The Laser Fiction - A Diminu Calibration









In Memory
Sean Pettibone



A Diminutive Calibration

Looking over the arrayed drawings carefully revealed hidden aspects I hadn't noticed initially. Examining the mysterious woman's eyes portrayed a consistently transfixing luminance that appeared to glow in uniform intensity and focus, regardless of her surroundings. She approached the surface of the paintings but never let the artist draw into her sphere any further, maintaining a noticeable remove throughout the enrapturing portraits. I felt myself becoming increasingly engaged with her resplendence to a degree I hadn't anticipated. Attempting to decipher their clandestine origin, I took a closer examination of her expressions but her reticence revealed little. Her emotions firmly in check, she remained elusive and didn't or wouldn't reveal anything more about herself than the surface indicated.

As I looked deeper at the undeniably mesmerizing figure depicted on the page, something I hadn't anticipated occurred gradually. There was a tangible, yet unspoken connection that inexorably formed between us but I couldn't quite articulate what exactly it might signify. We hadn't ever met, I'd never seen the drawings before but there was an almost silent yet insistent voice that grew more pronounced the longer I stared into her enigmatic features. Trying my hardest to discover any hidden permutations alongside unspoken denouements hidden within their evocative brushstrokes was becoming increasingly detrimental. I turned to the surrounding areas depicted, but their flat, unobtrusive surfaces were plain and nondescript. None of the disparate locations reasserted memories within me. I was at a loss, and glanced toward the other side of the room for reassurance or guidance.

The two figures continued watching intently with expectancy and confusion. Neither of them said a word, apparently not wanting to interfere with the process. After several minutes in this state, the man nodded his head for me to continue. She quickly assented and mirrored his silent, affirmative gesture. She nodded her head encouragingly, quickly pointing back towards the illustrations. It appeared that I needed more time, they could wait. Apparently, both assumed I'd find something if I kept at it. They both concluded, almost immediately, that the paintings were produced from my hand. It didn't make sense to me, they were far too complex and detailed. Showing a realistic approach far beyond my limited abilities to produce. I was far too young, these were clearly the result of greater experience and inherent talent, far exceeding any composition than I could manage to affect.

My novice artistic skills and limited talents were matching the abilities depicted. It was disconcerting that they'd come to arrive at such a definitive conclusion without pretext. I couldn't understand how this might have occurred. Taking their advice, I returned to face the pictures, and began examining them again from a different angle. The figure depicted within appeared to have taken a step back after our interruption, seeming to retreat backward into the pages. Attempting to bridge the unspoken presence on the page with any interred elements from the past didn't uncover any submerged relics from the illustrations. My recollections of them up to that point were completely blank. I hadn't ever seen any of the collected pages before, and knew immediately that I had no role in their creation. Despite my efforts, no amount of effort prodded anything I could build on. Standing upwards before moving back several steps away from the mesmerizing figure, I arrived at a determined, contradictory conclusion. I walked towards the pair watching over my observations and began shaking my head resolutely. After conducting an extensive reconsideration, I realized the arranged portraits weren't mine.

They looked towards me with disappointment and redolence. That wasn't the outcome they'd expected; the quiet assumption they relied upon appeared to dissolve into frayed shards; falling apart on closer inspection. The main impediment seemed to be my lack of skill; my hands couldn't approach the resplendent illustrations on the page. After a prolonged interval of uneasy silence, he spoke first. The resulting circulation of differing explanations in his head, weren't arriving at the conclusion he'd anticipated. He thought about things quietly for a few minutes before conceding that he couldn't arrive at a satisfying conclusion. She walked quietly in my direction and took another long gasp at the enigmatic figure peering from the antique pages, assembled without elaboration or revelation.

The portraits revealed little despite our concentrated efforts. Her eyes looked over them closely, and it seemed that that any plausible explanation remained elusive. Maintaining a silent posture, turning to me sporadically during her visual inquiry. She kept a remove from the delicate pages, unwilling to disrupt their concerted force. Looking over them carefully, alongside her didn't release any memories. I examined them carefully, looking for anything that she might have overlooked. Probing the assemblage, hoping that something might emerge, but I couldn't locate a tangible pattern or insight emerge from within the thin sheets of paper. Waiting patiently, he stood behind us for an extended period, the enigmatic figure said nothing, allowing us to observe the pages without reasserting himself.

We stood on their periphery for a extensive period until she finally decided to retract several feet back to gain another perspective, silently gauging the portraits' possible repercussions. She asked me out loud if I was still absolutely sure I had no memories of the paintings. I nodded my head reluctantly in the negative, these definitely weren't my work.

