They were part of a game — a strange variant of chess discovered on a secret and disturbing corner of the world-wide web — played with friends who were as repulsed and fascinated with the strange forms upon the board as I had been when I had decided upon its purchase.
I kept them under a glass case, carefully locked away every night, the strange pewter figures sprawled across a plain of unsteady blocks of black-and-white abutted by red and nameless colors that seemed to shift position when one wasn’t looking.
I do not know how to explain my caution, except to say I feared they would not stay safely upon the board while I slept; I feared that even without human hands, they would somehow remove themselves from their case and appear in places their grotesque forms were not desired…
I suppose playing the game and thinking about the strange angles of its movements had perturbed my thinking, and I wondered at the danger of playing with intellectual fires beyond human ken. For, you see, the game was too alien, based on an understanding of a geometry that bore no resemblance to the Euclidean planes which I perceived the world was composed, of which it may be composed in truth, for I do not know or understand such matters.
But such was the nature of the geometry that governed the game: the rules by which it was played allowed strange…movements outside the geometric spaces understood by man. These movements were so arcane and mind-twisting, I had to keep the card describing those various moves and how to enact them by my side during play of the game, to be referenced constantly, because I could never remember without it what they were.
I had no reason for this fear, you understand — as never once had I found the pieces where they were not supposed to be — yet my fear remained: that in being part of an alien and irrational game, the pieces themselves were…not sentient, but not…not obedient to the physical laws that govern the world. Rather, outside them somehow, and thus how should I know what they were capable of when I myself could not even remember in play how they could move?
The grotesque figurines stared out at me from behind their glass case night-after-night, and I could think of nothing but how their very existence implied a rejection of the world I thought I knew. And I became convinced they were tiny demons staring at me from behind hidden corners, worried they could reach out to me just with sight…for did not magic and the black arts require only such? A question for the science of occult philosophers I was only passingly familiar with.
I bought a black cloth to drape over that case from which the figures leered at me nightly, but then my mind turned to thoughts of what the figures would do now that I could not watch. In the dead of night, having not yet slept for my fears, I drew the cloth from the case and peered down at the figurines. They had not moved from their designated places, that I could see, but I did not replace the cloth and we spent the night watching one another.
This continued for some weeks.
My eyes had become sunken pits, black ringed and shot-through with red — I looked a haunt in the mirror, pale and haggard. A curious quaver had entered my speech, and my motions were jerky, ill-considered, often begun and rarely finished, my clothing rumpled and ill-kept.
My friends commented upon all this, but I said only that I had had little sleep of late and it was affecting me thus. They suggested I see a doctor for sleep aids and then said no more of it.
It was then I began to suspect them.
Did they not play the game, too? Should they not be lying awake at night concerned and horrified at the dimensions beyond human perception and what they might hold? Curiously, though, none of them suffered from any hint of the malaise consuming me, as though the thought of these inhuman dimensions was easeful and botherless to them.
My game improved, however, and I became more apt at winning in my disheveled and often-incoherent state, the moves coming more easily, the card listing them forgotten and unattended. In fact, at times, I thought the pieces moved on their own, or moved my hand for me, guiding my moves…and fueling my nightly spells of paranoia.
There comes a time, though, when even fear can not keep a man’s body from rest, and it will do so without his permission nor with any warning. So I slumbered and dreamt of horrid things that have no earthly names, suddenly waking in a cold sweat with a dead scream upon my lips.
I swear I felt a thing upon my chest, then, or the ghost of it — as though a pressure had been lifted of a sudden, just as I crossed the boundary between sleep and waking. I shuddered.
I rose quickly and went to the glass case to find the strange game pieces gone from within their locked cage of glass, the game board with its unsteady blocks of black and white empty. My heart raced as I searched the darkness around me for the dull shine of pewter, fearing the inmates I had so carefully locked away had finally escaped, but found nothing.
Nor did my friends come to play again, nor could I find them nor any who knew them or of them, though I searched until men gave me queer glances and there were whispers regarding my sanity.
I wondered then what part of my fears and suspicions had been sleepless paranoia, what parts foul truth…and what unholy game had truly been played for what stakes.
Forever after, I saw strange forms in shadowed corners and heard whispered voices around the same, always proving to be nothing upon inspection, but these were apparitions which no medication nor therapy or sleep or sleeplessness could dispel.
Copyright (c)2007 Raven Daegmorgan