The Laser Fiction - The Grasping Formation









In Memory
Sean Pettibone



The Grasping Formation

Severing the immediate past wasn't nearly as fraught as expected, the process unfolded effortlessly, nothing like I'd anticipated. There was a stifling resistance to letting go of the lingering threat. We'd managed to leave the imposing, malevolent creatures behind, yet their threatening shadow lingered for an extensive period. She had a residual confidence that gave her inherent ability to reassert her command. Moving without hesitation into the unstable fissure, she silently prepared for the subsequent dismemberment. She appeared to anticipate what awaited us, in a broader sense. This gave her a firmer grounding than I had. Watching the light-infused arrays and circuits undulate, dissolve and reconverge in elaborate patterns made for a surprisingly pleasant distraction, temporarily easing my fear as they continued swirling and cascading in somewhat unpredictable, yet undeniably vibrant forms, surrounding us completely in bright luminance.

They continued their elaborate dances and maneuvers, not revealing tangible guidance for the travails we'd encounter ahead. There was enough power in her reconstituted construct to create and energize the light-fields we traveled through, but not enough to maintain consistent stability. Interrupting briefly, occasional dissolutions would occur within the breach when we needed to hold our breath momentarily awaiting its convergence. These brief spells of disruption could have easily given her doubt and reconsideration, but she used then effectively; allowing a brief moment of contemplation and subsequent preparation to occur. This particular approach didn't seem to take that long, occurring in a significantly shorter span than the previous journey.

Before realizing what was happening, I felt the ground beneath our feet begin to coalesce; solidifying into sharp, rigid terrain. The smooth surface didn't appear to feature stray rocks or objects. The surface wasn't very soft, but I could see harsh indents and galleys streaking across the ground. I looked up briefly and the cold wind seemed to blow right through me. I wasn't prepared for its unrelenting harshness, and couldn't fend off its frigid embrace. Thinking quickly, I pulled additional clothing from my satchel, covering myself in protective layers. I was able to adjust quickly, reacclimating without undue strain or effort. Oddly impervious to the sudden shift towards cold, she was unaffected by the sudden change, and didn't require significant reinforcement. The light dissipated further, replaced by an eerie twilight sky, rapidly receding into nightfall.

When the hazy gauze created by the swirling lights and colors finally dissipated completely, we encountered an intrinsically inhospitable horizon. Looking above, I noticed a moon hanging in the sky, but it was distinctively not what I was expecting. Smaller and far less luminous than I was used to, its weak light was barely visible. As the residual light from the dissolving entrance further diminished, I was taken aback by an unexpected sight. Just above it, towards the eastern side, a second moon was visible, even less pronounced and further distant from the surface. I watched carefully for my eyes to adjust to the darkened surroundings.

Looking carefully, yet somewhat casually, almost invisible to the unaided view, a third moon appeared, nearly invisible at first but unmistakably present. It effected to add another distant object to the unexpectedly heavily-populated constellation above. Attempting to study the lunar trio for additional clues, I was unable to decipher additional details or significance. The night sky quickly darkened and revealed yet another object nearby. At first it appeared to be another link in the strand of moons, but closer inspection revealed a diffuse light, unfocused on a particular object. I was a little confused at first, but realized that it was likely not a moon, but likely a particularly bright star shining alongside the moons. I attempted to make sense of the arrangements, hoping to discover some type of connection between them. I looked carefully, focusing in their direction. Squinting didn't add much detail, and despite my efforts, nothing seemed to appear. After several frustrating, unproductive minutes, I decided to move away from the distant objects.

It took awhile to focus, but my eyes were eventually drawn back to the surface. I watched her surveying the surrounding environment carefully, and deiced to join her examination. Initially, there was little that could be discerned from our immediate area. Its abandoned, desolate appearance didn't seem promising. I looked around and there were no trees or plants visible in the nearby area. Upon closer inspection, I noticed the ground beneath us appeared to consist of heavy, stone plates. Thick in composition, the assembled plates created significant, sharp breaks at the points where they converged. We had to jump over, and navigate their sharp edges without getting caught on their narrow points and frigid lines. Their surfaces which were different sizes and lengths were smooth and lacked impediments like dirt or loose rocks that could slow our progress and get in the way. Quietly maneuvering over the smooth, uneven grounds took more effort than I was accustomed to.

