PLAYING CHESS WITH AN ALIEN
"Chess is really big where I come from," said the
Gregor smiled quickly. Then he realized that the big
girl with the accent hadn't actually said anything
about her chest. He handed over what he'd been
reading, a paperback:
Chess: A Little Game of Big Plans.
The train rumbled on through the countryside.
Another station went by. They moved on from
chatting about chess and took out a traveling set.
After a few moves Gregor could see she was a
reasonable player but only at a local club level. He
knew he would win.
"I played chess with an alien once," said the stranger.
Gregor fumbled his move and had to replace some
pieces on the board. He didn't know what to say
about aliens playing chess, so he didn't say anything.
"It was when I got abducted." said the stranger. "I had
the missing time, a little triangular scar, everything.
Don't know the full story. What I am able to
remember has a dreamlike quality. Anyway, I lost
half a day and I can remember playing chess with one
of those little gray creatures."
"A Gray, like Roswell, on television?" Gregor asked.
"Yes, but for real. At first I thought I wouldn't have
much of a chance in my very own little War of the
Worlds what with us probably being millions of years
lower on the ladder of evolution. Then I remembered
something from school, a time when I was injured at
"You were injured playing chess?" said Gregor.
"Well, I was playing against a very bad loser."
"I hope you're not a bad loser yourself," said Gregor
"Don't worry, you're safe enough. Anyway, this was
way back when I was in school. You know, I was
learning something about underestimating the
opposition. I reckoned that would be my game plan
with the alien. I would try to get it to underestimate
"Didn't you think that might be a little dangerous,
under the circumstances?"
"Perhaps I should have thought of that. Anyway, after
a while I found I was getting the better of the alien.
But it had nothing much to do with my ever-so-clever
strategy. It just turned out that he was really dumb."
The train dove into a tunnel. The noise, the hint of
fumes, the sudden change in air pressure all served to
bring Gregor back to a sense of reality. He was soon
back to concentrating on the game, for this was just
chess on a train with a stranger with a tale to tell.
Then Gregor thought of something he should have
thought about earlier. "What about telepathy?" he
challenged. "Don't Grays do telepathy? Wouldn't that
be rather an advantage in a game of chess?"
"Well yes," she said. "But only if it hadn't been
switched off for the game."
"Yes, switched off. They use telepathy of course, but
it's not a natural thing. They use technology. In fact,
on their own without technological support, they
don’t even have very complicated speech."
"OK, so just how did you get to know all this?" said
"The creature let me try on the telepathy device. Said
it was OK because I wouldn't remember anything
afterwards, and even if I did, no one was ever going
to believe me. So I got to do telepathy. It didn’t really
work properly with me. It was designed to work with
an alien mind. But I got all these strange thoughts
from outside my head and they opened up a kind of
window into alien consciousness. You do believe me,
"Yes, I do," said Gregor. But he didn't look her
directly in the eyes.
"And there were big surprises. Seems the Grays are
very different from what we might imagine. They're
dull, unimaginative, even timid, and they just don't
like being so far from home. What's more, they're
thick, really thick. But they're very ancient. They've
been around so long they've had lots of time to
develop an advanced technology one painfully slow
step after another. Goodness knows how long it must
have taken them to invent the wheel."
The stranger paused to make a move. Gregor leaned
forward. "What else did you find out?
"Well, it seems they're afraid of us. They see us as
primitive upstarts with dangerous instincts and totally
hardwired for conflict. They fear for their children
once we start to move out into the universe. Some of
their leaders are gently trying to modify the human
species into something more acceptable. Others
would much rather we blow ourselves back to the
After another tunnel and a few more moves, the
stranger said something that took Gregor by surprise:
Playing Chess with an Alien
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