The Laser Fiction - The Pastello Giallo

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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

 


Fiction

The Pastello Giallo (part two)

After a few minutes, I came to the conclusion that walking in the same direction at a consistent pace would probably leave me vulnerable. This wasn't the best approach, especially if someone was following me so I decided to take a detour. I took a turn back towards the forest, stopping and turning back half-way and continued on towards what looked like the edge of the sea. I looked back towards the water, which had maintained a calm flow, and wondered if I'd over-reacted to some unseen threat. I decided to take another rest, carefully surveying my surroundings for anything out of place. I found myself nervously waiting, balancing my position, facing east in the central area. I was straddling the area between a thick forest and the ocean, there seemed to be an unsteady balance in that section. I waited awhile longer until I felt an unexpected occurrence. It seemed that my presence there was rousing another wave of energy I didn't anticipate. The sand beneath me began to swarm and spin, throwing up dust and dirt in all directions. The squall increased in force until a strong wind seemed to be blowing directly overhead. It pounced and I was immediately inundated by waves of sharp sand.

The wind storm's intensity and velocity punctured the calm surface, its frenetic bursts of energy caught me off-guard. Its force seemed driven by a powerful yet indescribably unnatural force. I wasn't anticipating something like that happening and stood in place for a few moments, overwhelmed and frozen by fear. Standing directly in the path of a force of unknown origin, with nothing for protection quickly became a flawed strategy. The wind intensified, it unsettled the surface and I nearly lost my balance and was almost pushed into the ground. I was barely able to keep myself standing upright, but knew I had to get out of the path. I felt the sand beneath me beginning to give way, sinking and sliding right under me. I felt my feet sinking rapidly and the surface was barely holding in place, its foundations verging on collapse. There was no way to fight this powerful force. I decided to retreat and took cover from a safe distance.

Quickly jumping out of the way, I escaped just in time as the ground finally caved in. It continued its malevolent fury for several minutes, crashing into the ground, tearing and shredding its surface with abandon. The storm only seemed to grow and intensify. I walked back even further, but kept my eyes on it. I no longer felt safe, but knew there was nothing I could do to stop it. I watched its convexitions swirl and roll, churning through the sand and shooting rows of thick sand into the skies. It was frightening but also somewhat mysterious. I wondered what I had done to unleash this monstrous storm, or if it was a natural occurrence. It wasn't immediately obvious if I had done anything at all. It seemed to reach a peak and sustained its strength for a short time. Just as suddenly, it seemed to quickly diminish, its winds and fury gradually receding back towards the surface until it had vanished, seeming to sink back beneath the surface. The sand and dust began to fall back to the ground and covered the surrounding area quickly as they descended and sank down into to the surface.

It left a large, gaping sinkhole that created a huge gap that punctured the ground. Despite its mysterious origin that seemed to have a strange allure, I was determined not to succumb to its quietly strident appeals and accidentally fall into its trap. I took a few steps back and watched the swirling winds subside until an uneasy calm tentatively returned to the surface. I took in a deep pocket of open air, held it fast and released it slowly, allowing its newly cleansed openings wash the dirty sand from my throat and eyes. I held back but my eyes were drawn to the cavernous gap in front of me. It held an unmistakable allure, but one that I was somewhat reluctant to act on. The result of an enormous convulsion. I took an instinctive, yet tentative approach and moved towards the freshly created chasm carefully.

Attempting to map and trace its shapeless, impenetrable countours proved nearly impossible. I started nervously peering down into its dark formations. This yielded nothing useful so I moved a few steps inward. I held onto my side, steadied myself on its periphery. It wasn't quite as safe down there, but I was undeterred. Taking a few steps down, I resumed cautiously observing the newly opened chasm from what was no longer a safe distance. I tried to unravel the layers of darkness surrounding its entwined arms, but, clasped together firmly, they revealed little. I tried to peer down into its core, but it was murky, unclear and forbidding. The chasm seemed to grow ever darker, exponentially intimidating as I dew closer. Before realizing what was happening, the oncoming vacuum had grown stronger, its darkening pull intensifying, making further exploration unwise. I felt the ground slipping away as it barelled down and outward, creating a rapidly gestating trap underneath the surface.

Nervously, I walked a bit closer, but the ground in the immediate area was becoming increasing threatening and unstable. I decided to stand back, I didn't want to fall in. I knelt down towards the surface and tried to look closer. The gnawing teeth of the wound were visible at close range. It appeared that the land had been savagely, recklessly chopped up, like the surface had been ripped apart by sets newly sharpened knives. It wasn't a welcoming sight but it was a relief that I'd escaped before the chasm opened. The motivations and reasons for the outburst weren't immediately clear. I took a step closer, but didn't move too far into its radius. I decided not to look into this further. Any clues hidden at the bottom of the below would have to remain there, protected by distance and shrouded in darkness.