I needed to compensate for the smooth consistency of the sleek surface but fortunately, it wasn't especially slippery. The lack of ice and snow, despite abundant cold air, allowed me to walk firmly, making the task easier. She walked at a steady pace, marking significant progress and distance without apparent hesitation. It appeared her intuition was guiding her to a specific point. After making steady, but slow progress over the uneven plates, she began to pick up the pace. Her feet became increasingly determined until it she appeared to be almost gliding over the disjointed clusters of stone compounds. I watched with mystified appreciation how quickly she'd adapted to the uneven surface while struggling to keep pace with her unencumbered navigation. It was difficult to go any faster, I was afraid that I'd trip or fall over on the rocks, but I managed to increase my speed by jumping ahead of the ruptures, allowing extra height and distance to compensate for the uneven distance.

As we maneuvered deeper into our unseen path, something unexpected began to emerge in the distance. The horizon was indistinct initially; I couldn't manage to engage with the blurry, uncoordinated forms. Drawing inexorably closer, I could see clearly-defined patterns began to emerge. It appeared unexpectedly threatening and surprisingly menacing despite its static layout, the unvarnished surface wouldn't be traversed easily. Its unmistakable convergence created a distinctive outline, forming an intimidating, yet unexpectedly natural fortress. Coming into view gradually, I could see the mountainous configurations unfolding on an upward slope, maintaining a similar consistency to the stone slabs.

The duration and implementation of its gradually emerging path, and its accompanying, relentlessly upward extension felt like a trap we'd blindly walked into. It appeared to be enveloping our position before we realized what was occurring. She forged ahead, apparently unconcerned by our impending confinement. I followed suit with as much speed as I could safely maintain, though not without palpable reservations. I followed her path for a extensive period until their forms clarified, appearing menacing from while remaining at a great distance. Their shapes protruded in many different directions but maintained a consistent upward slope. Approaching the distant horizon cautiously, my eyes converged until I nearly differentiated between each other from that perspective, where I could almost visualize separate sharp points protruding upward into the night.

As we neared them, they seemed to be arranged in numerous rows, each one rising slightly behind the next until it created what appeared to be a vast array of spiked barriers. The steep incline appeared to increase in height with each step. Intimidating and dominating its surroundings and nearly dislodging the night sky as we drew closer, it transformed into an inescapably resolute impediment. Quickly forming what appeared to be an almost impenetrable field that couldn't be breached, it gave no indication of weakness or vulnerability. It appeared that the emergent threat would dissuade her from progressing further, but she forged ahead relentlessly. Her pace became undiluted by peripheral issues as she sprinted towards the horizon without pausing to contemplate the repercussions or envisage an effective response.

It wasn't immediately clear what had lent such unexpected purpose to her exploration, but she claimed a consistent, determined motivation in her movement. Racing across the flat, uneven boards didn't appear to diminish her motivation, instead reinforcing her resolve. Attempting to detangle the objective felt premature, it would be premature to come to conclusions. I held myself back several steps, allowing her to forge a clear path to follow. The night took on a prominent role as we moved ahead. I'd occasionally glance around and attempt to find a waypoint that I could use to measure our progress, at least in terms of distance. It was difficult since the densely arranged and uneven stone structures visible on the distant horizon were unfamiliar, making it nearly impossible to measure. They appeared to be growing larger gradually, but I didn't know exactly how tall they were. I had to make tentative estimates, which weren't particularly useful. This approach seemed counter-productive to some extent but I decided to survey the stars and use them to chart our journey.

Even though the constellations were unfamiliar, they seemed to provide a more consistent sense of space and distance. Their static accompaniment was reassuring somehow, providing a somewhat stable countenance to the unfamiliar surroundings. I looked ahead in her direction and noticed that her steady progress was beginning to falter. Her movement became slower and more deliberate, and it wasn't immediately clear what happened. As I came closer toward her position, I felt the smooth surface become unstable at points. Cracks had began to appear occasionally, which buckled under the pressure of our feet. These interrupted our smooth momentum as we countered the non-conforming sections, navigating required increased attention.

