The Laser Fiction - An Incongruous Perimeter









In Memory
Sean Pettibone



An Incongruous Perimeter

Cresting at significantly stronger strength and height than anticipated, the relentless ocean currents offered no respite while pushing relentlessly against my best efforts. I attempted to minimize exertion in order to navigate their uneven patterns and formations without depleting my energies prematurely. I felt myself slipping further afield from the furtive safety provided by the buoys, I noticed them submerging under the waves, almost sinking in the distance. I hadn't expected to fins myself treading water out there, so far afield of where I'd planned to be, but I'd somehow managed to find a tangentially secure location where I could drift and passively tread water floating above the tranquil waves without significant immediate concerns weighing me down. It was a distant location, just outside the shoreline's perimeter. I remained secure; it was only a short excursion, only a few not particularly strenuous laps away from the beach. This allowed me to enjoy a temporary sojourn, a temporary retreat beneath the pulsating hot summer sun. I only desired a short respite from the sun's unrelenting fires, but my plans were quickly unraveling as I became immersed, engaged within the ocean's determined flow. I hadn't thought about the potential for mishaps, the familiar shoreline lent itself a reassuring sense of security, creating a deceptive sense of complacency.

I swam recklessly past the unsteady diving platform unassisted and with little effort, watching for high waves, diving beneath their peaks and holding my breath without worry. It was a welcome relief to find myself freed from the encroaching burdens that had become nearly indistinguishable from each other. I felt an aquatic weight holding my feet downward dissipate as I floated somewhat aimlessly above the water and held to its unadorned surface, using its distance and flowing waves as a clandestine raft, invisible yet tangible. I wasn't paying attention and before I realized what was occurring the ocean had taken a unexpected turn. The waves become choppier, unpredictable in patterns, I wasn't able to anticipate or counter their unrelenting currents and increasingly malicious motions. Waves came at me unexpectedly from strange angles and unexpected intervals. They built themselves until they arrived at a significantly pronounced strength I was unable to fully compensate, much less anticipate.
Kicking my feet with a panicked combination of strength and ferocity drew little effect, the currents quickly overwhelmed me. I decided to use techniques that were familiar. I stridently pushed my arms ahead into the water. Switching quickly and forming systemic strokes in a alternating pattern that I hoped would quickly bring me back toward the shoreline. This approach was usually effective but each length was countered by the currents beneath me, proving an unseen force that pulled me further back, deeper into the ocean depths. I felt my head sink from the pressure, somewhat drained by the effort that wasn't making much progress. I wasn't unable to keep my eyes above the surface for any substantial period, the splashing waters interfered with my vision, further causing me to lose track of my position. Gradually, I felt a sense of dread emerge, and wondered if I'd be able to circumvent its overwhelming grip.

The waves drew ever stronger, holding firm in command, gradually pulling me under despite my increasingly determined, yet ineffective attempts to free myself from their grasp. What had begun as simple diversion had become a confrontation with the water. Before realizing what occurred, I felt myself nearly drowning in the deceptively serene, previously tranquil waves, unable to push against the intensifying currents. Determined to flow in precisely they wrong direction, they worked tirelessly to completely submerge everything and anyone in their path. The converging waves surrounded and overwhelmed my position without exerting much effort. My size and strength miniscule in comparison, the ocean resolutely unconcerned with my situation, ignoring my strident determination and pronounced efforts. The ocean claimed unquestioned predominance, I felt myself sinking further beneath its bottomless reservoir. Encountering an endless sequence of waves that attacked relentlessly. They pushed me back farther away with each lashing hit.

Their unrelenting volume inexorably filling any calm space above with rapidly appreciating layers of clashing water that I couldn't scale beyond. It became increasingly difficult to keep my head above water for any significant length of time. The murky ocean water rose quickly, washing away any trace of my immediate surroundings. As the ocean churned, It made it nearly impossible to see the distant shoreline and regain my bearings. Undermining my balance, the intense waves beneath further undermined my balance, making movement ineffective, it seemed I was taking a circular route that led nowhere. From the depths, the currents grew stronger while their accompanying currents and waves became increasingly not navigable. This portent wasn't at all what I'd anticipated, infrequent gasps of air alternated with unpleasant cycles that required me to hold my breath or suffer a mouthful of muddy liquid that was unexpectedly difficult to swallow. It tasted like it had been infused with a murky poison; I needed to cough it back out immediately. The increasingly nebulous situation grew increasingly dire as I struggled not to succumb beneath the ocean's insatiable hunger.

My feet pushed against the tides fervently as I directed them upward to little effect. Undeterred, I redoubled my efforts and desperately attempted to rise against the currents' imposing strength, waving my arms up in down at a manic pace in a desperate attempt to escape its relentless force. It seemed the entire ocean had conspired to encircle me, offering me little choice but to surrender to its overpowering resolve. I closed my eyes and began preparing myself as the lingering air in my lungs began diminishing to nonexistence. Without warning, I felt an unexpectedly strong force grab hold of my arm. There was a sudden jolt sideways, and the water seemed to shatter. Re-opening my eyes, I couldn't see precisely what had occurred from that depth, the incipient surroundings were too dark. This was an unexpected course of salvation, but I wasn't sure of its source or motivations but I didn't have enough strength to resist its surreptious hold over me. The mysterious presence grew stronger, overwhelming the clashing waves. I felt a strangely benevolent power began pulling me outward, above the waves. Without further elaboration, I found myself in a calmer portion of the ocean. The maelstrom subsided nearly as quickly as it began.

I'd somehow managed to escape the converging waves, untangled myself from their rapidly enclosing tourniquet, before quickly finding myself released into a much shallower, demonstrably calmer section; much closer to the shoreline. This location provided a steadier position. When I looked back, the simmering waves past the 0buoys appeared to have substantially subsided. Their retracement, and resumption of predictable patterns was unexpected yet their gradual resumption of a predictable path was reassuring. Overwashed with a sense of relief at having prevailed over the stormy fissures and unbreachable waves, I was relieved that I was able to hold on just long enough. After a few minutes spent reorienting myself, I quickly regained perspective and balance. The calm water offered no further imposition, and I was able keep my head aloft without battling disproportionately tall waves. Their churning motions quickly settled I swam upward quickly towards the shoreline's outer circumference, and to great relief, was able to puncture the waves and broach the surface effortless. Paddling closer, I felt unmistakable reassurance when I regained clear view of the narrow strip of sand sitting nonchalantly just beyond the unknowable tides.