In an attempt to get a better handle on the mysterious events, I decided to walk the circumference of the crater and scanned its surroundings carefully. Aside from the burned, torn-up ground nothing seemed to stand out as I made my way over the ground. Cascading, shifting and swirling underneath, the destabilized surface continued with its unsettled motions, gradually assuming and reclaiming its former steadiness. I still felt the shifting, uneven sands struggling to support my weight. This made for a treacherous foray and there were several points where I got a little ahead of myself and almost tripped. Fortunately, I was stable enough to fight the constant battle, and continued moving around the chasm until I had reached the direct opposite to where I'd arrived. Standing directly across from my starting point, I noticed something I hadn't anticipated. Towards the west, there seemed to be a large metal object peering out from the edge of the crater. Balanced carefully on its side, it was nearly flush with the surface and would have been barely noticeable had I remained on the approaching side. I walked back towards it and as I drew closer, it seemed to have slipped a little downward towards the gap and was slowly tilting backwards, gradually being pulled into the gap by its unrelenting gravitational pull.

Working towards the central section, I was finally arriving at close enough range to achieve a higher angle and safer position, it became obvious that its thick trunk had quickly shifted towards the unstable center. It had gradually slid down towards the outer edge until it was nearly falling off the side of the gap. It was quickly succumbing, almost inevitably falling beneath the surface. It was gradually sliding and slipping, nearly pushed beneath the sand. It was right on the edge, tilting towards oblivion. I knew eventually it would slide all the way and plunge into the abyss. I had to act quickly and decided to take a risk, I walked down towards the edge and grabbed its side just in time. When I pulled the metal case out from the sand, It was a bit longer than it first appeared. It was also quite a bit heavier than I anticipated. I took it out and held it in both hands, and walked back towards a safer location away from the hungry gap that seemed ready to consume it. The heavy box held steady in my hand. I grabbed it at just the right moment, but it was too heavy for me to sustain for long, so I placed it on the ground at a safe remove and it finally came to rest at a relatively stable location. I had no idea what could have been inside, but there had to be some reason that it had been left there. I wanted to know what was inside, but hesitated for a moment.

It could have been something bad; I had no idea, so I decided to examine its outside carefully, moving my fingers across its sides, attempting to locate any clues as to what lurked underneath its heavy lid. It was closed tightly but it wasn't completely impenetrable. Holding onto it with both hands allowed some added leverage, but it was still putting up strong resistance. It needed a forceful push with both my arms but eventually, it finally gave in. My efforts had been successful and I was able to dislodge enough so that it slipped out of hiding. This took a lot more energy than I expected, but I didnít want to give up so quickly. I decided to keep going and struggled to lift the thick lid out of the way. After attempting to lift it straight up, it became obvious that it was too heavy. I decided to try opening by pulling it across the trunk instead and it began to slide in that direction. There wasnít as much resistance from that direction and I was finally successful I was slowly able to dislodge and caught a small glimpse of what was hiding underneath. I wasn't expecting anything in particular but was surprised to discover what was peeking out from inside, there was an unexpectedly vivid stroke of color glistening through the narrow opening. I was caught off-guard and somewhat surprised by how unaffected it was, the unapologetic energy undiminished by time. Its bright, bold shapes were flawlessly preserved without losing any of the life evident within its glistening, pastel-infused incandescent colors.

It seemed to exist almost beyond the structures and restrictions of time, and I decided that it needed some kind of protection. It wasnít far removed from its dangerous situation. I pulled the canvas closer, further away from the menacing gap. Moving it closer towards the sunlight, I watched it brighten, seemingly relieved to have escaped the shadows after such a long time. I resolved not to let it out of my sight for long. I knelt down and looked at it carefully, not wanting to touch it. As I gazed into the painting, it formed a kind of bond I couldnít measure that produced a mysterious energy. I began to visualize and internalize the many points and forms, cataloging the fine-strokes and washing forms of its particular aspects in my mind. Dividing it into sections in my mind allowed me to see smaller differences within its assembled forms and shapes. This close look also revealed a surprising number of variations and its intractable contradictions became more apparent. The brightly-colored painting gave off a strange aura, and I while it didnít reveal its precise date, I somehow knew that it was definitely meticulously planned, but also much older than I realized.

