The Stand Off

by Nathan Gardner

Murphy looks at me with ferocious intensity. His eyes never waver; they're locked in on me, and his crosshairs rarely lose sight of a selected target. He is literally quivering in anticipation. All parts of his stout frame rapidly vibrate, awaiting my next move; all except for his eyes.

Elke waits in a calmer demeanor. She is still, and relaxed. However, while her approach appears stoic, it would be unwise to assume that her focus is any less intense than her companion's. She awaits exuding effortlessness and indifference, but inside lays a predatory readiness. Her eyes survey and shift, but I know their gaze also remains fixed.

My first movement will trigger their innate character. No longer will their nature be boxed inside these elaborate disguises. They believe they have created impenetrable masks with which to combat me. "We are so cunning," they convince one another in erudite fashion, "Our scheme is impossible to detect."

But I have the upper hand. They have become so committed, so enamored with their deviant little trick that they lack the virtue of self-assessment. A chess master does not employ a strategy for victory, he creates an environment which manipulates his counterpart into defeating himself; as a card player does not gamble and make decisions based on the hand he inherits from the dealer, but instead plays on the reactions of his opponent.

Their ploy is an excellent one, yes, perhaps even infallible. But I know it's a scam, and they have not counted on that. There is no deadline, no timekeeper for this game, and I have nothing but patience.

They continue their routine unflinching. Murphy vibrates......Elke each their own. But I also am resolute. I stand statuesque, returning their stares like a mirror. And their response, a response to a response as it were, is unprepared.

Slowly the cracks begin to appear; Elke briefly shuffles and adds strength to her posture. Murphy swallows in his ever-salivating mouth. I believe I hear audible tones of kinetic movement deep from within his larynx. Clearly I am having an effect.

Their precious plan is beginning to crumble. They appear not to have moved an inch, but I see otherwise. My position, on the other hand, has not wavered. I have left my own body and entered a Zen-like trance, and they know it.

As my Will grows stronger, simultaneously their weakness becomes more apparent. Elke's brief shuffles have evolved to obvious movement, and she becomes rigid. The inaugural swallow in Murphy's throat has morphed into a definitive growl. Surely the momentum these mistakes create will be insurmountable.

With each backwards step they take downward as individuals, the other picks up on their loosening grip of the situation. Elke now stands; Murphy subsequently reacts and opens his mouth. Elke, disheartened by Murphy's lack of discipline, walks up beside him....and there they wait, side by side at my feet, gazing upward to their adversary. Only seconds before they believed themselves to be champions at this very game, now the sword of Damocles hangs above their heads.

Finally, pride gives way to chaos. In a whirling dervish, Murphy and Elke pounce upon the omnipotent statue which stands before them. Unable to defeat me with brain, they have resorted to brawn. It is the victory I have sought, and the only one which truly matters: the victory of the mind. As blows whale down upon me and screams cry out above me, I am blissful; satisfied with my victory.

Amidst the chaos and confusion, finally I speak:

"Ok, ok!" I command retreat while rising from the ground, "I'll take you for a walk."

Murphy and Elke are once again content. But I know the madness has only just begun.

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