The Laser Fiction - A Tentative_Implication









In Memory
Sean Pettibone



A Tentative Implication

She wasn't immediately persuaded by his exhortations and had to think about things for a short while. Her motions conveyed that she wasn't convinced that further investigations into the areas would be a good idea. Slumping her shoulders from unseen weights, she was decidedly reluctant to pursue this route, but he didn't stop his determined approach, moving his arms with increasing determination until he was finally able to convince her that she could trust him. Reminding her that she'd given him the directive to lead the path, he walked in our direction and jumped a little bit, starting to make broad circles with his arms. She reluctantly took a few steps in his direction, then stopped unexpectedly. Looking back, she turned her attention to my direction, she appeared torn and looked to me for advice.
I thought about our next move for a few minutes before I carefully conveyed my instincts to her, quietly and cautiously, not wanting to offend him or dismiss her concerns. Our promising excursion to that point suggested that we should give him a chance to maintain the lead, he'd taken us this far without incident. She reluctantly agreed and resumed walking toward his location with a noticeable change in her disposition until she was standing beside him, carrying an improved perspective. Walking in their direction, it didn't appear that anything out of the ordinary had appeared. I managed to reach them after several nervous steps and looked at the fixated stone tower, somewhat confused but intrigued. Looking over the temporal structure, I couldn't visualize what could have resulted in a revelatory moment on his part. The tower remained obtrusive, looming over us with quiet enforcement. Its surface impenetrable, forming an immovable barrier acting simultaneously as marker and deterrent.

Entranced by its strangely silent repose, we looked it over carefully, but the structure gave no signals or indications as to what it might contain, there was no evident shift in it arrangement. I found his excitement obtuse and baffling, looking at her unsteady demeanor, it seemed that she shared my trepidation, and wondered why he was insistent on us joining him. Further examination didn't reveal any additional intricacies, nothing more than we'd already discounted. After several minutes, our perceptions underwent a subtle change. The atmosphere appeared to shift its focus as the overhanging sun began reaching its apex. It gradually became evident that seemingly unimportant aspects weren't completely straightforward; deceptive as to the purpose they might have initially appeared to serve.

We began gazing anew over the tower's unflinching surface. It appeared to shrink in size under the brighter light, diminishing to a significant degree, losing its unseen protective force. She turned her eyes toward him, seeming question whether he anticipated the transformation that occurred beforehand. It seemed that he might have travelled there previously, and was merely waiting for the right moment to arrive. His expression changed and he couldn't help suppressing a small grin from appearing over his face. We'd been focused on an incorrect object, he quickly explained. We needed to train our sights beyond the embedded stone tower, and instead needed to recalibrate in order locate and subsequently follow a counter-intuitive approach.

Scanning the mountainous impediment beyond revealed sharp-angled structures lacking in cohesion and determination. It appeared that the scattered, uneven formation that blocked our way wasn't changing; its radiance and purpose undiminished. He told us to examine its perimeters closely, and focus our intent on the spiky mountainous formation's lower portion. The shadows at its base had shortened beneath the sun's unrelenting glare, shrinking further beneath its apex. They quickly subsided and their absence began to unravel the secrets they covered. Their gradual disappearance revealed countless additional rows of uneven grey surfaces, adding further layers of blockage. Examining them closely led us to encounter an unexpected phenomenon; a solitary shadow had resisted the sun's impervious forces. Somehow, the dark reflection managed to keep its size in shape without alteration. This inexplicably immovable shadow remained steady in appearance and size, maintaining an odd consistency while the other shadows undulated and quickly vanished. They couldn't compete with the ever-swirling sun and streaking clouds above, with one exception.

Taking several steps closer we carefully examined its steadfast appearance, wondering why this undulation hadn't changed its form while the other shadows maintained a constant state of metamorphosis before evaporating. It took a minute for me to figure it out, but she apparently beat me to the realization. Suddenly tilting her head with renewed intent, she examined that portion closely. Quickly concluding that this particular sight wasn't actually another shadow, instead it was a substantial, gaping opening; an unlikely entrance carved into the mountain's base. We looked back and saw that his smile further broadened; he'd managed to locate a path that would have been easy to overlook if he lacked advance knowledge or if he'd managed to find a supernatural insight.

