Purchase on the Air
'Wither are they vanished?'
'Into the air, and what seemed corporal
Melted, as breath into the wind'
(William Shakespeare: Macbeth, Act I scene iii)
Four weeks had passed since the girl had emerged from her own construction, the blind walls of the labyrinth still haunting her days with their intricate complexity. She'd never imagined descending into the maze by her own accord but everyone in Crete had placed all the blame on her. As Daedalia had focused on the task of undoing the wax and flaxen threads on the bird's mended wing, her eyes had watered from the pale light of the sun over the bay.
"Even though land and sea are home to me," Daedalia whispered to the pigeon, "The sky is open and free. Set your course up there. That way," she pointed obliquely.
She found the pigeon towards the end of her time in the labyrinth, fluttering in a sliver of light with a broken wing. Daedalia swore not to name it until she emerged. But the endless nights of the maze—musty corridors haunted by the breath of the Minotaur—forced her to break many oaths along the way. By the time she stumbled out, manic and starved, the bird had a name and was in far better condition than its savior.
"Now listen to me, Icarus," the girl smiled, "I don't want any of your chortling mischief. You have to remember to follow the stars. Watch for the Great Bear and Orion. Stay between them, always. Never trust the sea, the waves are too tempestuous. And don't fly too high. The North wind is a fucking asshole. Got it?"
As Daedalia pulled away the last of the waxen bindings from the pigeon's left wing, Icarus chortled in accord. The bird fluttered in place as a false breeze blew across Daedalia's inquiring face. When she looked beyond the excitement of Icarus, the razor-wire lining the twenty-foot tall chainlink fence seemed to press closer. All around the asphalt yard, comrades of the girl, all dressed in pale blue, walked in circles or sat alone. Some were silent and others screaming, three were laughing and another weeping. She looked behind her and tried not to read the sign visible even to the passing ships.
House of Minos: Institution for the Extraction of Souls from the Labyrinth~c. 1987
'Ten minutes, ten minutes remaining,
Don't let your spirits continue waning,
Open cells of light and starkness,
Will help dispel the maze's darkness,
Come one, come all,
No more darkness, no more wall!
Over...........do I really have to say this? They're all batshit—
Mic's on, dumbass—'
(Severe ringing, then silence)
Daedalia knew that everything in Crete was bound to either the water or the Earth. Boats, cars, bicycles and bodies were all subject to the tyranny of gravity. But it was the unimagined arts that tempted her. She had already explored the horror of the subterranean world. It was the air, the thin air she wished to alter now. Nature's laws were absolute but so was rebellion. After everything she had endured alongside Icarus, his wings were just as much a part of her as her healing hands were to him. The heart did not swim itself across the bay but the hands and the feet were nothing without it. Even the tremendous gulf between the girl and the bird failed to divide their union in spirit. As Icarus flapped his wings with greater confidence, Daedalia felt her own body ready to soar alongside him.
"Does it fly?" A girl a little older than Daedalia laughed, with her hands covering her face.
"He will. That's what he's supposed to do," Daedalia said to the pigeon.
"But Minos won't let it. He won't let anyone leave. Sea on all sides. Too far to swim and the air is—"
"There's no purchase on the air," Daedalia muttered, stroking the bird's flight feathers back into shape.
"Minos owns it all. He says who goes where. I heard he was a snake. Hisses his orders. Sends the good to the dark place and the bad to the place of always light. Hey?"
"Birds kind of look like machines. Like they're wound up. Like clocks. Time just ticking so fast. Wish it did for me. I really wish it did. So much. Like this," the girl laughed, twisting her head and flapping her arms manically. She stopped laughing and returned her hands to her face. "Hey! Did you see that?" The girl said through her fingers.
"Where?" Daedalia said, looking all around.
"Here," the girl gagged, driving her fingers down her throat. "Heeeew," she heaved, skipping away, as if her hand were taking her volition for a walk.
If Daedalia felt like she had a native land, she would pine for it. But she was just another refugee from some foreign soil, an orphan of the world exiled within her own exile. Her birth was her sin and her wailing arrival on the rocky shores of Crete her punishment. Labyrinth, fence, sea, air…the forms of her captivity took whatever form they pleased, even the mockery of the element of fire rising and setting was a torment wound to a fixed schedule. But freedom chirruped in her hands and his little heart beat in expectation of finding the air again.
