The Laser Fiction - A Redolent Visage









In Memory
Sean Pettibone



A Redolent Visage

Our impervious boat charted a languid route as it held course on approach to the mysterious island. Its obstinance appeared deliberate but the extended sojourn served a discernable function. This temporary break allowed us to contemplate the curious circumstance while we examined, then engaged with the unfamiliar atmosphere. The hindered haze and layers clouds extended far into the distance, quietly permeating the surface in excessively heated layers of corroborated protection. Her disposition relaxed and untensed, she allowed herself tenuous enjoyment. She unfolded her arms from their defensive position and allowed them to swing around a few times without care. Squinting her eyes narrowly allowed the mild wind to overflow her position, keeping a distinctive remove that still allowed a measure of its warmth and serenity to saturate the surroundings.

The breeze extricating the residual uneasiness that consistently mirrored her motivations, blowing through the residual anxiety effortlessly. I stood and watched her intently, wondering what the clandestine plan hidden beneath her casual demeanor might have really entailed. This calm interval didn't last very long and subsided immediately once I felt a strange disruption. There was a sudden burst of wind from an unexpected direction. It didn't feel natural and we couldn't immediately trace its origin. She reinforced her defenses quickly; there was a possibly malignant force disrupting the brief spell of calm we enjoyed.

Previously circling the island slowly, our vessel sprang into action and began to gain momentum unexpectedly. However, something had changed about its propulsion. I noticed the craft appeared to forsake its careful navigation. It begin veering increasingly off-course moving sharply in unanticipated direction. The ship appeared like it was struggling to shake whatever was following us. Unfortunately, it appeared that this approach meant it would miss the island entirely if it's course wasn't adjusted before it went completely off-course. This approach seemed like it worked, but a retracement needed to occur expeditiously; it felt like we'd be lost permanently otherwise. The lack of control was becoming increasing pronounced, but its navigation was completely out of our hands. There was a rational solution, but it wasn't going to be easy. We needed to find a secure path to deliver us safely off the planks. Its lack of controls meant we had no means of guiding it through the difficult passage.

This made me increasingly nervous and unsettled any security I may have tentatively achieved. Conversely, her demeanor was surprisingly calm and serene. She didn't seem to mind this lack of control and its erratic direction, increasing unpredictability and unknown control system. She appeared to embrace its uneven routes and haphazard movement. This would have undermined anyone else's confidence but contrarily, the unstructured interruptions kept any unwelcome followers at a safe distance, protecting us from being stalked. It had the further effect of momentarily freeing her from the encumbrance of implementing relentless directives, allowing her to discharge the accompanying decisions and responsibilities.

Her demeanor appeared uncharacteristically unburdened by the processes unfolding in the adjoining seas, she calmly allowed unseen forces to take command. She purposely surrendered the burden of piloting the vessel so she could focus on more important tasks. Without the pressure, she allowed herself to soak in the wind and water, its reverie leaving a sustained imprint in her memory. Washing over her with a reassuring balm, she didn't get distracted by minor issues. I noticed her intent focus undiminished by minor distractions. Staring forthright, her gaze focused on the path ahead, passively surveying our journey across the water. The boat maintained its discordant approach, not leaving a trail behind that could be followed or extricated. At long last, the danger subsided and it returned to navigate a more stable path.

The boat regained steady propulsion, moving firmly over the cascading waves. We'd taken a long time from our embankment, but it seemed we were finally near our elusive goal. The slender craft finally entered the island's inner perimeter. The water settled into a passive form and we managed to take a measure of the air, which had cooled down substantially. It moved onward unhesitatingly, before making a victorious maneuver, turning forcefully into the shallow bay. The waves subsided enough that I could spot the sand beneath; we could walk the rest of the way, skipping over the shallow waves if we desired. However, its immediate surface was narrow and rocky; we'd be better off floating above it instead of attempting to traverse the narrow strait fitfully.

Our progress slowed significantly, I noticed the distant sharply-angled structures scattered erratically across the waterway. I almost jumped at first, but as we came closer, I saw that they were some kind of weather indicators. I felt the winds building, and instilled defenses took hold. I crouched downward into a defensive posture and watched the water roused from passivity, manifestly threatening our location with unexpected ferocity. It became unsettled and began clashing beneath us. The narrow vessel responded by jutting and rustling around, swinging around and succumbing to several strong waves. The circuits of water over-washed its slender surface and I felt the water quickly rushing over and covering our feet. She stayed calm an didn't budge. Sensing impending danger, I could only watch and wait helplessly as the winds grew more intense. Their upper-reaches swirling and spinning, bending the atmosphere under the stress of an unseen force. The skies almost darkened instantaneously, without warning. I knew another storm was brewing. Intuition come back to the forefront, I quickly realized that we weren't going to complete our excursion undisturbed.

We'd managed to get extremely close and almost managed to get away unscathed. I prepared myself for another onslaught from the squall, but she wasn't worried. It was a relief to encounter her intrinsic confidence that sustained my worried demeanor, she didn't panic despite everything that came our way. I wondered how she was able to maintain her calm disposition while everything appeared to be conspiring to block our path. She didn't appear unfazed by the surging storm's unexpected disgorgement, and appeared to anticipate it. Closing her eyes and taking a deep breath, she suggested that I should follow suit and wait patiently alongside her as the storm subsided, diminished by expending its own energy.

