The Walk of Icarus

My take on the Icarus story: hubris revisited.

The Walk of Icarus

There is no wax in this story, and, as is the case with the north of England, the sun never shines.

Icarus was a bird.

Icarus sat in his nest with his brother close to a nearby nest of squawking, cacophonous others: a magpie nest. He watched the people walking by, jogging by, playing in the park; he watched the dogs chasing sticks, some chasing stones, others Frisbees and balls; he watched cats, stealthily leap and climb trees with their claws, and he wanted their world.

His Mother saw his wonder and his excitement and said, ‘Oh Icarus you are too young to fly the nest’.

And he would always say, ‘But Mum, I don’t want to fly, I want to walk’.

To which his Father would say, ‘Nonsense boy! You are a bird, that is why God gave you wings. You’ll understand, when you have learned to fly, why birds are superior creatures!’

‘Hey icky Icarus wants to walk and can’t even fly; aww didums. LOOOOSSERRR!’ Squawked the magpies from up above.

It didn’t matter how much he watched them soar into the sunless sky; it didn’t matter how much fun they had, or how free they seemed, he had his sights set on something else.

When the day came for his first flying lesson he pouted and said he felt sick. His Brother told him he was no-hoper for wanting to walk, it was inferior and he clearly had something wrong upstairs. But his Mother, hoping he would just grow out of this phase, told him he could stay home – this once.

He felt so alone. Who wouldn’t want to stretch their legs and walk tall, with the firm ground below them? Nobody understood how much he hated his wings, they stuck out and his feathers weren’t even smooth like other birds, they were tufty and pokey.

He started to pluck and pluck and pluck.

‘Hey Bro! Need a hand?’, a magpie hopped down from the upper branches, ‘Look I’m not gonna pretend I understand what you are thinking, but two beaks are better than one, right?’ Together they plucked, little feathers, downy feathers, fell haphazard from the nest, until Icarus sat shivering and content.

When his Mother returned she shrieked; when his Father returned he croaked; when his Brother returned he just shook his head.

‘What am I going to do with you, boy!? Don’t you realise that you are a danger to us all now? Without feathers how will you escape the cat that will try to eat you, and how will you catch the early worm, and how will you go and find twigs and stones to build your own nest?’ Said his Father in despair.

To which Icarus replied: ‘You are not going to do anything with me; I don’t care, I’m going to walk!’ He stood on the edge of the nest eyeing the ground, picturing the fearless form of a great cat.

‘Son, I don’t think you understand the gravity of the situation…’

‘One, two, three.’ And with that he jumped. Never once did his wings flap. Never once did he look back…

As is also the case in the north of England – where the rain pours endlessly – there are umbrellas everywhere, and, whilst in the grip of gravity, Icarus’s whole life – short as it was – passed before his eyes. He had time to take in the lesson his Father was trying to convey, right before he plipped and boinged off an umbrella and onto the ground. But he was scared, and suddenly he couldn’t feel his legs, so he sat in a discarded pile of his feathers, wishing he knew how to fly.


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