The Laser Fiction - An Apprehensive Wave









In Memory
Sean Pettibone



An Apprehensive Wave

Striking out on my own, it felt like the entire world was at my feet. The beach and accompanying shoreline spread out before me, offering an endless opportunity for exploration. It was a hot day, the middle of summer, far removed from the pressing matters and encroachments that seemed to take forever to subside. It wasn't hard to feel the world release its grip. I walked down towards the wooden piers and stands. I felt the sands parting underneath me, time felt like it had stopped. The sun above burned brightly, it seemed like it wouldn't ever dim or darken. Walking further out towards the ocean, I felt the small waves lapping at the sides of my feet, their cooling motions filtering through my orange plastic sandals. Offering relief and reassurance, ebbing and flowing in forceless motions, winding over and through my position. The wet sand became mushier as the water saturated the surface, a rising tide came up and I walked right into it. Unlikely as it might sound, there was no reason for me to worry, I was at home, completely attuned to the marine surroundings, walking as far or as little as I wanted, I had seemingly found a tranquil place beneath the bright, ebullient and inviting sunshine.

I decided to take a deeper plunge back towards the water. I walked horizontally off the cresting waters and took a few steps into the swirling ocean. Its waters now covering my ankles, the currents lifted my feet, until I took a few steps even closer. Before I knew it, my feet began to rise. Without much effort, I arrived at a point where I was almost swimming while walking. A few more steps and I found myself floating in between sand and seas, the barriers seemed to have vanished. Nearing the edge where my feet could barely touch the bottom, I paddled out towards the deeper side. Waves grew a bit stronger and taller, posing a more difficult challenge, but I had the confidence to navigate, energized by the combination of warmth above and cool water surrounding me, I achieved a balance, swimming intuitively through the tides, watching the world on the beach seeming to slip into the distance. I was gradually pulling slowly outward, the tides gradually towing me into the deeper channels until I could no longer touch bottom. I was pulled deeper out until the cresting waves subsided. I wasn't really paying too close attention, but before I realized what happened, I felt something hit me from behind. It was a bit shocking and I was stunned for a moment until I realized that I'd struck one of the outer buoys where the inner sound met the deeper and much stronger ocean. I knew I couldn't go much farther out, where it was much too strong but decided instead to linger for awhile, I hadn't expected to reach that far out, and wasn't about to let the moment go without soaking it in. Fortunately, the tides had calmed and their waves gradually subsided enough that I was able to hold in place by treading water, floating in the same area for a few minutes, I knew it would be a challenge to swim all the back to shore, but knew I'd be up to it.

It had come as quite a challenge, but I had somehow persevered. It was very deep out there and there was no one else out there. I took a dive down and couldn't even get close to the bottom. When I came out, I realized that I'd drifted even further out, falling even deeper out into the sea. I felt the currents starting to pull me out into the depths. They were becoming stronger than I could fight, and I knew I couldn't go out much farther. The waves began pushing over my head and I felt them start to overwhelm me. I tried not to panic and instead focused my energy on getting out of there. Nothing good would come of me from being so far out there. I was alone and there wasn't anyone else around, I could sink and drown out there and no one would find out until it was too late. I began to kick up a little higher in an attempt to gain some traction. It seemed to work for the most part. but the occasional huge wave would somehow kick in and over my head, submerging me for a moment. I felt a little bit frightened as the water seemed to grow ever stronger and deeper, but I knew how to handle it. I'd found myself in a somewhat similar situation a few months earlier and had an idea what the most effective strategy would entail. I decided to swim across from the shore, making a parallel line until I reached a calmer section. It wasn't the easiest thing to do, but I knew I couldn't waste much time trying to go directly against the tides. This approach would take longer, require more effort and energy, but I knew it would be effective.

I made some good progress, gradually moving through the ocean but the tide began to shift and suddenly things were moving in the wrong position. The waves were getting stronger and choppier and I knew it would soon become overwhelming. I decided to switch directions and began moving in the opposite direction. I didn't take long before I was being pulled in the right direction. I was relieved but there was still a long way to go. There was still plenty of room for me to mess up. I began to approach things more carefully. Instead of blindly pushing ahead, I decided to check things out every few minutes. I paused and looked around to make sure I was heading in the right direction, using the straggled beach coastline as my guide. It gradually grew larger and I began to relax. It was still early in the day, and the bright, hot sun gave me another way of tracking my progress I was aware of its transitory nature and which position it generally was, so I could easily see ahead of me. There weren't any clouds to block my view, and, in some strange way, its consistent presence was reassuring, helping to keep me from panicking. I was far from the shoreline and felt a little adrift. I had to pace myself a little and find a focus which wasn't the easiest thing. I had no choice and decided I'd get back to the shore in due time.

