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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

Science Friction


Ghosts of winter moon

Chapter One

There were many days that I couldn't describe to you if I wanted to, but there were others that filled me with memories and inspiration for many years. Some of them were odd, other mysterious and impenetrable. They flooded through my mind for many years. One repeating image in particular, of a mysterious woman in a polka dot dress walking alone on the surface of a cold winter moon kept reoccurring through many nights. Then, in one unforeseen shocking moment several years ago, my dreams shattered and she vanished along with them. Many futile years passed as inconsolable grief and sadness worked systematically to undermine me. This nearly destroyed everything I worked for and made me feel my achievements were small and meaningless. There was a deep pain that felt like it would never subside, a sense of guilt that shadowed my every step, and permeated through almost every thought. This was something I tried to escape. I tried to keep going, but the path seemed blocked. I couldn't find refuge in the night, either. I was sleeping without dreaming, nightmares became real and inescapable. Atmospheric darkness clouded the skies, taking hold of both day and night. Gone were the idle moments of fantasy, replaced by a painful yearning for a past I could not recapture. Then another disaster came, and another came after that. Before I knew it, any solid land I had laid patiently over years ground gave way, cracking under the rapidly expanding sheets of ice.

Submerged under the surface, a world that once offered sanctuary became a distant memory. As time moved forward, and sadness become dominant, I realized how little it seemed to matter. Losses began to multiply, it was impossible to explain how quickly it seemed to happen. I once felt there was a friendly voice in the darkness, a constant companion, but now it was silent forever. After years of searching, one was found - then lost to me just as quickly without warning. Cold and darkness took hold of the previously unblemished skies. The winter moon seemed even more distant, a freakish diversion from reality. This was an inescapable, unchanging truth. Instead, the constant silence became a disfiguring reality, disorienting a sense of place and purpose I had felt for many years. With no inspiration, I was left adrift. There were no answers, no logic and no compassion waiting for me on this side of the fence. No questions were answered, but one fact remained: It was too late and always would be. Before all of this happened, I was filled with nocturnal revelations that flooded my subconscious, slowly seeping out into the daylight, but mostly hidden under nocturnal cover.

As the autumn turned to winter, the water that I had sunk under froze in place creating a barrier that I couldn't break through. Under the ice, time played tricks on me. It goaded, teased, distracted and devoured any confidence encountered. The water slowed my tentative steps, only to mock my halting pace. The waves work slowly, eroding preconceptions with each wash. The sequences worked their insidious effect, changing my perspective. Things changed almost immediately. Light became dark, fear became reality, any heated passions I froze under the bitter reality. I felt that my time had come to an end. I felt that I wandered too long, running aimlessly through walls, cities and jungles. I did all this only to find the same mirror at the end of the last hallway - showing me the one thing I'd been avoiding - me. The faster I ran, the sooner I'd see exactly what I was trying to escape. These journeys all ended the same. Once I realized this, I began to freeze internally. As I entered into this slumber, my attachment to those dreary dreams felt frivolous, somehow less important. I felt that had spent so much time on an empty, false, cold, predictable, comforting, anaesthetizing series of dreams. I walked on distant moons, flew through alien skies, explored alien temples and cities. All of this kept in stories and journals, to no effect. I spent years chasing down its meaning and it all became completely irrelevant within a single second. The void seemed to follow me - encroaching the light. I still knew the way, but wasn't as sure of the path ahead, now filled with blockades and traps. Seemingly thousands of submerged memories tried to resurface, but couldn't. I remembered walking alone as the journey began and wondered why things felt so much worse now.

This was another lonely shadow, which brings with it a lingering sense sadness at the remembrance of that mysterious girl and her unspeakable sorrows. She seemed immutable, expressionless, cold and distant. She silenty walked through that lonely landscape impervious to the forces surrounding her. I had watched her walk through the valleys and mountains many times before. I saw the shadow of this haunted figure outlined against the moon's cold rivers. The clouds created another layer of shadow over the smooth, uncaring landscape below her. She would turn her gaze upwards towards the distant stars projecting her head in a seemingly futile prayer to the unforgiving skies that remains unanswered, no matter how many repetitions are solemnly performed. Despite all the time I had spent observing here, I had formed no real understanding, while the questions seemed to multiply with each visitation. On my many trips to the moon, awash in its nocturnal splendor, she walks yet remains forever distant from any other place. Some things didn't need explanation and there wasn't any good reason for me to attempt contact. I would move closer from time to time, but would always keep a separation. Even now, despite all the confrontation and conflict, my connection remains. However, it feels different less emotional, more clinical in its sway over me. So many years have passed, and through time it becomes apparent that there's nothing any unwanted intrusion would accomplish. Paradoxically, any attempt to grow closer would have had an opposing effect, rupturing our shared, unspoken bond.

As I walked over the moon and walked in and around its landmarks, trees and moons, I would often pause to take a deep breath of the nearly frigid air permeating the alien skies and appreciate the moment. In some weird sense, there was a time when the world made more sense to me than it does now. Leaving it behind allowed me to find some answers and even though it didn't make sense all of the time, at least there was something to hold onto. The calmness of its frozen rivers was the main thing I remembered about the mysterious moon. I recalled the tranquility of its perfectly formed snow crystals, coalescing into massive mountainous drifts, punctuated with forests filled with massive sky-filling trees all covered with ice and snow. This led me to feel much more secure in the night for a long time. Once things changed, I felt like I had been left with nothing.

