“Not too high, not too low”.
Six words. So mundane, so seemingly insignificant. So easily ignored. Reaching over his shoulder, his hand returned, full of feathers and wax. Tangible reminders of his failure, of his hubris. Not that he would need any reminding.
His breath was light, calm, even. No terror, not even trepidation. Each breath in and out rang heavy in his ears. Deep, but not quick, heavy but not ragged. All he felt in the moment was an odd serenity he’d never felt before and could barely comprehend.
Turning his head over his shoulder, he looked down. He beheld the Aegean, the waters sparkling in the sunlight. The crash of the waves was inaudible from this height. The odour of salt and sand couldn’t reach him either. He reached out and flexed his fingers. As high as he was, it was cold. Goosebumps rose on his arms and the breeze was sharp against his skin.
His mind went to his father, no doubt with his nose buried in a blueprint somewhere, penning his next architectural triumph. He so excelled at leaving men and women alike in awe of his achievements. Maybe he’d understand. After all, had he not been undervalued, denigrated, and advised not to aspire for great heights for fear of the fall? He had, and was the better for it. It was a cruel irony that Daedalus’ son would be a literal paragon for the very warnings he’d scorned most of his life.
The air felt sharper, his descent accelerated. He smiled. He reached out a hand toward the sun. It filled his vision, stinging his eyes yet he kept his gaze. In his mind’s eye he could almost see vain Helios, flashing across the sky in his chariot.
Icarus smiled. He smiled at the Gods, cruel enough to curse man with the imagination and ambition to think they could stand alongside them, only to steal that hope, that dream from them. He would join them soon enough, and when he did, he would stand with his head held high. Even in his failure, he was all the more satisfied for trying. Even with his hand outstretched, as he willed, as he demanded, his fingertips to touch the sun itself, he was reminded that his reach truly did exceed his grasp.
Icarus closed his eyes. He was ready. With a silent goodbye to his father, he resigned himself to the arms of Hades.
Then, he fell.