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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

Science Friction

Gliding through Alien Skies (Chapter One)

The skies seemed to permanently surrender to the night as they slowly sank into darkness on an icy fall day about four years ago. The first snow of the season began to fall. Lightly at first, mixing with rain and ice Ė causing the world to come alive in an eerie white as it coated everything, from automobiles to the skeletal trees, with a transparent glow. The ice affected a transformation of the trees from living to sculpture, lighted by the streetlights from the edges of the park they took on a very alien appearance. As the intricacies of natural design, they were incredibly expressive and intricate. In the distance, back far the edge of the city was visible, with itís bright lights and stark concrete monoliths suffocating the horizon under a soulless, impersonal glare. Stretching over a mile high, these monuments of dehumanizing architecture choked the air with billowing smoke, and bright lights. While far below their peaks and penthouses, the city bustled and roared with the combustion of vehicles while the pumped-in frantic, screechy advertisements echoed over the quiet landscape. All of this created a steady roar, as the nightmarish elements of the city battled ceaselessly with each other causing complete overload followed by an empty numbness. They gave off a menacing, malicious  enhancing the winds, making them stronger and colder, blocking out the stars and clouds and making for an ever increasing feeling of claustrophobia even as I moved further away from them, toward their outer edges.

 I had been walking around the edge of the bleak and corroded city for hours pondering the schism that had emerged between me and the rest of the world. As I walked on the cold, slippery streets, it began to become clear that the consistent feeling nagging at me was both familiar and rather unsettling. Something was happening to me once again. Whenever this feeling comes over me, itís usually a precursor of something terrible. The premonition was only enhanced because the strange dreams that had been haunting me for years had suddenly come back after many years Ė and now they were almost as strong and persistent as theyíd ever been. Thoughts began to collide into one another, reality and dreams merged, disorienting the mind. Until youíve experienced these moments that I have, itís impossible to describe with words. The best thing I can think of compare it with is daydreaming Ė a kind of walking delusion where time turns back onto itself, simultaneously going forward and backward, going incredibly fast in a paradoxical slow motion that allows you to remember each detail. In this dream, I found myself standing on a ledge, below me, dark waters swirled drowning dreams. These contained other dreams, which themselves are mere flashes of inspiration or sublimation Ė boxes open inside boxes Ė thoughts clash. Constantly battling each other in a war for supremacy they can only win momentarily. Itís like a clashing wave of pulsing thoughts, carrying me through an incomprehensible journey. The transient flashes can last seconds, minutes or hours. I think they have their reasons for attacking me. Even though many years have passed, their motivations remain obscure in my mind.  I can trace their origins, but cannot explain what is behind them with any coherence.

In this dream, I looked below, there were huge explosions coming from the waters, growing ever closer to my feet. As the flames grew hotter, and I feared a retribution, I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and remembered where I was, and the gentle snow relaxed me, and settled the battles, at least temporarily. Listening to the ice pellets as they calmly coated the ground, reminded me of her world, a world that had once held sway over my imagination, now fading into distant memory.

This was a completely different world, far quieter and cleaner than the one I had escaped. In my mind, I could still taste the pure water and smell the clean air - and itís almost surreal balance between night and day, where neither ever dominated, only exchanged relative positions with each other in almost imperceptible cycles. We could sit for hours and marvel at the subtle transformations between minor hues without being bored by the planetís unchanging yet constantly evolving rhythms and seasons. A blue-green light covered the entire world, making for an eerily peaceful landscape, almost monochromatic with strangely beautiful hues. There were large glass buildings, contorted into strange spiraling curves and seemingly impossible configurations including giant arches that felt like they would collapse onto themselves. Despite the ice covering the world, itís ground was surprisingly soft and gentle. It was a strange sensation, like walking on a water bed, though sturdier. I think that the ground was in this odd condition due to the resource pumping machines that towered into the planetís skies, twisting their metallic frames in elaborate, repetitive motions, perfectly synchronized. The trees and other plant-life in her world were also strange, they had leaves, yet there was no sunlight. Their leaves were a dark blue and covered by ice, these plants seemed both alive and robotic, given their almost uniformly triangular shapes and lack of what would ordinarily be considered flaws.

Illuminated from below, they glowed like lasers, reflecting the skies and creating elaborate shadow systems onto grounds and the sacred water pools. These were perfectly round areas that broke up the monotony of the landscape, low walls had been placed around them to indicate their locations and also to prevent the snow from blowing into drifts and covering them up. 

These pools were apparently used by these beings as conduits to other worlds, communication devices whose functions and mechanics were apparently incredibly complicated. Itís very difficult to visualize with words, you could see the water flowing under the thick ice but it seemed. I saw her stand on them while moving her arms around in slow, circular motions with her eyes closed. This looked like some kind of ritual dance and apparently was the means that allowed her to communicate with beings from other worlds. Standing in these pools also allowed her to create solid objects with only her arm motions and thoughts. Once she had completed her dances, a brilliant blast of green light would envelop her, bathing her in a cleansing, purifying light. It was quite beautiful and deeply moving to watch this spirit use her powers for good. 

The pools were also versatile in that she could also share her  thoughts and read other souls by transporting herself into their subconscious. I had seen her do this a few times it was slightly disconcerting. She told me that only her species could do this, and they were extremely careful not to abuse it, reserving this power for when they had noble reasons. She communicated that she wanted to come to me to offer me peace from a life that had been, up to that point, anything but peaceful. I knew somehow, that when she looked at me, she was looking into me, and I couldnít keep anything from her, even if I wanted to. Itís a strange feeling to have no secrets but, I didnít feel violated at all Ė since even though she could see inside me had she wanted to, she didnít Ė not entirely at least. The lack of others, at least those I could see, made it much easier to trust her. I did see the occasional figure emerge from the shadows from a distance, but I didnít feel threatened by them. The only thing that really terrified me was making a mistake and ruining the relationship I had built with her and the peacefulness this distant planet offered me.

> Go to Chapter 2