Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Knight's Bishop

Close your eyes for a moment.

Don't roll them at me. Close them. Just for a moment. I sincerely doubt anyone is sneaking up on you at this very instant preparing to bury a knife in your spine and - if by some bizarre chance that IS, in fact, your reality... well, you shouldn't have been on the internet anyway. So, with your own odds at play... just close your eyes.

Breath in.


Filling your chest.

Breath out.


Emptying all of what you just filled.

Now... listen.

What do you hear?

What sounds surround you day in, day out? What do you tune out? Ignore? Block out completely?

What do you pretend doesn't exist as you go about attempting to do just that?

In this moment... I can hear the hum of the traffic on the street below. Engines accelerating and decelerating. Tires on pavement. The odd horn of an impatient driver. One car in particular that apparently wants to brag about having the all-too-rare invention known as a radio. The distant murmuring of people passing by on the sidewalk. A laugh given amongst a conversation that has become a near shouting-match between buddies. Other people moving to and fro work. Errands. Meetings.

The daily grind.

The World. 

Have you ever stopped to wonder how it could be possible?

For all of this - this war, this organization, this living nightmare for hundreds to thousands of people - to not exist to them? For all of our stories... to simply be lost amongst the billions of other normal stories told by those who escape The Game's notice? There was a time... when I thought for certain we'd all become invisible. That we had become so cut off... so removed... that we were no longer 'existing' as they do. That there was a curved, one-way mirror between their world and ours. We may be able to see them, but when they see us... it is but a distorted version of their own reality. Nothing terrifying. Nothing abnormal. Just... nothing. Normal. Average.

Honestly, I've always found it feels surreal to watch it shift through its motions. Nearly every face you see is just another normal, stressed person going about their normal, stress-filled lives. A race that nearly every one of you reading this once knew as well. A race that I myself once took place in. Living a life of bills, responsibilities, and everyday drama. Married with a child to love and raise under our own roof...

Alex always used to say the same thing:

"The down-payment bought the roof. We own that. The rest we're going to be paying for one nail at a time for the next fifty years!"

We were... just another young family figuring out how to keep their feet grounded. Barely making ends meet. Just living a life that should have offered so much distraction for me to stay out of trouble. To ignore what everyone else caught in the main stream ignores. To stay out of His Game...

But, like every other numbskull here... I became a piece. Runner or Proxy - it doesn't matter. I've been both, and, trust me, in His "eyes"... it really. Doesn't. Matter. The only real difference... is that a Proxy admits itself as a Tool beneath His Will. We admit to being outsmarted. Out-powered. Outclassed. We play His Game by submission.

Runners play His Game through rebellion and denial.

Ultimately, it doesn't much matter which side you're on. Each one holds  its own list of pros and cons as you work to further your own goals by whatever means necessary... and, eventually, every one of us will break. Eventually, we'll be cleared off the board to make way for a new Trick to come along. Fresh from the packaging, so to speak.

Around this time of last month... I thought my last grain of sand had fallen. I thought my story had reached its conclusion. The final scene of an end that started when I asked a single student to stay behind after class. That started when I took a sobbing teenage girl into my arms and told her everything was going to be alright. When I thought I could pin the problem down to an anxiety disorder of some kind. A nervous breakdown caused by problems at home or some buried trauma. Perhaps even drugs. I remember so clearly how she looked at me when I told her that we would speak to her parents together. That what she needed was support and I would make certain that whatever this paranoia was coming from... that we'd figure it out and fix it. When I smiled and reassured her that monsters don't exist, but hallucinations do... and that didn't mean she was crazy. The mind has a strange way of calling for help sometimes. One just has to listen...

I was an idealistic moron.

Some days it feels like centuries have come and gone since that day. Other times, it feels as though someone stepped on some Sacred Remote and fast-forwarded everything until I was pinned beneath that Cane. Until I could hear the clicks and gurgling growls between two Beings that shouldn't exist. Until I was staring into inhuman amber eyes above a grin that spread far too wide. Making a Deal... just to stay in The Game a bit longer.

To remain a Piece... just for a bit longer. Even if that meant accepting a new leash.

After that, it was only a matter of time until we spoke again. One on one. 

It came to pass the very same night I published my last post.

