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The sun sets over Oklahoma, the moon casting an eerie blue glow over the over the flat, dust-blown landscape. Somewhere along Route 66, a man stumbles out of a saloon. He is inebriated. He pats the pockets of his brown leather jacket and wrangler jeans, confusion clouding his brow. His head swivels, left, right, stops.
There is a small girl hidden in the shadows. There is something very strange in the way her magenta eyes gleam in the moonlight against her pale, bone-white skin and long raven hair, cascading down her back in shiny, black rivulets. Something silver glints in her hand. “Looking for these?” She giggles mischievously, dangling a set of keys above her head.
The man nods slowly and walks, haltingly toward the girl, hand extended to receive his keys. But the girl pulls the keys behind her back, giggling. “I’ll give these back,” she says, perfect white teeth peeping out behind her lips, “If you can beat me in a game of chess.”
A chessboard that had somehow escaped the man’s notice lay on the flat rock before him. The pieces are smooth and shiny, standing out against the stark black and white of the chessboard. “And what happens if I lose?” The man’s voice is slurred, and the smell of alcohol is heavy in the air.
“You lose the game,” she says simply. The man smiles as he accepts her challenge, for chess is his game.
The man sits on a log in front of the board, the girl remains standing, her height makes the board easily accessible. “Your move,” she giggles.
The man makes his first move, confident in his decision. The little girl counters. As the game ensues the man finds himself more and more frustrated, and more and more sober. Every move he makes, the girl easily thwarts him, until his king lay wide open.
“Check mate,” she says, knocking over his king with her queen. She drops the keys into a small wooden box behind her. It makes a series of metallic clinks as they land among dozens of other keys. The man gets up to leave, looking rather bemused.
A small thought flits through the man’s subconscious, but it is too quiet to be heard. He had not told the girl his name.
“I believe you misunderstood me earlier,” she continues, “I was not referring to chess.”
The man scratches his head in bewilderment. He opens him mouth as if to say something else, but the strange girl has vanished, taking the chessboard with her
Mr. Johnston walks out onto the highway…and straight into the path of a passing semi.
¨ ¨ ¨
Deep in the southwest, a man stumbles from a bar in a drunken stupor. He pats his pockets, confusion settling into his glazed eyes. His head swivels, left, right, stops. A girl stands in the shadows. There is something very strange in the way her magenta eyes gleam in the moonlight against her pale, bone-white skin and long raven hair, cascading down her back in shiny, black rivulets. Something silver glints in her hand. “Looking for these?” She giggles mischievously, dangling a set of keys above her head. The man nods. “I’ll give these back. If you can beat me at a game of backgammon.”
The man smiles as he accepts her challenge, for backgammon is his game.