Icarus MAG

By Caitlin M., Farwell, MI

     My world is a tent. A dirty, gray, worn canvas tent. I saw the outside of it once. It reads “Westley Brothers’ Circus” in cracked and faded paint. That was three years ago, before the Westley brothers started loading me into the back of their canvas-draped truck under the cover of darkness. They don’t like me to go outside. They don’t say why, but I am not as naive as I once was. Not as naive as they think I am. They would like to keep me always in the dark about the world outside my tent. They want me to be small enough to keep under their thumbs. I already know what the world thinks about people who are ... different.

I was too young to know when they found me. Then, I was happy to have a place. A home. A family. I was a star, the headline act. Every spotlight in the circus was trained on me as the crowds poured in to see me, their hands outstretched to touch. But slowly they grew bored with me, the Westley brothers, the crowds, and the others who shared my life at the circus. I was old news, no longer a novelty. My world began to shrink. The spotlights turned away. I faded from their thoughts, a star dimmed now to only a lonely girl.

My name is Tierra. Ironic, isn’t it? That I, of all people, should be named for the earth. I can’t recall my parents, those who gave me my name. When I was small, only a fledgling, they tried to cut my wings. My new feathers were then barely long enough to wrap around my shoulders. They held me down and sliced with knives that clawed and bit. Stab after stab, slice after slice they hacked at me. I screamed. I cried. I begged. They said nothing. They left me beside the road, broken and bleeding, but a winged thing yet. My only memories of them now are the scars upon my shoulders. As long as I live, I can never forgive them. My new family has never tried to take away my wings. Not even after all they have done and left undone. They understand, a little at least. I am one of them. Part of the freak show. What else can a girl with wings be, if not be a freak?

Tonight we’re in some backwater town in the middle of somewhere flat and dry and dusty. I don’t know where exactly; I’ve never seen a map. It’s dark outside, and darker still inside. The only light filters through the canvas from the other freak-show tents and the stars above. I peek through the dingy gray canvas curtains of my tent. Families, each like the next, wander past in the twilight. Suddenly a darker figure looms. I hurriedly step back, it’s Martin Westley. A man whose heart is as stained and calloused as his hands. So thickly and grotesquely shaped, he is only a few dollars away from making a living as a freak-show performer himself. Perhaps that’s why he hates me so. There’s no question in my mind why I hate him. Martin would have left me to die by the roadside, crumpled and bleeding in the ditch. It was his brother Tom who convinced him to take me in all those years ago. I try to shut Martin out. I wrap my wings around myself, a comforting pressure. An embrace. I can hide inside them, if only for a moment. Martin glowers.

“Show time,” he grunts. Martin never speaks. He grunts, and occasionally mumbles, as if he just stepped out of that cave in ancient Africa where fire was first discovered.

I wonder sometimes how he and Tom can be brothers. They are as unalike as a robin and the worm it pulls from the earth. Tom is the robin, small and shrewd and clever. He has none of his brother’s heavy-handed ways, but he is as quick with his tongue as Martin is with a blow. In truth, the circus belongs to Tom. He has a knack for business, for finding those of us who can pay his bills. He knows how to keep us too, bribing and begging and blackmailing. I am different, I hope. I am his favorite among the circus freaks. Perhaps Martin is jealous of me. Does jealousy make one so cruel?

I have forgotten that Martin still stands before me, until he grunts again and points at the curtains behind me. I say nothing, just nod and turn to the second set of curtains, this one slicing the interior of my tent in half. On the other side a low stage awaits, and a crowd of curious onlookers. I can imagine them now, all eyes on the barker in his striped suit standing on the stage, ready to introduce me. The barker begins his speech, telling a made-up story about a made-up person. The person he describes sounds strange and exotic. I wonder if anyone would come to see me if the barker told a story about a frightened and lonely girl. He finishes. I push through the curtains, step onto the stage, blink in the harsh lights. I try half-heartedly to look strange and exotic.

