Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone




The Second High Tide

I thought I had everything figured out, but I had no idea what was actually happening. Each step seemed to reveal another secret, and my memories had changed their meaning in an instant. We stood there on the edge of the beach, not knowing what to do next. The persistent night had finally won the battle; its intimidating skies were now completely surrounding us. I was disoriented and didn’t know why we had suddenly found ourselves in that inexplicable situation. I looked for some signal but saw nothing, and closed my eyes for a moment. The only sound I heard was the waves pushing against the shore. I looked at her, standing at my side and she seemed to be lost in the darkness, submerged in the night’s shadow. I squinted and could barely make out her silhouette, a slender figure held alone, standing against the night. The trees in the distance were now barely visible, and cast an ominous shadow over us that deepened even as we walked farther away from them. I looked around, across the waters, looking for the mysterious boat. I remembered its shape and the odd disposition it seemed to have, but I didn’t expect it to completely vanish. I watched for it and looked for some sign from it, but it wasn’t there. It seemed to have disappeared without leaving a trace. We were stranded on this strange island and I was frightened by its imposing landscape, which felt like it was closing in, ready to consume us at any moment. I stood there and waited for a signal, she always seemed to know what to do. I remembered what she had told me and tried to piece the puzzle together, but there didn’t seem to be any pieces for me to use. It took me awhile to find my bearings and it was difficult to stay in place. After some time standing there, I decided it wasn’t the time to explore and decided not to leave her side for the moment. I was tempted to go out in search of the boat, but there was no way I’d be able to find it. I tried to think of ways we could escape but there wasn’t anything I could think of that seemed like it would work. We were stuck out there in the middle of the night and without a way to go back.

I decided that there must have been some reason for us to be there, and tried to relax and enjoy the night we had together. We were alone and had no pressures on us to move or rush through the experience. This took more effort than I realized, since the lack of any tangible transportation made me nervous about getting home. I wondered what plans she might have made for this situation. I thought that we might have lived through a similar situation in the past, but I couldn’t really remember anything like that moment. I tried to think back and remember things that happened in the past during our previous encounters, but I couldn’t find what wasn’t there. I wondered for a moment about the things she had told me. They seemed contradictory on the surface and I realized that it would be up to me to decide what they meant. At first, I was completely confused and didn’t have a method of decided whether or not they even made sense. As I stood there, I thought of two possibilities, whether or not it was part of a plan she had to find out if I was really who she thought I was or if this was some way of me testing her. This was running through my mind for a few minutes, but then the moment we were in came to the fore, causing more confusion. In that moment, my biggest concern was that we were lost out there and had no apparent direction pointing the way forward. I decided to hold onto these thoughts, and didn’t tell her about my doubts, which wasn’t the easiest thing to do. I decided in the end, that she had brought me there for a reason. I couldn’t understand why we were there, or explain what was happening inside my mind, the conflicting waters were spinning almost out of control. I decided to close my eyes and let go of it for the moment. I was confused but it was enough in that moment that she was standing beside me.

I felt the wind begin to subside and the stillness of the moment seemed to freeze us in place, and we stood there for a long time watching over the waves. I wondered if she was looking for a sign or a particular moment to move forward, but I waited. The air was still warm and it didn’t seem like we would need much protection. The island seemed like it was almost deserted, I didn’t see a sing that anyone else was out there with us, which wasn’t completely unpleasant. I was finally far enough away from the mainland, the pressures I felt and expectations I didn’t want had been taken off my shoulders. The waves slowly beat against the shore and I noticed that she was beginning to walk, slowly at first. She moved towards the water, sneaking nervous steps across the sands, carefully maneuvering over the thick rocks and sharp edges towards the narrow band of sand that was quickly disappearing under the waves. Turning around, she waved her arms and motioned for me to follow. I hesitated and watched her for a moment, standing under the night sky. As she moved further away, her shadow became harder for me to see, and it made her look nearly invisible.  