He didn't allow knowledge of his methods, and instead motioned for us to follow him towards the nascent breach. The sun was only growing stronger, heating the stony plates beneath our feet. He began walking carefully over the inconsistent ground. He walked with surprising caution almost meandering across. As he stepped further onto the shaky surface plates, they appeared to shift position, responding at first by warping from his pressure, weighed down by the force he presented. Their surface destabilized, their undulations becoming less predictable as he travelled deeper over the uneven plates, maneuvering over the precarious surface with increasing agility.

He moved carefully and traversed the predominantly flat surface with surprising dexterity given the challenge presented. He didn't move with excessive speed; it became apparent that caution was warranted. Their untethered positions shifted from the pressure and started to buckle and twist beneath his feet when he walked further ahead. We stood back and watched his travails with trepidation. Watching carefully made her somewhat nervous, but she finally decided to follow his lead. She stepped onto the uneven surface and began maneuvering carefully. At first, making hesitant steps onto each before gaining a tenuous balance. She began forging ahead with increasing momentum, quickly covering the same general area, following his path with approximate consistency. She moved ahead at a somewhat cautious pace, carefully looking downward, avoiding the numerous crevices and gaps along the way. She proceeded towards the impending formation steadily, forging ahead through the gaps despite its apparent size. She kept walking, until she'd carefully navigated about a quarter of the way through.

At this point, she paused and looked back in my direction, expectantly. I knew immediately that it was my turn, but realizing it wouldn't be an easy walk, I took a deep breath and prepared for the arduous journey ahead. I took a few nervous steps onto the surface and it felt strange, like my feet were constantly fighting the surface. It felt like it was about to collapse, and I couldn't find a firm grip in any location. This made it difficult to maintain stability or balance, my feet became unsure. I had to squint and stand in place momentarily to adjust my bearings before moving forward. I quickly realized that some locations brought more stability, but I couldn't count on them consistently. Compensating for this, it wasn't too difficult to pass the less stable sections. I found some relief following their path closely. I felt the surface giving way at points when I diverged and stepped over the unsteady, periodically cracked openings across the surface. When staying largely within the path they'd forged, I could anticipate the sudden shifts in location with greater accuracy. This allowed me to navigate the numerous uneven stone plates with increasing speed.

Navigating the arrays of disconnected plates improved further as I moved quickly over the surface; not standing too long in any particular location. This measured approach to the uneven ground allowed me to catch up until I was only a few plates behind their position. It didn't take long until we'd managed to traverse the unstable portions. We finally reached the other side of the uneven steps and found ourselves standing on firmer ground. It seemed to solidify and there were only a relative few steps ahead. With greater confident in the ground's stability, we walked ahead quickly until we found ourselves standing at the base of an imposing formation, staring directly into its cavernous path.

Quietly, he stood in place and surveyed the seemingly vast gap, pondering the inherent mysteries shrouded beneath its dark interior. Silently, he scanned the innards looking for a plausibly safe route we could follow. She held onto my arm firmly, holding me back and firmly reiterating this wasn't the time to go charging ahead. I watched as he carefully took a few steps towards the break in its surface. It appeared to lengthen but grow slimmer as he drew near its entrance. Pausing to consider its repose, he looked it over before moving deeper toward the breach. He seemed unsure what to do next before deciding on a reasonable intermediary. Picking up a nearby rock, he gently tossed it into the breach and listened carefully as it echoed through the chamber when it hit the ground. He waited for an audible signal before making his presence known. He shouted into the dark cavern but received no response. This could have been unsettling from a differing perspective, in this case it was reassuring - the coast was clear. He walked into the breach without further delay and signaled for us to follow him. She didn't seem to share his level of certitude, and stood several feet in back, maintaining a safe position outside the breach.

I took a several uneasy steps ahead of her and waited for any further signal from him. There were several minutes of unnerving silence before he yelled out affirmation briefly, wondering why we remained so hesitant. I took his yell to be a clear indication that we should follow. She maintained her cautious position outside the breach, but decided she could help us without entering the gaping mass herself. From behind me, I noticed a narrow beam of familiar light shoot into the darkness and quickly come into view overhead, lighting up the surrounding surface to a degree that allowed for much faster movement inward. I followed his apparent path and quickly arrived at a location just behind him, catching him off guard. He seemed startled to find me standing at such a close range.

Perplexed that I'd made so much ground without making too much effort on the task, his eyes appeared somewhat surprised. He didn't see the slender beam shining overhead until I pointed it out and he understood immediately. We moved ahead a slight distance and noticed the beam had grown weaker and dimmer quickly. It wasn't as strong as we would have liked, she was standing too far back. We couldn't navigate into the intimidating depth much further without further assistance, and turned around. We called back in her direction to assure her that we were secure and it was safe for her to join us. The beam held in place for a bit, she wasn't going to anything reckless and leave her stable location, at least not without further reassurance.

