Play the Pawn
(note)This coming Saturday (April 30th) is International Table Top Day. As a bit of a celebration to that I am bringing back a Quick Beat I shared a little over two years ago. It is an appropriate story as we look into playing some board games with friends and family. (end note)
I ran across an interesting prompt in a G+ writing group recently. The participants were to write a story based on a picture. There was a caveat though, certain words were not allowed to be used anywhere in the story (chess, mate, check mate). Of course the picture was that of a chessboard.
Adding words into a challenge tends to be a little easier than keeping words out. When you have the word in your mind you see it everywhere and it pushes to be used. Sometimes you have to find new ways to be creative.
This is the story I wrote based on the prompt.
Play the Pawn
He studied the board before he lifted the piece. Eyes scanned and rescanned the perfect move though he forced his indecision down. Jarrod spotted the new home and smacked the base of the piece down on the board.
His opponent, eyes unreadable, passive picked up a piece and captured Jarrod’s tower. No words spoken, the movements mechanical, precise.
The capture one of many against him, Jarrod forced himself to examine the board. A saving grace, anything to save the last of his men, if only he could find the right move.
The opponent placed an hourglass on the table next to the board. Though the sand lay still, most of it had fallen to the bottom. A few grains held fast in the upper bowl.
The move, to rattle him into another mistake, emboldened him. Jarrod focused again on the board, his gaze held away from the hourglass. The move, a play still three moves out, he found the move that set it in motion. He moved his last pawn, a bold capture of the tower.
The opponent swept in with his queen. The obvious, to take the sacrificial pawn. A grain of sand fell from the upper half of the hourglass, to land in the bottom with a jarring thud. The pain in Jarrod’s chest increased, sharp, piercing.
He lifted the knight from the board, not too eager. The play decided but he fought down the fear of a telegraphed move. When he placed it back on the board, his fingers lingered. The right move, the best move, there could be no mistake. His last tower now exposed, more bait for his final move. He removed his fingers from the knight as another grain of sand fell to the bottom of the hourglass.
Queen to tower, captured. But the skeletal fingers held fast to the piece. The one time through the game that gave his opponent pause. Was this the end? He felt the grain of sand settle with the others, a moment of time gone.
Jarrod held his gaze to the board. To look up now would reveal all. His opponent released the queen and sat back in his chair. He knew, Jarrod thought. The end, the game fell to him.
He lifted his knight from the board and moved to capture the queen. The final move of the game fell as the last grain of sand slipped over the edge of the hourglass. The thump of the knight that captured the queen clicked across the board, an echo of time. The snap of the king as he fell in defeat thrashed in his ears as that last grain of sand landed with the rest of his life at the bottom of the hourglass.
The game board and hourglass slipped away as he felt the pull of life. He jerked and slammed against the bed to the sound of a long single beep. “Clear!” The jolt pounded against his chest again and his heart burst with life. Oxygen filled his lungs as the heart monitored picked up the steady beat of his life.
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