The Laser Fiction - The Dissolving Convergence - Part One









In Memory
Sean Pettibone



The Dissolving Convergence

Attempting to embody the ocean with its unsparing movement, the vessel twisted around with innumerable twists and turns. It swayed and swooshed around, in seemingly random fashion, unable to decide on a sense of direction, or even a consistent rate of speed. Attempting to decipher a pattern of movement distinct from the waves that drew it would end up in frustration and anxiety. There was no point in attempting to locate any reason within the swirling waves. It seemed that the three of us were merely along for the ride. She attempted to use her newly-acquired map-making machine to gather any information she could, but there was no apparent useful response. She could only draw meandering gibberish from its functions, no matter which elaborate combinations were attempted. I watched her take measurements, of distance and length but none of this made any logical sense.

My eyes turned to the man attempting to steer and navigate the vessel from behind me. He watched me carefully as I spun the wheel and pushed the various buttons. Nothing I did connected us to the unwieldy journey in front of us. He stepped closer to me in order to get a closer look. He examined the dials and buttons carefully and thoughtfully suggested that I take the wheel at a tighter grip, securing its grip and motion until I was able to maintain a greater consistency of control. It was difficult for me to undertake such an unfettered approach. I didn't really have the confidence or experience yet to implement that level of complexity and couldn't compensate with my inadequate commands.

He insisted that I work the machine's intricacies and learn its vagaries, and not let fear deter me from the mission at hand. I looked into his eyes then darted towards her, it was clear that the both of them were relying on me. This added incentive to keep pushing forward and despite the lack of a clear path ahead, I managed to keep the boat under my control. I successfully dodged intense, large waves and navigated harsh currents to keep things under my command. We made some significant progress in what seemed like the right direction. After a few tense minutes, there was an noticeable change in the ocean's disposition, it began to slowly relax its aquatic muscles, putting up halting resistance to our unusual directives and intractable commands.

The seas began to calm beneath us, there were fewer unexpected rough patches and the choppy sections slowly began to subside. I felt a change in the controls as well. The wheel seemed to gradually loosen, becoming easier to turn while the switches and dials became easier to move. I looked above toward its sails, which had previously put up quite a fight against the oncoming wind, changed their headwind and were now blowing in tandem, complimenting the windy gusts instead of fighting them. She noticed this change and began to relax, ever so slightly. Her shoulders seemed to slip back from perennial high-tension to a less confrontational approach. I watched the man cautiously cede command to me. His defensiveness gave way and he stepped away, allowing space for me to maneuver unimpeded.

I watched everything surrounding me carefully, looking for signs and signals that something might be amiss. I hadn't gotten complacent. There was a lingering threat, unexpected forces had come from nowhere. It was largely a matter of luck and circumstance that I'd escaped unharmed, thanks largely to their fortuitous aid. Staring intently, I found myself taking pains to not allow anything pass through undetected on my watch, despite nothing visible or apparent. Listening carefully for any disruptions in the lingering quiet, nervously awaiting their unwelcome return. I steadied myself cautiously, gradually taking a more pronounced approach to the task at hand. Steering the vessel with increasing confidence, the ocean's waves and currents became increasingly reliable and predictable. I couldn't allow the lingering fear to get the best of me. I looked towards her for guidance and it was reassuring, to some degree, that she didn't have the same sense of dread that overwhelmed me.

Instead, she'd taken on a different approach, somewhat wary but mostly anticipating what lied ahead in our path. It wasn't exactly clear precisely what that might be, and it could have been dangerous, or fruitful. I had no way of knowing. I pulled the vessel towards the east and took a divergent path from the straight, narrow lines we'd been following. This seemed top catch the others by surprise, but my instincts told me that this was the right decision. It was a long curve and it drew us in a different direction, towards a surface that was slightly unsettled, though still easy to navigate. She walked towards me quickly and at first, it seemed that she was angry with me. She thwarted my thinking by expressing surprise that I'd managed to pilot the vessel that far without smashing it to bits. I took her modest compliment with a measure of relief. I'd assumed that I had messed up by going off our predetermined path and becoming hopelessly lost, but this wasn't actually the case.

