The issue of how a blind man would play a game of chess was soon resolved, baffling and anti-climactic though it was. White played much like anyone else would, and Ray was having serious doubts as to whether he truly was blind. White moved his king’s pawn two squares, and Black did the same with his left rook’s pawn. Ray watched as the two set up their pieces, White slow and precise, Black rapid and wild.
Ray had played chess in school, and had found it just as useful as Latin. Still, his teachers had insisted on drumming both into his skull, insistent upon the fact that they would somehow turn him into a better person. All Ray had gotten were headaches and endless square patterns burnt onto his retinas.
However, somewhere in the depths of his mind, something had stuck, enough for him to know that Black was playing highly unusually. While White was directing his troops down the centre of the board, Black seemed to be skirting aroung the edges. “Knights on the rim are dim,” Ray remembered being told, as Black placed his left knight on the sidelines. For a brief second, Ray had some hope in White winning.
But then it all went wrong. Black gave a soft smile when his turn came again, and moved his knight to the left – off the board!
The knight vanished in a flash of light, and reappeared on the other side of the board, vanquishing White’s bishop. White’s face stiffened, and his breathing grew heavy, his nostrils flared, rage in clear evidence.
“Order versus chaos,” Black stated simply, and horror grew in the pit of Ray’s stomach. Chess was hard enough to play normally, but against pieces that could move off the board? His small spark of hope was extinguished, and he resigned himself once more to his imminent death. White had to change his entire method of play. Practically all his major pieces were in the centre lines, and all he seemed to be doing was defending against Black’s board-defying tactics. He coped well, even getting to the point where he could work out some kind of pattern to Black’s moves.
But then, the dice got involved.
Black retrieved the two black dice from his inner jacket pocket. He started to number his pieces before each of his moves, toss the dice, and move a figure based on what turned up. It was easy enough to understand Black’s system: one die corresponded to a piece, the other chose how far they moved. The pawns and knights no longer followed their limited amount of squares - the die determined that now.
But the same pieces weren’t always numbered, they didn’t always have the same number, and the dice didn’t always mean the same thing. Chance now had free reign amongst Black’s horde, and White couldn’t plan against it. Normally such madness would destroy one’s own game, but Black was certainly headed for triumph. While his opponent’s moves were slow and calculated, Black moved rapidly and recklessly, constantly putting the pressure on White. All of a sudden, the white king was checked, his sword glowing as bright as his arm, the black rook standing just squares away.
Black began to laugh, now with the face of a man in his early twenties. “I imagine you thought this would be easy, didn’t you old friend?”
White sat silent, brows furrowed and white eyes filled with confusion.
“‘Chaos has no place in chess’ I can hear you say,” Black mocked. “‘Such madness could never succeed.’ But that’s your problem right there.” Ray struggled to look at him, his curiousity piqued, but White seemed to be ignoring his opponent. Black persisted, nonetheless.
“Chaos isn’t madness, nor is it stupidity. Chaos is the antithesis of order, but that doesn’t mean it’s without reason. Chaos has plasticity; it’s fluid. It can allow for change within a heartbeat. Chaos follows rules, but those rules can be changed instantly, without chaos even batting an eyelid. It’s adaptation, recombination, and glorious unpredictability.” At this, Black broke into a grin. “And that is why you’ll never win.”
White was still, as frozen as the marble pieces he fought with. There was very little he could do in the way of defense. If he moved the king to the right, the black knight could swoop in and finish him. Moving to the left meant exposure to a black bishop’s attack, and checkmate again.
But there was no guarantee Black would move either of those pieces. There was a one in six chance that Black would make the right move, but with the way White’s luck had been going, was it worth the risk? Black had changed the game entirely, and White no longer knew how to play.
He didn’t know what to do.
Ray was just as motionless as White, though not of his own free will. If he could, he’d have left, running, screaming and shouting. But the weight of so many years was laid upon his body, and it was getting harder and harder to breathe. He could feel his heart beat quicker, but weaker.
He realised Black had been leading White into this trap from the very beginning. An attempt to humiliate an old adversary and even get rid of him for a year or two. His life and the lives of the others were just pawns in this game, small treats left out to snare the man in the white suit and beat him down into the ground.
Ray wasn’t sure how long they had been sitting there, but the noises from the city were growing louder; it wouldn’t be long until the park started to fill and his old decrepit corpse was found. That was assuming Black at least had the decency to let his family know he was dead, whenever they realised he was gone, as opposed to endless nights of wondering when the prodigal son would darken their door again.
Or maybe that would be better, if his long-suffering mother could keep hope that he was still alive somewhere in the world. Ray didn’t think she’d react too well to seeing her youngest son’s corpse looking more ancient than her own father.
The city thrummed to the point that you could hear its voice with no difficulty. It washed around the ears, letting you know that the day had truly begun. The sun no longer peeked, but blazed triumphantly, no clouds blocking it just yet. Ray saw it and was struck in awe. Such beauty, in nothing but a flaming ball of gas over a million miles away. The orb rose in glory, a giant hole in the pale blue sky, adding streaks of red and gold to the clouds above it. Ray knew he shouldn’t stare at it, but it was as good a last sight as he would ever get. He laughed in his mind as he wryly wondered if this was how White had lost his vision too.
But then, something within him snapped. A sudden thought landed on his brain and took him completely by surprise.
I don’t want to leave this.
A fire blazed within him, as hot as the sun. This was his life, for God’s sake, why wasn’t he fighting for it? Why let these snobs in suits choose what happened to him? He may be of no worth to White’s schemes, or just some twisted meal to Black, but he was bloody important to himself.
He looked at the board before him, the cataclysmic battle for his life in which he had taken no part. Black’s words echoed in his mind.
“Chaos isn’t madness … rules can be changed instantly … that is why you’ll never win.”
Ray had lived his life by order his entire life, and where had that gotten him? Into this mess, hadn’t it? So why couldn’t he change the rules too? It may have been a battle of chaos versus order, but that why should a victory for the former mean a loss for him?
"It can allow for change in a heartbeat."
All right then, time to test just that.
His brain sent the signals into his right hand, urging it to do something. It stayed where it was in his lap, but Ray kept fighting, longing for a jerk, a twitch, anything. The sweat burst from Ray’s forehead. Move! he shouted in his mind, almost on the brink of tears.
At last! A flicker, not much, but at least it moved. Eventually his whole hand moved, and not a moment too soon; White had moved his king to the left, and Black had numbered his pieces.
The dice rolled in his hand, and Ray knew he had to act fast. He managed to raise his arm, breaking the chains of apathy as he did so, and swung across the table. Black was just about to cast when – crash!
The sound, though miniscule, seemed to echo all across the park, as Ray’s withered, ancient hand smashed into the black king, and knocked it crumbling into the ground, it's evil, shining eye extinguished.