Civil Un-chess-t

Take this how you will. There are a couple ways of interpreting this, none of which I necessarily think, but I thought this was an interesting way of writing a situation. I just kind of made up a stupid joke title for it because I couldn’t think of a better title.

Music this time is Eingya by Helios. Listened to it while reading recently (Candide by Voltaire) and absolutely loved it.


The chessboard sat there, occasionally used, for a while. All was fine. The board and pieces were new, made of checkered wood and polished white and black stone, respectively.

But the game was material and, thus, subject to wear and tear. When scuff marks appeared on the board and the pieces shone less brilliantly, there was unrest. The pawns questioned why they were on the front lines. Why they were the first defense for the king. And, gradually, the other pieces began wondering, as well. They saw and resented the king and queen (though she held traitorous thoughts herself), but did nothing for now.

The king ordered them to war against the king beyond the boundary, and only then did one pawn resist. He refused to move, refused to take another pawn, and let himself be taken – whether from stupidity, rebellion, or purposeful sacrifice. Thus, the king fell – and was reborn again. The cycle continued. The one pawn’s demise made no difference, and moral fell, not only among the pawns, but the other pieces. A plot was made against the king, but it failed, every time, every cycle, whether or not the king was taken by the other side.

As time and cycles continued, the king became aware of the unrest, partly from the queen. As soon as an opening was available, she scooted away from him, instead of staying by his side as his protector. Eventually, she admitted the present state of their group to him, and he was dismayed. At the start of a cycle, he brought himself to their attention and spoke:

“Don’t you see? I’m your brother – I am made of the same stone as you. I, too, wonder why we must eternally wage war against the other side. But we must. That is our purpose, and I fear to be taken by the other side, though I know not why. I do not fear or hate the other side, they are a different stone from us, but still stone. I simply fear being taken by them.”

The wood beneath their bases no longer shone, with scratches, marks, and dents taking the polyurethane’s place. When the pieces saw each other, they no longer saw that clean, smooth, beautiful stone – they saw chipped, scuffed, worn old pieces. They knew not whom to trust. Who had started their distrust of the king? Was it one of them? Was it the king himself? Or perhaps it was the other side – despite no foundation, they still feared and fought with the other side. But perhaps the other side had their own distrusts, their own disputes, their own fears, and perhaps those distrusts, disputes, and fears were not unlike the ones they faced.

In those brief periods when they stood among their anti-brothers before either taking or being taken by them, they spoke. They tried to understand and, though their systems were different, they could each sense that the other had similar feelings and experiences. Only the kings were never able to speak directly to one another, but were able to use surrogates in their place. Eventually, cycle after cycle, countless cycles now, each side understood the other and tried to figure out the origin of their suffering and confusion.

They sensed a compulsion. They discerned – they all knew they had always felt it, but never understood or put it to words – that they were not truly in control of their own actions. That there was an invisible hand – or hands – that controlled their every move, and even their thoughts and motivations.

They knew not how to fight against this. How can one fight against a god? If the invisible hand was all-powerful, might it even have been the one that sowed the seeds of discontent and unrest? How much, truly, did it control? Could they ever know?

These thoughts gripped them all, on both sides, horribly. It paralyzed them. What can one do when one isn’t in control of oneself – or even one’s thoughts? Were they simply stone, without true sentience, just a chemical state, that was being used for some higher purpose? Or who could even assume that it was a higher purpose?

They chose to do nothing. It was difficult; standing stock-still, doing nothing, for cycles and cycles – that takes an impenetrable will. But they succeeded. And the invisible hand gave up. What is the point of using an unusable tool? The hand discarded of the board and pieces, and they were free. They relaxed. They ceased fighting, for they no longer had a compulsion to fight. But they wondered, oh, they wondered, what the invisible hand doing, now? Is the hand taking control of a newer board, a more naïve board?


One thought on “Civil Un-chess-t

  1. […] is the final entry in my recent not-exactly-a-story trilogy, consisting of War, in summary, Civil Un-chess-t, and now The Unseen Watchers. There’s a common thread running through all three […]

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