Voice Module

Reviews

Previews

Features

Classic

Archive

Contact

Gallery


In Memory
Sean Pettibone

 


 

Fiction



A Fleeting Glimpse

I looked around and everything looked different. I saw the world in a different light and it was very strange. The sun didnít seem to be as oppressive as it would on a typical hot summer day, it seemed like its heat was almost bouncing off me, almost as if I wasnít there. Walking through the parking lot past the rows of cars, each one seemed less a vehicle and more a shelter, protecting me from the world. In many ways, I hadnít changed much of anything in the way I walked around, but I felt like a different person. I didnít really understand what was happening. It was the oddest thing and I felt like I was almost invisible, no one was looking at me, and this was an odd feeling. I felt the sun on the pavement, and the heat seemed to lift me up. It was like walking without feeling the ground under my feet. I looked around and no one noticed me, even people who walked directly in front of me. She had given me a strange shield and it didnít seem to make much sense. I saw her and yet no one knew I was even there. I looked at my feet and noticed my shadow had changed. I didnít recognize it and it kind of threw my rhythm off. I stumbled a little, and forgot who I was for a moment. This was unexpected, I was staring into another mirror only to see a reflection of a person that I didnít recognize, or expect to find. As I walked on the sidewalk, I looked down and noticed that even my shadow seemed different, not casting as darkly as it should on the surface. I walked further down the beach further down under the trees and walkways, and felt the shade reduce my presence even more. It was like I was shrinking, nearly vanishing under the trees. I felt a strange sense of protection and safety, which gave me the ability to look around and explore unimpeded. I walked around for an hour in a kind of daze, wondering how Iíd ended up in such a strange and unexpected situation.

With each step, things began to change and this altered my perception. As I became someone else, the world seemed to grow before my eyes. This wasnít what I had expected to happen, but I decided not to let it bother me. It could have been upsetting and strange, but the longer I walked, the less it seemed to matter. I felt alone but not really lonely. This gave me a sense of relief from the expectations I usually had.  I didnít feel the pressure to compete with anyone, and this gave me a strong sense of relief. I passed under the trees and decided to take a moment to rest my mind from the confusing cross-currents. I closed my eyes for a moment and remembered what she had shown me in our previous encounters, in the peculiar sense of things she had done. I thought of the strange machine she had built and its other-worldly light patterns it created before our encounters. In other times, she seemed to show up from out of nowhere, stayed for a short time then left just as quickly, leaving me another small piece of the puzzle. This would leave me more confused and occasionally I though that I had been playing tricks on myself. My mind wandered a bit back to the games I played myself. I remembered how I moved around, slipping through the gates on the edge of the forests and into the mysterious buildings and other places. It seemed to make much less sense the more I thought about it. There were some strange coincidences and the patterns seemed to reflect each other, moving in parallel, though in ways I couldnít quite understand. Opening my eyes once again, I decided not to try and figure out the whole thing at once and would instead try and take into account a few pieces at a time. This would make progress low but at least I could feel like I was finally getting somewhere.

It was still a hot summer day and some things hadnít changed despite all that happened. Everything was in the same place, and people hadnít really noticed me, and it hadnít really changed that much about me until that day. Gradually, with each step, I began to see things in a different way and I didnít expect that it would feel so strange. I decided to walk back towards the sand and took a few steps back under the sun. I took a look down towards the ocean, searching for something I hadnít seen before. I stood there for a few minutes scanning the beach and nothing really seemed out of the ordinary at first. I and could see some things that I recognized, the beach chairs and life guard towers, the swing sets and dunes were where I remembered them. I had to look closer and spotted something I hadnít noticed. I looked out over the water and saw the small platform, which seemed strangely abandoned after having been so busy earlier in the morning. It wasnít something I expected and I saw other things that surprised me. I watched the waves moving closer towards the shore and wondered why this hadnít attracted more people, it seemed oddly out of place and time, for a moment. I realized that there may have been other things happening that I couldnít see with my eyes. I took a moment and focused on the sound of the ocean swirling in the distance, which seemed to be accompanying the reflections at the same speed. I heard boats churning farther out and waited to see them cross through the water, gliding over the waves quickly. I looked towards the pier and saw fishing lines and hooks hanging from it, the arrayed people seemingly oblivious to my presence. I silently watched the other kids running and yelling around in the sidewalks, as a seemingly average day unfolded under the sun.  

