Chess by Michael DeForge

BOMB 154 Winter 2021
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Discover MFA Programs in Art and Writing

BOMB Magazine Issue 154 folded open to showcase Michael DeForge’s comic ‘Chess,’ printed in white, black, yellow and green on black paper.
Person with long hair walks across green and white checkered chessboards. They then say, "It's what I see every time I close my eyes. It's bad. I've always had an obsessive streak but this had become something different."
Person with long hair walking between green and white chessboards, continuing, “I wasn’t even playing the game. I couldn’t shake the board states. Some of it was memories. What my uncle looked like when I found his body. Others I couldn’t explain.”
Person walking across green and white chessboards, and more chessboards appear as they go along. They go on, “Mutilations. Gore. Evil shit… Events that didn’t happen, or didn’t happen the way I was seeing them. My first kiss. With a boy I’d never met. My getting mugged, an event that’s never happened to me.”
Person keeps walking along configurations of chessboards that keep changing. They say, “This horrible face greets me every time I go to sleep.” A large yellow square face is shown to the right. The person stops in front of a mirror and says, “Sometimes it’s what I see when I look into a mirror.”
Person goes on between chessboards, saying “I though quitting competitive play would help. I stuck with casual games for a while, but I’d start a friendly match with a friend and the pieces would inevitably start to transform. I couldn’t look at a board like it was just a game. I couldn’t unlearn its patterns.”
Person appears against a chessboard with a creature perched on top of it and says, “So many potentialities… So many outcomes… Too much to calculate, but I can’t stop.” They go on walking. “My parents call me on the phone and I can’t open my mouth. My friend knocks on my door and I can’t answer.”
Walking between boards again, they say,  “Why would I? I know all the moves. I see them way in advance.” Walking out from another board, showing a check mate, they say, “I know how it all turns out.”

Michael DeForge lives in Toronto, Ontario. His comics and illustrations have been featured in Jacobin, the New York Times, the Believer, and elsewhere. He worked as a designer on Adventure Time for six seasons. His published books include Ant Colony, A Western World, Stunt, and Familiar Face (Drawn & Quarterly, 2020).

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Originally published in

BOMB 154, Winter 2021

Our winter issue includes interviews with Tashi Dorji, Danielle Evans, Walton Ford, Guadalupe Maravilla, Mary Lovelace O’Neal, the Ross Brothers, and Aaron Turner; DIY cookbooklets from Dindga McCannon; poetry by Rae Armantrout, Imani Elizabeth Jackson, and Allison Parrish; prose by Langston Cotman, GennaRose Nethercott, and Brontez Purnell; a comic by Michael DeForge; protest drawings by Steve Mumford; and more.

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