A Light Step - Fiction - By Michael Palisano - The-Laser.com

Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone



A Light Step

The heavy door collapsed into the floor as it closed behind us, landing with a crash that shook the ground. It slowly creaked down further, sealing out the cold to create a solid barrier. It also darkened the room and the safety it created also darkened the room, and that seemed to effectively close out the rest of the world. We were safe from the storm but it effects remained evident. I was cold and stood there shivering. I still felt the snow enveloping my shoes. The icy covering had begun to melt, soaking through and frosting the edges of my toes. The floors felt cold and stiff, lacking the spring that made the uneven surfaces outside easier to navigate. I stood there for a few moments, unsure what to do next. I looked around and saw the walls were sturdy enough that they offered protection from the storm outside. I looked at the mysterious woman accompanying me and while there was something I recognized about her, I didnít know what it was. She looked me up and down for a few moments, her eyes seeming to search for something, but she also seemed confused by the situation.

We stood there for awhile and it quickly became apparent that we were both expecting to meet someone else. I looked at for awhile, and I realized I didnít know her name, and I didnít think she knew mine. We both shared a sense of confusion and these mixed signals made me nervous. Things hadnít occurred the way that we planned. I decided to make the best of it so, despite my hesitation, I decided not to let it stop me. I looked down the corridor, towards the smooth walls, which were familiar to me from my previous visits, but they seemed less confining. I knew where some of them led. She also seemed to know but we didnít seem to know which way to go first. I pointed towards the far side of the hall to the doorway and its steps down toward the hidden room where the first laboratory was located. She looked across the room and I think she finally seemed to understand what was happening and why I was there. She turned around, firmly took my hand and pulled me with her. My feet were slowly unfreezing and I could feel them again as I pumped them, hitting on the floor, almost jumping in order to keep up. Moving quickly, she turned around to steer us both and we almost ran down towards the heavy doorway at the other end of the building. It was like she was trying to get us as far away from the cold as possible. I noticed that the hallway started brightening and its lights seemed to turn on automatically in anticipation of our arrival as we moved towards the heavy door.

Taking our last steps we arrived at the door and found it slightly open, its handle turned upwards. She took the lead and opened it up stepping through to the steps and waving me to follow. I waited for a moment and looked down to the steps beneath us. I took a step onto the top landing and shut the door solidly behind me, not wanting the cold to come through. We climbed down each flight of stairs, navigating its steps quickly, until we reached the bottom to a second door. It was closed but I could see through it and saw the room was darkened. She turned the handle, but it didnít seem to open, it was locked shut. We stood there for a moment and she tried to bang on the glass window, but there was no response. I looked around and saw no other entrance and apparently there was no hidden path. It was a bit dark down there but I examined it and tried to discover if there was some other way to open the door. We stood there nervously for a few minutes, looking over each other nervously, unable to figure out the puzzle before us.

She carefully examined the door to no avail, and made several more attempts but it wouldnít budge. I looked closely at it and lacking a key, wondered if there was some other way. There was nothing visible, but I remembered how she opened the door the first time, moving its handle around in strange directions. I told the other woman this and she shrugged her shoulders, it was worth a try. I took the handle and turned it up and down trying to make a circle like Iíd seen her, but there was nothing. Attempting different combinations and speeds, I tried for awhile longer. My hand was getting a little sore after a few minutes, so I decided to take a rest. I took a step back and noticed that there were strange markings on the handle, with a familiar look to them. I looked at them for a moment and discovered what they meant. Once I figured it out, I went back and turned them with more precision. There was nothing at first but I kept at it and after several more attempts, I felt a familiar click when I turned the handle at certain points. I moved it around a few times, attempting various motions until I felt a stronger, louder click which suddenly opened its hinges. The room was darker than I remembered and I didnít know how to turn on the lights. We entered the room and looked around at its tables, still cluttered with items and devices that had been left there for various purposes.

Looking closely, I saw that things on the table hadnít been left alone since my previous visit. The arrayed objects and devices, components and parts seemed to have been moved around and reorganized by someone. I noticed the lens case was closed but left in a prominent position. I opened it and it had been emptied and put it back on the table. I examined the other objects there and didnít see anything that would help us. There were old and new items, some which seemed really out of place, seemingly impossible things that I couldnít understand at the moment. The weird woman looked over my shoulder and watched me carefully, not wanting me to touch or hold onto anything for too long. I wasnít offended, since we didnít know each other that well. I walked over to the other side of the long table and saw more items scattered around. These seemed older and less forbidding, almost familiar in design yet strange at the same time. I placed on long plastic item in my hand and felt it begin to hum, and put it back down thinking it might be broken. I looked at the items closely and couldnít figure out what their purposes were or who might have created them. She hovered over me and I began to feel a sense that she wanted me to move on. We hadnít come this far to dwell on knick-knacks.