After spending another hour or so staring at the shifting shadows of my ceiling, I had resigned myself to the all-too-mocking reality that I would not be getting any more sleep than what I've already had. Choosing instead to head downstairs to grab myself a drink or find some other form of distraction to fend off the suffocating pressure of the Loop. The Cafe itself was lost in complete darkness as I had descended the stairs. I knew all the others were asleep at that point in the night, so hadn't bothered disturbing any of the light sleepers of the house by flipping any switches. The only light - which seemed to me to be more of a 'glow' - was that which barely streamed through the windows. However, just like everything else had been in that place... it seemed distorted, somehow. Not natural.

It was giving me a headache.

And then...

"You certainly have a way with words."

I almost FELT my heart hit my ribcage... and then the very next second I found an all-too familiar pair of amber eyes staring back at me from the swallowing darkness of the room. The silhouette of a tall man was seated comfortably at one of the tables... as if he had been waiting there for quite some time and I had simply... overlooked his presence. A near impossible feat, since the air itself seemed to constrict with the very first syllable he spoke. Nevertheless, I had recomposed myself as quickly as I could manage, offering a late night greeting of my own along with a smirk finding its place on my lips as I found my normal pace. Observing him from behind my mask.

The table in front of him was harboring the same chess board that Shooter and I had set up a few days prior. Pieces now back in their rightful places. In between the sides of White and Black, I spotted a bundle placed across the board. A gift, he told me.

My gauntlet.

Oh, yes. I was absolutely grinning at that point.

He invited me to play a friendly game between us. Both upon the board and off of it. Through the physical game, Redlight played as Black. Myself; White. However, off the board... things were not so cut and try. We spoke of the finer details of the King's Game. The pieces involved. The balance of hope and fear. Punishment and reward.

And then he asked a simple question to his recovering recruit who sold themselves to stay In Play...

"...What piece do you see yourself as on this board, Nightscream?"

I couldn't help the smile I gave. Offering only a riddle as an answer.

"I'm stuck on a single, stubborn path... and yet my coming might still surprise you.

Though unwilling to Jump, I still bypass the front-lines with ease.

What am I?"

His answer came without hesitation. "The Bishop." 


A piece moved. Inhuman eyes never once straying from watching me.  

"An incredible piece. Capable of dominating with or without support... but if its own allies get in the way? Effectively useless. At least... without assistance."

"Even when blocked in one direction... a bishop does have the ability to find opportunities in the... corners of situations, so to speak."


I made my own move.

"That being said, any piece that attempts to stand solely on its own will eventually be overwhelmed. A pawn is all but useless on its own. It gains its strength from being coordinated with others of its level and those above it. A ripple effect, as it were. The same rule applies for every other piece In Play..."

I smiled at my company.

"...No matter how 'powerful' the one in question."

He grinned in return. A disturbing feeling shifting across the table.


"Correct. Even the Queen can be lured into a trap. The King, the most important piece on the board, is also the most vulnerable. Not to mention being limited of use..."

"Precisely. Having the most pieces doesn't always grant victory. Defeat can come in a heartbeat. Just one wrong decision can crumble months, even years, of planning. The key is remembering to protect oneself from all sides. Especially when on the attack..."


Pawn takes pawn.

"A Game well played is one in which the potential of a piece... matches the use of the piece. Curious, darling... where do you see yourself on this board?"

That chilling grin only grew.

"How about you handle this one, Brother? I have faith you'll make the right choice."

 "...The Knight. The most flexible piece on the board. One of the most useful keys in finding the weakness to nearly any strategy fathomable. It defends and attacks from blind-spots. Jumping across friend and foe alike without hindrance or any true predictability..."

I couldn't help the small chuckle I gave.

"And yet... still incapable of checkmate. At least on its own."

I earned a laugh from that. Amusement.

"Well done. I'd say my pride was damaged, but it seems you see things others don't. I'm impressed; you chose exactly what I did. What does that say about you, I wonder...?"


"And Banks?"

"I think we both know where Darling David rests on the board."

"A powerful piece, he most certainly is... but, complex, he is not."

"David Banks..."


Rook forward.

"..Hardy, straightforward, and, once set in motion, impossible to stop. Much like a train, no~?"

"A train, indeed. One I am still attempting to step off the tracks to avoid before things become too close for comfort."


The conversation rolled on from there. Spanning across several topics. I must say... that some of his comments intrigued me. Others... made old scars flare in memory. Even at the time, part of me wondered if some of what he said was simply designed to see if I had much of a temper myself. After all, he is far from a fool. Far from blind. He's done his research. He is well aware of my past reactions to feeling the leash snap tight. Well aware of the story of scars that cover my body beneath my layers of clothing...

However, if he was looking for a rise, he didn't get one. Nor did I simply allow myself to partake in the Head-Nodders Association that has a tendency to follow figures like him. Beings of influence and power. I simply did what I've always done.