Initially, I was unable to match her serene approach and kept observing the storm clouds and impending disaster. Slowly, I sensed things begin to turn in our favor. The skies brightened and the wind grew weaker until it was certain that the narrow vessel would finish the last leg of its journey without impediment. Growing resilient, I decided to give in and let the remaining disruption gain a temporary hold. I stood up once more and watched the waves and currents overwhelm our position. However, I realized the short duration meant the entanglement wouldn't last. Subsequently, our boat would resume the course, while the storm dissolved into a rapidly diminished, non-threatening state.

While it came at us with full-force, the inherent energy behind it apparently fizzled. The disturbance wasn't nearly as strong as initial appearances might have indicated. I felt the wind diminish hastily back into the skies , quickly losing energy without reinforcement. I assumed we faced an obstinate blockage standing directly in our path. Without knowledge of its origin, and assuming projections would reconcile in the same manner I'd expected in the past. I thought this portended a massive struggle ahead. However, dispatching our significantly altered circumstances was a retroactively foolish approach for me to take. The surroundings quickly eradicated my adherence to this theory as the disruption weakened even more quickly than it appeared. It was just an insignificant passing squall, though surprisingly strong at points. We faced some wind, but nothing inherently buttressed its inner force. The boat had carefully maneuvered through the recalcitrant occurrence, enduring it's gusty blows; we made it through with barely enough energy to endure its permutations and inveighed force. We'd cultivated and secured ample leeway to avoid getting caught in its path. The initially frightening yet ultimately empty squall was effectively countered, a transient and minor distraction, quickly diminishing without causing permanent damage. I was thankful to her that I didn't panic. She'd shown me how to escape and transcend immediate threats and circumvent trouble placidly without expending unnecessary energies anticipating engorged threats.

The boat gradually slowed to a crawl and reached a full stop. It was directly in front of a wooden dock that extended out into the water. It wasn't visibly connected, but she reached over its galley onto the opposing surface and found a narrow length of cloth material that would serve her purpose. She rolled and bunched it until it reached the proper width. She wrapped the cloth into enough cycles around to pull itself together. Her hands circled it around itself several additional bends until it formed a rough knot. She took the rope and flung the bunched-up construction over board where she found a small indentation at its edge she could use. This took some effort, due to its fragile connection and tenuous adherence. It wasn't terribly sturdy but I assisted her, keeping the knot in place while she attached it to the other portions. I held it in position, maintaining its resistance as she finally secured it firmly to the vessel's mooring. Watching carefully, I kept it coiled in place until it wrapped sustained a secure weight against the dock's strength. The boat stabilized to the point that we could jump back and forth across its narrow break without tripping over its unbalanced surface.

After considering our options, we eventually decided to take a step onto the dock. It wasn't as stable as we anticipated. I tread nervously and felt its surface buckling and rolling beneath us, the vessel buckling from the combined pressure. It didn't bend excessively and we were able to find a balance, before standing on its heavy wooden planks, looking into the gasping encroachment without consternation. I observed a manifestly unfamiliar shoreline unfold in the distance, its sharp edges offering little in the way of guidance. Attempting to chart its numerous pathways that over-ran each other, contradicted openings and breached numerous dead-ends was intimidating. Hesitating in order to untangle its cluttered pathways and survey the flow of the land, was frustrating. I looked over in her direction for any guidance or assistance but she paused halfway, discarding many of the numerous paths that didn't appear to converge in promising directions.

Staring in my direction gave her a welcome respite. She paused and quickly double-checked her work's accuracy and usefulness, perfectly reviewing the details. It appeared that she was taking the correct approach, narrowing our options efficiently without wasting effort following dead-ends. Turning her attention back to our dismemberment, she looked past my position in order to make certain the boat wouldn't float away or vanish before forging ahead. It hadn't budged in the intervening minutes; its successful docking granted her ample confidence to resume the expedition. Deciding that she'd managed to locate and navigate the correct path, she decided to forge ahead and walked with renewed vigor towards the nascent paths emerging across the island's shore.

Taking a faster pace. she walked over the creaky boards with renewed energy until she reached the breakaway point, where the ramp ended. Turning towards my direction, she noticed that I hadn't followed suit and only reluctantly took a few steps forward. Growing agitated with my persistent reluctance. she sent me a discernably recalcitrant glare, throwing her arms into the air impetuously for added effect. I knew my unjustified trepidation couldn't create a drag on our progress any longer. She motioned impatiently for me to turn my focus above and gaze into the skies. Almost immediately, there was a significant change in the atmosphere. It had undergone an undeniable transformation. The afternoon had begun its long descent, the blinding sunlight had diminished noticeably with lengthening shadows becoming pronounced; there wasn't additional time to squander.