Turning in my direction, she signaled that she appreciated my effort, but there wasn't much more we could do without positive indications. Our focus was misdirected and couldn't continue. He'd come closer and the three of us mutely concluded they were better left dormant. I saw her shoulders slump downward and he followed behind, appearing somewhat dejected. She reluctantly walked towards the front of the table and carefully placed the illustrations individually, cautiously into the old folder. She worked quickly and methodically until each was secured, safely hidden from view.

She fashioned the strings around the bundled papers, securing the portraits in place without further admonishment. Her hands gently placed them beneath a thick shelf, where they'd be easy for us to find in the future, He waited a few minutes before standing in direction facing the opposite side of the room before softly observing that we couldn't stay confined in that room indefinitely. His hands quickly shut the light and pushed the thick desk in front of the shelf, hiding the pictures behind it. She turned her attention towards the other side of the room.

Its narrow doorway remembered our presence and didn't slam shut behind us. We created a defensive formation, standing directly behind each other, guarding against unseen impediments from close range. The limited visibility painted a narrow path for us to follow, we had to be careful and look at for each other. There wasn't much space to maneuver or make missteps. We moved slowly, working at a meandering pace but eventually managed to cross the long, gaping breach, until finally reaching the outer floor. Looking behind me, I was surprised that the typically thorough pair overlooked something important on the way out. The heavy wooden doorway remained open.

Quickly maneuvering towards the entrance, I closed it firmly behind us. It quickly appeared to vanish beneath the darkness that cloaked the inner mountain, almost becoming invisible if you weren't looking for it. Turning around, I noticed a change in perception immediately. The path ahead wasn't clear. The foundation no longer felt secure, I needed to watch closely in the shadows to see where to turn. I couldn't get caught up in distractions, which would only lead to time-consuming procrastinations. After several minutes seeming to stumble around in the darkness, she remembered to pull out her machine, unrolling it quickly and pointing it upward. It quickly managed to illuminate the surroundings.

Our path through felt constrained but we managed to walk over its unstable surfaces at a steady pace, navigating past the occasional formations and loose rocks with relative ease. I watched her confidentially hold up her intrinsically constructed machine, traversing the inner route through the stony hollow without hesitation. She walked directly ahead in an unyielding straight line, following the path ahead with precisely measured steps. He followed suit, at a slightly more delicate pace.

Lacking the stability she maintained effortlessly. but he still walked ahead briskly, seemingly unaided. It had been awhile since our last encounter; watching her use her light-convergence machine effortlessly brought up a something I hadn't brought up previously. There were intangible aspects of the mysterious figure couldn't be reconciled and I couldn't get the innumerable portraits out of my mind. They appeared unconcerned, but I remained inexplicably uneasy when I thought about the visages.

Travelling at a deliberate pace, she managed to lead without hesitation until locating the exit without encountering recalcitrant forces. After we crossed back into the mountain's exterior, the skies above had noticeably darkened, their diminishing light signaling a late-afternoon sun descending from view. Without the glaring shielding our eyes, the cracks tunneling between the thick plates were easier to spot, though this had the coinciding result of making them appear deeper and somewhat intimidating. To a degree this made her slightly more cautious than she might have otherwise been, she didn't seem overly concerned by this. Moving across the surface, she fearlessly forged a path that spilt the eastern side, with its residual after-image allowing us to move quickly across the desolate flat plates, pausing sporadically for respite but determined not to get caught beneath the lengthening shadows. Following her steady pace and resolute path wasn't nearly that straightforward.

Maintaining a straight line through the largely flat environment carved the most efficient path, but it wasn't necessarily the easiest. Our journey unfolded over difficult, unsteady terrain where it was difficult to hold balance and equilibrium. I encountered numerous points where I nearly tripped and fell over. She didn't waver, never diverging from her steady pace. I watched her travelling over the uneven stony surfaces without fear. Following suit required us walking behind her to concentrate our attention within our immediate vicinity. It was hard enough to keep up with her, we couldn't allow much in the way of distractions and ignored anything untoward that might appear in the distance. He followed in her wake quietly and didn't verbalize anything significant during our extended foray.

The surface maintained a relatively stable height and angle but the harshness of the rock plates began wearing at the edges. Underlining the steadiness, its unforgivingly consistent ground gave few points of softer release beneath us, allowing us few points of respite. I felt my toes begin to sharpen from the unrelenting pressure, and I noticed him hold back a little as we moved over the clashing plates. The most significant relief we encountered came from the diminishing sunlight that gradually reduced the pressure emanating overhead. The darkening afternoon continued to slip away, but this only intensified our speed. Travelling back over some of the various declines and juts from the opposite angle wasn't particularly difficult but we managed to work quickly until we managed to reach more familiar territory.