Taking a break for a moment, I looked up towards the sun and at the shoreline and was satisfied that I was making good progress. I had gotten back past the buoys and the outer lines, but was down shore a little bit from where I'd embarked. It would be difficult enough to swim back and decided not to worry about where I'd land. I could always walk back once I'd gotten on the beach one more. I felt a strange tipple beneath me, a rip in the undertow. I tried to suck me down, but I was able to resist it, and quickly swam out of its path. When I looked back, there wasn't much beyond a few bubbles rescinding beneath the waves. Probably not such a big deal but something I wasn't prepared to face. I felt a bit uneasy and decided to resume my journey without making too much delay. After a few minutes, I was able to shake off any residual fear and began swimming ahead with increased resolution and purpose. It didn't take long to get back into the flow of the water, working within the currents. After awhile It felt like I was almost gliding through the choppy waves. I felt myself almost floating, rising a little above them. No longer afraid, I was moving ahead without pulling myself down into the currents or holding back. I could allow myself to hesitate, I knew that I'd probably sink beneath the waves if I stood in place for too long.

Despite the increasing danger, my initial strokes were tentative, lacked rhythm, and were somewhat disconnected but increased in strength and effectiveness until I was making sharp and cutting motions through the waves, slicing through them with my arms. I resumed the battle and was slicing through the waves, quickly making my way back towards the shoreline, I made up a lot of ground quickly, until I'd nearly reached the edge of the beach, balancing myself just above the surface. I decided to put my feet down and hoped that at least I could touch the bottom. Nervously, I placed my feet beneath me and tried to feel something beneath me. At first, I didn't seem to hit anything, but I caught something and there was a sense of relief. It was dusty, milky and not at all stable, but the bottom floor of the water was just a little beneath me. I tried again and there was a tenuous contact, but there it was nonetheless. I couldn't keep my completely above water, and there was still a distance ahead of me, but I knew I was finally safe and wasn't going to sink under the sea.

My arms had grown a little sore and I needed to rest them. I took a moment and slid them at my sides to recharge them. Fortunately, I was close enough that I was able to safely accomplish this without sinking below the surface. It was a relief to stabilize myself enough to take a quick rest. I tread water, waited for a few minutes and was able to take a breath and survey the surroundings. I took in the hot sunny air and let it soak in, giving me a renewed energy and purpose. It wasn't much farther to go, and I ventured forward until I was almost standing and walking forward. Before I knew it, I found myself standing on the edge of the beach. I had somehow made it all the way out there and back. I was a little tired but largely unharmed from the exercise.

I looked around and found myself on the other side of the beach, far from the point where I'd entered the ocean. That side of the beach wasn't nearly as crowded and almost felt abandoned for some strange reason. It wasn't as smooth or cultivated as the other side and its roughness probably dissuaded people from going there. I felt a little disoriented and lost but there was nothing there to distract me. Its coarse sand wasn't as warm as the other side, and the large trees and thick brushes were heavy on the ground, making that side less welcoming. I walked around and noticed that there seemed to be almost nobody else around. I saw someone from a distance, but they didn't seem to notice me. All that effort was for nothing, there was no one to witness my triumph. I sat on the hard sand for a few minutes and tried to catch my breath from all the excitement. It wasn't easy to get my bearings, with my feet slowly adjusting to being back on the solid surface. I let my mind wander for a few minutes, letting the somewhat disparate sunshine take hold. After a few minutes, I got up to stand fully and noticed something a bit strange. A few feet away, there was a strange, darkened object poking above the sand. At first, I didn't know what it could be. I took a couple steps closer towards its position and noticed a few more tell-tale signs. I carefully navigated over the rocky sands to get a better look at it and as I drew in towards the object, I figured out quickly what it was.