The terrain was unexpectedly harsh. Its sands weren't smooth and forgiving, instead consisting of small rocks and jagged edges that were difficult to navigate. The occasional large boulder slowed us down further, but she didn't shrink from the challenge, instead the barriers reinforced her resolve. We took our time navigating the path, but it still took us longer than expected to traverse the shoreline. Its uneven surfaces presented an intimidating challenge. Some areas were misaligned, the path unexpectedly blocked by invisible rocks. We had to quickly leap over them, carefully avoiding their harsh edges. We managed to make consistent headway, slowly walking across almost the entirely of the south-facing shoreline. After reaching the opposing side, we took a glance back towards our dismemberment and saw the boat serenely floating, its rest undisturbed. At this point, nearly half-way there, we encountered a break as the rocks and boulders became smaller and more sporadic. This made progress increasingly consistent and manageable.
Quickening our pace slightly, we managed to sprint ahead as the underlying surface remained solid enough to give support. The sandy sections weren't as slippery as normal beaches, and didn't conspire to slow from underneath, allowing us to move ahead with renewed confidence. She leapt ahead and maintained her lead position, while I followed faithfully behind. She didn't hesitate very often, not pausing to catch her breath or rest her feet. This gave me little chance to examine the shoreline unable to let its hot surface permeate any deeper. This was slightly disappointing, but I knew there was a larger objective on the horizon. We travelled quite a distance, walking ahead without impediment until we reached a sudden, massive array of rocks sitting directly in our path. She paused and examined the boundary. This array of rocks and boulders were too large to jump over and they extended from the water towards the island's thick plants. This brought progress to a standstill while she pondered what to do next. I looked around and didn't see any clearly marked paths but she appeared to find a sensible way forward, without undue elaboration.

Turning towards the outlines of inlet's inner sanctum, she walked a straight path, sustaining an unwavering, concentrated sense of direction. Doing this without visible guidance, her eyes managed to maneuver onward, creating inherent directives without external directives interfering. There wasn't a path previously taken that we could follow; there was a notable lack of signs or letters. She was instinctively driven to follow an unspoken guidance, venturing fearlessly into the thick brush and accompanying trees without visual accompaniment. The dense plants quickly overwhelmed the surroundings, and closed in the gaps. Before I could comprehend what was occurring, the forest converged to slow down our path. The impediments were thick enough that we found ourselves constantly clearing away branches and limbs. Attempting to avoid becoming tangled in the thickets of grass and rock below. It was tedious and draining to a significant degree. However, curiosity overwhelmed adversity. We'd travelled far and encountering minor impediments blocking us and subsequently removing them from our path wasn't going to get in the way.

She worked efficiently clearing the way, twisting and breaking branches quickly until we reached an open area resembling a clearing with an unobtrusive view. Standing a few steps behind, I couldn't see anything out of the ordinary, there appeared to be a clear path open when looking past her position. Taking a glance at both sides, she scanned the surroundings for additional landmarks and barriers, but didn't seem to discover anything of note. It appeared that she would be satisfied with any discovery, she be satisfied finding anything of note, but her focused energy belied expectations. Her approach wasn't random as it initially appeared. She was deliberately searching for a very particular location in our midst. She examined her surroundings thoroughly until her eyes noticed something important. It appeared to contradict expectations of the immediate area. I couldn't visualize what had brought on her resurgent attention. I needed to carefully look past innumerable layers of dense, seemingly unbreakable branches layered in thick rows before I finally located the emerging construction. It wasn't an easy task, and it took some effort before I was able to extrapolate a discernable outline from the surrounding plants.

The structure was relatively skinny and would have been easy to overlook due to its diminutive size and accompanying dense configuration. However, was painted a discolored hue and didn't bend against the wind. Accumulating an immediately apparent break from the surrounding pattern, the object contrasted with its surroundings unstintingly. At first glance, the diametrically uneven, erratically curved surface could have been mistaken for an unusually long, yet otherwise unremarkably stoic branch. There were unforeseen markers; this long branch grew much thicker as we walked closer, resembling a solid doorway rather than an extension. It rose extensively above, its tendrils extending towards the skyline unabated. Drawing closer, it became obvious that this structure didn't consist of organic material and instead looked to be machine-made, deliberately prefabricated. Appearing forged from a heavier material, the conic walls gave the structure a distinctive, yet familiar design and construction.

The clandestine structure revealed addition detail as we came in closer, and managed to examine the building from the safety of standing a half-step inside its circumference. Its smooth, sleek surface displayed no punctures, holes or demarcations. Resembling a thick metal, there weren't evident organic elements present. The lack of windows and doors was deceiving, lending it a disheveled appearance. However, it was constructed and located purposefully. She moved purposely towards the structure. Her confident approach and cautious consideration made good compliments, and her unstinting exploration had inarguably proven correct. Her steps unhesitating as she entered, standing at the base beneath its immediate vicinity. Holding just a few steps behind, I awaited her next movements with mixed expectations. Anticipating her next foray was exciting but I didn't want to interfere with her examination of the structure.

Taking a few tentative steps closer, she moved tentatively towards the inner-circumference until she was standing squarely in front of the assemblage. She was then able to view the building's base unobtrusively. She stopped, surveyed its intricate construction. She tilted her head and looked upward towards its unusually curved embodiments, attempting to make sense of it's inscrutable construction and impervious design. It had been placed there deliberately, that much was obvious, but its purpose and function remained elusive despite efforts to detangle its mysteries. I had a difficult task keeping track of its depth, height and measure until she reminded me that I was focused on misguided aspects.

