Rose Red, Snow White “The Chess Match” Excerpt (Draft)

Those days felt so far away now as I studied the chess board keenly. Sullivan was a poised fellow with hard dark eyes that seemed to be disposed of any real emotion; they were like those of black carbonaceous rock. Eyes made of coal. Strong gusts of wind shook the house causing it to creak. Kassidy sat by the window lost in the deep worlds of whatever she was reading.
As we played for our second game, I took notice that Sullivan was patient, and methodical with each of his moves. He seemed to always open with the Grünfeld defense, nothing too adept but it was clear he knew what he was doing. I moved Pawn to D5, in which he countered by replacing my Pawn with one of his own. The gameplay was quick and precise with his Queen ultimately toppling my King followed up with that phrase of triumph,

“Checkmate.”

“How?” I asked with a bit of frustration in my voice.
“If by “How” you mean, how did I come to beat you yet again then the answer is simple. You are the prey and I the predator.” Sullivan stated as he begun to reposition his pieces back into their rightful place on the board.
“I don’t follow,” I said placing my pieces into their squares.
“In the wild apex predators do not attack their victim, no that would leave too many mistakes, too many variables that could go wrong. The prey could outrun and elude the predator or can call for back up to assist. A seasoned predator knows better than to just chase after a kill. Instead, they stalk their prey, study their prey movement, lure them into a false sense of ease.” Once the game board was set Sullivan extended his in an inviting gesture. “Again?” I nodded a yes with Sullivan opening with Pawn to D4.

“I’m not sure I get how that collates to the game.” I was bewildered as I moved Knight to F6.
“The art of chess is no difference, there is a predator, and there is a victim.” Sullivan moved Pawn to C4 “The board is the wild in which the game of predator and prey is played.”
“And who gets to decide who gets to be what?” I asked moving Pawn to E6.
“We do of course.” Sullivan moved Knight to C3, and I in returned played Bishop to B4 knowing that he is going into his signature opening the Grünfeld Defense.
“Wouldn’t that mean we both become predators?” I smiled assured that this round would be mines. He had achieved two wins over me; I was determined to keep him from gaining a trifecta, Claire was the only one that would beat me thrice in one seating before calling it game. Sullivan moved his Bishop to G5, I moved my Bishop to take his knight from C3, but he swiftly thwarted with Pawn B2 to take my Bishop recapturing his area.

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“Is that what you believe?” he asked. Damn, I wasn’t thinking, I was getting ahead of myself, but the game is still in its infancy. I’m still in control. Moving Pawn to H6, I baited him to either have his Bishop take the newly move Pawn or my knight knowing he would take the bigger fish if his was threaten to be taken. He, of course, took the knight, but I was able to capture his Bishop with my Pawn from G7 to reclaim my square. The game was now tied with both of us at a loss of a knight and a Bishop; again I was in control, I would be the predator this round. Sullivan placed Pawn from E2 to E4. The room got silent again as we stared into each other’s eyes, only the howl of the wind blowing about outside. I would think it was Alex with stuffy nose letting out those violent sneezes that ended two of the three little pigs, but he was here in my home playing a game of chess with not even a sniff.

“I’m not sure,” I answered as I moved my remaining knight from its original spot to A6.
Sullivan moved his last Bishop from F1 diagonally to where his knight once stood.

“By now I’m sure you are telling yourself that you are in control of this match.” My eyes widened at the accuracy of his assumption. Was he able to read minds? Had he been in my head this whole time knowing exactly the moves I would make. “From the slight gesture of your face I’m right in my statement,” Sullivan smirked. How did he know what I was thinking? Was he reading my mind, no, don’t be silly he’s just playing mind games, basic tactics, you are not a basic player. You are not the prey. I shift Pawn C7 to C6 to which he moved Pawn F2 to F4.