Taking a deep breath of the boiling, overheated air offered further reinforcement. it seemed the natural order had reasserted itself. Having endured a significant detrimental battle with the ocean, the invigorating atmosphere re-energized my physical endurance while rejuvenating intangible aspects without exerting undue command. The calm, invigorating air made me feel unusually resilient and determined almost immediately. I wasn't entirely sure what precisely had pulled me upward, but I was grateful to whatever it might have been. I drew residual strength from my serendipitous spell of luck and quickly swam back towards the shoreline, not wanting to risk further entanglements with the unrelenting waves. Passing the buoys, I noticed something a bit strange, firmly on the pedestal just above the diving platformm drawing closer.

Realizing that an unexpectedly familiar figure was sitting astride it, calmly surveying the surroundings. He maintained his balance on the unsteady diving platform effortlessly. He never tripped, maintaining a his immovable position. A noticed the currents acting up once more; but he was largely unconcerned. The elusive figure largely ignored the pronounced waves buffeting the surface above the cresting currents. Expectations shifted towards the positive once I moved closer.At that point, I wasn't able to definitively manage a to arrive at a precise realization. Without further information, I couldn't have determined who inhabited that particular outline. I swam ever closer but the figure onboard remained cloistered, almost purposely hiding from view. I was unable to identify it from such that pronounced distance. I felt a sense of unease come over me. I doubted whether moving in was truly a wise decision. I couldn't be sure if the mysterious figure standing resolutely on the platform would welcome my incursion or find my presence threatening in some manner. I couldn't be sure of either outcome.

i thought about it for a few moments and decided that something had drawn me to this point, I should proceed until I reached the objective, wherever it might lead. I decided not to move ahead completely without fear. I kicked my feet carefully beneath me in diminutive circular motions in order not to make a big splash that might cause undue alarm,. instead, I slowly drifted ahead cautiously, making incremental motions, keeping myself at a safe distance, just in case my premonition proved incorrect. Lingering doubt delayed and slowed my movement, but didn't prevent me from moving toward the diving platform. The outline gradually formed a coherent shape, and the figure became increasingly vivid as I swam closer.

The familiar features of his eponymous blue suit came into view. I immediately recognized his scrupulous attire. He maintained the patina of an unforgettably resplendent apparition, that didn't appear dissuaded in the slightest. Standing confidently, seeming to float above the surface where he stood. His unworried demeanor and inner confidence allaying residual doubt instantaneously.Impeccably tailored, his sharply-pressed jacket fit naturally matching slacks and shirt, his immaculately polished shoes and unwrinkled sharp-edged neck-tie. Nothing in the immediate area appeared to have diminished his sharp attire. He stood calmly on the platform, silently surveying the cusping waves unaffected by the unsteady storms and fissures, endlessly clashing, conflicting and coalescing around him. A serene form standing tall against the churning waves beneath his feet.
He met this minor oceanic disruption without the slightest gesture, committing nothing that would interfere with his calm exterior, his disposition unswayed by the unceasing liquid connotations. Conversely, I faced a constant struggle against the currents, commencing a perennial, seemingly endless battle against a relentless aquatic foe. I wondered what he was doing out there, on that peculiar diving board. I'd become intimately with these structures over time and with repeated forays but its appearance was deceptively innocuous. There weren't any residual puddles of water, nothing accumulated in his wake. I couldn't locate a trace of paths or streaks left behind as someone quickly boarded or jumped from its surface. Any small pools on the surface by dragging wet feet weren't visible. He'd arrived without leaving the smallest visual indication his feet stood placed nearby.

He'd become strangely elusive, having disappeared unexpectedly from view, becoming inexorably attached to the intangible vessel. His following completely subsumed by its elaborate permutations, seemingly lost permanently. Appearing overwhelmed by with its endless combinations of dials, switches, levers and instruments he experimented with them, blocking out anything external that might possibly intrude. He stopped looking outside the boat's immediate area, unable to make additional commitments to external forces. I remembered and his unexplained absence and disappearance gave me pause. I decided to overlook this for the moment and swam even closer to see what he was up to. Finally managing to arrive at a legible standpoint where he could no longer hide his intentions. I came to a halt and watched him closely. I was initially surprised to discover he'd somehow managed to maneuver onboard the unstable platform without taking measure of a single drop of water. His suit neatly-pressed and unwrinkled or bothered in the slightest by the marching sheets, converging to form thick curtains of heavy water, the wind=strewn layers emanating at his position mercilessly from all directions.

Inching closer to the platform, unsure what his intent was after all that time. He seemed to carry a calm demeanor, and appeared to recognize my trepidation. The navigator looked toward my direction and waved quickly in affirmation. Much had occurred in the intervening time, but perhaps, not as much as it felt. I swam a bit closer and held position, floating in position, attempting to keep my head above the water while keeping track of his maneuverings. He sat in place, surveying the tranquil shoreline with appreciative attention to its intricate layout and formations. The heat scorched the distant sand as the sun reached its peak, waves of heat visible in flowing torrents rising above the surface, eliciting a relentless energy. My sudden outburst of inappropriate youthful enthusiasm didn't sway him to join me splashing around in the water, instead keeping his secure position intact while simultaneously observing at a dignified remove.

Moving closer in gradual, tentative fashion, maneuvering over the churning waves until I was just outside the platform's reach. I was careful not to move impetuously, not wanting to disturb its fragile temperament, or cause it to tilt needlessly into the breach. Intimating the surroundings, he took their measure before deciding to take on a more pronounced tactic. He reached into his jacket and pulled a long sheet of thick paper from within. Examining it carefully with concentrated thoroughness, his eyes scanned its surface quickly but it wasn't clear what he sought from that distance. Attempting to see what he was up to, I made my way towards the platform and climbed up onto its surface. Standing up. my untethered feet suddenly grounded, yet felt unexpectedly constrained. Walking a half-pace in his direction, I attempted to discover what his perspective entailed and perhaps, uncover how his unclear objectives might resolve.

