The Laser Fiction - The Uncertain Clutches

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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

 


Fiction



The Uncertain Clutches

I began the next phase with a distinct plan. With confidence, I started purposely walking in what seemed like deliberate circumfences, then tracing increasingly strident, yet decidedly uneven lines and finally falling out of balance and direction until I had stumbled off the path and was only partially in command navigating the surface more by intuition than declaration. Before realizing what was occuring, it was completely out of my hands. Attempting to take back control, I pressed down on my feet with increased strength and started to leave a trail. It slowed down progress, but I was able to gain a perspective by marking and cataloging my disconnected, stumbling foot prints. They became increasingly erratic as I skipped over gaps and jumped recklessly over the holes and valleys that seemed to pop up throughout the uneven sand and grass. I found myself furtively attempting to construct a path forward. I was somewhat lost, stranded between an indifferent sun and a dispassionate ocean. Standing between neither here nor there, a bit lost. I'd stepped out from safety and found myself trapped once again within an indecipherable, unyielding puzzle with no reasonable solution or clear resolution within reach.

Without much warning, my feet began to sink into the sand, and wouldn't budge for no apparent reason. Trying as hard as I could, it didn't seem like they'd carry me any further, like they'd become rocks, reluctant to move even the slightest bit forward. This was a strange malady, It had snuck up on me, stopping me cold in place. I hadn't anticipated this and unexpectedly found myself moored in an inexplicable stasis. The world felt like it had come to a standstill. I looked around for some signs of movement, but everything was oddly still. The waters on one side of me were completely calm, only the slightest rolling of waves gave presence to life; not a bird in the sky or fish in the ocean was visible. I turned towards the shore, nothing was there. Not a crab or gull to be seen anywhere, the winds failed to blow through the trees. None of which gave me the confidence or inclination to move forward. Time seeme to have vaporized, somehow trapped in place. I looked around and took a few careful steps, carefully manuevering inside the weird invisible barrier trying to gain a better angle, but nothing appeared to have been altered by attempting to find a different perspective. I remembered my maps and papers and began to reach for them. None of them, from what I faintly rememebred, seemed to apply to this place. I was back into what appeared to be a normal world for the moment, but its atmosphere didn't have the effect that I had subconciously expected.

I couldn't have anticipated such a significant, unsettling change, and was largely unprepared by its absences. The main reason being that it was too quiet and felt eeirly empty, as if something had vanished. It was like a strange, unseen force had slipped down from the sky and taken the normal rhythms of life from beneath, leaving everything operating in a half-speed, parallel shadow of its typical pace and style. I waited for a signal or sign but there wasn't anything. A strange calm seemed impenetrable,. Its calming peacefulness was deceptive. It acted as quiet shelter from the outside world. It was kind of encasement that prevented anything from getting through and disturbing the strange balance. It was alernately reassuring or constricting, depending on where I was standing inside its protective layer and how long I'd been there.

I remembered the strange little machine I'd assembled from seemingly nothing, only the night before. It was still largely intact and seemed to be undamaged. I wasn't precisely sure what I could do with it exactly in that situation, and I wondered if could help me. I began to reach for it, but had second thoughts. Even though no one was around, I wasn't sure I wanted to risk anyone seeing it, despite the isolation. I felt it in my pocket, rustling and rolling around, but somehow reluctant to peer out. I felt it with my fingers, tentatively rolling over its impossibly small dials, moving my fingers around its arrays of clasps and buttons, careful not to press down too much on its sensitve surface. The last thing I wanted to have happen was to accidentally set it off or play with it, needlessly drawing attention to its existence. I decided not to flush too much out of its surface. Instead, I let it roll down towards the bottom of my pocket, allowing it to rest, safe from the intrusion of unwanted, unnecessary scrutiny. Instead, I decided to walk a few steps down-wind from the crabs' encampment, allowing myself a bit of freedom of it while retaining the option of returing quickly if things started to feel like they were becoming ovewhelming. Slowly, I crossed the sands, my feet slowly returning to the surface, no longer half-submerged beneath the intractible sands, I was once more gliding above the ground, forging ahead with renewed confidence.

