Let me tell you a tale of human puzzles…

The people dance wildly around a bonfire. With sane mania, they lance around in a circle, swinging off of each other, letting booze do its part in making their creature closeness comfortable. One man starts chanting something incoherent, and the others chant back, like the spokesperson at a concert telling the audience to get riled up. Except they’re all the spokesperson and they’re all riled up, and they’re all playing their instruments louder than they should be.

This dreary guy is leaning against a tree, just thinking to himself, “It’s deafening.” 

He’s just another guy in plain clothes. He looks like all the others, and sometimes he wonders if that’s not unintentional. Sometimes he wonders if he can look not like someone else.

His tree is only a few meters from the fire. It rages strong, fuelled by a stack of chopped logs. He knows the fire is really hot, but he doesn’t feel all that warm. The cool night breeze has intermixed with the generated heat, leaving him lukewarm. He likes it: he’s not shivering nor sweating.

His hands relax at his sides. He was probably just picking at his nails. He sometimes does that out of boredom, but sometimes he wonders if it’s because he’s nervous and doesn’t notice it.

His head leans back against the rough texture of the bark behind him, thinking, “How did I get here?” Of course, he walked to the campsite like all the others, he’s thinking a bit more abstractly.

He holds out a hand and moves it longitudinally to his opposite side, like drawing a non-existent sword from a non-existent sheathe. He knows that he felt his hand move, feeling the air resist against the nerves on his exposed skin, but he fails to resolve the recursion of causation.

It’s like he’s a painting and there’s this artist streaking brilliant lines across the canvas. Every time a detail is filled in, he thinks, “I did this,” but did he? Or is he like the pixels on a screen where the people are just a pattern the viewer picks out.

He wonders if he’s really here at all, or some noise in space that’s convinced itself it exists.

He thinks to himself, how could he see his hand moving if he does exist at a point in time? The moments of motion are instantaneous, how could he see them unless he was a width of time, not an instant?

He smirks at that, deciding to do something trippy. He moves his hand again, but this time he does it in short segments. He moves an inch, then remembers the entirety of the sensation, replaying it. He does this repeatedly until he can replay the segments all at once, as if compressing ten seconds into a single instant.

He feels as if his arm is at all the places at once. It’s wordless, something unexplainable, but a feeling that exists separate from the parts, like the rapid recognition of a human shape in the dark after scanning up and down. Like tracing a circle of ideas around a word that can’t be pronounced, until you trip into it, and say it.

If he’s honest, he’s kind of bored of the party. He can make it a lot more exciting. He chuckles to himself, knowing that he’s not exactly sane. But neither is what happens next.

He sketches a table into the dancing crowd, watching how the bodies subconsciously move around the non-existent visualization: the ground is lava.

When the table is erased, the crowd floods the spot again.

The mild confusion makes him smirk impishly.

As if his experience were a set of numerical values, once restricted to all the evens, he adds the odds. He notices an extension to his experience as he projects his sense of self around the party, memorizing everything. His amped mind lets the false neurology intermingle with his reality, until it feels like he can see every side of every object at once.

The trees really. Pop! In full 3D. He wishes he could extend the space and see a tesseract. But that might scare the humans before he gets to the real fun.

“That’s better”, he mutters to himself. Not in awe of his expanded perspective, but intent on completing the next step.

He listens to the owls cooing, and the insects chirping. Relaxing for a moment as his nerves settle.

Then he leans harder into the tree as if hanging onto a rollercoaster. What does a person hang onto when it’s themselves they’re trying to grasp? What a predicament!

He focuses on each individual voice, one by one forcing his focus to expand until they’re all crystal clear. And way too loud.

He’s losing his grip. Like overclocking a graphics card, the pixels of his vision start changing abruptly at random intervals. The colors themselves are shaking throughout the visible spectrum. The sounds fracture, he hears things humans cannot hear, making his registers clip into unknown sensory spaces.

He clutches at his stomach, feeling the unnatural sensations cause temporary damage to his nervous system as he pushes himself harder than he knows he should; like mental weights, where the burn is felt as veritable psychosis.

He moves his phantom hands. Or, more accurately, he replays the sensations of moving hands, identifying them as his own. He reaches to the ground with both of his phantom limbs, extending his existence to the ground.

“I am the soil,” he mutters.

It pulls him in like a magnet, the planet’s movement akin to the turning of his own head, as if he could move rivers by volition alone.

He lifts his phantom hands to his right side, singing in his head but also with larynx, “I am the space that surrounds.”

