It was on the top shelf of an old bookcase, covered with dust and barely

visible. Lisa decided she had to find out what it was. Of all the things

in the old junk shop, it aroused her curiosity most. She had looked

through old books, prints, and postcards for years. Nothing had caught

her interest. Now the old box, high and out of reach, intrigued her.

She looked around for the old man who ran the store. But he had gone

into the back room. She saw a stepladder across the room and brought it

over to the bookcase. It shook on the uneven floorboards as she climbed

to the top step.

Lisa patted her hand along the surface of the top shelf, trying to find

the box. The dirt was thick and gritty on the board. Then she touched

the box. It was made of cardboard. The cardboard was cold and soft from

being in the damp room for such a long time. She lifted the box slowly,

trying to steady her balance on the stepladder.

As the side of the box reached her eye level, she could read the words:


She sat the box down on top of the stepladder and climbed down a few

steps. Then she blew away some of the dust that had accumulated on the

lid. It billowed up around her with a musty, dead odor. But now she

could make out a few more words on top of the box:




There were other words underneath that, but they had been rubbed off the

cardboard lid. The big picture on the cover had been curiously damaged.

Lisa could make out areas of light and dark. It looked as though the

scene might be in a room. But most of the picture had been scratched off

the cardboard box, probably by a sharp instrument.

The mysterious nature of the jigsaw puzzle made it even more appealing

to Lisa. She decided she would buy it. The lid was taped down securely;

that probably meant that all the pieces would be there. As she carefully

climbed down the stepladder, holding the box in both a find, just hands,

Lisa smiled to herself. It was quite the sort of thing she had always

hoped to discover whilerummaging through secondhand stores.

Mr. Tuborg, the owner of the store, came out of the back room as she was

walking up to his sales desk. He looked curiously at the box when Lisa

set it down.

"And where did you find that?" he asked her.

Lisa pointed to where she had set up the stepladder. "It was on top of

that bookcase, You could barely see it from the floor."

"Well, I've never seen it before, that's for sure," Mr.Tuborg said.

"Can't imagine how you found it."

Lisa was more pleased than ever about her find. She felt as though the

puzzle had been hiding up there, waiting for her to discover it. She

paid Mr. Tuborg the twenty-five cents he asked for the puzzle and then

wrapped it carefully in the newspapers he gave her to take it home in.

As soon as she had climbed the flight of stairs to her room, Lisa

cleaned off the big table in the center of the room. She set the box

down on it.




Lisa read the words again. She wondered what they could mean. How

strange could a jigsaw puzzle be? The tape that held the lid down was

still strong. Lisa got out a kitchen knife to slice through it. When she

lifted the cover off the box, a musty smell came from inside. But the

jigsaw pieces all looked in good condition. Lisa picked one up. The

color was faded, but the picture was clear. She could see the shape of a

finger in the piece. It looked like a woman's finger. Lisa sat down and

started to lay out the pieces, top-side up, on the large table. As she

took them from the box, she sorted out the flat-edged pieces from the

inside pieces. Every so often, she would recognize something in one of

the pieces. She saw some blond hair, a windowpane, and a small vase.

There was a lot of wood texture in the pieces, plus what looked like

wallpaper. Lisa noticed that the wallpaper in the puzzle looked a lot

like the wallpaper in her own room. She wondered if her wallpaper was as

old as the jigsaw puzzle. It would be an incredible coincidence, but it

could be the same. By the time Lisa had all the pieces laid out on the

table, it was 6:30. She got up and made herself a sandwich. Already, her

back was beginning to hurt a little from leaning over the table. But she

couldn't stay away from the puzzle. She went back to the table and set

her sandwich down beside her. It was always like that when she did

jigsaws. Once she started, she couldn't stop until the puzzle was all

put together.

