In Memory
Sean Pettibone



Ghosts of winter moon (part three)

It rained while I was sleeping.

The ground was saturated with the fresh rain. As the mud and water washed through it, the river regenerated to its normal form. The tranquility of this world had returned. A mild wind blew through the air, a cool breeze. There were some truths that I had spent many years running from. Having faced them, I found that they had more sway over me than I had realized. Many things I counted on seemed to have been lost. I was adrift again. The sun felt brutal against my body. Its heat singed my shoulders, holding me down under an impossible weight that seemed inescapable. I walked alongside the river banks, letting the stones guide my path. Gradually I walked upwards towards a hill. I saw a group of steps and they became increasingly jagged as I climbed them, like knives on my feet. It seemed to be an impossible task, the heat of the sun and the sharp steps became overwhelming. It was a challenge that seemed to mock my efforts. Every step burned my feet, the cool breeze became an increasingly distant memory. An unsettling though occurred to me and I wondered what would happen if I didnít make it. Something kept propelling me forward, an unseen force that seemed to help my steps, even though I didnít realize it at the time. I found something on the steps. It was merely a shard of glass, but it seemed important. It was a sign I understood. I needed to keep going forward, there was no alternative.

Once I reached the pathís edge, a flat surface unfolded. I found myself looking around at the this strange oasis in the middle of the chaos. I could see the river flowing from a distance, a distant trickle beneath. The surface was covered in grass, wild and tangled up, tall ferns streaking upwards, a messy plateau where I stood for a period of time, waiting for a sense of direction. I could feel the breeze lifting up towards my feet, blowing the grass, adjacent to the skies that seemed to surround me. The sun beams fell onto my head, but they didnít seem as heavy up there. I walked around and found that the surface under the grass was very strange, filled with a kind of blue and green sand that didnít seem to be of this world. I stretched myself and kneeled down, and examined the sands. I held some in my hand and found it to be strangely smooth and almost too clean. It seemed to sparkle under the sun, almost glowing in a supernatural sense. I thought that it was strange to find this kind of sand hidden underneath the grass. Its existence seemed quietly reminiscent of something, yet strange to the touch. It seemed out of place, yet also purposely designed to attract questions. Its position under the brush was obvious if you looked closely, yet unremarkable if you werenít looking for it. I took the time to look at it, and its blue and green contrasted the brown and black sands in the river below. I wondered who had placed it here and thought about its significance. Examining the dirt under my feet, I was struck by something. It didnít seem like the normal ice Iíd encountered before, but instead felt very smooth, almost like ice crystals in perfectly round shape. It was like theyíd been left there to clue me in on something. If anything, it felt like the sands were a small piece in an elaborate puzzle constructed by an unseen force, seemingly on purpose. To what end was mysterious, and finding the answers seemed to be as elusive and transient as a cool summer breeze.

Standing alone, I began to wonder what the purpose of this was supposed to be. Was it a message, a signal or, some kind of warning? I couldnít really explain it then, and I canít quite find the words to convey this emotion now, either. It was just something I knew was there. The sun blew its hot heat directly onto my head, the grasses stood still against its endless waves of heat. I waited, I thought about running, but didnít know where to go. As I stood there, I could hear things underneath the silence. In the distance, the river flowed and I heard its water gushing. I knelt down again to look at the glassy sands beneath my feet Ė examining each crystal for a sign. There was something I knew I had missed, but I needed to discover what it was. Each color seemed to glisten in the sun, trapped inside its strange container. It seemed almost alien here, almost supernatural. I had a feeling that something important was missing. As I lowered myself down, the air felt fresher, cleaner than it had above. The sunís heat hadnít gotten to the earth yet, and it still retained the wetness from the rain that had fallen the night before. I looked closer, the sand had a definite sense of being turned on, as if the water had energized it in some fashion, but I couldnít explain exactly what had happened, but the grains seemed to have come to a kind of life, and they began to coalesce into some kind of strange portal, taking shape as a kind of circular window. It seemed to have a familiar shape, a style I remembered distinctly. It gradually grew until I was completely surrounded and immersed inside it. The heat and sunlight vanished. I was in a different place entirely. It was a strange and surreal place, where everything seemed to have added meaning, every word meant something again.

