A guy in a small, claustrophobic, cube of a room (the living quarters of the Icarus asteriod cell), wearing a tank top and boxer shorts. He is also wearing a lightweight harness down both arms and legs, ending with a pair of very large metallic/plastic boots, reminiscent of ski boots. He turns on the terminal.
I promised you a bedtime story, didn’t I?
Here’s a story.
There’s this guy. He’s a scientist, but not a scientist like we have now. He’s, like, a just after fire, just after the wheel, half-magician sort of scientist. One of those guys that discovered the secret to everything, only to have the rest of the world believe in something else. Or in nothing. Well, this scientist, he sees the birds flying over his tower day after day. And he wonders, Can I do that? Nowadays, people would just say something like, We don’t have the bone structure or Our body mass is too large or something. But not this guy. He watches these birds and he thinks. He tries things, throws them away tries something else. He nevers says, I can’t do this, no way. And then, one day, he just knows how to do it. He gets these piles and piles of feathers, thousands of them, from eagles and falcons and condors and albatrosses, the biggest feathers he can get, because they have to be strong enough to hold all his weight, and he sits down for an entire day and an entire night, sticking each feather onto his arms and his shoulders with a drop of melted wax. Can you imagine the pain he must have felt after a while, drop after drop of melted wax onto bare skin, for hours? And then, finally, it’s done. He stands on the roof of his tower, his arms spread out, fluttering in the breeze. And he looks at the birds flying over him, and around him, and he calls to them, Wait for me. I’m coming. And he jumps off that tower and he starts to fall. But he’s not worried. Slowly, he begins to swing his arms into the wind, and feels this horrible stretching ache in his shoulders which each downward push, feels the wind pound his body, making his eyes stream tears. And then, suddenly, WHOOOOSH! a warm warm draft of air scoops under his wings and he’s thrown so high in the sky, towards the clouds. And his arms HURT! The wind wrenches his shoulders and his arms to what has to feel like breaking. But he’s laughing and screaming into the wind becaue he is FLYING and the birds are with him and he is above the whole world and it is so so so much more than he ever imagined.
Now. The whole time this guy’s in the air, his little brother — some people tell the story with him being his son, but for you, he’s his little brother. So — his little brother is watching him out of his window, watching him come in and out of view, moving faster and faster, faster than the wind, like the best of all possible birds. And that’s all that he wants that is suddenly all that he has ever wanted. To fly. He’s ten, eleven. What else do boys want at that age? What else do boys want at any age?
So, that night his big brother tells him that tomorrow is his turn. They stay up all night, putting his feathers on for him. And with each feather, with each drop of liquid burning wax, the kid wants to cry. But his big brother smiles at him, he holds his hand, and he tells him about the birds and about how the wind feels flowing up from underneath you and how warm the sun is so high in the sky. And he doesn’t cry once. The next morning they’re done and they look out over the tower into the wide open air. His big brother’s yelling to him, because the wind is blowing all around them, about how to hold his arms and how to glide on top of the wind and he tells him that it will hurt because their arms aren’t used to flying but they’ll get used it and it’ll be better than walking or jumping or swimming or anything.
With a deep breath, he pushes off from the top of the tower and almost immediately FFSSSHHHH! he’s in the wind and rising up up and away and his brother swoops up with him and he’s laughing and they’re both laughing and it feels better than the whole rest of his life.
Now this kid is really small, undersized almost, sort of like you squirt, and the wind is throwing him all over the sky. But he’s doing like his brother told him and he’s not fighting it, he’s letting it take him higher and higher, up higher than the highest bird. He’s looking down and the eagles look like sparrows and the sparrows look like dragonflies so far away and the world is like the maps his brother draws for him and he doesn’t feel so little in the sky. He flies harder and harder trying to reach the very top of the sky it’s so close he can almost touch it and it’s so warm he can’t tell if he’s crying or sweating there’s so much wetness on his face it’s not drying in the wind and it’s getting warmer and warmer and he wants to touch the SUN!
He’s almost there he thinks he’s almost there — but it’s getting so hard — It’s so hard! — and it was so easy but his arms just started getting tired and he’s flapping his arms faster than ever but WHY IS IT SO HARD?
In the very corner of his eye he sees this little blur this small streak and he looks and sees this long thin trail of feathers his feathers floating away and his arms look like they’re melting the wax is melting streaming off and down the ends of his fingers his arms look so small and he looks up and the sun is falling away up and away and the wind has him ripping him reaching down and ripping the air out of his lungs whipping his arms and legs round and round beating at his stomach and face he can’t move he can’t breathe he can’t think and he is falling falling falling fallling falling fallingfallingfalling…
And the big brother, flying far below the clouds, he can’t do anything. He does NOTHING. He can’t do anything other than watch, than stare, as this dark spec gets larger and larger, sinking towards him, inhumanly fast. And his mind tricks him suddenly he’s the one falling falling towards this black black pit high in the sky Please please please let it be me LET IT BE ME and the pit is falling pulling itself closer and closer and hard as he tries he can’t hold onto the trick it’s not a trick and it’s not a pit and it’s too close and-
He… doesn’t make it. The big brother takes the body, and buries it, and… he buries the wings. Buries the wings. No flying now. Not now.
I don’t think he should fly. The big brother. He doesn’t deserve to. Not when…
Not after that.