I love playing chess. The following is a collaboration with author Interstitial that developed rather organically as a result of some impromptus with 55-word pieces. Each section of the tale follows that format as a way to convey a sense of rhythm and the ebb and flow of the game itself.
1. A LITTLE WAGER
“Shall we make it interesting? A little wager?”
Suzanna nodded, smiled. He listened to her sensual throaty voice, detailing exactly what she would do with him if she won, and vice versa.
“I’m good. You’ll lose, you know,” he said confidently. They were both accustomed to winning.
She licked her lips, and stroked a pawn.
2. SETTING UP THE PIECES
“You can play white,” he offered. “First mover advantage.”
Her skin was coffee coloured; her eyes were deep brown. Sultry was the word, he thought. She looked at him enigmatically.
“How presumptuous. I need no advantage. And I prefer the dark pieces, always.”
She eyed him from under long lashes. “You men. You never learn.”
3. OPENING GAMBIT
He started carefully, obliquely approaching the quiet centre.
More aggressive, she played Sicilian, planting her bishop on the diagonal; a brutal fianchetto invading his position, pinning him.
He parried; a simple pawn block. “You think you can take me so easily?”
Suzanna smiled lazily, toying with a knight. “I can wait. We have all evening.”
4. KNIGHT MOVES
The board was soon tangled. She used her knights wisely, catching him with their sharp hooves, then surrounding the center. He expected no less.
He counter-moved; a tactical thrust that made her sit back in her chair. She looked at him and raised one eyebrow. “A challenge, then?”
He could tell such things aroused her.
He gave her the smile that made women melt.
“Don’t you like me taking control? Most do, eventually.”
“Certainly,” said Suzanna. “It makes it even more satisfying when I take it back.”
He laughed, confident. He was used to resistance, up to a point.
The challenge, the pursuit, the inevitable surrender; that was the game.
6. CONSOLIDATING THE POSITION
The first pawn fell, then the second. He castled, protecting his king.
She laughed. “Are you running away from me now? Hiding in the corner?”
“Safety first,” he replied.
“There’s nothing safe here,” she said, recklessly playing a tempting pawn into the danger zone.
Should he take it? He couldn’t guess what she was doing.
He grabbed the rogue pawn; and too late saw the trap, the gap, the weakness it left in his position.
A ritual sacrifice.
A chuckle of satisfaction. “Are you feeling threatened now? Vulnerable, perhaps?”
She nudged her queen into place, and he stared at her down the open file like a rabbit pinned in headlights.
8. LINE OF DEFENCE
The active queen’s power swept across the board, irrepressible. He ran; minor pieces scurrying like antelope before a feeding lioness. He blockaded his king, safe behind a white wall.
“I can still get to you there, you know,” she purred.
“Come and get me then.”
She laughed, and her brown eyes sparkled in the candlelight.
Under attack, he concentrated, looking for weaknesses, any weakness.
She stretched, catlike, and put one stilettoed foot on the table.
She was exactly as tall as him in her heels. Her brown legs were long, and they drew his eyes.
No. He couldn’t afford to be distracted now.
He realized his castle was under threat.
10. THE INVASION
Inspiration: the castles offered a breakthrough. Paired rooks, a battering ram, an invasion.
With a flourish, he drove his rook down the open file, penetrating her position, embedding it deep inside her territory.
“An uninvited guest, I see. How long can you hold out, though?” she said, pursing her lips.
“You tell me,” he replied.
She liked a hot and impetuous game, he sensed; he would play cool.
The oldest battle. Mars and Venus; logic versus instinct. Black, white; no shades of grey. The hard edge of rigour pushing against the softly yielding embrace of passion. The eagle and the flowers.
The trigonometry of possible futures ticked in his mind.
The rooks were gratifyingly strong, her position cramped; control lay firmly with him for now.
She was squirming, he saw; defensive, constrained, pinioned, few moves available. She wriggled on the end of his attack.
He would determine her position for now. He allowed himself a smile of satisfaction.
She frowned and edged her queen sideways.
Yes, he thought. She liked her play wild, free, unpredictable. She didn’t like her moves to be forced. Her instinct was always to push forward, seeking the next thrill, playing by her own rules.