Paradoxically, the energy behind its brush-strokes seemed simultaneously new and warm, its bright hues maintained an uncharacteristically vibrant consistency. I was drawn in by its unapologetically bright pastel colors, which had been hidden, settling in place undisturbed for an indefinite, yet undeniably long time until they seemed to have burst back into view all at once the moment I unfurled the canvas sheets. Despite all the time that had passed, the composition and balance remained beautiful, contrasting and enigmatic. The painting grew even brighter with each moment, its surface colors intensified. The canvas started glowing even brighter after I had fully opened the canvas and exposed it to sunlight. I held it up for a moment, then placed it carefully back on the ground. It seemed almost impervious to time yet also strangely fragile.

The painting exhaled deeper the further I walked away, responding to the increasing distance with resignation. I looked at it carefully to see if I could extract any additional information, but its origin was more complex than it first conveyed. I tried to push against it, but it seemed stuck in place at first. I slowly tried to move it around so it wouldn't rip or tear and after carefully pulling at its side, the paper finally gave way, I took it out carefully so it wouldn't rip and it slowly came out from under its hiding place. It looked like a heavy, and very old piece of parchment paper. It was tied in twine ribbons and didn't reveal its contents initially. I carefully undid the bindings an unrolled the canvas, looking for some sign or symbol. It unfurled quickly, but didn't discharge any secrets. After all that effort, it had turned out to be a blank swath of canvas. I was disappointed at first, but noticed something strange when I held it towards the light. There seemed to be something painted and colored on the other side. I turned it over and was stunned by the strange design and vibrant colors. It looked like a type of strange puzzle with multi-colored, bright shapes covering it surface. There wasn't an immediately discernable pattern or reason behind the peculiar image at first. It resembled a jumble of disconnected colors splashed on the canvas haphazardly, seemingly applied to the surface in a rush, like a quick painting project rushed to completion.

There was an unspoken vulnerability in its simplicity that was evident despite its apparent lack of wear. Springing forth from the canvas, the brush strokes, layers and fine, fragile textures seemed to contradict its simplicity. It seemed to work against itself, simultaneously building and hiding, pushing and pulling at the same face. It resembled a false mirror with a reflection that was impossible to pinpoint. The longer I gazed, the more it seemed to be playing tricks on my eyes. The shapes within it almost seemed to change, as if they were breathing. When viewed from different angles, they looked like they were inhaling and exhaling. This strange metamorphosis continued when I viewed it from even further out. I extended my examination to cover different angles and each one seemed to reveal something previously hidden.

I held it in my hands and examined it closely. After a few minutes, my perspective seemed to change. Instead of seeming random, the intersecting shapes slowly evolved, and its complexity and detail emerged, my eyes began to adjust and see things that weren't evident at first glance. The seemingly random brush strokes took on a distinctive form as I examined them closely. I held the painting up farther towards the light and was surprised to see that, despite its age, there didn't seem to be that much wear and tear on the surface. There weren't any visible lines or creases evident despite the age of the material. The longer I looked at it, the more distinct and purposeful its design seemed to become. The strange painting seemed to have come to life with a hypnotic appearance that drew me in. Its origin seemed quite mysterious and I had many different questions. It seemed to have been inexplicably well-preserved. Its bright and cheerful colors seemed vibrant and very much alive. The painting radiated a strange energy and seemed like it could have been painted the day before.

I searched thoroughly but couldn't locate any markings that would indicate a signature. There were no discernable initials, names or even a date to be seen anywhere on either side of the impeccably preserved composition. I turned it over and looked for any sign of its creator, but there was none to be seen. Flipping it back over, I accidentally unfurled it in the opposite direction and this had the unexpected effect of revealing another kind of identification. This wasn't immediately evident, but there was a familiar style and approach to the painting that seemed a bit strange, but I couldn't quite understand how it might have gotten there or the purpose behind its inspiration. Examining the interlocking shapes, I noticed that they seemed to build on each other in a subtle fashion. When I looked closely, I noticed that some of the seemingly random shapes were repeated, appearing in different rotations and angles. They almost looked like they were connected somehow, their edges almost melded together. It seemed like an odd subject for a pastel-infused, supposedly simple drawing but after a few minutes, I gradually came to realize that, perhaps, there was more to the painting than I'd initially expected.

I turned the canvas over carefully to examine its surface and tried to locate its source but it didn't reveal anything. There were no faded marks to be seen anywhere on the back of it. I decided to walk back towards the mysterious trunk where I'd discovered it, and carefully peered back inside to see what else might be lurking. I pushed its cover back a few additional inches until I saw what had given it so much weight. I cautiously rustled around inside, and the loud clanging noises gave off a strange echo that seemed to be at odds with the tranquil surroundings.

