The Laser Fiction - A Languid Incursion

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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

 


Fiction

A Languid Incursion

Keeping track of the myriad of conflicting measurements and unyielding indications coming from the disorientingly serene terrain was a difficult task. Every step seemed to bring further confusion, there seemed to be an avalanche of divergent currents coursing through our innumerable steps over the uneven, erratically constructed, inherently intimidating, yet strangely intriguing surface. I walked beside her stoically, attempting to maintain momentum and composure. Despite its calm surface, there was an unsettling suspicion that we weren't alone out there. It appeared we'd landed to find ourselves isolated, walking carefully over the unencumbered yet deceptively tranquil surroundings. I followed her lead faithfully, but furtively shadowed by the unanticipated appearance of an unwelcome creature in the enigmatic painting.

Resplendent in detail, each stroke portraying an omnipresent, yet unspeakable menace. It provided cause for concern. Surveying our surroundings, I noticed nothing inherently alarming. The vast expanse surrounding us suffered no disturbance, a lack of trees and brushes would have made any interlopers immediately obvious. I found myself confused and conflicted and looked to her for some kind of guidance. I wondered what her response to impending danger would entail. Despite sharing the concerning occurrences, I wasn't sure if I was being overly concerned, worrying about something that really I should have dispatched much sooner without excessive consternation. I was relieved that her calm demeanor maintained, she maintained an observational distance, her determined intent noticeably undisrupted by lingering worry.

I followed with careful fidelity, watching her firm steps unshaken by the unsettling vision contained within its elaborately painted confines. Steadily retaining her detached disposition without the excessive fear following in my path, she forged ahead without impediment. I watched cautiously from afar while she went deeper into the expanse with unflinching resolve, traversing her unseen path with confidence. Disregarding residual doubts, any residual worry evaporated. She managed to overcome any lingering fear, if any consternation even existed from her perspective. Looking ahead with trepidation over the flat surface, my eyes were drawn forward as I gradually refocused my attention on the journey ahead. It wasn't immediately clear where she was headed or what her actions presaged. I followed in her wake faithfully without diverging from the invisible path she forged. The emptiness surrounding us was intimidating and I feared getting lost within its mass of conforming, identical surfaces if I strayed from her directive. Despite lacking visible protrusions, alleys or detours, it would have been easy to find ourselves hopelessly separated within its uniformly flat surfaces if I lost my concentrated focus.

I thought back to the eerily disturbing imagery contained within the vivid illustrations, and couldn't keep the unsettling portrait within out of my mind. It was contained yet untethered; sitting with unspoken intentions, placed incongruously beside plainly-rendered star fields and benign land-scapes. These were uniformly alien and appeared unfathomably out of proportion, purposely discolored to avoid identification. Fanciful drawings, the appeared to distort and diverge from the immediate area illustrated. There was a strange quality about them with a consistently inscrutably style.

It appeared the excessively vibrant paintings were derived almost completely from robust imagination, lacking necessary grounding. This made them appear untethered to a large degree. They were intangibly appealing but the over-riding question in my mind was who might have taken the time and effort to paint them. Why were they abandoned, seemingly forgotten in the vast expanse. My thoughts couldn't comprehend this apparent contradiction. I was stuck in place attempting to detangle the puzzle. I couldn't reconcile the tranquility conveyed by the vast majority of paintings with the disorienting burst of dread, fear and, instability.

The calm serenity created within in the assemblage unexpectedly broken without warning by its dreadful association with the hidden, yet unmistakable sight of a vicious creature. Its sharp teeth, clenched claws and unbroken glare of its menacing eyes burned in my mind's eye, unable to escape. It only made only a single appearance within the stack of paintings, but that was more than enough. I thought about its unexpected appearance, I arrived at a subsequent, consequential, and frightening realization: if the painter was out there, the creature might lurk, ready to strike without prior warning, despite no tangible sign of either illustrator or subject appearing nearby.

