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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The Girl Who Cut Out Her Heart and Buried it in the Snow

Heart

“but a kind of yearning has hold of me – to die and to look upon the dewy lotus banks of Acheron”

Is there an animal with no heart? Does the absence of the beating rhythm stop all life or can one go on without a heart? Like the lion in the Wizard of Oz who yearns for a heart.

Aíma was a girl who had dreamed of having no heart. She was quite young, not yet fully grown, but curious. She worked in a butchers in the city and her long days were spent cutting, dicing, fileting, packing, selling. She was used to the feel of raw flesh in her hands and the red brown of blood under her fingernails. But she had always wondered about it – could a person live without a heart? Her dreams told her they could.

On this night she was lying in her bed in her apartment trying to cool off. She had a temperature, she was burning up and the night air was not cooling the fire that prickled under her skin. She wrestled with the sheets, fanning herself with the billowing material but try as she might, she couldn’t cool down. In and out of consciousness, her mind drifted to the dreams that were always in the back of her thoughts. She started to dream of having no heart.

After a while, the heat was too much and the open window was not helping. The chill of the winter air did nothing to quell her fever. Aíma had had enough and sat up in bed, her mind wandering as it did to animals living, breathing without a heart. She got up and without questioning her actions; she walked to the kitchen and found a pair of scissors. She gripped them in her hands and throwing her coat on, she left the apartment carrying the scissors under her clothes. She could feel the cold metal on her skin and it felt amazing. In the city at night there were not many people about. It was perhaps one or two in the morning. Few shops were open and Aíma was not distracted by other walkers. She left the apartment block and began to walk, faster with each step. She knew where she was going but at the same time she did not. She just followed where her feet took her. It started to snow.

On the outskirts of the city, she eventually reached a disused warehouse with a large car park. It was empty save a few bicycles chained to the railings and an old beaten up Corvette that had seen better days. Still holding the scissors under her jacket, Aíma walked purposefully to the corner of the car park where yesterday’s snowfall was backed up against the wall. The fresh snow was light and melting as it touched the white compacted powder on the concrete. But slowly, it began to settle. Aíma could feel it on her skin, cooling her hot, stinging flesh. She took the scissors and began to gauge a hole in the snow and ice. Deep she struggled with the scissors – they were just regular kitchen scissors – until she had a hole about 30cm into the snow. She took off her jacket and grasped the scissors before stabbing the open blades into her chest. The pain of the cut was alleviated by the cold touch of the scissors. Aíma dug deeper and passing through layers of flesh and ribs, she reached her heart. She felt it beating fast under the bones and cartilage and reasoned that she must cut it out. There was a lot of blood on her hands, on the scissors and spattered on the white grey snow. Drops of red and black mixing with the ice. She was sweating and shivering at once and felt as though she was about to faint.

But she persevered and cutting with the scissors at lumps and bumps of flesh and skin, she could feel her heart in her hands, She was used to holding bloody flesh from working at the butchers, but this was hotter, burning. She took the heart and threw it down into the hole she had dug before covering it over with layers of old snow. She wiped the scissors clean on her coat and crawled under the material, curled up on the snow next to where she had buried her heart. It was just as it was in her dreams. She rested her head on the ice and went to sleep. Her ritual was complete.

 

The Girl and the Bear…the Final Part

The Girl and the Bear

Final Part

Sooner or later, the girl woke too. She first felt the funny pain of cold, then a terrible stiff aching when she tried to move a little. She could hear the noises of birds and morning and she thought to open her eyes. But it was hard, like they were closed for so long that they had settled, couldn’t be opened. Like a window painted shut. However, she persevered, and soon was blinking slowly, forced. Time passed like this and each part of her body began to wake little by little. First the eyelids, then the eyes, then her toes, and then her fingers and nose, until she could contemplate moving her torso, sitting up so to speak. Her stomach felt the kind of sweat that brings together the hot and cold, her belly shivered though she had been lying skin to skin for several hours. And her bones cracked apart as she moved. But soon enough the girl was able to kneel up, to turn herself away from the tree she had slept upon, to roll over on her bottom and sit legs in front, bent. As she did so she could see her legs were grey and purple with black scratches up and down, dirty brown scratches, black where the blood had coagulated. And terribly white and grey because of the cold cold snow. Her arms too were marked, though less so than her legs. And her fingertips were brown and grimy, nails clogged with black dried blood. She assessed her body.

