The Girl Who Learned How to Fly but Forgot How to Land

Flying

“their heart grew cold they let their wings down” 

Icarus was the son of master craftsman Daedalus, he who had created the winding paths of the Labyrinth for King Minos of Knossos near his palace in Crete in order to imprison the beast that was the half-bull, half-man creature; the Minotaur. Theseus was tasked with the challenge of defeating the Minotaur and rescuing the Athenian boys and girls who had been sacrificed to the beast. He told his father, Aegeus he would sail away with a black mast but would return with a white mast to signal his success in defeating the Minotaur. Daedalus decided to help him by giving Minos’ daughter, Ariadne, who was in love with Theseus, a ball of string to aid him in finding his way out of the maze. Thus Theseus found his way to the heart of the Labyrinth where he came upon the sleeping creature and with his sword stabbed the beast in the throat and decapitated him. To find his way out again, Theseus followed the string that he had carefully placed down on his way into the Labyrinth. He reached the entrance and was able to escape the island with the captive Athenians as well as Ariadne and her younger sister Phaedra. Looking for water on their way back, the group came to the island of Naxos where they fell asleep on the beach after their arduous journey. Athena woke Theseus and told him to leave the island early in the morning but to leave Ariadne for Dionysus, who was God of the island. Stricken with grief at the prospect of losing Ariadne, Theseus left Naxos but forgot to change the sails on his boat from black to white. Thus his father believed that Theseus had failed in his task and so committed suicide before the crew arrived back from the expedition.

Tragedy befell Theseus and, because of his reckless actions in trying to aid the hero, Daedalus was sentenced to live in the Labyrinth with his son Icarus by King Minos. They too were the victims of tragedy for when clever Dadaelus came up with a solution to help the pair escape, Icarus acted with hubris and failed his father. Daedalus constructed a pair of wings, robust and strong, sealed with wax, and gave them to Icarus to try to fly out of the Labyrinth, warning him not to fly to close or too far from the sun. If he flew too near to the sea, the water might clog up the mechanism in the wings, and if he flew too near to the sun the wax holding the wings together would melt. In fact, Icarus, full of the caprice of being able to fly, did not heed to his father’s advice and flew too close to the sun, melting the wax and burning the feathers that made up the pair of wings. He fell into the sea, which now bears his name and was drowned.

With this history in her mind, the heroine of our story, Fteró, came to construct from carefully carved wood, glue and feathers, a pair of wings certain to enable their user to fly vast distances across wide open seas. The wings were large but not cumbersome, light and strong, held together tightly with string and sealed with strong glue, which would not melt under the sun’s heavy rays. It took months of drawing up plans and undergoing trials and failures before Fteró found she had a machine that worked correctly. But eventually she succeeded in building a device that could lift one high into the sky and allow one to fly. On the day of reckoning, Fteró strapped herself into the machine she had created, wearing upon her back the complex and thorough wings that she had designed and built. She transformed from mortal to something else: a beast, a monster, a creature of flight. Climbing to the red cliff tops in order to put her creation in to practice, Fteró passed by rocky mountain outcrops and grassy banks scattered with the sun-bleached bones of animals sacrificed or hunted. She reached the promontory and began to run towards the sea below and the clouds above. Building up speed and momentum, she thrust her arms, transformed into wings, out either side of her body and waited for the air to lift her into the sky. As she reached the edge of the cliff, she felt a sudden gust of wind under her body and she found that she was flying. The wings were a success. The glue held, the mechanism functioned correctly, and Fteró was flying high above the open ocean, arms outstretched, moving strong and graceful in the air.

As she flew, she felt the freedom of a bird, gliding softly across the skies. But tragedy once again struck our protagonist, for just as she saw the night time begin to encroach, the sun falling in the sky, the air turning orange and then red, Fteró realised that she had succeeded only in so far as she was able to fly. She had not foreseen the challenge, new as it was to her, of landing back upon the earth in her mechanised wings. She was thus condemned to spend her life eternal soaring high in the skies and watching over the lives of those on the earth below. She had learned how to fly but had forgotten to learn how to land and was to spend the rest of days in the company of the birds. Though her arms ached, she continued to fly trapped by her very desire for freedom. Once mortal, now machine, bird, monster, she kept her arms raised, her wings spread, for fear of falling to her death if she did not.

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