Estimated reading time — 10 minutes
The audience laughed as the young man in the top hat smiled. The trick he had just completed had apparently been more than enough to please the crowd. As the man slowly walked away from the almost blindly bright spotlight, he kept his face focused on the crowd, continuing to smile.
He attempted to focus on specific members, one being a teenager who appeared to be recording the whole thing on his phone, another being a pretty blond girl with particularly lovely blue eyes. Tom realized that this wasn’t helping when he almost tripped on his own feet, and he went back to just smiling and focusing his effort on leaving the stage.
After a few moments, the magician was out of the audience’s sight.
Immediately, he stopped grinning and went to his nearby dressing room.
Once the magician had opened the door, he ducked under the doorway and walked inside the cramped room. Closing the door, he finally let out a sigh. After years of doing the same acts, it was finally starting to tire him out. At this point, he collapsed against the door and sat down for several minutes, thinking.
His thoughts were interrupted by a knocking at the door.
“Mr. Olzvick, do you mind if I speak with you for a sec? I promise it won’t take very long.” It was clearly the voice of a young man. He seemed to be rather impatient, for he said his words very quickly.
Mr. Olzvick, being a bit startled by this person, quickly retorted, “What do ya want, autographs? Interviews?”
“Not quite, Mr. Olzvick. I have a letter for you, and it is kind of important. I’m supposed to deliver it to you face to face, so can you open up the door, Mr. Olzvick?”
He had received letters before, but something about the way the man worded the sentence gave Mr. Olzvick an uncomfortable feeling. Why would a letter need to be delivered “face to face”? Shrugging it off as just odd phrasing, Mr. Olzvick sighed and opened the door.
In front of him was a young man in a clean suit and with a slicked back haircut. With that hair, he looked a bit like an even skinnier version of Elvis in the fifties.
“I’m busy, kid, so just hand me the letter so I can get back to work,” the magician grumbled.
“Just call me Tom.”
“Well then, Tom, you were just sitting against the door, staring off in deep thought. I wouldn’t really classify that as ‘work’.”
“Just give me the damn letter,” Tom said, getting impatient.
”Alright, fine. I wish you good luck and goodbye, Mr. Tom Olzvick,” the man stated, and with that, he strolled off.
As the man walked off, Tom suddenly realized how peculiar that conversation was. How did the man know that he was leaning against the door? Why did he wish him “good luck”?
“Maybe this letter can explain something…” Tom muttered to himself, eyeing the letter.
The writing on the front of it was very neat, and there was no stamp or address. The writing stated, “Stop examining and open the letter.”
Finding it odd that the letter would know of his actions as he was doing them, Tom started to feel uneasy. He flipped to the back of the letter to find more neat writing, stating, “You are a bit slow. Care to be a bit faster?”
Tom was now incredibly skeptical as to what was going on. Being unable to put aside his curiosity, Tom ripped open the letter.
Inside was a very neatly folded piece of paper. Unfolding it quickly, Tom began to read the handwritten note.
“Hello, Mr. Tom Olzvick.
I can understand that you are confused, but please put that aside for now. There are more important matters at hand.
Since you have opened this letter, you have just began a bit of a… game. I certainly view it as a game. After all, games are fun, aren’t they?
The ultimate objective of the game is very simple: Winning, by any means possible. Losing the game will result in… well, you’ll see if you lose. Trust when I say that this is a grand chess game. This letter was the first move.
Time for you to make the next one.
Tom stood in complete shock.
“Game? What the hell is this?” Tom said aloud, kind of hoping for some sort of hint at what was happening to him.
Looking down at the letter, Tom realized that there was some writing on the back. Tom was unsure if he wanted to flip it over, but he was also rather… exhilarated. Finally, he was doing something different and new, rather than performing the same tricks day after day, show after show. Tom liked the feeling, and he didn’t want to see it go to waste.
He flipped over the letter. On the back was two sentences:
“I knew you couldn’t resist. Make your chess move and let’s begin.”
At this point, Tom was starting to get over the shock of the paper knowing what he was saying before he even started saying it. Tom flipped to the front and took out a pen. “E4” had to be chess notation.
Tom carefully wrote, “D5”.
Tom sat down and waited impatiently. Something would happen in time. Within a minute, there was a knock at the door. Tom went to the door with excitement and opened the door. However, the setting was completely different.
On the other side of the door was a completely white tiled room. In the center were polished black chairs and a table. On the table was a chessboard, with the pieces already set up. Sitting in one of the chairs was a person that he couldn’t quite make out.