The girl looked up from where she sat and saw the sky. It was white once again, still high. And she saw the land around. It seemed to her to be bigger, wider, lighter and less untidy than it had the weeks previous. Clearer. Here she sat and looked out for a little while. Until her mind told her that now would be a good point to get up, what with her having been in the snow all night. She thought wise to bathe herself and attend to her cuts, to light a fire and become warmer, to prevent her heart from giving out to the cold. Wait, she thought to her heart. Something made her think to her heart, as if it was important, as if something had happened about her heart. She couldn’t remember. And when she looked down at her chest it was just as it always was, white skin, unmarked, not even marked by the bears’ arrows. No, nothing. So the girl took the strength from her guts and rose up one step at a time, steady as she went. And she began to walk back to her tree.

It was a longer journey this time. Of course, because now she wasn’t running, and she wasn’t on fire. She was just tired. But she came to her home and she bathed in warm water, then once again in nearly scalding water, for she was still cold in the bones. Then she lit a fire and sat some more. And she cleaned her cuts which were red and pink now. And she sat for some hours, warming. She was thinking, and then she was sleeping. And she was dreaming of the bear.

Later on the girl awoke and she was warm and calmer. She looked out of her tree and saw that it was becoming dark. And she thought she saw creatures in the shadow light, but they couldn’t confuse her for she was calmer now. She thought to the confusion and pain, and she looked at it. as she was looking at it she pitied it. any pain that had been inside of her could no longer make her bite she thought. That’s not to say that the pain disappeared, but the girl realised that the love of the two arrows that had stabbed her in the heart was somewhat of a combatant against this pain. In spite of the blood loss they resulted in, the arrows were very dear to her. And she would sit with them a while, no need to be overwhelmed, no need to cry at the confusion. Rather, just sit a while. For one day it was sure that things would be different.

The truth about bears is that they are not such fierce creatures as they might a first appear. Bears can be very kindly and beautiful, as the girl knew from her own experience. The reason for their ferocity is their ancestry. A very great bear many years ago was terribly hurt by a man. The story is that the man came to find the bear in the forest, for he had heard of its great beauty and majesty. The bear was well known you see. Known for his wonderful chestnut coat that glistened gold in the sunlight, and was so soft as to heal the skin it touched, and known too for his strength, for the power he held in his hands. This bear was the king of bears. He was very kind, and showed excellence in catching fish, fighting and running. The fastest creature in the land, no one could outrun him. And his teeth were so sharp and white, his eyes so blue. The clearest blue you’ve ever seen. He was the king. Yet one day, the bear was found in the forest by a man. The man had searched him out, he caught him unawares and shot him in the leg. Though the bear was strong, he was left prone and unable to move, by the gun wound. And as he roared in pain and anger, the man tied him down so as to prevent the king from struggling or lashing out. The man took out a knife and considered the beautiful creature before him, then stroking the fur with the knife edge, and at last slicing the bear’s side, he took a piece of the golden coat. He did not listen to the terrible cries that the animal made, but instead flung the fur into his bag, and took now a pair of pliers with which he plucked one by one, each of the sharp, strong white teeth from the dark pink and bloodying gums. He put these too in the bag with the fur, before wiping his knife and tools on the suffering bear’s leg, and turning, leaving the forest with his goods. The story of this king of bears was told to every new bear since, and for this, the bears now are imbued with a fear and terror which arms them to fight, to growl and to protect.

It is worth remembering this history when you might meet a bear. And of course the girl knew this when she came to love the brown bear and the black bear, though she saw only beauty and kindness.

The End.