Taking a tenuous step closer, I began looking carefully, with a mixture of admiration and astonishment at his deceptively elaborate page unfolded. It appeared that it was covered with an array of symbols and characters, seemingly hand-written. Scrawled incomprehensively in a elaborate sequence of disconcerting, seemingly cartographic markings that appeared to denote locations. I couldn't be entirely sure if my assumptions were correct. It looked like they'd been purposely designed and marked in a deliberately obtuse manner to avoid intrusion from unwanted eyes. The erstwhile navigator studied it carefully for an extended period, never looking up or acknowledging my presence nearby. I decided not to move any closer or inspect the map further.

I conceded that it was beyond my abilities to unravel its meaning, further attempts wouldn't be worthwhile. I watched him closely examine the pages for an extended period until he eventually decided that he had located what he was searching for. Holding his finger against the page covering and holding a contemplative yet determined position, he managed to achieve a tangible result despite his remote disposition. Reaching into the other side of his pocket, he extracted a narrow pen and held it confidently against the paper. He began marking its surface hastily, yet carefully, leaving only a light imprint. I wasn't sure exactly what his pen indicated, where precisely its directives might wind.

This technique required precision and patience, making for a time-consuming and elaborate task. He appeared relieved to have endured, arriving with enough residual energy and managed to complete his unspoken obligations. Finally looking up in my direction he seemed startled to see my standing at such a close range, unaware that I'd progressed to that point. He waved at me to take a step closer, allowing me to observe his work at close range. I noticed that he seemed to carry the approximate bearing, but his hands displayed a weariness from the excessive time spent on these consuming tasks. It appeared there was little expenditure spent on dancing or cavorting in recent times; he'd been otherwise preoccupied. He changed tactics and explained that he felt I'd earned a trustworthy position; there was no point in making such an extensive effort without sharing a portion of his resulting accomplishment. He didn't like keeping secrets needlessly.

The composition was surprisingly elaborate, revealing significant additional detail when viewed from a close position. At that vantage, there was no need to project what might lie within its blank or unfocused areas; the details prominent at that close range. I surmised several adjoining symbols consisted of directional points, locations or denoted importance. There was no key to translate his symbols and further notations. While its hand-drawn appearance wasn't precisely aligned or calibrated, the rough approximations were more than adequate. Distances were rough approximations, given the lack of comparative fields or scales to measure. The varied colors uneven and scattered across the horizontally-aligned page conflicted and resulted in a confused appearance. Intently staring at its placements offered little insight into individual elements. I had to stand back apace and view the expanded, stretched-out page in full to fully appreciate its erratic structure to approach sensible determinations.

His incisive gaze fully examined the external meaning and inner symbolism within his intangible maps. He sat in silence without elaboration as his eyes made increasingly pronounced forays into the pages without articulating any guides or advice. He checked and double-checked, looking for errors or omissions within. Even minor mistakes could lead to unwelcome divergence. It appeared that he didn't expect me to fully comprehend the total scope of his work, but wanted me to arrive at a tangible understanding. He worked to a feverish pace, noting and tracing the innumerable symbolic forms and structures within. The pages remained on alert for intruders. Their defenses fully-implemented, they weren't going to allow anyone from outside reveal their true meaning unless substantial effort was made.

This required significant effort to detangle their intertwined portions from the cluttered pages, it wasn't easy to locate and unravel their tangled connections. The task placed before us wasn't immediately clear. I realized that his surreptitious efforts were purposely designed to be largely unintelligible to anyone beyond his own circumference. He'd let me observe, but wasn't elaborating. The messages conveyed in a unique dialect that wasn't immediately decipherable, it remained inherently elusive and cloaked. It was carefully hidden and I was unable to understand until he realized what he'd done and apologized. He spent the remaining confession reiterating his conclusions in more accessible form.

He noticed my efforts were frustrated by the picture's impressive scale, predominant arrangements and unparalleled density, and he seemed disappointed. The navigator motioned me to draw closer, advising me to look at its surface closely, but not directly. The page wasn't strictly representative, but he gave me a clue. He advised me that I should look at it like a map, not a reading book. This caught me off guard but made sense. I hadn't thought of it in that way, but as I looked at the arranged symbols and their seemingly erratic nature, it began to crystalize.

It was difficult at first, requiring me to take an imaginative break from a stringent reading, instead offering information deriving from a less-structured, instinctive approach. I had to squint my eyes and look for smaller imprints adjoining the larger symbols. The writing appeared haphazard. Many of its words cloaked with abbreviations and incongruous characters, adding another clandestine layer to his treatment. Scanning its surface was a complex task but I was quickly drawn under its force. I was determined to find, at the very least, a partial understanding of its cartographic potential. Slipping underneath its surface, my eyes began to see elements shift, turn and transform into different locations, shrinking or enlarging without any external assistance. It appeared they symbols were moving independently over the surface, taking on a strange energy. I thought my eyes were deceiving me initially, but when he began shadowing their movements with his fingers and scrutinizing their meaning, my doubts vanished.

The mysterious symbols and characters continued to change, shifting colors, shapes and forms without external adjustment or interference. They appeared to take on a life of their own, following an instinctual, natural process of pronounced evolution. They seemed to be running some kind of battle, intentionally playing tricks on me to keep me from anticipating their next move or guessing their true purpose. I decided to take an even closer look, examining the characters for any flats while they occasionally took a rest from their flagrancy.

I trained my attention on the indicators and gazed intently into the conversing symbols as they gathered, and separated, then recombined into different forms. The meaning and purpose behind these circumventions wasn't immediately apparent. Their erratic motions became increasingly unstable as they began to coalesce and converge into larger shapes, then reverted back to diminutive elements without elaboration. The rationale behind their evolving forms remained elusive and the navigator's silent observations revealed little. The pages' unstable surface and rapid transformations quickly became overwhelming. I had to take a step away and rest for a brief interval. Determined not to give its complicated surface undue predominance, I resolved to survey his temporal map with renewed energy and focused objectives.

Implemenrting a resolute pace forward, I reopened my view, and found myself staring into its approaching veneer with a combination of trepidation and curiosity once again. Crossing a length towards the elongated paper revealed unseen forms. Its surface appeared to grow ever larger until I engaged its permutations. it appeared to completely overtake the surrounding areas. I felt myself becoming increasingly distracted yet transfixed with its churning patterns, elaborate sequences and constant metamorphosis. It was nearly impossible to keep track of its endless evolution. Surprisingly, innumerable layers of symbols and writing had appeared without pretext or preliminary encounter across the page. The paper itself appeared ripped in portions, having decayed and aged significantly. There were noticeable tears across its upper and lower edges while some symbols appeared to have faded or been scratched out. This unannounced alteration was somewhat alarming. I couldn't immediately reconcile its transformation. Taken off-balance, I was unsure how or proceed. My mind needed to pull back a step in response to the unanticipated shift. The page's pronounced hold on my attention shattered almost instantaneously as it frayed and partially disintegrated. It was like a significant element within our expected surroundings had dissolved.

