-  Fiction - A Sublimated Retracement









In Memory
Sean Pettibone



A Sublimated Retracement

She was skeptical and quietly determined not to accord undue importance to the portrait, strenuously avoiding direct contact with the faded personage depicted on the paper. Its torn, fragile surface prevented further incursion on my part, and I resisted the urge to inspect it from a closer angle. I couldn't avoid its entrancing presence and observed it carefully for any discrepancies that might elicit additional insight, The navigator insisted that we take its presence beyond the immediate connotations, but didn't elaborate further on what he hoped our insights might provide. The strangely sanguine figure within the page appeared unnaturally calm, imbued with unexpectedly moderate disposition. non-committal to the immediate surroundings, the portrait's impassive expression fell somewhere between serene and detached. This represented a disappointingly superficial assumption on my part since there wasn't any definitive elaboration on his end. Working with presumptions wasn't the best approach, as I'd later discover, and could lead to detrimental repercussions. I watched as she looked him over cautiously, unsettled by the portrait's unflinching gaze that appeared almost lifelike and his concealment of its, fermenting an uneasiness she wasn't able to easily consider.
Observing the distinctive figure on the portrait carefully revealed that its elusive image held innumerable mysteries that weren't immediately comprehensible. Contrasting with our earlier designs, the portrait's surface looked fully-formed with immaculate composition. The consistent approach comprised of defined smooth lines. There were no stray marks and its deliberate approach avoided any sketched indecisiveness. Instead, its forceful design elicited a prevalent formation that implied a confident implementation that showed no evident. Lacking the rough edges and erratic structure of our sketched figures, its composition revealed no signs of uncertainty or doubt. Working cleanly, the mysterious artist's hand offered surface insights, unwilling to heedlessly venture into the enigmatic figure's face with emotive detail. Her passive expression assumed an intrinsically alluring form that emanated an unspoken, tranquil disposition for the most part. However, when viewed closely there was a strange magnetism to her eyes that was beguiling and felt almost alive. Her spirit appeared undiminished, transcending the distance, it didn't seem like any time had elapsed, and there was no distance from the point where the portrait originated. Capturing the mysterious figure's integral energy in subtle form was a remarkable achievement, the mysterious portrait silently revealing additional layers of emotion beneath its calm surface.

The conversant expression within its detailed reflection conveyed was simultaneously invigorating and hypnotizing. I could have easily gotten lost inside the figure's enchanting gaze, but recent encounters allowed me to anticipated its mesmerizing grip, and looked away frequently to loosen its Tran sportive hold. Despite my forceful defenses, I couldn't entirely avoid getting drawn into the portrait's field. It's resplendent eyes created a persistent gaze I couldn't completely evade. It appeared to evoke seemingly conflicting reactions without overwrought manipulation, undue pressure or excessive demands on my eyes. There appeared to be a temporal, incipient force inspiring the portrait's robust invocation. Its design seemed almost mystical from different perspectives though none of its elements looked unnatural. The illustration's resonant dynamics held in firmly place, its evocative elements converging to form a coherent body. Emerging upon closer inspection, I gradually realized that none of the face's features expressed an inherent restlessness, maintaining serene position without budging in the slightest. Steeping away from the slender page to keep herself beyond its reach, she didn't seem sure how to respond to the figure's magnetically unfolding presence and kept herself at a detached remove, avoiding its unyielding gaze.

Unwilling to give in to any residual capabilities the portrait might have induced, she contemplated its possibilities with profound interest while maintaining an understandable detachment. She seemed to bend away from its direct line, keeping herself from inordinate contemplation. Consciously working for several minutes persistently shifting between willful distraction and reluctant concentration, she avoided direct contact. Keeping herself at a remote location, she eventually revealed that there was more than she initially realized. However, she needed to swerve around, positioning herself in direct opposition to its face before she reluctantly admitted that she indeed recognized the figure. She related to us that its gaze was unmistakably similar to the series' of paintings we'd uncovered during a previous excursion. Gemine seemed surprised by this admission, and slipped back half a measure in tangential surprise. She told her not to be imprudently alarmed, reassuring her that the paintings were objectively harmless. The portrait was one of a number of compositions regarding the same personage. and probably represented antique, largely-forgotten obsession of some kind.