Iím not sure if I fell asleep again and this was another dream, or if it was something else, but a connection that I had feared was lost came back without warning. I had feared it was too late, that I could never go back to that world, lost forever. Under the waves of grief, fear and sadness, it felt like a distant echo. I faced this reality as best I could, trying to make the best of things, trying to move forward. As the years passed, the dreams I once had faded. Only distant outlines remained, they fell apart and drifted apart, like windblown sand. As attention scattered, they were ignored as they began settling on the ground. Alone and sat, they were nearly forgotten. Changes came, sadness clouded my vision. Their vibrant colors faded into brown and black, almost disappearing completely in the ground. I walked right by, focusing on insignificant events. I tried to run away, to put the past behind me. I thought I was succeeding, but they always remained, lying in hibernation, right under my feet. The leaves fell, storms came, sun and cold, through winter and summer, darkness and light. Time passed, measured at first in days, then in years but their essence was unchanged. I noticed that the colors began to shimmer again, brought back to life by the small drops of rain, mixed together by my touch, and reassembling themselves from shattered pieces. It was a beautiful sight, and at that moment, I finally felt as if I was alive again, after what seemed like an eternity walking alone in the darkness. As I awoke from a long journey which took me through what I can only describe as an emotionally disfiguring coma, something I had held in a deep freeze, came back to life, warmed by the heat of my hand. As I looked through the window, something overcame me that I couldnít explain, that no one else would be able to comprehend. My long journey from mere thought to complete realization, one that couldnít be measured in steps or time or distance was finally coming back. I stepped through the window, and found myself in a familiar place.

It was like home, I felt instantly safe, surrounded by its frigid beauty. There was no one around, the wind was still. The distant snow drifts and mountains made me feel at once alone and secure. As I remembered, it was night, a constant state. When I looked up, I could see the stars shining in their immeasurable distance, light years from where I stood. There was none of the heat and feral light that tormented me on my trip through the river and its pathways. In the distance, I saw the outlines of the cities and walkways I had once traversed. I knew they were snow-covered, distant and cold as they were, it felt quite reassuring in its stillness and complexity. I looked above at the clouds, frozen in place, yet constantly evolving at a glacial pace, yet also seeming unnatural in their complexity, looking like they had always been there and would forever remain so. They blanketed the sky without feeling oppressive. I felt the glow of the moon on my back and as it began to rise in the distance, it began to accompany its sister globe for another long night, like a lonely voice in the darkness, keeping a flickering companionship so as the block any sense of inner isolation. While I was completely alone on the moon, I had the sensation that someone, or something was there with me. It seemed to follow my steps, taking each measured move of mine into consideration. Never moving close enough to feel threatening, yet never too far away. There was a sense of safety here that I had not felt in many years.

It had been an interminable time, perhaps a decade, since I had dreamt of this world. It was so completely different than reality. It was slower, smoother, comforting and relaxing. The heat had been a relentless beast stalking my every step, yet this world was nothing like that. It remained consistent, constantly cold and forever dark, yet also welcoming and comforting. I looked down and saw the frozen ground, covered in countless small shards of cold ice crystals and determined what I think might have happened. Without even realizing it at the time, I had opened up the part of myself that I thought had been left behind forever. I wandered through the frozen world, unable to believe that I had returned home. The darkness that seemed to have consumed me with its doubts and sadness began to lift under the pristine night skies. Instead I was left in a familiar place, which seemed to have not left the smallest detail to chance. I knew where I was and recognized the surroundings as a seminal part of the past. What had seemed to have become distant and sad, an echo of a memory growing distance came back to life, fully functional and real.

It was as if time had stopped, none of the horrible nights I had endured, walking alone while my skin burned and wilted in the incessant heat of many long summers, mattered now. The cold, night air began to permeate my skin and I noticed some of the long-standing scars and scratches that were still visible began to slowly fade away under the cold air, giving me a different perspective on things. I came to the tree where I had seen her many times, in many dreams before. It hadnít changed Ė no storms ripped off any of its branches. It hadnít suffered or struggled against of the heat of droughts or floods. It gave me a serenity to see it once again, as majestic, immovable and mysterious as I had remembered. It towered above me, shading the sister moonís blue radiance while not completely obscuring its presence. There was something almost immortal about this tree and it gave off a sense of resilience and patience that only something very old, yet still very young can create. Not knowing or caring how long I had been there was a constant feeling on the moon. It wasnít a frightening or unsettling feeling, but it was a bit odd not to know whether minutes or days had passed. I began to feel a little bit of the journeyís effects on me, so I decided to sit down. Unlike the previous tree I had taken shelter under, I did not fall asleep. Instead I gazed out and soaked in a seemingly endless expanse of frozen, cold and beautiful land. It was serene and still, cold and distant. I finally began to feel safe in my thoughts, yet there was one though that puzzled me. I sat under those protective branches, feeling safe and secure. Yet I wondered how, after enduring so many struggles, encountering a seemingly impossible number of intractable problems and with so much time having passed, I had managed to create such an effortless path back there.

- Michael Palisano

Prelude: Gliding through Alien Skies