Evidently I was not thinking straight when I agreed to participate in Teens Can Write, Too! blog chain this month. Because this month's prompt is, "Write a retelling of your favorite fairytale, myth, or legend," and it means that you will all be subjected to my writing. Apologies. Bumblebee.
So, I chose to retell the story of Icarus from Greek mythology. This story has some meaning to me because it was the first Greek myth I ever heard (and so started my small obsession with different mythologies), and I've actually spent a lot of time thinking about it. See, the original is one of those kids-you-better-listen-to-your-parents-or-there-will-be-extreme-consequences-like-you-will-DIE stories. So Daedalus and his son, Icarus, get put in jail by King Minos and y'know, since Daedalus is such a genius, he builds them each a pair of wings to escape. But his less-genius son doesn't listen when his dad tells him not to fly too close to the water or the sun, or the wings will melt. So...he dies. Supposedly, he gets caught up in his own awesome flyingness. I never really liked this. And so...my take on it is pasted below. Don't come after me with pitchforks, kay? Kay.
Footsteps. They are my greatest fear.
Footsteps mean pain. Humiliation. Anger. Footsteps mean that someone is coming, and that is never good for us.
My mouth tastes like metal, from the cell and my blood. It tastes like darkness, because that is all I’ve been for so, so long.
Footsteps. My heart.
I hear nothing else.
The door opens wide and then the guards are standing above me, and the air around me is stale with their breaths and ale and sweat. They take my arms and drag me in a thousand directions. I hear my father crying out my name, and he is answered with only footsteps and laughter and their echoes, because my voice was among the first pieces of me to die. I can make out my father’s vague shadow, held back by another guard as the rest pull me beyond his reach. Fingers beneath rough gloves grasp my chin and shove it in his direction, so he can watch my face as they beat me.
There is a whisper of old words above me, a taunt or warning from the king—I cannot be bothered to care. I hear my father say my name again.
Everything tastes of metal.
I dream of the sun, but I can only conjure up a weak, watery thing. I have lost track of the days since I saw it last; I have lost the memory of warmth. I remember only that I used to close my eyes and lift my face to the sky, and I would see red, red, red.
Red. Even this color is faint. I am a shadow that bleeds black blood, hidden in a darkness made of invisible shapes.
Sun. Red. Dreams. Sea. Sky. Wind.
I remember the words.
I only remember the words.
I flinch at his touch, and stagnant air rushes into my mouth as I gasp a plea that no one can hear. The floor of the cell is cold, damp against my cheek, and I am not alone. The latter is what I fear.
Please. I consider the shape of the word on my lips, because my pride broke when my mind did. It sits on my tongue, patient, but my throat can’t gather the sound.
The fingers stay on my face, almost tentative, stroking back my matted hair and circling the bruises. Not the leather touch of guards. But the calloused, dry touch of my father, roughened by dreams and failures.
He says my name. He says it again, again, again.
I say nothing. I close my eyes and do not allow myself this moment, because it is passing.
He whispers things, escape, leave this place, back home. Wonderful dreams, wonderful failures.
But then he is pulling me upright, and there is so much pain, a thousand small agonies and a thousand greater ones. I am too tired to scream. I let him drag me to my feet, and I am too tired to ask why.
He straps things to my arms, leather that makes my heart twist and clench and listen for footsteps. My breath breaks and I know nothing but fear, fear, fear. The leather tightens, and gently, my father’s hand turns my face around, saying incomprehensible words. My eyes blur and my vision shifts, and I know, suddenly, that I am dreaming.
For when I turn, I see that my father has given me wings.
And through my fractured vision, I see that he has sprouted them, too. Light, lovely things made of metal and a thousand feathers and countless other things that the guards have left unwanted. This is why the king fears my father. This is why we are here—not for my father’s genius, nor his deceit, but because he knows how to take broken things and make them beautiful.
He says my name again and tells me to look at him, his lips moving in shapes that finally, I recognize. Stay out of the sun, stay above the water, or the wings will give way. He does not let me look away until I nod, and then he takes me to the door. It takes only a single moment for my father to open it, and a strange thing rises inside me, a dark sadness twisted around a distant, bitter smile, because my father made this cage, and all of its secrets are his. The king didn’t chain him. I did.
He takes me out into the hallway and my heart fights inside me, my blood cold as everything I am stills, listening for footsteps. But my father is standing by a window in the tower, and behind him is the wide, wide sea, calling. The light is blinding and piercing and wonderful, and I breathe as though I could capture the sunshine in my chest.
My father swings his arm back and the glass shatters into a thousand stars, and I lean forward and fall.
My stomach clenches and my heart is lost. The rocks and the ocean spell out my beautiful death, and I have never been more alive.
And then I spread my wings. I soar. The wind lifts me and sends me spiraling upwards, and the sky cries my name. The air smells of salt and sunshine and a boundless world, and my name comes from a thousand and one directions.
So alive. I am so alive.
I lift my face upwards, drinking the sun. It stretches its fingers towards me and lures my sweat from my skin. My wings are wide, bending as the sky does, and I stretch higher, higher. The blue is endless, above me and below me and around me, and I have forgotten which is the sky and which is the sea, for there are suns on either side of me.
My father’s words come back too late, after I have renounced sanity and given up sense. I am flying down and falling up, and the sea and sky are open to me. There are a thousand feathers swirling, catching the sun on their melting tips, and I am falling surrounded in so, so much light.
My father cries my name.
Then a flurry of color, and a passing, and then nothing. There is no pain.
There are no footsteps.