It didn't take long for me to recover the momentum I'd lost. Regaining a sense of direction, I moved across the beach at a breathless pace until I'd managed to release the hold that the field had on me. Finally free of its contsraints, I slowed down a little to catch my breath. I looked around and the world seemed to have adjusted, catching up to me in some small but noticeable ways. I saw the trees swaying gently in the newfound winds, thier branches moving up an down alongside the energized leaves. Ocean waves began to form and coalesce, growing larger and stronger, as they breathed in the water and exhaled foamy fuana in their wake, slowly rolling over themselves. In the distance, the sounds of chirping birds began echoing towards my direction. Beneath me, the hard sand had softened; it felt warmer, thinner and silkier, giving way effortlessly with each step. It seemed to have lowered its defenses, allowing me to walk without the harsh grip that seemed to have slowed my progress earlier. There seemed to be no real reason for this change, it was something that just seemed to happen. I decided not to question this unanticipated occurence and instead tried to take advantage of it while it lasted.

At the same time, paradoxically, not much had materially changed in my circumstances. It still wasn't entirely clear how I'd ended up back there, whether I'd gone back or forward in time and most importantly, where I was supposed to go. For all this, I maintained a cautious distance from my surroundings. Despite the lessening gravitational pull, there wasn't the ease walking on the beach, despite its familar contours and pathways, that I had known in the past. Nothing seemed quite as easy or simple as it had before, despite everything I'd learned, there were still far too many questions trailing behind me that I could find myself entirely relaxed. There was still much uncertain, the least of which was where, exactly I needed to go and what I would find there. I was drawn back towards the ocean and searched for clues, to little apparent effect. I looked down towards the wet embankment, looking for something that would point me in a specifc direction, but there wasn't anything that looked particularly promising.

This was exactly the kind of predicament I'd been trying to avoid. Finding all sorts of maps and papers, they'd done me little good in actually pointing me in any concrete direction. Instead, I found myself wandering up and down the beachside. I'd given myself momentary distractions, falling into a trap of procrastination, unable to commit to a specific path. I'd had a fun time experimenting with some of the off-shore creatures, observing them from a distance, watching them play and marking their movements. In the end, it didn't seem to have much of a point. I knew there was a specific objective I needed to accomplish, but couldn't quite figure it out exactly. I decided to walk further up the shore towards the old piers. The seemed to have a strange pull on me that day, something told me to go out there and see what was happening. On the surface, it didn't seem like much had changed, there was nobody standing on them and they seemed to have been almost abandoned. It didn't make sense, on such a clear and bright summer day, that they would be so forlorn. Something wasn't right, and I knew that something must have happened. My curiousity got the better of me, which propelled me to walk quicky until I was nearly running. I felt my heart begin to race as I moved closer towards the wooden structure. I drew in and it seemed like it was a little bit off, not nearly as firm or stable as I expected.

Nervously, I began to climb over the rock-strewn hill at its perimeter and began to walk slowly towards it. I had to move quickly as the oncoming tide would over-run my path and block my attempts to infiltrate the tenouous path. I began rolling and rowing my arms from side to side in preparation for the oncoming test. It was a somewhat difficult part of the journey and I needed focus my concentration on my surroundings to avoid falling and getting into something that could quickly become frustrating and even dangerous if i wasn't careful. In order to get balance, gripping the sides of my chest maintained my posture which allowed me additional confidence. Carefully maneuvering myself towards the pier, I made good progress for quite some time; marking up plenty of territory in a short time. Unfortunately, any momentun stopped almost immediately as I finally drew far enough towards it to see what might have kept people away. I finally managed to get close enough to get a good look and was surprised by what I discovered.

Instead of offering a welcoming walkway, with a large, open path, I was greeted with a warning. There was a large metal gate installed and it was locked shut. Making things even less welcoming, rows of thick red warning tape were wrapped and stung around its sides, cautioning anyone from venturing onto the pier. This wasn't what I had expected to see, and there was nothing apparently wrong with it, until I looked closer at which point it was obvious that something was amiss. I decided to move a few steps closer to gain a better view. I went in towards the structure and tried to decipher what the problem might have been. I noticed that a few of the pilings beneath it had come untethered and were swinging wildly in the wind. It seemed that they'd been dislodged by a storm of some kind, which was strange given the calm conditions. Moving closer towards the unstable pier, I realized that there was no pattern to the damaged pier, nothing consistent. Looking above, I saw the platforms had been displaced as well, with a few of the planks sticking up unevenly, scattered across the sides. It was an unsettling and disorienting sight, and I knew that it would be much too dangerous to explore its intracicies and instruments further.

