's 2017 Horror Write-off:

The Boxes: Checkmate

Submitted by Sam Miller

White. Black. White. Black. I step forward through the door and end up not where I originally intended to end up.

"Hey what's the big idea! Where am I?" Looking around, I see many indistinct shapes surrounding me, looking down I see a hard stone-like tile of white. It is so so very cold, my arms covered with goosebumps and my teeth clattering almost cartoonishly. I tap the shoulder of a figure standing next to me, but the shoulder feels strangely hard.

It turns to me and I see its face for the first time. It has a long snout ending in an uncanny set of human-like teeth, like dentures but with a shiny silvery gloss to them, like if they were covered in mercury or glistening with spittle. This snout emerges from a shiny helmet, though it is obvious that it is a part of the head of the thing, long thick hairs sprouting out of the holes meant for eyes and a fleshy joint where the neck should be. I hear a gallant shout emerge from a grating on the chest of the long tubular torso.

"Greetings, oh king! I shall serve thee to the end" the long-snouted thing bows, its long cricket-esque legs bending into a strange curtsy.

"Oh uh okay... Say uhh, hey what's your name?"

"Oh, you do not know? But sir, I've been at your left hand this whole time!"

"Sorry, my uhh... my knight"

I turn back to facing forward, feeling awkward for asking such a seemingly stupid question. I place my hands upon a hard round surface in front of me, and gaze across the black and white wasteland dividing us from the opposite side. Among the figures in shadow, I see a much more colorful figure, a woman shivering in a yellow sundress. The pedestal which my hands are on moves about and I look down.

My eyes widen a bit and I slowly move my head down, seeing a little short thing, a head round and sheathed in the hard elytra of a beetle, shimmering in white and gold. Its head turns up to me, showing the most darling little face I've ever seen! Huge eyes with cute little pupils, a lovely little set of mandibles making a precious little smile. I blush a little bit and smile down at the little thing.

"Your majesty!" the cute thing's voice sounds surprised at being noticed by me.

I giggle softly and pat the cute little thing on its hard exoskeletal head, looking down and seeing a halberd held in its small chitinous claws. I hear a great loud and low bellowing and the ticking of a clock. The little cutie in front of me stands straight, their little squat conical torso unbending and their innumerable little legs underneath straightening. They crawl forward rapidly, until they reach a point when they stop and lean on their halberd, huffing and puffing.

I look up and see them. Indistinct flabby shapes looming overhead, a pair of them, with flashing green lights just beneath the roiling surface. Long spindly tendrils flap about unendingly, sometimes touching the white and black wasteland, sometimes touching the shadowed figures around me. I hear a loud piercing sound like a train engine coming from my left, followed by a loud cry.

"Forsooth! The enemy approacheth!"

A creature physically identical to the downright adorable friend I noticed earlier crawls forward, though their glistening exoskeleton is the as black as the moving things above. They come up to each other and, upon seeing each other, attempt to stab the other with their little halberds, but their aim and accuracy is, quite possibly, the worst ever, and they simply swing in random directions and completely miss the other soldier.

How precious!!

"Gah I cannot abide such tomfoolery! Away, you serfs, let me pass!" says the strange long-snouted thing beside me, trying to push them out of the way with its long barbed lance, its tip black against the white of the rest, but they do not move, so the thing bounds above them all, long cricket-like legs letting it hop high above them and landing atop the adorable enemy, its long barbed lance sliding down effortlessly through the gap in its elytra.

I hear a loud rumbling sound from above, filling up the entire atmosphere and mixing in with the loud sounds of the strange cheering from those sitting around me. The woman in the sundress across the wasteland covers her mouth in surprise. I begin to cry at seeing such a cute little critter get skewered and turned into a blue pulp under the circle of cricket legs below the knight's conical torso.

This terrible course of events continues for hours and days and weeks, or something like that, I can't really tell how long it's been with me just standing here. I see more of the adorable little foot soldiers, their big soft eyes glistening, their cute little hands clutching cute little halberds, crawl forward and swing wildly, many of them turned into a bluish pulp under the conical torsos of other things. I see squat worm-like things, with skin hard and cracked like brick, a circle of teeth protecting a cloaca and a voice-emitting grating atop their head, sliding forward and backward as if the hard tiles beneath were coated with slippery slime. I see spindly-legged engines, clutching curly and coiled staffs in their steel claws, their great tall smokestacks bellowing chants up to the things overhead, calling the both of them collectively God, which I always thought was weird since there were two of them, wouldn't they be two gods? I do not move for ages upon ages. The woman in the yellow sundress does not move for ages upon ages.

Most of the cute little foot soldiers have died, staining the tiles purple and blue with their poor poor adorable guts, my heart feeling so sad at seeing such cuties perish at the hands of worms and engines and weird horse things. The woman standing next to me clacks her gargantuan mandibles together in a loud warcry before rushing forward to bury her stinger in the soft opening between the stoney plating of an enemy worm-tower. She is the queen, a white and black wasp-like thing, her long mandibles jutting out from her many-eyed face, her thick and slimy abdomen trailing behind her, the only thing stopping her incredibly agile and strong legs from bounding about the wasteland unendingly and without barrier. She's beautiful, and deadly, an unstoppable warrior queen, but she keeps on killing those adorable pawns so I am very conflicted.

Only a few of our own foot soldiers remain, stuck in stalemates constantly swinging and slashing their little halberds at each other unendingly. The enemy queen, just as beautiful and deadly as our own, approaches me. I feel a pain in my legs and crawl to the right only a few paces. She flies toward me, her grey sagging abdomen hanging below her slick exoskeletal body, my mind racing in fear. I look up and see even more flashing green lights, even more flailing tendrils, many of them reaching down and lightly brushing my skin. I move over a few paces. My eyes flit this way and that, I would be sweating anxiously if it wasn't so cold.

I feel the pain in my legs again. I move over a few paces. She flies over to me, her immense chitinous bulk standing right next to me. I can feel her long thick hairs almost touching me, her mandibles clacking right next to my ears. My mind races and I try to move my legs. They resist. I feel the pain in my legs again. I try to move them. I feel something crawl just under my skin as one of my legs moves on its own out of the tile I stand upon. I hear a loud crack as I fall onto my butt, tumbling backwards into a wet and misty void below.

"Oh no, I hit my king off of the board!"

"Well go find it then!"

"Dang it, I can't find it, I think it's gone."

"Well, I'll go get a new one, but I won this one, just so you know."