When I drew closer towards her position, I noticed that she significantly slowed-down, pacing deliberately. I drew nearly parallel to her position which seemed to signal for her to come to a complete halt. Firmly deciding that would be a good point for us to rest, she pulled her arms downward into a restful position. Surveying the remote, vaguely intimidating pointed-forests looming in the distance, she arrived at a deceptively simple, largely unanticipated conclusion. We'd made as much progress going towards the horizon as we'd practically manage; we could pause the journey and consolidate our progress. The night had become increasingly predominant, but its workings and maneuvering had only just commenced, saturating the atmosphere in hesitant darkness. This lengthening night shroud wasn't entirely without recompense. The deepening shadow allowed additional moons, distant planets, and nearby stars to become visible.

This added layer of distant light was minor, but it allowed a sense of unseen proportion to mark our progress through the field. Silently, her eyes took in the elaborate, distant maps without verbal notation. Standing firmly in place, her forward movement deferred while her focus remained undisturbed, imperviously trained on the enigmatic occurrences beneath the cartographic fields. I waited alongside her to make another maneuver, but she stood passively, awaiting an unknown signal. It wasn't clear what it would entail, which section it might emanate from, or if she would her efforts would portend a resulting silence. I grew impatient and managed to wander afield and surveyed the surroundings without making excessive effort. I decided to split our observational duties and let her continue survey the skies above. Instinctively, I felt it would be better for me to focus closer to the ground.

I hastily decided on a path and resolutely turned to face the distant frontier in the north, above our position. Attempting to locate a visible demarcation of any discordant pattern, or discover any visual divergence within the sharp forms. I walked a few steps closer to the stony formations spiking upward on the horizon in order to approach an improved view. This effort added minor detail and it proved to be a demonstrably impossible effort with little retrieved in return. Walking ever so slightly towards the north, I tried to keep focus on the enlarging, unstructured obstructions, but couldn't maintain her level of detachment. She contained herself within an unspoken serene outlook, maintaining a quiet reserve I couldn't match. I couldn't help wondering what forces had pointed us there, pulling my attention toward them, while the mystery contained within the distant natural structure ahead couldn't be ignored.

My diffuse energies made it difficult to make additional headway into the environs, but she appeared satisfied with the events occurring in her immediate circumference. I felt myself wandering in circles. stranded within conflicting motivations. There was a tangible need on my part to keep moving forward, but she didn't appear driven by a similar impetus. Eventually, I tired of walking in circles, marking disconnected lengths that overlapped randomly. I finally decided to rejoin her. I'd gotten a little lost but unexpectedly found myself at a greater distance than I realized. It took awhile to retrace my steps but quickly returned towards her location, and find myself standing silently behind her. I'd nearly lost my way, but she hadn't moved an inch, not allowing the brief tangent to distract her.

It might have appeared to be intransience to outside eyes, but I knew her stability of focus and patient steadiness was a result of concentration and perseverance. I admired that she hadn't disrupted her inner serenity, not allowing the uneven environment and unpredictability we'd previously encountered to block her determination. I wasn't expecting any sudden shifts on her part, and her inner resolve was comforting, allowing a rare stretch of calm within chaotic circumstance. She motioned for me to follow her lead. Deciding to reinstitute an glimpse of her stability, I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, taking a less aggressive tactic. I took awhile to arrive at an appropriate dispersal of excess anxiety, but eventually came to a quieter invocation. Taking a series of deep breaths allowed me to refocus when I reopened my eyes.

The environs took on a noticeably different appearance when I viewed them from a calmer perspective. The distant edges didn't appear nearly as threatening as they'd previous encountered, while the uneven stone surface where we stood felt unexpectedly stable. The uneven surfaces became more natural and predictable as I measured, surveyed and cataloged the elaborate formations they created. The unsettling strangeness of our surroundings became less intimidating the longer I examined them. Allowing myself to embrace the intriguing, unspoken aspects of its structure without accompanying wariness, left room for a deeper appreciation on my part.

She didn't reveal any of her inner reasoning and it remained unclear why she remained so intently focused on our immediate area. Our presence didn't seem to have any affect on its movement while their indistinct shapes and forms left little to elaborate, not providing space for interpretation. Quietly awaiting further elaboration, I made my way towards her until I was standing directly beside her position. She didn't seem to notice at first, and I looked around and began an uneasy search. My eyes darted back and forth randomly in seemingly random direction, veering towards the far western side, then swinging towards the upper eastern portion of the skies.