I tried to move some of the mysterious objects around, but they didn't really seem like they wanted to be removed. I tried to pull on them but they wouldn't budge at first. It took me a few attempts before I was able to get one small piece from the assemblage. I took it out, placed it on the ground and examined it. Resembling a broken piece of metal, it was twisted into a strange shape, covered in scratches and dents. It seemed like it had broken off from a much larger piece but I examined it carefully. There were no markings or indications on it, but its thick surface and hard design seemed to be somewhat stronger and heavier than I anticipated. Placing it back on the ground, I resumed rifling through the trunk and located additional small pieces, which I looked like they had come apart from a larger object as well. I added these to the assembled pieces and tried to make sense of them. They looked like they'd been broken apart and severely damaged. I searched and extracted more pieces until I had a small pile of them scattered around the base of the trunk.

It took me a few more tries until I was able to uncover the main shaft from the trunk. I pulled it out and it seemed to be much longer than the other pieces that had been hidden inside. Its surface was strangely smooth and didn't have any rust or significant dents. It was a lot heavier than the other pieces and it took some effort for me to maneuver it until I placed it at the bottom of the pile. I took one final look through the trunk and uncovered a few additional small appendages. Once I was satisfied that I'd taken all of the objects from inside, I decided to take a few minutes and examine the objects that had been boarded up all that time. Scattered across the ground, they seemed like broken remains of some kind of pipe or long metal scroll. I couldn't understand what their purpose might have been or why they would have been hidden inside. Even less obvious, the connection between them and the pastel painting didn't seem to make much sense. I examined the disconnected parts and they didn't seem like they belonged there. I picked some of them up and tried to put them together, but there wasn't any obvious methods to fasten them together. I tried many different combinations between the pieces, and there was very little effect. Some seemed like they might have matched, but their edges were brittle. I had no idea where they were supposed to go, or if they even did. I tried multiple attempts to bridge their connections but was careful not to be hasty, since I didn't want to cause unnecessary damage.

It wasn't immediately clear how they were going to fit together which was perplexing to me. After a few frustrating minutes, I put the few small pieces back on the ground and looked at the arranged parts scattered across the ground. I stood back a foot or so and tried to look at them in total. None of the parts looked like they'd fit together and I was stuck, I wondered and my mind went in circles trying to figure out how or why they'd been placed underneath the painting in the first place. I decided to unfurl the map once more and see if it contained any clues. There seemed to be little linking it to the parts beneath, and my attempts to merge the drawing with the parts went nowhere. I attempted to decipher some connection and moved the painting around and backwards, then tried holding it upside-down and then turned it over again. Nothing in the painting's elaborate design seemed to clarify the mysterious appearance and obtuse companionship for. I finally came to the conclusion that It was just a random coincidence. I was getting nowhere with my theory, and I was wasting effort. After staring at the parts without gaining any insight, I closed my eyes and stepped backwards. I felt something in my pocket and another idea sprouted to me without warning. It took me a moment to realize what it was, but I decided almost immediately that it was time to take a different approach.
 
While I was examining the pieces,I had nearly given up until I remembered the strange map that I had carried around with me. It's design and markings didn't seem to make sense, either. I had dismissed it as a possible diversion that probably had no connection to things. It remained in my pocket and I hadn't really considered that it might be useful. Despite my best efforts, it had been an impossibly complex jumble of lines and intractable symbols that I wasn't able to unravel. I had nearly forgotten about it while I concentrated my energy on the objects inside the heavy trunk and hadn't considered that there might be some connection between them. I took it out of my pocket, unfolded it again and looked closely, attempting to find anything that might bring things together. I looked carefully and scrolled my fingers across the interconnected lines and tried to trace the dots to locations of the parts on the ground. I tried to make the symbols on the map match up to the parts on the ground, but there wasn't anything at first. I held it up to the sunlight and attempted to cause some kind of reaction, but it wouldn't cooperate. If anything, its scrawled and disjointed lines were even more confusing, their meaning remained almost totally indecipherable.