The darkened skies above didn’t benefit from a moon and this gave us little to guide our path. With no visible way forward, she apparently decided that the best approach for us would be to be patient. This gave me time to think about the startling things she told me. I was still a little bit confused, my head was spinning with between the different explanations, which seemed at points to directly contradict one another. I felt nearly consumed in the darkness of that summer night, it was like everything I’d seen up to that point had been pointing me there. Despite everything I’d seen and learned, I wasn’t able to see the signs along the way. Now that I had reached this point, I was still in the dark and had no idea what would happen. The more I thought about things, the more confused it made me feel. I still didn’t understand what she meant when she told me she’d known me in the past, and how we’d lost each other. Most of all, I wondered what could have happened that would have separated us and why she would remain so sad after so much time had passed. Until that moment, I had felt that things were supposed to be that way, but suddenly everything seemed to have changed under my feet. Lost in thoughts that didn’t make complete sense, I ignored the waves but they were still rising as we stood there. I could feel the occasional water nipping at the edges of my feet and slowly the waves began to over-run my position, until the waves were covering my feet. Looking right, I noticed she had taken a few steps back to protect herself and was standing several feet behind me.

A small wave washed over my feet and I felt the sand underneath begin to submerge, becoming less stable. Unfamiliar as the beach was, I knew that I couldn’t stand in the same place forever. I followed her backwards back towards the forest, watching my steps so I wouldn’t trip. She took my hands once again and pointed me towards the skies. When I looked up, I realized we weren’t completely alone. The stars seemed to have nearly vanished and gave off little light, but their presence was reassuring, we at least had something to go on. The constellations were familiar to me and I used them to point the direction we would take. We took a few deep breaths and stood there together, we weren’t lost after all. The ocean continued its inexorable rise and we watched as the night tide slowly filled in the bay, covering the rocks and sands gradually and effortlessly, forming a kind of blanket that hid a world beneath. Walking down towards the other side of the beach past the docks, we reached a strangely tranquil part of the shore that didn’t was strangely immune from the tides. It was nearly hidden from view, but there was a small inlet that gave us an oasis of calm. We stood there and I was relieved to have a place to hide from the rapidly rising currents.

It wasn’t something I expected to find, I thought I had seen the entire shore of the mysterious island. It seemed to have appeared almost from nowhere, Its tranquil surface seemed to have a calming effect on me and I felt the fear subside. Despite being alone out there, I felt that we were safe for the moment. My feet were firmly in place on somewhat solid ground and didn’t need to worry about the oncoming waters. Standing at its edge, I saw a small reflection in the pool, two oddly matched figures standing in the back, one much smaller and thinner than the other. I looked at the reflection and started moving my arms slowly around, forming a kind of circle and motioned for her to join me. She didn’t want to play along and stood there silently, apparently soaking in the moment. I stopped after awhile and rested my arms by my side, standing completely silent. I looked above and the stars didn’t seem like they’d moved. I studied them for a minute and took note of their position and tried to guess how far we were from home. I didn’t really know how to make the numbers up and decided it wasn’t worth the trouble. I looked back towards the beach and saw that the docks were now nearly at level with the waves, their pilings barely rising above the churning ocean. We were at a safe distance and watched the water fill the embankments until it had reached its crest. Things began to settle down, the waters calmed and they began to reflect the skies in their surface, and I saw something I didn’t expect. The waters had been transformed slowly. As the tide reached its height, the distant light of the stars made the sea look like it was covered in small shiny crystals resembling polka-dots, seemingly floating above the surface. It reminded me of her dress, and the seemingly magical force that surrounded her. In that moment, I began to realize that there was a reason she’d brought me there.

