A Tale of Icarus and Daedalus
“…That was after he let Icarus go, wasn’t it dad? Or at least, just before, they got to fly together.”
The father grumbled. “Yes, I suppose so,” he reluctantly acknowledged then tucked his son into bed. “It is cold and you’re going to be asleep for a very long time. I don’t want you to freeze too much,” the father grimly smiled. “You’ll have cold dreams.”
“What year did the boy die?” asked the small child still hungry for more.
“Long ago. Prehistoric people did not measure the years as we do. Even Daedalus would not have understood our modern calendars.”
Grinning the child stated. “He could have figured it out real quick though.”
“There’s a lot we know that Daedalus did not, he’d have to do a lot of research to catch up,” the father peered down at his son. “But I’m sure he could have, after all he was a genius.”
The dark oval window beside the bed closed and the father sat down.
“I hope you’re comfortable. Think you’re going to sleep well?”
“Yeah, maybe, hey dad… I wonder if Icarus was scared flying off on his own like that?”
“Well his father warned him.”
“Maybe Daedalus didn’t explain the dangers properly.”
“What did Daedalus say? Do you remember?”
“Yeah I do, not to fly to close to the Sun.”
The father turned on the child’s entertainment machine, accidentally pressing the field for the window again. “Dammit, every time…”
“No you’re comfortable and just about to go to sleep. I’ll get the hang of this… Here it is,” the father stopped for a moment as if he had just remembered something important. “Once, you know, in a place called Europe, everyone knew this tale.”
“Yeah,” exclaimed the boy in wild surprise. “Now we’re the only ones.”
“Perhaps, however I’m sure someone else must also have stumbled across it in the Archives. Listen…” the machine was on and the father put his hand to the screen and thought of the section he wanted. “…Okay, this is probably the most famous bit, well the bit that used to be the most famous.”
A gentle, wise voice spoke. It was almost like the sound producing the words had a visual form that could be seen and felt, but it was nevertheless simply a voice. The child lay down, got even more comfortable amid his soft surroundings and gave into the voice which had already taken him. “…Teaching his son, Daedalus said: ‘I warn you to travel a middle course, Icarus. Don’t go too low, or the water will load down your wings; and don’t rise to high, or the Sun will scorch them. Fly in between the two. And I order you; do not look to Boötes or Helice, or the unsheathed sword of Orion; but do take the route by which I lead.’”
“You see,” said the father. “He had been warned. Icarus was told, don’t look down or fly to low or to high; don’t get caught up in the excitement of it all. Daedalus only wanted his son to follow him but Icarus would not listen.”
“Yeah, maybe… Do you have any holograms of Icarus?”
“No, I don’t. This story was first told long ago; well before things like that were invented.”
“So there’s nothing then?”
“Well there are some things. There still exist rare artefacts called paintings. But we don’t have access to anything so remote. I’ll tell you what, once we both wake up and have gone through rejuvenation therapy, I will try to find some images of him for you.”
“Oh that’s not going to be for years. I want to know what Icarus looked like now!”
The father let out a silent groan, becoming impatient. “Nobody knows exactly about his appearance, or even if any part of this story is based on real events,” he put his hand again to the black screen above his son’s bed and turned the entertainment machine off. “In most of the paintings, paintings are very basic two-dimensional pictures, all of which were done when this tale was very old; they show a young Homo-sapiens humanoid with a golden head…”
“A golden head?”
“Yes and his body all contorted, falling through clouds; clouds are vapourish substances much like gases… It’s all very hard to explain. Understand these paintings don’t move or anything. They were made by hand, using simple elements found on the origin-planet, some are very good. They tell a story by creating a single powerful image.”
“Icarus had a golden head?”
“No, not the head itself, just what grew out of it…”
The child appeared confused.
“…Daedalus would have looked much the same, except, I imagine, with a grey head and maybe a grey face, but I don’t know, no one does, there are no images of him left. And anyway these paintings we still have of Icarus and the Minotaur may bare little relevance to the actual story itself.”
“I like the Minotaur best, he’s my favourite. Could you get a paintine of him for me?”
“The word is pronounced painting, I will look. It is known that in the early era of our species there were many natural creatures that would seem fabulous to us now. Whether the Minotaur was one of them though, nobody knows; we’ve forgotten.”
The boy sighed. “Stories are boring without XD2. It’s stupid to just use words to convey meaning.”
“Well you don’t seem to think this story is boring. I would say it’s stood the test of time, even if we are the only ones who know it.”
Bedtime had gone on long enough, the father stood up, it was time to leave.
“Can I sleep with the window open?”
The father’s face became stern. “I thought you were having nightmares?”
“I was, but I don’t think I will anymore. I’m over it.”
“Well if you insist.”
Suddenly the oval window reopened. There was only darkness, empty space and a few twinkling galaxies far away out there.
The father turned around, visibly annoyed.
“See you in three-hundred years,” said the boy.
“That is a statement not even the greatest mathematicians can agree on. Time is relative to where you are in space and what type of space you are in and I do not want to get into this all over again… What I mean is, where we are at the moment, there is no chronology that can be calibrated. I’ve already told you more than once before, it will only feel like one really long sleep.” The father leaned against the door panel and stared at his son. “Are you scared?”
The father warily left his son’s suspension-chamber. He stood for a moment in the corridor outside, took a deep breath then activated the command procedure for debarkation and waited for security-fields to lock in while the entire room became isolated and sealed. From an observation window he saw the room break off the orbiting-station to float free in space for a few brief moments only to be caught and drawn in by a colossal tractor beam from the transport ship. The cube shaped chamber seamlessly connected to it like a lost jigsaw piece; that floating giant sphere then hovered around the mammoth cylindrical starship until out of sight.
He watched until then.
The father now started the journey to his own suspension-chamber. It was only a short walk, but still, not liking to be left alone with only one’s thoughts for company he decided to pull up the most recent entry in the location log. He was glad to see they’d already left quadrant R45 and were nearing section T21. They would arrive at their destination in only seventy-four years, suspended time.
Reaching his own chamber the shuttle entry flipped open, and while stepping in, the sector he had just left completely shutdown to conserve energy. Thoughts of his son in deep sleep, the security of them both and of the vessel itself all swirled around inside his head. Entering his own pod he laid down in the cryogenics-container; soon after the thruster blasted and the pod shook.
Then he slept. Dreams came, dreams of darkness, of infinity, of nothing but deep empty space. The father looked for his son everywhere in that overwhelming darkness, believing he would never find him, but then he did. And they ran, ran towards the light, ran on forever till they were tired of running and wanted to know what it was they were running from. Then somewhere in someplace they both turned to face whatever pursued them and of course it was the Minotaur.
They chased the Minotaur through galaxies shaped like mazes, through star-systems that were labyrinths, always flying higher and higher all the way towards the Sun. They came so close to it, too close to it. Then suddenly the Minotaur was gone, the boy also. The father searched desperately for his child. He struggled up even higher and higher. But then, when he had just about lost all hope of ever reclaiming the boy, the father saw his son and flew to him, caught his hand and did not let him fall.
Sean Mulroy lives in Newcastle, Australia. His previous fiction has appeared in Every Day Fiction among other places.