She began to sort out the edge pieces according to their coloring. There

were dark brown pieces, whitish pieces, the wallpaper pieces, and some

pieces that seemed to be like glass-perhaps a window. As she slowly ate

her sandwich, Lisa pieced together the border. When she was finished,

she knew she had been right about the setting of the picture when she

had first seen the puzzle. It was a room. One side of the border was

wallpaper. Lisa decided to fill that in first. She was curious about its

resemblance to her own wallpaper.

She gathered all the pieces together that had the blue and lilac

flowered design. As she fit the pieces together, it became clear that

the wallpaper in the puzzle was identical to the wallpaper in her room.

Lisa glanced back and forth between the puzzle and her wall. It was an

exact match.

By now it was 8:30. Lisa leaned back in her chair.

Her back was stiff. She looked over at her window. The night was black

outside. Lisa got up and walked over to the window. Suddenly, she felt

uneasy, alone in the apartment. She pulled the white shade over the


She paced around the room once, trying to think of something else she

might do other than finish the puzzle. But nothing else interested her.

She went back and sat down at the table.

Next she started to fill iii the lower right-hand corner. There was a

rug and then a chair. This part of the puzzle was very dark. Lisa

noticed uneasily that the chair was the same shape as one sitting in the

corner of her room. But the colors didn't seem exactly the same. Her

chair was maroon. The one in the puzzle was in the shadows and seemed

almost black.

Lisa continued to fill in the border toward the middle. There was more

wallpaper to finish on top. The left-hand side did turn out to be a

window. Through it, a half moon hung in a dark sky. But it was the

bottom on the puzzle that began to bother Lisa. As the pieces fell into

place, she saw a picture of a pair of legs, crossed underneath a table.

They were the legs of a young woman. Lisa reached down and ran her hand

along one of her legs. Suddenly, she had felt as though something was

crawling up it, but it must have been her imagination.

She stared down at the puzzle. It was almost three quarters done. Only

the middle remained. Lisa glanced at the lid to the puzzle box:



She shuddered.

Lisa leaned back in her chair again. Her back ached. Her neck muscles

were tense and strained. She thought about quitting the puzzle. It

scared her now.

She stood up and stretched. Then she looked down at the puzzle on the

table. It looked different from the higher angle. Lisa was shocked by

what she saw. Her body began to tremble all over. It was

unmistakable---the picture in the puzzle was of her own room. The window

was placed correctly in relation to the table. The bookcase stood in its

exact spot against the wall. Even the carved table legs were the


Lisa raised her hand to knock the pieces of the puzzle apart. She didn't

want to finish the strangest jigsaw puzzle in the world; she didn't want

to find out what the hole in the middle of the puzzle might turn out to

be. But then she lowered her hand. Perhaps it was worse not to know.

Perhaps it was worse to wait and wonder.

Lisa sank back down into the chair at the table. She fought off the fear

that crept into the sore muscles on her back. Deliberately, piece by

piece, she began to fill in the hole in the puzzle. She put together a

picture of a table, on which lay a jigsaw puzzle. This puzzle inside the

puzzle was finished. But Lisa couldn't make out what it showed. She

pieced together the young woman who was herself. As she filled in the

picture, her own body slowly filled with horror and dread. It was all

there in the picture ... the vase filled with blue cornflowers, her red

cardigan sweater, the wild look of fear in her own face.

The jigsaw puzzle lay before her---finished except for two adjoining

pieces. They were dark pieces, ones she hadn't been able to fit into the

area of the window. Lisa looked behind her. The white blind was drawn

over her window. With relief, she realized that the puzzle picture was

not exactly like her room. It showed the black night behind the window

pane and a moon shining in the sky.

With trembling hands, Lisa reached for the second to last piece. She

dropped it into one of the empty spaces. It seemed to be half a face,

but not a human face. She reached for the last piece. She pressed it

into the small hole left in the picture.

The face was complete---the face in the window. It was more horrible

than anything she had ever seen, or dreamed. Lisa looked at the picture

of herself in the puzzle and then back to that face.

When she whirled around. The blind was no longer over her window. The

night showed black through the windowpane. A half moon hung low in the


Lisa screamed.... The face ... it was there, too.


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