Bear

The Girl and the Bear

The Girl and the Bear

Third Part

She had become resentful and full of fear. And she was yearning for her tree, but this was very confusing for her because the black bear was full of kindness and had only ever shown her care and goodness. Nevertheless, every day the girl would wake and want to scream so loudly, but she was gagged. She was trapped too, tied up in a strait jacket and unable to escape the consequences of her own actions. Not but two days or so ago, the girl had allowed the bear, encouraged him, to shoot her in the heart, but she never thought that this would be the result. The arrow had become lodged, but her heart had begun to hurt. Hurt with a strange pain. A terrible guilty pain that came to infect her brain too. The girl was so angry and hurting and sad inside. And she knew that it was her fault. The problem was that there is not room for two arrows in one heart, and the girl had already been shot. Two punctures in one heart can lead to a great loss of blood. So in spite of all the honey and gifts that the kind and gentle black bear had bestowed upon her, the girl could not help but feel a horrible pain from inside of her beating chest. The pain was long and dirty and oppressive, and felt like a darkness crawling inside of her mind, eating at her thoughts, and taking away her soul. She couldn’t help but feel that she was doing something very wrong, that although she had love in her heart, it was poisoning her from the inside out. The days went on, for the girl was strong and kept the sense in her mind. Though she was suffering this strange pain, she could still hear the voice of her reason telling her of all the more pain that she might release if she let herself act upon her feelings. She remained constant, closed and quiet. Silent. She kept to wearing the gag and the strait jacket, and she stayed with the kind black bear, trying always to keep loving her friend, to ignore the place inside her chest where he had shot his arrow. Never did she cry out, only tears came inside. Tears of sadness and shame and guilt. And one can get used to pain if one doesn’t cry out. One day the girl became especially aware of the pain, and she thought she just couldn’t stand it any longer. She was terribly confused. And perhaps she ought to have realised, but no, she could not. She could not see clearly, she could not remove the gag, but then too she could not supress the indignation or pain. It was agony in her body. She lay that night beneath the moon, inside of the home she had built, but her mind was restless and her body full of discomfort. Itching and sweating, she writhed. Her skin was hot and sore, and the hurt was burying all the way through to her organs, and to her mind. She tried very hard to sleep, to remain, to calm, but at last her body was boiling so much with the wretch emanating from her heart would not stay still. Like a beast residing within her, he was eating her insides and finding his way out, preventing her sleep. So the girl sat up, she leapt up and climbed out of her tree. She hastened out, fast, fast and she didn’t care that her bones bashed against the trunk as she clambered. And she didn’t care that the air was so dry and painfully cold as to kill. She was so hot. And compelled. So she ran through the forested area, though she tripped and fell upon the uneven frozen ground. She ran to the edge of the trees until she fell down onto the snow, for it was snowing at this time of the winter. Everywhere was under layers and layers of snowfall. White and thick. Too thick even to feel the grass and mud beneath as you ran across the surface. The sky was very dark blue, and very vast and high. The girl stopped for just a second as she reached the forest edge. She breathed in. then she began again to run, following the path by memory, as the floor was only white. Not so fast now for she was beginning to feel the cold eating at her skin. Her body was in part burning, sweating, gasping for air and cool refreshment, and in part numb and frozen, unable to move for lack of energy. At first she couldn’t feel this, or at least was not concerned to notice, but after a time of running, her feet simply couldn’t continue onward. She stopped as she came to a number of trees beginning another forest area, and leant upon a dark and dirty wood, a wide tree trunk, moist and cold. The girl breathed for quite some time. Heavily, and leaning upon the bark. Her arms and legs and stomach were sore and stinging, hot still and itching. And she closed her eyes for a time.

Brown Bear

Fourth part coming soon!

The Girl and the Bear

The Girl and the Bear

Second Part

For a time she didn’t know this bear, but one day he saw her laying down in the sunshine painting husks and kernels with the berry juice, and he came to sit with her a while. Then they became friends. This bear was a brown bear with soft thick fur, shiny and pure. He was tall and large and had a kindly face. But more than kindly, his face was so terribly beautiful. He was a terribly beautiful bear. His eyes were grey and blue and they were speckled with honey gold freckles all around. They were nearly transluscent, and very beautiful indeed. But the girl didn’t realise this when he came to sit with her a while.

Everyday the girl took good care of the animals in the forest and all around. The days were becoming warmer at this time of year; the flowers were showing their faces too. Yellow and purple and white, they snuck up from below the grass, small but many. And they smiled at the girl, they laughed with her as she walked through the green, green grasses, through the cool and shady families of trees, as she painted, and as she collected fruits and herbs for her remedies and potions. Oh what lovely days these were with the sun shining upon her hair. Now and a then she would see her friends the raccoons, she might swim with the fish, or pass by the beautiful brown bear, and she would be happier these days. She was not so scared of herself, and she was certainly not afraid of anyone else. No, these were calm and warm summer days. The mountains were very beautiful, the sky very blue and very wide.