Deciding not to dwell on the damaged structure, I turned and looked back towards the ocean. It seemed to have calmed down, its stillness returned little of my attention, instead casting a strange solitude over the beach. The nearly silent, rolling waves gave little indication that they had been affected by anything remotely out of the ordinary. There was no sign of a storm or anything, any residual evidence seemingly washed from view. I walked slowly and patiently back towards the water, allowing the waves to trickle over my feet. Trying to make sense of the damaged pier, I thought back to an strange enounter I had a few nights earlier, and made some provisional connections between the events. It seemed that there'd been an accidental release of force, followed by an unexpected occurence that might have given way to some unwelcome consequences. On the other hand, the damage could have been just the result of a storm that I had somehow missed, or an impact from an accident, it wasn't immediately obvious.

Walking carefully, I found myself inexorably drawn toward the mysteriously forlorn pier, its sharp form coming into focus. There were additional barriers to cross, in order to get a better handle on things. Intimidating, traversing the mostly uneven shore required a bit more effort than I wanted. I wasn't sure at first if I would dare to get closer. Thinking about it, I decided there was something there I needed to know. Besides, I'd encountered those rock formations many times before and had no trouble vaulting over a few of the larger rocks, until I reached a better vantage point. Ignoring the warnings, I decided to move ahead. It took a few minutes of climbing and a few smaller jumps but I finally made it across and found myself towards the bottom of the pier. It was only a few more steps out of reach but I decided to stop there for the moment, there was enough distance that I was protected from any unexpected events, but still close enough to gain some additional insights into what might have dislodged the structure from its place.

Looking closely, I discovered that the pilings beneath were ragged and sharp, unlike the clean, ordered appearance they usually had. They looked strangely disordered, their edges strewn in different directions. It seemed like there had been a sudden calamity, followed by a quick, haphazard attempt to repair, or at least mitigate, the damage. It meant that the unstable structure wasn't safe. This umistakable conclusion led me to think of other paths that might lead me in the correct direction. I had wandered far from where I'd come and there seemed to be little point in going back. On the other hand, the way forward seemed to be blocked by the debris. It took me awhile but I reluctantly decided to head back towards the lower water. I climbed back over the rocks and alterations until I landed on the beach. It soft, sandy surface came as a relief and I took a minute to catch my breath and survey the altered surroundings. Nothing seemed to have changed, a disquieting uneasiness permeated the atmosphere, reinforced by the lack of company nearby.

Looking back towards the pier, the lingering repercussions from its disastrous encounter became more pronounced, the problems glaringly obvious. From that point, I noticed its surface sloping downward, and it looked like it was going to slide into the ocean at any moment. Its tentative balance and twisted underpinnings almost engulfed the surrounding beach, giving the entire area a sense of having suffered an unwelcome violatiom. Attempting to figure ot what might have happened seemed to be an irrelevant task, without much evidence to go on, there was no way of knowing what exactly caused the damage. I remembered all the times I had walked on it, and was overcome with an odd feeling of relief, that I hadn't been walking on it surface when it met with disaster. I recalled earlier encounters and adventures there, now over-shadowed by the calamity that struck. I knew it would probably get fixed somehow, on the other hand, it felt like it had been permanently destroyed. I stood and soaked in the stangely serene aftermath, attempted to figure out what had drawn me back there in the first place. I'd spent the majority of the afternoon on the mission, only to discover an unattainable objective that seemed to have slipped out of reach.

The damaged structure maintained a remarkable, yet inexplicable stability, despite its inordinate, seemingly complete destruction, there seemed to be some unseen source that kept it from completely collapsing. Something beneath the surface that might not have been visible. I couldn't quite figure out the strange contradictions between its upper and lower portions and finally decided that unfolding the mystery was beyond my abilities, at least with what I had to work with. I wasn't going to move closer, since there was still too much instability. Some of the pilings shifted with the waves beneath, marking time in concentrated, yet uneven bursts. Transformed by the impact, it seemed that they had gone from repelling the waves to buffering them, marking up against the oncoming ocean, attempting to keep its relentless assault at bay with some provisional success. I knew they wouldn't be able to hold off the pressing seas for long. I also realized it wouldn't be wise to stand in a vulnerable, unettled area when the inevitable breach occured. The was nothing to guarantee my safety when it succumbed to the unsettled sea. Instead of risking fate, I decided to walk back a few steps and keep a distance from the assemblage. Despite everything, I reluctantly decided to hold off from jumping onto its surface, there was no telling the strength of its uncertain clutches.