She didn't know precisely whose hands drew the picture or the subject's name, but that possibly didn't matter. Elaborating further, she explained that our unexpected discovery remained prominent, if subdued within her memory. We had undertaken an extensive, somewhat draining encounter covering a strange journey through mysterious tunnels, across a strange landscape then finally reaching a crescendo, and fondly remembering dancing underneath the floating sails, their energy simultaneously powering our ship and my companions' elaborate dance move. Gemine listened intently to her elaborate reconstruction of the preceding events but didn't seem entirely convinced. She openly worried that there was more significance residing within the portrait than either of them were telling her. She cautiously held her distance and skeptics then carefully resumed looking into the portrait seeking additional answers but none seemed to be forthcoming. She looked across the room towards the Navigator furtively and declared that she deduced his evasiveness was either the result of uncertainty or impassive protection.

Standing silently towards the room's exterior, he didn't respond to her indirect confrontation of the work immediately. Contemplating a response for a few moments, he firmly reminded her that the unspooled artwork wasn't a product of his hand, he'd had no say into its composition or realization. Ire was something we'd discovered accidentally in passing. He felt an unspoken, irrational attachment to the figure at first, but he'd become increasingly enamored and intrigued by its resplendent presence, and reiterated that he wanted our assistance extracting additional details. The navigator admitted that its consecrated gaze grow increasingly profound and distractingly resonant the longer he hid the page from view. Gemine appeared taken off-balance by his unusually elaborate explanation, causing her disproportionate suspicions of the Navigator's innate disposition to dissolve. A distracting conveyance of nebulous contradictions and simmering inconsistencies emerged from their parallel stories, but an eventful period had passed in the interim.

Subsequently, it wasn't surprising that numerous details had flattened and become indistinct, but she quickly reconstructed roughly where the Navigator had extracted the portrait. This required to leap through time, at least temporarily in order to pass through a distant vantage they'd crossed in the recent past once more. This brought her to another strange mystery and she asked home why he'd chosen this particular painting from the assembled portfolio we'd found, nearly forgotten and abandoned, placed in the exterior perimeter, submerging within of its surroundings until it was nearly invisible, purposely hidden in place blending into the space inside the clandestine shelter. It seemed they'd sat in place unobtrusively, in a precise manner that could only be understood by a specific set of eyes. She wondered if he realized where they'd derived, if he even had the right to take one of the compositions and finally, whether he felt any special attachment to its conjured subject. He didn't answer right away but his prolonged silence appeared to answer her questions. Stating firmly that that he still didn't comprehend the precise reasons, it grew increasingly evident that the portrait elicited more complexity than its surface indicated.

Watching him carefully she shifted her restrained disposition and careful vantage until her eyes converged into a sharp line. Unwilling to let it take prominence, she held a firm sight and patiently anticipated his direct response without allowing anything within the portrait to deceive her instinctive defenses. Finding only salient repose, a furtive defensiveness that belied his intrinsic formulations, she hesitated before asking him why he'd kept the seemingly minor artifact so close to his person. Holding it firmly, he didn't divulge his trepidation when it came to full revealing its underlying functionality or the mysterious figure's identity. She recalled the portrait's serendipitous discovery and reminded herself of its undetermined origin. Intuitively curious, she warned herself not to be drawn into its spell, but still couldn't resist further investigation.

Taking a few steps closer in order to understand what motivated him, and understand the reasoning he held within, in order to keep it hidden firm us for such an extended interval. Shrugging his shoulders indifferently, without signifying his intentions, he repelled her intrusive questions with quick rejoinder, explaining that there were many things he couldn't explain without assistance. He took a defensive step away from the dawning light, before folding the paper inward slightly to protect its face from the unfiltered paths of sunlight. Looking around the room, I noticed its early power was intensifying in strength, the narrow clouds seeming to part as the morning light grew more pronounced as the early dawn slipped away into the brighter morning. The exterior storms seemed to have passed and as the clouds parted, an uneasy competition emerged. It appeared the parallel suns were set at opposing angles, fighting each other of control of the skies. Their shadows clashed against the walls, it wasn't clear from our cloaked vantage within the tower, which would eventually predominate.

Surging from exterior forces, the brightly-illuminated room became increasingly constrained. The narrow walls surrounding us didn't seem as imposing as the light filtered across the room. Taking advantage of the momentary distraction, he carefully slid the portrait back underneath his jacket before pointing towards the doorway at the far edge of the room, its unadorned surface providing negligible evident leeway for an easy or straightforward escape. Stepping across the breach towards the door, its sealed perimeter was firmly held in place, without noticeable breaks in its perimeter. I watched Gemine's eyes thoroughly and efficiently surveying its surface, but she couldn't locate a tangible weakness. Lacking a key or compartment that could easily be turned or switched, its brightly-lit surface still retained an undiminished allure. Facing directly in front of it, her outline appeared to strike a contrasting position neither succumbing to its imposing size or attempting to overwhelm its defenses. The navigator watched her efforts assiduously but seemed unable to assist her, remaining just as perplexed by the doorway as she was. Following them reluctantly across the room, she didn't share their entropy and seemed to know precisely the measures she needed to attempt. Working quickly until she stood directly in front of its guarded front, she didn't suffer any hesitation before unleashing her convergent light machine from beneath her cloak. Magisterially sliding its metallic extensions upward, she aimed it directly at the door's center, eliciting an unexpected reaction.

