The Myth of Icarus, Retold (Short Story)

Deep in the dark ages a Pictish tribe huddles around a large fire. The night sky is dark and twinkles with dying stars. The ocean meets the sky in a seamless arc and softly thuds against the island’s shore. Their tribal leader Minos, a strong man, stands to address them.

“This beast is a danger. We must capture him.”

Daedalus watches from a slight distance, his son Icarus leans close. Daedalus knows that the responsibility to capture the beast will fall on him.

Minos continues, “The creature has taken our women folk, our young men, the promise of our future. We shall capture him and he will be our talisman! Daedalus, you invented the axe, you will best this beast! You will trap him.”

Daedalus watches nervously, the crowd roars their intoxicated approval. He nods at Minos.

“I will do as I am asked.”

Daedalus, his quick mind working, devises a plan. He will dig a labyrinth to contain the beast. The tribe begin to dig, mounds of earth appear and they place large stones stretching high into the air to mark their progress. Icarus helps shovel the dirt and Daedalus watches on with a proud fathers eye.

The day comes when their work is finished. Minos takes his best hunters and armed with spears they drive the beast into the labyrinth. The great black shaggy coat of the animal is drenched in blood. He had managed to rip his claws across a hunter’s chest. The beast is now however captured and the tribe gather to celebrate. Minos, seeing the popularity Daedalus has earned, throws Daedalus and Icarus into the labyrinth alongside the beast.

Daedalus looks over at Icarus. Further down the dank walled corridor they can hear a slow shuffling. Icarus breathes heavily and nervously, Daedalus places a reassuring hand on his shoulder.

“I built it so I will find a way out.”

“What about the beast?”

Daedalus shrugs, he has a small knife but it isn’t enough protection.

“We’ll tread carefully, try to avoid it.”

Days pass with nothing to define them. Father and son traipse around looking for a way out. Occasionally they hear scratching and brief noises but they never encounter the beast.

Then, in a corridor marked with the stench of something decaying they find the beast. It is slumped on the floor, its wounds mortal. Just beyond the beast father and son can see a small glimmer of light. They run towards it and claw at the dirt with their hands. The hole grows and the tunnel is flooded with the smell of salt water. Daedalus and Icarus tear through the dirt wall and out onto an empty moonlight beach.

The beach is covered in bits of wood. Daedalus knows that there is little time before their escape is realised. He looks over at his son.

“Gather the wood. We’ll build a raft.”

Icarus looks out to sea and can just make out the dark shadow of the mainland. He starts to collect the wood, sorting it into piles according to size. The beach is dark and at times, when the clouds cover the moon, Icarus struggles to see.

Daedalus drags the beast’s carcass out onto the sandy shore. It is no longer terrifying but sombre. Icarus looks on.

“What are you doing?”

Daedalus removes his knife from the beast’s stomach. Gore covers his arm, up to his elbow, as he skins the animal.

“We need ropes and sails, otherwise we won’t make it across the water.”

Daedalus removes the pelt and stretches it out black and bloody. He hacks it into two and then returns to the splayed body. He pulls the beast’s intestines out.

Then father and son fashion two small rafts. They use the beast’s innards to tie the planks together and they stretch the beast’s skin taught to fashion sails. Their little rafts are macabre but sturdy. They push them out into the ocean.

“Keep near me and you’ll be safe,” Daedalus calls to Icarus. Icarus looks over at his father. In the dark their shapes are hard to define. Icarus races ahead. He is lighter than his father and travels faster.

Deadlaus watches in dread. There are rocks hidden just below the surface. Daedalus calls after his son but Icarus refuses to turn around. Daedalus watches in horror as his son hits the rocks. He seems to freeze, suspended in time, before being sucked into the murky depths.

Icarus is gone. Daedalus, with misty eyes, makes his solitary escape.

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