Something entirely separate was bothering her. At first, I couldn't understand but then she started putting herself in front of me and grabbed the controls. This wasn't what I'd expected until I realized what truly happened. The strong winds had blown the indicators off-alignment and they needed to be adjusted. She quickly moved the dials and levers until they'd come back into balance. I was relieved that I hadn't done anything wrong and that she was only protecting me from getting blown completely off course. It was an unfamiliar situation but I was glad that someone was there to aid me, so I wouldn't spend time backtracking and going in circles. There was something else that I hadn't noticed. I'd gotten so distracted by the difficulties in navigation.
I'd totally forgotten to maintain the ship's instruments. and had somehow left the parking brakes in place. I had to lift them manually, which was difficult since they were wedged-inward, but they eventually released. This made for much smoother and more predictable ride. I heaved a deep sigh of relief and resumed commanding the vessel, this time with a measure of rectitude after making such an obvious mistake. After the brief interruption, I resumed controlling the boat, this time moving about more carefully. In order to ease the uneven surfing over the breakers, I turned on the vessel's rollers. This had the effect of calming the unsettled waves, giving us a smoother ride. We resumed and I increased its accumulated torque until the boat leapt forward at nearly top speed, sailing confidentially into the unknown.

Determining our specific location and heading was still an oblique task, but the two of them were aided by our increased consistency in throttle and momentum. He was able to ascertain that the path ahead was relatively clear, lacking obtrusive barriers. She took out her machine and made additional measurements. While it still wasn't precisely clear how far afield we'd gotten, it was finally becoming evident that we were heading on the correct course. She nodded assent to my intuitively generated maps, going ahead with my plan, and he seemed to agree to my determinedly unstructured approach. She stepped onto the ship's front railing and held out her first light machine. She twisted a few knows and it turned on quickly scanning the surroundings. A surprisingly rigid atmosphere gave up a few of its carefully guarded secrets in unexpected. While not visible to the unaided eye, there were some surprised revealed if you looked closely. You could almost manage to make out vague outlines in the brief shards of illumination the machine produced.

It's symbolism and meaning wasn't immediately clear, making it hard to decipher what its mysterious, indistinct shapes represented. Were they islands, a solid length of shoreline or some kind of mirage. The specifics remained frustratingly out of range. They remained elusive despite our forward momentum, stayed elusive and constantly remote even as we forged ahead with unnatural consistency, keeping their distance despite keeping a deceptively fast clip. I decided not to let it bother me and continued in the same direction, keeping my eyes on the distant shoreline for any signs of life. It took forever for us to get closer, but there wasn't anything blocking us from moving ahead. I watched the outlines slowly fill out, their features becoming more pronounced as we drew in closer.

It looked like another faint island, contradicting my expectations, it seemed to shrink back into the horizon, seeming to almost sink out of view, sliding beneath the waves. This made it difficult to keep track of, but I was able to stay the course by keeping my focus. Disparate flashes from her machine helped me along at first, but I noticed something about them was changing. They began to become more sporadic and scattered. The machine's signal slowly faded from view until it disappeared from view, leaving us stumbling in the night in search of a narrowing path. I decided to slow the boat down, almost by half so we could move carefully without missing its appearance.

This was effective and illuminated the skies in unworldly bluish flashes, the mysterious structure and composition of the island gradually appeared. Indistinct at first, the details that emerged weren't immediately apparent. I could see what looked like a cluster of trees surrounding an unknown portion, blocking its hidden areas from view. She began waving the machine around again, but received no response at all, the myriad indicators on its surface providing no guidance. I waited for the man in the suit to take command of the situation but he sat back at a remove, observing our situation from a distant remove. Impassively, he took a seat and looked into his papers, flipping through them quickly, their pages offering no guidance to our position and heading.