There was a pronounced shifting thump and accompanying clasping noise click, followed by a sudden burst of convergent light. The doorway repelled her initial assault, but this didn't dissuade her. Recalibrating its focus, spun one of its dials around quickly until her machine's energy beam coalesced into a singular, strong path. Holding the machine at a steady angle and consistent height for half-a-minute was all it took. Its borders began shaking and slowly began to extend outward gradually, then catapulted open almost instantaneously. A sudden gust of wind blew in from the exterior, a reviving surge that grew stronger without conjecture. Its surprisingly temperate gale contained innumerable energies, infusing the static atmosphere inside with unmistakable force. It was noticeably warmer and drier than it had been during our earlier foray. Relieved that the frigid air had dispersed, we moved ahead, taking a relentless pace that as we proceeded swiftly to escape the tower's menacing shadow. A step outside revealed the icy surface had melted quickly, leaving scattered puddles in its wake. These shallow droplets were relatively simple for us to skip over and we moved quickly and easily across the damp surface. I noticed, that he was careful to avoid them, wanting to avoid getting his shiny shoes muddied. The others weren't as concerned with their outer appearance. Responding to the peculiar respite, there was a sense of relief as the skies opened, signaling the cold storm that held the previous night had released its hold. Stepping outside the doorway just beyond the tower's diminished shadow allowed us a measure of flexibility. Without being confined its narrow paths or constrictive walls, it felt like we could head in any direction, unconstrained a secure distance beyond the tower's imposing fortification.

Sliding across the dampened surface without suffering undue reproachment, she confidently managed to make a pronounced excursion, reaching the lower portions of the extensions and ramps quickly. Generously angled and unobtruded, they gave her ample space to glide quickly downward. Traversing directly behind her, Gemine followed her lead quickly down the path, never glancing back at her putative dwelling. Her eyes were focused directly ahead, and it didn't appear that she held the slightest hesitation about the excursion. I watched as the walked over the narrow bridge and reached the outer edge of the island's exterior. Sensing that something was missing, they turned back and looked at us expectantly, tapping their arms against their sides in a signal of growing impatience. I wondered why the Navigator held reluctant position but he took their motions on their confidence and quickly turned towards me. Waving his arms, he sped down the pathways and ramps impetuously, imploring me to follow his lead. His pace quickened as he departed, which had the unexpected effect of breaking any lingering reluctance. Walking then jogging ahead, I worked my way past the encumberments and managed to catch up with him quickly until we were nearly running in parallel..It didn't take long before we reached the other pair awaiting us at the island's permeable border. I felt a tangible sense of accomplishment but couldn't allow myself to become excessively triumphant given the atmosphere's unstable condition.

I knew we faced a somewhat difficult journey ahead and was determined to keep going without excessively contemplating its difficulties. Fortunately, they weren't rushing ahead recklessly and took a few moments to decide where to head next. The figures gathered and conversed quietly before they looked around carefully. They adjusted their visage to acclimate themselves to the open environment. Their inquisitive eyes wandered briefly backward at the tower to measure the distance travelled and estimate the lengthy path ahead. By this point, the sun had neared its morning apex, filling the sky with bright light that would make further exploration much easier. Watching them closely, my instinct sensed they'd substantially reached a predetermined conclusion without articulating a precise objective. Without further elaboration of the culmative objective. I was able to read their subconscious intentions almost telepathically, allowing me to determine where we were heading.

The natural fortifications of the cluttered brush, pointed splinters of wood and partial stumps and erratic objects created difficult underpinnings. The exterior portion's uneven placement disrupted tour route. There wasn't a clear path or marked walkway. Without visible words or symbols there was nothing clearly indicate what sat beyond their disorganized scope. Lacking an immediately visible, clear path we could follow but it wasn't a necessary. The uncoordinated party didn't need a map or sign, since they knew intuitively where they were headed without the need for precise directions. She took the lead and maneuvered herself directly into the surreptitious passage, moving quickly across its inconsistent field, jumping over the larger blockages and avoiding any stray branches or fragments that could entangle themselves beneath her feet.

