Goodbye Artemis, Goodbye Icarus

Submitted into Contest #120 in response to: Write about a character who yearns for something they lost, or never had.... view prompt

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Coming of Age American Christian

Beloved, gaze in thine own heart,

The holy tree is growing there;

. . . Gaze no more in the bitter glass.

~ W.B. Yeats, “The Two Trees”

             The sun stretched out over the sky with a ferocity akin to the thrashing wings of lore. All the daylight poured into the decaying garden, and affected it faster than did the approaching night. Scorched, wilted, brittled, shorn of all life.

           Young Luther writhed from his bed with little energy, like out of some monastic order after a long day’s labor repressing the floors with wax—except it was a prison for him and not a sanctuary. He got up and saw the garden through the window. It was once a delightful garden. Today it looked more like a garden of deadness than delights. Stepping into the closet, he did his business and just glanced at the mirror before closing the door. He made his bed. He had to sleep in it again tonight.

           Lethargic as ever, he stumbled into the kitchen and had breakfast. So much to do, so much time, and so little desire. Or maybe too much. The clock ticked.

           A cloud was crouching into view over the garden as Luther descended from the house into it. He dropped into the beach chair heavily and lit up a cigar next to the rosebush. Then he opened the news on his smartphone. It bothered him. As much for its nature as its character—or the lack thereof in both. The news was most assuredly lacking in both.

           A few old tatters of paper lay next to the ashtray, some crumpled under the table. Luther yawned nervously and moaned at the sky as he stretched his neck. His body crumpled as he pulled his knees close to his chest. His phone fell off the edge of the chair near the table. Luther jerked quickly in a spasm and groped for the phone in the grass, wiping off all the dew onto his shirt. He resumed reading, staring in his typical trancelike state, but promptly swiped off into the other more stimulating staples.

           Bored, he popped up from his leisure in a restless state, pricking himself on the thorny outgrowth. The rosebush rustled as he caught his balance in its embrace. It drew blood from his temple, just missing his eye. He rushed inside for some gauze to stop the bleeding. The sun had just started out before he cut himself and blazed onto the shrub’s outreaching arm. A shriveled rose fell from its grip.

           At last the bleeding stopped. Usually Luther spent his days moving mindlessly between the garden and house as though they were no different—as though they were as indistinguishable as West Egg from East Egg, separated only by ashes. One in the same. Now he had escaped inside and saw its reality staring at him in the mirror.

           A discolored outline of blood was dried in a stream down his face. He dampened a tissue with his wet hands and cleaned himself up. He dried his hands with a towel and buried his sweating head into it. Looking up slowly, exhausted, he saw himself say, “El Bosco, El Bosco, omnis effusus labor. All your labor’s poured out.” He looked again as if in reply, “What have I become?”

           Angrily, he snapped away from the mirror and threw down the towel. He stormed into his room and slammed the door. Crumpling down into a ball by the wall, he started to cry. First softly, then profusely. He wailed in lament and tried, in failed attempt, to once again repent. It seemed as fruitless as his garden, as fruitless as his loins. Because he still had in his possession that deathly power of man’s stare. Oh, brutal agony of mortal memory! Pluck it out! CUT IT OFF! He flailed his arms in a fit of demonic rage, tearing his clothes, tossing about like a tempest, roiling his body in a frenzy, and throwing himself upon the ground stark naked.

           He descended almost alike into madness, still wailing, still repeating ferociously, “Cut it off! CUT IT OFF!” And he continued like that for an hour onwards until, suddenly, it stopped. It was quiet . . . except for a soft lingering cry. He rolled to his side, staring vacuously into the distance, and then . . . went silent. He looked like to dead. Until his lips moved abruptly, his diaphragm heaving for air to say: “My God, my God, why have I forsaken you?” Life went silent. The sun turned in the sky, escaping over the landscape and flooding across the garden into the room. His body felt warmed by it.

           And then, it happened. Like to a lamp from light to night, he flew up to his feet with abandon and threw every object in sight soaring through the window. His phone was solid enough to shatter the old-paned window into the garden, landing on the rosebush and falling down into the mud. Luther gained newfound liberty while he madly threw another object, his inkwell, from off his desk. And then he threw another and another and another. If a monster he was, a happy monster was he! If it was madness, there was method in it. He found his computer, his television, his night-lights, his old devices, his new devices, and chucked them all squarely beyond that gaping hole of a window.

           Everything but his books and four things remained in that house: keys, a wallet, a typewriter, and a suitcase. And to all these things he went. He filled his suitcase with books and carried them in loads to and fro, dropping them in the backseat, filling them to the car’s rooftop so that they began to spill over into the front seats. The typewriter went into the backmost part of the trunk—as precious cargo as it was—even more precious than himself perhaps, so he thought. And then he packed his suitcase with every clean bit of clothing around and set it directly into the trunk, holding the encased typewriter against the enclosed side. His wallet went into his front-pocket. The keys into the ignition. And straightaway, he was ready to take off from there. Then he remembered something.

           He got out and walked behind the house to that old garden. He looked out toward the horizon and saw the sun dipping away from the innocent moonlight. The waxing moon stood resolute, ready to overtake the work of the sun’s harshness and ground our young Icarus firmly on the ground, dissolving, not melting, any residual repression into the bright shiny substance of a morning dew. Luther stepped toward the rosebush and chair. Pensive, he squatted to his knees and saw the scorched rose all shriveled on the ground.

           Directly behind the rose, one could see a muddied object protruding from the ground, almost akin to a be-winged rocket ready to lift off into the sun. Luther reached his palm out for the rose but stopped short, clenching his grasp. He looked up and his eye caught a red glimmer of the moonlight within the tree. He reached his hand deep into the rosebush and plucked the sprouting rosebud. Holding it out at arm’s length and turning away from the tree, he beheld it gently against the moonlight. All desirously, he kept it in the air . . . then raced it to his heart and clutched it deeply there. For the first time in his life, standing in the stillness of moonlight, he felt quite sure that he had found the meaning of love.

           Luther tarried a moment longer. Then he strode to his car and took off into the night . . . toward the eternal vehicle of flight and that pure light of renewal, in which no Fall exists and but one tree stands.

November 19, 2021 12:42

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