The remaining length was flat and wide, lacking the deeper cracks and surface rifts that had slowed us down. Having maneuvered successfully, it didn't take long for us to reach the base of the mountain, and the steps leading back up its side. Looking above, they looked a little steeper than I remembered but nothing that couldn't be managed. They waited briefly then commenced climbing up the side of the mountain. Undaunted by its scale, I saw her look back at the rapidly diminishing sunlight, reflecting deeper shadows on the surface. This only increased her determination and she moved upward at a noticeably faster resolve, quickly scaling the steps until she'd managed to reach the mountain's peak without excessive delay. He moved at a slower rate but quickly took his place beside her and moved to the other side of the apex and peered back over the side of the mountain.

I found myself moving carefully up towards their position at a slower, more cautious rate, carefully navigating the steps without rushing, trying to out flank the shadows nipping at my feet without pausing. I felt myself drawn back by a somewhat numb sensation that had unexpectedly taken hold in my feet, but compensated by taking longer steps upward, not allowing the minor issue to dissuade any furtive movement.

I was determined to maintain a relatively fast rate of movement and was able to keep momentum at a high level until I reached the mountain-top and joined their position at the top. They'd already worked their way towards the other side and were looking below carefully. Nothing appeared significantly altered after our extended journey, the river through the valley continued its meandering flow. It came as a great relief to see a familiar boat patiently awaiting our return. The vessel steadfastly maintained guard, floating attentively in the same position we'd left it.

Tranquil surrounding currents gave it a strange aura of security and we quickly kept down the uneven steps towards the landing. It didn't feel as steep on the way down as it had on ascent. The elongated shadows we cast belied the change in atmosphere; we had to move quickly. She maintained the lead but he followed her a little closer than before, adding enhanced effort to his pace. Placing his head in firmer upright position, he appeared to find an increased resolve. Arriving at the shoreline's edge he paused momentarily and surveyed the surroundings.

Nothing appeared out of place mirroring exactly the way we'd left it. Standing on the murky sands and pausing before surveying the boat for any visible damage to its sails, ropes, decks or controls. Nothing appeared worse for the wear and he let out a breath of release, using that occasion to allow himself a brief surge of pride. Its resilience was a result of his efforts, and its solid state remained impressive. She walked towards its circumference and shared her approval, signaling that everything remained in flawless condition; it was safe for us to board.

She wasted little time before walking up the boards where it was docked, and managed to find her favored position near its center to chart our next moves through the flowing river. There wasn't an immediately apparent objective, but she didn't seem to need to visualize a path. Inherently supported by the wind and steered by unseen forces, she required little external command. She stood resolutely beneath the sails, they remained largely fallow almost asleep, rising only with the occasional gust. She wasn't rushing to get anywhere specific, instead content to find a secure position, without marking a definitive path. I decided to take my place alongside her and quickly ran onboard, jumping without restraint over the boards until I managed to make my way back onto its buoyant surface and felt a welcome measure of relative calm.

He watched her achieve a deserved respite but took a slightly different approach. Initially standing back to make certain everything was in order, he appeared to have a solid objective in mind. He stood and observed the unfolding events with some hesitation and reluctance, unwilling to yield before the time was right. Looking above he appeared to sense the night skies taking precedence, as its clouds began filling in the blank skies. Deciding he couldn't hold off much longer, he took a few narrow steps towards the narrow boards before quickly running up their sides. Diverging from her position, he passed her side before working his way towards the boat's lead position. He stood firmly at its base before taking command of its steering wheel and associated controls.

He pulled some of the switches and levers, jolting the boat forward suddenly into the river, it seemed to shake and roll towards the east before stabilizing. I took position towards the back of the boat, waiting patiently for it to take a measure of consistency before resuming my duties. I managed to take some command of the secondary speed and velocity switches, allowing him to take the lead while keeping an eye on things. I didn't need to look ahead that closely and waited a few minutes before relaxing my gaze. Leaning in the opposite direction, I observed the waves flowing behind us, unfolding in a somewhat disengaged backward motion. I began watching them for any signs of disruption, but they flowed without fail, maintaining a consistent momentum.

