Randomlifer – Chapter 4 – by lostandwhatever

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Continued from Chapter 3.

It had been years since I last seriously played in a playground. Being back in one felt odd. First of all, things seemed huge again. (Yes, I know that’s getting to be an obvious observation.) A little slide, for example, was an epic thrill ride at my size. Then, there were the other kids. I soon realized I was on the younger side of the ages of kids there. It was demoralizing seeing that the babies and toddlers were about the same size as me. It was intimidating seeing a 6-year-old girl as physically superior to me. It was even worse realizing that a 10-year-old boy was essentially an ogre now. I stayed close to Mom. At least I knew she would protect me from any of the other big kids there. As I followed her around and let her lift me up onto slides and climbing nets, I realized how warped my perception of the world was becoming. To me, a boy who had only just learned to read could be considered a “big kid.” The adults were another species entirely, like elephants, just wandering around, possessing silent power and size. They regarded us in an unconcerned but watchful manner, certain of their superiority in every way. Meanwhile, we kids played around in our own little world, quietly aware that we had no real power. How had I forgotten how this felt? I had only been a teenager for a few years, and yet childhood seemed like a foreign country to me again. It felt something like culture shock being dropped back so suddenly into this role. It was at that point that I decided I needed to assert my maturity again somehow.

As I ate my picnic lunch, a soggy peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I scanned around the park. Then, I saw an opportunity sitting by a table in the shade, and a plan formed in my head. If this works, I thought. I might just be able to get Mom on my side.

“Mom,” I said and pulled her hand. “I want to see the chess games.”

“Okay,” she said. “Let’s go look.”

I dragged her over to an old man sitting alone at a chess table next to a few other pairs of men playing games. He had not yet set up his pieces for a new game since he had just sat down. I climbed up on the chair opposite him.

“Alex,” Mom said. “Let’s not bother the nice man.”

He smiled through his white beard. “Oh, it’s alright,” he said. “No harm in being curious.”

I kneeled on the chair, crossed my arms in front of me on the table, and looked him in the eye. “I want to make a bet with you,” I said to the old man.

“A million dollars?” the old man asked.

I ignored his joke. “I bet you that I can name all of the chess pieces.”

“Okay,” he said, amused by my assertiveness. “And, what do you win if you can?”

“I win one game of chess at this table with my mom.”

The old man looked at my mom. She shrugged in tacit approval. He smiled again at me and held out his hand. “Deal,” he said. I stood up on the chair and shook his hand across the table, which was quite a reach.

He placed all of his pieces in a pile in the middle of the board. Then, he held up one piece to start the quiz as I kneeled back down again. “What is this one?”

“A pawn,” I replied

“Very good,” he said. He set the pawn down and picked up another piece. “And, this one?”

“A knight.”

The old man nodded and pointed at another one. “And this one? With the tower?”

“A rook.”

“Not a ‘castle’?”

“A rook,” I repeated confidently.

He smiled again. “Very good,” he said. “You know your stuff.”

I started pointing at the pieces one by one. “Pawn, knight, bishop, rook, queen, and king.”

He laughed. “I think you won the bet… Alex, was it? Well done. I’ll see if I can find my own game while you and your mom have fun here.” He stood up and said to my mom, “That was really impressive for a boy his age. Did you teach him to play?”

“No,” she said a bit surprised.

“His father, then?”

“No,” she said. “I’ve never even seen him near a chess board.”

“Well,” he said. “It’s never too early to start. Good luck.” Then, he walked off to another table.

Mom sat down across from me. “Where did you learn about chess?” she asked me.

“There’s a chess club in high school,” I explained as I started setting up the black pieces in front of me. “Some of my friends were members, and they got me to join up. I learned how to play there. You and Dad were really impressed that I had such a smart hobby.”

She looked at me dumbfounded. I smirked. It was working.

“I mean, shit, you probably were just happy I wasn’t smoking weed or jerking off all day.”

“What?” she said, aghast.

“Sorry. Sorry,” I said as I finished setting up. “That was rude, especially since you’re my mom. I’ll watch my language. No more profanity or inappropriate topics for a little preschooler like me.”

Her mouth hung open.

“Are you starting to believe that I’m really a teenager?”

“I don’t know what I’m believing right now,” she said as she started to place her white pieces. “But, I’m a bit curious about where you learned some of those words, which you are definitely not allowed to use again… ever. Did you hear them on TV?”

“I heard them from a lot of places. Teenagers do have potty mouths, you know.”