Its craggy, uneven shell had revealed itself, though not for a lack of trying. It had burrowed fairly deep under the sands, giving it a kind of clandestine protection from the outside. For some reason, it had come onto the beach. Possibly to seek shelter or at least been stranded there reluctantly. It was a little beneath the high-tide marker, and the sand surrounding it was still quite damp and heavy. As I drew closer, it seemed to notice I was there and quickly attempted to hide. It quickly buried itself deeper into the sand. It was only with its uncovered, leaving it partially submerged beneath the sand. It was a little too late; I knew what it was by its distinctive shape and brown shell casing. I had run into one of the strange creatures that lived there; a horseshoe crab. I walked towards it, but decided not to get too close. I knew from earlier encounters that they had long, sharp tails. I wasn't going to mess with that. I decided not to interfere with it and instead watched from a safe distance. Silently, I waited for it to make the next move. I sat down on the sand slowly without making to make any noise. I tried to be very careful, not making a sound that would disturb its routine or preparations. I was somehow drawn to it, an elusive and unobtrusive little sea creature. It didn't move for awhile but I was patient and waited; wondering what the plan might be. After a few minutes, it began to make its move.
It had burrowed down far enough and began to carefully, slowly take a few tentative steps back towards the surface. I could sense it was still wary and remained far away. I resisted the urge to move towards it and watched as it made its way towards the surface. The outlines of its shell began to emerge from the sand, slowly gaining a kind of traction with each move upwards. It didn't seem to notice that I was there, and it remained with its back towards me. It began to move forwards, searching for some thing unknown. It started to move away from me, slowly rolling over the sand, and back towards the water. I watched it crawling over the sands, letting it slide down undisturbed, heading down the slope at a quickening pace. It seemed that it had a mission and a plan, but it wasn't immediately obvious what that might have been. It had nearly reached the edge of the water when it stopped suddenly. I didn't know exactly what it was up to, but had an idea that it had reached a safer position. I held in place watching from a fairly long remove, allowing it plenty of space but was still curious enough to keep it under a watchful gaze.

It began to dig itself down, until its form disappeared under the sand. There was nothing evident in its shape or form and I lost track of where it had gone. It seemed to vanish completely beneath the sands and there was no sign if it. Everything was very quiet and the stillness was a kind of relief, but I was worried. Where had it gone and why had it vanished. I hoped I hadn't frightened it into retreat, because that wasn't my intention. I sat there for awhile, wondering what I should do next. I knew it wouldn't be wise to try and locate it or drum it out from hiding. My instincts told me to wait for awhile, since there was no reason for me to think it wouldn't need to come back up for air or some other kind of break, I waited patiently for quite some time, expecting it to come back at any minute, but it wasn't going to be that easy. It took some time before I noticed something, but there was a distinct shape emerging once more, shaking a little sand in its wake and making a kind of strange swirling motion, before it remerged from the sand. At first, I didn't realize it, but it was slowly crawling across the sand, moving inexorably closer towards me. Before I knew it, the crab was only a couple feet away, and instead of looking at its tail, I had a clear view of its eyes. It seemed to be looking straight at me, with both of its tiny eyes trained directly on me. This was a little disconcerting and frightening, It looked like it was going to attack. I sat frozen in place, a sudden gush of fear made me afraid and unsure of what to do next.

Horseshoe crabs were dangerous and unpredictable; they seemed to enjoy catching people off-guard. It was a strange situation but somehow I realized that it wasn't as dangerous as it might have seemed. It crept a little bit closer towards my position, hesitating only momentarily to take a measure of my situation. I didn't move or threaten it, instead deciding not to be intimidated. He stared directly at me, seemingly unwilling to be put off its own path. I was sitting in its way, but it wasn't going to be stopped. Either I would move or there would be trouble. Moving closer into my space, it made me nervous - I didn't want to be on the unhappy end of its sharp tail, and it wasn't going to change its destination no matter what lied in its path. I wasn't budging either, so it came to a kind of strange stalemate, both of us standing in the others' way with no resolution in sight. The crab sat there for awhile, not motioning or moving ahead. He stopped and seemingly decided that he would wait it out. His patience seemed endless while I was growing increasingly afraid that he might attack, while I had nothing to use against him. It took what felt like forever, but was probably only a few minutes until I finally decided to do something. I didn't attack or threaten him. Instead, I decided to just get up and move out of its path. I reluctantly conceded that he had shown greater strength and courage, bravely standing his ground despite my larger size and strength. Then it did an odd thing I didn't expect. Instead of plowing ahead forward as it seemed was its goal, it remained ensconced in place, and didn't move another inch forward. It sensed victory in some way and seemed to decide to take a minute to bask in the glory of its triumph. I walked a little further back from the breach and watched from a safe distance.

