March flash fiction - tournament by Carin Marais
Jeremy looked at the table standing on the beach. It was quite a pleasant day, or should have been if the sky was blue, but here it took on a grey tinge to his eyes. The table was bare, its two chairs having inappropriate frilly cushions on them. He realized it was the same cushions as those his grandmother had had in her kitchen. The cushions were tinted in grey as well, as if the pinks and greens had washed out of them leaving only their shadows. He looked behind him. The palms forming a distinct line between sand and forest looked like it was taken from a holiday catalogue. The salt water clear, yet grey. He heard a voice next to him. "Choose a game," it said. The figure was dressed in black – the only pure black he could see anywhere. His mind raced.
"Trivial Pursuit – no," he stopped himself. He would not know the answers. He thought and thought. Chess? Checkers? Poker? Bridge, for goodness' sake?
"Choose, human, or I will choose for you." The voice was louder this time, impatient. He tried not to look at the scythe it held in one grey, bloodless hand. "You wanted to play, so let us play."
Jeremy swallowed hard. "Dice, we will play at dice."
Two dice appeared in his clenched hand. When he opened his fist, he saw one was of the purest white, the other pure black. When he looked up the figure was already seated at the table.
"Come," it said, cracking its fingers. "Time for a game."
Jeremy took a deep breath, smelling the salt in the air and walked to the table, placing the dice in the centre before lowering himself into the chair.
"You first. Highest out of three wins."
Jeremy took the dice, shook them in his hand and let them fall. Two sixes. He let out a breath. So far so good. The figure did the same. It landed. Two ones. It was Jeremy's turn again. He threw. Two and three. The figure threw. Two sixes. Jeremy threw. Four and one. The figure threw. Two sixes.
"Well then," it said. "Come along."
"Wait." Another hand picked up the dice. "Best one out of one," he said. The figure took the dice, threw. Two sixes. "He's still mine." The other figure threw. It landed. Two sevens. "He is mine," the voice boomed as colour returned to the world.
"No!" Jeremy sat up in bed, sweating. Beside him stood his stunned seven year-old brother. "Play with me?" Jeremy rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. "Play what?"
"Dice!" the boy said, showing the dice lying on his sticky palm.