The consistent flow from its relentless waves helped reassure me that we were moving in the right direction, despite the lack of immediate clarity. This released some of the accumulated anxiety which allowed me to return focus on her. I was surprised her attention shifted from piloting the boat, into something else. She'd knelt down and was searching through an odd box that she'd managed to extract from the barren boards beneath her. Opened slightly ajar, I watched carefully as she removed a small narrow object from its recesses.
She noticed I was watching and waved at me to come closer. I wasn't sure what she wanted from me, but I followed suit. When I moved closer, I realized she was holding a solitary black pen in her hand, for what purpose remained unclear. She ruffled through the box some more until she found a group of papers. I wondered what secrets they contained within, perhaps they had the explanation we'd been seeking. Examining them closely was disappointing. She held them up beneath the darkening skies but even that dim light revealed they were all a bit worn but strangely empty. It wasn't clear why they'd been left there on the boat visibly unprotected, apparently unused for an extended spell without accompaniment.

I wasn't sure what exactly she had planned; her hands seemed to hide what else she might have been up to initially. Waiting quietly for an explanation, she didn't respond immediately. Exploring further, she took the pen and began examining it closely, deciding on her next course of action carefully as she measured its form and function. Turning it in different directions slowly she looked it over cautiously apparently trying to uncover something written on its sides that might provide a clue. I joined her as we both attempted to see what the black pen might reveal but there was nothing visible. After thinking about its purpose for several minutes, she decided to hand it to me.

I was initially reluctant to take it from her but she thrust it in my direction firmly, not wanting to concede the point. She held it up firmly in the air, stridently extending it in my direction until I yielded to her wishes and put it in my hand. It felt strange, a little heavier than I anticipated, as if had roused from a long slumber. I wasn't sure why it was so hard. I noticed its fountain appeared to have collated from layers of ink at its head, masking its sharp edges from sticking me when I rolled my finger over it. She waved at me while I accustomed me to its burden. I wasn't sure what she would do next until she handed me the empty pages and I began flipping them over, looking for some directive, but found no visible marks or writing on its surface.

I wasn't precise on what I needed to do. I waited for some advice but she didn't give me anything. Waiting quietly I wondered whether I should attempt drawing on the papers myself or hold onto them for a later time. It wasn't clear and she allowed me to ponder my next move. I waited quietly looking at the somewhat worn pages in my hands. She allowed me to decide but I couldn't come to a decision. She waited patiently, until she finally gave up. Her waved her arms upward and motioned for me to join her as she walked back towards the back of the boat, this time on its eastern side, our gaze facing over the water. We watched its cruising waves flowing beneath our feet for several minutes until the skies began dimming significantly, marking the onset of nightfall. She looked ahead and pointed towards the front, where the taller figure was preoccupied steering and maneuvering the ship through the docile currents.

She noticed approvingly that he hadn't been distracted by the unlikely discovery and turned in my direction remaining somewhat perplexed. She looked around the boat and found nothing further. Observing carefully, I examined a small pile of wooden pieces scattered hastily on the deck. I wondered where they'd come from since I hadn't noticed them during our previous journeys on that boat. She walked towards them cautiously; apparently sharing my curiosity about them, As she walked closer, she rummaged through the piles and began rustling through them. There were a number of jumbled pieces but as she sorted them out, I noticed several long planks protruding from the disorganized assemblage.

She began walking towards the curious sections and began further sorting through the pile; systematically working through its hastily disorganized boards. Stacked in different directions, it wasn't immediately clear what she was doing. Standing at a distance, she seemed to pull out different pieces until she began assembling what tenuously resembled a stand. Two wooden boards crossed then connected with a narrow slot at the center. She pulled a third one that supported them and it quickly became evident that the stand was turning into. She found another extension crossing the field and this final support stabilized what was now a firmer outline of an easel. Locating several smaller flat pieces, she quickly connected them to form a solid surface. When connected to each other, they allowed enough space for someone to place a canvas or papers. She found a small group of loose metal filings that bound the piece together completely, creating the unmistakable form of an easel; standing on-deck patiently yet expectantly.

Approaching the easel nervously, my eyes surveyed it with guarded intent. It seemed remarkably stable given how quickly she built it. The flat surface was steady and firm and I pulled at its boards quickly to maneuver it in a better position while examining it for any signs of detriments. It didn't shake excessively, not giving in to my efforts. She walked over towards my location and stood beside me. We stared at the empty slate in front of us for an extended period, neither one of us appeared to want to take a step closer, initially. It wasn't clear which one of us would take the lead at first; we'd reached an uneasy impasse, with no visible path ahead. She held the papers while I stood clenching the heavy pen. We looked at each other uneasily for several minutes trying to figure out who would make the first step.

