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Between the Extremes

Updated: Dec 31, 2023


 

“Let me warn you, Icarus, to take the middle way, in case the moisture weighs down your wings, if you fly too low, or if you go too high, the sun scorches them. Travel between the extremes.”


Ovid

 

Father made us wings.


Icarus, Atheria and I.


We stood, shoulder to shoulder, arm to arm, on a rocky alcove of the labyrinth Father built. Inside, the creature bull-headed, arm-strong hunts our scent. Outside, the wine dark sea is choppy where it sings beneath our feet, but the sky is yellow-clear.


And Father gave us wings.


“Feathers made of bronze are not just beautiful,” he said. “They will carry you as well as any bird ever did.”


My watchful sister clutched the feathers close, in hands that trembled on the edge, opening a dozen bloodied cuts on moon-pale skin.


My careless brother laughed and pressed his thumb against the wax, rolling yellowed beads of dripping tallow through his fingertips.


I alone, listened, with neither fear nor fearlessness to deafen me. The leather harness tight around my shoulders and my chest. The wings were heavy. Heavier than I had ever thought that they could be. Warning administered and given, our father led the way, arms raised high and wings slicing through the air like twin blades. My brother, whooping, leapt to follow, leaving me to coax my sister from the cave. She came trembling like an autumn leaf upon the wing, drooping as I tried to force her high.


Poseidon claimed her quickly. With all the quiet of the deep seas. Salt licked against her wings the lower that she flew. And then the feathers failed. She went to his embrace silent and un-striving, trailing down beneath the waves and though I screamed at her to fly the wings our father made shivered and stayed closed. Our Father did not see her fall. She did not go screaming into the blazing sky like my brother soon would. She went softly, slowly, shyly, the way she always had in life.


The salt caught on my feathers and my lips and I rose to meet my father. My brother rose and rose, and rose higher still, whooping in exertion and in pride as father told him not to climb so high. But Apollo’s sun-kissed arms beckoned above, and brother did not try to duck their claim. Father called his name but Icarus, dear Icarus, father’s favourite Icarus was deafened by his blood and by his joy. Wax fell like tears into the sea and hardened in the waves, floating like foam while brother sank beneath. My brother may have fallen at Apollo’s warm caress, but it was Poseidon’s cold embrace that stole his breath.


I followed my father to the land. Though he no longer met my eye. His plan had worked, and it had failed. It was only him and I, standing there, alone.


My sister should have cautioned less, my brother cautioned more, but between these two extremes, I made it safe to shore.


Insp. The Fall of Icarus. While Icarus was indeed told not to fly too close to the sun, he as also told not to fly too close to the ocean. Both would destroy the wax wings and send Daedalus' son falling to his death. The story explores the idea of three children of Daedalus, one falling to sun, one to waves, and one surviving the journey.

 

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