I waited for a few minutes, then resumed walking back towards the circumfrence of relative safety, carefully walking over the sands, trying not to unsettle any unseen forces. Between the water and sand, there seemed to be a relatively steady path unfolding. It took slightly longer for me to arrive there, but it was a worthwhile effort. I returned to the spot where I'd encountered the horse-shoe crabs earlier, but they seemed to have vanished, slipping beneath the sand, or crawling back into the ocean, it was impossible for me to be sure. I wasn't alone for long, a lone sea gull landed nearby and quietly wandered around nearby. I watched it for a few minutes. It seemed to be searching for food or something else, and deciding not to distub it, I turned away and left it alone for a short time. I kept an eye on it, making sure it remained at a safe distance.

As much as it seemed to draw in an unexpected forces, there wasn't a trace of defensiveness to its movements. Instead, it took a relaxed pace, not hurried in the slightest. Unexpectedly, it didn't seem overly bothered by my presence nearby. Instead, it remained fixated on it mission. Non-confrontational, it kept at its mission and continued its exploration. It began sifting through and trapping clusters of sand, subsequently releasing them in quick bursts, quickly moving its feet under and over the surface. It seemed to be attempting to find a specific item, or reaching for an distinct objective, but its efforts looked to fall short. Despite the lack of success, it wouldn't be dissuaded. Instead. it kept at with renewed energy, taking few breaks as it plowed through the surface, quickly and carefully for a few minutes.

It seemed to be careful not to leave much of mark as it moved, moving the sand back into place, leaving little physical evidence in its wake. I watched it carefully covering its tracks, moving quickly and thoroughly to avoid leaving any residue from its search behind. Taking a consistent, steady approach there seemed to be a kind of system emerging to the seagull's work. Instead of going at things haphazardly, it would take on the surface carefully, moving section-by-section through the beach. Propping up its neck from time to time, it cautiouslly surveyed its surroundings, saw that there was no immediate threat in its vicinity, then placed its gaze back on its mission. Watching closely, I decided to take a few cautious steps closer, to gain a better viewpoint, while simultaneously avoiding becoming an unwanted intruder into its space. I stopped a few feet away and let my feet slip into the sand, marking an unseen, permeable wall between us, allowing either one of us a quick escape if anything became unpleasant. Warily, it seemed to walk at an odd cross angle, somehow aware that it was being watched. Despite my best efforts not to get to involved with it, our eyes crossed briefly and I felt an unexpected connection. It wasn't clear at first but after a few seconds, our common situation became onvious. We were both looking for something, but the seagull seemed to have a better idea what it was seeking.

I turned my gaze away from it for a few minutes. I looked back towards the ocean and saw an unexpected sight. There was a boat that was travelling over the surface. It was a bit loud and this only grew louder. It glided over the surface of the water, splashing upwards as it moved closer. Its momentum increased, and its course seemed fixed in place, its direction unchangeable. It seemed to be headed directly towards the shards and wreckage, nothing was going to stop it. At the last second, the damaged vessel emphatically blew its horn and turned just before hitting the remains of the pier. As it drew closer, signifcant scratches, indentations and larhe scrapes became visible towards the front and sliced through, almost through the length of its bow. As the veseel drew closer towards the uneven shore, its irregular, dents appeared to have occured recently and looked like they'd been patched up hurriedly and sloppily applied. I was unable to make out the names and numbers on its side. It came even close towards the beach, turning into the shore until it could be seen at a close range. Examing it carefully revealed very litte of its origin or purpose. The strangest thing wasn't its damaged surface or relentless pace. I couldn't quite figure out what was propelling it. Despite its loud accpompaniment, there didn't look to be any visible engine or propulsive device. Even stranger was the fact that noone was controlling or piloting the ship. It seemed to have arrived all on its own, without warning or explanation. It was a strange phantom riding the waves, gliding unfettered along the waves, taking no one along for the ride.

