It was bright in the room, almost excessively so. The heat from the studio beat down on me, it made everything feel tense. Dust flickered past my eyes, moving through the crowded lights in front of me. A box of tea sat in between us, I’m not sure why. Apparently, we were to play for it, but I didn’t see the point, after all only one of us would benefit from winning it. Maybe it was some joke by a sick executive who thought that a robot would enjoy a nice warm cup of tea.
The crowed murmured in the deafening silence at the sound of my voice. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with the way I said it, but my voice always shocked people. My eyebrows furled, maybe it was the move instead. But the look of annoyance on my opponent’s face told me it was the right one. Or maybe he didn’t like my voice either. I didn’t pay much attention though, the hushed knock of the marble on the wooden chess board was the only thing I really cared about. It’s been the only thing I’ve really ever cared about for as long as I can remember.
I’ve been told I was born a genius, and it made me happy to hear that from other people. Today I was scared though. I had always been opposed to the idea of a man vs machine chess match, one of us was built to play and the other only plays by chance. It’s not a fair game and putting my pride aside I was scared that I couldn’t beat my opponent.
A subtle look, but one that I was sure he’d made brushed across my opponent’s face. He leaned across the table and slid a pawn to the other side of the board.
“I want to make it a queen.” The crowd didn’t whisper when he spoke. They knew the kind of voice he’d have at first glance. But there was something off about it I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Like it was hollow, like he was just pretending to play, or maybe like he was a spectator. But the game was more important. I had let him make himself a new queen. I had made a mistake and geniuses don’t make mistakes, so I had to fix it in order to make my family happy.
“Bishop A1,” More hushed whispers from the crowd. I wondered if there was something wrong with me again. I wondered why they always whispered no matter what I said or what I did. I wondered who thought this game was a good idea, as there was clearly no way I could win.
The clock ticked as his turn started, he was clearly as exasperated as me though. That made me feel re-assured.
I looked at the pieces scattered across the board and thought that even if I didn’t win, I was still happy to play. I like playing chess, it makes me feel happy.
The clock ticked, tick, tick, tick. My opponent wiped his brow, I wasn’t sure why though. He stood up. I wasn’t sure why he did that either, but I assumed it probably wasn’t a good reason.
“I won’t play a person’s game against a soul-less machine.” My opponent said, his voice quivering in defeat. I wasn’t sure why he’d given up, I thought this was fun. I even thought I was going to lose; I could see all the ways he could beat me.
The crowd gasped, I suppose they might be surprised too. It didn’t make me feel very good when he called me a machine. I didn’t choose to be born the way I was, someone else made me the way I am. My opponent turned to the crowd a look of anguish on his face. He turned back to me, grabbing the tin of tea in a swift motion.
“Enjoy it.” He said, his voice filled with malice and hurt. He tossed it at me, and with a gentle clink, I caught it in my lap. I assume that it would feel cold to the touch, but I don’t know, sometimes it made me sad that I didn’t get to.
He turned and made a dramatic exit. I wanted to tell him that I was sorry, I assume that I was clearly in the wrong and hadn’t realised it. I tried to say it, I really did, but my voice just wouldn’t work. Maybe I really was broken again.