There was a peculiar sense of dislocation until I realized what had occurred may have been part of an intricate deception. It seemed the barriers were quickly dissolving around me in a physical sense as well. It seemed the external=conditions had somehow managed to slip between the walls in some in tangible fashion. I felt a strangely cold breeze, almost frigid blowing right through the elongated corridor. My body began shivering for a few moments but these pulsations receded as the wind subsided just as quickly as it drew into the tower. She brushed it off as a transient disruption, and reassuring me, and advising me not to worry about this unexpected gasp of cold air. I decided to resume our foray and returned attention to the surrounding corridor. extending outward indeterminately, Its surface texture and color remained consistent, indicating neither beginning or end. We stood across from each other, both staring at apparently the same panel we'd previously encountered. Its long surface had undergone numerous additions and revisions, but their indications remained elusive.

Looking beyond its intimidating perimeter caused further disconcerting conclusions to undermine our objectives; the growing realization of what occurred didn't resemble the order, length, or intrinsic structure I'd anticipated. It appeared that the myriad objects adorning the page weren't the only elements that had changed position automatically. This caused further disconcertion on my part but she didn't appear intimidated by their unpredictable permutations. I recognized the plain, unadorned walls almost immediately. Unexpectedly standing within the boundless, unending hallway, I wasn't sure of how we'd arrived at that unspecified point within the tower's extensive corridors. I managed to acclimate to the surroundings quickly, realizing everything that was occurring wasn't precise. Recent encounters had become consistently deceiving, nothing was quite as simple or straight-forward as anticipated. The destabilized, untethered appearance of many objects and indicators was inherently discouraging but I managed to follow her lead. Ignoring the frequent changes in appearance helped me regain composure. It was difficult to concentrate initially, but once I realized the changes were largely superficial, I was able to keep my focus without allowing these purposeless distractions to hinder me from the path we traversed.

returning to the page, I examined his extensive notations closely. They catalogued elaborate intervals and approximate cartography and determined that it surface had likewise changed; undergoing significant transformation. There were noticeable changes in its appearance and he'd added layers of symbols and markings to its surface. It was still unclear what these additional symbols represented, but he wasn't giving me additional response. Instead his eyes were squarely drawn towards her, looking past her undetermined position into Gemine's mesmerizing violet eyes. Appearing distracted and somewhat nervous, he appeared to maintain a respectful yet pronounced position away from her for unknown reasons.

He didn't say a word to Gemine for a significant period, unable to work up the courage to inquire about her current disposition, he managed only the occasional deep breath. It was a type of hesitation I wasn't accustomed to seeing from him. I turned my focus back into the map and attempted to decipher its meaning, with little progress made. I couldn't read the strange markings, though upon examination they resembled letters though of a strange dialect I'd never encountered. Articulating them would prove near impossible, but I attempted to instead look for some kind of recurrent patterns that could possibly lead to other symbols which might reveal distance or location, even tangentially. However, without any further assistance on his part, my task was fate to end in only frustration.

He took several nervous steps in Gemine's direction before stopping nervously then holding carefully in place. He stood approximately three-dozen feet apart from her location, keeping himself at a respectful, yet pronounced remove, retaining close observation yet keeping conclusive determination elusive. He didn't seem entirely sure of her motives and navigated carefully to stay out of direct conflict. Conversely, Gemine didn't appear nervous to a noticeably degree by the approach of this stranger. Despite the fact that he'd somehow managed to intrude into what appeared to be her fortress, it appeared he hadn't given her cause for alarm.

Instead Gemine's attention remained fixated on the mysterious figure in the dark cloak, completely covered with shimmering, unobtrusive arrangements of smaller, polka dots. She remained elusive despite her close proximity. Walking across the narrow corridors, she examined its walls carefully, looking for a breach or weakened defense to appear. She swung her convergent-light machine across its surface quickly and systematically worked to detect anything outside the expected parameters. It was immediately evident that she knew Gemine was watching her and she moved carefully but didn't seem to mind her intrusion. She made the motions but didn't make a pronounced effort to obscure what she was up to. It seemed that she'd managed to reach a level of trust with Gemine. She didn't say a word and this was reciprocated.

Both figures appeared to carve the other significant space within the tower's somewhat constrictive walls. This allowed each to move abut without enduring needless crossed-signals or intrusions. Meandering around the back, sliding ahead of the pair without taking the lead, the navigator seemed a bit lost, unsure of what to do next. He wandered around for a short time and then turned in my direction. He seemed like he wanted to ask me for help, but couldn't find the courage to admit he'd gotten sidelines. Apparently deciding to draw attention away from his lack of confidence, he took out the page and began to follow the expansive map around, tracing innumerable circuits and paths on its pages. It didn't seem like he was doing this examination with any distinct purpose in mind but was instead almost treading water while he awaited the two figures to reach a determination of some sort. He didn't offer any tangible information about the map and instead decided to follow an unexpectedly conciliatory approach.

He took a few steps closer until he stood directly across from a flat surface. He took the map from its pocket and unfolded it directly in front of himself. At this point, he stood overlooking rhea page while only a few inches away. Extending his fingers, he traced them lightly over its surface. It wasn't immediately clear what he was doing, but eventually he appeared to be plotting a path of some sort, whether this was a fantastical route or a precise plan wasn't clear. After several minutes' spent surveying the map, he looked up and saw the others still working in the corridors, unsure what their intent would entail. She managed to look back in his direction and acknowledged with a nod of her head, that the process was taking longer than expected. It was a signal that additional patience would ne needed in order to arrive at the point she needed to uncover. Gemine seemed to become a bit nervous and apparently decided she'd watched her for long enough. Apparently deciding that her time would be better spent elsewhere, she turned in our direction and walked ahead without further hesitation, resolutely headed in a direct path.

