Checkerboard

"The players take their seats, opposite each other, a table between them.
Black versus white.
Good versus evil. If you want to be melodramatic.
The game begins."

But, inevitably, the game must end.


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5. The Endgame

The game is drawing to a close. The players can sense it. The thrill of the endgame is in the air.

King to F3.

 

Night is drawing in. I can feel the chill creeping towards me as I make my way through the darkening streets, and I pull my jacket tighter around my shoulders. I'm still thinking about my conversation with Kel earlier. Could she be right?

Instantly, my brain responds with a resounding no.

Things like that belong on movies, between the covers of books. Things like that don't happen in real life. Not to real people.

Not to me.

But something is definately going on. Whether it's Kelly's murder theory or Jessie May's idea of aliens, something is definately .... odd. Yeah, let's go with odd.

But somehow, whatever's going on, it feels like it's out of my control.Out of anyone's control. Like there's some greater power at work, manipulating us as easily and evilly as though we are nothing more than chess pieces, as though though whole of Spinney Hill is nothing more than a giant chess board. As though this is all just a game.

This is not a game. I don't know what it is, but it's not a game.

My feet have carried me around the corner onto avenue F. I pause in front of a whitewashed house with green shutters and contemplate the dilemma before me.

I could take my usual short cut down the dark allyway between F2 and F3, which leeds straight to Avenue G and cuts approxiamately 2 and a half minutes of my journey, or I could continue along the road, and take the well lit, well populated but sadly longer route to Gran's house.

Normally, there would be no competition, but now.... well, let's just say I'm on my gaurd.

I stare from the bright streetlights to the impenetrable shadows of the allyway. Is it me, or are they growing, creeping towards me like fingers, waiting to pull me into their grasp.

No, I'm being stupid. Paranoid, overreacting.

I shake my head, and step forwards into the shadows.

 

King to G3.

 

Behind me is light. In front is light. Surrounding me is darkness, caged in by the houses either side of me and completely and utterly alone.

Alone.

"Hi".

 

Rook to G2

 

Or so I think.

Emerging out of the darkness in front of me is a face I know well, from school, from the streets, from dreams.

Daniel Rookwood.

"Tass, isn't it?" he asks, and all I can do is stand there with my mouth gaping like a stuuned goldfish, gasping for breath. I don't think about what he is doing there, I don't think about why he is looking at me like that, I simply think; 'he remembers my name. Oh my gosh, he remembers my name.'

"Tass King?" he asks, and I manage to nod.

Danny smiles that lazy, half smirk he always does in my dreams and I feel my heart wirk it's way rapidly up from my chest and settle somewherre in my throat.

Oh.

My.

God.

So many times have I dreamed about this, us, alone in the dark, and now that it's finally happening (if not in exactly the way I had planned) I am struck dumb. Great.

"So, what you doing here?" he asks, that smirk still playing around the corners of his lips.

"Oh, erm, you know, just hanging around." I say, because, 'going to my gran's' just doesnt seem like Danny Rookwood material. "You?"

"Yeah, same. Something like that," he replies, enigmatically.

 

The player's are staring into each others eyes, as though trying to read each others thoughts.

 

Something in his voice brings me back to my senses. Or maybe it's something in his smile, which suddenly has a different edge to the smile in my dreams; its is crueller, hungrier. Or maybe it's something to do with the rumours that are flying around.

"So, well, I'd better get going." My voice, on the surface, is cool as a cucumber, but does he catch the subtle hint of panic?

And what does his smile remind me of?

"Oh Tassy," he say, his smile widening, "Tassy, Tassy, Tassy. I'm afraid I can't let you do that."

What? What??

Only when his grin gets even wider do I realise I've said the words out loud.

"You heard me," he says. "I'm can't let you leave here, Tass."

In some contexts, his words could be taken as flirtatious. I want them to be.

But they are not. Not here, not now.

He takes a step forward.

I take a step back.

I have just realised what his smile reminds me of.

When I was younger, the was one picture book I would never read, because it featured an evil crocodile and, on one page, there was a picture of the crocodile smiling before he devoured his prey. It was the mst hideous, most evil, twisted thing I had ever seen, and it gave me nightmares for months.

That is what Rookworrd's smile reminds me of. Reminds me of as he stalks closer, slipping his hand under his jacket. Reminds me of as I stare into his dark eyes, glinting despite the shadows, distorted by his insane grin.

And something in my shaking knees and uneven heartbeat reminds of the crocodile's prey.

 

The end is close now. The players lean forwards in anticipation.

One last move, and it will be over.

 

"So, a lot of strange stuff has been going on lately. Disapeerances, you know.," his voice is light, casual, but his eyes are cautious and closely gaurded. "You must have been wondering who was behind it."

No.

No. No. No no no nonononono

This is not happening.

It try to say something but all that comes out is a kind of strangled gasp.

"Well here's the good news. You're not gonna have to wonder much longer."

And that's when I see the knife.

That's when Rookwood steps towards me.

That's when the world falls to pieces around me and I begin to scream.

 

Rook to G3.

Checkmate.

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