I looked over to her and across the sands, and saw that something seemed to be happening in the distance. It was subtle at first, but I could see the trees in the distance were beginning to sway under a breeze. I heard their leaves rustling and their limbs began to sway, as if they were dancing. She seemed to notice this about the same time I did, and we both turned and watched them. I could sense that she was nervous to return, in the middle of the night without any real reason to do so. We watched for a few minutes and I patiently waited for her to make up her mind. After waiting awhile, I could see the breeze begin to change direction, going from one side to another, and then it slowly began to diminish. The wind slowly came to a halt and things were calm. It might have been a false alarm, but she decided that things were safe enough and she ventured away from the inlet, stepping back towards the thick forest, turning around and trying to get a better look. Something seemed to have happened, but we couldn’t be sure what exactly it meant. We walked a little closer and I watched my steps as we left the beach and walked back towards the uneven surfaces. The rocky shores became narrower as we reached the edge of the forest once again. The light from the stars dimmed as we got closer and we found ourselves nearly covered in shadow, which made navigating even more difficult. It didn’t seem like a good idea to me, but she moved forward undeterred. She began to grasp at the nearby branches and pulled them aside as she cleared a path for herself. I followed behind nervously – I didn’t know what was ahead but felt compelled to follow. It wasn’t a good idea to be out there alone, so I walked behind, trusting her instincts or following the plan. We moved slowly through the forest again and it became thicker as we moved inward back towards the clearing. It took some time and persistence, and the branches became harder to move. I had to dodge them and they slapped me head a few times. This slowed our progress a little bit and it seemed like we’d never get back there. After what seemed like an endless walk through the forest, I noticed that the trees had started getting thinner and more spread out, and there was more space for us to walk. It was still dark as we walked, but there was some reason compelling us to return there.

Taking a few more steps, the ground began to smooth out and flatten, which allowed us to walk faster, I looked up over the tops of the trees and saw the distant stars flickering above them. They were dimmer and seemed farther out. Dimmer and weaker, they gave off just enough light that they provided a somewhat trusty guide for us to use. I took a moment and tried to orient myself, and I noticed that the path we were walking was becoming clearer, we could move forward without much effort. We walked further away, and the silence was only broken by our steps crunching on the ground. It became easier as we moved inward towards the clearing, our feet skipping over the scattered rocks and fallen branches. As the night increased its hold, we had finally arrived at the clearing. When I peaked out from the shadow, I could see that it hadn’t materially changed. Nothing seemed to have changed and there wasn’t a sound to be heard. I held back a little bit and watched her move ahead, and she quickly walked almost to the center of the clearing. I saw how tall and strong she seemed and felt inadequate in some ways, and decided to watch from a distance. I couldn’t understand why she had gone back, the wind was a strange signal, but there had to be something more that I hadn’t figured out. I watched as she stood there for a long time, and the silence surrounding her only added to the sense that something was going to happen. She looked around and seemed to be looking for something she couldn’t locate. After a few moments, I realized that she was looking for me. I was still hiding in the shadow and probably wasn’t immediately visible. I took a few steps outside the forest, cautiously measuring my steps. When I got in there, I noticed that the heavy shadows that I felt from the trees had vanished and the air felt lighter than it had when we had been on the beach a few minutes before. I felt a sense of safety and protection from the trees, which kept us completely hidden from view. I walked closer to her position and noticed that she was holding something I hadn’t seen before.

The light was dim and it took some effort to locate and reach her as I stumbled around in the dark, trying not to make any noise. I was a little nervous when I approached her and didn’t want to get in the way. I held back from a distance and tried to get a glimpse without being intrusive, but couldn’t really get close enough to see what was happening. I watched her standing under the lights and fumbled around, trying to stay as quiet as possible. After a few minutes watching from the shadows, I worked up enough courage to walk towards her and reached the center. As she moved it around slowly circling the trees surrounding us, I thought it was some kind of compass that she was using to get some kind of direction. A few more steps and a closer look revealed that it was quite what she was doing. As I got closer, I saw it was larger than I thought. She held it provisionally. Despite its small size, it looked like it was quite heavy. Walking closer, I was a little hesitant. She seemed focused on it, and I didn’t want to break the spell. That weird thing might have been our only way out. I wasn’t going to stand in her way and keep us stranded longer than necessary.

I hadn’t seen anything like it before. At first I couldn’t see what was, but as I moved closer, I realized what it was. It was clunky and resembled the large machine I had encountered a few nights earlier hidden deep inside her secret laboratory. Aside from its smaller size, there seemed to be something different about it that I couldn’t quite pin down. I could see the stitches in the metal like it had been pasted together in a rush. It was uneven and had a slightly odd boxy shape. Its shape was odd, when I moved closer, I saw that there were small buttons and levers on it, that she was using to control the light and duration. It blinked on and off for a few minutes and she moved it around to focus on various parts of the forest, spotlighting different sections of trees and brush until she reached my position. It strained and changed color wavering from blue to green, changing unevenly between the hues. It seemed to brighten when she raised or lowered it to particular heights and levels, giving a bright light to some sections but dimming in others. I watched her move around and she was able to produce a strangely inconsistent illumination seemingly from nothing to illuminate the night. It was like looking at the world through a different set of eyes, and I saw things I didn’t notice before. As she moved it around, she began to make waves which she formed into strange shapes. They seemed to hang in the air and they began to surround the trees, changing their appearance and color. As she moved around, it seemed like she was looking for something in the forest on the other side of the clearing.

