They dislike being surrounded. Standing or not, friendly or not, it is not something they like.

It’s not quite claustrophobia, nor is it fear.

Just something isn’t right with the rows of pawns either side of him. Even if half of them are on their side, they still don’t feel…safe.

Unsafe is the best way they can describe how they are feeling. The fact that they are feeling anything does not escape them but it doesn’t seem like the time to focus on that.

They cannot move, they can rock but to do so would bring attention to themselves and no one else is moving, no one else can move they hope.

There is a clock somewhere, ticking slowly, too slowly, like it’s out of time.

There is no sweat to drip, no heart to beat too fast, no breath to catch but it’s there anyway, that light-headed feeling that makes them sway every so slightly. Microns, that’s all, but it’s enough, it’s more than enough.

They hear the scratch of wood on wood but can’t quite tell where it’s come from. Left or right, front or back. There is another, quieter, another micron of movement. There is nothing else to hear for a long time, just the too slow clock and the scritch, scratch of minute movement.

The pawns finally part.

The sound of sixteen pieces moving aside is louder than anything they have ever heard before, and the noise of it makes them move to, jump up and hit the board with a crash. They’re still standing though, and as the pawns shift into the background, the other pieces come forward.

It’s rhythmic, jump and hit, jump and hit, the white queen at the lead. They are flanked by knights, as they should be, of both colours, both sides. They form a circle around them, and they now, are now truly surrounded.

They don’t even feel the splinter in their back.

So distracted by the sound of drums in their head, the same rhythmic sound as the moving pieces but louder, so, so much louder and rushing, rushing blood they do not even have around their head that they do not notice anyone coming closer. They do not see them, feel them, hear them until the splinter is shoved into the join at their back.

They do not make a sound, no one does. The last thing the King hears is the sound of wood hitting the floor, a solid smash on the board that echoes around the room.

Personification challenge from ~421 words.

they/them. nonbinary human writing about mental health, parenting, gender and general queerness.