Intently cataloging while reading, he took the myriad, disorganized and somewhat mangled pages in his hand and examined them as closely as he could. Any residual illumination was fading rapidly; it wouldn't be long before the night sky possessed complete control, marking his accumulated surfaces nearly impossible to read. He took his fingers and rolled them over the papers quickly, attempting to somehow read them while there was still some light. Beyond his ruffled pages, I looked up and realized the moon was sliding beneath the clouds. Its narrow waning phase, and distant position gave the nocturnal light a near minimal energy, that only grew dimmer with time until it had vanished nearly completely, the night skies patiently awaited that time, until they'd effortlessly won the battle, taking full control of their surroundings.

I couldn't effectively navigate the vessel on my own, the destination remained elusive, just out of reach no matter what technique I tried. The moonlit sky delivered some guidance for a spell, but its help slowly diminished as the night progressed. An elongated chasm began to emerge, as the residual glow subsided beneath the cloudy skies. I looked to her for guidance, but she seemed nearly as lost as I was. Her machine no longer worked and she was unfamiliar with the surfaces. I stepped away from the controls for a second to see if I was missing something. Peering beyond the shifting sails amid remaining light brought me unexpected conflict. Only a few of the remaining guideposts seemed to work amid the widening sky and those that did brought contradictory signals where we should head next. Returning to the controls and functions, I experimented lightly. Shifting some of the dials around slightly didn't achieve the results I was planning. Waiting for a brief interval, I sensed the boat moving slightly off the straight line. further towards the east.

I looked back towards the mysterious figure standing slightly off-balance from the unexpected readjustments. The exposed changes might have looked minor, but they changed his usual approach dramatically. His peripheral skillset was activated by the change in course, but he didn't need to worry. The difference in angle and heading wasn't enough to bring him to the forefront. Spinning the wheel slowly in the eastern direction slowly yielded some added torque, but it wasn't immediately clear if I'd accidentally set something off or if I'd arrived at a lucky convergence. I felt the waves began to kick up again, and they quickly added energy that caused more intense ripples.

I motioned for the others to hold tight to their position and increased the foreword momentum by unfurling the sails until they were blowing at full mast. This gave us a much-needed boost. This increased agility and power gave me additional courage, though my confidence levels remained subdued. I wasn't exactly sure where I was and where the objective was. This worked against hubris. Instead, I watched the distant island drawing near our position with a mixture of trepidation and anticipation. I looked at it filling and rising above the waves. It seemed to do this with an excess of caution and carefully revealed secrets. As we drew closer, it mitigated my expectations and surprised me by continued shrinking despite growing closer, allowing us an ever-narrower docking route.

I waited patiently until we eventually came close enough that I could see a small line standing in parallel to the shore. It was barely visible and seemed to have just enough buoyancy to cling above the surface. This was all the inspiration I needed. I waved at my two companions excitedly. We were finally getting close. At this point, I was probably overly energized and went to activate the engine that would speed us full throttle and implement our docking sequence. When I went to press the button, the machine failed to react at all. Pressing the starter button repeatedly yielded the same result - a deafening silence. Not even the clicks and clocks of a stalled engine could be heard. I checked the oil and gas indicators and both were nearly full.

I tried pressing the starter in tandem with other switches and buttons to no avail. No matter what combination I attempted, the elaborate control panel wouldn't light up, the engine wasn't functioning. The lights on its control panel had gone dark as well, there were no sign of life. I looked at the two of them with a sense of shame. I thought that I'd overlooked something and left us stranded with our objective close at hand yet out of reach. She nodded her head in the affirmative, dispelling my doubts. It wasn't going to be as simple or easy as I'd anticipated. but we were still going to get there. We just needed to rely on our patience and instincts to a greater degree than planned.

Adrift at sea and standing in abeyance, the vessel gave me little underlying assistance. I surveyed the dials and buttons, looked over its sails and masts, watched over its railings and guards to little avail. Seemingly locked to an invisible mooring, it didn't seem to budge. Instead, we found ourselves trapped with nothing submerged beneath or floating above the water to mark out a safe escape route. I looked towards their direction repeatedly, attempting to ferret out some kind of plan. If they had one, it wasn't clear. Taking several swoops around them revealed almost nothing.

