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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

Science Friction

Gliding through Alien Skies (Chapter Four)

The creatures were strange and intimidating with giant wings folded up at their sides, elongated bodies and heads with large intelligent eyes but they had small mouths and moved slowly. Their skin was a gray and very smooth, with their wings a darker hue, almost black. They looked at once magnificent and quite alien to my eyes, they were about 100 feet long and 20 feet high at least. Sitting there side by side, they dominated the open area. How I was able to stand there without running away in sheer terror is beyond me. If I had angered them they could have killed me with little effort. There was something else that kept me there, a strange sense of security has suddenly overcome me, though it wasnít complete, as I was still badly shaken up. As I moved closer to the creatures, I noticed that they each had a harness on them. I began to feel less threatened by them, emboldened, I moved even further towards them. Suddenly, they turned their eyes and looked directly at me. My heart skipped a beat. I stopped in my tracks. I stood absolutely still. They stood absolutely still. It was a standoff between a small man and these twin beasts. I couldnít move or breathe and regretted leaving the building. I was prepared to run right back inside if they had made even the smallest movement towards me.

Seconds dragged on like hours then, I saw an outline move out from behind them. At first I couldnít tell who it was, but as she slowly walked towards me, I recognized who it was. This was incredibly reassuring and made all my worries evaporate. As she moved closer, I could see that she had something in her hand. It was some kind of handheld device, whose functions I couldnít understand. Then she walked towards one of the creatures, I walked behind her and she climbed up the ladder onto the creatureís back. I and started up on the ladder, but she looked down, waved her hand and pointed towards the other creature. Reluctantly, I walked to the other creature, which seemed a bit suspicious of me. I walked up the ladder, and once on itís back, I settled into the seat and waited. 

The creatures rose up to their full height, extending their legs until I was more than 100 feet up in the air. I looked at her atop the other creature. She smiled at me, the harnesses began to glow and a protective glass like the one I had seen in the earlier dream emerged from nothing and enclosed the areas where we sat. These glass shields protected us with their strong yet porous construction allowing us to feel the wind as the creatures began to our weight from side to side. The creatures moved into a position with her beast in front of mine. Her beast unleashed a mighty scream, and began to run incredibly fast, it extended itís wings, lowered itís hind legs slightly, then with a massive energy burst jumped and soared into the alien sky. My creature followed the same technique, though it might have been able to sense my fear since itís scream wasnít as loud. The creature quickly caught up with the other one, and we were soon flying side by side atop them, surging through the planetís atmosphere at an incredibly fast speed. I looked down and could see the planet quickly growing smaller as we moved away from it. I looked ahead, and saw the universe ahead of me. I looked at her and she looked very happy. The dream I had before began to make a lot more sense, it was a kind of preparation for this, and I was glad she had given it to me, for it set the stage for this new journey we were about to share with each other.

I turned my head back around, and the huge machines, glass structures and mountain ranges that had been my basis of relation to this world slowly vanished in the distance, becoming ever smaller, resembling microscopic dots until they dissolved into what appeared to be little more than small points on the surface of the planet. The creatures gradually slowed and turned around. I looked at her and she glanced at me, and I saw her eyes were almost glowing with the excitement. We were facing directly towards the planet now and it was an absolutely beautiful globe, radiating itís perfection into space. In I turned back once again, and saw the blue sun in the center of this universe. It looked smaller against the backdrop of stars and seemed much more powerful than it did at the surface. In the distance I could see large gas clouds, brilliantly colored drifting through space. 

There were also other distant planets and an endless array of stars in the further distance. It was an experience that I cannot relay with these words. Comprehending it in from the vantage point of space was impossible, though I felt very strongly a sense of purpose and optimism I hadnít sensed in myself in many years. As I examined it, the planet didnít feel as static or cold as it seemed when I was on the surface. I looked at her floating in space on top of her creature and she seemed to be as moved and enraptured of this experience as I was. 

The surface of the planet seemed very smooth with small bands of clouds flowing around the planet, giving it the appearance of being wrapped in small strings of frayed fabric. It seemed rather seamless, but I could also see that there were different areas and regions that made subtle visual differences. The creatures began to jostle again and they flew us closer towards the planet. The different regions of this world began to become more clearly detailed. Despite the coldness I assumed enveloped the entire world, at itís equator, there were huge oceans. On the landmasses in the north, there were huge pulsating areas of machines, whose motions reflected into space and could be seen clearly even thousands of miles above them. They were arranged in such a way as to be absolutely beautiful and geometric in their arrangement. As we drew closer, I saw that there were huge complexes probably hundreds of miles wide with these machines pumping in a beautiful unison, these were surrounded by complex arrangements of buildings, surrounding these were forests, all intricately laid out and balanced, no element seemed to dominate the landscape.

Up to that point, I had been a passive passenger on top of the creature, but I could sense that she wanted me to take a more active role in the journey. I took the controller out from the side of the chair where I had placed it and held it in my hand. The creature let out a sigh, and his whole body quivered, apparently signaling that it was ready to accept my direction. I was a little nervous to be honest, fearing that I could get myself killed. She moved behind my creature. I was now leading us on the adventure, pointing whichever direction I wanted. After several minutes of figuring out how to use the device, along with sudden jarring changes in directions, I quickly found it very simple and began to pilot the creature rather smoothly through the surface. After this the main difficulty was in deciding which of the many areas I wanted to glide towards to examine closer. I could feel her approval coming from behind me and I basked in her spiritual glow. It was a feeling unlike any Iíve ever had, the sense of freedom and exploration I had was something Iíve never come close to.