We walked towards a section of the forest that was glowing in a strange red hue. We walked there and we found something I didn’t expect. There was a smaller version of her mysterious machine. It was small enough that she could hold in her hands.  It seemed to glow under the stars, it metallic surface shimmering despite the lack of light. I saw its small light begin to shine from the distance. It covered her quickly, giving her a ghostly shadow that trailed behind her on the ground. I watched as she walked and her feet didn’t seem like they were touching the ground, it was almost like she was floating. I noticed the trees begin to sway as a breeze began to lift them, She spun the dials around which made the colors cycle again, revealing a different set of shapes ands symbols. I waited, watching the experiments unfold and didn’t know what to do. I tried to be as quiet as possible, but she seemed to notice my presence despite my best efforts. After a few minutes she stopped spinning the dials and placed the case back on the ground. When she stood up, she turned around and looked towards me. She looked at me with a strange expression, like she was expecting some help. She nodded her head and looked back down on the box. She grabbed it quickly, and began to furiously move some of the keys, making odd motions with it that worked to accelerate the color changes. The lights seemed to move faster and faster until they started to converge into a single point, creating a single bright strip that gradually brightened into a familiar form. Before I realized it, she had created something from the diffuse light that I hadn’t expected to see.

It seemed to pierce the darkness, like a knife that cut through the night. She moved it around the trees and she began to create new shapes. These were more precise and formed recognizable shapes and figures, I could nearly make out the letters and symbols. I watched this for several minutes and tried to keep up with her, though she was going quickly. As I watched this happen, I felt the wind begin to pick up and I heard the trees beginning to rustle loudly. This made me nervous and I felt a little frightened, but then she did something I didn’t expect. She lifted it into the air and threw it towards me. I had to move quickly and I was lucky that I was able to catch it right around its side before it crashed into the ground. It took a moment before I could balance it and turn it upwards in a secure position. It was unexpectedly large and hard to maneuver at first but once I got the feel for it, I could feel its energy pulsing in my fingers and into my hands. I didn’t quite know what to do with at first and I motioned for her to come over and show me what to do. It would have been difficult in any normal situation, but the darkness just made it seem more complicated.

She stood there and looked at me impatiently, nearly exasperated by my inexperience. I knew instinctively that it was my turn to figure it out, even in the darkness. I tried to examine the dials on the thing and tried to determine what each one did, without any labels or markings to go by. I turned them each slowly, moving across its surface one at a time, looking to see what effect they’d have. The first small lights came uneasily, seeming to waver uncertainly in my hands, brightening only briefly. I was only able to make a few short bursts appear before they’d dissipate into the night, but slowly I became better at controlling their light and collated their energies. As I started to understand what was happening, the light began to last longer and became increasingly vibrant, illuminating the night. Gaining confidence as the waves of light began to flow from the machine’s circuits, I was able to begin making better defined movements and anticipated where the directions would lead, and slowly figured out where they’d end up going. The biggest problem was figuring out where to put them, I wondered what effect it would have. We were stranded in there and with no apparent way to escape. I watched and couldn’t understand why she was messing around with that machine and obsessing over its strange lights when our only way back out had vanished without leaving so much as a speck of its existence behind.  

