Part 1: The Upper Torso
Jay was a mechanical engineer. He loved math and physics which was probably the source of his fascination with three dimensional puzzles. Only a few years out of college, Jay had a solid start on a successful career, but sometimes he wished that he had spent as much time improving his social skills as he did his engineering skills.
Basically, Jay was shy and lonely, and he had few opportunities to change that. With nobody waiting for him at home, he tended to spend more and more time at work, and his cycle of solitude perpetuated itself. Jay thought that he might never find someone to share his life with until he met Vanessa.
Vanessa had started working in his office as about a six months earlier. She went to school at night, just like Jay did. And she was studying to become a mechanical engineer. With so much in common, Jay finally found the courage to ask her out, and they began dating.
Over the first few dates, their relationship grew, and the couple had started to develop the intimacy that Jay had dreamed of. Still, they hadn’t been as physically intimate as he would have liked, and there were aspects of Jay’s personality and tastes that he had not yet shared with Vanessa. Sadly, he could never quite figure out how to approach the topics. So, he resigned himself to wait for the right moment.
For their fourth real date, Jay had hoped that an quiet meal at his house might help them take things to the next level. So, Jay invited Vanessa to his house for dinner. She thought it was a great idea, and she was surprised that he offered to cook. Although she tried not to be too obvious, she also wanted to take things to the next level physically, and with high hopes for the evening, she decided to wear a tight wool turtleneck with no bra. Although it was a bit scratchy, she liked the way that it rubbed against her nipples, keeping her perpetually aroused.
She arrived at Jay’s house right on time, but he wasn’t quite through in the kitchen. He offered her some wine, and she wandered around his living room while she waited. Usually they would meet at Vanessa’s apartment or at a restaurant. Vanessa had never been in Jay’s house before. As she waited for Jay to finish cooking, she looked around, taking it all in. Jay’s house was neat and clean, and there was nothing out of the ordinary. She had seen the kitchen and living room already. She peeked into the bedroom and bathroom and found nothing unusual. Finally, she wandered into his office.
“Mind if I check out your office while I wait?” Vanessa asked from the living room.
“Make yourself at home,” Jay called back.
She didn’t know what she expected to find. It was pretty much just like any home office except maybe a little nicer. In front of a large bay window, he had a wooden desk and credenza with various photographs. Along the walls were several bookcases and a display case with a glass front. It was all quite ordinary until she looked more carefully at the contents of the display case.
It held an impressive collection of three dimensional, mechanical puzzles. Each puzzle was displayed in two states: solved and unsolved. She worked her way from one puzzle to the next, pausing at each display. After considering each puzzle, she formed a solution in her head, and then she moved on to the next. She had seen almost all of the puzzles before, but the last puzzle was completely foreign to her.
The puzzle seemed to be the centerpiece of the display, and the two versions of the puzzle took up most of the center shelf. Without the contextual cue of being grouped with other puzzles, Vanessa never would have guessed what it was. She had never seen anything like it, and it piqued her curiosity.
The puzzle was a black leather belt about 4 inches wide. It had a mechanism attached that could slide from one end of the belt to the other. The puzzle had colorful trim adorning along either edge of the belt. It seemed to be a colored leather lace covered by transparent piping. Each portion of piping and colorful interior trim ran along almost the entire length of the belt.
The sliding mechanism attached the belt to a pair of parallel tubes, also covered with black leather. The tubes were connected to one another so as to give them the appearance of an oversized double-barrel shotgun muzzle. Each tube also had colorful trim displayed through transparent piping. The trim of the tubes ran around the circumference of the openings of each tube. After removing and examining the unsolved display puzzle, Vanessa found that the tubes not only slid from one end of the belt to the other, but they could also rotate about a central axis, namely directly above the sliding mechanism.
Vanessa’s curiosity overwhelmed her, and she began to play with the puzzle. As she slid the tubes from one end of the belt to the other, she noticed that all of the colored laces would move within the piping. They were all interconnected somehow, and as they moved, she could see that different sections of the lacing were dyed different colors
She inspected the solved display puzzle, and noticed that the piping along one edge of the belt was a solid yellow. The piping along the other edge was a solid orange. The openings of one tube were green and blue, and the openings of the other tube were purple and red.