It was an incredible, almost spiritual sensation, after having felt so pushed around for so long by life - it was a startling event to come to. I controlled the beast, we began to learn each other and quickly began to act as one, watching her planet unfold before my eyes was amazing and the feeling of speed combined with the large planet spread out before me, caused a great almost spiritually cleansing sensation to overcome me. I no longer felt alone or cold. I could see the creatures were beginning to lose patience with our sight-seeing, so I commanded it to glide in through the planet, slowly descending. We flew our creatures flew even closer to the world, soaking in itís richness and beauty. It was quite a humbling experience, indescribable. 

As we passed through the outer edges of the atmosphere allowing us an even better look at the incredible landscapes before us. This was a breathtaking world, with incredible canyons giving way to huge mountains in one areas, creating a dramatic contrast between the landscape. There were thousands of miles of flatlands containing hundreds of tiny lakes and rivers. We flew to the planetís southern edge and saw hundreds of the ice circles I had described earlier. There were many sporadic episodes in which you could see one of them explode into the same color that had engulfed her. To the north of this, the planet was much darker and apparently unpopulated because it dotted by craters and other impact points, there were machines here as well, straddling their walls. At these points, the machines didnít glow and instead seemed to blend in with the darker areas. These areas of the planet washed by quickly, and made me wish we could slow down. We slowly began to descend in an easy glide towards the area where we had originally been. I could sense that the beasts were a bit tired after such a long flight and needed a rest.

We slowly drifted downward through the alien atmosphere, slowly gently coming to a rest in the exact same area we had left several hours before hand. The creatures began to wail as we left them. She went over to the sacred pool, performed her ritual was bathed in the light green glow and then food appeared before the creatures. They happily ate their food and we sat down and watched them eat, both happy to help these beings who had allowed us to see things we never could have seen on our own. This experience created an indescribable bond between us, something I can never rationalize or communicate adequately with these words.  

There are many other experiences that I could share, but this small fragment is all I can convey without overwhelming myself. Despite all that happened, It was merely a single journey, from a time I can never forget. Though it seemed to have slipped under the surface as other things took precedence, I never forgot her or her world. In all honesty, Iíve never really put her or that world behind me, despite the pressures and realities that have chipped away at my recollections. 

Life resumed, I could almost detect a feeling of slow, but substantial progress towards a vague resemblance of normalcy. A strange, alien sense of promise had gradually come back to me, though not without great effort and several more painful experiences. Yet, I found myself back in that dark, doomed city after one particularly nightmarish time when everything seemed to be going wrong. I  found myself aimlessly walking through it's twisting streets, as usual empty and deserted at this time of night consumed by darkness and freezing under it's harsh frigidity. The icy mix of precipitation fell onto the streets harder and harder. This time, I wasn't going to repeat the old pattern of mistakes. I made a vow to myself and refused to allow myself to compromise for another elusive prize, sacrificing a large measure my spirit in the process.

Unlike I had  done so many times before, I didnít turn around and return to seek the city's empty, transient warmth. Instead, as the storm deepened in intensity, I ran faster in the opposite direction towards my destination. Memories of the happy time with her glowed as strongly as they ever had, driving my each step harder, despite the storm's determination to halt my progress. My determination fueled to an awareness of the damage done by the debilitating, frustrating, saddening and deeply hurtful events that have conspired for these past four years, nearly succeeding at turning promise into vapor. But not entirely. I thought of the mad obsessions with the meaningless. How I smothered my spirit while others laughed behind my back as they prepared to plunge their knives into it. I think of all the betrayals, lies and near catastrophes that have happened, I thought of the way that this has hurt my spirit almost beyond repair. I couldn't even begin to describe how damaged and deeply defeated I felt whenever these memories were jarred. And the knowledge of how this malignant negativity affected all aspects of my life led to a strange self-awareness. 

As I wandered, looking up at the suffocating buildings, these thoughts collided with each other ever more rapidly - suggesting something was changing deep inside of me.  I could only reach one conclusion. It was time for me to go back to my true home and make repairs on my damaged psyche. I reached the edge of the city, which is seemed to grow ever more desolate as the snow accumulated. The ice froze the tears that had fallen from my eyes, my hands were numb from the cold and wind, but it no longer mattered to me. I looked back towards the ugly city with itís garish lights, and after all this time, I saw itís empty promises for the lies they really were. I took the locator from my pocket and followed itís beeps. I came to a recessed area in a hidden tunnel under the protective watch of an out-of-the way hill. The ground was covered in leaves and old dirt, but felt perfectly untouched except for remains of a stray broken bottle. I push the button and the ground begins to shake and rise. Four years of dirt, grime, leaves and muck slowly dissolved and a round pool of ice covered a pool of  flowing water. It was exactly as Iíd left it. I stood on the pool and rotated my arms around in the gestures she taught me. The blue and green light slowly enveloped my body. It washed out the bleak park around me defeating the gloom of this night with it's bright, green glow. I felt myself moving at an incredible speed. Slowly, things became still. The light slowly faded away, and I found myself in an alien yet familiar environment. I felt the pure cool air on my face and saw the transparent structures and their accompanying machines churning in silent determination. The majestic, spiked mountaintops loomed in the distance, brushing the horizon's greenish blue with their divine peaks. I looked up and out towards, searching the skies for a welcoming beacon. I found it as I always did with a bit of effort, barely visible, almost hiding under the clouds. But there it was, still glowing faintly in the distance. Despite it's weak luminance, the sun was still as radiant and gorgeous as I remembered it. Instantaneously, the fears and worries that had shadowed me dissipated under the understanding glow of  faint yet friendly blue star. I was finally home again. - Michael Palisano

Original publishing date
: October, 2000 - to coincide with site launch




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Original name and logo for this story





(above)
original site logo - launch October, 2000