LIFE JUST MAY BE BLACK AND WHITE By Connor Jay Liess
“Why can’t I move, mother?” “Because, son, you simply can’t.” He looked down between his feet at the black polished square on which he stood, then looked up at his stern-faced mother. “But why not?” he asked again. His curiosity was beginning to irritate his rather tall mother. “You simply can’t! Those are the rules!” she hissed. “What rules?” he asked, nearly sobbing. “What rules, mum?” The tall mother peered down at her young son. He trembled, his ebony exterior shaking like the filament of a light bulb. She glared for a long time, pondering whether or not to shut the boy up with another ambiguous answer or a mere slap on the rump.
She sighed. “The rules say you are not allowed to move, Joseph. Those are the rules and I didn’t write them. No one did.” “Not even God?” “Pshh,” she seethed. “I’ve told you Joseph, God does not exist! You know that!” Joseph thought for a second. God isn’t real. Only the Whites believe in God. “You’re right, mum. I’m deeply sorry for angering you.” The little boy apologised. His tone dropped but his desire to know why there were rules and who created them still lingered in his mind. His mother found a shred of solace and changed the subject. “Now, you must wait for Mr. Castro to move first. I know he is old and slow, but his role is very valuable in this Game,” she said, pointed towards the elderly clergyman standing on a white square on the other side of the field. “Yes. The Game,” the little boy repeated. While his mother looked on, he stared up at her, his mind full of wonder. I don’t really much like this game, he thought to 3
himself and only to himself. Distaste for The Game? One could never speak of such nonsense! Joseph admired his mother, although cruel at times. She was a noble woman, full of honour and haut monde. Atop her black marble head, the loveliest, most ornate crown the young boy had ever laid eyes on. A consort of majesty cresting each individual fold. Her sovereign aroma, like a gorgeous bouquet of gardenias. There she stood, proudly on a black square. Black. The colour of pride. The colour of dominance. The colour of radicalism. The shrill in his mother’s voice broke the young boy’s thoughts. “See that, son? That’s what happens when you refuse the rules given to you.” Joseph’s mother pointed her boney index finger in the direction of a brutal scene as it unfolded. The boy turned his vision across the field of black and white squares and saw a young, clean shaven man atop a horse being flogged to death by a bunch of white soldiers. He shivered at the horrific sight.
“No, you watch!” she scolded him. “You learn a lesson from this! Now you see why you must follow the rules, my dear boy. Without rules, we are anarchy.” Joseph tried his best to watch the gruesome murder being acted out like an unscripted play. The man’s shrieks for help received no assistance. The rest of the soldiers watched on with stern pupils, masking their inner sense of despair. Everyone feared it. No one dared face it. The corpses of the man and his horse were hauled off. The tension in the field had risen dramatically since the first move of The Game. Everyone wondered who’d be next. Would it be the man from the castle at Ashbury? One of the little children placed unknowingly on the front line, their sole purpose that of sacrifice and nothing more? Or perhaps the ignoble clergyman with his crucifix of deceit placed erect atop his bald, speckled head? Everyone has a role in life, the young boy’s mother always said. It is up to those competent enough,
and only those, who decide what role that may be. Joseph knew what his role was, but why? he still wondered. He looked on ahead at the break in the black’s formation. A white soldier atop a horse broke free of his near certain demise. Young Joseph eyed his mother nervously. “Bloody hell!” she cursed the field. “You see that? Those damn whites think they can do whatever they please, don’t they?” “Yes mother, of course they do.” Joseph agreed. He gazed at the noble soldier as he rode his horse, its beautiful mane like a flowing river of white twine. The horse looked impressive, even from far away. Joseph could see its piercing eyes and flowing mane as it came to a halt in front of one of Joseph’s brothers. Suddenly Joseph heard a loud ruckus crescendo to his right. The panicked shouts of black soldiers intensified in volume. From across the field of black and white came a flash of white with flowing blonde hair. She was the loveliest woman young Joseph had ever 6
seen, even more stunning than his own mother. The woman strode elegantly with long, ceaseless legs, each majestic sandal kissing the white squares beneath. Her dominance echoed through the field, each soldier and civilian turning their gaze upon her. With a sudden lurch, she drove the tip of her shining metal staff into the clergyman’s gut. The old bitter clergymen stooped as the sword pierced his unprotected belly. His crusty hands, roughened by the toxic elixir known as Holy Water, reached down and caught the flowing rivers of blood pouring from his abdomen. Joseph quickly shut his eyes and heard his mother screaming out orders. “Get my husband back to the baseline at once! Do you hear me? Keep the King safe!” Pandemonium swept the sea of black soldiers. They called amongst themselves and contemplated their next move. Their respected elder had just suffered the most horrific fate any soldier could imagine – death by the white queen. 7
