We all sat along the edge of the steep precipice, our small feet dangling in the air freely.
Perusing the sprawling ocean that seemed to go on forever, I said, “Any ideas?”
“How bout we crisscross blue moons and black pearls?” asked Ariel.
“You’re such a crackpot,” said Gabriel with a condescending look. “We’re supposed to use our brains, not scramble them.”
“Touché… give me some black beauty over you worn out beasty Barbies any day!”
“I think you’ve had enough black beauty for one day,” I said, slipping my hand inside my pocket to ensure that the crystals were still there. “You two don’t mix very well at all; a bit like oil and water.”
“Oh yeah, says who?”
“Says you’re big ol’ bro over here who had to defy gravity and climb to the canopy of that cypress tree about nine miles yonder and get you down,” said Gabriel.
“But mum said I could!”
“She did Ariel; she also said that it has to be within the context of the game we’re playing,” I said.
“It is,” said Ariel. “I’m learning about the worlds beyond.”
Gabriel rolled his eyes. “We’ve got a bad case of selective hearing on our hands Olyn. You know what, let him do what he wants, but I can assure you that I’m not climbing anymore trees for his sake,” he said, pivoting to face Arial with the sternest look I’d ever seen. “Next time you’re all on your own little bro.”
“Oh, come on…”
“Boys, I think we’re transgressing somewhat,” I said. ‘How are we going to cross this thing?”
After a brief silence Ariel blurted out, “I’ve got it we’ll swim!”
“What? Do you know how far it is to that blessed land that be over there? Remember the optical illusion thing. It looks a lot closer than what it actually is. We’d be lucky to get a tenth of the way before drowning.”
“Or becoming fish food,” I added.
“Either way it would be game over,” said Gabriel.
“What if we build a boat or a raft and some paddles out of wood,” I suggested. “I know it’s time consuming. I mean, we’d need to do a bit of scouting and scampering to collect base materials but I think once we…”
“Why not? It’s doable.”
“There has to be another way.”
“Are you worried about getting sunburnt?” I asked, chuckling. “I’m the one who should be worried. You’re black and little Ariel over here is red.”
“It’s not that,” said Gabriel. “How are we supposed to get it down there? It’ll get smashed on the rocks.”
“We’ll figure something out.”
Out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of a probing hand retrieving the Ovilus gadget from our tattered Mickey Mouse backpack.
‘What do you think you’re doing Ariel?”
“The whole point is to figure it out on our own, remember? We’re supposed to be learning.”
“If the choice is there why not take it?”
“Not without applying yourself to the problem first. While quick fixes and magic bullets offer spontaneous relief, they do nothing in terms of long-lasting resolutions. Mum taught us that, remember?”
“She did,” said Ariel, groping the Ovilus as if it were the illustrious Le Cœur de la Mer. “She also gave us this beauty.”
“You’re so friggin stubborn Ariel,” said Gabriel. “It’s always your way or the highway.”
“You two have already used up your lifelines. We all get one each.”
“We had agreed that the decisions would be unanimous,” I pointed out. “Now’s not a good time.”
“Because we’re still a while off the blessed land that be,” I said. “What if we need it later?”
“It’s two against one Ariel. We win.”
Ariel’s lips curled up into a facetious grin, one that I absolutely despised. “We’ll cross that bridge when we reach it.”
“We’re supposed to build the bridges, remember? We’re not simply observers, we’re Creators in our own right. I say we buckle down and think this through. There will be many a time in life where we won’t have the option of transcommunicational help. It’s good practice.”
“I agree with Olyn,” said Gabriel. “Put it away.”
“It appears mules are more cooperative.”
Ariel fumbled for the ON switch of the pocket-sized automaton. First there was a click, then the familiar hissing of white noise, and finally a precursor popping noise indicating that transcommunication was now enabled.
“Stuck?” asked a hollow, mechanical voice so disparate from that which we were accustomed.
“Mum, we’re not quite sure as to how to cross this froth-filled and angry-looking ocean,” I said, casting a heated glance at Ariel. “So far we’ve thought of swimming and boating. If appearances are anything to go by, it’s going to take at least two days to cross to the neighbouring continent if we elect to go by boat or raft, right?”
“Oh, I guess that puts those ideas to rest,” I said.
“You have just over a day to get to the blessed land that be.”
“Do we have any other options? Obviously we’ve missed something.”
“Have I told you about Daedalus and Icarus?”
“Who are they?”
“Father and son.”
“No,” we said in unison.
