It’s like an open puzzle box that’s been kept in the attic, coated in dust so long that the gray stays when the cover’s wiped clean. No picture remains. It’s heavier thank you think it should be for the size, and you pour it out to count the pieces. Too many, according to the ink preserve on the container’s floor-facing side. Hope you’ll find enough.
You examine each block to chart your course, seeking a pattern in the micro-patterns that resembles something in reality. Nothing. A few things. You have no idea.
You chunk a bunch of the bits together, matching the prints and edges that fit. You do this a dozen times and each time are prevented from identifying what the puzzle might depict. It’s a man, or two boys, first a friend, then a family, then a foe, no, a woman with a face the same shape as yours. Then it’s nothing, prevented from being by a lack of compatible pairs, or contorted back into incoherence by the mis-matched pattern on every piece with a complimentary edge. Twelve times, you dismantle your fifty piece cluster and start again.
You can’t stop, you have to know now, but no matter how many partial images you build, the building stops. Maybe there isn’t a complete puzzle in the box at all. Maybe there are only unrelated pieces.
But you can’t have imagined it all. Some patterns were too distinct to be accidental. Some were too unusual to forget. What of the faces? Were they real? Were they the found pieces of multiple lost puzzles, each belonging to their own unknowable image and not related to the rest? Or was the box perhaps missing the few essential bricks that could make it all make sense?
I am mostly sure of the pieces. I can see them, I can turn them over in my hands and describe them for you, I can demonstrate how easily they click into some of the other blocks and I can guess at the sort of bigger picture these connections might create. I cannot tell you which of the pieces will be as real to you as they are to me, nor whether any of the proposed correlations exist. I cannot tell you what the final image is, nor whether there is one, or none, or a few. I cannot tell you with any certainty what any of it was, only what it was to me.