Tom couldn’t even believe what he was seeing. The cramped backstage had been replaced with this odd, bright room. Tom shut the door and opened it again, thinking that his eyes might have just been fooling him. Opening the door again, the room was still there in the exact same condition.
Tom walked in slowly, closing the door behind him, getting closer to the man and the table. As he got closer, he noticed the man had a very thin beard, a very smooth face, and green, piercing eyes.
“Funny, he looks a bit like…” Tom started to say before he realized something. The man was him.
Tom’s eyes widened as he stared in shock.
The man had all the same physical features as Tom, as well as the exact same outfit.
“So… shall we play?” The duplicate said, grinning as he stood up and pulled out a chair for Tom.
“Go ahead and call me whatever you like. Is Daburu okay? I’ve always liked that one.”
Tom still was still dumbfounded by this replica of himself. Tom looked behind him and noticed that there was no longer a door. Sitting down, he decided that he had to know what was going on.
“W-What are you?” Tom asked.
“What do you think? I’m you.”
“But h-how is that possible?”
“Have you ever considered that you always had a double that knew all your thoughts? One that knew every single thing you were going to do, and every single thing that you have done? We can keep talking, but first I’ll make my move. Pawn to F3.”
The pawn moved forward by itself. Tom began to speak again.
“Alright then. But if you know every move that I am going to make, then how can I win?”
“That is for you to figure out. Go ahead and try.”
Tom said nothing.
“Hello, Tom? Daburu speaking, you have been taking a bit too long to make your move. Go on.”
Tom sighed and began to play once more.
“Knight to C6.”
Tom watched as his knight moved to the correct spot.
“Excellent! Knight to C3.”
Tom started processing his possible options as Daburu sat there.
“You’re going to say F1, Tom.”
“As a matter of fact, I’m going to say-“
“Pawn to F5.”
Tom realized just how difficult this challenge would be.
“P-Pawn to F5,” Tom stuttered quietly.
“Pawn to G4.”
Tom thought about distracting him with conversation.
“So, how were you forme-“
“I’m not listening.”
“But you know my thought-“
“I’m ignoring any thoughts that have nothing to do with the chess game. Go on, please.”
“What if I don’t?”
“Well, you can’t exactly leave, as you noticed that there really isn’t a door anymore.”
Sighing, Tom opened his mouth and said, “Pawn to E4.”
“I say Pawn to E4 as well.”
“B-“ Tom’s next move was interrupted by a scream of frustration from Daburu.
“This is just so… boring!”
“What? I’m playing the game.”
“Well, this game sucks. It always took so long and there was nothing to occupy the player as they did it. So, let’s spice it up, shall we?” Daburu said. He snapped his fingers and the chess board fell through the floor. The room collapsed around him as the ceiling flew away above Tom.
Tom still thought this was very strange, but he was starting to get used to the oddness.
The rest of the room continued to be deconstructed as the chairs simply disintegrated. Tom stood up as Daburu stood up as well, laughing hysterically.
“God, you’re going to love this. Now, make your move.”
“How am I supposed to do this without the board?”
“Memory, obviously. My memory is only as good as yours is, so this should be fun.”
The room had finally disappeared to reveal where they actually were. They were on the top of a moving train, chugging along a mountainside. Daburu laughed even harder as he saw Tom’s expression. “Come on, then! Make your move!”
“Uh… Pawn to G4?”
“Lovely. Knight to D5.”
The train was accelerating as they spoke. Tom knew that if he stayed on this train much longer, he would surely die.
Tom started to run to the sides of the train when he collapsed, head sticking off the right side of the train. Below was an incredibly huge drop that he knew he would not be able to survive.
“How many times do we have to keep doing this, Tom? Make. Your. Move.”
“Pawn to A… 5.”
Daburu pulled Tom back up to his feet, smiling.
“Pawn to D3.”
Tom was finally starting to get fed up.
“Just leave me alone. I’m just a magician that wants to live his life, not deal with this bullshit.”
“Oh, but I thought you were tired of being a magician? Doing the same tricks, over and over? Doing all those rabbit things as the audience laughs at how pathetic your act is?”
Tom got incredibly angry, very quickly.
“People love my acts.”
“Love for how hilariously terrible they are. Have you ever noticed all that laughter the audience has? Have you ever done a quick internet search of your name? Look it up, and you see video such as, ‘Magic Fails’, ‘Worst Magic Trick Ever’, and, my personal favorite, ‘Tom Olzvick: The Magical F**k-Up.’”
