Damian’s gaze pierces Angelo’s mind; his smirk is rigid on his lips, his face stone. The pieces have not moved for eons and Angelo stares at the chessboard. He clutches Damian’s knight between his fingers, the last piece he captured centuries ago in this everlasting war.
Angelo’s body is motionless, but his brain is swirling in a frantic race against the checkmate. Damian’s glare weighs on him, but he dares not betray his discomfort. One wrong move, and he loses. One right move, and he wins. Both men know this, and Damian’s fixed stare wills Angelo to make the crucial mistake he has already mapped on the path to victory.
The wind thumps at the windows, howling to be let inside, yet the men hear only the soft patter of their own thoughts whirling to the trickle of rain prancing on the rooftop. Angelo lifts his hand and hovers it over the chessboard. Damian’s eyes twinkle with the delight of expected victory, but Angelo’s hand has returned to the nook between throat and chin, an instinctive gesture to protect his soul from Damian’s prying eyes.
Lightning flashes outside the window, and thunder startles the house to its foundations. Angelo’s misty eyes scan the room, detecting only the vagueness of reality from behind the veil of meditation.
“What a night…” he mutters, but Damian only fixes his yellow gaze on Angelo’s bluish skin.
The house shudders from the raging wind; a crimson light seeps from its cracks and pulses by the window, warping the panes. The door flings open with the purple boom of thunder and the green flash of lightning. Both men jump and gaze toward the swinging door. They stare into the stormy darkness tinted with a blood-red hue.
The door creaks and swings in a violent dance to the rhythm of the brawling storm. They glimpse a dark figure silhouetted in the red gleam of the threshold, but the door sways, and the figure vanishes.
For the first time in a long time, the men’s eyes lock, and their ashen cheeks betray their solemn dread. The door swings open again, and the ominous figure stands, statuesque, in the doorframe. The wind blows, quivering furniture and banging on the walls. The deathly figure glides across the room and pauses beside the chessboard.
“Who are you?” Damian asks.
Silent and bony fingers emerge from a tattered cloak and reach for the chess pieces. The men stare in awe and terrified silence. The walls creak and tremble, protesting the howling wind’s will to break them apart. A vermillion glow illumines the room, but the figure’s visage remains hidden inside the impenetrable void of its black hood.
“Checkmate,” the figure’s hollow and aged voice announces.
Both men glance at one another, their eyes filled with the calm certainty of defeat. The world howls and quakes and spins around them as hot air chokes their lungs and oppresses their hearts. The wind vanquishes the walls, and the house collapses in a heap of rubble and debris. Beams and rafters flatten the chairs Damian and Angelo occupied an instant prior.
A languid dawn arises and casts its gray light upon the crumbled house. It shimmers on the deserted chessboard with both kings knocked on their sides, thus concluding the ultimate chess game.