None of this appeared to bother her, she continued walking confidently across the suspiciously benign surface without trepidation. She unfailingly ahead walked ahead, heading into the void without hesitation; knowing exactly where she was headed. She didn't pause, not even to catch her breath or stop and look around to make sure we were in the right place. Her intractable light-convergence machine remained hidden, and it didn't seem like she needed to use it as a guide, beacon or any other purpose. In some aspects, it appeared that she'd been there before, and was walking down a familiar path on instinct alone. Her consistent pace aided my confidence, and I had no trepidation allowing her to move ahead. Attempts to take a measure of the area with quick glances aside as we hurried methodically were met with mute deterrence. This wasn't the time for me to make surveys, we had to concentrate on the task at had. She wasn't distracted by the intrinsically unencumbered surroundings, continued moving ahead in a nearly direct line for an extended period, moving ahead over a narrow path without making sudden changes in pace.

There appeared to be a resolute purpose to her steadfast manner and detached approach, she appeared to be on a mission, though what exactly it entailed wasn't articulated. I knew better than not to interrupt her, and kept the lingering questions to myself. She wasn't going to be thrown off her inviolate path, no matter what transient fears I meekly attempted to interject. I decided not to waste the effort and tried to figure out at least a partial explanation along the way. This was more complicated than it appeared, I maintained my clandestine, unspoken defenses, probably to a larger degree than I should have. My wary eyes held a defensive mode. I was constantly looking over my shoulder for minor threats and disturbances. I wasn't going to end up defenseless against anything that might emerge unexpectedly over the distant horizon. This caution was over-wrought, but I remained unsettled by the encounter. It remained omni-present in my mind. Appearing without warning, forging a sense of danger lurking silently, a viable shadow, only partially submerged under our unrelenting pace. It wasn't immediately dominant but noticeably present alongside the surreptitiously calm environment we'd found ourselves traversing.

Managing to make progress over the uneven surface, I moved ahead quickly. Despite the convergence of calmness with undercurrents of lingering, unspoken fear, there was no other route. She voluminously moved forward into the breaches, filling each step with a silent underline of determination. My directive began to fray after several long hours, it was becoming difficult to stay motivated without any sense of where, precisely we were headed. I had my doubts, but she still appeared to know exactly what she was doing. Her main preoccupation seemed to consuming. I wanted to know more but she didn't have time to share the details. I knew better than to pry, but found myself growing increasingly weary from the harsh journey. There wasn't time to pause, the flat surface allowed no space to encounter a respite. The unrelenting landscape's uneven surface could have dissuaded others, but she wasn't intimidated.

After the extensive journey trailed deeper into the flat, unflinching surface, my perception began to shift. What had been intriguing became numbing. The unchanging surface began to blend into a strangely monochromatic world. It stretched ahead endlessly, without a visible objective or divergence to enliven the landscape. I decided to recalibrate for an interval, and stopped to take a measure of our progress, look around and determine my next move. I knew I wouldn't be able to take up that much time and had to make a hurried respite. Turning my head westward quickly, I was able to inhale a deep gush of air, before kneeling down for a half-measure to keep my arms from growing numb.

Quickly spinning my viewpoint around diametrically, I didn't notice anything out of the ordinary from any direction. This gave me some relief, no matter how illogical it might have appeared. There was little indication of anything different or special about our current position. Pausing and taking a moment to stand in place, I turned back and gazed out in her direction, to find that she hadn't lost a step. She'd drawn further ahead of me, and didn't seem to notice my transient breach had created a resulting distance that had opened up an even larger gap between us. I wanted to yell at her to slow down, but the accumulated dust and effort muted my abilities. They kind of gesture wouldn't have worked, in any case. My voice was so soft and distant, I doubted she'd even hear me. Even if she did, she might have dismissed it as little more than an inconsequential complaint.