It was growing darker which meant I couldn't make out their expressions or look in their eyes. Remaining almost mute, they witnessed my attempts to move forward with little reaction. My attention returned to the controls and switches and I carefully attempted one last shot, at things. I pushed the buttons and pulled the switches repeatedly, but there was no response at all. Something seemed to have drained the vessel's energy; without explanation it was difficult to replenish its force, let alone compensate for it. I waited for the right moment, and tried to pull something out of the slumbering vessel, but nothing worked. It continued to float, aimlessly meandering over the ocean, pulled and pushed by the churning waves in seemingly random direction.

Throughout all of this, the both of them remained surprisingly steady and calm. I expected panic or fear to overcome or at leapt, unsettle them. This wasn't the case, instead it seemed to bring on the opposite. I noticed the both of them carefully observing me, apparently letting me make a succession of increasingly dramatic mistakes without getting in the way. This made me nervous, perhaps they didn't realize how little experience I had; did they know what I lacked. Buttons and switches could be held with trial and error but going it alone required an entirely different set of skills.

The only consolation I could find was paradoxically enough, the unearned sense of confidence they had in me. I tried to go along, manually spinning the wheel and adjusting what I could, but going through the felt inadequate. I felt that we were still being perused but I had been found out as not being up to managing an escape. The ship was, to put it honestly, unmistakably stranded, inexorably caught in place. Racing directly into an unforeseen trap, instead of escaping accumulating dangers, we'd become immutably vulnerable to attack, leaving nothing in our surroundings to protect us, there were no defenses drawn afield in our wake.

Hoping that someone or something would come to my aid had not proven to a good strategy, and the longer I attempted to maintain a strong posture, the more foolish I felt. My inadequacies were obvious in our current situation. Spinning awkwardly without direction had left us in a sorry state, despite my best efforts, I'd fallen short of the mark. There was nothing that I could have done to hide this fact from them and I felt my head tilting downward. It was an inexorable mark of shame and failure, I hadn't succeeded despite my best efforts. I conceded that it would be up to one, or both of them to fix the mess I'd steered us into. That is, if they could salvage the disastrous mission I'd managed to scuttle. I felt my back slouching back and my arms became numb. I knew the time for me to cede my hard-earned control was nearly at hand, despite my best efforts. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, not knowing but anticipating the full ramifications.

I'd blown a promising chance. I knew it would quite a long time, before they'd even consider putting this responsibility back in my hands. I waited in the darkness for a devastating judgment to come. I fully expected some kind of punishment. Expecting a vicious upbraiding; I dreaded an unsparing exposition of my numerous mistakes. Instead, there was silence, which was somehow worse. I looked towards both of them and they didn't seem to be nearly as bothered by the situation as I was. This was entirely my fault, any blame I felt wasn't contagious. After trembling for a few minutes in this awkward silence, I realized that no one was yelling at me, nobody had come and grabbed the controls and pushed me aside. I was still in command, despite the many flaws I'd exhibited. This didn't make sense, but it also gave me a small shard of hope to persevere. Perhaps, we weren't completely stranded and lost beneath the impermeable ocean currents, despite my lack of experience.

It took me awhile to regain some confidence and renew my bearings. Looking around we remained in a stasis between the steep waves. There seemed little that would lead us towards the evasive island, forever out of our grasp. I had a growing sense that something horrible was about to happen, but couldn't be exactly sure what form it might take. I waited nervously for something to happen, but nothing seemed to alter our situation, the waves continued. The began to rise until they were assaulting us mercilessly. They came at us with increased velocity, their strength unabated, rolling against our ship without pity or restraint. Taking the impacts in stride required us to constantly adjust our position.