'Five minutes, Five minutes to healing pills,
We are here to liberate your free wills,
Now give up the torment and pointless shame,
The maze will forget you, even your name,
Minos is here to show you the way home,
To that place your soul will never.....
It doesn't even rhyme....They can hear YOU!'
"Okay, Icarus," Daedalia half-smiled. "It's about time for you and I'm almost out of it."
As the bird looked at the sea through the chain-like fence, he softly chortled as Daedalia stroked him. She knew his wings were prepared but she was reluctant to stop pretending he still needed her. Her hands trembled as she picked Icarus up with both hands. His warm body felt like a stove with fresh wood thrown on nightlong embers while his wings fought between her hands, loving captivity.
There was a place in the corner of the asphalt yard where the wind off the sea had warped and degraded the topmost portion of the fence. The ruin seemed to bow to that impalpable element that blew all things to ruin over time. Daedalia held Icarus to her chest and closed her eyes. When her wet cheeks felt the wind shift, she imagined herself as the bird and she was in her own hands. In her mind's eye, she felt her eager wings powered by an avian force beating at the rate of a hummingbird's heart. All was fire.
She knew Icarus belonged to himself. But as the moment lingered, her hands were the tools that styled the bird into being. Layer upon layer of down to feathers, smaller to larger and arranged in a way to appear like a singular being born to fly. In that moment, she had everything to fly away with him, everything but the outward form. She was the bird without feathers, the fish without gills, a latent fire without a spark.
"Remember what I told you, Icarus," she whispered, kissing him on his gray head. "The middle course holds the greater light. Now, on the count of three. One...two...three!"
As Icarus flapped his wings, a few of his stray feathers stuck to Daedalia's face. But the girl's hands remained fixed in the gesture of release as the bird flapped in mid-air just above her head. All she could hear were his wings on the wind. All she could see were his eyes looking up to where he needed to be.
Daedalia wanted to reach up and take him back. But she watched, a corporeal statue with the gift of weeping. Just as Icarus began to descend, when the wind died and emptiness claimed him, the pigeon cried out and found purchase on the air. Daedalia tried to follow his course but the early evening sun blotted out the bird until he was nothing but a shadow. By the time Daedalia could make Icarus out on the horizon, he was absorbed by the other birds he was joining, a name becoming a number amongst the countless others.
'Time's up, time's up, all you wandering shades,
Inside you will find where light never fades,
Minos knows the final turn that will show,
Every last one of you the way to know,
Over or under this world is quite vast,
That world you remember is gone and past,
Hell is not murky it's right over here,
Here you belong and there's nothing to fear'
After the thrill of Icarus passed, Daedalia felt like a ballast in the belly of a ship wrecked on the shore. Even the sun seemed like a dim projection of an old film without a plot. She heard the heavy footsteps but continued to stare at the fading light of the sky. In spite of the ennui, she was lost in the emptiness of the air beyond the fence. But the pair of arms that pried her from her reverie reminded Daedalia of the compressed world she was bound to. As the hirsute arms dragged her limp body back to the cell where the fluorescent lighting never ceased, she imagined herself as Icarus being pulled out of the labyrinth. But just as she was pulled over the threshold where the asphalt turned to linoleum, she remembered. If Icarus flew too high, he would run into the invisible roof of the Underworld.
was born and raised in Georgia and has lived in New York City for the past twelve years. In the past five months, he has been published thirty-two times for his short stories: twice in Corner Bar Magazine, Metonym Literary Journal, Drunk Monkey Literary Journal, Fictional Cafe, Modern Literature, Calliope, Wood Coin Magazine, Wink Magazine, Verdad Magazine, Wilderness House Literary, Blue Moon Literary and Art Review, Deep Overstock Journal, Wild Roof Journal, Oddville Press, Dream Noir, The Scriblerus, Prachya Review JOHAHmagazine, La Piccioletta Barca, Quail Bell, The Green Light, Astral Waters, Literary Heist, Pif Magazine, The Closed Eye Open, Flatbush Review, Anaphora Literary Press, The Conium Review
and Wingless Dreamer
. He lives with his wife and cat on the waters of Jamaica Bay in Queens.