Brushing the barriers aside effortlessly, she proceeded to walk quickly, confidently gliding towards the increasingly dense assemblage of impediments. Deciding that I'd given enough deference, I followed her ahead of the others, determinedly sprinting across its irregular yet familiar surface until I was just a few paces behind her. Distinctively erratic and sporadically noisy, almost irreverently, we skipped across the rough field's untamed surface. Setting a burgeoning path in our wake, we forged deeper into the field at a consistent rate, avoiding cluttered streaks of wiry branches, tussled grasses and sharp rocks we encountered along the way intuitively. Working at a consistent rate against the disorganized barriers, we ran across the field quickly. However, we kept ourselves in check so as not to leave the others behind. We need not have worried since they were more than capable of keeping pace. Fortunately, it didn't take long before I heard a rapidly intensifying cascade of cracking noise and unyielding forcefulness

Recognizing their strident paces brought relief, their patters echoing though the buttresses fearlessly. Sensing their relentless foot-steps sprinting from behind in a rapid manner as the aligned pair set on their uninterrupted excursion. The inspired pair continued running across the field fervently while maintaining both an implicit consideration of their surroundings alongside a measured enthusiasm of the impending arrival. Their outwardly confident disposition was deceptive, allowing a convergent uneasiness to follow alongside, unseen. Gemine walked across the uneven surface without encountering rectitude, but her occasionally hesitant steps belied a lack of determination. The Navigator followed behind her and while he strode ahead at a determined pace, he seemed uncertain of the path beyond his immediate survey, his feet sporadically clutching the ground, revealing a considered approach that wasn't entirely pleased following an unspoken objective. Walking behind the pair, the other figure took on a divergent approach, simultaneously determined and sure where she was heading, taking a slower, deliberate pace that allowed her a measure of unpressured flexibility.

The dual suns' seemingly intractable hold on the skyline slowly weakened as they slid slowly toward the horizon. It wasn't immediately noticeable as the shadowy afternoon began to lengthen, but it marked a constant reminder that we had to keep moving ahead. Looking upward, the suns' parallel orbits began to diverge as they followed different paths. This gave us an undeniable measure that couldn't be ignored. The lower emanations from the smaller sun appeared to grow steadily weaker and its glowing light field didn't suffuse the atmosphere with the same intensity as its accompanying, significantly larger circular object maintained. Remembering the path we'd taken, I realized that we faced a long excursion through the elongated routes until we'd arrive and breach the barriers. We'd have to climb the elongated sandbars and thick dunes encircling the shoreline. My legs had grown somewhat weary anticipating the ensuing marks, but I remained determined to see the action through. I wasn't entirely sure Gemine had the strength to maintain a consistent rate at first but she didn't appear to grown weaker. Instead, the bright field of vision and open skies appeared to energize her motion with revitalized energy. Pausing only briefly, she quickly knelt down, and retracted her outfit's trailing extensions. Unsheathing her long gown and pulling it inward, allowed greater freedom of movement. Taken out from her constrictive attire, she took on an unexpected resplendence, resulting in an unobtruded form.

Benefiting magnetically from the radiant skies beneath the open skies, its gushing flow infused her with unexpected inspiration. The lively environment outside her stifling tower's static atmosphere was strikingly restorative..Its unrestrained energies allowed her a fluid dexterity her feet showed unexpected vibrancy matched with consistent, fluid movement that indicated little sign of exhaustion. She kept her respectful distance and continued walking a managed pace behind the others as they walked towards the ocean. The uneven surfaces gradually retreated towards a calmer, more predictable continuation. The cluttered branches and sharp forms we encountered earlier gave way to a softer, grassy surface that coalesced into an inviting field lacking the imposing rocks and boulders making it easier to traverse. Strangely, the field had an unexpected permutation that seemed to hold the suns in place, pausing them at an proficient location, slightly beyond their glaring peak energy but just before their strength began to diminish. Instead of demanding that we continue moving ahead quickly, the reclining suns created a calm interior disposition within the fields that provided a tranquil location to reflect.

It seemed that we were moving at an efficient pace, ahead of expectations. This allowed us enough time to soak in the still-abundant sunlight and acclimate into a subsequent direction. Looking around the surrounding field didn't immediately indicate a particularly clear path. The undulating waves of tender grasses blew softly beneath the modest gusts but there didn't appear to be any landmarks pushing us towards a predetermined direction. Standing at a welcome repose allowed us to internalize the surroundings, I was stuck by an unexpected similarity to earlier encounters, the open field's flat surface reminded me of earlier encounters with her alongside the mountain I'd travelled. This couldn't help evoke startling memories of uncoordinated times we shared. There were many long walks across the streets until I reached unlabeled coordinates.