Standing stoically in one semi-permanent location wasn't effective, unless we wanted to be continually knocked off-balance. We began walking in semi-circles to protect ourselves and managed to allay some of the impacts for a brief period. Marking out a section for each of us seemed to make sense since we didn't overlap and find ourselves tripping as the increasingly protracted currents began to cut larger swaths in our path. In a last-ditch effort, I looked towards the skies and the stars afield to see if they could offer guidance. They were dim at points but were completely covered in darkness as they quickly vanished beneath the swirling clouds. It seemed the storm was only intensifying the longer we waited. Attempting to move in the opposing direction, taking semi-circular paths didn't seem to fix anything, and I still found myself returning to the dormant controls. They still gave little hint as to what to do but they at least gave me some ballast to latch onto, offering brief periods of stability between the crushing waves.

After surviving countless unpredictable nautical attacks that unsettled our transient standing, I began to sense some relief. At first, the diminished energy was barely noticeable, but I noticed that the energy began to subside significantly after a few minutes. I checked on them once more and they seemed to be enduring the inhospitable seas with surprising resilience and calm. I wondered what they knew that I didn't. I waited for the waves to finally calm but held tightly to the steering wheel, not allowing the intransient currents to get the better of me. At long last, things hit another calm spot where I could let myself exhale, relaxing my disposition. I took my hands off the steering wheel and put them over my head, signaling we'd made it through another particularly rough patch. They seemed relieved by their endurance. i noticed they'd come at ease, pulling their defenses briefly, allowing the seas to put them at ease. This would be short-lived.

As I began to reclaim some source of normalcy, we felt a large crash against the vessel. The entire boat seemed to shake suddenly came off-course without warning. It seemed obvious that this was the impact from a particularly strong wave, probably a residual outlier that struck after the main squall had passed. This was different, and it took us a minute to discover what actually happened. We felt a second loud boom and suddenly realized that we hadn't struck by a stray wave but that we'd hit something. There was a longer noise that sounded like scraping and we came to the conclusion that we'd brushed against the edge of a long dock. The screeching noise continued and we quickly knew what to do. Springing into action, the three of us grabbed some of the ropes on the galley's edge and quickly flung them onto the dock. Not all of them connected, but enough of them did to moor the ship to the dock. Additional ropes followed until the vessel was firmly attached to its holding position. We took turns pulling at them until the strands began to shorten and harden. This stabilized the boat relatively quickly, giving it an additional stability and restitution that finally brought us to something that resembled a safe harbor.

We approached the side of the boat and carefully surveyed the docks. Drawing closer, I was surprised to learn that its beams weren't made of wood, as I expected, but instead consisted of a shiny, metallic steel construction. Somehow, this didn't seem to affect them negatively and they maintained a surprising buoyancy that allowed them to float above the surface benignly. I looked them over several times, looking for any accumulated rust or barnacles but they seemed surprisingly unmarked. I wasn't entirely sure what to do next and I looked closely at the two of them examined the ship's bearings. I noticed that they were impressed by its intelligence of structure and design.

Its narrow gaps and wider surface areas weren't elongated while remaining aligned almost flawlessly. Extending themselves deep into the swirling ocean, the platforms didn't seem to move in unwarranted direction, absorbing, yet not reacting to the waves surrounding them. It seemed that their placement was perfect. It seemed that the dock had been purposely positioned, making for a flawless entry and daunting secondary approach that sloped upwards towards the somewhat distant shoreline. This was intimidating at first, but not impassable. It would require persistence to reach the edge of the island. They looked it over carefully and decided relatively quickly to give it shot. She jumped up onto the pilings first and crouched down almost immediately. It took her a second to achieve a balance but she was able to get a feel for the strange surface quickly.

He followed suit but came at the adversary implementing an unusually cautious approach. Carefully maneuvering over the gaps and sliding onto the planks didn't come as easily to him, but he managed to make a good pace, eventually maintaining a place just a few steps behind her. He finally motioned for me to join them, but gave me a quick warning. It was gusty up there and I'd have to be careful not to be blown off the docks. I took this to be a clear directive not to be wreck less, there was no time for fooling around. I carefully looked onto the docks, pushed myself upward quickly, deciding to maintain a spot towards the back, while not allowing myself to get carried away by exuberance. I managed to take a few nervous steps onto the platform and was surprised that the surface wasn't terribly slippery. It was shiny, but not slick which allowed to move and catch up to them quickly. As I reached their position, my eyes were drawn ahead, past their immediate section. I looked towards the distance, further ahead onto the outer reaches of the shoreline. It would be a long walk ahead, and I knew I'd need adequate patience and abundant perseverance.