She could see that by rotating the tubes and sliding the mechanism along the belt, one could reposition the trim laces within the piping. To solve the the puzzle, one needed to properly adjust the lacing so that only a single colored portion of the lace would be visible in each portion of the transparent piping.
Vanessa began to think that the puzzle seemed a bit infantile, and rather pointless. Still, she couldn’t quite figure out how to solve the puzzle in her head as she had done with the others.
She continued to examine the piece only to discover that there were other ways to change the position of the displayed lacing. For example, within each tube, there were three silver rings that could be slid along the interior of the tube. The rings were attached to an interior sliding mechanism by small but strong cords, much like a pull string on a child’s talking toy.
On the display puzzle, the cords and rings were neatly tucked into each tube, but on the unsolved puzzle that Vanessa held, the cords and rings flopped out of opposite ends of the tubes. One tube had white cords while the other other had brown cords. The cords allowed the rings to hang about 5 inches down from the tubes. She slid one set of rings from one end of the tube to the other, and watched the colored lacing move almost imperceptibly. Her engineering background told her that the adjustment mechanism was somehow geared extremely low. She noted that in the solved puzzle, the white cords matched up with the red piping, and the brown cords matched up with the purple piping.
Maybe this puzzle was more complicated than she thought.
“You’re awfully quiet tonight. Everything okay in there?” Jay called from the kitchen.
“I’m just checking out your puzzle collection,” she replied, still deep in thought.
“They are wonderful,” she continued, “I have see many of these before... the Rubik’s cube, the Tower of Hanoi, Free the Key, and this horseshoe puzzle… I know how to solve those, but I have never seen anything like this leather one.”
“Oh, yeah. I picked that one up in China last year. It’s called a ‘Body Puzzle,’ and you can only solve it while you are wearing it.”
As an afterthought, Jay added “You probably shouldn’t try that one until we have had a chance to talk about it. Maybe I can show it to you after dinner.”
“Well, you seem to have solved it without wearing it. The solved puzzle is sitting right here in your display case,” Vanessa replied, undeterred.
“Actually, I had to cheat a bit to be able to display it, but I can show it to you after dinner,” Jay explained.
Vanessa looked carefully at the solved puzzle and then back to the belt in her hands. She noticed a black clip on each opening of the tubes.
“Oh, I see. You’ve used binder clips to apply pressure to some interior mechanism. Do you have any more clips so that I can cheat, too?” she asked.
“Actually, no,” Jay replied, “But even if I had them, I wouldn’t suggest it. Half the challenge of the Body Puzzle contorting your body into the position needed to solve it while wearing it.”
“I see… How long before dinner?” Vanessa asked.
“About 15 minutes,” Jay replied, “Probably not long enough for you to solve it.”
“Oh, I see. A challenge,” Vanessa shot back.
With that Vanessa buckled the belt around her waist and positioned the tubes in front where she could see them. She began rotating the mechanism, and sliding it back and forth. All the while, she took note of how the colored laces change positions in the transparent piping. It only took her a few minutes to get to a point where she thought that she was close to a solution.
She put the rings on her fingers and began to push her arms into the tubes, but her sweater proved to be too thick and bunched up at the openings. She tried to roll up her sleeves, but the sweater was so thick and so tight that she couldn’t manage to roll them up far enough.
Glancing at the door, she knew that Jay would still be cooking for another few minutes. She leaned over the credenza and shut the blinds to avoid any prying eyes. Then she removed her turtleneck and laid it neatly over the back of Jay’s chair. The rush of cool air over her breasts, and the thrill of being half naked in Jay’s house, was even more arousing than the wool rubbing across her mipples.
She felt a rush of adrenalin knowing that Jay might catch her with her top off, but she knew that she could quickly grab her turtleneck and cover up. Besides, if the evening went as she had hoped, the sweater would have come off anyway.
