You enter a room with a checkered floor, a chessboard sprawling outwards. Your side is just you; on the other is a jester, a devil and a centaurette with a gun. You have no weapons. You don’t know the rules. The game is stacked against you before it begins.
White starts. The jester advances forward five spaces.
Black’s turn. You feel behind you for the doorway you entered through, but it’s not there. The only way to move is forward. You brace yourself to run, and smack against air. Staggering back, you find yourself a space ahead of where you were. Only one square at a time for you. A bruise starts to form on your cheek.
White. The devil moves to stand on your left side, brushing your leg with its pointed tail.
Black. You take a step forward and the devil moves with you but doesn’t touch you. There is a window across the room, your only way out. You count the number of steps to the mountains outside. Three. If you survive even one more step forward, it’ll be a miracle.
White. The centaurette cocks her gun and shoots. The bullet flies between your legs and goes cleanly through the wall behind. She gallops forward and stops two squares in front of you, right in front of the window. Her smile teases you to come forward and take her crown; she knows all the rules to the game and you’ve only figured out one.
Black. You stick to your plan. One square forward—the devil moves too. The jester dances around outside confines of boxes.
White. Nothing. They’re waiting.
Black. The window is almost there, but the centaurette sits spread across the tiles.
White. A shadow belonging to no one flits across the wall. Everyone jumps in surprise, including the centaurette. The square in front of you is empty.
Black. You leap forward and jump out the window, falling past storeys until you hit the ground. Glass rains over you, cutting into your skin. You hear a faraway giggle echo through the trees. You are a lump of flesh lying in a bush on a riverbank. The river snakes through the landscape, washing your blood away.
these words by Manahil Bandukwala were inspired by the work of Miza Coplin
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