Accumulative visual facets notwithstanding, the structure's lack of clues offered little relief. Her approach was limited in scope, not extending much beyond its outer perimeter. She walked carefully, and kept her inquiries from piercing too deeply into its perimeter. There wasn't a stationary, secondary or predominantly aggressive response from the building and she walked a few steps ahead, showing less trepidation. Drawing closer, she didn't set off reticent alarms or unleash loud warnings. Silence was the predominant greeting, her footsteps producing louder echoes than the massive building in front of her. Deducing that there was no apparent threat, she realized that we could likely explore the structure further without unleashing inherent danger.

Looking across its unsullied pristine surface, she attempted to locate an entrance but her efforts didn't reveal any visible doors or gates. Its curved angle was unnaturally consistent, unbroken by doors, latches, switches or buttons. The structure maintained an impenetrable disposition, not yielding additional clues despite our combined efforts to unlock them. She was delayed but unmoved and arrived at a different approach. Walking several unbowed steps towards its right flank, she peeked around the corner. Attempting to locate a break on its western exterior, her eyes observed carefully but the structure proved non-cooperative. Undeterred, she quickly readjusted strategy. She walked towards its eastern flank and carefully examined its opposite side. This approach didn't take hold as she anticipated. Her progress on that front was quickly blocked by thickets of grass and vines that decisively hindered our inquisitive approach.

Returning to our entry point, she secured a neutral position towards the center, she decided to make one last attempt at breaching its surface and stepped directly in front of it. She placed her right hand on it surface and began sliding it around, seeking a signal of an unknown reciprocity. This didn't produce a visible response and she appeared frustrated but remained determined. She hadn't travelled this far only to encounter an impervious building. After going over its surface, moving across it thoroughly from top to bottom without response, she arrived at a reluctant conclusion. Despite her pronounced effort, It appeared that the entranceway wasn't positioned in that location. Her theory didn't make much sense but I shrugged my shoulders. We'd done more with less in the past. I thought this time wouldn't be any different. I wondered where the hidden opening would appear. It didn't seem that it would remain hidden for so long without giving the smallest hint as to its location. She nodded dismissively, and told me to eschew the linear approach. This wasn't a standard predicament, and she reiterating that events weren't going to unfold in typical form. I couldn't comprehend what she meant by this, initially. After pondering her statement for a few minutes, I realized that she was attempting to communicate a crucially important difference. Sometimes, instinct would combine with forethought, but sometimes, we'd also encounter serendipity occasionally. She decided that it would be better to demonstrate rather than expend energy on a needlessly complicated explanation.

She turned around and took an unanticipated path without further elaboration. Stepping back from the structure until she stood a few feet, she startled me by turning in the opposite direction from which we'd arrived, looking away from its resolutely unadorned pilings without dwelling on hidden symbols that probably never existed in the first place. I remembered that we were in a different place where the usual conventions didn't seem to apply. Pointing her head downward, she seemed to be searching for something, but I didn't know what exactly she wanted to find. She kicked randomly into the ground, releasing layers of dust and dirt at several points, but eliciting nothing else in return for her efforts. I watched her jump and leap around in various locations. She set a series of imprints surrounding the venture with a small circumference of deep indentations, kicking enough of an imprint to maintain a visual record of her process. Eventually, she filled in most of the small area and hit the vacant sections with an inexplicable authority. I wanted to join her in stomping my feet. It looked like she was having some unlikely fun, but I had to withhold my instincts. I knew jumping around separately that would disrupt whatever system she'd implemented. Her options for empty space narrowed quickly until she managed to leave only a few scattered sections open.

Pressing ahead, her feet unswayed, a strong impact struck a portion of the ground causing an unmistakable reaction to occur. As soon as she hit the surface, I heard a grinding noise coming from the curved walls. Turning around quickly, a previously invisible entrance emerged on the surface. Appearing to work automatically, it opened with no additional effort on our part. I wasn't expecting it to offer such a miniscule resistance, but it didn't put up any discernable effort to dissuade our impending breach of its defense. The doorway slid open quickly but subsequently stopped just short of full-length, halting about half-way through. Instead of leaving a clear path, we encountered a partial gateway that we could slide through, walking nearly sideways with some maneuvering. She sprinted towards the partial entrance and frantically motioned for me to follow suit. The door wasn't moving any further back, remaining firm in its position. It still appeared somewhat tentative, reluctantly holding its position in apparent compromise. I assumed that it probably wouldn't remain in its promising position for long and raced ahead towards it. I found my pace quicken until I was almost running. I quickly positioned myself at an proficient angle sliding between the door. working expeditiously before it slammed shut remorselessly.

After reaching the entrance, I slid through the slender gap, turning direction slightly sideways until I was safely on the other side. My eyes had to adjust to the darkened light. which made it difficult to see the surroundings with any discernable detail. She wasn't excessively ahead; this helped me quickly deduce that we were ensconced inside a very small room. I couldn't see anything of note in our immediate surroundings. Attempting to locate a light switch or standard dial was pointless. We'd have to explore fitfully, stumbling through the encompassing darkness without guidance. We tried to locate something resembling a clue, but there wasn't much of note. We encountered a few disjointed, partially broken chairs folded up against a wall and accompanying tables in back of them.

The floors and walls gave little indication of why or for what reason we'd landed there. Expending several minutes' exploration revealed nothing beyond ordinary implements and accompaniments, seemingly inconsequential objects like rolled-up paper and strands of rusted wire scattered sporadically. It wasn't clear if they'd been hidden carefully in haphazard fashion to avoid alarm or whether they'd been left behind carelessly. I was on the brink of giving up when she discovered an unexpected item quietly sitting in the corner. It didn't appear that important despite undergoing cursory inspection on my part, but she was inspired to query further by its unlikely appearance.

