Once, a games company planned to release what was to have been the hardest jigsaw in the world. Using the latest cutting-edge nanotechnology, the jigsaw would not only be composed of quite tiny pieces but, as more and more of the jigsaw was completed, the smaller the still unfitted pieces would become: each one dividing into several smaller fragments upon the receiving of a signal that one of their ‘siblings’ had been successfully placed. The jigsaw itself was a simulation of a living organism, capable of communicating with its own subdividing cells, complete with a limited level of not entirely predictable ‘free will’, designed to play a part in deciding the pattern and rate of said division.
In trials, the jigsaw seemed to be a success, at first. Not only was it fiendishly difficult, but also great fun to watch as the pieces subdivided at the very moment of progress. However, when after three weeks of play a tester succeeded in reaching the halfway mark, things took an unexpected turn. The pieces began to separate at a surprising rate: far greater than the parameters set to reign in the unpredictability of the puzzle’s ‘mind’ should have allowed, resulting in ever-greater numbers of smaller pieces - so small, in fact, they were now difficult to see. It wasn’t long before they were no longer visible to the naked eye, and could only be seen through the use of a microscope. After some further increasingly limited progress towards the completion of the jigsaw, the level of magnification needed exceeded that which was easily accessible to the games company. Indeed, it was speculated that if the level of division were to be maintained, then the pieces themselves would eventually slip below the molecular level, and break down still further and reach that of the atomic.
A further, more distressing development was observed. The surface on which the jigsaw rested seemed to be eroding: the top layer turning to a fine powder. Under a microscope, these sandy fractions could be seen to be subdividing like the jigsaw pieces that had since slipped between them. Overnight, a significant groove appeared in the floor where the unplaced pieces had been originally left. The pieces themselves were presumed to be under the powder lying on top of it, spreading their virus of infinite subdivision. Meanwhile, those who had been previously handling the tiny pieces complained of a rawness of the fingertips, and a sense that their nails were growing shorter rather than longer. It became evident that a decision had to be made quickly on the matter.
The prototype was to be locked away until further notice. At first, packing it up was thought to be problematic as so much of it could no longer be seen, but upon dissembling the completed portion, it was found that the ‘disappeared’ pieces had instantly reassembled themselves while everyone’s backs were turned. Some of them, however, materialised in other rooms in the complex, with one final, missing piece eventually turning up in an employee’s home.
Once all located, the pieces were painstakingly counted, before being placed back in their box. This was then sealed, securely stored, and has so far never been reopened. Several employees who handled the pieces went on to receive psychiatric treatment, believing that they themselves were slowly disintegrating, speck by tiny speck. None have yet to return to work of any kind, and an undisclosed amount of compensation was paid to each.