Her feet gliding across its narrow surface, she quickly set herself beside the Navigator and began quickly surveying the map. Even though it appeared to be an impenetrable maze of largely incomprehensible symbols and figures scrawled on the page, in my estimation, she appeared to have little problem understanding it. She took a step or so closer until she stood almost directly alongside the Navigator, and nodded her head affirmatively, appearing to compliment his extensive cartographic efforts. She finally spoke to him, quietly and quickly telling him she was impressed by the map's figurative detail and accuracy, despite its somewhat rough appearance. She said she wasn't entirely sure, however how exactly he'd managed to travel to such a degree in such a short time. He didn't answer precisely, instead nodded genially and thanked her for the generous appraisal.

Gemine was satisfied to some degree; he'd somewhat evasively managed to partially answer some of her questions, though he seemed to do so just with the map itself, without further elaboration. We stood over the map and looked into its elaborate surface somewhat mesmerized by its unnatural appearance. It settled down after awhile, it shifting colors stabilized into a consistent hue without further shifts. The navigator wasn't entirely outgoing and kept further incursions at a comfortable length, not allowing more to emerge. Gemine gazed into the map ignoring exterior events while she contemplated its various layers of indications. Unsure how to proceed, I decided to maintain watch over the map's perimeter without completely losing sight of the surroundings. It was entirely convincing, to an extent, that he'd managed to keep sight of things without losing track of where he'd been.

The purpose behind his retracements could have encompassed various motivations, all of which could have been reasonable. However, he didn't articulate his motivations to Gemine, instead watching her carefully. It seemed he didn't want her to get to close to his work, despite his evident pride. After several minutes when he allowed Gemine to look it over at a languid pace, he decided that he'd offered enough. He waved his arm in front of her and motioned for us to stand back. Walking towards the map, he carefully took it side and began rolling it up into a narrow scroll until he'd squeezed it into place. Secured in its wrapping. he folded it neatly into a smaller portion then rolled it up inside his jacket. He admonished us to keep its contents to ourselves, and not make the mistake of divulging its contents. She nodded and understood his position, and reiterated her admiration.

Standing silently in back of them, I wasn't going to disagree with his instruction. I wasn't going to lose his trust after all that we'd managed to endure. It remained unclear precisely what the figures represented in any case, so he didn't have to worry. Taking few steps back, I bowed and thanked him for the rare insight he'd provided, though didn't mention my lack of comprehension. Instead, I looked back in her direction, and much to my surprise, her momentum appeared to have reached a barrier. She stopped in place at a distant point and was scanning the surface in the same limited area, and constrained location repeatedly. She held firm in position intently working its surface to seemingly little effect. Curious about what was occurring, Gemine walked in her direction and circled just behind her and looked over her shoulders to see what was happening.

The navigator followed in somewhat reluctant fashion, somewhat reluctantly, not wanting to interfere. Walking gradually yet cautiously in her direction, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. As I drew closer, something unexpected began to occur. At first, the faint sound was barely noticeable but when I walked closer a faint, yet distinctive beep began to occur. Sporadically, at first then, with increasing frequency, the determined beeps become more prominent and consistent. It sounded like she'd located something within the corridors. There was no indication of what precisely it might be, the surface remained unadorned and didn't show any visible reaction. Her movements elicited a beep but little else. Walking a little closer, until I was only a few feet away, I noticed that there was still nothing visible on its surface. There were no locks, keys, markings or symbols on the slate, solid walls. I couldn't locate any lines or cracks in the surface, its smooth surface unswayed  by anything. The corridor appeared to extend outward into the distance, nothing appeared that could rupture seemingly endless corridor.

Gemine walked closer towards her position and stood just outside her reach, at her side. She didn't elaborate on the beeps or buzzing noises she heard. Noticing that someone had come to accompany at her side, she responded with a surprising deference. Instinctively, she pulled the machine down unto her side. Holding it firmly, she pressed a button and it folded into itself automatically without needless prompting. Its reduced size made it easier to conceal and slid quickly it beneath her mysterious cloak. Without hesitation, she took a step back from the sheer wall and let Gemine take the lead. She seemed to have located something important but it wasn't immediately clear what it might have been. Gemine made strident steps towards the wall before examining its unobtruded surface carefully. She didn't make any unexpected sounds or sudden motions and stood in front of that particular portion silently. The navigator silently took place beside us and observed her closely.

Standing just outside its perimeter, she carefully waited for something to occur for what initially appeared to be an extended period of contemplation, staring at it silently, yet intently. Awaiting some kind of signal from within its enclosure she didn't budge an inch while we decided to hold back, uncertain of what was to come. Without much further pretext, there was a minor creak and a noticeable gap opened slowly. It began slowly then picked up pace. At first, it wasn't clear what occurred, until what appeared to be a doorway opened and stabilized. Looking into the portal didn't offer additional insight, revealing only a secondary sheet of white space. We stood back a safe distance and watched how she would respond.

Gemine hesitated, seemingly intimidated by what loomed beneath the door. She stood carefully in front of the breach, observing it carefully while remaining simultaneously intrigued yet manifestly unsure how to proceed. She didn't seem entirely sure what her next action would be and its silent reproach gave no guidance. She looked back in our direction but wasn't entirely certain how to continue. She took several cautious steps towards the doorway then paused carefully just outside the portal's entrance. Waiting for several minutes, she held her breath nervously, and patiently waited to ensure that is was safe to proceed into its interior. She took a long step closer and held position, before motioning in our direction. We'd partake this encounter together, he seemed to signal.
I wasn't sure if I wanted to take the lead, and she didn't seem reassured either. However, the Navigator displayed some bravery and ran right beside her, reinforcing her position. Becoming noticeably impatient, his feet began shaking with nervous anticipation. He didn't want to wait much longer, and looked in her location, apparently seeking permission to take control. She looked him over carefully and managed a nodding approval. reluctantly allowing him to move ahead. Taking the opportunity, he walked directly into the doorway and moved inward until he walked into its breach. He turned and looked back at us, with suffering no apparent problem. Without further reluctance, Gemine followed his path until she walked between its sides and stood just behind him. They stood together, forging an unspoken alliance then quickly decided to move deeper inside the breach, until they vanished from view behind the burgeoning expanse.

Astride the corridor's unwavering path, she waited carefully for them to release a signal that would indicate it was safe for us to pass through the entrance. Nothing happened for several minutes and we found ourselves stymied. There seemed to be two apparent choices. We could wait in the outer area for them to re-emerge or follow them into the door. She seemed unsure which path to follow and looked in my direction. Unusual, since she rarely asked my opinion on these matters. I thought about it for a minute or so and shrugged my shoulders in non-committal fashion; I was unable to make up my mind either.