I spoke the Truth.

Whether he wished to hear it or not.

"You're not nearly as unpredictable as you'd all like to believe. Every single person on earth has their breaking point. Love, grief, rage... what do they mean in the face of total domination? Absolutely nothing. Subtleties are sometimes nothing more than artifacts to be respected, methods to be studied, not utilized. Because sometimes..."


A dark grin flitted across his features.

"Power is all you need. Don't you agree...?"

"...Such familiar words."

I allowed the slightest nip to invade my tone as I stared into those eyes. Ignoring the chill that crept down my spine.

"But not yours, are they? You know as well as I do that power is not nearly enough. That such... simplistic mentality was one of greatest faults of the First and of the Highers themselves. So, if you don't mind me asking, Redlight... were you expecting a flare of a temper, a silent nod, or a mindless agreement?"



"Is this little test truly necessary?"

I honestly think he was taken aback at first. Only to then grin. Moving his king as he once again commented on my "way with words" before a sharpness came to that stare. We Spoke then. Honest and clear. A dance of minds as pieces moved across the board. He was playing much more aggressive then. Once, I noted irritation at a particularly forward comment, so amended by pointing out that there is a defined difference between testing and challenging...

One makes certain cracks are sealed... while the other digs them deeper.

"Understand me, Redlight... I won't always say what you want to hear...

But... you can be certain I will tell you what you need to hear."

In the end, I was checkmated.

One move before I could checkmate him.

Nevertheless, just before he vanished leaving only a couple black leaves in his wake, an understanding was achieved. He's well aware that he isn't the only one with a Game in motion and, as such, I've reassured him that his goals are not any near my own. Our Games can run - unhindered - simultaneously. Meaning there is only benefit so long as we both cooperate in our roles...

And, normally... a Knight and a Bishop do tend to work well together.

For now, however, my goals are very simple. I have old friends to reunite with, you see. And, at this very moment, I'm pleased to be able to say that I have the cool night air on my face and the sound of traffic rushing below on lamp-lit roads. Normally, I'd wear my disguise and stay in some cheap little motel off the beaten path... but no. Not tonight. Tonight I yearned for much more... open surroundings than what any form of room could offer. With the Cafe and its maddening Loop now behind me... I chose a rooftop to sleep for the night. It's cold, but pleasantly so. The night sky above only slightly concealed by streams of shifting clouds that offer a spitting of rain down upon the small city. A slight nip carried in the wind...

I have never been so grateful for raindrops in all my life.

The World is open to me again.

No longer am I bound within the hellish fog of a realm between ours and His.

No longer am I severed off from the rest of humanity. Cut away like a cancerous tumor.

I'm back.

And with an old friend at my side, no less.

Shooter chose to accompany me after I told everyone I was off. Muttered something about not wanting to hear of me "turning up in a ditch somewhere" and gathered up what few things he had with him. I thanked "Joseph" once again for everything he's done for me and the rest of us exchanged the only farewell that tends to be appropriate in our line of work...

"Don't die."

Sort of says it all, doesn't it?

I didn't exactly get what one would call "approval" to leave the Loop, but... well, old habits die hard, I suppose. I doubt my newest friend much cares and, besides that... I have a medallion to return. After all, it would be far from good manners to keep a friend waiting needlessly, no? The only thing that had kept me bound to the Cafe was my weakened condition, but now... now, I'm faring much better. Now, I feel near to my old ways. Granted, it will take another month or so for my ribs to fully heal, but one mustn't expect miracles. I am a merely human, after all. And though I am a Proxy... magical pixie healing abilities somehow never worked its way onto my contract.

In any case, we should be at Requiem's church in a few days' time. Shooter muttered something along the lines of "get up high, eh?" when I purposed spending the night of a rooftop, but honestly... it just feels nice to see a sky as it is supposed to be. Not distorted or twisted with stars bleeding against the backdrop... flaring up like an infection...

Yes. He is still on my mind.

Though I try not to let it dominate my thoughts. Just the thought of Him returning for Round Two is enough to make me feel sick and part of me wants to believe it won't happen. That the confrontation with Father had... "encouraged" Him to reconsider... but, deep inside, I know He will come again. I know He will make me Run again... and I know it'll be a hell of a lot worse than it was. I'm living on borrowed time now. That much, I am well aware... even if my allies like "Joseph" and Shooter don't want to admit it. Doing their best to reassure me that The Beak is long gone.

