Cool evening air danced with the small flame atop the candle, splashing light across the room, illuminating the simplistic, rustic study with bookshelves and two paintings decorating the walls. A window on the wall across from the doorway was cracked open slightly to allow the draft. Beneath the window sat a small burgundy table, adorned with a long tablecloth, and two chairs. On the table sat a chess board and candle, on the chairs sat two men. The man on the left was disgruntled and growing frustrated; the man on the right, smirking victoriously and leaning back on his chair, rested a free hand beneath the table. It had been there since they sat down, almost as if it was a sign that the game was far too simple for him to care.
The man on the left grumbled and sat up in his seat. “That fast, huh?”
The right man grinned, “You opened yourself up easily enough.”
“Perhaps I’m setting a trap.”
His grin became a smile as he released a quick laugh, “Ah, but that’s already been taken into account.”
The man on the left, a heavyset powerhouse of a man with an excellent poker face, leaned inward and moved his King a space to the right. His furrowed old brow loosened up as he leaned back again, stroking the jagged white remnants of his recently trimmed beard. His broad shoulders and large torso stretched out beyond the width of the chair, even with his arms crossed.
The man on the right was just as heavyset, but with a considerably less amount of his mass due to muscle. His confident smile spread across his cheeks, stretching his grayed facial hair with it. He situated the thin rectangular glasses on the bridge of his nose and also leaned inward to examine the game. His right hand remained unmoving in his lap as he used his left to reach out and position his Bishop for a future strike. “It seems you’ve managed to avoid a checkmate once again. That’s one hell of a defensive setup you have there,” he encouraged his opponent with his heavy Russian accent.
The left man had more of a British sense to him as he replied, “I tend not to worry about the close calls, preparing myself for the more potent attacks instead.”
“It’s a good strategy,” the Russian commented, “but nothing can be gained from a strictly defensive standpoint, correct?”
“Not much I guess, other than survival.”
“And yet,” the Russian nodded, “even that can drift from reach eventually. But what else could possibly be gained without even the slightest aggression?”
The Brit moved his Rook a space over, “I suppose nothing but life itself.”
“But is life really worth living for?” countered the Russian, “If our lives are lived only to live, what is there to separate life from death? When a man dies he remains in death – how different would it be for a man who lives to simply remain alive?”
“I would expect that a man who lives is living to breath, to exist, and to make a difference in his time spent living,” the Brit offered simply.
“Exactly!” The Russian said, “And what difference in life could ever be made were a man to simply exist? A man who spends his life breathing is no different from his neighbor, and yet his neighbor could be different from him in multitudes of ways!” He slid his Queen into place before continuing, “A man that breaths makes no difference and is not truly living, but his neighbor, who marries a woman and raises children with her, doing so all while breathing, makes a difference, correct? That makes him a living man.” He leaned back in his chair and pointed to the board, “Check.”
The British man moved his Knight to block his opponent’s path. “Aye, but a man who breathes is a living man, regardless of his action – or lack thereof – in life.”
“By literal definition, yes,” the Russian sighed, “but what good is life if it is not spent living? How then is a dead man different from a living aside from the activity of his lungs?”
“I suppose there isn’t much difference.”
“There is no difference! A dead man makes no changes to the lives of others, and neither does a living man who spends his life idle. What is the purpose of life if you just sit and wait for death? Check.”
The British man grumbled as he sacrificed his only option – the Queen – so stop the attack. “The purpose of life is a true mystery, I suppose.”
“Hardly,” the Russian retorted. “You’re running out of defenses; do you see how pointless your passive approach was? You cannot possibly make any difference – on my strategy, the game, or its outcome – if you do nothing but avoid losing. It is the same with life. No impact can be had on yours or others’ lives if you simply avoid death.”
“So you would have me be more aggressive.”
“Of course. Rather than only avoiding defeat, challenge it! In the same manner, it is better for a man to challenge death – even keep it at bay – than to lie in wait for it.”
“Very well,” the British man frowned thoughtfully before moving his Rook up the board, destroying his opponents’ Knight. The Russian smiled and looked upon the man with a bit of pity. He silently moved his spare Rook to the empty corner, giving it a straight shot at the British man’s King. The Brit’s eyes widened slightly. He hadn’t even noticed the extra piece his opponent had so easily placed. He muttered with an I-told-you-so tone, “That’s why I remain defensive.”
“Ah,” The Russian smiled, “But your plan was a very good one. I can see that you had excellent positioning with the Rook and those Bishops; you very well could have ended me within a few more turns.”
“Then,” The Brit asked helplessly; he had nowhere he could go with the King, “why did it fail me?”
“Well that would be your own fault,” the Russian man said simply, “You waited too long.”
An explosive sound echoed around the room and across the evening outside. The British man’s eyes widened as he slipped off of his chair and collided with the ground. He couldn’t even groan in his pain as his blood gurgled up his throat, spilling out of his mouth and trickling down the side of his face. Small bubbles erupted from the crimson flood in his gullet as the man slowly drowned in his suffering and his blood.
The Russian man stood, calmly watching his lifelong friend and neighbor die. He removed the gun he held under the rug and set it on the table, looking at the British man on the floor in front of him. With an easy flick, the Russian tipped over his opponent’s King piece and watched it roll off the table, landing on the floor next to the Brit’s face. The British man glanced at his King before his eyes began to fade, slipping up into his eyelids for the last time. A final gagging noise escaped from his throat. The Russian man knelt down beside him, placing his hand on the victim’s shoulder.