Pair of Birds
“Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.” – Matthew 10:29
The air burned. Water streamed from his yellow hair down into the sea as he gasped, violently, over and over while his lungs remembered breath. He bobbed with the waves, fighting to remain above the surface and remember.
It had moved across the sky, too far. How long had he been under? It made no sense. None of it did. He felt the weight on his shoulders and back, waterlogged feathers that had clung to him despite everything, and that heaviness told him it was true.
He gazed upward at the burning sun, the blue and the handful of clouds. He looked in each direction three or four times, and he might have cried out had his chest contained sufficient air, but he knew it did not matter. The waves would swallow any sound he made as it had swallowed him, and his father was gone.
Icarus chose a direction and began to swim. Only the gulls saw him, and they cawed at the mangled feathers of the broken bird.
she hovers on the edge of the cliff / wax wings and freckled cheeks and steely eyes (full of choppy grey water and murky depths and the distant echoes of wax feathers falling) eyes always tilted towards the sun / always seeing where she could go if only
she / had / wings
you / Icarus / toeing the line between girl and woman / hovering between here and something more
Icarus lives / and she has no fear, wax wings spread and sailing towards the blinding light / You have never known what it means to fail so failure is not a possibility / But if / when / your feathers begin to fall / one by one / Icarus lives / you have no regrets /
it doesn’t matter whether your wings melt / doesn’t matter if you plummet / lost beneath the sea /
so long as you came the closest / to touching /
Daedalus could do nothing but watch as his son spiraled into the sea. His own wings were also beginning to falter.
My only son. My pride and joy, swallowed by Poseidon's unforgiving jaws.
He would not let it happen.
But as he flew forward, there was a loud ripping sound.
No. Not enough time.
It was him or Icarus, and Daedalus couldn't make the choice. His heart got in the way, so he gave it up. His brain made the decision: self preservation.
The part of him named Daedalus died that day. He was no longer the father of Icarus, no longer the man who helped the weak and punished the strong. He was a broken man.
And far under the waves, Icarus opened his eyes.
Memories are hard to make, and even harder to keep. When Icarus woke up in the middle of the sea, instinct told him to swim, to run, to flee or die. But when he opened his mouth and breathed, he did not die. Again, instinct told him this was wrong, he shouldn't be able to breathe underwater.
But he could. And he had no memory of who he was. Only the barest hint of instinct was keeping him moving. If it weren't for that instinct, that animal sensation, the barest remnant of a past consciousness, he would have forgotten how to do anything. He would be dead.
In front of him was a man with skin as gold as the sand, and eyes as blue as the ocean, and an outfit with every color of coral there was.
The man told Icarus that he was Poseidon. The name sounded familiar, but even that, Icarus did not fully know. The man also said he had saved Icarus. That, Icarus also did not know. He'd been plunged into an underwater world with no memories, no idea how to survive, and a strange man with a familiar name.
He did the only thing he could.
He took Poseidon's hand, and descended into the sea.
So began his life, not as an inventor, but as a warrior.
On land, strife began to dwell. A man known only as The Inventor had begun building a massive maze, one that mysteriously spread across the earth like a virus, trapping everyone inside, where they either went crazy... or died.
But under the sea, Poseidon and his warriors were unaware of such troubles. They trained, they partied, they danced. The boy who was once Icarus became Tahy, or One Who Lives in the Sea, and he lived well. He was strong and proud, and good at what he did, and he quickly earned Poseidon's favor.
Only once the bodies began damming up the rivers did Poseidon decide to intervene.
Of course, he sent only his finest warriors.
Five men and one woman. Four of the men were disgruntled that a woman was among them.
One of them was too focused on his mission to care.
And the woman?
She cared little what was thought of her. She did her job, and she did it well. That's all that mattered to her, and that's all that mattered to Poseidon.
They fought well. They had a strategy. They did everything right. But Daedalus's maze tore them apart, one by one, they were separated and killed.
All except one.
Icarus fought and he battled, fiends both real and imagined, flesh and machine.
Finally, the Inventor had to intervene. His precious creations, they were all he had left. He couldn't let this... this boy defeat him and destroy his life's work.
When he saw the boy, however, a small fire ignited in him The first thing he'd felt besides bitter hatred in a long, long time. He remembered flashes of a boy, flying into the sun, falling into the sea... remembered the face, the expressive eyes, so much like his own... those same eyes that stared back at him now.
He remembered, and for the first time in his life, he felt remorse.
"So," the boy said. "You're the one behind this."
"Icarus," said Daedalus. "Icarus, my boy..."
"I know no one of that name," said the boy who was two people at once.
Daedalus took one step forward, smiling and holding his arms out wide.
"Icarus," he says. "My son, come here..."