A mass of people stare, their outlines blurred together by the darkness beyond the foot of the stage. They stretch their already overextended necks, trying to see what I have hidden beneath the grimy cape of my costume. I sigh, then stretch my wings, shaking them free of the cloth. The feathers, the same soft russet as my hair, whisper like old friends. I stand tall, stretch my wings as far as they will go. They fill the tent, brushing the canvas yards away on either side of me and casting strange shadows on the walls. The children in the crowd press forward, hands outstretched to touch my feathers. I want them to. I want to see the wonder on their round faces when they feel the downy, silken warmth. I want them to bury their hands in the softness of my wings, and hear their cries when they realize that the feathers live and breathe. But Martin is still watching from behind the curtain, and I don’t dare. My leash is short, as if they fear I will fly away. Slowly I kneel, sweep my wings upward, lay my hands palm up upon my knees. Tom tells me to do this; he says it makes me look like an angel.

Do I look like an angel? I wonder, eyes half open to watch the crowd push toward the stage. They whisper to one another, a sound like the wind brushing on the canvas of my tent at night. Have they ever seen an angel? I saw one once. In a book that one of the other freaks showed me. That angel was tall and beautiful, with wild dark hair and a gown made of endless white silk. I wonder what that angel would think of a bony, grimy, barefoot girl, hair matted and tangled, wrapped in a coarse dress made of what was a bed sheet.

Tears run down my cheeks; I don’t know why. I close my eyes and wait. I can only wait. Slowly the voices dim, then vanish. I open my eyes. The lights are out. I am alone. I cross back through the canvas curtains into my side of the tent and sit down on an upturned crate. Martin is gone. I feel blindly around my feet, groping through the dark. I have left it here, I think ... I find what I am searching for. My book. My own possession. Martin and Tom do not know I have it. They would take it away if they knew. They like to keep me in the dark, and books hold light.

I run my hands over the cover, feeling the brittle, plastic some librarian in a bygone town taped lovingly into place. In the dark I let the book fall open in my lap, to the place where the spine broke long ago. I remember, without needing to see, what is written there.

A story. A boy, and his father. They are locked together in a tower on a rock in the sea. I have never seen the sea. Before I die, I want to go to the sea.

The father builds wings, out of wood, wax, and feathers. He and his son fly away from their prison.

I want to fly. I have never been allowed to fly. Inside my small tent, there isn’t even space to stretch my wings out. I watch the birds sometimes, as they flitter past my doorway. I’ve seen their nests in barren trees as we travel through the winter. I’ve watched the hawks sail overhead, their wings stretched wide. What must it be like?

The son in the story was a fool. He allowed the sun to take his wings and died for it. I will not allow anyone to take my wings. I would die for it as well. I nearly did once. How long ago now? Ten years? Twelve? That is closer, I think. Twelve years since I lay in the brackish water in the bottom of the ditch. How old was I then? Four? Five? I do not know.

I press the book to my chest and cry, but softly, for Martin may still be nearby. He listens, always, as if he might catch me in some stolen moment of happiness. Why should the girl be happy? I can almost hear him think. She must be grateful. I am grateful, I suppose. But I am hollow. Empty, like a bird’s bone. Brittle.

I stand. My book tumbles to the dust, falling open where the spine has broken. Outside there are still voices. Families go past. I push open the curtains, timidly, then farther. I step through. My wings drape around me like my costume cloak. In the dark, the people cannot see me. They do not stare. I am like them, an anonymous stranger in the dark. Two go past, hand in hand. I ache to see them. A family comes close. A mother, a father. A son. A balloon, colorless in the evening, trails on a string. The boy trips over his dragging shoelace, falls. The balloon unwinds itself from his fingers and drifts away into the night sky. He scrambles up, reaching for the trailing string as the sky pulls it away. The twine slips through his fingers; he cries out.