He was perplexed about how he'd be able to provide her this endurance and stopped in place for awhile to contemplate her request. He looked to me for some help but I felt stymied initially. I searched my pockets for something I could use to aid him but found nothing I could use. We looked around quickly over the dim ground for something tangible that might prove its stability but couldn't come upon any embedded objects. Our visibility was hampered by the distance she held and we didn't want to risk entering the darkness encumbered. Looking ahead, the surroundings appeared almost completely dark and quiet. He decided to shout outward in her direction, hoping she wouldn't misunderstand his loud cry and become needlessly frightened by his exhortation.

We waited patiently for several minutes with little resulting movement. The rupture seemed unchanging but the longer we stayed there, the smaller it seemed to become. After several moments, its walls felt like they might be caving in on themselves, there was a sudden shift in our narrow beam, which appeared to waver. Its accompanying light scattered over the walls, moving haphazardly in all directions. This was frightening and it wasn't immediately clear what was going on since it was surrounded by darkness. We watched as it jumped around over the surfaces and noticed tall stalks of rock twisting into each other in the distance.
It was difficult to measure exactly how thick they were, but they clashed with one another in somewhat sharp contrast, magnifying the sense of impending doom. Slowly, the narrow beam began to grow and strengthen around us. We heard echoes footsteps that quickly grew louder. She'd eventually decided to join our foray and was navigating towards our direction in a haphazard fashion. It took her several minutes for her to join us but she brought a sense of release. The pressure of maneuvering through the cave relaxed allowing us to move ahead forthrightly without dreading trouble beneath our next steps.

She maintained a strategic position just behind us waved a friendly greeting in our direction, simultaneously marking the surroundings wit a resolutely pulse of light emanating from her machine. We began walking ahead with increased conviction and traversed quickly without further delay. Our journey only managed to cover a few additional dozen yards further until we encountered an unexpected form blocking our path. We'd managed to get ahead of ourselves only to find our feet knocking unsuccessfully against a solid surface. It wasn't immediately clear what exactly stood in our path, it remained too dark for us to maintain a clear view. She managed to catch up and immediately began scanning its surface.

He quickly located a large wooden doorway embedded in the wall. It was partially closed and but wasn't securely sealed. He noticed its hinges were rusting and had shaken nearly completely ajar. Further examination revealed its paint was faded and beginning to splinter. He walked a few steps closer, which made it appear older and weaker. It seemed to be hanging onto a sliver with only sporadic supports. She followed and examined further, pushing it inward gently and allowing it to swing back, releasing a corresponding moan as its wooden planks reluctantly opened briefly, allowing a quick glimpse inside. The doorway closed quickly but wasn't flush with the thick surrounding wall. There were no markings on its surface, the door's aged locks appeared unfixed. He made a cursory examination and pronounced that it was stable enough that it wouldn't collapse. He ventured ahead quickly and opened it again without much effort. Looking overhead for any impending destabilization, he paused briefly then motioned for us to proceed. He pronounced it secure before walking with determination through the nearly clandestine passage. He walked quickly past the wooden doorway and entered what appeared to be a narrow room, without much further assistance. He didn't seem to be making much noise along the way, so it was promising that he wasn't crashing into or knocking over anything in his path.

We peered inside the structure from our remove, carefully searching for any unseen dangers.
It was difficult to measure the space ahead of us, its enclosure was cloaked in darkness. It felt tightly wound, there was little room to maneuver for a single person, let alone a group. We watched his shadowy form moving around and couldn't quite make out what his purpose was, it wasn't clear. After several minutes, she took another measure of the surroundings and decided to join him. She placed the machine above her head, allowing for its narrow beam to light her path. Walking ahead nervously, she stepped onto the concrete floor uneasily, slowly moving into its clouded interior. Scanning the surfaces, she promptly located a small switch along its western wall, and pulled it upward. Nothing happened at first, but after a few minutes a small glow became visible. It slowly warmed up and the light source came from an old-fashioned electrical lamp. Its metal surface discolored by age and rust, it was hooked-up to a open wall socket, somewhat dangerously with a single tangled, visibly frayed cord jutting out from its side.
Brightening at a slower pace than I was accustomed to, the bulb looked like it was on its last leg, providing an intermittently flickering light. It looked like the lamps' residual power was diminishing. I watched from outside as it gradually lit the room up, struggling to maintain a consistent luminance. It wasn't particularly bright, but gave off just enough energy to illuminate the room. As the weak strain of light filled the room, unseen details began to emerge from the shadow. I noticed its solid walls were covered in a yellowing paint, visibly aged and peeling at points. Its surface was further disrupted by cracks spreading upward from their sides. Small pieces and sections of plaster appeared to be hanging loosely, furthering its unstable appearance. There wasn't much else I could see from that angle, since it was a relatively narrow space, occupied by two figures who blocked much of my view. Taking a few steps closer, I was able to see more inside, there was an outline of a small shelf, a narrow desk and several old piles of wood stacked in the corner. Walking past their position, I had to move carefully and found a constrained space just beyond my reach. Moving slowly until reaching the outer portion but couldn't go further until they moved apart carefully to made space for me. They did this as best they could but I had to maneuver almost sideways to get past them.