It wasn't entirely clear what the purpose of the vessel's improbable excercise might have been. I wondered if it was a test, some type of revision or a just an unplanned stunt. I couldn't be sure at first what was happening. Despite lacking any visible sense of control, it manevuered through the waves without any impediment. I watched it navigate the waters effortlessly, and it seemed to take another turn, and went in the opposite direction. Moing away from the pier and back in the other direction, it seemed to accelerate as it moved, going outward in ever-larger circles until it finally decided to go back over towards the pier. It moved closer until it was parallel to them. It slowed tentatively and took what seemed like a deep breath for a moment. After a few minutes, it seemed that it had completely stopped. At this point, the mysterious vessel paused and there was a sudden thump. It released a gush of water that burst from its side tanks. This seemed to relieve an excess weight that seemed to unmoor it from the water. At that point, it looked like it was almost floating above the waves. This seemed to it give it new energy and the ship regained strength quickly. After standing almost completely still, it resumed its mission.
 
Motioning towards the shambled, broken down piers, its began sailing towards them without hesitation. Fearlessly, it directly on its path forward until it was moving directly towards the wreckage. It seemed to be on an inescapable collision course, nothing would stand in its way. I moved back a few inches and crouched in place, bracing myself for what looked to be a major disaster. Continuing towards the assemblage, there was no effort to turn or move out of its way. I tried waving my arms around to warn it, but after a few moments, realized that this wouldn't have any effect on its mission. It didn't seem to notice my presence and I decided the best thing to do was to stand back from a safe distance and stay out of the way.

The vessel moved closer towards the unsteady pier, apparently going in on purpose. It wasn't stopping, and would inevitably crash into the pilings, further destroying them and possibly itself in the process. I expected it to move or turn out of the way at the last moment, but there was no sign of any evasive movement. Instead, it barrelled ahead, unrelenting in its attack. Increasing in speed, at that point it had become completely determined to hit the pier, whatever the cost to itself or the mangled pilings in its path. Drawing close, there seemed to be little chance it would change its mind. I watched helplessly. Expecting the worst, I looked away, averting my eyes from the direction. Looking back towards the beach, I awaited the inevitable. Finally, it stuck the pier. There was a huge crashing noise, the impact and subsequent reverberations shook the beach for a few seconds and then subsided. I heard something crash, and looked up too view the aftermath from the catastrophic collision.

Strangely, there didn't seem to be much additional damage to the piers, they seemed largely undamaged, not structurally undermined in any significant way. A few of the pilings beneath had been pulled out a little, but any damage didn't look to be nearly as catastrophic as I'd feared. Despite the impact from its collision, the vessel itself didn't seem to have endured much damage, if any at all. It seemed that it had kind of cheated fate and turned at the last second after all. It hadn't entirely missed it mark. Some additonal damages was visible but the boat had only side-swiped the piling. It looked like it had only half-heartedly attacked the pier. Without much warning, it turned back towards the pier, apparently deciding to make a second run at it. It began to prep and prime its engine. The water surrounding it began to buckle and churn until it became completely unstable. The vessel began to roar, and started to move forward at an increased velocity. It began heading directly for the assemblage for its second assault, and looked ready to ram itself into it again, this time apparently to strike without hesitation.

Waiting nervously for what felt like forever, there was an unmistakable fury. It built its energy one more and took one last breath before it moved in to finish its secondary assault. The vessel took only a few seconds and then rushed into the piers, this time nearly dismantling them in the process. The fragile pilings that held the structure up quickly collapsed and i saw the upper walkway plunge into the water. It's wooden structure had been significantly weakened. Its foundations seemed to evaporate and the entire structure collapsed instantaneously. It certainly couldn't withstand a second assault and its assemblege buckled almost completely. The many wooden planks wre ripped to shreds and disintegrated into thousands of small splinters, they almost immediately scattered into the ocean in all directions. Constructed out of heavy wood, these pieces quickly sank into the water, vanishing from sight. After a few minutes, most of the stucture had collapsed and sank beneath the waves, with most traces of it quickly hidden underwater, leaving any evidence of the boat's attack hidden and submerged, disappeaaring without a trace.

