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Artwork By Julia Chetwood

 

I thought long and hard before deciding to move the fifth pawn from the left two spaces forward.

Then I waited as the wind of the sea blew at my long golden hair, whispering a soft apology into my ear.

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I died some days ago with tears in my eyes – salty, bitter tears that threatened to overflow. Before I died though, my life was a utopian dream where animals from all walks of life lived together, each animal with its young by its side. But in my utopian dream, nothing was done to save those animals when my tears overflowed. So I cried even more when I saw the tides engulf the lionesses and her cubs, submerge the owls and her owlets and drown the turtledoves and her squabs. I cried even harder, and my tears, which came in tsunami waves, swept away the lambs grazing in the green pastures. The lambs were white like the room I died in some days ago after my visit to the sea. Everything was white in that room where there was only myself on the bed, and the saltiness of the sea that clung firmly to my hair and hugged my skin. White and empty… blank and empty. Empty like the pastures where the animals used to live; white like the lambs, nowhere to be seen. When my tears overflowed and drowned the animals, no one saved them because everyone was busy with their own lives.

 

I moved the bishop on the King’s right side, three spaces diagonally left. Then, I touched the ring that Adrian had given me and noticed that the ring’s golden plating had chipped and faded into a dirty yellow that was beyond repair.

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For my naivety of believing in the possibility of a golden life with Adrian, I was cursed with a continuous sourness in my mouth – a taste one could only attain through countless days of drinking lemon juice. But the lemon juice I had choked down was full of pulp and seeds, and although the seeds were hard to swallow at the beginning, I swallowed them nonetheless. When I was young, my mother had warned me not to swallow the pips and seeds of fruits, since it would grow inside me and kill me. And that she would be very, very sad if that ever happened. But I always wished that the seeds would grow inside me, sprouting little shoots that grew into sturdy trees. I always hoped the lemon seeds I swallowed would grow into lemon trees and bear fruit, because the one Adrian planted in our backyard didn’t. I think it was because the soil wasn’t fertile enough. High salinity, the Gardener had said, as though the garden had been watered with salt. Then, on days when I wanted lemonade, there were no lemons and God didn’t give me any either. God never gives you lemons. I don’t understand why people always say he does.

 

My fingers flittered near the Queen, hovering inches above her crown as I contemplated my next move. Then I helped her glide two spaces diagonally right before I looked up at the horizon.

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The sun was setting, igniting the sky with a demonic spritz of yellow with tinges of red and orange. The delicate voice of the sea called out to me, caressing my ears with the softness of its breath. But I couldn’t give in. After the incident some days ago, I had vowed never to return. I loved the sea with all my heart but it hurt me and I promised myself that no matter how much it apologized I would never forgive it for what it did… to me, to Adrian and to our golden life. It had stolen from me something that could never be replaced, and it left behind a cavity. And when the man in the white coat told me, I died in Adrian’s arms in that empty, white room. But now, I was back at the sea again. However, I didn’t give in, nor did I forgive it, so instead, it continued apologizing by singing me a soothing melody of “…ta vie est blanche, ta vie est blanche, ta vie est blanche…” to which I nodded melancholically to the rhythm and agreed whole-heartedly.

 

I shifted the Queen again, this time, four spaces forward and knocked out the pawn.

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“Checkmate”, I whispered as I looked up at the horizon with a wry smile creeping on my face. The wind whipped my face and my smile quickly vanished. My eyes widened as I saw a little boy standing there between the horizon and myself, eclipsing me of the warm view of the setting sun. We stared blankly at each other for a while as if we were exhibits for each other’s speculation.

“You can’t play chess with no pieces”, he scoffed, and immediately began to run back to his mother who was disappearing into the distance. I glanced down at the empty tabletop of the picnic table where my hands were neatly placed. Then, I looked up in the direction of the little boy.

I saw him catch up to his mother and when he reached for her hand to hold, an insatiable feeling swept over me. God, I hate kids, I thought as a tear slid down my cheek before I could even stop it.

 

Nathan Nguyen

The author Nathan Nguyen

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