The opposing end of the constricted space revealed what appeared to be a tiny metal oven with a miniature lamp sitting nearby. Walking closer, I could tell that both were significantly older than expected. Both appeared to be almost antique, showing signs of significant aging and wear. It seemed neither had seen use in quite some time. They looked almost fixed in place, their metal forged and condensing to make them resemble immovable sculptures, almost melted in place. Time appeared to have preserved and frozen them in place. I looked around the surrounding area and it felt like it had been carefully constructed to remain safely out of view. It seemed hidden beneath the shadows, revealing itself only reluctantly. We'd located its clandestine location almost by accident, and they were initially surprised by its unexpected appearance.

I wondered what had inspired someone to carve that remote room, emerging without fanfare from its cloaked base, purposely hidden within the midst of a vast mountainous formation. Taking a secondary examination of the room didn't reveal many additional secrets, it seemed like had been mostly deserted, existing in its forgotten state for quite some time. They seemed not to share my line of inquiry, largely unconcerned by uncovering the surrounding mystery of its origin. Focusing their attention instead on something else entirely. Looking across the room back in their direction, they were unexpectedly leaning over the narrow desk. They were carefully examining something quite closely. They appeared almost completely engrossed by this, but they were standing directly in front of it so I couldn't see precisely what they'd found.

Moving a few steps closer until I was right behind them, I was able to peer over their shoulders and saw what they'd uncovered. A compact folder held its place beneath the assembled, folded neatly for support and protection. Arranged on top of the folder were a series of papers that were immediately connected to one another. These consisted of what appeared to be a series of black-and-white portraits. Elaborately designed and exquisitely rendered, each portrayed the face and figure of a mysterious woman in vivid detail. They moved aside and allowed me closer examination. I couldn't tell how old she was with her identity shrouded but there was evident determination evident in the unyielding energy that infused even the smallest portions of the figure's expression without compromise.

Moving a step closer to further investigate them, they became ever more resplendent and elaborate. I kept myself from touching or handling them in any detrimental manner, even accidental contact could be disastrous. I didn't want to tear or rip their fragile pages and decided to observe their fragments would require me to hold temptation in reserve. It wasn't clear why she inspired such devotion, and what the overall purpose of the enigmatic sequence might have been. I stood and let their unarticulated, yet undeniably powerful energy permeate my consciousness. Attempting to rationalize the accumulation of paintings wouldn't do them justice, instead I took the opposite approach and attempted to appreciate them from an emotional perspective.

I found myself unexpectedly transfixed by the clearly aged yet strangely timeless portraits. I fell under their spell; gazing upon the mysterious artworks in total silence for what probably approached what felt like an eternity. This lasted until their mute hold over me was unexpectedly broken. A familiar voice began speaking, guardedly making unusual pronouncements, without previous prompting. She appreciated the creative energy and remarkable skill accomplished using only a single black pen, remarking that the illustrations showed a rare consistency and quality in my work that impressed her. He followed suit, quickly interjecting his admiration for the passion and talent I displayed. Furthermore, he expressed graciously that my art was undeniably resplendent, the enigmatic woman appeared to be alive. He said that his eyes needed little imagination; that he could almost see her breath fill the surrounding atmosphere, taking in the air then exhaling robustly. She added in concurrence that she could feel life; the spirit still shone through in vivid fashion despite the significantly aged pages. Taken aback, I found myself unsure how to respond. Their compliments were disorienting and confusing; I had no memories of the drawings.

- Michael Palisano