In that moment, I am no longer hollow. With strength I do not realize my thin legs possess, I leap skyward. A spiral of crackling feathers surrounds me as my wings stretch away toward the horizons to my left and right. Down they sweep, forcing the air away; I rise higher and higher. The wild wind whips my hair and dress, whistles through my feathers. Stars surround me like fireflies. I could dance on the clouds. The moon smiles, a crooked crescent. Just above me, the balloon is adrift. My fingers wrap around the trailing string. Again I beat my wings, reveling in the wild tempest I stir up amidst the clouds. I look to the skies. White stars brush across my cheeks, snag in my eyes until they must look like a diamond-dusted ocean, dark and blue and strange. The wind stirs my feathers as I drift in the sky. They are singing now, no longer whispering. First this way then that, I flex my wings, reveling in their strength, the kind of strength I never thought I would possess.

But now I am descending, slowly, slowly falling. I step lightly out of the sky onto the earth again. I fold my wings. The matted grass is slick with dust and dew beneath my naked feet. I wonder at the feel of earth after the lightness of the air. The string, balloon bobbing at the end, is still entwined in my fingers.

Before me, the boy stands stunned. Each of his parents rests a hand on his shoulders. I kneel, hand him the balloon. His tiny fingers clasp the string, but he doesn’t move, eyes wide, staring. I hardly see him. I am still flying, still lost in the sky.

A hand wraps around my arm, enveloping my shoulder in a vice. It is as cold and heavy as wet earth. Martin. What an earthbound wretch. I smile. He cannot touch me now. He cannot hold me.

“Inside,” Martin grunts, points at the tent. I shake my head. I will not. I have flown too close to the sun now, and I am set aflame.



Similar Articles

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

This article has 74 comments.


on Jan. 5 2013 at 12:37 pm
In_Love_with_Writing GOLD, Easton, Pennsylvania
12 articles 0 photos 389 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Phillipians 4:13

This was a very interesting concept. I think you did well. Hey and check out some of my stories, too. Tell me what you think or rate it for me so I can get some feedback! Thanks so much.

on Jan. 5 2013 at 10:40 am
writingwithmoonlight SILVER, Olney, Maryland
6 articles 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
Today is a smooth whote shell, hold it close and listen to the beauty of the hours.
-Anonymous

heartrenching and brilliant. absolutely brilliant.

on Dec. 14 2012 at 5:09 pm
awensman95 SILVER, Alexandria, Minnesota
7 articles 0 photos 21 comments

Favorite Quote:
"All dreams come true if we have the courage to pursue them." - Walt Disney

Extrememly creative! Your descriptive writing made me really see the whole story in my mind. Nice work! 

on Feb. 19 2012 at 10:17 am
Amyelisee BRONZE, Lake Bluff, Illinois
3 articles 8 photos 118 comments
I like this a lot. It was very pretty, and reminds me of Maximum Ride :)

babysteps GOLD said...
on Dec. 16 2011 at 7:15 pm
babysteps GOLD, Wayland, Massachusetts
11 articles 5 photos 40 comments

Favorite Quote:
"An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind."
~Mahatma Gandhi

I loved this so much, extremley well written, simply fabulous!

on Apr. 4 2011 at 1:07 pm
Wildlife BRONZE, Garden City, New York
2 articles 0 photos 4 comments

Favorite Quote:
I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.

Like someone said earlier, it is reminiscent of the Lake House and maybe Maxiumum Ride, but that's the plot. Definietly not the character or the style. There's actually another story I read in a book that is even closer than the Lake House. It's a short story, but it begins in a circus with a winged boy. He is mocked for his wings and stays there for he doesn't have any where else to go. He also sees other birds, but he can't fly. Something happens which I forget (been 4 years since I read it) and the falcon that was apart of him leaves. He sees from the point of view of the falcon and enjoys his supremacy. Then his wings vanish with the falcon.

A lot of stuff with that story is similar. Also, I just subitted a story about bird people too :P


on Mar. 11 2011 at 3:44 pm
taylortexas BRONZE, Cleveland, Ohio
1 article 0 photos 7 comments
This is extremely well written, I like it a lot. The narrator is a very sad and beautiful character. I could definitely see some room for expansion, this has potential to be a full novel.

on Feb. 17 2011 at 6:55 pm
Origami_Ferret SILVER, Virginia Beach, Virginia
8 articles 0 photos 75 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Let's go."
"We can't."
"Why not?"
"We're waiting for Godot."
--------------------------------
"Get thee to a nunnery!"