Rolled-up in a darkened portion, she found another small patch of cloth sitting unobtrusively lying mutely beneath a thicket of shredded papers unfolding in messy, tangled sheets. Placed unobtrusively behind sharply-angled, unmoored buoys, it would have been easily missed. I recognized their shape immediately and examined them closely for clues. They didn't have any markings on their surface, but beneath their tops were long steel sticks extending downward below with small plastic bulbs at the end. I wondered what the connection might have been between the disjointed objects. They were significantly aged and had endured extensive service in the water judging by the green discoloring and accumulated barnacles and dried-up cartilage covering their wire extensions. During ordinary circumstances, I probably would have overlooked and dismissed the tightly-wound cloth sheets behind them without a second thought.

Unexpectedly taken with their unusual appearance, they immediately commanded her full attention. Her gaze intensified as she gazed upon the wrapped cloth strands. Lifting them up from their hiding place, she commenced her examination, She took her fingers and glided over its surface for a few seconds to get a good feel for it. Pausing before unraveling the remaining accumulation, she held her breach before placing it firmly in her possession unhesitatingly. Carrying it with an unlikely amount of care, she held it closely. Looking around, her eyes searched the walls for a source of light. Finding none, she decided to explore further, asking me to join her. It wasn't immediately clear what she was up to, but I joined her without hesitation. I hoped for a few explanations for my lingering queries, a minor reward for enduring our arduous journey.

Moving several cautious steps backward while searching for a relatively clear section to survey took her a couple minutes. She found a relatively open area without excessive exertion. She took out the cloth, unwrapped it until it was dangling from her hands. This required comparatively little effort physically but it appeared she'd expended much thought into devising her deliberative actions. She then extended its loosened appendage outwards, giving me the opposite side to help unfurl. I took its edge and carefully pulled it out until its wrappings gave way, and pulled it firmly into a fully-extended, completely stretched position. It was dangling and swaying under my pull, but she told me to walk a few steps to further straighten it. I dutifully complied and the tapestry emerged, effortlessly covering nearly half of the small room's length. When I reached that point, I noticed it had reached its end, her hands now grasping onto its far edge. It hung just above the darkened flooring, almost floating over the surface. It dangled nervously while we held in place. We examined it for a short time and I waited while she deliberated how to utilize it efficiently.

I was fairly certain what we held in our hands. Extrapolating from it's flowing surface and permeable material, I appeared obvious we'd located a missing sail that would help us take control of the vessel. This conclusion made immediate sense for numerous reasons. We'd managed to get to this point; this was a fairly obvious reward for our efforts. It was long and beautiful and seemed to match the style and color plus length and width of the vessel nearly perfectly. We'd managed to stumble onto it with supernatural coincidence, bordering on presaged serendipity, after an unusually complicated and extensive exploration. Discovering it waiting passively, in what initially appeared to be a manifestly improbable occurrence, had to entail than a coincidence. Judging by the long cloth sheet's impassive yet oddly beneficial occurrence, and the unlikely timing behind its sudden appearance, I figured its purpose was signified; its purpose immediately clarified. Applying logic, it became obvious to me what its inherent purpose entailed. I threw it up into the air with a firm grasp and waved it around in sweeping victorious motions, letting it flap around and wave in my hands. I was unexpectedly feeling triumphant. I was proud that I'd figured out the mystery all by myself and shared a sudden burst of enthusiasm, that was met with innate suspicion on her end.
Her noncommittal response was the opposite of what I anticipated. She stood quietly without revealing judgment, then began nodding her head horizontally, indicating a resounding no. The extensive partition wasn't a sail or mast, it's appearance had no association with the boat. Disheartened, I reluctantly realized this long cloth wasn't enhancing that portion of the journey. It was far too long and much too fragile to survive even a minor scuffle with the wind. Threadbare, it wasn't sturdy enough, and not really the correct proportion. Puncturing my theory made sense, but I was still deflated from her verdict. I couldn't understand what alternative functionality she trying to convey, but she effortlessly pointed out the flaws in my solution. My misguided attempt at arriving at a straightforward rationalization had been dismissed without reconsideration.

Examining the cloth with heightened scrutiny caused my to rip and fray, falling apart almost immediately. When thinking about its repercussions, numerous additional significant flaws undermining my theory emerged. There weren't any fasteners at its sides, no places to hook it onto anything. She pulled it outward but the sheets felt increasingly fragile, they'd rip apart far too easily to serve as an effective sail. Looking at it further, revealed its somewhat fragile edges that didn't look like they'd endure the rigors of a typical conflagration. When thinking back slightly further, I encountered another crucial weak-point. The narrow slip we'd travelled on didn't have any poles to hook into, there was no masts sitting on the boat for it to fly on. Even if our find was actually a complimentary and useful sail, it wouldn't have anywhere to function. I'd managed to leap ahead of our circumstances without thinking through all the contradictory permutations thoroughly.

