities. The pieces appeared out of nowhere, much as the board had. Ray could tell which pieces they were, by there positions, though the figures were unlike any he’d ever seen before.
All the white pieces were made entirely from white marble, save the king, whose right arm was clad in silver. The arm held a huge sword, point down, while a long cloak flowed about his body. His queen stood with lidless eyes upon the staff she held raised, a raven perched on her shoulder. The bishop was a brutish looking character, with a hefty club in both arms and a harp strapped to his back. The knight was slender, but tough, seated upon a galloping horse, a mighty spear in his left hand. The rook was represented by a simple standing stone, strange notches etched into its corners. The army of pawns before them had winged helmets, decorative armour, and lethal broadswords. Each one had a different face, or so it seemed to Ray.
The black pieces were enirely different, made of onyx. Their king was almost invisible, covered mostly in a thick cloak. The most Ray could make of his face was a single shining right eye. Beside him was a queen with hair flowing to her waist, and her hands were raised high above her, clutching a wand. The bishop was some form of hunter, armed with a bow and quiver, his neck decorated with thick rings. The knight seemed less honourable than his white counterpart, but just as formidable. Two long thin daggers were to be found in his hands, and his head covered with a half-helm. The rook was a jagged tower with a single window.
The black pawn horde were a more ragged bunch than the white, brandishing vicious scimitars, clothed in leather armour, and their helmets topped by a line of spikes.
And there they stood, a proud army of order, a vicious rabble of chaos, standing on the verge of a battle for Ray’s life, and that of countless others. Ray couldn’t even comprehend the absurdity of the situation. His previous rage was lost in his bafflement, and all he could do was simply let events take place as they would, without questioning the logic, and accept the consequences. It was a technique he was well practised in, and a good thing he was too, otherwise he would have been driven mad by what he saw next.