It succeeded at taking the pier down, but to what purpose remained unseen. I waited for something else to happen but it seemed uncertain as to what to do next. Watching it carefully, I was relieved that I had listened to my instincts and stayed far from the pier. It seemed to have dissolved completely after a few minutes, its straggling pieces remained but there was very little left of it. A strange sight that unsettled me. The boat began to drift further from the center of impact, slowly departing the circumfrence, until it had gotten completely out of danger. It seemed to be surveying the surroundings, measuring its successful attack, taking a strange satisfaction in the destruction. Without warning, it had come and destroyed the structure. It had only taken two runs to complete the task, determining that it had succeeded, there was a kind of moment of victory. It seemed that it might have taken less effort that it anticipated. I watched it carefully, it wasn't obvious what it might do next. I squinted and tried to see if there was anyone onboard, but anyone present was elusive and unseen. It stood triumphantly, hovering above the ocean for a few additional minutes, seeming to relish its victory. After a few minutes, It seemd to have had enough and began the final phase.

It began to move away from the destroyed pier. It seemed to decide that it had seen enough and drew back towards the deeper water. Slowly, it turned around and began sliding back into the ocean. Moving at a consistent pace, it began its escape. Gradually, ot slippesd from view, its shape obscured and dissolved as it released itself from view. There was no one else around to witness its transgression, but it didn't seem to want to take any more chances. It sped up a little, drawing a minor current of water behind, a small pulse of waves in its wake. Gradually subsiding, its form and shape retreated into the sea. I watched it carefully until it was no longer visible dissolved as it quietly moved toward the horizon. Before I realized what had happened, it had completely vanished. It had left nothing in its wake that would lead to its discovery or purpose. There was very little I could do about its battle, and found myself observing the aftermath of its attack. Scraps and pieces floated and sank until there was nothing left to for me to see.

After a few minutes, I came to realize that my efforts at unravelling its motivation would be a waste of time. I was too far away from the impact and the boat had slipped completely out of reach. Deciding against investigating further, I turned back towards the beach and walked back on the sand, walking towards the north. I encountered the sea gull again, still pecking away at the sands in determined strokes. It seemed strangely unaffected by the events surrounding it on the nearby waters. It had focused on its mission so intently, it might not even been aware of what had occured. It seemed to have not even noticed the strange encounter just off to its side. I decided to look at it for a few minutes to see if the seagull had been affected at all by the pier's demise. It didn't seem to have been upset or taken off its pace in the slighest. While I admired its ability to tune out such a violent encounter, I wondered if going about things in such an oblivious state was the best approach. It seemed unmoved by any of this. It remained oddly calm completely serene, immunized from the attack that surrounded it. I watched its remain undisturbed until it finally seemed to locate what it had been seeking.

It wasn't immediately clear what that might have been but decided against moving closer. Finally, it turned around and faced me. It revealed that its quarry. It had gathered small clusters of dried sea-weed in its beak, filling it until it was nearly full. At this point, it seemed to have reached its quota. It took another few rounds to look for more, but there didn't look to be anywhere to store the excess. The seagull decided not to push further and apparently had to get its quarry back to its hidden nest. It took off gently and flew off into the sky, dissolving underneath the horizon. It hadn't left a mess behind, the sand in its wake was left largely untouched. It had maintained its part of the beach, taking only what it needed and nothing else. I decided to follow its lead, walking past the remaining shards of the pier, across the sandy beach, past the narrow sidewalk and exited without making a sound. I moved carefully until I had gotten far enough away that I was confident that I hadn't left anything in my wake. It had been an eventful afternoon, but I decided to keep it to myself and never told anyone what really happened to the pier. I mitigated its encounter with the mysterious boat as an accident. I pretended not to notice the suspiciously indifferent seagull's convenient presence at the scene during the unfortunate collision. Instead, I made the relucant decision to bury the memories. I held onto the scattered pieces of those inexplicable, seemingly disconnected and tried not to think about it too much. Somehow, there were hidden connections, that linked the events to each other. I dug the mysterious machine I'd built out of my pocket to distract myself, and hopefully regain by bearings. Quickly, I turned back towards the unnaturally calm ocean and scanned the surroundings for any addtional evidence. I tried different configurations but no matter what I attempted, everything came up empty. As I'd anticipated, there was no sign of her but I knew she was probably involved. I stood there for a moment, and examined the steadfastly unresponsive, defiantly opaque machine. It didn't respond, but it silence reinforced my instincts. Its quiet counsel pushed me towards a decision. In that moment, I knew I had to keep quiet about what I'd witnessed. It would be potentially disastrous if I told anyone the full extent of what I'd seen.  

- Michael Palisano