Last week’s Flash! Friday picture prompt was of two men playing chess. Added to that, we had to include a nemesis. I went fantasy on the first, SF on the second.
Grandfather sags in the Obsidian Throne, sorghum wine staining his beard. Bamboo-straight, Mother perches next to him. Through silks, her belly swells even though Father’s been dead over a year. The image of pinched lips against my mother’s skin nauseates me, but I kowtow anyway.
“Who brings this wretch before us?”
Parqueted marble chills my brow, black and white as the tangle of skeletons before the Ivory Gate. “I bring word from the Ivory Empress.”
Grandfather smirks. Mother’s fingers flutter like startled doves to her lips.
“She demands audience of one worthy.” Bile rises with my gaze. Among the frigid bones of my brothers, I chanted ancient mantras to quell the rage of the Ivory Empress long enough to consider my gambit.
“She will discuss an end to bloodline tribute.” I look pointedly at Mother’s abdomen. The priests and generals stir. The land has forever been under tribute.
“We shall ponder this.”
I bow and breathe into the tiles, Check.
Judith replayed the transmission. Monochrome flashes lit up the guest room as if arguing with the lightning outside. If only Judith could penetrate the message.
Downstairs, her brother raided their father’s pantry. The slam of cupboards made her teeth clench. After the funeral, I’m gone, she reminded herself.
“That the ET thing?” her brother asked from the doorway.
He held out a beer, but she ignored it. Ryan’s offers came with a price.
He nodded toward the oil-slick windows. “Nice they brought us rain.”
Not only to the parched prairies, but to drought-scathed regions around the globe. What they wanted in return was in that interplay of light and darkness.
Ryan waved the proffered can at her.
Judith spun back to the screen. King’s Gambit. “They’re speaking chess,” she murmured. And we’ve unwittingly accepted it.
They caused the droughts, she frantically typed, so we’d think they were saving us.
She sent “Fischer’s Defense” to headquarters and prayed they’d play it.