Eventually, she decided to make a risky maneuver and walked towards the door, though not without evident trepidation. She managed to move beneath its outer portion and motioned for me to join her. She wasn't going to encounter whatever lied ahead on her own. With some reluctance, I followed suit and managed to mark a tentative path towards its surface. Taking a long glance into the entrance she walked carefully, measuring her footsteps alongside me, never allowing me to get too far behind her pace. It came as a relief that we didn't encounter any significant encumbrance or barriers in the initial foray, instead the path ahead was clearly visible, yet not entirely clear. It maintained a clear appearance throughout and there weren't any markings along the way. Nervously, she moved ahead at a cautious pace, moving down its narrow path with a nervous yet resplendent energy that was tentative yet somehow inspiring. Looking back in my direction frequently, she worked consistently maintaining her pace while simultaneously managing to keep an eye on me without interfering.

We slowly moved ahead then paused momentarily. We looked into the breach and examined it carefully for any untoward signs. She motioned for me to stand back a little and we waited patiently for a brief interval before realizing it didn't pose a threat. I reinforced my shoulders and resolved to stay alert, no matter what would occur. I watched as she finally worked up enough courage and walked beneath the doorway. Unhindered, she quickly passed into what appeared to be another long corridor. I was surprised that she kept her machine hidden during this excursion, ignoring the possibly of using it as a guide or a measuring tool. It had been effective locating this secondary corridor, and it seemed sensible to further implement its capacities. However, its absence didn't dissuade her in the slightest. Bathed in bright light, it mirrored the feel of the earlier sections in almost perfect fidelity. Walking further into its flooring, we heard our steps echoing faintly across the surface but there sounded like there wasn't tangible response to our effort.

We managed to take resolute strides into the secondary corridor before pausing to acclimate to the unnaturally illuminated surroundings. Looking intently, our long surveillance was unable to locate any trace of our erstwhile companions. We couldn't visualize the slightest indication that would announce their recent location inside the secondary path. This was perplexing, but it appeared that they'd managed to mark a significant distance ahead of us, maintaining a position out of view, that we couldn't appreciably close. Somewhat disorientingly, the corridor quickly surrounded us in both directions and it wasn't clear if we were marking tangible points or randomly sourcing a series of potential objectives that might uncover tantalizing possibilities.

The corridor's unchanging construction and stagnant appearance played tricks on our somewhat wary eyes, after prolonged exposure. It wasn't immediately clear whether we were still forging ahead, moving backwards or circling in place, given the limited viewpoint the constrained, unyielding perimeter offered. Attempting to measure distance and length would have been an insurmountable task from that standpoint and we had to go by instinct for an extended period. She managed to follow the path faithfully and didn't get lost beneath its unyielding path, despite its attempts to divert us into distraction. The surfaces on either side of us gave no indication that we were headed in any tangible direction, but we kept moving ahead, somewhat fearlessly into its brightly-illuminated labyrinths, with an unknowable destination remaining tantalizingly beyond our grasp.

She wasn't dissuaded by the imposing corridor's unyielding surface, instead reinforcing her determination to keep forging ahead. I followed suit through the prolonged journey though I had no idea where precisely the path might lead. She sprinted ahead into its gasping fallows without slowing down, at least initially. Managing to mark significant yet invisible progress as we moved down the corridor, the steady pace we maintained was somewhat reassuring, to an invisible extent. Unable to see a clear destination, its extension appeared to unfold endlessly through its own path, not diverging significantly in direction or extension.

Walking behind her path, I noticed she had began to slow down slightly after an extended period at the same level. Taking a bit of a break, she stopped at an indistinct portion and took a reset. Looking around revealed nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing visible appeared to break its repetitive surface. As we stood there, I realized that we could walk through the long hallway endlessly, without seeming to get anywhere. At that point, it appeared that we'd somehow gotten lost within the structure, with no apparent circuit that would lead us in firm direction.

The inescapable silence didn't aid my confidence, but she didn't seem overly concerned by our seeming lack of direction. She stood quietly for a short interval before deciding that some additional assistance might be needed. Taking her machine from its cloaked position, she held it up quickly and pointed it across the indeterminate hallway. Initially, there was no response in any form. She told me not to worry and began walking further down the invisible path in front of us, holding the convergent-light machine directly in front of her, allowing it to loosely form an outline of a path we could subsequently follow, operating outside the tower's visible constrictions.

She appeared relieved that her machine remained operation behind even those thick walls. This successful response from the machine reinforced her considered, yet experimental approach. It didn't take long for her technique to flourish and attain province. This was do largely to its immediately visible connection with its imposing surroundings and pronounced effectiveness forging a tangible path ahead. Gemine resumed walking ahead with reinvigorated determination, standing astride the corridor's opaque walls, placing its reticular front section at a forward position. It quickly carved a visible extension ahead of us that we could follow faithfully into our next objective. I could see its narrow beam nervously tracing the corridor, moving from side to side across the walls. Operating it consistently at a steady pace required significant effort and focus but the machine elicited nothing in return for its efforts. Despite her sustained efforts and intentionally deliberate pace , its appeared to have conducted a fruitless search inside a desolate structure. She hadn't given up and continued her inquiry, and began moving at a faster pace, furiously waving the machine across the corridor in repeated motions, taking increasingly prominent action. She watched with gathering impatience for any signal and walked further downward before the machine finally responded. It was only a small beep barely louder than a whisper, but it was immediately noticeable.

It serendipitously appeared that her machine's indicators eventually discovered something, after prolonged effort. Even then, the indicators were only faintly present. Signaling that I needed to follow closely in her path; it appeared we were on the cusp of finding our putative objective. Walking with renewed force, we traversed further down the hall. Unfortunately, this only led to a reinforcing grasp of disappointment, as the machine resumed its incursions into the corridor silently without further elaboration. She stopped in place, turned her gaze towards the outer walls then looked in my direction plaintively and contemplated what to do next, before deciding to turn back. Quickly managing to locate the spot where the machine had responded initially, she held it across and it gave off a second, tentative beep. She waved it across the surface, but it didn't budge, offering nothing in response to her pronounced effort. Taking the machine down and placing it back under its shielded cloak.