Standing across from the easel. she silently pondered its mysteries intently for several minutes. Glancing in my direction occasionally, she then walked up to the easel until she stood directly in front of it. She made an unmistakable choice; placing the stack of empty pages onto the surface; suddenly she turned in my direction and motioned for my company. I walked over quickly towards her, pushing the pen into her hand. She held her arm sideways, blocking me from further inroads, politely refusing my offer. She quickly moved out of my way and pointed towards the easel and its accumulated sheets, signaling it was my turn to take command. I wasn't expecting her to entrust me with them. They appeared limited in scale and scope. However, despite these impediments, she made an unexpected, contradictory choice.

Her artistry far exceeded my abilities, and it didn't seem to be the most effective choice. I hesitated to walk over and make any sort of mark on the delicate. She reinforced her earlier insistence, pointing at the empty slate again. I wasn't entirely sure that I was up to the task, but she wasn't going to be convinced otherwise. Looking towards the vessel's frontage, the mysterious navigator was preoccupied with steering and commanding the boat, mostly oblivious to our dilemma. The sails above his position appeared to have grown stronger and firmer, flying robustly within the strengthening wind. Searching farther above, the afternoon elicited its final burst of light, allowing the night skies to take unimpeded prevalence. I turned back towards my immediate task and watched the rapidly dimming easel slide from view. Deciding to trust her instincts, forsake further uneasiness and I allowed my inexperienced hands to commence without further delay.

I walked up to the papers, placing the pen at the far edge of the page to make a few small preliminary strokes to get a quick feel for its general pacing, stridency, resilience and thickness. It took only a couple of limited maneuvers before it came under my control. Watching the ink dry on the page quickly reassured my of its consistency, while the stark contrast gave me confidence that this wouldn't end up resembling a tentative sketch. After several additional preliminary brushes at the bottom of the page. I took in a deep breath, finally ready to begin.

She peered over my shoulder careful, with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation. I took the pen in hand and forcefully drew a large straight line through the lower portion of the page. Marking this clear division, I confidentially began forging ahead. I filled in the surface below the marking to form the base of a background then filled in some details alongside it. Stepping back, I quickly surveyed the work and found myself unexpectedly pleased with my progress. I began to walk back towards the composition, effortlessly elaborating the drawing's small details, filling in the blank portions without hesitation.

My hands moved quickly detailing the lower portion of the composition, adding elements quickly. At first, I didn't notice the minor shift occur, and it took several minutes to make itself known. There was initially a small burst of light on edge the page. At first, I wasn't sure where it was coming from, it seemed like a minor distraction and I ignored it. When it grew larger looked back to see where the light originated. I quickly recognized one of the moons rising, peering just above the surface, lighting the paper with a resplendent yet impermeable green glow. Illuminating the page with its steely, sharp reflective hue lent the page an unavoidable pull.

Stepping back into its unmistakable gaze, I determined that the setting was in place. I took then pen and began tracing a shape on the page, not entirely sure what I was going to do. It didn't appear to turn out to resemble anything in particular when I was finished, I'd come up with random blot. I took a breath a closed my eyes, attempting to visualize what I was going to image. My mind cycled through numerous possibilities but none of them felt appropriate for the circumstances. I thought carefully, attempting to choose something quickly that I could manage to convey effectively.
Intentions reluctantly converged and focused on resolving my indecisive design, numerous solutions rapidly diminished before I could start composing. My hands began moving without direction, small impediments became unscalable barriers. I couldn't seem to breach the coordinated fortresses surrounding their imposing surfaces. Despite making concerted efforts, they only resulted in producing unrecognizable scribbles on the page. Before realizing what occurred, the page filled with scratches consisting of disorganized lines and unseen paths. I found myself faced with an increasingly vexing stagnation with no obvious solution. The glowing page became intimidating as its saturated green color strengthened as the first moon rose, rapidly permeating my partially completed page with increasingly imposing hues. I felt my hands stiffen, then froze in place. I found myself unable to declare an implicit direction with the pen.

Temporal focus dissolved beneath the unyielding lunar intensifying glare. Searching for further instruction, I looked back towards her for some kind of advice, but she'd slipped away and was standing near the opposing railing of the ship, apparently not wanting to get in the way or interfere with my process. I stood back, holding the increasingly heavy pen against the wind, hoping something might gust and push it in a decisive direction. Awaiting direction, I watched it closely for any signs but nothing arrived. Despite all my effort setting the stage, then creating an elaborate preliminary baselines, I'd unexpectedly encountered an involuntary barrier I couldn't breach.

- Michael Palisano