The voice was familiar, but not familiar enough. Icarus had been erased. Tahy was all that remained.
A single blow was all it took. A stab to the neck with a spear.
Daedalus shed a single tear, silver as the moon, and died, his mouth open as if he'd had one last sentence that he never got to finish.
Tahy returned peace to the Earth. The Labyrinth crumbled. But no one would know. No one would know of his victory. Of his triumph. Of his crime.
Because Icarus was no son at all, not really. Not flesh or blood.
Like his wings, Icarus was made of wax. His body became one with the ocean and he inhabited a passing water spirit.
His life was tied to Daedalus. And in his last triumph, it was also his last breath. His salvation had been his doom.
Poseidon picked up one of the small drops of wax off the dusty ground, swiping it up with his finger. He smiled, because instantly, he knew what had happened.
The wax melted into his hand, swirling into his skin like dye in water.
Icarus, or Tahy, or whoever he was was no more.
The boy was one with the ocean now. And the ocean doesn't care about names, or winners, or identities, or memories. The ocean merely takes.
Icarus was just the latest prize.
The Origin of the Icarian Sea
His entire life confined to a tower in the clouds, Icarus had never learned to swim. Everything he knew about the outside he had only read about in books. As Icarus plummeted from the sky into the sea, he began to learn what could not be put into words: suffering and despair. As the cloying, calamitous sea conspired to consume his soul, Icarus recalled all which he had read about the Underworld. Afraid of everything he had read, Icarus succumbed.
Resigned to surrender his soul to Hades, the boisterous voice of Dionysus jolted Icarus awake. Encouraging Icarus to tell his tale, Dionysus thrust a goblet of wine into the boy's hands, then eagerly poured one for himself. Though merely a Demi-god, Dionysus exuded an air of overbearing pride, so much as to be ostentatious. Immediately, Icarus yearned for his father.
His father, the esteemed yet enigmatic Inventor Daedalus, had always been mysterious, even to his son. Days would go by without a word between them, with Daedalus quietly devising his next invention while Icarus contentedly scoured the bookshelves. Yet Daedalus had always looked out for Icarus. This realization made Icarus grieve, for he would not have found himself in his situation if he had heeded his father. Being confined to his father's side, Icarus had never been alone, nevertheless expected to make it on his own.
Aided by the goblet given to him, Icarus recovered from his despair. To Dionysus he confessed his situation and the corrupting influence of the confines he had escaped. Upon professing his remorse over not heeding his father's exhortation, Icarus was interrupted by an imprudent Dionysus. The glossy red of his cheeks no longer prominent to his bellowing voice, Dionysus emptied his goblet with a flourish and vowed to reunite father and son.
It was whispered on the wind that Daedalus had finally come to roost. Following the demise of his son, Icarus, Daedalus had prayed for fair winds and safe travel by offering Apollo tribute: his wings. Still, his flight from King Minos control was far from over and so his whereabouts were to be kept secret.
Beseeching Apollo to reunite him with his father, Icarus traveled to the temple in which his father had hung up his wings and reclaimed them as his own. Upon returning to the sanctity of Dionysus, Icarus encountered Apollo, who had merely followed the trail of molted feathers. Despite Apollo's short temper for insolence, Icarus was spared Apollo's wrath as Dionysus divulged the boy's tale over an evening of libation.
Having spent life aloof at sea, Dionysus was held captivated as Apollo expounded on Daedalus's ingenuity: the wooden bull, the labyrinth…and the wings strapped to Icarus's back. Daedalus, in name, had reached Olympus and the Gods had destiny in store for him. However Apollo confessed it was not until Daedalus had offered him the wings that he had heard anything about a son. Apologetically, Dionysus offered the boy a goblet to revive his doused spirit and the night proceeded.
Despite even more libation, Apollo refused Dionysus's pleas to help Icarus reunite with his father. Adamant, Apollo admonished Icarus, warning him that having spent too much time by a god's side had set him apart from other mortals. He explained how Olympus considered relationships between mortals and immortals taboo, and how Icarus was as good as dead.
Refusing to take another sip offered from Dionysus, Apollo stuck to his decision, stating the dead were forbid to contact the living and an attempt to reunite Icarus with his father could not be abetted. Dispirited to be turned down, the surly Dionysus refused to abandon the boy, and the fight continued into the early hours of the next day.
At last, the two gods and mortal boy came to a grudging consensus: Dionysus would not be forced to cast Icarus away if Icarus were to be cast into immortality.
As an immortal, Icarus would spend the rest of his youth looking after his father. During these years, Icarus returned the guidance and protection that Daedalus had lovingly given him. Unaware until his passing, Daedalus would fulfil the Olympians' prophesies under the gentle hand of a son who could only reach him through dreams.
