A century passed in a second. Samuel had observed Life and Death playing, again and again.

Finally he spoke, something that had been burning in his mind since the very beginning. "The time when you lost, and I was created--it wasn't the first time you'd lost, is it, Death?"

Death had gone even paler than he was before, if such a thing was possible. Trying to keep a tremor out of his voice, he replied, "I do not know what you are talking about, child."

Life looked interested. "What do you mean to say, Samuel?"

"Surely you know!" Samuel said, a smile playing about his lips. "You cannot be so absorbed in your chess game as to not see what the results of your games are."

"There are six billion people on the earth right now, child," Death said chillingly, "and countless ones before that. If we looked down for every life extinguished as a result of Life's defeat, we'd not have time to play at all."

"Then you have been truly blind," Samuel said calmly. "To not know the impact your first loss had on humanity."

"You lost before?" Life asked. "When was this?"

Death was silent for a long time.

"There was a game--" Samuel prompted.

"There was a game," Death snarled, glaring at Samuel, "You remember, Life. It was one of the better games you'd played. However, you lost at the end, as usual. Then you'd stepped away for a moment."

"I remember," Life said.

"And then," Death's voice shook, for the first time since the beginning of forever, "Someone else took your place."

"Someone else?" Life inquired.

"Someone else," Samuel breathed, smiling.

"Yes, someone else," Death snapped. He was not used to being put in a position like this. "He looked at the chessboard and said, 'You didn't win.' And of course I didn't know what he was talking about, it was a clear victory. But before I knew it, he had wiggled out of being in check and had put me in checkmate. And then, as I looked at the board, not knowing how that happened, he stood up, smiled, and said, 'Don't worry about this. Carry on with your work.' And left."

"And what did he look like?" Samuel asked, still smiling.

"White beard, long robes--I don't know, I don't remember!" Death snapped. "And nothing happened after that, to my knowledge. I don't know what he did it for."

"Oh, but we do," Samuel said. "My parents'd make me go to church every Sunday, and that's all we hear about, Death. That victory over you."

Now Life was smiling, too.

"And you know what, Death?" Samuel said, tauntingly. "If what they say is true, one day you'll be defeated again--for good. No more chess games."

"Yes, well," Death said angrily, "But meanwhile--" And then he played with a lethal fury, gaining victory after rapid victory. Machine guns and nuclear bombs sounded from faraway beneath.

The End

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