“There was once a very clever inventor called Daedalus who lived in a splendid Minoan palace on the northern coast of Crete. He was an Einstein, a Tesla, and a da Vinci of the ancient world; there wasn’t a code he couldn’t crack and an element he couldn’t put to practical use. He made all sorts of interesting gadgets–self-moving automata of the gods, prosthetic limbs, and some really unusual talking devices. He was also the force behind the construction of a giant labyrinth and an artificial contraption so that the queen of Crete could unite amorously with the creature of her affections, a white bull.”
“That’s gross,” said Ariel.
“Oh, that Daedalus was such a queer little man. Behind those piercing blue eyes was a bundle of sadistic and masochistic qualities. This particular bull wasn’t just any bull; it had been sacrificial gift to King Minos from the sea god Poseidon. He knew exactly what mess he was getting himself into when he made that artificial cow for the queen. The sexual union between queen and bull resulted in an unwelcomed pregnancy and the birth of a monstrosity, a theriomorphic beast called Asterios. Minos was livid when explicit details of this unlikely encounter went viral. Of course how better to alleviate himself of the dishonour and humiliation that would destroy him if he dare pondered the nature of his wife’s paraphilia than by deflecting blame onto master Daedalus, the man who’d enabled this unnatural union with his mechanical contraption. Minos punished the perceived misdeed by mercilessly imprisoning Daedalus and his young son Icarus in the highest tower of Cnossos.
As you might expect this didn’t really faze Daedalus, who swiftly put his mind to work in formulating a hasty escape. Land and sea were out of the question; the routes of the first were rife with soldiers and the second was swarming with warships. Escape, it seems, lay squarely within the realm of heaven and aviation, of making possible the wonders of flight. Scouring the tower he found four sturdy branches whose shape mimicked the natural curvature of birdwings, innumerable eagle feathers, a bundle of short and longer strings, and a ceramic jar full of beeswax. He and his son spent many days and nights assembling wings by aligning the feathers into two rows with a web of strings, an inner row with shorter ones and an outer row with longer ones, and then securing the top of each synthetic formation to a tree branch with molten beeswax.
After some trial runs, during which it was established that there was nothing wrong from a mechanical perspective, Daedalus informed his son that the only way to escape was to leap from the ledge of the precipitous tower. They took this fateful plunge together, a plunge which evolved into an exhilarating journey over the city of Cnossos and the Aegean Sea. Sometimes they flapped their wings subtlety in order to ascend to a place from whence they would not be visible with the naked eye, and at other times they soared closer to the water to preserve their energy.
The ignorance and rude immodesty of youth did not serve Icarus well, who in his blissful state disregarded his father’s caveats about the obvious dangers of flying too close to the sun. He flew higher and higher, to a place where the heat of the rays was strong enough to melt the beeswax holding the wings together. Once these dismantled he dropped out of the sky like a hot stone. His mortified father could do nothing at all to help; he simply looked on in horror as his son smacked through the surface of the Aegean Sea, never to see the light of day again. Later, the island nearest to this dreadful plunge was named Icaria.”
“That’s so sad,” Ariel whispered.
“It is, however the story contains within the crux of a most powerful message.”
“Our answer is flight,” I said.
“That’s true,” said the mechanical voice, “however there’s a lot more to it than that.”
“Where do we find beeswax around here?” asked Gabriel. “I haven’t seen a hive in miles.”
“Yeah, and eagle feathers are about as scarce as hen’s teeth,” I added. “Unless you’re bold enough to approach an eagle’s nest.”
“You don’t need any of those things,” said the mechanical voice.
“You have wings, you can fly.”
Before any of us could respond the Ovilus delivered a loud clicking noise, indicating that the sentient receiver had gone offline. The silence was quickly replaced by the screeching sounds of television or radio static.
“Ugh, she hung up,” said Ariel.
“I don’t think we would have gotten much else out of mum,’ I said. “She actually said a lot more than what I expected.”
“What did she mean when she said that we had wings?” asked Gabriel.
“I don’t know, I…”
Slowly but surely I became aware of two fleshy protrusions that seem to extend outwards from my latissimus dorsi. Reaching up and over my left shoulder I ran my right hand along my upper back; instead of naked flesh I could feel something with a pliable texture resembling that of bird feathers.
My heart galloped like a runaway horse, smashing against my ribcage. Nervous heat blasted from my porous skin like a jet of vapour from a turbulent geyser. How could something as evident as self-anatomy, one’s own reflection, evade the mechanisms of perception for so long? Furthermore how imprudent of us, how remiss, and how unforgivable to have ignored the laws of inheritance. If our mother had wings, and we all knew she had, then it made sense that we did too!
