The Farthest Point - Part One - Fiction - By Michael Palisano -









In Memory
Sean Pettibone



The Farthest Point

We stood and watched as the world surrounding us quickly evaporated, it felt like we were no longer standing anywhere. We had escaped the rising water and determined a new destination, but it wasnít precisely clear to what purpose. She had created a path, but there was no way for me to find out what her larger plans entailed. I felt the ground drop from under me and this created confusion. My sense of direction went haywire. I found myself walking aimlessly, the path ahead seeming to disappear, I was going in circles. I had nowhere to turn and began to panic. I looked ahead towards her direction. She was standing adjacent to the brightest part of the light, calmly surveying the situation. I was relieved when I saw a familiar shadow in the distance, through the formless light, her presence reassuring. Walking towards her seemed to calm my nerves, but I wasnít sure what was happening or where we were headed. She managed to remain calm, completely inured from the sudden changes in place and dimension that had become a common occurrence during the preceding days.

Everything appeared calm, but the absence of grounding was somewhat worrying. I couldnít feel anything beneath me, which was also disorienting. As I moved closer, I still felt like I was walking in circles, but now I was walking backward. Her position slipping further away the faster I walked. It made no sense at first. I walked faster and it only backfired. I ran only to watch her outline diminish with each step. She seemed to nearly vanish into the light. I paused for a moment and took a breath, not wanting her to completely disappear. My idea proved correct and I waited for a few moments. Gradually, she seemed to drift back into view, pulling me closer. It seemed to occur despite my attempts to reach her. I attempted to carefully follow in her path but it still felt like I wasnít getting close enough understand what was happening. She moved effortlessly through the mysterious tunnels of light, fearless during her journey through the disconcerting atmosphere, repelling any divergence without a thought. My feet on the other hand couldnít find the path. This made me walk unsteadily, like I was walking on ice. I was constantly nervous that I might fall; never knowing what awaited us on the next turn. I began to get nervous as I felt the light surrounding us brighten exponentially. It was unstoppable and obscured everything else from view. I kept going despite not knowing where she was taking us. She seemed to sense my trepidation and turned to me, reassuring me with a wave. This was enough to keep me on the path. 

She seemed to be carefully admitting with her motion that she was the one behind the latest encounter and its unexpected results. I looked ahead and didnít understand what she was doing, the purpose of her experiment caught between opaque motivation and obtuse origin. She had a strange look about her. There was something different. She walked further from me and I turned and couldnít see much beyond my hands in the bright light. I looked around but there were no walls or doors. It seemed there was nothing beneath her feet as she moved. She seemed to be floating through that strange place, navigating between the dimensions. We hadnít been there long, but enough time had passed so that some of the cold and dampness that remained slowly began to subside. As the water evaporated, I felt something under my feet, but it wasnít what I was expecting. Before I knew it, there was a strange sound, echoing through the light. I saw her ahead of me and she finally seemed to stay still long enough for me to see what she was doing. I watched her maneuver between the thick beams of light, waving her newest machine around. It began shifting the colors, beige to brown and yellow, drawing energy from the surrounding light, falling into place, indefinable shapes emerged unexpectedly.

It seemed to cut away the blinding light and its impermeable layers, clearing a path ahead of her. I watched her motions carefully, but they didnít seem to give that much away. She had obviously built a retinue of movement and skill, but the final results werenít what I was expecting. I watched her stop every few minutes. She took a moment and looked downward, carefully examining and venturing into the machineís outer indicators. After deciding what to examine next, she began twisting its dials and switches deliberately. After a few attempts, there was a loud beep. It wasnít clear what this meant until there seemed to be a motion in the cloudy atmosphere surrounding us. The light began to shift, and this produced a strange effect. The light began to shimmer, seeming to come to life, waves of bright, pastel colors washing over us in quick succession. I felt something under my feet at long last, a surprisingly smooth surface. Pausing only for the briefest measure, the results would arrive sporadically. Spacing between uneven intervals, the outlines and shapes began arriving unexpectedly between the bright sections. I watched closely, the light wavered, shifted position and color and there were shudders. She used these to move between them, taking the measure of other places. I moved closer to see what she was after but she was taller than me, blocking my view. Whether she was doing this on purpose or not wasnít clear.