I change the position of my Rook vertically from H8 to G8 and Sullivan moved his Queen from next to her King out into the field of A4. Rook from G8 to G4 only to have his Pawn change from G2 to G3 blocking my Rooks advancement. If I take his blocking Pawn, then his corner Pawn in square H2 will take it, and if I moved either left or right, the blocking Pawn would take it either way. My Rook was trapped, with no visible way out but back or hold. He was in my head now, more then I thought he would be. I felt like I was back at that classroom during recess, Claire feeding me advice while kicking my ass all in one go.
With careful consideration I repositioned Pawn B7 to B6, Sullivan took his Knight from G1 to E2. This match had become a battle zone, each piece a soldier killed on the battlefield with their bodies hauled away. I had not felt the pressure like this since those chess competitions of my youth, back to when Claire was so full of life and vigor. Sullivan was better than good; he was a pro. Although it aggrieved me a tad to admit this, I knew it to be true. I placed my second Rook from A8 to B8, with Sullivan moving his from A1 to D1.
I gamble my next move knowing I could take advantage but had he already foreseen the move before I could make it? Was I playing prey to this apex predator? Don’t let him play head games with you, focus on the game. I settle down, looked into his eyes, those eyes made of coal, and played my move with certainty. This time I would trap him, make him move where I needed him to move. I took Pawn from B6 to B5 knowing he would capture it with his awaiting Pawn in C4. Once his Pawn from C4 caught my Pawn in B5 I then would have my Pawn in C6 ambush his in hopes that his Queen would take the bait to capture my Pawn so that my second Rook, who was patiently looming in its place, could strike killing his Queen and handing me the moral of the board.
“You understand why chess is so sophisticated Nero?” Sullivan placed his hand over his Queen. “Because it paints everyday life into sixty-four squares and sixteen individual pieces. With anyone with the right hand able to take the King.” His hand hovered over that Queen like a dark cloud; I could feel a minor quake of excitement in my hands as I held them together. “It is a war zone where anyone can be an enemy, even those of our own eyes.” I shifted my gaze from the board back into those cold unsettling eyes. He was staring at me, staring at me in the same manner you stare into a book that grabs hold of your attention.©Kwamè “Amir” H.

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Blank Canvas

Sometimes
For most people writing and art is an escape from the personal demons we all deal with. we might not find salvation in people that we talk to but in something that never speaks but we can still pour our emotion onto. A blank page can be very therapeutic because it will understand the chaotic thoughts in our heads.

Chapter 7 (Final pt.)

“I’ve got yooooouuu~ under my skin.” Henry hummed to himself as he finished shaving the undesirables from the meat.

“This is an art form you don’t see anymore.” in my stroll down memory lane I hadn’t notice someone else was standing in attendance of Henry at work.

“Excuse me?”

“The amount of skill it takes to do his job took years to cultivate”

“I’m not following. If you’re talking about Henry here… I’m sure it doesn’t take that much to cut up a bunch of meat”, I was already over this conversation, but Henry had disappeared into the freezer and I still needed my salmon.

“The term butcher has been misused for years. In earlier times, the butcher was revered. Respected. His ability to navigate flesh, bone, muscle to present an item pleasing enough to the masses to go home and subsequently destroy… it’s art. He is a sculptor with a product we consume without reverence or appreciation.”

“Well, that’s one way to think about it. If I decided to think about it that is.” I moved to turn my cart to leave just as Henry made his reappearance. His deep vocals breaking up this awkward encounter.

“How can I help you two?”

“We aren’t together, but I need 6 salmon filets. The skin on and deboned, please. I also need 2 pounds of crab meat.” Henry the butcher left to put my order together and I was left alone with the stranger again.

“I understand your disinterest. You’ll have to forgive me. It’s a job hazard. I’m in plastics. Plastic Surgery I mean.”

“What would a cosmetic surgeon be doing up here in the mountains?”

“I have to spend my salary somehow. These cabins are perfect to find solitude from the hustle and bustle of Atlanta and my own private practice. I just purchased an estate on the other side of the lake; a few acres where I can relax. I’m Sullivan Grey.”

“Nero. Nero Lawton, my wife Kassidy is over by the fair-trade coffee. We inherit our cabin, just west of the lake.”

“Aye yes, that lovely cabin that sits just on the lake. The sunsets paint it exquisitely with an amber-like glow.”

“Um… yea, my wife’s grandmother loved how the sun would set on the horizon between the break in the tree line.” I was never one to just carry on a conversation with strangers unless I absolutely had too but here I was chatting it up. There was something about this man, that just made the hairs on my neck stand up, it was his eyes. In the youth of my years, my Oldman would tell me that the windows to a person soul were there eyes. If you look close enough you could see all you needed to know before they even uttered a word. The brown tint of his windows hid something that just didn’t sit all that well with me.

“My wife too fell in love with that scenery as a child and when her grandparent’s past; the home was handed down to her.”

