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Jim's Puzzle

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School was finally over; I had done my time. Twelve years of public schools and four years of college, now it was time for me to get back to the real world and start making something of myself. That's why I was a little surprised at the emotions I felt when I found my old gameboy advance while packing up my dorm room. I brought it with me, thinking I would get some quality play time with it, only to forget about it a few weeks after classes had started. Sad, but now maybe I could use it. I popped the battery cover and reeled at the green and white corrosion at the ends of the old batteries. So I waited until I got my stuff moved into my parents' house to clean it up. I still needed a place to stay and I had a job waiting for me, I was a guard at a local bank. I worked nights and who knew how long it was going to be before I found job networking; so I might have more time to play my little GBA than I'd like to think.

Shortly after cleaning the corrosion out and replacing the batteries, I realized the only game I had taken with me to college was a Tony Hawk game. I asked my mother what she had done with my games, and she told me I had told her to sell them all a while back when I needed some quick cash for food. She was right and I felt ashamed that I had forgotten, but nonetheless I could hunt down games at yard sales and pawnshops. One game I was really hoping to find was Super Mario, so I set out looking for it—or just anything other than Tony Hawk; I just didn't care for it anymore.

Sadly I forgot most people didn't have yard sales during the winter. So I was stuck hunting down my game at the three pawn shops in the area. This hunt made me feel like a teen again. I didn't buy games new and we didn't have a GameStop at the time; so if you wanted a used game you had to find them at pawn shops. These were the same three I did my old hunts in, the first two I stopped at didn't sell older games. So I made a stop at the one I never really liked going to, Jim's Pawn. Jim was the type of man who thought all technology was worth its weight in gold. So I wasn't happy about this being the last place I had a chance to find a game at.

Pulling into Jim's, I was shocked to see they had going out of business signs up. Once I was inside, I found out from Jim's wife that he had died in a car crash a year before and the place had gone downhill after that. After giving her my condolences I searched around the small shop for a game. They didn't have a single cartridge. Feeling bad that she was losing her livelihood after losing her husband, I looked for something else to spend my money on—you know, to help out. To be honest, there really wasn't much to pick from. The only thing that did catch my eye was this old wooden box thing with a metal pattern split into pieces around it. It reminded me of a Rubik’s Cube, just made out of wood and lacking all the bright colors—also it was about three times as big as one. I asked Jim's wife what it was, and surely enough, she said it was some old Rubik's Cube knockoff that Jim had. She held it, looking down at it fondly and told me how he worked on it for years, even that night that he was killed he told her over the phone he figured it out and was on his way to solve it. Then she smiled and handed it to me telling me no charge. It took some persuasion, but I got her to take fifteen dollars for it.

So that night I went to work; I sat down at my desk and just admired the large wooden puzzle in the dim lights. It looked like the objective was to match up the metal image correctly. Which was nowhere near being solved. I used to enjoy working my old cube but had long forgotten the algorithm for solving it. The weird thing about this block was how light it was. It couldn't have weighed more than half a pound, if that. After some time of studying the wooden hunk, I started moving the parts around, it worked just like a Rubik's Cube. The parts slid against each other and felt very solid, a lot of love had been put into making this thing.

After about two hours of working, I could tell what shape the metal parts would make when solved. It looked like a large circle with a diamond shape in the middle. There was four more little circles that filled the empty spaces between the large circle and the diamond. Within the diamond was what looked to be the shape of an eye. Not incredibly detailed, but an oval with yet another circle in that. All it took was another twenty minutes or so and I had all the pieces together when suddenly the metal parts turned red and hot. So hot I dropped it on the the desk I was sitting at. Smoke rose from the cube, the center of the eye popped out and blood began to pour out of the hole it left behind. The blood then stopped, and started flowing off the floor and desk into the cube. Once all the blood was back, the metal turned blue and the smaller cubes that made up the larger one fell to the side. The sound was like that of a child kicking over blocks.