The mystery became increasingly intractable the longer I dwelled on it. Deciding to take a rest for a few minutes, I put the painting and map down on the ground, and began pacing back and forth. It seemed to be taking forever to get anywhere, and I had become a little stuck in that place, unable to make connections that might have seemed obvious in other situations. I felt myself becoming increasingly frustrated but remained determined to see things through. I looked past the gap and back towards the beach and wondered what was waiting for me if I was fortunate enough to finally escape the predicament Iíd constructed for myself. I looked back towards the heavy trunk and it seemed stable in its position. I was glad I had moved it, but it had taken a lot out of me to complete the task. I wandered a bit longer, and my arms began swinging at my sides again, almost involuntarily. The sweeping motions seemed to have a different effect, somehow eradicating the doubt and fear that had built up. In some strange way, I felt it that there was something I was missing. I took a walk back towards the gap and stopped and looked at the map and painting once more. They seemed to have changed in some subtle way, and as I walked closer, I was struck by an almost immediate burst of recognition followed by renewed inspiration.

I took another, more pronounced look at the painting and the map. For some odd chance, they seemed to have come to a strange alignment. I could see them almost layered on top of each other, stacked together, they seemed to have combined in a strange way. I looked them over carefully and decided to pull them up together. Carefully holding them, I began to see something form that I hadnít expected. The lines on the map intersected seemingly perfectly with the shapes on the painting to create an unexpected combination. At first, I could see the outlines of something but wasnít quite sure what I was looking at. I took a few minutes and allowed the merged image to come into being, slowly appearing and changing until it seemed the map and painting had combined in an unexpected manner. They had merged together, and in their alignment had formed a much clearer design. The maps intractable, incomprehensible and frustrating structure had transformed. What had resembled irrational scratches, irregular disconnected lines and odd shapes began to coalesce into a set of directions that I was able to read and follow. It didnít take long for me to decipher their meaning and the mystery behind them became more obvious when I glanced back on the ground and saw the parts arranged, their pieces stacked in aligned, similar forms that made them easier to locate.

It was becoming increasingly obvious what their purpose had been, and I was able to place them in relation to each other. I looked them over carefully, and while there was still a jumbled appearance to the assembled parts, there were definite links between the pieces. Walking closer towards them and even more connections began to emerge when I started putting some of the smaller pieces together. When I completed these smaller sections. I began to notice even more familiar patterns as they came together. It was impossible for me not to notice the shared design between the pieces on the ground and the directions Iíd uncovered. Converting the pieces into shapes that matched the printed directions wasnít as difficult as I thought it might be. I worked systematically and was inspired as the assembled parts began building into larger, recognizable shapes. After putting most of them together, I decided to take a step back and look at them in their entirety. I took a few paces from the disjointed pieces on the ground and immediately noticed that they had taken on a significantly different appearance. Glancing back and forth quickly, the disconnected symbols, scattered points and incoherent lines meant. I took my fingers and traced the points on the map. I finally knew what its symbols had actually represented. Its true purpose was only visible when combined with the brightly colored figures on the painting.

After I finally figured out what I was supposed to be doing, the task grew much easier. I developed an unexpected anticipation that gave me renewed energy and purpose. I began quickly putting the remaining parts in place as the strange itemsí purpose became clear. As I gathered, sorted and the newly joined sections laying on the ground, I used the directions to assemble them into a series of even larger pieces. This was a little more difficult than I anticipated since the combined objects quickly grew heavier, making them less maneuverable. This didnít dissuade me, but slowed my progress. My only concern was whether what they would form a functioning device or what its usefulness might be. I decided not to allow doubt to block my progress and continued without encountering any unforeseen troubles while I assembled its pieces.
 
After several minutes fine-tuning and making adjustments, all the parts were seemingly present, their forms intact and in the right position. Every piece fit together nearly perfectly, with no effort, and was present, according to the directions. It didnít seem like Iíd made any mistakes, but I double-checked just to be sure. There was a strange simplicity and clarity in the directions that made it surprisingly straightforward and simple task. The most difficult portion came before in my long journey.to locate the directions and more importantly, figure out how to read them. As each section of the construction came together, I began to feel a strange sense of recognition. I had seen something like it before. It seemed that I was destined to find it somehow, that it had been placed deliberately, possibly some kind of test set out for me. It felt a bit odd that there was surprisingly little friction on the parts. It was a bit strange how easily they glided in place and fit together perfectly. Despite all my efforts, it still felt like its elaborate construction and design was out of place, standing apart from the surroundings, piercing the atmosphereís surface. It was also a little strange to me that the pieces were pre-molded ahead of time, fitting together effortlessly without using even a screw or fastener, I was satisfied that I had managed to complete the task but Its purpose still wasnít clear. I took a step back and realized that the scattered, serendipitously connected pieces converged into an unmistakable form, creating a portentous machine.

- Michael Palisano