I waited behind her, waiting for the signal that it was safe to move forward. I felt the ground beneath me steady and thicken, allowing me to confidently stand with a stable footing. This was a relief. I took a deep breath I watched the surroundings change and evolve. I felt a cool breeze began to blow over us. The atmosphere changed color from beige to green and blue, interspersing bubbles and lines. It seemed to bring with it a strong gust I hadnít anticipated. It nearly knocked me off balance and it took me awhile to regain my center. I walked closer and she didnít seem to have been affected, barely registering with her. I moved closer towards her, maintaining a distance. Standing at her side, I was finally able to catch a glimpse of her machine without getting in the way. I was finally able to figure out what she was doing. It had some strange navigation abilities, and I watched it burn in different colors, radiating a strange effortless energy. I couldnít make out the markings at first and they seemed to disappear as quickly as they arrived on its indicator. They were too fast for me to process at first but she didnít seem to have any problem understanding what was happening. After a few minutes, its rhythms seemed to calm, allowing me to see what it was doing. It seemed to be quickly measuring and methodically cataloging distances and object types, under a careful system of movement she had mastered. I watched her as she looked between it and the surroundings. She seemed to be working with the lights surrounding us. Using its energy to form shapes, she then used these to search the seemingly formless light for a specific location. No matter how hard I tried, I still couldnít understand how she made it function.

She moved visible dials and looked back and forth, synchronizing it between its indicators and our surroundings, checking the color sequences, adjusting positions while looking carefully at our surroundings. It didnít seem obvious at first, but I quickly realized that she wasnít ignoring me on purpose. It was better to stay out of her path. I knew she was busy calibrating its search of the dimension, until it arrived at a promising sector. It would scan these closely and discard its other functions for a moment, moving on only when she deemed its data insufficient. I surveyed its movement and output as carefully but it was difficult to anticipate patterns with its inconsistent output. I didnít understand any of the language or markings but she seemed to know what was happening. As she moved the device around, I noticed that it was creating passages in the lights surrounding us. They coalesced to form what looked like windows at first. She looked at her machine and synchronized the settings, each window appearing on its indicator as a small point. They began to grow until they resembled doors, each created magnetic echoes that appeared sporadically on her machine.

It was difficult for me to recognize the markings quickly enough, they started to appear rapidly until they filled the machineís memory banks, nearly overloading them. She was quickly able to eliminate the false paths and located the right point for us. She tilted the machine and focused its light on its distant position in the field. I didnít see it at first, and it seemed to be sliding downward until it nearly vanished from the scale, hiding on the outer margin. It took a moment to locate, but it never disappeared entirely from view. I stood back nervously and saw the door it corresponded to. We both watched it grow and it began shine, building its energy field until it stabilized. It seemed to come to life and started to shimmer, cascading lights shifted as it began to emerge, standing alone, creating a distinct field inside the clouds of light. Walking closer towards the door, she waved me onward and told me to follow her. Its lines began to glow even brighter as we stepped closer towards it. She held it up towards the door one last time for a final check. The machine began to beep loudly as she reached down, and placed it on the ground. We waited in front of the door for a moment and its lines seemed to waver and flicker unsteadily. I wondered if sheíd made a mistake, but she maintained a serene confidence.

The door was sealed but I could see through its slates. I looked towards her and was finally able to stand beside her, emerging from behind. I took a deep breath and looked directly at it, waiting patiently for just the right second. We waited together and watched the last barriers slip away. It took some patience, but it finally opened completely. I was getting nervous, but I trusted her enough to take a few steps forward with her towards the gateway. It wasnít entirely clear where we were heading, but it was a relief to leave the strange dimension for another destination. We stepped closer and solid ground began re-forming beneath us, slowly building until it felt firm underneath. This gave me confidence to move forward. Things began to change when we walked beneath the passage, its illuminated, warmly glowing frame welcoming us inside. I caught a glimpse of another place just beyond, emerging line by line in successive vertical rows. She located an opening for us after much effort. We moved quickly underneath the doorway, and she seemed to fall a little behind me. I looked back and tried to take her hand as we finally arrived at the destination, but she seemed to slip away as we made our way under the threshold. There was a sudden rush of warmth and heat, followed by a blinding light. I squinted for a moment and blinked. I couldnít see in the bright light for a few seconds and had to wait for my vision to adjust to my surroundings. I found myself somewhere entirely different than I was used to. I felt different, the new place was nothing like I had caught a glimpse of moments before. Something seemed to have gone wrong. She wasnít there, but there was more to it. Everything felt calm and quiet, strangely peaceful. I looked for her in every direction, thinking she was still right beside me, but there was nothing. Not even a shadow could be seen. She seemed to have disappeared and this made the world even more disorienting. I thought she was waiting, or following right behind me but there was no trace that I could locate.