Henry the butcher approached just in time to save me from this encounter. Another moment and I would have found a reason to walk away, as politely as I could of course. With my fillets in hand, I quickly took my leave to find Kassidy.

***

“Did yer need anything?” Henry spoke in a thick southern accent.

“I think I’ve found what I’ve been looking for, Henry, thank you.”

Nero Lawton. Watching him disappear into another aisle I knew I had finally found the clay I needed to mold my masterpiece. Educating Nero will be my Moonlight Sonata.

Chapter 7 (Pt.II)

The butcher was a hefty fellow, years of dissecting animals for human consumption had given this man a very brawny physique. You could see the power in his arms as the cleaver in his hand was going to work on the back leg or the “round” as the meat cutters would call it, of a steer. Under the sweat and blood of his black leather apron was the letters H.E.N.R and a faded Y, Henry, that must have been his name. I was willing to bet my last dollar that the little town folks here called him Henry the Butcher as if that was his god given the last name. It sounded more like the name of a serial killer from a slasher film.

As Henry the butcher worked, he had the radio going, the classic tune of Frank Sinatra under my skin came soothing through the air. I remembered back as a child my father would play his guitar at my mom’s bedside. In his younger year, pop’s use to sing and play in a blues band, it was how they met, my mom would tell. One of her favorite songs she just loved to hear him sing and play was Frank Sinatra, “I’ve got you under my skin”. Even when he thought she would be tired of it he always asked, “What do you want to hear Baby?” With lips as pale as the moon mom would smile; using all her strength mom would reply in a raspy whisper “Play our song.”. While sick and weak in that cold room he would play that song so soulfully that even the doctors and nurses thought it would somehow bless her with some type of miracle.

Chapter 7 (Pt. I)

The store had a traditional style, the type of look city fresh markets tries to imitate with its wholesome fruits and veggies in wooden crates stacked in the middle of the aisles. Even though I knew it would annoy her I decided to get started on the shopping, grabbing a pushcart. Kassidy had a knack for getting caught in conversation in what seemed to be with no end, I bore easily of extended banter that lacks any interest to me. I know this to be selfish, hell maybe even childish at times but I’m honest and will politely excuse myself so that I would not let the lack of care creep across my face.

Rummaging through the seasoning of the spices aisle, I picked just what I needed for tonight’s dinner. This evening supper would be a special one, Crispy salmon, with crushed new potatoes, Kassidy’s favorite meal. It was the initial dish that impressed her with on our first date, that eventually led to other dates and an “I Do”. At that time between student loans and bills, I barely could afford the mainstream stigma of a first date. Yet fortunately for me, I was taught some very useful skills as a young single man still making his way into the world. After the passing of my mother at an early age my best friend mom filled the role of “Mother” for me. Mrs. Flow could damn near cook any and everything you desired. Her cooking was so good it’ll have you wanting her to open a restaurant just so you could enjoy her meals whenever.

Looking over everything in the cart, I had just about everything I needed for tonight and the rest of the week. The only thing I was missing was the actual salmon itself.

Chapter 6 (Final Pt.)

DING! DING!

The door chimed, announcing as we walked into the store. A young girl stood slumped over the checkout counter flipping through a teens magazine.  She met us not with a warm southern welcome greeting I’ve sort of come to expect but as an alternative, a more rebellious “I rather be anywhere but here” glare while popping her gum at us.

“Welcome to Mama Ed’s.” A broad-shouldered, heavy-breasted, short merry woman hobbled from the aisles with a broom in hand.

“Not seen you folks around here before, wait a minute?” The lady reached for her glasses that hung from her neck, adjusting them on to her face. “Well, I’ll be you Mary’s grandbaby.”

Kassidy smiled with joy as she ran into the jovial woman’s arm, “Hey Aunty Edna.”

“Gurrrrrl it’s been so long since I seen ya!” Edna could not believe her eyes, holding Kassidy closely to her. “After Mary’s passing yawl hardly come visit us anymo. Heard you move to the city and made something of yourself.”

“Yea, sometimes it’s hard to come back from a loss, but I have missed being here. Besides I wanted to bring my husband, Nero, to my town.”

“Oh, Baby you got a husband? Where he’d wander off to?”

Chapter 5: The Flickering Light of the Past (Part II Final)

“King? Are you okay Baby?” Kassidy smile quickly turned into worry.