She appeared perplexed with the awkwardly-assembled machine. It appeared simple, yet contained unexpected powers. It wasn't unlimited and she didn't anticipate its constrained abilities. She began examining the corridor from an opposing angle, turning around, facing the opposite direction. She looked past my direction and began utilizing a contrasting method to unravel any further additional secrets the corridors contained. I looked across the surrounding areas and couldn't see anything that constituted a break or divergence. Her eyes were sharper than mine and she located a small indentation hidden against the hall's seemingly impermeable surface.
Its luminance appeared to mirror a similar color and yet simultaneously diminutive; it would have been easy to overlook, but appeared visible when viewed closely, implementing and adjusting my vantage to take indirect angles. Materializing briefly, it brushed against the surface, before something alerted it to exposure.

This shifting exposure caused it to change tactics almost immediately. Defensively attempting to stay hidden within its surroundings, nearly completely subsumed by the surrounding surface. It wasn't immediately obvious what it was, resembling a small dent in the construction, but she appeared to realize almost immediately. She pressed down on the small button and it let off an apologetic click. She told me to stand back. It took a few moments, before a distinctly narrow path slid open, flush with the surrounding surface. It silently opened itself across the corridor's surface with surprising speed alongside a resulting insistence, beckoning us to enter.
Looking inside the breach somewhat nervously, I couldn't immediately visualize what was contained within. She took a step closer underneath its entrance unwavering in her objective. Within moments, she moved effortlessly ahead.

Any lingering friction vanished as she glided beneath a large wall and vanished under its surface. Curiosity overwhelmed trepidation and I followed in her wake. I walked into the doorway and noticed the same bright surfaces, somewhat reconstructed, engaged in a different task. They didn't seem to resemble the imposing barriers, instead maintaining a more passive appearance. Looking closely, their divergence was increasingly noticeable. These noticeably-shortened walls didn't seem nearly as tall or rigidly imposing as the previous barriers had, despite their consistent appearance. I noticed they didn't extend completely to the ceiling and there were noticeable spaces set between them. Looking closely, I noticed that they were distributed into rows and formations divided into even smaller sections. Turning inwards, the walls seemed to point in convergent direction, making a stratified enclosure that unfolded to administer a secure position.

The disparate elements appeared to point collectively towards an intangible objective that wasn't immediately visible, yet maintained increasingly significant importance. Initially confusing, I noticed that the sections of walls were further divided into smaller sections. Walking a pace closer, I realized these compartments were actually thick shelves. Spaced evenly across the walls, the mysterious objects. I walked to make a closer inspection and quickly realized they contained a variety of objects of various heights and lengths. Taking another step closer further revealed they consisted of countless books, stacked neatly across their edges. Their spines were immaculate and clean yet the characters were still too distant to read clearly. Taking a step closer, I still couldn't figure out what precisely they conveyed; It was a little too bright.

The reflective luminance worked against my efforts, making them difficult to decipher from that vantage. Without thinking things through, I extended my hand to try and reach for a volume. Before I could pull lit from the shelf, my action was interrupted suddenly. I felt something unexpected pushing me from behind. I wasn't sure who it could be but recognized her elusive visage immediately when I turned around. Gemine tapped me on the shoulder and quickly admonished me to keep a distance. She didn't want anyone else touching her books.

I looked over her books carefully, attempting to read their spines but they weren't in any language I recognized, and they were too numerous and complicated to categorize, I looked over and saw uncountable additional shelves arrayed behind those containing countless volumes, I wondered how anyone had the time to read all of them. I noticed Gemine's arrangements were precise and clean. None of the volumes were titled and they seemed to be in remarkable condition for the most part, seemingly unworn. It wasn't immediately clear how old they were or how long it had taken her to assemble them. She walked further back into their portion and slipped behind a particularly tall row of shelves. My first instinct was to hold back in polite deference, but she unexpectedly yelled at me to follow her.

I explored the intangible books carefully and respectfully, avoiding contact with their spines or pages. I knew better than to incur even the slightest disruption within the collection; it represented the accumulation of her work, after all. The path between them closed in, making this increasingly difficult. I made the journey after some effort. Breaching the enclosure, there was a slightly open area that contained a long-table and chairs. I was startled to see the Navigator sitting quietly at the end of the table. He was thoroughly engrossed in one of her books to the point that he didn't notice or acknowledge our arrival. I couldn't read its imprint, but her seemed to blaze through its pages, unencumbered. Gemine paused for a moment then stepped aside. She pointed towards an empty chair and told me to take a seat. I wasn't allowed to touch the books, Gemine reiterated but she would take a specific volume she wanted me to read off the shelf if I promised to remain respectful, quiet and careful. I nodded in agreement, taking a seat at the other end of the table across from the navigator, attempting to do so without making a sound. I managed to slip through without commotion and sat carefully, unsure what she had in mind.

She moved quickly towards the bookshelves and vanished behind them, without indicating what she was looking for. I waited patiently for several long minutes and wondered where the other mysterious figure had gone. She seemed to have vanished as well, and i wondered if she knew how to read the strange dialects inside their impenetrable pages. I looked across the form, attempting to examine the volumes in greater detail with increased concentration. Focusing intently on specific characters and symbols written across them to little avail, their marking were profoundly, almost purposely guarded. From that awkward location, It appeared they'd almost been written in an elaborate code, that resisted my attempts to inspect or elucidate their surreptitious meaning.

Listing inward, at contrasting position, the books maintained a clandestine approximation, revealing almost nothing beyond their existence while remaining completely visible, brightly illuminated in plain sight. My inadequate examinations weren't up to the task of even beginning to untangle their unyielding defenses. Eventually, I decided to cease attempting further inquiries, they weren't about to yield anything significant; further efforts would only lead to needless frustration. Instead, I looked toward the navigator, attempting to determine what progress he made. Something seemed to elicit his attention and he turned in my direction, glancing in my direction before quickly closing the book, defensively. He looked surprised to see me sitting at such close range and waved his hand silently across the table, motioning me not to intrude further into his realm, I nodded and turned back in the other direction, staring once again into the imperious shelves looming above.

