Monday, January 17, 2011

Icarus Personnel Agency

It took many hours. Hunting in the heat, with the relentless white disc radiating down on him as he dragged his sack across the coarse rocks and thorns. The thorns were as randomly placed as mines, perfectly camouflaged against the orange sand and the shadowless dirt. The sack had no handles, just the open abrasive neck which stripped the skin from his cracked hands. Hauling it everywhere, everyday was a reminder of a riddle he’d heard as a child- one he had no inclination to find amusing anymore: Which is heavier? A ton of feathers, or a ton of rocks?

As he collected the feathers out on the plateau, then down onto the plains, he knew the answer. A ton of feathers was heavier. A ton of rocks would take a half an hour to collect, but a ton of feathers meant a slow trudge across unforgiving miles of wastelands- back and forth, back and forth, bending to squint at what seemed to be barbed quills, but what turned out to be just husks of dried leaves: ghost plants.

Now, many people would have surrendered to the sheer drudgery of the task within a day or two, but Russ never even considered giving up. There was no other option. The markets didn’t sell what he was looking for, and nor did he have money to buy it. Instead he fixed his mind on the grid he had created. From the flat buttes in the North, to the windswept anthills in the South, he crisscrossed, crisscrossed, crisscrossed.

In the time he’d spent in the wilds, he’d become an outcast. A man no longer, but a shadow, barely human, the dust of the desert seeming to want to convert him to dust even as he lived. If you saw him at rest, which he did when the heat overwhelmed him, you saw nothing but a forlorn rock, and nothing helped to shake that image off until he twitched in the sun, a fly spiraling off his ear, perhaps, or a scorpion tickling him with its inverted malevolence.

Yes, he was single-minded. He’d watched how it was possible: In the orange and purple dawn, he’d see the eagles against the sky near the cliff-faces. They’d float like black sheets of ash, lifted by the currents and masters of their surroundings. They’d dwell in unapproachable eyries, and raise their young off the flesh of small skittish creatures that unsuccessfully tried to hide in shallow burrows or clefts in the rocks.

He’d spent so much time watching these masters of the desert, and knew that he was owed that freedom. There were the eagles- magnificent, yet insensible- and there was he- capable of invention.

He didn’t lack much- there was nothing to lack out here in the void, and so little distracted him from his mission. One day, as suddenly as it had started, it was complete. He took the sack, now worn almost through by constant dragging, and looked inside. Thousands of black eagle’s feathers lay together- inside the sack it was like looking into a starless night- the darkness seemed infinite- and yet as he plucked each single feather from its dark sanctuary, he was able to add it to his masterpiece.

After months of weaving- and half blind from peering through dust-scratched eyes at wefts and weaves, it was complete. Taking this treasure made from the discarded currency of others, he climbed to the top of the flattest, tallest mountain overlooking the widest, most desolate part of the plains, and stretched out his arms. His eagle’s wings tapestries unfurled beneath his worn, bird-bone arms, and he followed their actions precisely. Lifting his head to the sun, he leaned into the currents, and stepped into the air.

A small gasp seemed to blast through the desert valley, a puff of dust rising from the foot of the cliff. The hot wind nagged and worried and blew at the pile of feathers there, scattering them to the widest, furthest parts.

Out on the plans, a young man strode. He was strong, proud and hopeful. Behind him he dragged an empty sack, but he knew what he had to do, and, even though there were discontented voices within, he argued with himself that surely it was possible- not just possible- but inevitable- that he would succeed.


  1. Scott, this is so unbelievably beautiful but also incredibly sad.
    You have *got* to put together a book of your blog posts. Seriously. I would totally buy it and recommend it to anyone.

  2. Hey, MeeA.. I have no idea what this blog is anymore. If it was a theme, or meant to be like this, it'd make sense to stick to that and make something of it. It sorta writes itself, and I don't edit it (or even do spell checks). Chances are, I'll look back and cringe. Thanks for reading it- perhaps I should go back to doing a diary blog again :)


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