Drained and tired, I knew I had to catch up without further hesitation, there was no way I would fall further behind her. We'd come too far to get separated or stranded. I decided to kneel down and prepare myself to take a leap. Inhaling a second major deep burst of the air felt strangely refreshing, it seemed a bit wetter, thicker than the previously sand-infused atmosphere. It seemed to be a strange, I didn't notice any nearby bodies of water. I looked around and saw nothing nearly, there wasn't a visible river, inlet of gasp of liquid anywhere. I looked between the gaps in the thick plates. There wasn't anything visible, we were far from any visible bodies of water. I decided that It might have been something in my imagination, probably wishful thinking. Undisturbed, she hadn't taken an extended break and walked continuously, with no signs of weariness. I felt myself drifting farther back, waiting for some signal that we'd arrive at a point where we'd be able to take a substantial rest rather than forging ahead with only a brief respite from the encumbrance.

She didn't want any interruption, for any reason. Her unwavering consistency compelled me to keep going forward. Her uninterrupted pace conveyed there was no time to wait. I decided I had to put more effort into things and took a second deep breath. Inhaling the stagnant, hot air was somewhat reassuring, but I had no time to dwell on it. It took half-a-blink but before I knew what was occurring, I felt a sudden surge of energy and had sprinted ahead. Into the emptiness, almost directly straight ahead, quickly adjusting my position until I was directly behind her, a little to the east of my previous position, I began to gradually make up the distance.

It would take several minutes for me to catch up while she maintained her unrelenting, yet calm and brisk pace. I measured the distance with subsided at a relatively quick pace. I felt my feet begin to burn after a short period but wasn't sure if this was the result of the hot surface or the sudden surge of kinetic energy. She maintained the lead, and seemed unswayed by my somewhat strenuous efforts. The instantaneous burst of energy I felt initially subsided nearly as quickly as it began. Before I knew it, I found myself walking at a slower pace. I remained strategically at a noticeable remove, allowing enough distance in her wake to observe without intruding on her mission.

I began to focus on her maneuverings and steadfast navigation over the surface intently. I watched each steps ahead of mine carefully and tried to measure where she might end up, attempting to take the distance between steps and her pacing into account. This was almost impossible to do since there was no indication where her objective might be, Attempting to guess wasn't in the cards given the strange lack of landmarks and indicators within the constrained surface, with its uniformly intractable landscapes rising and collapsing in seemingly random spaces. She didn't look the slightest bit tired despite the lengthy journey, instead the extended sojourn seemed to have refreshed her energy. I was still too far behind her that I could attempt another interruption, and decided to keep moving ahead, somewhat reluctantly but unable to consider an alternative of wafting off onto a solo journey of unknown duration and function. I stayed loyal, following her unbroken path for quite a distance further. Beginning to wander, I looked upward into the atmosphere, watching the distant clouds churning far above and allowing myself to wonder what might lurk beyond their unknowable, violet-hued embrace.
 
There appeared to be uncountable, immeasurable possibilities lurking above, just out of reach and they a disproportionate effect of marking a further disorientation on my part. Before I realized what happened, my eyes had become fixated on the unheralded, slippery motions of the intractable skies. Small storms seemed to form and dissipate silently without effect, the alien sun's glowing vibrant, manifestly red surface a distant yet constant reminder that despite everything I thought I knew, I was still a transient figure in this unknown realm. My eyes drifted downward, I realized that I still required a guide. It was reassuring to know that she was there, a stable presence within the shifting, unsettled environments we faced. I looked ahead, right in her direction but was surprised to see emptiness where she should have been. I'd gotten distracted by the clouds just long enough to lose track of her. It was only a few minutes but there was no sign of her. I looked eastward and to the left, but there was no sign of her. She'd vanished.

In a panic, I decided to sprint ahead into the brightened sun a few steps. I wondered where she might have gone. There were no obvious places she could slip into, there weren't any points of seclusion, no valleys to sink into or mountains to climb. I hadn't heard any signs of trouble or an indication of any sudden changes in plans. None of it seemed to make sense, she'd been walking directly ahead of me for an extended period, and there was no change apparent. I thought a short break wouldn't hurt, but I'd made a huge mistake and I found myself lost, almost completely without direction. I wondered what I could have missed and stopped in place momentarily, allowing myself to gaze on over the landscape; allowing myself to ponder the contrast between our complimentary situations, recounting our extended journey end up somehow arriving at the differing circumstances leading to our unheralded separation.

