THE JIGSAW PUZZLE
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:
IN THE WORLD
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.
IN THE WORLD
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
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
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
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:
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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