Hidden formations and small constellations of stars came into view that hadn't been visible until the light diminished, then became prominent. Their static accompaniment was striking to a degree partaking the arrayed stars, planets, and mysterious objects didn't envisage resolution. It was unclear what had compelled her to stop at that particular point, marking her solid determination beneath the skies. Despite her apparent detachment and distraction, she finally acknowledged some of my dislocation and confusion. Turning partially in my direction, she pivoted briefly towards me. Her finger pointed at an empty area in the lower galaxy that appeared unpopulated and deserted without any nearby stars or bright objects.

Watching the unfamiliar constellations carefully for an extended period, I was initially disappointed that nothing significant occurred. I wondered if she was mistaken. It didn't seem to make sense that she'd expend so much if her focus on the dormant area. After several minutes, I decided that wasn't the case. I came to another explanation that made more sense. It seemed that her approach was deceiving. Her convergent sight could have been a divergent technique that allowed her to clear out accumulated distractions. She'd located the perfect section, an almost invisible largely overlooked empty spot. Dispensed forces on it perimeter meant she could reside within its narrow vacuum perpetually, allowing herself to contemplate its hypnotic vastness without predetermination. I joined her in this process and tried to take a meditative approach.

Carefully observing her intent focus on the dormant sector, significantly affected my perceptions, altering my assumptions. The unformed emptiness expanded until it expunged residual encumbrance. This was an unexpected byproduct of taking a detached route, allowing herself welcome freedom by temporarily releasing the enormous control and accompanying complexity encumbering her. Watching attentively, the dark sector's alternate purpose clarified as its unarticulated function predominated. It seemed to create a calming effect on my cluttered mindset. Internalizing its inherent tranquility, I found myself reflexively closing my eyes, slipping into a strangely relaxing realm without barriers.

Quickly cycling between pulling away from the universe and subsequently observing it's innumerable elements closely without delay. She didn't say anything but It appeared that she found concentrating on the unchanging area was unexpectedly calming. Putting aside the unrelenting pressure of the moment was probably cause for relief. It was envious to me that rejuvenation was the purpose of her unexpected interruption. After several cycles of this, I felt my eyes close firmly until I was napping standing straight in place. This was a rare opportunity to rest and I took full advantage. My mind drifted and eased; succumbing deep into the night skies until I finally released myself from excessively contemplating the unknown forces surrounding us. Before drifting any deeper into irretrievable slumber, there was an unexpected jolt on my shoulder, rousing me almost immediately from further hibernation.

It took a few minutes to reacclimatize to the environment and it wasn't immediately clear what was occurring. I retrained my focus on the empty sector, she told me to wait a few minutes. I wasn't sure what would happen but then I noticed a barely perceptible flash of light emanating from its center. It brightened rapidly, vividly illuminating the surroundings before diminishing rapidly back into the night skies. This occurrence was somewhat surprising and I couldn't quite believe what I'd seen. I thought it might be some kind of delusion, brought on perhaps, by an over-extended respite. I turned in her direction and she affirmed the burst of energy happened; she'd seen it as well. Despite this confirmation, I still doubted what I'd seen. Waiting patiently, I hoped for another glimpse of light that would reinforce its presence. An unsettlingly long period of emptiness followed, and it felt like its silence would last forever. I tried extract more patience than I was accustomed to but fell short by a few minutes. She waited resolutely, undeterred by a lack of response from the outer reaches.

Awaiting its reply for several quietly anxious minutes, it appeared obvious, in my initial estimation, arising from the limitations imposed by my constrained perspective, that the bright surge in energy was an aberration that wouldn't repeat. She didn't share my doubts; maintaining an inner confidence as she held position. Her synopsis was quickly proven correct, while my mistake was immediately apparent. Without warning, a second flash brightened the nearby skies, noticeably larger and significantly brighter than the first. Its unannounced surge of energy felt stronger and more sustained than our previous encounter. The propulsion's source was obscured by the surrounding burst of light but I managed to decipher several distinct forms.

Small yet distinctly separate from each other, they maintained a loose connection to form what appeared to be a minor constellation at first. As they drifted apart and grew larger, more details emerged, clarifying their source. They appeared to be on fire, leaving a trail of flames behind. The trails vanished rapidly, burning brightly for a short period before evaporating and dissolving back into the night. The diffuse object of my unfocused engagement wasn't immediately obvious, but clarified quickly. After the lingering haze dissipated, I focused intently on the temporal disruptions and accompanying fissures occurring within the narrow dark field. During that brief stint of destabilization, it didn't take long to realize what was unfolding.

- Michael Palisano