I couldn't hide my dejected disposition but she didn't appear fazed by the misdirection, probably caused by a rush on my part, to reach intuitive conclusions without precise figures or intrinsic context. Without those crucial elements, my suppositions fell into the realm of intangible queries. The subsequent shortcomings in my comprehension weren't evidence of incompetence but my impatience, though it didn't feel like it at the time. She told me to keep holding the long cloth sheet in the air for awhile longer, while she examined it closely. I tried to think of other purposes it might have, but had little information to go on. Despite my best efforts, I drew a blank when proposing alternate capabilities. She lifted it up several inches, turned it over and examined its hidden section thoroughly for an extended period. After contemplating its uses and functionality for several minutes she also appeared unable to arrive at a useful function. I remained stymied, unable to come to any reasonable solutions despite my elaborate attempts at guessing its purpose. When I stared into the blank surface, I received the same in return. With nothing to hint at its functionality, I held it in my arms for quite some time without decoding its mysterious purpose.

Enduring several tortuous minutes pondering its impermeable surface, she regained control from me and held it facing downward at a lower position. She lowered it gradually until it was half-way to the ground. Unable to comprehend her purpose from the opposing end might be, I followed suit until the long-sheet was relatively level, rising just above foot-level above the surface. It remained dimly lit but I still couldn't detect on its surface out of the ordinary. After several more minutes in the holding pattern, she slowly began to lower it even further until it held just above the ground. I followed her lead until we were both crouching downward, holding it just slightly in the air, hovering slightly above the ground. I didn't understand why she was being so careful with the sheet, but realized she had good reasons. She'd rolled its edges downward a bit further until it touched the ground and carefully set in on the surface. Making contact, she wasn't finished. We had to maintain our cautious pace. I needed to show patience making sure that it didn't get wrinkled or soiled by the ongoing process.

Taking her lead, my hands methodically mirrored her technique, keeping its margins straightened without stretching its edges or tampering its pristine seal. This took substantial effort, I anticipated less exertion, but remained undeterred since the objective was worthwhile. After finishing this task, I realized that the surface was flat and somewhat weaker than anticipated. It extended outward to conceal an extensive width of space, nearly covering half the length of the small room. We managed to accomplish this feat without causing a tear during the process was due more to luck than skill. Not taking this temporary victory for granted, I resolved to more carefully maneuver it across the ground, treating its ground with additional caution to maintain consistency. Using a slower approach took more effort but allowed me to keep my eye on it with greater detail. I appreciated that she'd carefully set it in that position for a specific reason and purpose. It wasn't immediately obvious what here motivation was, but I knew not to interfere. I walked around to its opposing side, managing to achieve another angle on its appearance. I thought of several options until finally coming to what appeared to be the definitive answer. It was an intriguing, yet sensible conclusion. My mind returned to the immediate past and I deduced that there might have been a demonstrably creative force behind its sudden appearance. The energy felt strong behind this supposition felt strong. I was confident my second attempt at uncovering its true purpose was correct.

The flowing canvas offered an expansive space that was neutral and empty. Its permeable cloth face made it immediately amenable to creative alteration and aesthetic improvement. The sheets were resilient, yet not beyond change. Presenting a clean surface to use, its unmarked appearance was surprisingly welcoming, at least from an artistic standpoint. I watched her closely examining the fabric, it was uniform in style, design, and color. It was a neutral shade and didn't suffer any noticeable rips or tears. There weren't any significant flaws in its appearance. Its surface appeared surprisingly permeable and would soak up any paint or ink effortlessly. I looked it over, and even in the dim surrounding light, its scale and size seemed like it would make a perfect canvas to explore and utilize. My mind raced as I imagined the limitless possibilities that could unfold on such a vast tapestry. I looked in her direction and saw that she was still hunched over the fabric, looking at it closely without shifting attention towards my direction. Seeking reinforcement, I began moving my hands over it and swiping around in a deliberately creative manner. This caused a temporary interruption in her concentrated focus but this pause that didn't bring the result I hoped for.

For my second consequential attempt, she nodded her head dismissively in a decidedly more intent negative manner. There wasn't enough light to accomplish anything more than the most basic tasks, and any designs we marked on its surface would have probably been warped, discolored and out of proportion, at the very least. Coloring would be far too difficult to achieve with such limited illumination. Most importantly, there was the pronounced lack of tools. She'd left all the paint-brushes behind, locked away in a safe place, away from view of our enemies, but also trapped in a box we couldn't open without extensive retracement. Such an effort would take extraordinary time and effort, with negligible purpose. I hunched back into a observant position and conceded that she was right about its function. This still left an overarching mystery to unravel. Staring at the long, empty sheet for what felt like eternity didn't offer additional elaboration as to what its actual purpose might be. I looked again in her direction for any sort of clue but she wasn't offering me straightforward answers, only an increasingly intractable quandary.

Determination remained elusive, and I was stuck on that point. Desiring that I work out the problem myself without assistance, I tried to maintain an objective approach, but I was running out of options. I couldn't understand what purpose the extended cloth figure might actually contain. It was becoming frustrating and felt like my mind going in circles around it, not quite reaching the right point. After several additional minutes engaged with the long stretch of fabric, she held her head above its gaze and looked directly at me. Recognizing my annoyance appeared to bring about an unexpectedly empathetic approach. She finally relented, taking full control of situation. This unanticipated break in her consistent detachment was surprising. Her pronounced tenor became sharper when she brusquely instructed me to take hold of my side. She held her side upwards, turned it backward against the sun then unexpectedly turned it over completely until its blank surface was facing downward in the opposite direction.