But of course as is its nature, time began to pass, and the days came to be a little shorter, the sun a little cooler, and the sky a little lower. The summer reached his hand out to shake that of the autumn, and though the girl wished it was not so, she had soon to admit that it was getting too cold to continue her days in this fashion. She had seen it coming, but she was sad to see it arrive all the same.

The girl was strong and resolute. So as the winter came, she did her utmost not to let in the cold. She armed herself. And she made many more friends in the green wide lands of her home. She met dogs and bears and saw once again friends she had not seen for such a long time. And times continued, the winter making things just that little bit harder, colder. Sometimes friends shot her in the foot, sometimes the dogs got over excited and the insects inadvertently poisoned her, yet she remained. She met, among others, a black bear. And she saw too the brown bear. She lit a fire outside her tree every night for light and warmth, and though she made mistakes, she persevered.

The black bear got to talking with the girl one day. This bear was quiet, shy, black and strong, and the two became friends. He was very kindly, and brought to her tree gifts of fruits and honey. And he would brush her hair also. What a very kind bear. Time passed and continued, and the girl remained. In spite of the tumultuous weather, the cold, the winter. She looked forward always to the summer. Yet soon the girl began to get a strange feeling inside of her guts. And she realised that it was caused by the black bear. Wait, was it the black bear?

Third part coming soon!

The Girl and the Bear

The Girl and the Bear

First Part

There is a place in the mountains just far from here. This is the most beautiful and exquisite place you might ever see. It has much green grass and plenty of water and strong green trees. In the morning the sun rises up over the mountains. It creeps high into the sky, bright and yellow. Warm and powerful. It comes every morning, save for those especially clouded, grey, white days, and heats up the soil below. It melts the ice crystals that blanket the land so that round shining water droplets collect upon the leaves and grass. Then it warms them more and more until they evaporate and the ground is hard and dry, sandy with mud, but mostly green with grass. Well this place is very beautiful. The trees give fruits, nuts and berries, great red berries. And forest flowers grow upon the floor during the summer months. The nuts are varied and scatter upon the ground. They are sweet and nutritious. The place is very vast, it covers many miles and very few people live there. A lumberjack every now and then. There are areas where trees run for hundreds of miles, and here live sparrows and jackdaws and robins and grey tits and spiders and mice and fat caterpillars and woodlice. Then there are clearer areas where trickling water splashes down through the rocks and ledges. The water is clear and cool. Maybe it derives from a spring somewhere up in those mountains. The animals can drink.

Quite high up, perhaps into the higher of the mountains, is a place where the snow threatens, but never quite reaches to submerge. Here there is a reasonably sized clearing surrounded by forested land. As one ascends, there is one particular area of forest on the right hand side of this clearing, an area very vast and dark once one delves into its heart. In this part, among the insects and animals, the birds and the tall evergreens, lives a girl. She is a girl who lives here. Her home is a hollowed out tree, and her work is in the forest. The girl lives alone; though she is not lonesome, save for on occasion. For she has her work and her thoughts to occupy her time and mind. She cares for the animals when they are unwell, she mixes potions from the plants and flowers and fruits around her, and when she is done, she climbs the trees to look out across the mountains, or makes talismans and mascots from the forest detritus. She can make such like from the empty skulls of long dead creatures, from the husks and shells of the fruit that the land has consumed, from the seeds and pines that the forest sheds. And she can paint them with the blood and juice of animals and fruits. Her own home, inside a very large and tall tree, is decorated too with such objects as these. Red, brown, dead and immortal, hanging from the entrance to her home.

This tree that she calls her own is of quite large circumference with a hole in its side just a metre or so from the ground. Though the girl has covered the hole with a fabric so as not to allow the moths in each night or the bright light in each dawn, one can see that beneath the thin curtain, there is a room furnished inconspicuously and providing residence to a one individual. This is where she lives.

Sometimes the girl is cold. But that hasn’t been for quite a while now, and these days she sees more light. She can see the sunlight and feel it on her skin, and she can see the clean, white moonlight, and the hot, kind light of the night’s stars. She has friends in the forest, but mostly she is contented to live alone, to speak for herself. Some friends are raccoons, chipmunks, a few woodcutting folks, and of course the fish and the trees and the insects around her. And she also knows a bear.

Second part coming soon!