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I really fucked up this time. I should’ve known what I was getting into by wandering outside my routine. “You wanna step up into my business and mess with me?” Another crack across my cheek. All of the repeated hits has left me with blurry vision, but there was no mistaking who was delivering these punches. I could feel him move closer to my ear. “Couldn’t keep to yourself after all? Here I thought the rumors of you being some freak hermit were true.” Of all the people I could have encountered today, it had to be Mick. All I wanted was to find a new puzzle to work on. After spending the last three days straight doing work over at the boat yard, I thought I deserved a personal reward. Some exotic old-world puzzle, a real tough one. I know Marvin must have had one in his museum. Sure enough I was right. There on the box was one of the most beautiful pictures I’d ever seen. It was a rocky mountain top with pine trees sparsely spaced atop beautiful snow, and a dazzling aurora overhead. How badly I wanted to be there. How badly I wanted to be in any of my beautiful puzzles. Such beautify doesn’t exist in this messed up world though, not anymore. This time it was a kick to the chest. The pain was incredible, the soreness tells me he might have cracked a rib. Mick is nothing but a coward. He had to tie me to a chair or I would’ve kicked his ass sideways. “You just gonna keep sitting there pretending you don’t hear me? Or you gonna fuckin listen to me you little shit.” Another kick to the chest. He definitely broke a rib. The kick left me gasping for air. Why did he have to wear his boots today? “I hear you” weez “I hear you Mick, I just have nothing to say to a bald dick like yourself.” I’ll never forget the smile that crept across his face. “Wow Max, you’re one tough son of a bitch. Anyone else would have easily pleaded for me to stop, but you just don’t give two shits do ya?” “Is that what you want from me Mick? An apology? You’re gonna have to reach pretty far up my ass to find it.” What a sickening laugh he had. There was nothing I could do that wouldn’t play into his psychotic mind games. Either way I know I’m in deep. I don’t blame Louisa for any of this, it was really my fault it escalated this far. Louisa was just sitting there taking Mick’s abuse. What a sweet girl, she doesn’t deserve half the shit she gets from people like Mick. I made the mistake of saying anything to that human filth. Mick’s boys jumped me and started handing me the beating of a life time. Louisa couldn’t do anything, she tried jumping and screaming at them to stop. Mick simply brushed her away, “I’m done with you, go home” he said. They beat me unconscious and dragged me all the way to this filthy water damaged house in district one. The walls are peeling off and the wooden floor is covered in a black mold. From what I’ve been told this house is also supposed to smell particularly rancid. Thankfully the only thing I can smell is blood. “Why are you even bothering with someone like me, Mick? Surely there is some other poor son of a bitch more deserving of your time.” There was that disgusting laugh again. “I wish I knew Max. There is just something so fascinating about you. You know I’ve never gotten to torture a shut in like yourself before. I expected way more screaming and wailing than normal from some anti-social nut who locks themselves indoors all day.” “That’s your problem, I don’t hide from the world because I’m afraid of it. I just don’t like interacting with such a boring place.” “We’ll why don’t we make it interesting then?” Mick slowly walked behind me and grabbed something. “Know what this is?” He flashed a puzzle box in my face. It was the new puzzle I had just bought. “I think that puzzle may be a little too tough for someone like you, Mick.” I don’t think he appreciated the compliment much. Mick walked over to a poorly maintained black stove with dents all over its body. The top heating plate was removed to expose a bare flame. “I know how much this shit means to you.” Without even a pause he threw the puzzle pieces directly into the fire. He broke down the delicate cardboard box in front of me before throwing that in too. The anger was welling up inside. I hadn’t been angry about anything until now, he just had to fuck with what I loved most. Shaking violently I started to bounce the chair up and down on the floor. “Ahahaha, don’t hurt yourself Max, that’s my job.” Just then the back of the chair snapped off. The wood rot and water damage must have weakened the wood enough for me to break free. I rushed Mick and shoulder tackled him into the stove. His flesh made a sizzling sound as it made contact with the metal stove. I laid harder into him to prevent his escape. He pushed and screamed for me to let him go, but there was no way I was going to do anything he wanted me to. His friends upstairs heard the commotion and ran down to aid him. They pulled me off of him and threw me to the ground. As Mick pulled away from the stove, a long cheese like string of skin also pulled away from his arm where he had been touching the hot metal. As he choked back tears from the pain he motioned for his boys to take me outback. “I was gonna let you off easy Max, maybe missing a few fingers or something, but YOU. FUCKED. UP!” he gave me two good kicks to the head. The world was spinning now and I was on the verge of blacking out. Once outside he grabbed me by the hair and made me look straight ahead. “I wonder what kind of crops you’ll end up fertilizing.” There in front of me was a big rusted yellow wood chipper. The engine roared and sputtered while the toothy rollers spun viciously. “Found this baby on the out skirts of town and wasn’t even sure it would run. Max, you have the honor of being the first person to test it.” We can’t always pick where or when we die, but being able to see beauty before it happens is not something anyone in this world can hope to have. Except me, my puzzles gave me that chance, and with that I’m content.