short story by justin hummel

Running Out of Moves

Big blue eyes staring at me from across the table. I think I was beginning to get paranoid at that point. It had been six hours since I took my eyes off the chess board. Even when my eyes were shut I could see the ghostly outline of the board floating in the blackness.

The room was filled with people I am quite certain, however, I can only recall the silence. The room was a large hall of some sort, rather charming. I can remember walking in and noticing how the golden sunlight exploded through the halls huge windows high up near the roof and raked across the walls in every direction. It was morning and the room was alive with a buzz of anxiety and expectation.

As I walked in a camera flash blinded me; I was stunned for a moment. When I regained my bearings all the eyes in the room had turned on me and for split moment all the people hushed as if they expected me to say something, but I have never been one for words so after a second it was obvious that I was not going to make any grand entry and they all quickly lost interest in the entrance of the world's number one chess prodigy. As I walked across to my first game I could see my younger peers and admirers look at me with wonder, I am quite used to this and it no longer holds any novelty for me.

Half way through the room I was greeted by a rather tall gentlemen that, in my opinion, was over dressed for the occasion. "Right this way Mr. Young," he said politely to me and then looked at my parents behind as if to say 'you should be very proud!' They did not notice.

My parents knew nothing of chess and the only reason they came to this particular tournament was to be in the newspaper. Of course they would never tell me such a thing, but it was obvious enough. My mother had her best dress on and had spent considerable time putting on make-up that did nothing to flatter her plain face. My father put on the closest thing he had to a suit which consisted of a blazer with clashing elbow patches over a coffee stained dress shirt (that I think he bought for my parent's wedding), a ratty old pair of green trousers that I had never seen him wear before, obviously from his slimmer days- he used to be a fine tennis player. The entire way through the room to my game they beamed with smiles and waves and obtuse body gestures that made them look like fools let out of the lunatic asylum.

As I sat down I gave my opponent my patented cold stare and he seemed to enjoy this which meant that the gaze had now lost all purpose except for its novel value. I had won the first move and quickly began the game. He was nervous and knew that this was the most important game that he would ever play and that if he beat me he would be a hero in whatever worthless town he came from. After my move he sat for ten minutes and thought. This always happens when I play someone new, they think my first move has some big trick behind it and that I am setting them up for some humiliatingly quick defeat so they delay all of their moves for a tortuously long time and convince themselves that they are doing well. I pulled a pulp novel from my sack and began to read, my opponent, as usual thought this was some psych-out tactic of mine also. In actuality anything that I do at that moment IS a psych-out tactic whether I like it or not. After nine moves the game was over and I had a break.

I suppose I could tell you about all my opponents and all my matches but I'm afraid you would find them terribly repetitive. Basically, they convince themselves that they are able to compete with me then I crush their little bubble with demoralizing ease and their parents come to console them, telling them that in their eyes they were the best player there (that's a laugh).

When the final came about I was half finished my novel and rather excited to play my supposed number one contender. Six hours later I am staring into his eyes and he into mine. He is perspiring and I know that he can see that he is in better position than I. However, no one is ever in a good position when playing me...this move will get him...yes...wide eyes for a second he was no fine move by this player, but he does not see what is coming...wait...must analyze my!...he sees where I am am getting paranoid, definitely paranoid...he can see I am taking longer than usual...feels like an hour...there that was a good move...what?...oh no! is taken a way...crowd is nervous...sun is behind is dim...I have already lost and only he and I know it...his eyes show no mercy...only one!


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