The Amulet

Shalala made the first move. One pawn, two spaces forward. Quolo followed suit. In silence the game continued. Shalala’s first pawn finally fell victim to Quolo’s knight
Far below them, on a tiny field in the process of being harvested on the Earth, a farmer fell to the ground; his hand clutched to his chest.
‘Who shall take care of his family now?’ Shalala mused aloud, her soft voice filled with a distant kind of pity.
‘His wife is young. She will remarry and life will go on,’ Quolo answered dispassionately. Of the two of them Shalala was the most impetuous, more likely to shed a tear than her companion. She looked at the smaller picture. Quolo knew where his responsibilities lay. It was the larger picture that he focused on.
Other games, more organised and less frantic were played at the tables occupied by the other death spirits. Shalala envied them. They got to enjoy a human’s entire life, Shalala and Quolo’s mission was different. There was no enjoyment in their particular task.
Three more pawns fell. A sailor, a serving maid and a greengrocer. Hours went by, then months and then years. Many fell before their allotted time as the spirits tried to corner the One.
Rooks and bishops, pawns and a queen sacrificed themselves – though they did not consciously know it – until only three remained. The red queen took the white queen ruthlessly, her only purpose was to protect her king, and this queen had survived. In other centuries others had played to the last to protect him.
Again the red king had remained untouched. The piece representing him had not even had top move, despite the best efforts of the death spirits.
‘Still he defies us,’ Quolo remarked with a sigh, ‘If only we could discover how he is evading us.’
‘He cannot hide forever,’ Shalala said softly, hopefully, as she replaced the pieces and noted their living counterparts with a spark of sadness.
How many more would fall before their time before they could take the One?

*

Kingsley Rose fingered the ancient amulet that hung around his portly neck with a smirk. It had been one thousand years since he had commanded the Shaman to create the amulet, costing the old man all of his power and his life.
Over the centuries, everyone that Kingsley Rose knew died as the death spirits relentlessly hunted him down. He was certain they did not know about the amulet. He was a powerful sorcerer in his own right and had wiped the Shaman’s memory clean before his death. Rose refused to die and he would never take the amulet off and let the spirits find him.
He was safe from them, invisible, as long as he wore it. It had been a necessary precaution. Rose was too important to die; the world had too much to offer him. The spirits had no right to judge him. No right to decide his fate.
Rose would never die.
Checkmate would always be his.

© Alison Pearce 2008

The Amulet

Alison Pearce

Logan Central, Australia

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Artist's Description

For Short Stories – Spherical Writings Checkmate challenge

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