the puzzle.

      The lines, cut without saw or scalpel but drawn achingly by hand, barely let slip the slightest of light. Pieces slid along the grain, so many slender fingers hewn from wood, locking soundlessly into place. Fingertips tracing the surface would only find a box where a puzzle had been, a coolness lingering on the skin that spoke of warmth and its absence.
      Inside, he waited, pale skin incandescent, lips unable to do more than quiver. Forlorn eyes watered, fearful of what lie in wait beneath his eyelids, desperate for the slumber yet to come. In his skeletal hands he clenched a phial, chipped and cracked with misuse, swirling with a shimmering aether from some deeper place.
      Silver-grey tears roll and tumble from cuts along his skin, darkening the pool with each silent drip. Brief images coalesce with every droplet, only to fade just before his tired eyes can come to focus. No matter how much he tries, each picture disappears; no matter how much he tries, his eyes will not cry.
      Outside, a beautiful voice calls through the wood, distorted by the echo of memory, a thousand voices unlike her own. She sings a lullaby, but he hears only ghosts, holding all the skin that once longed to be touched, stirring the luminiferous liquid in has hands.

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