“SHUT THE HELL UP!” Tom was absolutely teeming with rage and anger. One more comment, and that would push him over the line.
“’Hey, guess what, Tom? I think you’ve made another f**k-up. This one might be quite magical as well.”
That one set Tom off.
Tom charged straight ahead for Daburu, yelling and swearing the whole time. Daburu waved his attack off, laughing.
“You’ve been so caught up in this that you haven’t even realized that this train is about to drive off a cliff. See you later, f**k-up!”
As Daburu jumped off the train, Tom felt as the train went off of the ground and started diving into the abyss below. Tom fell over and started falling down into the area, dropping faster and faster with every second.
Tom watched as his body impacted the ground. He heard his bones shattering, before finally hearing nothing.
Tom woke up in his bed to a knock on his bedroom door.
Yawning, Tom ignored the nightmare he had just had and asked, “Who is it?”
Tom smiled as he opened the door and let his wife through the door. She looked lovely with her luscious blonde hair. She had already prepared breakfast for him.
“So, how was the show last night?”
“I-It went well. The audience seemed to enjoy it quite a bit.”
Suddenly, Tom realized something.
He didn’t have a wife.
“They probably loved all of the mistakes you made. I expect the next part of that epic video saga, ‘Tom Olzvick: The Magical F**k-Up’, to continue quite soon.”
Tom watched in horror as Lisa’s face started to fall apart, her blue eyes falling out, and her skin tearing off to reveal her organs, completely changing and mutating into different shapes and sizes. Blood leaked out from everywhere, and Tom couldn’t bare to watch it.
Finally, Tom looked back and saw the skin reforming into the old familiar face it was. His face.
“So, she was one of your audience members. I noticed how you thought she was pretty, so I figured she would have been the best choice.”
Daburu grinned immediately after stating that. Tom, still horrified at what he had just witnessed, stared in disgust and awe.
“Oh, don’t keep doing that. We have a game to finish, after all. This time, I’ll even give you the board back.”
Tom’s bedroom quickly fell apart to change back into the white tiled room with the black table and chairs. However, this time, something was different. There was a noose hanging off to the side of the table.
“W-What is with that?”
“Oh, it is very simple. You considered this a dream previously, but it is rather obvious that this is just the breakdown of your mental psyche.”
“Come on, the stress and the boredom of your magic routines was getting to you, and you know it. I knew you were this great big waste of a magician because you already knew that yourself. You just kept avoiding it and suppressed the memory, trying as hard as you could to forget.”
“So? Pawn to H5.”
“Oh, so you’re playing again, are you? Alright, let’s do this then. Bishop to G5.” Daburu sat back down in the chair as the bishop moved across the board. Tom uneasily sat back down as well.
“Answer my question. What are you trying to say? Pawn to E6.”
“Well, you reached the breaking point. Your mind, deteriorating faster and faster, is hallucinating left and right. So, when you fell off that train and passed out, feeling incredible pain, you probably just wandered off and fell down a flight of stairs. Bishop to D8.”
“N-No, I was there. The train-“
“Tom, look at me. I am you. Exactly you. I know everything you know. How could I possibly exist?”
Tom said nothing and held his head down.
“Your reality is breaking down because you are accepting your inevitable fate. Your own suicide. What do you say to that, Mr. Olzvick?”
Tom slowly lifted up his head, took a look at Daburu, and decided what he needed to do.
“King to D8.”
Daburu sat in silence as the king moved.
“Knight to F4.”
The noose appeared to be getting closer.
“Bishop to H3.”
“Pawn to H3.”
“Queen to G4.”
The noose was now almost touching the table.
“Pawn to E5.”
“Queen to G5. You’re in check, Tom.”
Tom suddenly stood up on the chair and looked beside him. The noose was right there in front of his face.
“I will win this. I have to. King to D7.”
“I’m sorry, but you were fated to lose from the start. You did it to yourself, Tom.”
“Pawn to D4.”
“Knight to D4.”
“In four moves, I will win. Queen to E5.”
Tom lifted his hands up to the noose.
“Knight to F3.”
“Queen to E6. Check.” Daburu looked straight at him, not with a grin, but with a grimace.
Tom sighed heavily. He knew that this was his last move. Nothing he did would get him to win. Putting the hole around his neck, Tom closed his eyes.
“King to D8.”
“Rook to D4. Checkmate.”
Tom stepped off of his chair.
As he breathed his final breath, he heard Daburu say one final sentence.
“This was the grand chess game of your life, and that game… is over.”
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