In the dim light, it wasn't immediately apparent why she determined further examination was needed. When I looked closely, something began to emerge in the shadows. At first, the signal was subtle, almost invisible. When looking closely, the there were indefinite markings visible within its periphery. Blurry at certain angles, they became clearer when we tilted the cloth under specific beams of brighter light. The markings and runes were nearly transparent, almost illegible. However, their faded appearance remained prominent despite the age, and impossible to ignore after having been spotted. I noticed what appeared to be arrays of lines and dots scattered haphazardly on its surface. It wasn't immediately clear what, if anything these random markings represented, but I knew it was probably something important. They looked to be disconnected from one another initially. Placed erratically across the surface, it wasn't immediately obvious what I was looking for.

It appeared nonsensical and illegible upon first impression. She advised me to take a more concentrated look and I followed suit. I still didn't comprehend what had her so excited. I clandestinely appropriated a side-glance and noticed she was viewing the points intently. Her hands began going over the cloth with a strange level of intent I hadn't detected. I couldn't decipher her methodology but it quickly became apparent that she was following barely detectable lines. After observing patiently from a distributed location checked with a deliberate remove, I realized that she was reading the nearly invisible runes and characters while deciphering its vestigial arrangements of complex symbols. Look closely in order to spot their connected paths and entanglements, I looked carefully while she traced them in countless different directions. Moving in contradictory fashion, she didn't seem to be planning out a coherent route, instead jumping back and forth across the map without any discernable patterns emerging.

Focusing with increasing acuity, my eyes fastidiously tracked her fingers, following her direction with near-total concentration before deciphering what navigation and illumination they were conveying. Even after I'd acclimated, some of the symbols, points and directives on the map were difficult to disentangle. Appearing to contradict and overlap, the readings on the surface looked to be contradict each other purposefully. There was an elaborate puzzle unfolding, except there were discordant pieces thrown into the mix the didn't fit anywhere. I tried to sort them out mentally, but her hands moved too quickly for me to keep up after awhile. It became impossible for me to stay on the multitudes of paths she placed. She was following multiple directions simultaneously and didn't waste time on distractions. Her voice didn't offer guidance as she remained intent on her task, not pausing to guide or aid my progress. After several minutes desperately trying to gain some understanding, it felt that I was getting in the way. Occasionally, our hands would cross above the surface, and she'd nudge me out of the path. After a few minutes, it seemed that I was getting in the way. I was blocking her and didn't feel that this was serving any real purpose. I wanted to ask her to verbalize what was happening. but realized by her intent stare that my request would have impeded her mission.

Decrypting its markings was made more difficult by the realization that they were hastily written in an indecipherable language. I tried to navigate the half-completed markings and impenetrable short-hand to little avail. Attempting to reconstruct all the elements with anything resembling efficiency or accuracy was a near-impossible task. After several minutes, I finally decided to rescind my stumbling inquiries and allowed her to take the lead. I reluctantly took the role of an assistant, and commenced ordering and cleansing the fabric. I took to the opposing side of the map and straightened it out as best possible while she worked the opposing portion. I tried to keep it unwrinkled, smoothing its folds as she moved quickly to decode its mysterious signs and opaque symbols.

She appreciated of my efforts in a unique manner and eventually decided to slow her pace and started dropping tantalizing clues along the way. She pointed out a few symbols and noted their meaning verbally, which helped me understand a portion of the map's meaning. It was scaled in a surprisingly vast proportion; encompassing vast spaces with the flick of a pen or brush. It wasn't cartographing the surrounding area in a conventional manner. Instead, its hastily scrawled symbols appearing to indicate a massive array of disparate points in rough approximation. It wasn't immediately evident the exact size that it was attempting to convey, but her voice readily acknowledged that it wasn't designed to mimic the usual scale. She didn't need to imply but there was an important aspect of navigation that needed to be quantified. It quickly became apparent that its myriad destinations couldn't be reached by foot or even with a boat, no matter how many paths we walked or oceans we sailed.

Awaiting her patiently while she worked proved less draining than anticipated. My mind was so full of possibilities that I couldn't begrudge the time expended. Reinforced scanning and duplicative searching took a measure to complete, she finally declared herself satisfied with completing her most immediate task. She motioned that it was time rejoin the front portion, standing directly beside her. Unexpectedly, she indicated that it was my turn. I would choose our next destination. This filled me with a sudden sense of unease. I didn't understand her reasoning at first and couldn't decide. It was difficult to point to a place I'd never been. She offered me reassurance. Our choices appeared numerous, but her thorough examination had narrowed the possibilities. Any destination I picked would prove safe and productive. I searched with trepidation until arriving at a secure position towards the middle that seemed manageable, neither excessively large or intimidatingly dense. She appeared pleased with my appropriately experimental decision, appreciating the balance I'd quickly measured. My hand steadied, hovering over it until she locked it in place after double-checking the objective for unexpected detours. The scrawling imprints effectively obscured its specific name and place, covering its demarcation with obtuse shapes and figures, but that didn't affect the end result to any noticeable degree.