Very great! I love it, a lot. Well, well, done. :D

NeVassa GOLD said...
on Jan. 26 2011 at 4:19 pm
NeVassa GOLD, Ft. Belvoir, Virginia
18 articles 0 photos 50 comments

Favorite Quote:
Oh god I was a stupid twelve year old

Brilliant.

on Nov. 21 2010 at 8:31 pm
amandajeysing SILVER, Kuala Lumpur, Other
8 articles 0 photos 13 comments

Favorite Quote:
I am my Beloved's; His desire is for me












Song of Songs 7:10












The Holy Bible

i'm sooo sorry!!! i just researched icarus a few seconds after i posted the first comment, and now i realize what you meant all along! it's great, honestly. i shouldn't have said anything before finding out about it... sooorrryyy

on Nov. 21 2010 at 8:29 pm
amandajeysing SILVER, Kuala Lumpur, Other
8 articles 0 photos 13 comments

Favorite Quote:
I am my Beloved's; His desire is for me












Song of Songs 7:10












The Holy Bible

i think the story is great and all, but the character seems a little creepy as so does her death, in a way. other than that, you are soooo creative! Wow! Keep it up! never read anything like this before. it's different, yet breathtaking, all in a good way, of course:) God Bless :D

on Nov. 21 2010 at 3:25 pm
BraydenHirsch BRONZE, Abbotsford, Other
1 article 0 photos 8 comments
Nice description, a thoughtful idea.  Keep up the good work.

on Sep. 16 2010 at 8:31 pm
DiamondsIntheGrass GOLD, Martinsville, New Jersey
14 articles 1 photo 279 comments

Favorite Quote:
Worry is simply a misuse of the imagination.

wow. what a masterpiece. i love the imagery, the descriptevness, and yet every detail is not random, but important to the main story.  love it.

on Sep. 16 2010 at 8:27 pm
AMAZZZZING!! i love this piece of work VERY much. creative!!

palha6 SILVER said...
on Sep. 16 2010 at 3:47 pm
palha6 SILVER, Brooklyn, New York
6 articles 1 photo 11 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I dont believe in working harder but instead, in working smarter."

I like the way there's not much dialogue, but you were still able to persue your message! Keep writing!!

on Aug. 3 2010 at 1:11 pm
Ellawind PLATINUM, Seattle, Washington
40 articles 0 photos 77 comments

Favorite Quote:
What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger.

Don't let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.

Dream like you will live forever, live like you will die today.

This is fantastic! Makes you want to keep reading, but also leaves you with s sense of satisfaction at the end. The writing is glorious... and I love how barely anyone spoke, but you still managed to convey exactly the right message. 

on Jul. 12 2010 at 6:36 pm
babigerl1194 PLATINUM, Margaretville, New York
23 articles 10 photos 155 comments

Favorite Quote:
wat doesnt kill you only makes you stronger

im not usually one for fiction and fantasy but omg this is undecribably good even though im sure thats not a word. but serioulsy. welll done well done !!!

Emily-G SILVER said...
on Jul. 12 2010 at 11:15 am
Emily-G SILVER, River Falls, Wisconsin
8 articles 0 photos 10 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Lives can do amazing things when the odds are against them."















-The village Elder in 'Sight Seeing'

That was amazing! Very well written! If you could check out my story Sight Seeing and give me some pointers that would be great! I love your amazing desctiptions!

on Jun. 27 2010 at 11:19 pm
Hi-5_Girl BRONZE, Moosic, Pennsylvania
4 articles 3 photos 18 comments
Very well written. It kept my attention all the way through and I love your descriptions. Do I sense a future novel possibility? Maybe? I think you should think about it.

on Jun. 20 2010 at 10:46 am
Blue4indigo PLATINUM, Sturbridge, Connecticut
24 articles 0 photos 382 comments

Favorite Quote:
I'd rather be sorry for something that I did than for something I didn't do.
-Red Scott

This is amazing! You should continue writing this story, you write so beautifly!


SciArc

MacMillan Books

Aspiring Writer? Take Our Online Course!