I thought I knew where we were going, but the surroundings didnít make sense. I tried to acclimate to the situation, but I realized that my eyes were possibly deceiving me. This was a strange place and I was navigating it alone. The clouds slowly dissipated and I began to see the outlines emerge, shapes began to form and I realized that she had taken me somewhere else. I looked down and saw that there was solid ground under my feet, thick blades of grass shot up through the ground, bursting through its surface like a fence. I walked over their sharp edges carefully and looked around. I attempted to gain a sense of direction but found myself lost in a seemingly endless field of grass. I looked up towards the sky and saw nothing but an empty blue and gray. There wasnít a cloud in the sky. I looked for some trees or mountains but there were none to find. Scanning out onto the horizon, I tried to locate her position but she was nowhere to be found. Squinting, I narrowed my eyes, looking as far into the distance as I could manage. I tried to locate her but there was no trace or sign of anyone else out there. I walked towards the grasses on the other side of the field, and they began to shrink, slowly giving way to a flat land surface, covered in green with no discernable path forward. I stood for a moment and soaked in the warm air, which I was unaccustomed to. Forcing myself to stay in one place, I tried to move forward but resisted the urge to make an impetuous move. I had no idea where I was or how I had gotten there.

I wondered if this was part of her plan or another test for me, but couldnít be precisely sure. I waited for a moment and watched the grass in the distance. It seemed to roll on throughout, there didnít seem to be anything out there. At first it didnít seem to bother me, but as the minutes passed, I realized that something might have gone wrong. I walked towards the other side, but the ground seemed to be turning in circles, I felt like I was going nowhere, defeated as I moved. It took me awhile to figure out what to do next and I had to go over the possibilities. Without any machines or anyone else to guide my way, Iíd have to rely on my instincts. This was a potentially dangerous situation. It felt like something was closing in on me, though I had no idea what it could be. The grass seemed to conspire against me, churning and turning to create a deception, or some kind of trap. I began to walk cautiously, navigating the clusters of grass carefully. I tried to measure my steps in distance and timing, but this seemed to do no good. It didnít make any difference, the surroundings didnít seem to change no matter how long or far I walked, I always seemed to return to the exact location.

After making several attempts and making no progress, I started to get a little afraid. I looked around for some sign that she might be there, a late arrival, perhaps. I squinted and shook, covered my eyes, looked up and down but there was nothing. I felt alone and vulnerable, completely exposed out in the open. There was no place to hide; nothing seemed to point me in any direction. I worked a map in my mind of where Iíd been, from the location where I first stepped onto the field, but everything felt contradictory, the grass folding in on itself.  I though back, and tried to remember if there had been any sign or indicators that I might have missed. The only thing I remembered was how consistently flat and green the landscape was, there seemed to be no divergence, the path straight and unchanging. After contemplating it for a few minutes, I finally came to the conclusion that I hadnít missed anything. I continued walking over the grass-covered expanse, looking carefully to see if anything might pop up, but there was nothing. I looked for a shadow other than my own, hoping that someone might pop up from behind me to help lead the way, but my efforts went nowhere. I decided to make a run for it, sprinting over the grass, thinking Iíd make great time on the flat surface. Unencumbered by any obstacles, the path ahead offered a limitless span where Iíd be able to run freely.

I maneuvered my position towards the center, directly facing the distant horizon. My goal was to mark progress quickly, moving across the expanse until I could get a closer look. I scanned the surroundings but didnít see anything familiar. There were no mysterious buildings to explore and I was relieved that nothing was chasing after me. I looked over my shoulder behind me and there was, at long last, nobody watching me. I was free and decided to take advantage of the opening Iíd been granted. I was able to run quickly. I covered a lot of ground quickly and my feet were going so fast, they nearly overheated, pushing the ground beneath me aside effortlessly. I felt my toes beating and chopping, fearlessly pounding themselves on the surface, racing towards the farthest point in the distance. It seemed like I was finally getting somewhere and I closed my eyes. I decided not to worry about things and enjoy the ride I was on, letting momentum propel me towards the direction that seemed correct. With a great purpose, I ran heedlessly into the grass over the surface, my feet began to rise unexpectedly. After so much effort, they lost feeling and their soreness dissipated until they no longer felt constricted. I could finally let loose and raced under the endless blue skies through effortlessly, marking the growing distance with each step.  