Despite attempting to brace myself, It took us a bit longer than I'd anticipated to reach the shore. I encountered some unexpectedly strong gusts of wind that were somewhat stronger than I expected. Managing to maintain my balance and composure wasn't as simple as I thought, but I managed to keep moving forward into the night, without making a spectacle out of myself. I was actually more nervous for him than myself, but he managed the short expedition nearly flawlessly. She led the way throughout and confidentially forged ahead, undeterred it seemed by anything in her way. I tried to time the entirety of our trek, but lost track as she walked the long, narrow pier without hesitation. It was a remarkable feat given the uncertainty of the environment, but there wasn't anything that blocked her path. I watched closely and quickly discovered that the consistency of the pilings was remarkably constructed. The pilings looked like they'd connected effortlessly at once; there were no signs of weld marks or protruding rivets to be found anywhere on the piers. This made traversing them much easier than it could have been but also led me to wonder who'd created the object and why they'd decided to put it in exactly in location of such inexplicable convenience.

Retaining our momentum on the unyielding surface wasn't easy but we managed to make unexpectedly substantial headway. She walked ahead and I saw her pull out her machine, waving it around yet again yet still eliciting no reaction. She was on her own, but seemed strangely unfazed by the situation and resumed forgoing ahead fearlessly. I walked carefully behind her, carefully mimicking her movements, in addition to recreating her path with a dash of my own invention. All the while, I had to concentrate intently and not stray off-course. It remained incredibly dark and I couldn't see very much in front of me. I tried not to worry about things as much, since the piers surface was relatively unobtrusive. As we moved down the pilings, something unexpected occurred that changed my perspective in a manner that I hadn't anticipated. Between the increasing distance between us and past confrontations, there was a distinct change in the atmosphere. Under the shield of night, the terrifying visions and encounters didn't seem nearly as oppressive as they had only a few minutes earlier. There was a strange kind of protective force field that gradually built up the deeper we ventured towards the shoreline.

After what felt like an eternity walking single-file in a straight-line, we finally seemed to reach the edge of the shoreline. The ocean had calmed significantly and the remaining waters felt like a minor pool by comparison. It was reassuring that we'd managed to make it that far, unhurt by the demanding journey, and instead somehow rejuvenated by it. We jumped down, splashing into the water a bit, and had arrived after much effort. Unfortunately, arriving in the middle of the night brought some disadvantages. It was difficult to see how far in either direction the beach extended. I felt the sandy surface beneath my feet, but like the boards we'd just managed to traverse, it wasn't particularly slick. As we walked up towards the other side of the beach, I felt the loose sand gradually transition into harder, rock-strewn surface. This uneven, sharp approach wasn't what I was expecting and this made it more difficult for us to traverse. When we reached the surf's edge, I noticed that things had become dense and thick. Instead of the wide-open beach, there were now clusters of brush and some tall trees that blocked our path to a large degree.

She held her hands at her side, holding them steady, somewhat perplexed. Looking around seemed to offer few answers but she surveyed the surroundings. Assiduously examining the gathered clusters without her machine's aid. She had to perform the task manually if she wanted to discover any insight. It was a slow process, and it wasn't entirely clear whether it was effective. This area looked calm, tranquil and, possibly fruitful, but she didn't quite know what to do next. Her eyes darted across the trees, apparently seeking hidden symbols or messages that might have been scrawled in their surface. There wasn't anything obvious or visible at first glance.

Frustrated by the lack of progress, she gestured at the two of us for advice. I looked at them closely but found nothing out of the ordinary. I had no way of knowing, but he was more confident. He said that we should forge ahead. It didn't matter where we jumped in, he noted, that we'd eventually find the path waiting for us within. She thought about it and decided to follow his advice, telling us to remain vigilant, despite the serenity that seemed plentiful. He waited for a brief time before following her into the heavily-shaded areas. I watched him encounter the thick fauna and wondered how he'd cope, and it turned out to be a challenging but achievable task at that point, but it wasn't clear he could on much more. The pressure seemed to be getting to him, and I figured it would only intensify as we embarked deeper inside.