But logic, the rules of the game, forced her back.
He would keep her restrained for as long as he could.
He bolstered the attack with his own queen. Suzanna was locked into a rigid position, and the keys were his.
He toyed with her a little, probing with minor pieces, building a cage on the board, forcing her inexorably back.
She was breathing heavily; getting frustrated, perhaps.
His battalion surged forward; inescapable now, he thought.
“You’re still fighting, I see.”
She looked at him, evaluating. “You seem to have me right where you want me. For now.”
“For now? Just think about what happens afterward.”
Her beautiful dark eyes widened.
“I’ll get out,” she murmured. “You don’t get to tie me up in knots.”
“Not yet, at least,” he smiled.
She picked up her king thoughtfully, considering options. She held the shaft of the man lightly, almost caressing it.
“If you touch a piece, you have to move it,” he reminded her.
Under the table, he was suddenly so hard it was almost painful.
She glanced at him knowingly, and set the king down. “J’adoube.”
“J’adoube. It means ‘I adjust’, in chess” she said. “A wonderful phrase. One has to be able to adjust, on the board and off.”
He anticipated; she’d have to concede material, submit fully to the assault.
His battalion was surely implacable.
Her hands would be tied, on the board and off.
But other thoughts intruded.
Her honeyed contralto voice: “Here’s what I’ll do to you if I win. When I win.”
The whisper in his ear, spelling it out slowly, with relish. His stir of arousal.
He realized his battalion could not endure. Powerful for now, it would not last forever.
The imagined lick of her tongue in his ear.
19. HER TERRITORY
Finally, Suzanna managed to neutralize the threat. An exchange, one rook for another; a forced reclamation.
“Mistress of my own territory again,” she said, relieved. “You stay on your own.”
He acknowledged, a respectful tilt of the head. Her top button had come undone, exposing the swell of her breasts.
She’d counterattack now, he knew.
20. FREEDOM OF ACTION
Suzanna reveled in her new freedom, impulsively sweeping across the board in a joyous blossoming of moves, playing as she loved, the game wild and open and expansive again.
But always favoring the dark squares, he noticed.
She poked at his knight with her bishop.
He made another blocking move, seeking to frustrate her again.
Shocked, he suddenly saw his error. He’d blocked his own knight: it was dominated.
Another obscure technical term, ‘dominated’, signifying ‘no escape’ for a threatened piece. In this position, every move meant one outcome: capture.
There were many other words for that, of course.
He wondered why this one specific word kept coming to mind.
22. NO ANGLES
He ran scenario after impossible scenario, seeking ways to twist the game, a new angle to save the precious piece from her wildfire.
But there were no angles in sight, just curves; impossible curves.
Logic trapped by intuition. The knight must fall.
He paused, reaching for a glass of wine. Sweat prickled on his forehead.
Suzanna smiled then. “See how quickly things can turn around? How easy it is to adjust? To break free?”
Gently, she laid one hand on the edge of the board, the tips of her nails searching a rhythm.
There was a melody hidden in each tap, a pulse of unbridled sex.
“I’m waiting,” she beckoned.
Reluctantly, he finally gave up the knight, and admitted out loud:
“I never saw that coming.”
“That’s only natural,” she teased. “You men only see what you expect to see. Surprised you’re only just starting to figure that out.”
What did she mean? He concentrated.
He must find a way to dominate her in return.
25. A DANCE
He moved his queen onto a stronger square; she warily followed suit.
The queens eyed each other jealously across the board, angling for advantage.
“Funny. They’re just like people, aren’t they?” she said, nudging her queen onto its favored black square.
“Anyone in particular?” he replied.
A flirtatious dance, neither willing to commit or concede.
The queens squared off, tussling over the center ground.
She enticed him again, a loose pawn left dangling; seductive, forbidden fruit.
“I’m not falling for that again. I’m wise to your game.”
Her face was serious. “I doubt that. Remember what’s at stake.”
She ran her hands slowly up her body, from thighs to breasts.
She toyed with her necklace, a gold chain wrapped twice around her neck, the perfect circular ‘O’ of a jeweled pendant ring dangling between her breasts.
Suzanna caught him looking. “You like this? Perhaps you’ll be wearing it, later.”
