Plummeting

Humanity was never meant to fly, only to fall. And I have fallen further than any man has ever dared to imagine.

It was an impossible dream, an unholy desire to touch the gods. I wanted to live like no other, and now, I think I am dead.

That desire, that intoxicating wish still lingers and consumes, when so much else has disappeared. I cannot even remember my own name here in this unfamiliar abyss.

It's dark here atop the glassy water. We are pressed against one another in this narrow boat, eight passengers guided by this cloaked figure at the helm of the ship, trapped beneath an endless, starless night. The faces beside me and across from me are not familiar, but they all share an expression of fear. Beneath the filthy clothes lined with dirt and grime, they are all pale with terror.

They won't look at me, but only stare at their folded hands, which even in the dim light, visibly tremble. But it is warm here, too warm.

Our guide whose silent oar pushes us through the dark water looms above me. I am at his feet, like a forgotten, misbehaved child. And so confused, because I do not understand.

"Excuse me, sir, where are we going?"

My weak voice is swallowed by the shadows, stolen by the silence.

"The young ones never understand," he whispers airily. The sound prickles the skin along my arms; it is a cold, icy voice.

We glide forward, borne to some unknown fate that awaits us in the darkness ahead. The blackness is so calm, so still. It is a drowsy place to encourage muffled dreams, but I cannot succumb. I must remember.

There was light, a bright shining light hovering high above me. How I longed to reach it—and oh, how it burned.

I was a prisoner, overcome by a longing for freedom, and guarded by men, uniformed soldiers, with lined faces and grim expressions. But how astonished they were when we took to the wind.

"Is this a prison?" I whisper.

"This is Judgment," the cloaked figure intones above me.

The pale specters around me shiver.

I am alone now, because my father has disappeared. Perhaps he is too important to be judged. He was always coveted by other men, especially the greedy king with the cruel eyes who locked men away in their deepest nightmares—in a labyrinth of horrors.

Perhaps this underworld prison is his.

There is a dim light ahead, like a mist rising from the black water.

I remember the blue water, a massive ocean as far the eye could see. White crests crashed and ebbed, and the glaring sun flashed against its tumultuous surface.

And I couldn't breathe, only struggle against the weight and the current. And that drop of honey, perched so far above, still loomed above me, taunting me with its rippling light. It was cold, though, and the fire seemed so far away. I cannot remember emerging.

The boat jerks as it stop soundlessly against a soft bank. The cloaked figure wordlessly steps out of the boat and waits. Slowly, the other passengers rise mechanically, lifelessly, and shuffle onto the black beach. At last, I can see their eyes. They are empty.

I am the last to clamor onto the black beach, and I am cold. My shallow breaths fog the air.

"Do you understand now, young one?"

"No," I reply, but with a deepening sense of dread, I know it is a lie.

Because I remember now, and I know. My heart pounds desperately in my chest, pushing and forcing life through my veins on this winding path to Death.

I remembered soaring over the trees, my laughter dancing in the wind. My father was beside me, smiling as the wind roared in our ears. It was a heady power, an exhilarating joy that compelled me to climb higher.

An undeniable compulsion forces one foot in front of the other, drawing me to the gray fields on the horizon, where a hundred thousand souls wander.

I can hear his voice again as clearly now as it was then, begging me to stop. It was the intoxicating taste of life that overwhelmed me on that sunny afternoon; now, it is the bitter sensation of that life draining away. It is like falling, that sweeping feeling that begins in your stomach and soon reaches every corner of your body and soul. And I'm caught in a spiraling dive.

Plunging into numbness and unawareness.

There is a pool ahead, and already, the other travelers are scooping the murky water into their cupped hands. There is a cloying, dusty taste in my mouth, and I long for the water's sweet relief.

It hurts to think of the light and of the lost; it hurts to think of my father's horrified face as I plummeted from the sky, surrounded by the broken pieces of his most brilliant invention. I was flying and now I have fallen. I was alive, and now, I am dead.

I bend over the pool and ignore the aroma of sulfur rising from its depths. With shaking hands, I bring the freezing water of the Lethe to my mouth. I no longer want to remember. Come to me, oblivion.

The liquid traces an icy path through my body, leaving only the chill in its wake. The numbness is soothing; perhaps this catharsis is the gods' mercy. I am disappearing, until all that remains of me is an empty soul and a lost name.

Icarus is the name history will remember. Icarus is the name I have forgotten.

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Written for The Review Game's October Writing Challenge Contest. Check out the other entries and vote for your favorite between the 8th and the 14th.