I recalled sitting with her for extended periods of silence, unsure of precisely what her motivations were, but felt strangely protected within her grasp. I looked in her direction with a sense of refined gratitude, remaining unsure what our encounters really provided, but the familiarities couldn't be ignored on my end. I resisted the urge to ask her what she expected to encounter with me, intuitively realizing that it was better not to needlessly relive those earlier encounters. The flat surface was redolent with memories that I couldn't precisely articulate or explain, but I distinctly recalled the flocks of birds that appeared seemingly out of nowhere with imprecise embodiments, and how they flew away just as quickly as they arrived. I recalled her noncommittal response to their acts and how she seemed to anticipate their acts, leaving her unsurprised.

Another sublimated memory came flooding back as I walked over the grassy surface. It closely resembled our clandestine hideout, set off a desolate nearly abandoned street. The unexplored, mostly unreachable location created an unexpected transference of subliminal energy that reached far beyond my understanding, Standing on that narrow band of grass far above my hometown's skyline, It felt like it was impervious and stretched in all directions. I felt a rush of recognition, reliving the our initial encounters in vibrant fashion. They seemed to occur without pretext, at a distinctive point, held in shadows a relatively short distance from home. Before I realized what was occurring, I found myself reliving our temporal journeys through innumerable strange portals she opened with her preliminary machines.

 Impressed by their experimental yet accessible structure, i was impressed by her capabilities and how she was able to build the machines effortlessly. They seemed to consist of broken, half-damaged pieces. Her machines held their rough edges proudly, a symbol of her persistent design and effective implication. She kept a determined habit of building them from seemingly discarded pieces yet they converged into near-flawless form, their defining, secretive capabilities far removed from their humble origin. The strange excursions' true meaning and purpose remained elusive, but I counted myself extremely fortunate that she welcomed my accompaniment and allowed me to join her, and wasn't going to question her motivations.

I found myself mesmerized by her enigmatic machine once more. I recalled some of her earlier designs, Her machines became increasingly powerful and flexible as they evolved. Growing stronger with each iteration, they held seemingly endless portents of ensuing encounters. Despite this, she held them with a humble presence, only reluctantly using them around the others. She kept them largely concealed beneath her dark cloak, unsure how they'd respond. Prolonged exposure to her machines didn't reveal much beyond the surfaces she reluctantly allowed me to view. Even with a close perspective and the occasional usage, I remained unsure of their true purpose. It seemed she wanted them to remain firmly within her grasp, working at her sole command for her exclusive comprehension. After contemplating her previous designs and constructions, it became apparent that while they remained flexible and surprising, her machines weren't going to articulate any incipient conversations with their creator easily.

This could have become frustrating if I held a jealous disposition, but I found her transcendent machines intriguing and kept a pervasive admiration for her intricately-constructed machines. Having encountered them sporadically but often enough, the Navigator didn't seem excessively concerned or overly threatened by her unexplained works. Nonetheless, I worried how Gemine would respond when she eventually encountered her holding it again, without shielding it from view. Looking across the field in her direction, I noticed an unexpected resolution of at least one element of her defensive posture. When I squinted and looked at her from a relatively close distance, I realized that she no longer seemed to view us with suspicion. Her previously steady, unblinking gaze had relaxed, it no longer felt like she was looking through me, her piercing eyes gained a more welcoming view. It seemed the unconstrained, flowing atmosphere loosened her reticence, allowing her to look at me with curiosity instead of uncertainty. Walking closer in my direction, she looked at me before apologetically explaining what changed.

She whispered quietly and explained that it had taken awhile for her to consider my work's possibilities, it was difficult to look beyond its flaws. This took awhile for her to contemplate, requiring extensive consideration. Steadying her elicitation, she admitted that the process had taken longer than she anticipated. She needed a distance, keeping a distant measure apart from a direct vantage until she sensed that my reflective compositional designs didn't represented a threat. But instead represented an unrealized promise of unformed potential. I was surprised that she held my work with so much esteem. I wasn't sure that I could explain that I wasn't attempting to draw anything significantly profound but was merely copying her work. Realizing that explanation could seem ungrateful, I politely thanked her for the compliment and defensively said I was still practicing my technique. She seemed happy with my tentative explanation and encouraged me to keep at it, that she saw abundant promise in my sketches. Tangentially relieved she was able to refocus her attention on the surrounding field. Appearing to extend to the horizon uninterrupted, its unfolding grasses gave no indication of where they were headed. Gemine seemed somewhat perplexed but the Navigator seemed unconcerned. After waiting approximately half an hour to replenish his energy he slowly began walking across the field toward his presumed objective. It wasn't precisely clear where he was heading, but I didn't doubt his conviction or motivation.

- Michael Palisano