It didn't take long after that for Gemine to emerge from behind the shelves. She walked with pronounced swiftness across the room. As she drew closer, she held another resplendent, immediately alluring volume. It strongly resembled the others but appeared noticeably smaller and shorter than those on the nearby shelves. She held what appeared to be a diminutive volume in her hand. Its slender appearance was significantly smaller than the other books on the shelves. She sat down next to me and slid it across the table. I looked at its cover and it was imprinted with odd characters and symbols. I didn't recognized any of these; their intrinsic purpose and meaning remained elusive. Intrigued, I opened the book and found its cluttered appearance and scrawled characters offered another insurmountable puzzle with recalcitrant elements I couldn't piece together. I sat for several long minutes studying the page fastidiously, making a sustained yet inconclusive effort to understand what it contained. After several frustrating minutes, I turned its paper over only to discover the subsequent pages contained additional arrangements of unfamiliar symbols.

I attempted to decipher them, but made little headway into the mysterious volume's densely populated structure. Consisting of additional forms and arrangements, the gathered symbols unfolded without relenting, not conceding the smallest indication of what they represented or conveyed. I found myself growing increasingly stymied in my attempt to decipher anything from the claustrophobic arrays of unfamiliar form. I was simultaneously curious and determined, however. Despite the barriers imposed, I knew there was a tangible reason why she'd given me this particular book in the first place, I just needed to find it. I drew my attention to the reticent pages with resolve and flipped over them carefully, attempting to locate something tangible that would assist me. I felt my attention drawn firmly into the volume,

I searched in vain, looking for recurrent figures or larger patterns that might not be immediately visible. Studying the pages carefully, my eyes moved over them carefully for a significant interval. Without prior insight, its mysteries took command quickly. Its intangible spell managed to overwhelm the world outside its margins, I felt my attention drowning within its endless waves. I felt myself pushing and pulling back and forth against the pages but they didn't respond affirmatively. Instead, my strenuous efforts only seemed to push me backward, I felt myself sinking further beneath its density without gaining additional insight.

When I turned additional pages, its only seemed to add more layers above and below me, trapping me within its inescapable grasp. My feet firmly locked in place, with concentrated effort became increasingly counter-productive. Rapidly losing strength to fight against its ceaseless waves and unrelenting currents of elusive meanings, I could no longer fight its onslaught. Surrendering to its over-powering imagery, I decided to close its pages before it became overwhelming and consumed my energy. I pushed her volume across the table in a final act of desperation. There was no use in proceeding further, I'd gone as deep into the book as my abilities allowed. I looked around and didn't see Gemine anywhere and the Navigator had left as well leaving me adrift inside the room without assistance. I sat there quietly but felt increasingly indecisive, I didn't know what to do. I closed my eyes and contemplated where to go next.

I wasn't entirely sure what the point of the elaborate exercise had been but I couldn't escape the feelings of inadequacy that permeated the surroundings. The moment's weight grew stronger with each passing moment; there seemed to be nothing further I could do. I sat for several excruciating minutes with increasing guilt; I'd let everyone down. The book rested on the table defiantly, seeming to mock my putative efforts at unraveling its secrets. I looked at it plaintively and wondered how it had come to thief point. I made the utmost effort but had fallen short of the mark. I felt myself swimming in regret and wallowed for several minutes, my focus blurring and shifting direction without pretext. The denouement wasn't particularly pleasant, but I had no escape from my failings. I drifted downward and my eyes sank to the table's surface and tom a deep breath.

I was somewhat surprised, after enduring several long minutes' of flagellation, to see a familiar form emerge from the other side of the table. There was another's' hand on the table. It quickly moved across and took hold of the book, at this point, I noticed the sleeve of her dark cloak behind the operation. Looking up, I could see that she'd arrived in complete silence and was standing above me. She'd been observing my despairing disposition. She took the book in her hand and looked it over quickly. Apparently realizing what the problem was immediately, she placed it back on the table, disengaging its reticent posture. I noticed she'd set the object in an divergent position. She explained that i needed to turn my focus to a different perspective.

I noticed that the tome was counter-intuitively set on the table in an inexplicable convex position, with its narrow spine reversed. This appeared to make it legible from her vantage, allowing her to venture into its pages. I sustained a formative outline, but couldn't precisely comprehend its complex forms despite her simple, yet significant adjustment. She opened it up with unexpected resolve. The intangible, impermeable book's open pages reluctantly conveyed their intangibles, circumventing their pronounced efforts at concealment. The volume contained an elaborate iteration of each symbol, hidden, almost vanishingly small cursive swirling letters, unfolding within its elaborate index, imposing unspoken rules. The letters only visible from that peculiar perspective.

The characters disappeared to vanished when I turned the book, only to reaper when placed in seemingly random position. Exploring these unpredictable intervals was exhausting in an inarticulate way. I felt my eyes grow weary and disoriented quickly. I needed to take frequent breaks. This resulted in halting, erratic effort that unfolded in unfocused spurts. It seemed that my eyes were in constant battle with the page and I couldn't locate resolution. She maintained an observational remove for an extended period. Allowing me to wander around freely, marching around the pages without excessive guidance proved unproductive for the most part. Eventually, it seemed that Gemine ran out of patience. Taking a few steps closer until she was almost leaning over me, she extended her fingers and brushed them over the book's pages, following the lines carefully. Attempting to figure out what I was missing proved difficult, but my mistake gradually became obvious to her eyes.

She paused her tracing maneuver, followed my lead and looked in my direction. Gemine took the pages and flipped through them quickly. A pattern began to emerge; I was consistently getting stuck on the same portions. She focused her energies on a specific portion and firmly pointed out where the patterns diverged from my expectations. She calmly explained that I was attempting to decipher its meaning while reading its pages in traditional form. The representations weren't precise, their meanings shifted depending on context. Most importantly not everything appeared consecutively, looking in strictly left-to-right across the lines limited my vantage. She advised me to look at the broader picture, and expand and contract my viewpoint. This approach meant each page resembled a composition with potentially broader meaning. Individual characters within each page converged, forming a larger composition. To demonstrate this approach quickly without excessive explanation, she performed a simple task. She adjusted the book slightly until it was set at her preferred angle and location.

Within seconds hidden symbols and letters appeared in previously blank sections. Looking closer, I quickly realized the not only could I read the words, they'd been imprinted on the pages by a familiar hand. I began piecing them together, extracting consecutive sentences from notes hastily scrawled its margins. Quickly realizing the expectations I held could be deceptive, my eyes shifted around the book's perimeter before reaching an unarticulated denouement. It required patient, diminutive adjustments before fissures appeared within the implacable volume that could potentially offer insight into the nature and purpose underlying its clandestine existence.

- Michael Palisano