You're on a train one day when your life takes a strangely-Alice-flavoured turn. Will you play it fair to get to the end of the life-sized chess game?
You gaze out the window at the landscape rushing past. You’re bored; it’s a long journey to your grandmother’s house and this train does not come with those cute mini screens in the backs of seats. You would have brought your iPod had your mother not insisted otherwise, then again, it was actually a bad idea to trust what she had said. Instead, ignoring the flashings of trees and hills and the bits of the sky you can see from your place, you begin to day-dream, a common pastime of yours in this day and age. Your mind lingers on the book you most recently read: Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’, the not-so-popular, but just-as-fun-filled sequel to ‘Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland’-
Just like yourself, then. You chuckle as you make the comparison. Yes, you envy your sister so very much…if only there was some way to prove yourself to your divorcee mother and her.
Making no excuses to the people around you- you are, after all, travelling alone- you push yourself out of your seat and wander along the aisle, your head down to avoid the stares of the other passengers: if it isn’t your dyed hair that is attracting undue attention, it is probably your ripped clothes.
You push your way through compartment after compartment, until you reach one of those corridors in which the bar is. Today it is closed, so you gratefully loiter where there are less people. Your walking does not last for long.
You suddenly lock eyes with the beautiful lady who has stopped you in your tracks. At first glance, all you see is a swish of bright white hair styled high above her head and held into place with what looks like a golden tiara, a pointed chin, and a lace-gloved hand. Her lacy dress is typical of the same strange fashions you’d expect from this place; its white and silver enboldments are endearments that cannot soften the sharp slice of her expression.
You raise your eyebrows at the woman, but say nothing (since it would be unjust to comment on her odd appearance), intending to push past at the next possible moment.
However, she stays put, in the way. And, hearing a rustle behind you, you turn to see a man standing in your way too.
He is a taller figure than you both, broad-shouldered with a curtain of hair as black as his charred suit falling across his face. When he addresses you, on the other hand, it is clear from his gentle voice that these two eccentrics mean no harm.
“I’m Spadey, and I’ll be your guide for whenever you need me. Just say my name, and I’ll be at your call, just like a card in your hand. Well, for the first item. Welcome to our world…” Here he spreads his hands out towards the windows, clear, which begin to display a land chequered with red and white squares. “Welcome to our world of chess, where you’ll be playing as a white pawn to start with.”
“Chess…?” you stutter.
“Indeed. Physical, personal chess. We need you and you need us. You are the best person for this new job.”
“How did I get here?” you ask.
“We took you from your world to ours. They have some parallels, but are mostly different in appearance. However, even if things are backwards here, you should be able to discern your way.” the white-dressed lady replies, her gaze firm on yours. “You don’t have to worry, and you don’t need to think of the details; we just did. We will send you home, free of charge, once you have reached the eighth square, finishing everything for white pieces.”
Again, you raise your eyebrows at her. How pretentious.
“Who are you?”
“This is the lady who will be your mentor. She will ‘shadow’ you from a distance, making sure that you are making the right decisions,” Spadey continues. “Elle has been travelling the steps that you will for years, from pawn to princess. She knows everything about playing chess for these parts- and it’s you we’ve been waiting for to help us finally beat the red pieces.”
Time travels onwards in a rush. As you boggle at Elle and Spadey, the train suddenly rocks from side to side, jolting.
“What was that?” you cry, falling onto Spadey who deftly stabilises you.
“We’re in red territory now,” Elle says, her eyes floating towards the window.
“Every time you finish a ‘chapter’ of your adventure,” Spadey explains, “you’ll have to make another move that will enable you to complete the challenge faced. It’s all part of chess. Move correctly and you’ll make it through each square. Move incorrectly, and…I’m no guarantor for your safety. At the moment you’re a pawn, with one-step moves, but if you make the right decisions, you might move up in rank- and then you’ll see how your moves change.
“Here, we’re on the third square; you went from white, on second, to red on third. When you move through your first challenge, you’ll be back on white and safe to continue.”
When he has finished saying these things, the train screeches to a stop. The world outside is peppered with little shrubs, black as if they’ve been set on fire and put out time and time again. Finally you depart the train, albeit filled with trepidation.
“Watch out for the pieces along the way. The red ones will want to take you instantly since you are potentially great,” Spadey calls.
And on that note, he cheerfully leaves you. You watch as Elle glides away in the train herself, and, after a minute, you look around the place. It’s not a train station you’ve arrived at, but a…