She implemented the task quickly, use her skill and intuition for the most part. She told me to help her with one last task. I figured out what she wanted, took one end of the sheet and began folding and returning it to a cloaked appearance. Rolled it back in halves until it had diminished and we stood only a few inches apart, each of us holding our end fastidiously. She carefully positioned the sheathing so none of its imprinted symbols were visible. Holding it securely, she folded it over in half one last time until it appeared further diminished. Retying its strands together, the assemblage appeared nearly identical as we'd found it, not a stitch appeared disturbed. I watched cautiously as she neatly folded it back in place, before returning to its nondescript position underneath the array of buoys. She did this carefully, avoiding production of any loud sounds. We would commence without fear or worry. There wasn't tangible physical evidence of our excursion inside the building. We hadn't left a the slightest mark, but our physical precautions didn't significantly impede our efforts. She'd memorized the cloth sheet's contents effortlessly, to the point that she could recall the map's prominent attributes instantly.

This reformulated sense of direction freed us to leave the small room, we could exit without creating a disturbance. She located the position where the door had opened and tried to dislodge it once more. It didn't open with nearly as much ease at it had during our first encounter. It only managed to give a quarter of the way. We could still manage to slip though its grasp, but it would take significantly more effort. While this mechanism seemed strange, it was an important defense that prevented anyone else from stalking our location. Managing to walk in a directly horizontal angle, we were able to maneuver through relatively quickly. Without expending too much energy, our feet stood outside. We remained within reach of the towering structure, but were free of its intimidating affront. The day had shrunk substantially, its darkening skies and lingering shadows appeared to intrude on its pristine surface, conveying a hostile determination that lacked the mysterious grace that made its enigmatic presence appealing upon our arrival.

I reflected on her somewhat unconventional method before concluding her approach was correct because it kept our clandestine position hidden. It wasn't immediately obvious how we'd be able to move onward into any subsequent excursions. We'd left the majority of our tools behind, and it was unclear how we'd traverse further into this mysterious realm. She made it clear that there was no reason to gloat about our unheralded discovery. It had only left us exposed with another difficult conundrum to overcome. She had no desire to explain the unseen intricacies of the unfamiliar surroundings, their innate purpose unheralded. We'd encounter ample opportunity during the journey ahead to exclaim our proficiency. but the question remained how exactly we'd arrive at our desired convergence, envisaging just before the truculent end-point. There was no point in causing a commotion, even unintentionally. Scattered memories converged until I remembered that her inherently delineated, light-focusing machine. It remained largely unimplemented for the duration of our unpredictable adventure. I knew it wasn't really my place, but I wondered why she hadn't given the reluctant machine another opportunity.

My persistence jolted something that she'd nearly forgotten about back to prominence. This created a delayed realization on her part, a potential solution to an untenable question. It quickly ushered a sudden rejuvenation of her latent construction. It took her longer than expected, but she quickly recalled where exactly she'd hidden it. Its visible surface and structure was surprisingly well-preserved and it responded immediately to her command. She reanimated the machine quickly; it came to life efficiently when she turned the panels and spun the indented dials outward. It let out a loud beep and almost leapt from its hiding place, she unsheathed the machine from its dormant position, extending it sloping upward at a steep angle. It hastily reached heightened capability alongside undeterred implementation, pointing in the opposite direction, away from the imposing structure. There was little room to question where we were heading.

Despite a long hibernation, it had maintained a clandestine energy reserve, without convergence or dispersing the intrinsic energy within its narrowly formed structure of dials and switches. The mysterious light-convergence machine quickly reconstituted itself using a small portion of its residual energy. It appeared that there was just enough energy within its structure to transport us to a secure position. She aimed it at a specific spot, appearing in the atmosphere directly across from the improbably curved building. This allowed her to build something quickly, though it wasn't as stable as some of our earlier gateways had displayed. Its edges were frayed and uneven, and it seemed like it might collapse at any moment, though it stabilized after a minute passed. Despite this, the doorway looked functional; its cosmetic flaws gave no reason for trepidation.

Its convergent beam wasn't particularly strong, but she was able to forge a nascent entrance despite its dispersed energy and flickering light. I noticed the limitations prevented her from implementing the machine's functionality, at nearly full-strength. Conversely, we could use its boundaries to our advantage; carefully avoiding alerting anyone to our presence, despite emanating from the remote location. Most importantly, we could achieve this without squandering our sole opportunity. Avoiding unexpected encounters that might arise would help assure at least temporary safety. There was a limited reserve of energy to use and we needed to expend it wisely.

This would take concerted effort and profoundly emphatic levels of insistence; we needed to proceed without hesitation given the weakened machine's constrained capabilities. Its diminished state meant we wouldn't arouse suspicion even if we wanted to. A sudden recoiled wave unexpectedly shattered the calm, and the resulting burst of residual energy completed the transitory path ahead. We walked towards the transient opening without delay, moving into the blinding illumination and unknowable space beyond unhesitatingly. Despite the uncertainty ahead, we'd managed to navigate past the impediments, resolutely creating ample protective space. An inherently stubborn burden we shouldered gradually lifted. The distance travelled meant we were positioned at safe remove, protected by intangible factors reaching into uncountable degrees and limitless measurements. The vast space was abandoned by all reasonable expectations, its vast expanse and accompanying remnants simultaneously welcoming and unreachable. Surveying our isolated position, we encountered no interlopers and were decidedly alone. No one would follow us there.

- Michael Palisano