SURREAL CHESS
Bruce Boston





Tarashan astounds the spectators with an aggressive hypermodern opening of her own invention. She releases three companies of foot soldiers across the glacial moraine. Horovitz's response is no less unconventional. He advances his panther to the king wolf's forest and fianchettos his hetaera.

"Chess is a game of beautiful and horrible complications," states honorable Grand Master Tyro Suzuki. "Surreal chess is a game of dream complications." (free translation)
Nearly half of Tarashan's forces perish in harsh mountain storms. The remainder suffer severe frostbite. Those who survive the arduous and bone-chilling trek emerge along the perimeter of the coast ensconced in enemy territory.

Horovitz has little choice. He must conscript the fisherman of Port Ligat to defend his eastern flank. Ignorant peasants to a man, they advance against a heavily armed foe with nothing but their tridents and nets. Yet these poor fisher folk are only sacrificial bait, a delaying tactic. Not far behind come the elephants on stilts, ungainly creatures brocaded in heavy satin with gouts of flame spouting from their trunks and columns of smoke twirling upward from the hidden cavities of their ears. Even when such mammoth beasts perish, and they do so by the score, they leave swaths of indescribable destruction in their toppling wakes.

"The Dictionary of Surreal Chess exists in two mediums and versions:  hypnagogic and full REM," venerable Grand Master Tyro Suzuki informs us. "The inadequate and contradictory rules in either edition are of little value. Chimerical tales relating many of the incidents and notable matches in the history of the game abound in the pages of both volumes. There is no basis in fact for any of these entries, yet they carry a ring of truth that few can contest." (free translation)
The players, curled fetally in their chairs, settle down to a middle game of entrenched warfare, lobbing elaborate epithets and ultimatums, few of which reach their marks. They pound each other with compulsive images and incendiary nightmares. The proportions and perspectives of the board begin to evolve at a frightening pace. This is a terrain that can sprout the benign and knowing face of a goddess and young boys in sailor suits, a geology that contains a series of flexible mirages passing through undeclared dimensions.
"If the board did not keep changing," states often esteemed and rarely reviled Grand Master Tyro Suzuki, "it would not be surreal chess, only a pale imitation for those who cannot sleep." (free translation)
While seemingly bemoaning the slaughter on the eastern front, Tarashan counters in the midland plain with a pack of bloodhounds inhabiting the forms of itinerant preachers. The double entendre escapes no one fully conversant with the literature of pain.

Evacuating churches and citadels, barricading public utilities, Horovitz interposes a division of hallucinogenic toreadors. They appear to be no more than sensitive dandies in their tight red pants and velvet hats, yet they prove a ferocious lot once their blades are drawn. Fatalities transpire at an uncanny rate. The outcome is virtual obliteration for Tarashan's would-be Inquisition.

"You understand nothing of the game! Nothing whatsoever!" enraged Grand Master Tyro Suzuki screams to his bewildered students, many of whom have forgotten to remove their sandals. (substantiated anecdote)
Tarashan places her hands across her face and lets her hair hang down in plaited rows. Her body shivers with a sensation hard to distinguish from a clinically perfect orgasm. Horovitz, enthralled by his own genius, lounges back in his chair with careless strength. He lights a long black torpedo-shaped cigar. But alas, despite all pretensions to the contrary, it is nothing more than a cigar.

Suddenly the flies are everywhere, dark iridescent dots that settle on corpses and corpses-to-be like a species bred for the occasion. Once they have feasted, they clean their hairy bodies with great diligence. Somewhere in the woods a unicorn screeches its terror, a high-pitched keening that causes the other pieces, the players and spectators, to turn their heads as one.

Rising up from his narrow bed with one gnarled finger raised in crooked admonition, speaking in a heavily accented yet grammatically perfect English, Grand Master Tyro Suzuki declares: "It is more a question of metaphysics than physics, more pataphysics than meta, the psyche of the human animal in its rank and file absurdity."
The end game is upon them before they know it. The pieces lie scattered like symbols across the board, their intent and possibilities so open to various interpretation that both players are left reeling with the implications. Horovitz's cigar is a withered stump, sputtering in its own ash. He utters the first words spoken aloud at the match. Like most sentences carried from the depths of slumber to the land of the waking, its meaning is unintelligible to all but the speaker. Tarashan's only response is to glance up and lean back in her chair. The flesh of her aging yet still handsome features recedes to reveal the skeletectonics beneath.

The survivors, heroes and heroines alike, gather at the base of an irregular and top-heavy monument that ignores gravity. The heat of the unrelenting sky beats down upon them. Bleeding from many wounds, some self-inflicted for effect, they pray for the anodyne of rain. And the clouds gather and the rains come down, though they are not composed of water. Assorted distorted objects pellet like hail: howling portmanteaus, pale lavender sachets of a bleak persuasion, proleptic reason stretched upon a rack, the ruins of a petrified railway station, huge metal insects with articulated limbs and fried eggs for saddles.

The puddled mass of the clock begins to reform one molten droplet at a time. Light insinuates itself beneath the curtains and dimples their folds with gray. The game is recessed to begin again in another night's play. The board folds upon itself with a thunderous clap. The spectators dissolve. There are no winners or losers here. Only conscious convention about to cut the cord of sleep at its navel.

With a vigor that belies the wages of visionary excess, retired Grand Master Tyro Suzuki tends his ornamental garden in the unceremonious dawn. "Believe me," he croons to the stunted trees and the nodding buds of the flowers, "I mean you no harm." (free translation)


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