I was searching for more signs or messages, but there was too much going on that didnít really matter. After a few minutes of watching what everyone else was doing, I came to the conclusion that I was looking for answers in the wrong places. I had to find out what was really important. I decided to take a different approach and trace back to the most interesting thing Iíd observed, ignoring the things obscuring the messages I was looking for. I cleared out my mind and looked back towards the water. After those many distractions were out of the way, I decided to return to the mysterious patterns Iíd seen before. I looked in their general direction and tried once again to see what they were up to. I bent my head down for a moment and turned my attention towards the waves. It was still bright and I could only see the patterns when I squinted and looked carefully. I began partially closing my eyes and alternating between them, I tried and decipher the reflections and patterns, but nothing came of it at first. I concentrated my gaze in the distance for a few minutes and began to see something that I remembered. It was something Iíd first seen a while back. At first I didnít want to believe it, but it was unmistakable. It was a distinct signal, one Iíd first encountered in the winter, during one of our encounters in the woods.

At first, it didnít seem that important, just a few small glimmers on the surface, slowly swirling around each other. When I looked closer, patterns emerged that seemed out of place. When I concentrated, they seemed to come together unexpectedly. I watched in slight awe, there was something there that no one else had seen, a secret coded message. The sun had cast on odd reflection on the water, making sparkling notches that seemed to cut through the waves, revealing itself sporadically and only if you watched closely. It wasnít something I was looking for, but once they caught my eye, I couldnít believe what I was seeing. When I looked closely, I noticed something happening, the pulses seemed to be quickening. There was a strange urgency that suddenly seemed to overcome them, a pattern that was definitely recurring, faster and faster. As they washed and curved over the waves, they almost seemed to be talking, almost rolling in a determined motion or a specific sequence, attempting to communicate a message. It took me a few minutes to see what was happening and there was still nothing that I could really understand in their movements. I turned my eyes downward towards the waves and tried to time their crests on my own using a simple mechanism of counting to ten. This approach worked for a short time, but this quickly fell behind, going out of sync from the waves after a few moments. This was frustrating but I tried to take a different approach, using the natural beach rhythms as my guide, I mimicked breathing and suddenly it began to coalesce for me, and I felt the movements coming into form. I took a nervous step back when I realized what was happening. There was a distinct pulse that I saw between the waves, almost becoming symbols, floating on the surface. They seemed strangely familiar and then I remembered what they were. It didnít expect to see it there but it couldnít be ignored. Despite my best efforts to stay hidden, someone was watching.

I walked over the sands and towards the sound. My feet were getting wet as the tides over-ran the squishy sand. I looked in the distance and saw that the tide was starting to roll back in, and I was tempted to go back in the water. There was still more for me to see. However, I wasnít in the right place at that moment. I realized that the disguise I was wearing would be ruined if it got wet. I stood there and wondered what to do. I felt safe like that and I wasnít quite ready to go back to my normal appearance. I worried that I would feel vulnerable and go back to my old habits. I thought about it for a moment. I looked down at my feet sunken down in the sand and wondered how it would feel to return to my normal sandals. I decided that I didnít want to let it get away from me so I decided it was time to go back in the water. I reluctantly took the disguise off and changed back into my normal clothes, putting them back into the bag quickly. Peering inside the bag at them, they seemed to belong to someone else once again. I took the blanket out the bag and wrapped it up safely, and placed it in the sand facing down. It was unlikely anyone would look inside, but I wanted to be sure no one else saw the secrets it contained.

I took off my sandals and began to wade back into the water, letting the waves push me forward until it got deep enough for me to swim. I hadnít expected to want to go back there, but something told me to go back. I hesitated and looked back towards the beach as it went back into the distance, and I felt my body drifting for a moment, floating on the surface. I had gone too far out and my feet could no longer touch the bottom. I took a few quick strokes and found myself moving back towards the rickety platform, though not as quickly as I had earlier in the morning. It took a bit more effort than I was used to, and I could feel myself growing a bit tired. I wasnít deterred, deciding not to let the long day get the best of me. I resolved not to slide back, and kicked my legs with a new energy. I moved quickly after that, and before I knew it, I arrived. I took a deep breath. When I got closer, it seemed to be less secure than before, rocking on the waves, unsteadily. It seemed smaller than it had earlier in the day, and the ocean waves seemed to be washing over it more forcefully, almost like it would sink. When I got closer, I saw that the back half was almost submerged completely, which was something I didnít expect. Probably all the jumping and running had caused it to lose its buoyancy, which made it seem dangerous and probably why the other kids were staying away. I was a little reluctant at first but decided not to lets its unstable surface get in the way.  I had come out that far and wasnít going to waste the opportunity.  I climbed the small rope ladder and stood on the surface, trying to keep my balance as the platform swayed unpredictably. I felt my legs struggling to stay balanced on the slippery surface, with its shaky boards barely staying afloat underneath the waves.

