I chose the Lost in a strange place prompt. Hope you enjoy it.
The Black Chess Board
Noel’s eyes opened on the blue-black color that a full moon reveals in a midnight sky. The dazed feeling that twenty five years of waking up prepared her for was nonexistent for whatever reason. She shook her head to clear the disorientation only to realize that she was never asleep. The angle of the all-black horizon that seemed to stretch on for miles suggested that she was standing up.
“NOEL…ARE YOU HERE AGAIN?” The booming female voice that sounded as if it came out of a NFL stadium intercom made her jump.
“Uh, am I where?” she answered. Her voice sounded normal to her, but she felt the tightening of her throat caused by the fear rushing to her heart.
“THE ARENA. THE ONE YOU MUST ESCAPE FROM. FIND THE WALL AND CLIMB. REMEMBER—DON’T STEP ON A CRACK OR YOU’LL BREAK YOUR MOTHER’S BACK. OR WORSE.”
What the fuck, she thought. I don’t know where the he—
“FOUL LANGUAGE WON’T HELP YOU, NOEL. AS ALWAYS, YOU NEED TO HURRY,” the voice interrupted.
Noel’s bladder released warm liquid down her jeans when the voice spoke up the second time. This lady is in my head, she mused.
“STANDING AROUND WON’T HELP YOU EITHER—YOU HAVE TO MOVE.”
Noel didn’t need to be told twice. Step on a crack, she remembered. I’ll break my mother’s back…or worse. She looked down to see that her feet were on top of tiles. Like she initially realized, they were tiles the color of midnight when the moon shines bright. Outlining the tiles were white lines. Not just any white, not off-white, not even the perfect looking white on a new pair of shoes, but the lines were the brightest white she had ever seen. If someone had the ability to rip it from the ground and hold next to the sun, the sun would hurt their eyes more, but the tile would give it a run for it’s money on a partly cloudy day. Don’t step on a crack, or it might burn me alive, she thought. The idea alone weakened her knees. She took her first step.
The first step seemed shaky when her foot hung mid-way in the air, but it made its home squarely in the center of the 1.5 x 1.5 square of blue-black tile.
“GOOD,” the voice spoke up again. “VERY GOOD. HOWEVER, YOU HAVE A LONG WAY TO GO…YOU BETTER GET MOVING.”
Noel did as she was told. Her first few steps were slow and calculated, but after she felt comfortable, she broke out into a fast jog. As far as the eye could see, she saw nothing but blue-black tiles all around her with white light protruding out of the cracks. The horizon was solid and unchanging.
Sweat beaded on her forehead after a few minutes of running. Based on her half-marathon experience, Noel estimated that she’d traveled around a half a mile. A loud crashing sound that wasn’t a voice this time, broke Noel out of her rhythm. She slowed to a stop and watched the dark tiles rocket above the black horizon about a football field’s distance in front of her. Bright red handholds shined on the dark blue surface.
The wall, she thought. She broke out into a sprint toward what she hoped would be salvation.
Not focusing on the ‘step on a crack’ rule, Noel’s third step landed squarely on one of the cracks filled with white light. At once, all of the light went out of the cracks in the tiles.
“YOUR MOTHER’S BACK HAS BEEN BROKEN, NOEL,” the booming voice added as if she didn’t already know. “THERE’S NOT MUCH TIME. YOU BETTER GET MOVING, NOW!”
Before following the voice’s command, she ventured another look back. In what she assumed was the exact spot her foot hit the light, the white substance flowed out like lava. It was then she realized that it, in fact, wasn’t light. Whatever the substance was, she didn’t want to stick around to find out. She took off sprinting toward the wall of tile with the red handholds. It was the only direction she could go in—the red was the only light left in the dark maze.
She climbed up the steep wall. A few times she looked back to see what the loud crashing was behind her. Not behind me, underneath me, she thought. The white lava-like substance crashed into the wall like waves of light. Every successive crash was louder and closer to her. She climbed like the devil was chasing her—for all she knew, he was.
When her hand first tried to grip the top of the wall, it slipped off as if its surface was coated with oil. She thought she’d fall into the abyss until a green handhold sprung up in front of her before she lost her balance. She grabbed the glowing green handhold and pulled her way to the top.
“THERE SWEETHEART. AGAIN, I HAD TO HELP YOU. TEAMWORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK, LOVE.” Loud cackles of laughter followed the thunderous voice.
Noel took inventory of the land in front of her. Again, she saw the blue-black tiles with white light coming from the cracks.
She felt disoriented, having no clue where she was.
“FIND THE WALL AND CLIMB. REMEMBER—DON’T STEP ON A CRACK OR YOU’LL BREAK YOUR MOTHER’S BACK.”
“So what’s wrong with this one?” the Doctor asked. He leaned in closer to the window on the white door. He peered in on the woman sitting on her bed, the only object in the room, with a straight jacket wrapped around her.
“She seems to be in her own world—stuck there for ten years now. About once every ten minutes or so, she screams, ‘don’t step on a crack or you’ll break your mother’s back,’ and, ‘teamwork makes the dream work’.”
“Jesus,” the doctor said. He scribbled into his notebook and continued down the hallway.