I looked around the room, wishing that someone would have been there to see what I had seen. I was alone as I had been all that night. So I started looking at the mess of blocks on the desk. Among the blocks was another cube, about half the size of the first, made of metal. When I picked it up, it was much heavier than the cube had been. This weighed at least ten pounds. The same markings were on this as well; just on all six sides. There were switches that could be flipped inside all five of the smaller circles on each side of this new cube. It could only rotate at the center. Something deep inside me told me not to mess with it, while another voice seeming to whisper right in my ear told me to play with it. The voice in my ear won out.

Holding the heavy block, I flipped the switches looking for patterns. I figured out one side, and the center of the eye on that side started to glow. The top half was red and the bottom half was blue. As I worked each side the color of the eye glow would change. Once I solved the outer faces, all I had to do was align the correct colors. Slowly, I turned it so that the red matched the red, the blue the blue, the yellow the yellow and the white to the white. The cube vibrated in my hands once all the parts lined up correctly. I sat it back down and watched as all the colors changed to one—purple. The rest of the metal turned black except for the top and bottom of the cube.

That was it, I had to stop, surely it was almost time for the bank to be opening. Then I looked at the timestamp on the security monitor, it was only midnight. I knew it was impossible so I checked my cellphone, it too said midnight. Suddenly, the computer screen went blank and so did my phone, the place turned dark as night and the only light was the soft purple glow the cube gave off. Then I heard the voice in my ear again. It told me to pick it up, to finish the puzzle. I didn't want to, but the voice just kept getting louder. I felt like I was being held down in the chair by thousands of tiny arms, withering all over my body. Then once I gave into the voice, they let me go.

At that point, I didn't know what else I could do to solve the puzzle and I really didn't want to, despite the fact the voice kept telling me that all I wanted to do in the world is solve it. It told me how every moment of my life had come to this single point and it would be such a waste had I not solved it. It even spoke of Jim and how careless he was to get himself killed by something else from the darkness. I asked what was this darkness it spoke of, it told me it's a dangerous place created by man's fears, but I had to solve the cube if I didn't want to see it. It told me the darkness was what turned out the lights and shut everything down, the darkness wanted me to fail. Failure meant it could take me. Jim had failed by wrecking into a tree, breaking his hands thus never to solve the puzzle. So the darkness sent something to take him. The voice told me once I solved it I had beaten the darkness and the only way it could clam me was in death.

So I went back to work on the cube in the dark. I started with the bottom, I don't know why it mattered, but it did. I flipped the little switches until I got a purple glow. The cube became twice as heavy and I had to solve the top part with it sitting on the desk. Once the top was solved, the eye shape turned into what looked like a real human eye, looking around for a bit until it fixed its unblinking gaze on me. The whites of the eye glowed bright in the darkness, yet the black seemed to pull me in. What happened next occurred without any conscious thought from myself. I stuck my finger into the eye pushing until it popped. There was a loud scream—a weird scream, it sounded as if every particle in the air the very darkness itself had had done it. Something thick oozed out of the box and up my arm, it slowly worked its way into my ear and I passed out.

I awoke to find the lights on and that it was still midnight. The cube was gone and the world felt different—almost dream like. I ran outside, there was no one driving. I ran to a gas station across the street, no one was there. I knew for a fact that it was a twenty-four-hour station. I ran a few more blocks looking in homes, no one could be seen. In fact, I didn't see an animal or feel any wind. I fell to the street and started to cry. A shadow appeared in the corner of my eye and when I tried to look at it, it moved to the other side. Each time jumping from place to place, so I held my head still and let the tears dry. Slowly, the shadow moved closer and closer to me, until it too was inside my head. I passed out once more.

I awoke back at the bank, still midnight. The voice from before started talking, asking me how did I like the place I was in before. It informed me that was the place it would leave me if I didn't help it. I had to find it another host, someone else it could embody. I know what it knows, and I can see what it has seen. These things alone will scare me for the rest of my natural life. I know the last person outsmarted it by trapping it in the cube, making it into a game. So I am trying to do the same. I'm working on a program, to trap it in. Sadly I can't just leave it trapped, I have to give it to someone. I don't know who I will give it to, but it's going to be random. I just hope the unlucky person who gets this puzzle game is too dumb to solve it and doesn’t pass it on to someone else.

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