I looked carefully ahead and scanned both sides thoroughly to make sure I hadn't missed anything. but there were no signs that anything was amiss. I couldn't quite understand what happened and I had only myself to blame. I took my eyes off her for only a few minutes and my dissipated intent left me stranded. I thought about what had gone wrong and decided, with a strange moment of desperation to look backwards, perhaps there was something I'd overlooked. I didn't see anything of note on the environment, only an endless expanse we'd previously travelled. I decided, with much reluctance to start back tracking a few steps.

Taking back some of the territory we'd worked so hard to forge seemed counter-productive but there was no alternative expect to go back over the surface, hoping that any kind of signal would emerge. There was no reasonable way that I could move forward alone, without allowing her to take the lead, forging her path completely undeterred. I walked slowly back, carefully scanning in all directions methodically, keeping my eyes trained firmly at ground-level, searching for any sign of her. I felt the sun begin to burn through as I turned westward and found myself directly under its gaze without protection. I began to see the see things I hadn't noticed before and looked at things carefully, hoping to find something I'd overlooked. From that direction, the angle shifted and small things I noticed before began changing unexpectedly. Small dents in the surface appeared larger, while large gaps seemed to shrink into minor cracks when approaching them from the diametrically opposing angle.

There appeared to be no tangible evidence of her presence until I noticed a strange form, a type of shadow emerge from the surface, casting into the ground like a sudden scar. I couldn't understand what was large enough to cast such a strong imprint onto the surface and began walking towards it out of a strange unspoken curiosity. As I drew in closer to its position, it became clearer that it was actually a familiar figure, cloaked in her mysterious long-black dress, tastefully adorned with small white polka-dots. It didn't take long for me to figure out who it was, which came as a relief, but also a surprise.

I wondered why she'd stopped in place, halting suddenly without apparent reason or explanation. It appeared that she was looking downward into the surface, but it wasn't clear what exactly had brought her to recalibrate her attention without warning, taking prevalence without elaboration. I moved quickly until I stood just behind her position. She managed to block the surface below herself nearly completely. Walking closer, I tried to peer over her shoulder but couldn't make out what she was staring at so intently. Nothing appeared on the face of things, it appeared to be nothing more than a small blotch of discordant colors. I was disappointed at first and wondered if this minor demarcation was what she had been so intently focused on finding.

It took several minutes of trial-and-error to effectively calibrate myself into a position where I could see precisely what her eyes were closely examining with greater clarity. Careful not to get in the way, I had to balance myself to keep a consistent remove that would allow for a useful perspective that could offer potential insight. The vision came into focus gradually, appearing gradually when I maneuvered into the right position. This caused the sunlight to shift position subtly, allowing the full extent of the object to come into view. It took several attempts before it fully emerged. I noticed that the consistency wasn't total, and despite my efforts, there was a pronounced distance. This situation wasn't ideal but I decided to make the best of the awkward location.
Stepping back a bit,

I realized the drawing wasn't scrawled on the ground, painted instead on a flat canvas unfurled flat on the ground. She maintained a focus and I watched her fingers tracing just above the surface, gliding just above its details. Looking closer, I realized that its layers seemed to arrive with differing appearances depending on the angles it was viewed from. I didn't understand what the purpose might have resulted and deduced that its streaks of flowing color might have been some kind of defensive system. It appeared drawn with supernatural pigments, making a reactive, independently conscious paint. This had the unexpected effect allowing its figures to blend in, sliding then sinking beneath its elaborately designed backgrounds.