The oversight caused a wave of embarrassment the size of a tsunami to wash over us. This was gradually supplanted by genuine awe and wonder, the kind one feels when they have awoken to transcendental realities. I was certain that Ariel and Gabriel were thinking the same thing, for etched on their cherubic faces was the most virginal titillation that could possess and overwhelm a being of the universe. We spent some time admiring one another’s wings in graveyard silence, knowing at an intuitive level that playful observation was akin to experiencing the divine grace and beauty of our own form reflected.
My own exhilaration was so ardent, so intense, that it lifted me from the ground. I could hear the rhythmic whooshing of my wing muscles as they elevated me into the cerulean blue of the heavens from where I could see the towering cliffs and mountains, the fields, and the meadows we’d been meandering through in circles. From here, we had a comprehensive view of the landscape beyond what was visible to a terrestrial agent and could thus adopt proactive rather than reactive stances when it came to planning ahead; this was real freedom. Our mode of operation had extended to include flight–here was another law transcended! To rise above another physical law was tantamount to being one step closer to life eternal, or so I gathered.
Looking down, we could see the colourful inflections characteristic of the variant depths of the ocean. The surface shimmered like shards of a broken mirror, inducing a state of complete relaxation that transmuted into a hypnagogic trance. I remained there for some time, wafting about in an in-between limbo of vivid hallucinations before being jolted back to conscious awareness by a flock of whooping cranes that were causing much brouhaha.
For a second I was seized whole by the incredulity of what was transpiring; how could I be doing something as ludicrous as flying in the troposphere? Nothing made much sense anymore. Moreover, I became acutely conscious of the synchronized movements of my wings and the alternating cadence of relaxation and tension in my back muscles, so much in fact that I could no longer modulate them. The cumulative panic manifested as a band of jerky, cumbersome, and spasmodic movements that disturbed my balance until I was finally knocked from my axis, plunging from the sky at supersonic speeds. I opened my mouth in sheer terror but the piercing shriek would not emanate.
I coughed, spitting up water.
“What ha… happened?”
“Gabriel thought it would be funny if we splash water on your face,” said Ariel. “You know, make it seem as though we really did fall into the ocean.”
“Not funny,” I said, lurching up and wiping my face with the back of my hand. “How long was I out for?”
“Not long at all,” said Ariel. “We only disengaged from the Parallel Dimension Generator a few minutes ago.”
“We stuffed it up bro,” said Gabriel. “It’s game over I’m afraid.”
“Out-of-body somewhere,” he said. “I think she’s assisting the invisible helpers at the children’s hospital.”
“I don’t know how she does it.”
“Ten friggin things at once,” I said. “We can’t even do one.”
“She didn’t look too happy,” said Ariel. “I think she’s really disappointed in us Olyn.”
“Yeah well, we’ve done it over ten times and we still can’t reach the blessed land that be,” I said, adjusting my pillow and folding my hands behind my head. “She has a right to be disappointed. She gave us all the answers and we still stuffed it up!”
“Exactly,” Gabriel agreed. “What kind of Creators are we going to be if we can’t sustain our concentration for more than three days?”
“Personally I don’t think it’s got anything to do with concentration.”
“What do you mean?”
“There’s something we’re not doing that’s causing it to fail.”
“Or doing,” said Ariel.
“Yeah, or doing.”
“We didn’t take heed of what mum was saying,” said Gabriel. “We flew too close to the sun, like Icarus.”
“Icarus’s wings were only affected by the sun because they were made of something which the sun can melt Gabriel.”
“Olyn’s right,” said Ariel. “His wings were fake, ours are real.”
“Oh, I know!”
“What is it?”
“Why didn’t we think of this before?”
“Tell us Olyn!”
“We didn’t fly too close to the sun, we lost sight of the sun.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” asked Gabriel.
“The sun is a synonym for undisputed belief and flight for our inherent potential to create,” I said. “Allow even the slightest grain of doubt into your creation and it crumbles like a teddy Bear biscuit dipped in hot chocolate. Icarus was divine like his architect father but he died because somewhere in the Orcan chambers of his dark unconscious he came to doubt that divinity. He didn’t believe in his own Godhood to traverse unknown seas and chart undiscovered territories. The powers that be could not be duped; they knew of this inner duplicity and punished him dearly for it.”
“History repeats!” exclaimed Ariel.
“Like Sunny over there,” said Gabriel, motioning towards our beloved companion, the family cockatoo.
“Does history repeat Sunny?” asked Ariel.
“Repeat! Repeat!” the cockatoo screeched.
“Does it ever,” I said. “No doubt we were punished by the same powers for exactly the same reasons. I guess our mother’s message couldn’t be clearer; banish all traces of doubt from your own being and cleave that eternal narrative into the universal fabric or die a dishonourable death by not having cleaved one at all. Lest we remember that nothing enduring ever came of doubting…”