I watched her walk through the endless night over the brittle ice patches, I remembered the many times in the past she would walk through the winter moon alone. She seemed unchanged in many ways, but also means something completely different now. Initially, she represented something inside of you that had been lost, but I couldn't explain exactly what. As time wore on, my selfishness subsided. Gradually, I learned that reaching inward only goes so far. Compared to reaching out, it was a self-contained and inwardly confined approach that only led to frustration and false answers. Time wore down some of the defenses I had created, the mirror lost it appeal as I found little I didn't already know staring back. I discovered that projecting your face everywhere creates a distortion. When I realized that I wasn't needed everywhere, I become less frustrated. This perspective would have terrified me a few years ago, but as my ego subsided under the moon's glare, it made me feel less pressure. Sad echoes of the past, which once paralyzed me with fear and sadness become less imposing burden of promises that needed to be kept. Instead they changed into another a bridge I walked over once. I write similar words, but slowly they began to assume different meanings, the way the moon's position at night lights the clouds differently. Walking alone in the night was once a terrifying prospect but, I now take comfort in the nocturnal stillness, allowing the heat and fire of the day to release itself.

After I went through the very dark walk through the moon, where I had felt alone and helpless, I remember a few return trips where everything felt completely different. Objects that once felt secure came unmoored while distant fears came to attack me relentlessly. One time I walked on the moon and the skies above began to form into the facial features of someone I didn't know. Then another formed out of the night ether, and another. Each one had different expressions, yet wordlessly, they tried to convey some message. These numerous disembodied faces seemed like ghosts or spirits. They seemed to arrive at random and followed me relentlessly through the night as I walked, than ran across the surface of a previously friendly place. The moon's terrain suddenly became unfamiliar, frightening and dangerous with malice arriving with every step. The ghostly faces came together in a strangely systematic approach. Their eyes come first out of the darkness, piercing through the night into mine, meeting my fear with disdain. Then I would see their lips and noses, and their occasional ears, I would try and avert my eyes to little effect. Running from these ghosts only made them more persistent and they grew larger. Failing to focus on its features would seemingly anger them, enhancing their presence until they become unavoidable. They would grow vast and fill the sky. I could see the lines in their skin, growing more defined bring the face into focus. I was being watched. These beings were judging me. They would investigate and examine me for hours, unrelenting in their silent gaze. Every movement I made was scrutinized, every reaction known. The pressure could become immense. And then, they would leave without warning. Once again, I was alone in the moon's dark, unceasing void with nothing to hold onto, only memories of a time when the moon held promise, not fear.

Another return trip gave me a very different perspective on what the moon meant. I was still haunted by faces unknown to me, but this time they didn't feel as judgmental. I began to see some of the familiar landmarks, and they didn't seem as threatening now. I walked through miles of cold, steely ground. I paused at the edge of a frozen river, and kneeled down. I picked up some of the ice crystals and watched their reflections. They seemed perfectly formed, unlike anything I had seen at home. I walked through several covered bridges made of ice and pathways that seemed as transient as a winter drift. I journeyed through large expanses, and finally reached the visible edge of a moon crater. I found myself overlooking a river, which was still and silent, and there was no one following me for a change. Not a face in the sky, or a shadowy figure below. No one. I felt a breeze come towards me, and its coldness was a bit surprising, since I hadn't really been bothered by the moon's frigidness in the past. I looked around and saw clouds forming in the distance as mysterious figures emerged. I had no idea who they were, but the moment they saw me, they ran back over the hill. The silence returned and I saw an eternal field of distant stars. Every star above the moon remained entirely visible throughout this event. My aversion towards them was unnoticed. These distant objects were bright enough that I always knew they were present but their luminance was strong, so while their appearance was sometimes minimized they were never completely invisible to me.

As I watched the stars, I began to sense something coming back. It wasn't something I expected, but I felt the dream begin to fade. The sadness that pervaded time began to swell once again and produced a kind of unease. Despite my many trips there, I knew that the moon wouldn't give up its secrets easily. I wondered if someone was playing tricks on my head. I looked around and felt that I could step back in time and see how much had changed. Then I realized that nothing had changed. Some fairly awful things happened and things I ignored became unavoidable. I walked through the ridges and valleys of the moon, and while I never saw here, I knew that someone else was there with me. I just didn't know who or what it was. This familiar presence brought me a sense comfort and safety. I turned around and saw someone else. This was someone who's face I hadn't seen in many years. I thought I'd never see that face again. Suddenly, these walks on the moon which seemed to have been punishment were revealed to be something else entirely. Things that I had thought had been lost were once again present. Then the dream began to dissipate, slowly submerging under the ice, leaving me once again to contend with a different reality. I was fully aware for the first time in years. I felt a warm breeze on my face, and it was clear that the nightmares and sadness which had tormented me were losing their power.

I was finally home, it was time to wake up.

(Continue to Chapter 2)