“Yea, just… I don’t know.”

“You were calling out some other woman’s name you know.” Her lips shifted, and her left eyebrow moved on its own, her look now was one of curiosity. It kind of reminded me of how WWE The Rock would do his to rile up the fans.

“I was, when?”

“Yes, in your sleep duh! Someone named Claire I think you kept saying. You wouldn’t be cheating on me would you and now your guilty conscience eating at you.”

“Wooooow, you funny but no. Claire Williams from way back at St. Ovaria.”

“Claire from when we were kids? Wow that’s going way back, I haven’t thought about her in ages”

“Yea, me either” I watched as the snow plastered pine trees faded into blurs, I tried to search the depths of my mind for a reason for the sudden trip to the past and what the hell did I dream to frighten me so bad about it. After pulling off to the approaching exit we soon past a large wooded, timeworn road sign with “Welcome to Remington” inscribed across its surface.

Chapter 5: The Flickering Light of the Past (Part I)

I awoke to a flash of dazzling lights. It was inviting, totally different from the cold of the lonesome shadows of death; I felt at peace.

     Through Darkness, Comes the Light, from its warming brace I could hear the proverbial whispers of my mother. Could this be The Light, the Light found at the end of the obscure tunnel? The guiding light to Paradise, to Heaven almighty where the angel dwell?

“Jesus, Nero, are you really sleeping?” Kassidy scoffed. I turned from the brightness of the daylight wiping the sleep from eyes, to see Kassidy in the driver seat steering the Ford down the scenic mountain road. We had just past a green Stagg road sign that read REMINGTON 1 MILE. It wasn’t what I thought, just the sun, it was the sun which woke me some hours later.

“Maybe next time I’ll hold back from taking your soul if you can’t hang Baby.” Kassidy clowned while sticking her tongue out while tooting her ass.

“Don’t kid yourself, Queen, you’re good but you could be Hella lot better.” I retorted with a slight grin. I struggled out of a terrible dream — I was chasing after someone or something had been chasing me. I couldn’t remember vividly, the only thing that stuck was the heart gripping, skin crawling, soul-freezing fear I had experience, and a familiar name from my younger days of attending St. Ovaria private school, Claire Williams. I was unbearably hot; my skin was damped with sweat. Sitting back in the passenger seat I cracked the window letting in that cool mountain air. Could this have been fear of the nightmare? No, the sun rays had been gleaming down on me for only God knows how long as I slept. Beaming down on me through the window like an ant under a magnifying glass from a mischievous child. Better yet it was probably a combination of both the Heat of the sun and the cold fear of the dream causing condensation to emit from my flesh.

Chapter 4: Memories of eyes made of Coal (Part IV Final)

“Nero…” A familiar voice whispered my name. I instantly shot up surveying the halls.

“Nero hurry…” My eyes could hardly believe it, I don’t think I could believe it. It was Claire, Claire Williams!  I wasn’t alone, an actual person and not the Snowman. Claire stood in the center of the hall looking at me with a slight smile. She turned walking down the hallway, I got up quickly following her.

Claire took a right down the foyer, as did I, she took a left and with no delay, I trailed behind. Locker’s begun to swing and close on their own, the closer I got to her, the louder they banged against each other. There was a flood of clashing metal clinging together. I tried drowning out the gaudy sound by covering my ears. Claire disappeared into the blackness of a classroom, just as I was to follow her the door slammed with a terrifying force, there was silence all around me.

“Please, Nero… where are you? I’m scared. He-He’s coming!” Claire called out. I rush to open the door, trying my hardest to pry it open but I stopped after looking at my feet, a pool of inky red fluid oozed around my tiny shoes.

Fear-stricken I took a step back as an earsplitting little girl scream could be heard from the other side, I slipped in the sticky rust smelling liquid. Out the corner of my eye there he stood with that smile and eyes made of coal at the center of the hall. His snow-white body stained with carnage.

The screaming stopped. The lights started to shut off, section by section the darkness started to creep. The Song of Moonlight, I thought to myself. I need the music box to keep the monsters away. I search my pockets only to come up with lint from the lining of my pants,

You Dropped it running after her… I thought to myself. I was now encircled by the darkness only a spotlight around me. But even in the darkness… even in the complete black, I could still see his Black Eyes.

“He’s Coming…” I muttered as the lights flickered on and off until the blackness finally consumed me.

“Nero…”