Even in death Icarus could not reunite with his father as immortality had spared him the realm of Hades. However by then he had grown into a proud, independent young man, content to dedicate eternity as Dionysus’s pledge and faithful companion. As word carried of the pair's egregious escapades upon the sea, their territory became known as the Icarian Sea, despite Icarus never having been known by any mortal other than his father.
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The Wingless Angel
Acastus was a man who, out of necessity, needed to constantly look up. Sunny days meant dry fields; cloudy days filled him with joy and hope. He was a humble farmer, Acastus was, and on this particular day, his spirits were low. The sun had scorched the fields for weeks on end, and his table, to say nothing of his coin purse, was growing as empty as his stomach.
And so Acastus glanced up at the sky with a plea in his heart. He had begun to give his prayer form when he noticed a magnificent sight: a bird, with the wings of a swan but a body unlike any bird he had ever beheld. His old eyes strained against the bright rays, trying to make out the true nature of this odd creature.
"Is it a bird?"
Acastus did not shift his gaze as his wife came up behind him. With a huff and puff, she put down a basket of assorted fruits, all withered and old, and followed Acastus' gaze.
"You know, Delia, I'm not so sure..."
The couple stood with their heads towards the heavens for some minutes, watching in awe the flight of the strange bird.
"Oh my!" exclaimed Delia, clutching at her husband's sleeves. "The wings! Look at the wings!"
Acastus strained his eyes a little more.
"Great Hera!" yelled Acastus, startling his wife.
The plush wings that had so gracefully made the bird-man dance in the air were, to Acastus and Delia's horror, falling apart. But it was no feathery down that emerged from the faltering wings, it was liquid. To the utter bewilderment of the wizened couple, the wings were melting.
"Oh, Acastus, we have to do something!"
Acastus looked at his wife as though she were the multi-headed Hydra of legend.
"What do you want us to do?!"
The bird-man was loosing altitude quickly. Only a smattering of feathers remained in the formerly lush wings. The bird-man desperately in an attempt to stay afloat, but the gesture did naught but compound the hopelessness of his situation.
Acastus' eyes darted frantically around his field and an outlandish solution began to form for his even weirder problem.
"Grab some hay, Delia. Fill the wheelbarrow with as much of it as you can. Hurry!"
Delia moved as swiftly as her tired bones would allow. Acastus grabbed the wheelbarrow from one end of the field and brought it to the other end, meeting Delia halfway. The both of them tossed hay into the wheelbarrow with reckless abandon, all the while keeping an eye on the rapidly plummeting form of the bird-man.
"Hurry, Acastus, hurry!"
Ordinarily, such a command from his beloved wife would've increased nothing but the speed upon which he lost his patience, but on this instance it actually worked. Acastus dug deep within himself. A brief, but powerful, boost of strength helped him fill the wheelbarrow. Without bothering to tell Delia to stop, Acastus pushed the cart with all the power and vigor of a younger man.
The farmer raced down the bumpy field, trying to outrace the falling bird-man.
"I got ya, I got ya!" said Acastus, more in the way of reassuring himself than the man he was supposed to be rescuing.
His lungs burned, his brow filled with sweat. He was a robust man, with muscles shaped by the harshness of tilling the land. But these muscles had seen many winters and many summers. They were strong, but they had their limits. Beads of salty sweat stung his eyes, making it hard to see. And so Acastus did not spot the large hole in the field. Miraculously, the wheelbarrow avoided it.
Acastus' foot, however, was not so lucky.
Like a racing arrow crashing upon a sturdy shield, Acastus hit the ground hard. He was sure the ankle was broken. But it didn't matter. All he could think of was the wheelbarrow...and the bird-man.
Acastus could not bear to look up. A shower of yellow straw hit the field. Gasping for breathe, Delia managed to catch up to her husband. Her muscles were stout and sturdy too, and she lifted her husband with relative ease.
The two sought comfort in each other's arms and could not bear to look at the wheelbarrow. They stood there, grieving in silence...
Like a ray of light parting gloomy clouds, the voice lifted the couples' spirit. They rushed to the boy's side and helped him out of the cart.
His feet on solid ground, the boy began to make sense of what had occurred. He thanked the farmers profusely.
He looked around the field as though he were a newborn babe: his brush with death had been a rebirth of sorts. Past Acastus' fields, far into the horizon, the boy saw the shimmering waves of the sea. He breathed a sigh of relief. Had he flown a few miles more, he would've fallen into the sea and surely drowned.
you flew far too close
why, oh why
didn't you learn
You did it once
you did it again
Once was great
then you tried fate
cry for you
you made your choice
now you lie in
the ocean blue
to the sun
but what if
what if our
what if fate
doesn’t burn us