Given how well I can read most people... you'd think they wouldn't bother with the lie.

Last I heard, The Beak was "hibernating" to recuperate from His altercation with Father. How long that will last or, more likely, did last for, I have no way of knowing... but, for now, I will enjoy this second chance for all it is worth. "Joseph" has found a... detail or two about my health that may be cause for concern... but nothing fatal. At least, not imminently so. So, for now, I am back to work.

Well, back to work after I have Kali and Loki on my shoulders again.

I'm honestly dead curious as to what their reaction will be to Shooter. They never did really like him, but he's not exactly "Shooter" anymore. Least not in body. In mind and spirit... well, I'm still trying to figure that out for myself. As is he. It's quite the quandary. One we've already discussed more than once and one I've seen working through his mind quite a few times as he sits alone in silence...

On the roof of the Cafe one night, he asked me if I trusted him. He asked for truth, saying he deserved that much... and asked if I trusted him. Like I used to.

I told him no.

I could tell immediately it was a hard pill for him to swallow, but he did nod... and then he threw birdseed in my face.

I had to smile.

Honestly, I do find myself trusting him to a point. And he will always be my ally and friend, no matter which face he wears. I simply hope the mental strain does not tax him too much. He's been unusually quiet lately... as if he's down-scaled himself from "fire tornado" to simply "tornado."

I've no doubt he will come around. Probably just needs to get on a mission or two to get the traffic jam in his mind moving again.

It will probably do myself some good as well. I'm still a little... off, so to speak. As some of my Friends here have no doubt noticed. I need to get my mind in gear again...

And what better way to do that than to have some fun in the eye of the storm?

I must say, I've been in this Game for quite a while. Seen a lot of "Players" come and go...

But this time... this time, things feel different.

The winds are set to tear apart the reality we know at its very seams...

Those who fail to pay attention will be torn apart with it.

My friends, I'd advise every one of you consider your positions very carefully.

If you wait until you hear the thunder to act, it might already be too late.

But remember the most important thing...

Keep Smiling!


  1. I must admit to disliking chess. Playing by another man's rules is frustrating to me.

    Where would you suppose I am in this allegory, my friend?

    1. Castling. Have you ever heard of the manoeuvre, Rhodes...? Some regard it as the coward's move within the King's game, though I prefer to see it as an act of both careful knowledge and deception...

      The Rook. Powerful and straightforward. The King, seemingly weak and feeble, but definitely of significance. At the first sign of danger, the two are switched, assuming nothing is left standing in their way. Intelligence. Brute force. Even a hint of... vulnerability.

      How fitting. After all, what better to describe you then a union of the three~?



    2. I've never heard of castling as cowardly. It's what almost everyone does. You usually want the rook to be in the center of the board where it can do the most damage. Castling just puts it there without losing tempo. The king moving out of the center is almost an afterthought.

    3. @Rhodes. Chess tends to be a game of manipulation of the rules rather than following them to a tee. Finding new strategies to combat old ones. Using each piece as it is capable of being used. Such is life, really. One doesn't send a chef to do the job of a mechanic, if you understand what I mean.

      @Redlight. You beat me to it, darling. Well said.

      @Ben. Any move made in which the placing of a piece is an "afterthought" is one that will be your undoing one day.

    4. Almost an afterthought. But I know I'm not great at chess. I don't like reading chess books, and I don't get enough opportunities to play, especially here at home.

  2. Reality IS a mess. But it isn't over until it's over, right Starscream? A good game of chess is played out until the final move.

    1. FINALLY SOMEONE MAKES THAT JOKE. My GOD, I didn't think ANYONE would do it. Christ almighty THANK YOU for being able to make obvious jokes.

    2. Lucy Ricardo, sit down and go home.

    3. @William D. Porter. Always such a pleasure to hear the two cents of our very own walking disaster. You're quite right, darling. It's not over until it's over. I personally can't wait to see who you attempt to throw under the bus next and then blame the bus. Hakurei, maybe?

      @Shooter. They're adorable when they think they're being clever, aren't they?

    4. @Harry Potter: How about I go crash at your place? It has been SO long since we have seen each other.

  3. I suppose if I follow by your definitions, I believe I am a Knight. I have a lot of fleibillity given the position I hold. My years of experience enables me to function and possess the strategic value of that precious piece.

    And yet, I acknowledge that I cannot "declare checkmate". My victims are either disposed of by my Eyes, or they are groomed for the encounter with the Boss that decides their fate.

