STALEMATE
by TIM SCOTT

Ever feel trapped?

     Martin felt as though he were a sponge which had just been wrung dry so very thoroughly that there was not a drop of moisture left. He looked at the watch on his wrist, seeing there the time: 5:01 pm. The chess game had lasted seven hours and forty-eight minutes.

     He had never experienced a game so draining, but then again, he had never played a computer before. His home in Portland, Maine had belonged to the computer designer and mogul, Ron Reinhold, who had made himself a multi-billionaire by the age of thirty, and had been found dead in his home, that very home, woefully young. The death made headline news around the world, a stupid accident of some kind. Reinhold had been electrocuted in the home’s basement laundry room, one hand still lying inside the dryer, whilst the body to which this hand had been attached lay lifeless on the tiled floor. No one was quite sure of how the electrocution had taken place.

     The home was effectively run by a computer system which could do everything from turn appliances on and off at pre-set times to regular computer functions at a number of terminals and consoles throughout the house. The computer oversaw the security and the communications systems. It was also the computer against which Martin, a pro chess champion, had played chess. Various games throughout the house were set up to interact with the computer. Reinhold had beat the computer, but it had taken him a very long time to do it. The computer must have been used to playing Reinhold, but he was not a grand master. Martin was. Though Reinhold had talked in an interview of beating the computer at chess, after playing the computer, Martin was certain that that must have happened only once. Even he, Martin, did not think that he could beat the system a second time.

     Martin started barefooted across the black and white tile flooring of the kitchen in order to get himself something to eat. When he stepped from the black square of tiling at the kitchen doorway onto a white square, he received an electric jolt—not enough to hurt, but enough to let him know that there was some kind of electrical current underneath the floor.

     A second attempt at moving forwards across the kitchen floor met with a second, more painful shock.

     It was by accident that he stumbled onto a black square diagonally adjacent to the one on which he had started. He  received no shock.

     He might not have been a pawn to the computer system, he realized, but he was a bishop.

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