I followed suit and found myself in a surprisingly unsheltered area, which wasn't nearly as groomed as the preceding section. A complete lack of guidance from any of our machines made our journey even more treacherous. Carefully navigating though the initial sections of interior, it took significant effort to avoid the sharp branches and twigs that became more intertwined as we ventured deeper. The ground became uneven, and I found myself walking with increased difficulty while maintaining a steady pace. She went further ahead, towards her objective, undeterred by the arrays of obstacles placed in our path. I glanced back towards the navigator and he appeared to struggle, it was difficult for him to keep pace with us on the uneven terrain. He was falling behind against the thickening brush, almost tripping along and trying not to fall. It was strange to see an otherwise strong, previously steadfast figure finding himself unexpectedly struggling to cope with the imposing journey, making it increasingly difficult to imagine him persevering through the obstacles ahead of us.

I stopped and looked back towards him with suddenly pronounced concern. Examining him closely , I looked for significant problems but there wasn't anything visually or inherently wrong. He returned his gaze towards me and looked flustered by the unwanted attention. Becoming angry, then apologetic, he thanked me for my concern but quickly relented and forcefully brushed away any residual doubts I might have had. It was just a bad case of nerves, he explained, there was nothing to worry about. He didn't really need my assistance in that situation after all. I looked him over and he seemed to be fine, after taking another long breath he exhaled and resumed walking briskly towards the shoreline, careful not to leave excessively deep imprints behind. I waited and held back for awhile before resuming the journey. Looking ahead, I watched her and she was suddenly far ahead of us, we had to pick things up quickly in order to catch up, so we both decided to sprint ahead, though the thick plants and weeds seemed to work against us, we managed to dodge and evade, passing through the dense forest and made up lost ground until we found ourselves just behind her.

As we drew closer, I slowed down but navigating the dense forest took sustained effort on my part. Tracing the excursion got easier as I moved over the uneven surfaces and conditioned myself to the disorganized forest. I wasn't as reckless as I'd been earlier but there were good reasons for this. Despite the vast distance travelled, I still felt their eyes looking and evaluating me. I felt more secure in my position, but wasn't entirely free of the festering dread. I kept looking over my shoulder, somehow thinking that one of them would jump out from the darkness and grab me. This didn't make much sense, but there was little that would persuasively dissuade me that there wasn't anything hiding in the shadows. I could never be completely sure what she was going to encounter, it could potentially be quite dangerous. I knew she could handle additional confrontations, but I doubted my own resilience.

I waved my arms around in attempt to get reinforcement from either of them. She was preoccupied with her immediate task, and didn't really respond. He responded negatively; I was right to remain on alert. There was plenty that hadn't been explored. I hadn't even begun to scratch the surface of what we potentially might find waiting and lurking beyond our immediate area. He reiterated that I needed to remain careful. This wasn't what I wanted to hear, after such an extended effort, but deep down, I knew he was probably right. I decided to keep my enthusiasm in check, holding back, walking a safe distance behind them. I watched as she walked forward through the landscape, unimpeded by the fears that held me back. There were mysterious aspects that I hadn't mastered but seemed second-nature for her.

She'd developed a powerful defense that gave her more freedom of movement. Unlike my clumsy maneuvers. Her outline was elegant and she mirrored the nocturnal rhythms flawlessly. The darkness could have been oppressive but, looking closely, this wasn't necessarily a bad companion. In the shadows, I could ascertain the mysterious figure sliding back and forth underneath the shifting clouds, neatly blending in with the stars while avoiding direct light from the moon. She moved faster when she became less visible, but this shouldn't have come as a surprise. Less exposure reduced her vulnerability. This gave her unimpeded clandestine movement, increasing her resolve by allowing her to move silently, undetected beneath the nocturnal skies.

(Continue to part two)