Turning her attention back to the puzzle, she slid her fingers back into the rings and pushed her forearms through the tubes. As she stood there with her arms crossed within the puzzle, all of the colors seemed to line up. She smiled with satisfaction; withdrew her arms; and watched the colors slide back out of alignment.
“That was easy,” she called to Jay victoriously.
Skeptically, Jay called back “I don’t think so.”
“What do you mean? I solved it. All of the colors lined up,” she replied boastfully.
“Are you sure?” Jay called out doubtfully.
“Yes. I watched them all lined up,” Vanessa said defensively.
“Did you hear a click? The puzzle will click when it is properly solved, and all of the colors will stay in place,” Jay explained.
“Well, no. It didn’t click, but the colors lined up,” Vanessa said with less confidence.
“If you didn’t hear a click, then the colors didn’t actually line up. People sometimes have trouble seeing the colors right next to the buckle if it is behind them. Could you see the buckle?” Jay asked.
“Well, no. Like you said. It was behind me. I would need to be a contortionist to be able to see it back there,” Vanessa reasoned.
“Well, there’s your problem,” Jay said flatly.
“What do you mean ‘There’s my problem?’” Vanessa questioned indignantly.
Jay was silent, and in the silence Vanessa realized the solution.
She probably had the belt on backwards. Vanessa figured that the puzzle must have some adjustment mechanism embedded in the belt that matched up with a person’s hip bones. She reexamined the solved puzzle, and sure enough, there were two additional clips on the belt portion of the puzzle that she hadn’t noticed before.
She swivelled the belt around so that the buckle was in front, but she couldn’t swivel the belt far enough so that the buckle was centered. She realized that the belt was tight enough that the internal pressure sensors couldn’t slide over her hip bones. So, she unbuckled the belt and repositioned it so that her hip bones depressed the belt at the correct locations. Then, she tightly re-fastened the buckle to keep sufficient pressure on the mechanisms.
With the buckle in front and the tubes behind her, she realized she would still need to contort her body, just as Jay had predicted, but at least that contortion was possible. Looking over her right shoulder, she positioned the rings of the upper tube on her right hand. Then, looking over her other shoulder, she positioned the rings of the lower tube on her left hand.
Arching her back and looking up at the ceiling with concentration, she slid each hand through its respective tube. Then, she glanced down toward the belt buckle. The colors were almost perfectly aligned, but there was still no “click.” When she released pressure on the rings, the colors again moved out of alignment. She arched again and stretched her arms across her back as far as she could, but she couldn’t quite make the colors align.
With a heavy sigh and determination, she pulled her arms partially out of the tubes. Then, she cleverly made a fist to take up some of the slack in the cords. Summoning all of her strength, with a mighty push, she thrust her fists in opposite directions and she watched as the colors properly and completely aligned.
She knew she was finished when she heard the loud, telltale “CLICK” that Jay told her about. And just as Jay had told her, the colors remained perfectly aligned, proving that she had correctly solved the puzzle.
Unlike every other puzzle that she had solved in her life, instead of a feeling of accomplishment, she actually felt rather stupid.
In concert with the “CLICK,” she felt two interior bands tighten irresistibly around her wrists. It suddenly dawned on her that this was a mechanical engineer’s version of the classic chinese finger trap. She had not conquered the Body Puzzle. It had conquered her.
The click was loud enough for Jay to hear in the other room, and Vanessa panicked. She twisted back and forth and pulled wildly at the puzzle, but it was well made. Despite her furious writhing, It didn’t budge a bit. She could feel herself blushing from head to toe, and she looked helplessly at her turtleneck sweater on the back of Jay’s office chair.
Suddenly, all of her senses were heightened. She could hear water boiling on the stove; she could hear her own heavy breathing; and she could hear Jay’s footsteps approaching the office.
“Dinner is served!” he called out ominously as he entered the doorway.
Jay was stunned as he took in Vanessa’s predicament. Embarrassed, she turned away and looked at the floor. Out of the corner of his vision, he noticed the turtleneck sweater on the back of his chair, but he couldn’t take his eyes off of Vanessa.
After a long pause, Jay smiled and suggested, “Maybe we should have dessert first.”
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story continues in The Body Puzzle 2