In the dead of night, Icarus climbed the Great White Mountains looming over his village. He would have gone earlier, but for his Uncle who had been strangely restless, staring for hours into the guttering flame of the small candle on the table. The weak glow illuminated the wrinkles lining the old man’s face, a tiny star lighting up his experiences condensed into a tiny mountainous world. Finally, he muttered something of the price of wax these days, licked his fingers and snuffed out the flame. When Icarus was sure his Uncle was asleep he crept out to the mountain, gathering the bundle he’d hidden and began his ascent.
The journey was tiring. Icarus had outgrown his shoes years ago, and now, finally, they fell apart in the dust. Regretfully, Icarus left them by the wayside and continued barefoot. He ignored the rocks that cut and bruised his feet, mind fixed firmly on his mission.
For months, Icarus had been planning this – years, really, if one counted the time he’d spent dreaming while the goats’ nipples grew swollen with uncollected milk.
“A dreamer,” people called him, “not a doer.”
This would show them.
Reaching a fork in the road, Icarus took the left path, unmuddied by animal or human tracks. The sky was lighter now and he could see the faint remnants of his last journey. He hadn’t been weighed down then, and the tracks were lighter than the ones he’d leave behind. Icarus shouldered his burden and continued.
As the first rays of light peeked out shyly beyond the shadowed horizon, Icarus reached the mountaintop. He shrugged off his burden, and with fingers blue from both dawn light and cold, unfolded the fragile contraption of wood, canvas and feather to its full length. Icarus examined it with bright eyes and a sense of anticipation that squeezed his heart and sent shivers down his spine. The wings lay before him like some dormant bird ready for awakening.
Icarus breathed. He almost couldn’t believe it, couldn’t believe he’d managed to create this magnificent structure with only scraps of wood, sailing cloth and geese from the village. And the candles! Every night, Icarus had carefully visited each temple and shaved just a few slivers, hardly noticeable, here and there until finally he had a pile of wax large enough to glue the wings together. He’d thanked the Gods, of course; this would be his tribute. Yet despite his disbelief, the wings lay before him in physical evidence of his achievements.
Icarus inhaled the sweet mountain air, tinged with a hint of spice and salt in promise of the distant lands visited by the wind. His eyes watered, and he brushed the tears away with an absent hand.
An eagle appeared from behind, alighting upon a nearby rock and turning to face him with a piercing gaze. As Icarus strapped himself in, the eagle spread its own wings. As Icarus took off, the eagle followed suit.
And then Icarus was flying, soaring above his village, his home, on his way to unknown destinations. The warm sun heralded him, taking courage to rise above the treetops and meet him with a smiling face. Icarus closed his eyes.
When he opened them, the eagle was gone and the previously pleasant warmth was now uncomfortably hot. Icarus felt a sinking sensation; looking down, he realised he was falling.
As his wings melted and fell apart, Icarus wept.