Quietly, we set our places in the sand, each one of us sitting at a safe distance from the other. I watched it carefully, and it seemed to relax a little. It seemed to realize that I was no longer a threat and this seemed to release a bit of tension. Taking a rest, I could see it take on a less defensive position, and allowed itself to be seen, at least a little bit more. Its scaly shell was visible to and it was no longer making elaborate efforts to hide itself. After a few minutes, it seemed to almost forget I was there. It started to dig in a little bit, making a narrow nest for itself in the sand, building walls to protect itself from the outside, then burrowing down a little until it retrieved sand and sea-shells with it would provide a line no one could cross. I watched it carefully build its place in the sand and wondered what its purpose might have been. I began to feel a strange attachment to it and there seemed to be a strange kinship developing. We shared a small patch of sand and at least for the moment, had entered a truce. The more I thought about it, the more we seemed to have in common. Both of us were a little bit out of place on the beach, and had been wandering there for some time. We accidentally wandered out of our usual place and found ourselves somewhat lost, and maybe a little frightened by the other at first. We had reached an uneasy alliance, neither one of us would intrude on the others' space.

Unlikely as it seemed, there was a strange connection between us that I couldn't explain, but was most certainly real. I watched and wondered what it was up to, but its motivations remained mysterious for the time being. It seemed to have calmed down significantly, and its energy seemed to have shifted focus to something I didn't understand., The horseshoe crab waited in its territory for something to happen, patiently watching the outer walls of its makeshift shelter. I wondered what threat it might be anticipating, aside from me. I waited in silence, not wanting to interfere with whatever it might be planning. I looked at the waves shifting just below its position, neither rising or falling but entering a strange in-between that seemed strangely calm. Unaware of the situation surrounding it, time seemed to slide by undeterred, there was an odd sense of the outside world slipping away while we focused on our own little slice of life. The horseshoe crab didn't seem bothered by any of this, and seemed unworried by anything happening in the surrounding areas. There was nothing more that mattered in that moment, we just had to sit and watch. I looked upwards towards clouds and the radiating sun, momentarily distracted by its warmth and radiance. It created an odd distraction that took my eyes off the horseshoe crab for a few moments, which seemed to be all the time it needed.

When I looked back towards the horseshoe crab, something had changed. I couldn't figure it out at first but there was something going on inside of its nest. I watched and it was running back and forth quickly inside its circle but I couldn't figure our why. It began moving quickly, almost spinning in place. It seemed oddly excited for some strange reason. I walked closer and noticed an increased rustling and moving. Alarmed, by this apparent burst of madness, I moved closer and saw that it seemed to have come under some kind of spell and was moving with increasing speed, developing into what escalated into what resembled a kind of panic. At first, I couldn't see what the commotion was about. I decided to tempt fate and walked a little bit closer to find out what was happening, not knowing what the object of its agitation might be. Finally, I was able to gain a good viewpoint and discovered, what in retrospect, should have been obvious. Beneath the frantic, frenzied horseshoe crab, a slightly larger one sat beneath, seeming to have located their shared nest. I wondered how it was able to locate the other crab, or if it had been waiting just beneath the sand all along, hidden for the most part from view. Unlike the first crab, It wasn't particularly excited, but seemed strangely sanguine about the proceedings. The other one continued on its elaborate mating dance, somehow convinced that this would be the right way to impress its companion.

The second crab slowly lowered its resistance and began to dance a little as well. Before I knew what was happening, they began moving in tandem, like It was something they had planned all along. It wasn't what I had expected to encounter but they seemed strangely content and it didn't bother me after awhile. It seemed natural in some strange way. It was also some how moving in that they had found each other, rescuing themselves from the lonely breaches of the deep. The horseshoe crabs seemed oblivious to my presence and at that point, I couldn't blame them. I decided not to stare at them, since I didn't want to intrude on their moment. I took one more glance and saw that they had ensconced themselves deeper into their nest, and began burying their bodies until they were only half-visible. Instinctively, I knew this was my signal; it was time for me to leave them alone. I turned away and walked back towards the other side of the beach, where everyone else was. It had been a long swim and there was still a long walk back towards the other side of the beach. I took a final glance back towards them and was glad that I had been allowed to see their secret moment. Giving them space and showing some patience seemed to have worked and built their trust in me and I felt fortunate to have shared a special time with them.

- Michael Palisano