The feeling of difference between the people in the crowd, the planet, and himself, dissipates. He identifies deeply with the space itself, as the way one doesn’t identify the individual particles in their flesh.

“Do I move, or is it the world that moves around me while I stand in place?” he asks himself rhetorically.

The lucid sensation of unreality shakes him to his core as he imagines the sensations that would come with having all of his limbs removed one by one, having them reattached in random permutations. He’s Humpty Dumpty, a figure as simple as to be drawn on a napkin and torn up.

He struggles to move his physical body, as his nervous system approaches a crashing point.

In fact, his eyes have rolled back into his head, and a burning sensation has filled his entirety. Worse than a million pills of Xanax stopped cold turkey. He is emotionless. The waves of happy, awe, the responsiveness that comes from being aware, vanishes into catatonia. His being is a many years broken arm, cast removed, atrophied nerves, completely immobile.

He wants to die.

So he forces a hallucination. Where he envisions himself stepping out of his now incapacitated body, which lies on the hard ground coughing up blood in a violent manner. He dissociates so as not to be troubled by his physical problems.

He can’t stay in this heightened state of awareness for too long, nothing imaginable could reverse the damage, as existence itself would seem to cascade into a new state of affairs, crossing the veil of no return. To him, it would be as if he had been dreaming his whole life up from fantasy, and that he was just a figment of some other thing’s imagination.

He does not want to wake up. He does not believe in oblivion, but in promised synaesthesia relevant to the decaying of his brain at the atomic level. He won’t go there: he knows there is nothing scarier than what he is incapable of understanding or controlling.

He’s ready.

“The people are too loud,” he mutters to himself, still keeled over, but no longer hurting, “let’s shut them up.”

He summons a force completely inhuman, a motion in the direction pure agony and hatred, but without a bottom, he falls infinitely, accelerating the force to a divergent limit. The degrees to which he wants to creatively damage the crowd is infinite, like a story book where the pages never end, and the story never becomes cliche. He gets a headache as he resolves the sequence of actions he wants to focus on. It pisses him off that he can’t do all of them at once, the way an obsessive person wants to split themselves to follow every path of a maze, not knowing which will be the right one.

He pictures the partying men being torn apart, then stitched together again, fully alive in the process. He sees this on repeat, but focuses in on one in particular. This individual is cut apart into a grid, and like a puzzle, has its squares mixed and matched around. It’s like one of those puzzles where a square is missing, and the pieces need to be shifted around to complete a picture. Except this picture is that of a nude man, scrambled, where all the pieces are still alive.

He observes how the five squares that were the man’s diaphragm continue to pulse in and out for air, as if the images were breathing. He observes the man’s face contorted into an artificially extended smile, literally ripped at the seams, as it changes from vicious smile to horrid frown, back and forth from mania to depression, gory crimson crying all over the pretty green grass.

In wonder at the man’s state of happy-sad mind, Ten locates the squares that were the man’s brain, and sees that the circuits are shifting about in funny ways, causing what one might call emotional turmoil.

Ten inquires abstractly to the agony force, asking if it can do anything more fun. It seems to smirk. The puzzle changes to also contain a nude woman.

“Perfect, they’re so naturally suited for one another,” Ten admits, purely analytically.

She’s torn into a puzzle. She screams constantly. She just won’t. Shut. Up.

Ten giggles, wondering if he’s as deranged as the literally scrambled brains.

“Look, they’re having sex, and in a rather weird position too!”

The man’s pieces are torn away to coalesce with the woman, sliding the square randomly together. Their genitals are so shredded throughout the overall picture that it’s tough to say exactly what they’re doing, except that they both find it extremely pleasurable: in spite of the fact that their bodies are so verily damaged. Even on a purely mental level, the finest of philosophers or puzzle solvers alike would never be able to separate the two people into coherently separate beings.

Unconsciously, Ten has affected the rest of the crowd with the violent force.

Dispersed blanket of eyes all look at him at once, frightened. They blink like the sounds of grasshoppers at night.

“I’m fine, go enjoy yourselves!” Ten shouts joyously.

The pieces crash to the ground, stuck in their puzzled reality. Who knows if they can even die like this?

The ground becomes very cold, impassible.

“Don’t worry! Someone will be here, eventually!”

He vanishes, as formless as he was before he arrived.

Don’t stop dancing! But. Shut. The. Fuck. Up.

A group of partying campers who wouldn’t shut up. Ten scrambled them into a really complicated slide puzzle. Who knows, maybe if they survive, they’ll evolve into something really cool?