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(A short story of 3994 words)

How It Begins


by Philip Mervyn

There you are, minding your own business, trying to get this jigsaw started and there's a knock at the door. Who is this strange woman? Actually, she does look a little familiar, and she seems to know who you are. But you have to be careful. Don't trust anyone. Even the inanimate objects are out to get you...

This is how it begins. There's a boy, about nine or ten, sitting at a large mahogany table in the dining room of his house, absorbed – and I mean absorbed – in a large jigsaw puzzle, the pieces of which are spread out in front of him. There are French windows in the room which open onto a fine, mature, traditional English garden and it may be that the sun is shining on a pleasant summer's day but the boy doesn't notice. He is only concerned with the pieces on the table in front of him.

Some of the pieces have been put together and a framework is gradually taking shape into which the picture will eventually fit. However there are still many pieces to sort and they lie in heaps, grouped by colour, as the boy continues to sift meticulously in his search for straight edges. The dominant colour within the broken framework is still the rich brown of the mahogany table, but the boy is not disheartened.

This is how it begins: a boy obsessed with jigsaw puzzles. It doesn't matter why he likes them so much – I'll deal with motive later. Let us simply say that he is obsessed. But there is a problem. He has searched for them once, twice, again, but he cannot find them. What should he do? It is of course possible to continue regardless; to ignore them; to pursue his methodical task; but they should be here. Where are they? Where are the corner pieces?...

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