White Fingers

Pale aren't they?

Pale aren’t they?

Another piece of writing I did for Advanced Composition. It was an interesting piece and I think I threw in a nice twist at the end. I hope I managed to keep even something as boring as a chess game interesting. Hope you enjoy. 🙂

“Check,” Kuzma Volkov said quietly as he moved his queen. Five tense minutes of silence passed, then a slender white hand reached for the board. Long fingers wrapped around the marble piece like a vise. Another pause, as both men studied the chessboard, then the same elegant digits advanced the pawn one square. Volkov leaned back in his chair and stared idly at the pieces. Beside them on the table a squat clock sat. Four o’clock, he mused. They had played for an hour.

Seemingly without second thought, Volkov, a retired agent from the Russian military police, shifted the position of one of his knights. As his opponent considered the board, the chess enthusiast studied his opponent. This man had several slight peculiarities about him. He wore a hooded cloak, with the hood off, stood at about five feet and eight inches, and spoke quietly with a lisping accent. Volkov, however, found the man’s fingers most interesting. So long, so slender, so white, as if someone had bleached them. It amused the Russian to watch the appendages strangle another piece.

“You are here for more than chess, no?” Volkov queried quietly, in perfect English, with only a tasteful hint of an accent.

Seconds passed as the room filled with the clock’s ticking.

“Yes,” the man answered in a whisper, his lisp slurring the sibilant.

Volkov retreated a bishop. The best way to fool someone, he thought. Is to give them the illusion of power.

They continued in silence for a few minutes afterwards. Volkov studied his opponent the entire time, mostly eyeing the man’s hand. His mother had white fingers like that, before she died. Three years had passed since then, but Volkov, though not sentimental – he had not cried at her funeral – had strong attachments to his deceased mother, and took no pleasure in reminiscing about her. Instead he pondered this stranger’s fingers.

Everything about the digits contradicted the person the cloak concealed. It puzzled Volkov, and he devoted more thought to his opponent’s hands than he did to the game. Smooth and immaculate, they indicated a lack of manual labor, but the way they gripped the pieces reminded Volkov of something. He could not place it, despite how much he tried. Instead, the middle-aged millionaire moved his queen back yet another square. In the twenty minutes that had passed, Volkov had managed to allow his opponent to press him back.

Volkov thought for a few minutes of the relationship he had with his opponent. They had met after the Ubirat’, or clean up, an operation in which Volkov witnessed the genocide of a camp of deserters. Dark memories flooded the mind of the Russian, and he frowned them back out. Every day for the ten years which had passed, the two men would meet to play chess. They always had the same conversation. Ticks from the clock faded into Volkov’s consciousness, and he woke from his reminiscent trance when another piece clicked on the board.

Deliberately grasping the piece lightly, in contrast to his opponent, Volkov suddenly pushed forward with his rook.

“What are you here for in addition to chess then?” he asked, watching the pale fingers entangle with each other as their owner slipped into deep thought.

“To beat you,” the quiet voice told him.

Volkov leaned forward on his own fingers, also laced together. “Is that not the same as just playing chess?”

This question went unanswered, but it always did. Both men adjusted their formations, moving and reacting to each other in perfect synchrony. As the hour-hand on the clock finally lodged itself at five, Volkov smiled and advanced his pawn.

“Always,” he murmured. “The knight trade.”

Disappearing again into his past, the retired agent recalled seeing his commander shoot down the deserters’ leader. Seconds later a sniper had put a bullet in the commander’s head. Everything fell to chaos then. Volkov moved his rook forward to the seventh rank.

One by one he captured his opponent’s pawns. With each capture, the slender fingers encircled the pieces tighter and tighter. Sunlight from the evening sun streamed in through a window, illuminating the ivory hands. Something struck the Russian suddenly. His sister’s hands had a similarity to his opponent’s hands.

“Your ring finger is longer than your index finger,” Volkov pointed out, capturing the last pawn.

His opponent inhaled sharply. “There is no ring there,” the man said bitterly.

Volkov unconsciously reached for his own ring finger, but the ring he had last worn twelve years ago did not appear. He had lost his wife after six years of marriage to his most bitter enemy, death. Enough with the distractions, the chess master told himself, and he devoted his focus wholly to the game. Six moves later he had won.

“Checkmate,” the millionaire said and straightened to his full five feet eight inches. His opponent followed suit.

Volkov stared for a moment at the mirror in front of him, studying the pale, long fingers, fingers cursed with blood. No amount of cleaning would remove the stains. They clenched into a fist, missing the feeling of a familiar handle.

“I will beat you,” he said softly.

Then he drew up his hood and left the room– and his reflection.

Blood

Blood

Tours yruly

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