Between the Extremes
Updated: Jul 30
“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.”
― by Ovid
Father made us wings.
Icarus, Atheria and I.
We stood, shoulder to shoulder, arm to arm, on a rocky alcove of the labyrinth we 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 my sister swiftly. With all the quiet of the deep seas. And before we even knew what he was doing. 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 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 at 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 should have more, but between these two extremes, I made it safe to shore.
Insp. The Fall of Icarus