    1. To your eyes, darling. I don't know you well enough to say.

    2. Ah, it's been many, many years since an old man like me has been called darling. Regardless of the sincerity behind it, I am flattered.

      As for my own analysis, well I just did not wish to be left out of the conversation.

      Maybe we should take the time to get to know each other. Perhaps after you are settled back in at the church.

    3. One is never too old for a petname or two, sweetheart. I'm glad to amuse, at the very least.

      Perhaps we should. I'll have to see what my workload becomes...

  4. ... So. What piece am I?
    In fact. Why was DAVID discussed and not ME? I am hurt. I am truly, truly hurt.

    1. Shooter. We've discussed this before. You're like an explosion somewhere in the room WITH the board that allows one side to swap pieces around while the other side is distracted.

      Happy now?

    2. You are just mad you couldn't understand the rules for MY version of chess.

    3. Sweetheart, you play at chess the same way you play at life: As a representation of chaos and disorder. It truly doesn't shame me to say that only a mind as special as your own could understand such madness.

  5. You two and your chess metaphors.

    1. Apologies if it gave you a headache, darling.

    2. Believe me, it didn't. I just find it funny that everything seems to fit on a board with you.

      I just realized that we've yet to play. Ronan taught me, so my knowledge may have a few gaps. But I may surprise you.

    3. Well, not everything fits on a board. Think of it more... as the board is a mere outline. A basic concept of the True Game which expands far broader and falls deeper than any physical visual could represent. I assure you, it's not an insult to you. After all, Redlight and myself are Pieces right along with you, aren't we?

      Perhaps the next time we meet, we'll have a chance to play. I've no doubt that even the predictable Rook has a surprise or two to offer.

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  7. I find that chess is a game about one side destroying itself in an effort to leave the other side in an even worse state than they are.

    Just who or what is going to be sitting on the other side of the board from Redlight? I wonder.

    1. And isn't that how we all play, darling?

      The greater the Risk, the greater the Reward.

  8. but chess is a game that's figured out.

    in that light, this post's connotations amuse.

    1. What do you mean by that? Even grandmasters lose. There's always the possibility that some new strategy will be devised and everything will need to be rewritten. At least that's the sense I got from the more knowledgeable guys in chess club.

    2. I have to agree with Ben here.

      Beat me to it on my own blog.

      You pain me, sweetheart. Truly.

  9. I do not know much about chess.
    But Tau said something.
    "No matter how the game is played.
    The pieces all end up in the same box after."

    It felt appropriate.
    I do not know why.

    1. While I know what Tau is trying to suggest... it could be looked upon in a slightly different way.

      Once the piece are off the board, then their role in The Game is over. Sides would be rather pointless then, no?

  10. You all play chess because you see it as the game to play. You follow the rules already set in motion, you pick your side, Black or White. You take on your role and when you die or your time has finished, you exit quietly like another minion.

    I'm sorry, my Screaming Noble, but I refuse to play the same game you do. You don't have to follow the rules. There are not only two sides, and I sure as hell won't be exiting the board quietly to be packed away like every other fallen piece. Sorry to disappoint.

    I will always play a different game, and when forced to play our 'chess?' I tell the truth. I don't know the rules, and oh hey. Those pieces look really nice when they're thrown in someone's face.

    1. Heh. Ah, but you're seeing the pieces as if they are living people. The Game is not so simple nor is it a quiet struggle between sides. Like I told David, chess is a way of outlining any Game. The pure basics. The True Game is far too broad of a concept to be displayed accurately on any kind of board. The rules set for each piece merely representing what each person in real life is capable of. Differing one person's skills from another. Hence...

      Bishop as myself.

      Rook as David.

      Knight as Redlight.

      All powerful pieces. But with strengths and weaknesses in certain areas. Like I told Rhodes: You don't send a chef in to do the job of a mechanic.

      The use of a piece needs to match the potential of a piece. That is a Game well played. You are a part of it yourself at times, even if you deny it.

      As for the sides... it honestly depends on which Game you're talking about. The sides change. Shift. Flip completely. And sometimes certain pieces aren't even In Play. After all, there is The Game, but there are also Games. And games, as well.

      Don't take things so literally, sweetheart. You take the fun out of it.

  11. May I ask, which piece was close to checkmating Redlight? Out of pure curiosity.

    1. "Pieces", darling. Chess is game of team effort. However, that being said... the last piece I had to move was, in fact, my Bishop. The Support from the Queen and a Pawn.

      If it also interests you... I was mated by Death Knights. Redlight used both his Knights and my own pieces to block me in.