I took another look aand decided to leave them for another time. She took my hand again and we moved to the next room. This was where the laser had come to life previously, but it was now dormant. It was resting on its stand, not making a sound or emitting any energy. It seemed smaller than I remembered and more fragile. Opening its side compartments, I could see the lenses were still in place but some of the buttons werenít in their original positions. They seemed to have fallen out of place, and slipped into incorrect positions. I saw the other mysterious woman had moved towards the wall and was working on the control panel, adjusting its dials and moving things around its keys, making adjustments. I looked at her and decided not to spend more time messing with the main chassis any longer. I decided to make some room for her and stood off to the side. She seemed to know what she was doing more than I did. I waited for her to continue and remembered some things Iíd seen before. Some of the symbols didnít make sense at first, but slowly came together for me the more I thought about them. I remembered how they seemed to show up in the constellations and wondered why I had made a circular route back to the room, this time with another mysterious figure guiding me.

I had no idea what her motivations were. She seemed to know more about me than I knew about her. The surroundings were familiar but I didnít understand what was going on. I stood there and tried to make sense of things but the more I thought about it, the less I really understood. My mind was a mess of odd symbols, conflicting memories and strange journeys. I wasnít sure what was happening and couldnít really decide what had actually happened. I tried to focus on the stars, but even there, I saw different constellations at various times, al of which left my head spinning. It got a little overwhelming so I tried not to dwell on it. Instead I focused on the immediate things I needed to understand. I took a few steps and decided to make the successful operation of the machine my main objective. Even if I had no idea how to operate it, and was just watching, I could at least alert her to any problems. I looked at the long metal tube containing the lenses and searched for any signs of malfunctioning or interference. I examined it closely and tried to keep my distance so as to not touch or move it. I looked at its odd markings and weird symbols, but I couldnít decode them - it wasnít giving up its secrets too me. I had no idea how it operated or precisely how it made the portals and this made me nervous. I looked across the room towards the wall on the other side of the room.

 I moved towards the wall where it had pointed and created a portal in the first place. As I scanned the wall, I could make out where the figures had been, their ghostly shapes still embedded in my memory. I stood there for a moment and began to hear the machineís engines begin to warm up in the background. Walking slowly back towards the control panel, I saw it begin to light up once again, forming a steady beam of light, but not in the familiar pattern I expected. I looked ahead towards the wall and saw that it was forming another portal. It seemed familiar but I wasnít sure it led to the same place. I turned around and saw the mysterious figure looking at me, her eyes trained on my every step. She seemed to assume I knew what to do but I hesitated, not wanting to leave. There were too many unanswered questions. She seemed to notice my fear and took a few steps towards my position and I stood at the edge of the light, unable to move forward in the moment. I could tell that she was growing impatient, the light took a lot of energy to make and it would only last for a short time, I couldnít hesitate, standing in place wasnít going to work. Before I knew it, the mysterious figure was standing behind me and sternly pointed towards the portal, indicating that I needed to go immediately. I went back towards her but she gave me a stern look and motioned me not to waster any more time and move ahead. She pointed towards the wall, and I could see the flickering beam beginning to waver and scatter.

I decided that there were no more secrets to find, at least for the moment. I was surprised by how much trust she had in someone she had just met but maybe I shouldnít have been. She might have known someone else I had encountered there, but I couldnít be sure. I didnít need a guide this time and there was something I needed to do on my own. I walked nervously towards what was waiting for me, and took a few deep breaths before diving into the unknown.

I stood nervously for a moment measuring out the path from beginning to end. I closed my eyes and walked further towards the gateway, carefully measuring out each of my steps. I paused and turned around, and saw the mysterious, ever distant figure standing there. I had no idea what she had in store for me but I decided to trust her in the end. I waved goodbye and closed my eyes. I took a few more steps and paused for a moment. At the last second, I decided to close my eyes and jump right into it, without hesitation.

The next thing I knew, I found myself in a different place, but one that was familiar. My feet no longer felt numb, my body was warm and I could feel something burning through the t-shirt on my back. I opened my eyes and looked around.

I was standing in the middle of the ocean. 

- Michael Palisano