Rows of incongruous shapes and colors painted numerous indecipherable figures that covered the upper portion of the canvas. Layers merged and twisted in appearance and meaning, instituting a complex arrangement that was nearly impossible to understand without intrinsic capabilities. Elaborate and precise, these seemed to speak an intractable language beyond my ability to decipher. Conversely, she seemed able to at least partially decipher the meanings behind characters and letters without inordinate effort. It appeared to convey a message of impervious significance. Beneath these impervious, purposefully dense arrangements of figures at a lower depth seemed to elaborate further on those positioned above, adding more detailed explanations. These lower arrangements and protracted formations appeared quantatively constricted, their clandestine meaning confidentially hidden under waves of emphatic colors and shifting hues which shielded them from furtive views of malignant eyes.
 
Their luminance and saturation levels shifted quickly with distinct pivots, broadly responding to the smallest movement on us, changing their appearance and indications dramatically. Even minor alterations in our approach and distance appeared to cause the painting's characters, symbols and, letters to shift into unexpected patterns and divergent meaning. Attempting to focus on them during the short periods when they were standing still caused many of them to vanish beneath the flowing colors, only to reappear, completely transformed. Altered in appearance and meaning, it was almost impossible for me to keep up with the constant changes. She didn't seem intimidated by their unceasing alterations in appearance. On the contrary, it appeared the shifting painting's metamorphosis stimulated an vibrant engagement in her mind. She appeared to take the changes in stride. I found myself observing its undulations, falling helplessly behind its even its somewhat languid pace, yet strangely compelled not to divert my concentration from its alluring form.
 
These inherently improbable color shifts kept me from deciphering the simplest figures and I quickly became lost in their constant shifting. She worked consistently, tracing over the painting with patience and thoroughness, reading every figure with careful determination. Looking carefully, I was disappointed to an unexpected degree that the artist's hand wasn't obvious; there was no apparent connection between this illustration and the threatening visual apparition we'd encountered earlier. Its author remained just as elusive, remaining clandestine, manifestly hidden, beyond identification. I tried to understand its meaning, but its purpose remained elusive despite numerous inadequate attempts.
 
This consisted of an elusive, seemingly alien dialect I couldn't begin to comprehend, but she understood intuitively without much effort. I figured that she'd found the inscrutable painting she was searching for, and was busy deciphering its surface for any hidden meanings. Gazing upwards, I noticed the clouds had dissipated while the surrounding wind had surreptiously diminished, while the sun maintained its consistent glare. Creating an unexpected stillness in the atmosphere. I looked back in her direction, returning focus to the canvas. Unexpectedly, the colors and shades continued to shift and change quickly without slowing down, not affected in the slightest by the calmer surroundings.

I found this changeable aspect of the paints, alongside their shifting pigments somewhat perplexing, but didn't ask her about the circumstances of its appearance. It had arrived to that seemingly desolate location, and she'd apparently known exactly where to look, remaining unstoppable in her approach. I watched her steady hands cycle over its surface, circling its features and imprints with increasing resolute motions for a surprising length. I wondering what she was seeking, though I was able to figure out that there might be some kind of hidden message or a sequence that she might have overlooked. I waited patiently, observing from afar, while trying not to get distracted, fearing that I might miss something important. The colors continued to cycle through varied hues and intensities undulating without a discernable rhythm for an extended period. Never settling into a particular pattern for long, they seemed purposely designed to distract my eyes and impede our unarticulated mission.

I thought it might have been an extended puzzle. Perhaps, she might be searching for hidden characters or symbols that only appeared sporadically. It appeared that she was returning to the same areas within the painting repeatedly to accomplish a more comprehensive survey, but I wasn't entirely sure. Kneeling down to take a closer look, I noticed that the characters displayed a surprising firmness and deliberate appearance. There was definitely a strident message or sign they were attempting to convey. She was determined to uncover each character on the canvas and didn't lose focus on the immediate task, retracing her fingers over its surface with a determined confidence that increasingly resembled a structured mission rather than a casual exploration.