“What teenagers?” she asked.

“The ones in my class.”

She did not comment on that statement.

“You got it wrong,” I said when she had finished setting her side up.

“What?” she said. “I did the same thing you did.”

“‘The queen gets her color,’” I explained to her patiently. “You need to swap the king and queen on your side.”

She did and eyed me suspiciously. “I haven’t played in years,” she said. “Probably not since you were born. I don’t even know if we own a chess set.”

“Interesting, huh?” I said. “How could this be possible? How could a little boy like me know anything about chess? Maybe something impossible is going on.”

“Just start the game,” she said. I could see the denial on her face.

“It’s your move,” I replied. “White goes first.”

She pushed a pawn forward. I knew that opening and countered. Several more moves went by in silence. I could tell that she was distracted, trying to figure out what was really going on with me. Eventually, she said, “What if I say that I do believe you? Now, I’m not saying that I do, but what if?”

“I would be happy,” I said as I took my move. “We could have a real conversation.”

She took her move, and I took her piece. “So,” she said. “You woke up today as a little boy, but you were really a teenager yesterday. That’s the story, right?”

“It’s the truth,” I said. We traded pieces. “And, you’re scared that you’re starting to believe it.”

“I am scared a bit,” she said. “Whatever is going on here is a bit scary for a mother to see.” We kept moving our pieces, but it was clear that her mind was not focused on the game.

“I’m not trying to scare you,” I said. “If anything, I’m the one who’s scared. Can you imagine how strange this is for me?”

“I suppose I can.”

“Can I ask you a question?”

“Do you believe in magic?”

“I didn’t before today,” she said. “Now…”

“I felt the same way, but I might just have to deal with something magical now. I mean, this is crazy. It’s nuts, but what’s even worse is that I seem to be totally alone in realizing what’s going on. I’m the only one who sees that anything is different.”

“Wow,” she said as she lost another piece.

I stopped in the middle of my turn. “What am I supposed to do now?”

She knew I wasn’t talking about the game. “I don’t know,” she said. I could see the concern on her face. It was a mix of pity and worry for me. “I guess you need to figure out how this started. Maybe you could stop it if you knew what was causing it.”

“I think it was that website I told you about. I mean, it said it would change my life. Well, my life has definitely changed, but this is definitely not what I expected.” I moved a piece. The board was clearing out.

She thought a moment and moved her piece. “If I let you on the Internet at home, could you show me the website?”

I took another piece. “You’ll let me do that?”

She made one more move, a mistake. “Sure, as long as I’m with you when you do it.”

I moved my piece. “Check,” I said. She tried a move, and I took my final turn. “Check mate.” She tipped over her king. I had won.

“Well done,” she said hollowly. Then, she added, “What if you can’t turn back?” voicing my current deepest fear.

I shuddered a bit in the breeze. “I don’t know,” I said, as I poked at my king. “Grow up again, I guess. What else could I do? At least, you would know the truth. That might make it bearable.”

“What happens to me if you turn everything back?” There was an edge of real fear in her voice now.

“I guess we all just go back to how we were. This reality will just stop existing.”

She crossed her arms as if to hug herself or fight off a chill. “This is terrifying me now,” she said. “I mean, you’re telling me that my whole life might just be a magic spell that could go poof at any moment. That none of my memories are true. That I’m just part of a… a dream you bought online to amuse yourself. Why would you do that? Why did you feel like your life needed to change at all?”

I was embarrassed to answer. “I was… bored.” It was a pitiful excuse, I realized, so I added, “Sorry.”

She looked at me. I could not read the emotion on her face, but it wasn’t good. Then, her phone rang.

She answered, “Morgan, what is it?”

I could just barely hear Morgan reply, “Where are you guys? Don’t you have to get to work soon? I thought I was babysitting tonight.”

Mom looked at the clock on her phone and said, “Shit. I lost track of time. I’m going to be late.” She put the phone back to her ear and said, “I’ll be right there.” Then, she hung up and quickly put her phone away. “We have to go,” she said as she stood up. I followed her, and again we held hands, playing our roles once more. “Thank you for the game,” she told the old man as we passed him playing another old man.

“Hope you had fun,” he replied as we hurried out of the park.

To be continued in Chapter 5

I write mature transformation fiction: fantasy and sci-fi stories where characters change ages, sizes, genders, etc. | lostandwhatever@gmail.com | DeviantArt | Patreon | Ko-Fi

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