The Chessmaster slumped in disbelief. “I’ve been beaten,” he whispered. He stood up, staring blankly, and removed his cloak. Underneath the imposing outer garment was a shrivelled pink body. A fleece of white hair, like candy floss, sprouted from his drooping chest and round pot belly, and two long knee surgery scars marked his feeble legs. His only undergarment was an old pair of white briefs. He shuffled over to the wall and laid down in the foetal position.
“What are you doing?” asked Victor.
The Chessmaster began to shrink and harden like jerky. In a matter of seconds he devolved into a lump of charcoal the size of Victor’s fist. A shining pebble appeared on the throne.
“All right,” said Victor, “here we go.”
The pebble grew and brightened, and then flashed, filling the cave with white light. Victor felt as though flung from a giant catapult. Wind rushed about him… then slowed… and stilled. New surroundings came into view: trees, a green hill, yellow flowers. The warm sun shone on his face; birds chirped. Victor found himself riding a bicycle with long looping handlebars. He was riding on a path up the hill, but felt as though gliding gently downhill. Riding beside him was Brigitte Bardot in a blue summer dress, with a daisy chain around her hair. She kept telling him how good he was at pinball, much better than Tim Nealy. At the top of the hill, Victor and Brigitte dismounted their bikes and walked to the edge of cliff; raging waves battered jagged rocks a hundred metres below. She kissed Victor on the cheek, and he strode over to a tall wooden pole from which a zip line extended out over the sea. He saluted Brigitte, took hold of the zip line’s handle, and launched himself from the cliff. The trolley wheels whirred along the cable as he descended, speeding over hundreds of metres of ocean. The salt air swirled and tickled his dangling bare feet. Waves swelled beneath him, and a five-storey tsunami rose up ahead—yet Victor was calm: all fear was quelled by the orchestral intro of the James Bond theme. The all-destroying wave approached; a luxury speedboat piloted by a bikini-clad model raced in beneath Victor; the iconic 007 guitar riff kicked in. Victor released the zip line handle, stuck a ten point landing in the speedboat and took the wheel. The engine growled as he turned the vessel away from the wave just in time and sped off with the wind in his hair.
The whole delightful adventure occurred in an instant, and then Victor was back in the cave—although it was no longer a cave. The stone walls, the throne, the stool, the stalagmite table, the chess pieces, the scythe—the whole lot was gone. Mouldy white walls stretched the narrow, rectangular space, lined with shelves and old plastic tubs. A dusty black grate on the back wall housed a small refrigeration fan. On the ground lay a crusty green stick that had long ago been a chicken leg, and a blue and white lollipop.
Victor took a brief look around and the left the room, shutting the heavy door behind him. “Chessmaster,” he said with a smile. “Ha. That one was kinda fun.” He checked his watch. “Hmm. Might make it an early lunch. Don’t know how long the next room’s going to take. Wonder what the Spam is like today.” He left through the saloon doors, passed back through the ballroom, and entered the hall.
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