Nothing hindered my progress, there seemed to be sails under my feet, lifting me above the ground, it was almost like I was floating. After a few more minutes, I began to slow a tad but maintained a steady pace, traversing quickly over the ground until I felt that I was almost floating over the ground. I should have realized that this wasnít going to last, but I didnít anticipate that the grassy surface would change, until it was too late. At first, I felt an occasional bump and twist in their blades, but it didnít slow me down. Running over the grassy surface, I didnít make any serious adjustments until I reached and area where the grass coverage became uneven and thick stems began to form, and then tangled together. I realized too late that I needed to be more careful and tripped over one of the knotted portions. I fell over on my side but was able to balance myself enough to land on my hands. It was nothing major, but my crash still stopped my forward movement. I was shocked for a moment found myself out of breath and a bit shaken up. I hadnít expected anything on the ground and had tripped over my feet. It was a strange feeling, and I felt a little dumb for not anticipating the growing danger. I had to settle for a moment, and sat up, gazing across the field to figure out where I was and what my next step was.

I was frustrated and intimidated. I was alone and felt a bit stranded out there. I still wondered what had gone wrong. I thought about what would have happened if I hadnít rushed. I knew that Iíd gotten too far ahead and forgotten to hold her hand as we ventured through the doorway. If I hadnít been so reckless, I wouldnít be in such a precarious position. It seemed that I hadnít looked closely enough. I looked at my immediate area and I noticed there were thickets of dirt between the grass, and the occasional sharp turns rocks unsettled the landscape. It made the path ahead uneven and unpredictable. I hadnít seen them until I stopped and looked closely to see what I tripped on. I sat in the middle of the field, its expanse of grass surrounding me and felt strangely intimidated, every inch seemed to be a challenge. I waited for a few more minutes to regain my balance. I sat up and looked above. The blue skies were clear, not a cloud to be seen, nothing to mark the time. The atmosphere seemed to stretch as far as I could see. This was surprisingly intimidating.  My running felt diminished, a seemingly minor accomplishment that felt insignificant against the vast expanse. This changed my perspective, but I knew it might have been a kind of trick. It was too late for me to give up, I had to keep going, but now Iíd proceed at a more deliberate rate. I remembered what she had shown me, and was no longer afraid of what obstacles were in my way. I didnít know what was waiting for me over the horizon but I wouldnít be dissuaded from going forward. I stood up, wiped the grass and dirt off my clothes and began walking towards the horizon with renewed determination.

It felt strange to be out there alone but I wasnít afraid. It was reassuring to have something under my feet and I felt relieved be back down to earth. I found a feeling of release and finally felt that I wasnít being watched. I walked over the grass and its extended flat surface revealed no clues as to where exactly I was. Standing for a moment, I decided to check things closer. Circling around briefly, I surveyed the surroundings and watched for any shadow that might be accompanying me, but I couldnít see anything. I closed my eyes for a moment as I walked. I listened closely trying to hear something but there wasnít a sound. It took me awhile to make progress after my fall, but my caution was also a result of wanting to slow down. I didnít want to miss anything out of the ordinary. I worried that there might have been something I missed as I ran before. I wasnít going to repeat that mistake, even if it took me longer to reach the other side. I took a deep breath and tried to soak in the atmosphere. Its warmth was unexpected. In some weird sense, it seemed to be inviting me to walk towards the distance. I walked carefully, trying to avoid any traps that might be waiting underneath. I felt the ground beneath me start to change as I walked and at first, it didnít seem that significant. The grass seemed to grow a bit thinner and scattered, there was more sand on the surface, interspersing between the stalks. I stopped and looked down for a moment. There didnít seem to be anything surrounding my feet, but they seemed to be slowing down without my realizing it. It felt like I was sinking a little into the path, I was still free to move but I didnít have the same speed as I had before. It took a few minutes to make the adjustments but I decided I could pick things up a little without too much effort.

After all that walking, I felt my shoes were getting a little loose and sure enough, theyíd gotten undone with all my running. I knelt down for a moment and refastened my shoelaces and stood up, looking around to see if any change in direction was needed. I spun around for a quick glance to see if anything had emerged from behind. It was strangely silent, unusually quiet for the apparent middle of the afternoon on a summer afternoon. I remained on a kind of defense, not really realizing where I was. Turning back, I resumed walking in the same apparent direction and looked towards the edge of the field, naturally making way towards the other side. It was a long hike but I continued onward, walking carefully yet consistently. My feet seemed to take awhile to catch up to the objective ahead. They seemed a little tired, and I had to take some rests. Things felt like they were going too slow, but I had to maintain a steady momentum. I felt like I was falling behind, despite not having a way to gauge the distance. I decided to keep going and it took some effort, but I was able to find an acceptably steady pace after awhile.

(Continue to part two)