He suddenly realized where the ring was designed to fit, and what the chain was for.
28. THE BLACK QUEEN
A forced retreat; under pressure, his white queen cowered against the edge of the board, paralyzed.
“Stay there, little one, until I decide what to do with you.” She stroked her lips with one finger, thinking.
The black queen looked somehow bigger than the white, he thought. Taller, stronger.
Impossible. A trick of the light.
A trick. An unexpected ruse, a decoy, an expertly told joke.
Surveying the board, he knew she held all the advantage for now.
But the beauty of tricks lies in their mystery, and he had tricks of his own, hidden weapons of logic and calculation.
On his left flank, his unsuspected bishop stood quietly waiting.
He moved quickly, conquering the diagonal, severing it in half.
It wasn’t faith that drove him, no silent prayer. He needed to win.
“Check,” he declared.
She didn’t seem surprised; her smile didn’t fade.
Logic dictated that her next move would be to protect the king with a pawn.
Unexpectedly, illogically, the king moved, instead.
31. THE QUESTION
His jaw dropped. No matter how he looked at it, the sequence made no sense. It felt disconnected, unreal.
Another trick? How? Where?
Curiosity kicking in, he unconsciously pursed his lips.
“Why? It makes no logical sense.”
She leaned forward, a faint glimmer reflected in her eyes. The answer was another question.
“Is that relevant?”
Another peculiar word.
Nothing in this world is relevant on its own. Things are just things until we give them meaning, context, purpose. Only then do they become relevant, become true.
So what if there’s no meaning at all? Was her game completely inaccessible to reason?
The wager felt suddenly irrelevant. The game was everything.
“Well?” she insisted. “Do you see? Some things have no meaning whatsoever. Some are meant to rise, others born to fall. A few unfortunate ones get stuck in between, trying to find a way in or out. I know where I stand. This game is mine.”
The conviction in her voice dimmed all the lights.
All just fantasy, surely?
He’d planted his bishop firmly into her queenside formation, impossible to dislodge. Surely a logical error, not blocking?
Suzanna touched her king again. “J’adoube. A phrase replete with meaning.”
He eyed the board. Her king looked slightly uncomfortable on its new square.
“Or perhaps with no meaning at all,” she murmured.
35. HER GAME
The move he’d thought weak had simply liberated her pieces for attack. The game tilted crazily, randomly.
The bishop he’d thought strong was suddenly isolated. Her queen stood rampant, a goddess, commanding the black squares completely.
He was being sucked into the irrational rhythm of her game, not his.
He reached for his remaining knight.
36. A NEW PLAN
He’d been overconfident, he reflected; too used to assuming control. He urged focus, reason, logic.
He would surprise her now, ensnare her, whilst still protecting his back rows. Balance the rational and the irrational.
The game had adjusted. He would adjust too.
His knight sauntered, frolicking in front of enemy lines; courageous, foolhardy, or both.
37. WILL TO WIN
The position was opaque, complex. The knight move was ambiguous, designed to confuse.
He imagined victory, savoring the thought, rehearsing details, relishing the invigorating frisson. He saw her weaknesses now, ripe for exploitation.
Suzanna would turn herself over to him completely then. Subjugation was the prize.
But what if…?
No. Don’t think about the necklace.
38. STRONGER THAN HE’D THOUGHT
Think about the game.
Snapping out of reverie, he saw his errant knight was delivering new confusion, exactly as planned.
Suzanna was tapping her nails on the table, lips pursed.
Don’t think about her lips.
“Your horsey’s playing in my field.” She looked up. “Is he looking for a rider, perhaps?”
Think about the game.
39. DON’T THINK ABOUT THAT
Don’t think about her standing over you, whispering her demands.
Don’t think about her teasing you, using you, toying with you.
Don’t think about the frustration, the intolerable arousal; the desperation as she brings you elusively close; then always pulling back, over and over again, controlling you.
Don’t think about her body.
Don’t think about her.
40. STEMMING THE FLOW
He could see she didn’t know what to do. The knight offered complexity, cramping her again.
She frowned, always looking for a new way to attack, to wrest back the initiative, to reinvigorate the flow of her play.