“Mother! Mother!” Joseph cried out amidst the chaos and confusion. His tiny little voice could hardly breach the loud tenors of the seasoned soldiers. “Mother, where are you?” He scanned the field. His tall, loud mother was nowhere in sight. He listened for her voice and still only the commotion of warfare combined with panic raged on. “Mother, can you hear me?” The voices surrounding young Joseph continued to strategise their next move. Such a blow had left the black army in utter madness. No longer did the colour of the ground seem important. The white queen was nearing the axiom of the commonwealth – the king himself. Joseph could see his royal father standing proudly behind a row of his own troops. Just paces away, the face of the white queen glared back at him. King Marx was a proud, yet boastful man. A man of remarkable intelligence, yet fully lacking in manners or personal upkeep. His unroyal beard jutted out in every which way. A wasteland of whiskers - all grey, none black – except the thick, velutinous mustache smeared 8
across his upper lip. The hair beneath his black crown was creased backwards into a wiry grey broom in a balding pattern. Neither the soles of the king’s shoes nor the buttons on his elegant gown were blacker than the piercing pupils of King Marx. With watchful eyes – eyes that focused on something more important while Joseph and his seven siblings endured their strict childhood – King Marx scanned the field and remained heavily guarded on the white square beneath his feet. Joseph took his eyes off his father and skimmed the field in search for his mother. She could not be seen. He craned his neck and stared into the sea of soldier faces. Suddenly he noticed a soldier pointing at him intently. “Him!” the soldier shouted. “We shall cast him forth for the good of the commonwealth!” Joseph’s eyes bulged in fear. “Indeed,” cried the man from the castle at Ashbury. “He is our next move!” 9
Joseph was frozen with terror. The men all around him kept shouting louder and louder. “The boy!” “Ahh yes, he’s the answer. He shall be next!” “Yes, alert the queen! We hath made our decision!” All the soldiers and townspeople called out to the queen and informed her of their universal decision. Young Joseph stood and waited, his mind racing. My mother would never do such a thing as to sacrifice me for the good of the commonwealth. She said I have a purpose! he thought to himself. I have a purpose and sacrifice is not it! How could she sacrifice me for this cause? I have done no wrong! Joseph didn’t understand why he had been selected as sacrifice. The rules of The Game continued to fog the young boy’s mind. Joseph listened desperately for his mother’s voice to crack like thunder across the black and white field and cease the pulsing torment inside his aching mind. Please
mother, he begged silently. I have a purpose in this Game. His mother’s voice rang forth. “You shall carry out the maneuver, gentlemen! He is yours for the taking.” Joseph spotted his towering mother gazing grimly into his eyes, her outstretched finger pointed directly at his throbbing heart. “No mother! You can’t! You said I have a…” Just then Joseph felt himself inching forward ever so slightly one pace North. Directly across from the poor lad was a man in a white castle, his eyes glowing wildly like a burning haystack. Joseph took his gaze off the white man in front of him and stared down between his feet as the black square transitioned into a square of pallid white. His body shuddered. Such a putrid colour. The motion finally stopped. He took a teary look down between his boots. Nothing but white. His heart ached with deceit yet he knew he couldn’t turn his back on his mother. On his father. On the commonwealth. Young Joseph shut his eyes and wept. 11
Somewhere, a few paces back, Joseph could hear his mother call. “Carry on then!” Her voice echoed across the silent field of black and white. Not a single whisper nor call of an overhead bird. Not even a rustle in the trees. Joseph opened his eyes. Before his eyes could adjust to the glowing radiance of the white square beneath his boots, young Joseph felt the searing agony of steel meeting flesh just below his sternum. He slumped forward naturally, his mouth fully agape. The shining metallic spear of the white man in the white castle gouged a fine slit in the young boy’s ebony chest. Joseph watched noiselessly as the ivory handle sunk deeper into his chest. I am a pawn, he thought to himself. A pawn in this horrible Game. Then the boy’s world went black.