It took a few moments, but I was able to steady myself on the platform enough to stand, and I felt the waves coming over my feet, slowly at first then quickly overtaking them. I looked around and discovered the problem. After a day of everyone jumping around, some of the rubber buoys underneath had somehow gotten pulled apart and untethered. They were floating at the edges of the diving board, offering little support and making it unstable. I could see the boards half-sinking under the waves. However, I looked around and discovered that they only needed to be tied back to the boards. It was a simple fix and I decided to take a few minutes and strung them back into place quickly, though not perfectly. It took some effort but I was able to stabilize it enough to provide a steady surface for me to stand on. After a few minutes walking and testing it out, I was satisfied enough. I took a deep breath and waited for a moment, allowing the hot sun to dry me off as I prepared for the next thing. I walked towards the edge of the platform and waited for a moment. There was no one else around and I decided to take a quick jump to get in the water to resume my search. I knelt down and sprung up, though a little more carefully than usual so I wouldnít dislodge the tenuously attached cushions. I splashed down feet-first and quickly descended down towards the floor, my toes quickly hitting the muddy surface. I looked own and spread my hands underneath, looking for something that I thought might be there. I grabbed a few small rocks and pebbles at first and quickly dropped them. Scanning my surroundings, I looked a bit further out and deeper, heading downward for a closer examination. I didnít see much that really stood out, but I wasnít giving up. I grabbed another group of rocks and they seemed to slip out of my hands before I could really examine them. I was running out of time and would have to resurface. I decided to go back up and resurfaced quickly. I looked and saw the diving board was further away than I realized. Instead of swimming all the way back there, I took another deep breath, jumped backwards and dove right back down into the water.

The water seemed a bit calmer beneath the surface on my second dive, which allowed me to concentrate on looking for something else. My previous attempt seemed to have kicked up enough mud so that the water wasnít as murky, allowing me a better viewpoint. I moved farther away and went a little bit farther down, into the choppier section where there were more rocks for me to look at. I picked through a couple of handfuls, letting them slip through my fingers, going through each cluster quickly. I mixed things around for a few moments and cycled through several in an attempt to find something, though I wasnít completely sure what. I felt myself running out of breath after a short time and knew I needed to hurry up. I looked around and turned up to look at the surface and noticed that something seemed odd. There was a narrow beam of light from above me, which seemed to point in another direction. I hesitated for a moment, wondering what I was doing, if there was some point to all of my explorations. I decided that I had come this far and might take a chance. There was always the possibility that something interesting might happen, but I had to keep going.

I turned and swam towards the deeper, murkier water. The currents were moving quickly but I was able to keep up with them. I broke through back to the surface for a moment, and dove back down into the deep to resume my search. I took a few more clusters of rocks in my hands and looked through them carefully, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary. I searched for more and tried to maneuver my hands underneath the rocks, hoping nothing dangerous or sharp was lurking. I noticed an unusual object on the ground that was blue and round, almost like a small pendant. Heavy and clear, it definitely wasnít a natural object. There was a strange energy when I held it towards the sun, definitely not like it belonged there. I felt like someone had lost it. I rubbed the surface and felt its smoothness, and also its fragility. It felt like it would melt in my hand if I gripped it too tightly. I knew that wasnít an ordinary rock. It was quite unusual. I grabbed it firmly and returned to the surface, quickly. I took it out of my hand and placed it firmly on the platform. I noticed it had a new resilience and was sitting almost completely still in the water. I placed my hand on the edge of the platform, placing the rock on the boards and pulled myself up onto the surface. I held the pendant in my hand and extended it towards the sun to get a closer look. It seemed to have changed color from blue and was now emanating in a strange shade of green. I was more than a little interested in this strange object, but then I noticed something behind me.  I looked down towards my feet and noticed something I didnít expect. There was another shadow on the water, cast alongside mine.

She was standing behind me, waiting.

- Michael Palisano