But she did what she had to do: a predictable defensive move.
Suzanna folded her arms, dissatisfied.
41. LET IT BURN
He thought hard, discerning opportunity. A gamble, but perhaps…
If he moved that pawn there, and then the knight, might Suzanna instinctively, impulsively bite?
She must. It was in her intuitive nature. Otherwise, she would forfeit her precious dark squares.
But if she didn’t, he’d be in trouble…
The deciding moment, then. Let it burn.
42. ON HER KNEES
He smiled, relieved, as she took the pawn.
He recaptured with the knight and sat back, enjoying the slow dawn of realization on her face. Her cheeks flushed.
He allowed himself to anticipate. The thought of this proud woman kneeling before him was exquisite.
He’d keep her on her knees for a very long time.
He examined the board coolly, the geometry of the game more logical, clearer now.
His knight forked her queen and castle. One must fall.
The perfect ‘X’ of his knight’s zone of influence was pleasantly evocative; an enticing image came to mind.
He thought of Suzanna’s wrists and ankles, and how he would secure them.
44. NO CHOICE
Forked, Suzanna squirmed. Something had to give.
With a sigh, she moved her queen out of danger, as he’d known she would. He gobbled up the rook. He had material advantage at last.
The jeweled ring dangled enticingly between her breasts, the chain glinting in the soft light.
He thought of her in other chains.
45. THE MISTAKE
She would be his now, surely. But he knew she wasn’t broken yet.
Her queen remained as powerful as ever, commanding silence and respect, obedience on the board. Her men clustered to protect it.
He raised his gaze to hers, and a new mistake came to life.
Now he was looking straight into her eyes.
46. DELICATELY POISED
“J’adoube,” she said, although she held no piece. “I adjust. I told you before.”
Her calm gaze captivated him. Her eyes seemed almost black. The game blurred.
“So finely balanced. It just takes one error, one man out of place…” She indicated his remaining castle. “Like him.”
She leaned closer, dark eyes sparkling. “Like you.”
47. ONE WRONG MOVE
He must have drifted off. What’d she said? Something about the rook?
Of course. She felt threatened, hoping he wouldn’t move it into the attack.
He shook his head and edged the castle forward.
Overconfidence again: too late, he saw her queen towering above it, closing in for the kill.
How had he missed that?
48. THE CASTLE FALLS
“Why?” she said, scooping up the rook. “Shame; you were doing so well.”
“I don’t know,” he replied honestly.
He mourned the castle. In the ascendancy again, she’d have free rein amidst the wreckage now.
Cursing himself, he exchanged queens; a prolonging move, just clearing space on the board.
He knew what was coming next.
49. NO PRISONERS
A rampage, an onslaught, a full frontal assault.
The phrasing was an exercise in rhetorical futility, he thought. A massacre is a massacre.
One, two, three more pieces fell in brutal succession. No longer constrained, a wildfire across the board.
His king was trapped now.
“I don’t take prisoners,” she said, “except sometimes I do.”
50. THOUGHTS OF CAPTURE
Suzanna unfastened her necklace, unwound it, and laid it on the table in front of her. The jeweled ring drew his eyes.
“It has a little lock, just there,” she said. “And only I know how to take it off. Do you see?”
He could almost feel its rigid embrace, the tug of the chain.
She took her time, carefully maneuvering. He retreated; last-ditch defense.
“You’d make me kneel, would you?” she said.
“You’d keep me helpless, begging?”
She leaned closer. Her sultry whisper: “You’d have me serve you, hmmm?” She smiled. “I would have done, you know. Quite gladly.”
“You still might,” he rallied.
She smiled wider.
“And how are you going to do that? Whatever you can think of, I’m sure I’ll adjust. Don’t you like that? Tell me, how many more adjustments must I make before you see? Sure, you like to be the king. But maybe you’re just another piece.” She clinked the necklace. “I’ll capture you soon enough.”
“I’m no pawn,” he said, rattled. “And I think what I think, not what you want me to think.”
“But you can’t help it. You’re thinking about my body, and that’s what I want you to think about. Let me adjust something else, to help you think more clearly.”
She began to unbutton her blouse.
54. A GIFT
He tried to look away, to focus on the game, but her voice dripped like honey, clung onto his ears, kept him still.