She continued examining the varied figures on the canvas for an extended period, fighting against its shifting colors and hues, while ignoring her surroundings. I remained quiet and observed her magnificent sojourn silently. Briefly glancing upward, I noticed that the sun's light was still in the same position, having not moved noticeably despite the time that had passed. Returning to her direction, I noticed that she'd managed to come to the end of one side yet had taken a brief respite. Sitting back for second, she glanced back at me for the first time in awhile. I noticed a strange expression on her face that I hadn't seen before. At first, I couldn't quite understand what it was, but a slight grimace covered her mouth, signaling something I hadn't anticipated. She looked back towards the painting and resumed taking its measure, only this time her pace was quicker, it seemed that she was going through the motions one last time before moving on. She took her fingers and placed them in a furtive position, no longer caressing the painting, instead now waving over it with a strangely resigned gesture. I had no idea what was occurring. She finished her examination and stood up and gazed ahead, her watch still focused directly on its impervious surface. She took a moment and looked it over, apparently unsure how to proceed.

Taking a deep breath, she kicked her feet downward slightly, digging slightly into the ground and paused to consider her options. It took her some additional time but she finally decided how to proceed. She knelt down and carefully placed the canvas in her hand. Slowly she began rolling it inside until it resembled a long furtive wand. When it was would up, completely secured, she pulled on its edge, making it contract until it narrowed to form a shape not much thicker than a heavy brush, she'd rolled it effortlessly with surprising efficiency. She pulled a small ball of a twig, stretched it out into a ball of string, then wrapped it around the canvas until it wrapped around several points to keep it in place its surface safely out of view. Satisfied that her effort had concealed its contents, she placed the newly-fastened, firmly stringed canvas safely underneath her outer cloak, hiding it from view. She turned and faced me directly, but didn't say a word. Looking surprisingly exhausted by the effort she began walking eastward in a completely-unbroken, direct line.

While not proceeding with as much determination or momentum as before, she nonetheless kept herself within a constricted, unnervingly constrained, uninterrupted narrow line as she walked purposefully, heading directly ahead without trepidation. I didn't have any idea where she was going, there were no landmarks or indicators in that forlorn place which offered no clues. Walking past me, she nodded in my direction quickly a motioned for me to follow her lead.

I didn't understand how she was able to discern where to go next, the painting seemed abstract and not particularly function. There was little choice, at that point, for me to diverge from her directive. I had no alternative but to follow her lead. I turned and began what seemed to be another long journey following in her steps. I didn't anticipate that something had changed. In the distance, a large formation, of what looked like the base of a large rock formation had appeared, a mountainous terrain seemingly instantaneously borne, a mass of stony, jagged barriers appearing silently from the ether, a strange demarcation on the landscape appearing instantaneously, without offering any prior warning.

She walked with rejuvenated confidence towards the resplendent horizon at a quickened pace and maintained resolve. Her pace appeared to quicken as she drew near toward the intimidating fixture, her steps seeming to almost float above the surface without impediment. She maintained a firm line as she continued onward, not diverging from her path in the slightest as she moved towards its base. I looked for any indication that reinforced our direction, but there were no signs or markings visible. We traversed under the bright sun and vivid atmosphere without charting any predetermined path. Follow her instinct alone, there was no discernable path ahead.

Following in her wake, I found myself nervously awaiting what lied before us. The flat ground made it easy for us to build momentum beneath the violet skies, which remained relatively stagnant as we walked. Striding towards the mountainous converge, its harsh constellation of rocks formed an intimidating wall that punctured the flat, unimpeded surroundings nearby. The structure rose rapidly as we drew near, its sharp edges jutting upwards toward the skies with intractable resolve.

We drew closer and fell underneath its atmospheric, domineering and encompassing range. The enormous stone formation reacted strangely to our presence. It didn't budge from place, and reinforced the defenses, jealously maintaining an obstinate distance, not revealing anything about its sudden appearance or the motivation behind its creation and origin. The lack of predetermination on its part made it feel less created from stone and rock. Instead, it felt like we were walking into something less concrete, it looked as if it had risen from thin air. Without much history behind its slate walls, there was little reason consequently, for us to expect it to provide extended security. It had appeared suddenly, and offered no sense that its structure would last. We managed to make a quick approach and finally reached the mysterious mountain's base. At this point, there was nothing visible to guide us through the intimidating structure ahead.

- Michael Palisano