I took a few steps back and turned off the machine for a moment. I scanned the trees and they seemed largely unaffected by the lights. As still and intimidating as they had seemed before, I had to look elsewhere. I tried listening for the ocean, but only heard a low rumble, the tide was slipping away again and while I still had hope, I somehow knew the boat wasn’t coming back. The solution to our problem was elsewhere, at least for the moment. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, the summer air was still warm and this was reassuring, though the relief was fleeting. I maneuvered the machine again and tried to aim it a little higher, and this time its lights began to touch the tips of the trees, scraping against the horizon. I tried another sequence of symbols and shapes, but these seemed to have little effect. I felt the machine begin to buzz and hum after several minutes, and I took this as a sign that I needed to try another approach. It seemed to be telling me to aim a little bit higher. I looked at the arrays of stars in the distant night, and tried to make sense of them. They sparkled intensely but offered little guidance. I had memorized a few of the constellations, but none of them seemed to break in my direction and I thought the problem might lie within the machine’s dials, which may have needed adjustment. I looked down on its surface and notice the dials had gotten sloppy during my experiments. I noticed that some of its knobs seemed to have become twisted in odd directions and no longer seemed synchronized correctly.

Looking them over, it seemed that I had lost track of where she’d placed them originally, in my rush to try different things. I placed it on the ground carefully and studied it for a moment. I placed my fingers on its surface and made some adjustments that seemed to make sense. I moved its indicators around and changed its position so that the lines on it closer to her appearance. After several minutes I had them back in order. Once they were all facing the same direction, I picked it up and began scanning once again. Immediately, the lights became a little brighter and they drew much shaper lines that seemed to cut through the night sky effortlessly. Taking this as a positive  signal, I made more complex shapes and symbols that seemed to make more sense. I had learned how to use the device and was starting to understand what it was meant to do, I was able to make the machine create objects out of beams of light. I experimented a little bit and started to create a few basic shapes and these seemed to build on each other, and I began to make more complicated forms. It became easier as I learned the machine’s linguistics, and was better able to anticipate what each movement would create. I watched her moving closer towards me and with each step, I saw the colors become more intense, amplifying themselves as we combined energy. I felt the ground move and buckle under me, it was like a wave was crashing under my feet. I couldn’t understand what was happening at first and it was difficult to keep my balance.

As she came to me, I felt something else jolt the machine, and she had taken hold of it in order to steady my movements. I had apparently made some mistake, destabilizing the powers and she had to correct them. She gently placed her hands over mine and began to guide them in careful motions, turning the dials efficiently until they were back in place. I wondered why she was doing this when I felt another rumble as my hands trembled. It wasn’t what I was expecting, perhaps she knew I wasn’t completely proficient and needed more practice with the controls. I thought I was making progress but things were going beyond my understanding at that moment. We needed to take things slowly and not speed things recklessly, which would cause needless problems. I decided to let her take over the machine, and its controls reluctantly. Things began to stabilize once again. The trees stabilized and the ground solidified under our feet after a few minutes.

Once this occurred, things began to stabilize and she was able to resume her mission and began to make more complex forms and shapes. These were much more elaborate and detailed than I could have created. She built them in quick succession until the machine began giving off positive light once more. She searched the clearing and once satisfied with the direction thing were headed she began to focus on different spots. She started to quickly turn the dials in motions, relying on some system I couldn’t understand until it seemed like she was almost dancing with the machine. Their partnership became seamless quickly and she began to move the machine in different directions. Her movements were strange as she sprinted left, then right and down, all the while the machine moving in harmony as she changed rhythms looking for just the right pacing and motion. Watching as she spun the machine around, I figured out that she was waiting until the right moment. She needed to aim into the right place, or all of its movements and symbols would mean nothing. After a few minutes there was a pause as she waited until just the right moment. She placed it in a downward position and the lights faded as they sank into the ground. I felt the air slow until things were still and quiet. Despite everything, we remained alone and stranded out there.

We had become two lost figures in the center of a distant island, standing in the middle of the ocean. I stood there looking at the depleted box she held onto, suddenly looking empty and useless. My heart dropped like stone, she seemed to be just as lost as I was. I looked around and nothing seemed to have changed, despite everything I’d just witnessed. She was moving the small machine slowly, letting its light go under and over the seemingly endless forest of trees until she finally spotted something. There was something we hadn’t seen before; there was an opening that had revealed itself. On the opposite side of the clearing, there was a break in the trees which seemed to have opened up when the wind picked up. It looked almost like a door, probably one that wouldn’t stay open for very long. She took the machine, and quickly moved it dials, outlining the opening’s surface and then filling its glowing frame with numerous symbols. Overlapping one another, they began to make a complete form. The symbols combined and brightened, converting the inside until it glowed in an otherworldly bluish-green light.

