[Originally posted at Slacktivist, The Slackitiverse, and Facebook.]
To say that Death liked chess was an understatement. In the thirteen centuries since it's creation she had adored it, embracing every advance with purest love. She still treasured the memory of the first time she captured en-passant. Chess was the only thing that made her life worth living. Ferrying souls to the afterlife was something she could do in her sleep, but she always made sure to devote enough of her attention to the task to see if anyone wanted to play a game of chess.
In the past few centuries many had. But almost all of them retracted the offer when they learned that, win or lose, they would stay dead. Even many who would never turn down a game in life refused to play because they felt cheated. As if it were her fault they would remain dead.
When one of her charges said, “I've heard you play chess,” she sullenly explained to the fresh fallen shade that he'd still be dead if he won. When he wanted to play anyway her mood brightened for the first time in decades. When he said that he wanted to play a new type of chess, one with a much larger board where each player started with 92 pieces of 81 one types each of which promoted to a different piece … it didn't matter that he wasn't the best opponent, it was the happiest she remembered being in centuries.
For Death, playing this new game was like discovering chess a second time.
When Death won the game the shade nervously prepared to be taken to the afterlife, but Death asked him for a rematch. When that game was through they decided to invent a new game. The first game had been named after a planet, so they simply expanded their scope.
The room wasn't literally inside of the building, and neither it nor it's contents were bound by the laws of physics. It was much larger on the inside, tables had been set up with various gaming boards on them. The wheel , versed in the names of all things, knew that this was a newly invented game called transdimensional interplanetary chess.
Death and a shade stood in the room, examining the pieces on the game boards. They had not noticed the entrance of the wheel.
As a messenger of God, the wheel expected better treatment, but did not allow that to show as it spoke, “Death your presence is required in the holy court.”
Death looked up and asked, “Why?”
“God requires that you ride out across the world with War and Famine so that the apocalypse might begin.”
The shade asked, “Why would she want to do that?”
The wheel said, “This is not your concern.”
Death rose and walked to a board that represented a Martian occupied Jupiter and said, “While that may be true, he raises a valid question.” She moved her hummingbird to threaten the shade's dwar. “Why,” Death turned to face the wheel, “would I want to do a thing like that?”
The wheel was not used to having it's gaze met. When one is a wheel of fire with a thousand eyes most don't know where to look to meet one's gaze. Death knew where to look. The wheel sputtered. For the first time since it's creation it knew fear. “I understand … I'll just … could you possibly deliver you message to to God your- no, of course not … I'll be going. Now.”
The wheel fled from the building and sped towards anywhere but Heaven. It had never known a hint of disloyalty, but it wasn't stupid. Being the bearer of bad news was never good. Telling God that Death had gone AWOL was not something an angel would do if it expected to live.
It sifted through it's memories looking for any friends it might have among those out of favor. It hadn't maintained associations with any, that wasn't something loyal angels did, but for immortals dropping out of contact for a few centuries wasn't always the end of a relationship.
Inside Death said, “We may have to save the world,” while looking at the boards.”
The shade nodded. He moved a piece, “Pawn to queen's bishop four.” He looked at Death, “How to we do that?”
It was the first time in more than a decade they'd left the room.
The room was a metaphysical construct built near where they had first met. The place he died. His home. Stepping out he saw how the new owners had changed things. There was a microwave where his fish tank had been. They'd painted the cabinets, they'd replaced the counter tops. Their choice in kitchenware was something he didn't approve of. It was the first real reminder since he died that he was actually dead. Not needing sleep or food, not needing a restroom, those were things easy to ignore. The fact that his home was not his home anymore wasn't.
When he opened the door he was faced with daylight for the first time in his afterlife. He was surprised to find that it did not sear his eyes. Then he had to remind himself that he didn't have eyes anymore.
His non-eyes quickly adjusted and what he saw was snow. It seemed like there was nothing but white on white, with more snow blowing in curving patterns in the wind. It was probably only a few feet all told, but the wind had pushed it into drifts taller than he was. The sound of wind on snow was doing it's best impression of ocean surf, and he soon learned that the dead could still feel cold.
The chill reached into his bones, or whatever passed for them now that his body was long since gone, and he asked, Death, “What month is it?”
Death shrugged. “I don't know what year it is.”
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