The fire burned as an uncontrollable inferno, with raging tongues of flame flying and jumping; leaping on top of each other in order to touch the roof of the fireplace, before falling back to the source and dying. Only to be reincarnated in the red heat of the furnace, and fight their way up again.
“Shall we begin?”
Locus continued gazing into the fire. It appeared to be a furious beast; a red monster, enraged at its’ imprisonment in a prison that would – if not for the rage it revelled in – be stone cold. Its’ murderous eyes locked their focus straight on those of Locus. Locus’ eyes reflected the flames; the fire flickering and mixing with his thoughts.
“You can spend your whole life getting ready”
Locus blinked and casually drew his face away from the fireplace, turning his head back to its’ natural, more comfortable position. The figure sitting opposite was barely visible in the firelight. The outline of a body sinking back in a chair could be discerned, and Locus could just make out half a smile curling at the edge of this strange person’s lips. Locus could see his own eyes reflected in those of the figure; revealing that the firelight continued to reside in them, despite his having turned away from the flames.
The half-smile adorning the shadowy face parted as it spoke for the third time.
“Still seeing red?”
Locus tilted his head and smiled back.
“Still seeing red.”
The fire – despite its’ intensity – was nearly silent, and while it burned bright, pouring out more light than the sun, the room remained shrouded in shadows. Shadows that extended further and further into the distance, slowly approaching pitch black before finally melting into pure darkness. And in turn, this darkness ran back, flowing and folding in on itself, becoming more and more incomprehensibly obfuscated until it had transformed into an absolute void. The little light the fire cast into the room was an oasis of warmth in a desert of darkness; an island of illumination in an ocean of shadow.
This flickering firelight revealed a strange scene. Two large armchairs were arranged before the fire. Their size would be reason enough to call them thrones, but there was a distinct modesty in how they had been built. Locus sat in one chair; facing the cryptic person who occupied the other.
Placed between them was an unremarkable square table: Wooden, with four rounded legs, one for each corner. Its’ surface had been raised to knee height. In the middle of this table was a chess board; the pieces arranged and waiting. They were all undefined in the low light, and both the little armies appeared to be of the same colour.
The only other object occupying the table was an unlit candle – placed on the side of the chessboard furthest from the fireplace.
The mysterious man’s mouth morphed from a smile to a void as dark as the room they were sitting in as he spoke once again.
“It’s been a long time Locus.”
Locus’ face projected an expression of amusement over the chess board. “What is time?”
He looked out at the void, gesturing with his arms and hands toward the darkness. “What place does time take in a place like this? In here, there is no time.”
His companion chuckled and shook his head.
“Oh if only you knew…”
There was a brief pause, and for a moment only the quietly flickering fire could be heard. The shadowy figure leaned back in his chair, his face fading further into the shadows.
“Do you know who I am?”
“Does anyone?” Locus thought to himself. “Many people have devoted their lives to understanding eternity. You are the only one to succeed”
“God?” guessed Locus. “Who else could you be? Why else would I see what I see in that fire?”
“I suppose you could put it like that” Spoke the shadows. “But you know the real answer”
“No, I don’t really know who you are any more. I don’t know if I ever did”
Two eyes briefly shone through the darkness, glinting and glittering like stars before quickly fading away.
“Do you remember my name?”
The man leaned forward in his chair and for the first time was fully visible in the glow of the firelight. He wore a caring smile that told of pure trust and honesty, but his eyes remained unfathomable.
“I know those eyes…” Locus frowned.
The man – still smiling – nodded. “Well, that’s a start”
The candle on the table suddenly ignited: Throwing light upon the chess board and dramatically increasing the contrast between the illumination and the shadows.
Crossing his arms, Aeternitatis leaned back and nodded at the chessboard. Locus followed the gesture and looked down, examining the chess pieces in the light. The side closest to him was red, the side closest to Aeternitatis, white.
“Shall we begin?” asked Aeternitatis once again.
“Of course” said Locus. “Your move”
Aeternitatis extended his arm forward, and made the move a million chess masters swear by; the same stereotypical move that opens every game of chess. The white pawn before the white king, moved two spaces forward.
Locus glanced at his opponent. Aeternitatis was sitting back in his chair again, his eyes sparkling above a familiar half smile.
“I know what you’re thinking.” thought Locus. He had to meet the white pawn with a red one. Accept the invitation. Make the standard response.
His face was expressionless as he brought his hand down to the chess board, and moved a red pawn two spaces forward.
Aeternitatis tilted his head to the side slightly and gazed at Locus in amusement.
“You did always like to defy convention”
Locus smiled silently in response and turned his attention to the candle.
The candle didn’t flicker like the fireplace. It burned steadily, inflating a sphere of soft light like a balloon, filling the room with warmth. There was something magical about it. He saw the image of a woman reflected in the flame.
She was sitting on the bed, her slender legs dangling over the side, her skin appearing as soft as the light. The red glow of the candle was just bright enough to reveal the bed, her beautiful body, and her long, wonderful hair.
He stepped into the light and stood there, looking towards her with eyes full of care, compassion and Love. She hadn’t noticed him yet.
“I need to know how you’re going before you’ve gone you know”
Her face lit up as she realised who it was.
Alex Herlihy – 2010 (Unfinished and slighty edited)