“You and your logic. Are you really going to refuse a gift from the queen?” For a moment, she sounded almost displeased. “Don’t even try. And just remember: Hell hath no fury…”
One button. “You can almost smell my skin, from there, can’t you? Almost taste what you can’t have?”
Two buttons. She wore no bra. “You like these breasts. You crave them.” A statement of fact.
Three buttons. Her aureole were very dark. “Are you thinking more clearly, now?”
Four. Her blouse fell to the floor.
56. THE PATTERN
He stared, transfixed, and after a long moment, his eyes returned to his ruined position.
There must be a way to turn this around.
He blocked the attack, seeing her body everywhere; then saw at once that his move was too passive, obediently following a pattern set by her.
He was slowly losing all initiative.
Suzanna casually moved a bishop, threatening breakthrough.
“You’re still not thinking clearly enough.” She stood, slipping out of her skirt. Beneath, her stockings were sheer. She stood tall in her heels, turned slowly on the spot in fierce display.
“Look at what you could have had, serving you…”
He couldn’t take his eyes off her.
Dimly he realized that his position had stabilized, crystallizing into a perfect balance of forces. He was in that rare place where nothing could improve the position; zugzwang. Whoever moved next had no way to improve on where they stood. Any move would lose, irrevocably.
She knew too. “Zugzwang,” she said. “And it’s your turn.”
Forced moves; all clarity collapsing under the weight of her intensity.
So this is what obsession feels like, he managed to think, amidst the enveloping nothingness. Suzanna was everywhere, she was everything; an exploding supernova, a galaxy, her attraction like gravity; a black hole, insatiably sucking, a force of nature that could not be denied.
60. INNER CONFLICT
He had to move; he took the least worst option. She wasn’t even looking at the board. She was watching the real struggle; amused, enjoying the spectacle of his discomfort.
Beneath the table, her spiked heel against his erection, teasing.
“J’adoube. Most men would forget the game, now,” she purred. “Why don’t you just resign?”
61. THE FIRST TIME
No. It wasn’t in his nature.
He remembered the first and only time he’d lost the game of men and women. He’d resolved to keep control from then on, and the women had always softly complied, submitting to his will.
Now all the familiar rules had changed, the game flying in the face of logic.
62. HER PRIZE
He unconsciously reached for his king, considering. How would it feel to cede control, to concede?
Somehow he knew Suzanna would stand first, exerting her authority, proud and inviting.
He’d stand in turn. He’d go to her in supplication. That was the deal.
He’d open his hand, and the king would fall at her feet.
63. THE LAST SACRIFICE
“Never surrender.” The vision cleared; he could see the board again. One last breath; one last chance.
“We must finish the game. Whoever wins.” Defiant to the last.
She raised an eyebrow, amused. One of her pawns was on the move now, trailing a clear path to promotion and victory.
He made the last sacrifice.
“You don’t give up easily, do you? Good. Victory will taste all the sweeter.”
She pushed her bishop forward, accepting the futile sacrifice, and skewering two of his pawns.
“Je t’adoube, monsieur, pour mon plaisir. For my pleasure, entirely.”
“Which means?” although he thought he knew.
Her lips, her tongue, teasing him forever.
65. PAWN RACE
His position was in tatters; his last pieces stumbling lost and blind. Easy prey.
Suzanna bit her lip, looking up at him from under hooded lids. “Almost over, now. Then we make the game real. I bet you can hardly wait.”
She stroked the necklace.
His final pawn staggered on, doomed, too slow by far.
Her pawn reached the eighth rank. Promoted, her queen was back in play, power shining like a searchlight down the empty rows, ranks, and diagonals.
“The queen is coming,” she murmured.
He moved a bishop, just delaying the inevitable. His king had no moves, nowhere to hide.
Slowly, implacably, the queen advanced down the board.
In the end his king stood alone, cornered, impotent. Suzanna cruelly mopped up every piece, a playfully gratuitous humiliation.
“A matter of principle,” she said, reading the question in his eyes. “Now: checkmate.”
She stood then, tall and proud, the necklace dangling invitingly in her hand.
“Time for my prize,” she whispered. “And yours too.”