We stood there for a few minutes and observed the glowing door from a safe distance. I moved close towards her and stood behind, nervously. Gradually, it brightened even more until it illuminated the night. It seemed to block out the surrounding darkness, beckoning us to move closer. She moved the machine around some more, and changed the dials until the light inside the portal began to change color and brightened. When the light converged, it began to shine in a different hue. It seemed like it was a gateway of sorts, a transient window into another dimension that was simultaneously familiar and strange. At first, the light seemed alien and gave a strange feeling but as it continued to brighten, It seemed to take on a welcoming orange glow, like the summer sun was shining through it, lighting the world in the middle of the night. I watched her stand in front of it, momentarily overcome by what had been created. I took a deep breath and looked closer into the portal. I wasn’t expecting what I saw there.  

There seemed to be something going on, but I couldn’t quite describe it. She took a few steps forward and moved closer, where there was a better view. She held onto the light machine tightly and pulled it down by her side, letting its light diffuse on the ground until she turned it off, leaving it dangling from her hand on her side. I watched her silently, and she turned to me briefly. At that point, we didn’t need to say anything and communicated in other ways. She motioned with her arms to follow her and began walking towards the doorway with renewed energy. I took a moment to look over the trees. We were still alone and isolated, but the island we were on no longer felt like a prison. I admired the glowing door and followed behind her, standing in her shadow unsure of what would happen. I decided that I had come far enough and decided to take the next step. I cautiously moved towards the portal, looking through the window at the surroundings on the other side. I watched her step inside the portal and saw her disappear into the colors. When it was my turn to take the final step, I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. There was a sudden rush of warmth and I felt myself standing on an uneven surface. At first I couldn’t figure out where I was, but when I opened my eyes I knew. The boards and uneven wood planks creaked under my feet and knew immediately. I was back on the boat, gliding and  sailing over the waters, its bays swaying over the sea like it had the previous day, as if nothing had happened.

I looked around and it seemed that it had been waiting for us the entire time. It was hidden from view, all we needed to do was figure out how to find it. It took awhile but it finally seemed to appear and we just needed to be patient and careful in order to locate it. Its position, it turned out, had been much closer than either of us realized. I looked ahead and saw her standing directly in front of me, with the wind blowing over her head, under the bright sun and she seemed nearly as relieved as I was, though also a little annoyed that it had taken so long for me to figure out the solution. I decided that I wouldn’t hesitate as much if I was ever in the same situation again. I looked and saw a familiar cluster of large sails flowing strongly over head and knew where I was. The only thing different to my eyes was sitting behind me. I didn’t notice at first, but when I looked towards the back of the boat, I saw the light machine sitting squarely on the deck. It seemed unobtrusive, like just another piece of cargo. It could have been mistaken for another odd box, but I knew. It had become a silent witness to what had transpired, just moments before. It was sitting there like nothing happened. There was no evidence, not a glimmer of its strange light to be seen.

I reached back towards it, took it in my hands once again and tried to move its dials, but they were suddenly stuck and wouldn’t budge. I tried to fiddle with them with no result, and decided to leave additional experiments for another time. I put it back in its place and looked over the boat’s railings out towards the ocean. The world seemed to glide by in the distance as we headed for the next point on the journey. I saw the outlines of distant islands and shorelines emerging from the horizon as we breezed past them. I wondered what the next steps would lead to. I watched the waves crash against the boat and felt its speed burst forward, ever onward. I turned back towards the front of the boat and watched as it moved effortlessly glide through the thick, choppy ocean currents, digging in is rudders underneath the warm summer sun. Beneath the surface, things were still churning in my mind but if anyone was looking at us, nothing would have seemed different. I knew where we’d gone, but no one else would believe us. I felt the boat shift a little under my feet and she turned back to look at me. I decided to move forward and found myself once again standing at her side. I saw her hands were firmly in control of the boat. I looked ahead into the skies and ocean ahead and felt a welcome sense of relief.

No longer stranded, we could go anywhere.   

- Michael Palisano