Contest #55 shortlist ⭐️

79 comments

Fantasy Adventure


    Can you keep a secret?

    Five simple words. This innocent question, posed as it was by a king, caused Daedalus untold grief. He had answered in the affirmative and remained true to his word, yet still King Minos had imprisoned him so that he may never speak of the monarch’s monstrous secret.

    The injustice of it burned Daedalus, but his true lament was reserved for his fellow captive – his son. The boy was just as innocent of wrongdoing as his father, but the imprisonment was infinitely harder on the youth for he knew not the reason for his confinement.

    As the weeks stretched into months, turned to years, as time lost all meaning and the burden of seemingly endless incarceration weighed ever heavier on their souls, Daedalus had watched helplessly as the light slowly faded from his son’s eyes. He knew hope was as crucial to survival as bread and water. A man could endure almost anything so long as the flickering flame of aspiration burned within his breast, there to ignite the dreams and passions that are the refuge of the sane mind amid calamity. He could not allow his son to lose heart, for it was on the wings of hope that the boy would be afforded the possibility of escape.

    Just like the king, Daedalus harbored a secret of his own. A life-long master craftsman, he had turned his capable hand to fashioning a device that would, if all went to plan, serve as his son’s salvation. He knew that in freeing the boy he would ensure his own death by remaining behind, but if that was the price, it was one he would pay gladly.





    “What are you working on?” the lad asked again and again.

    “Freedom,” Daedalus would reply each time through lips cracked and bleeding.

    Thus reassured, the youth would turn once more to the solitary window in their tower-top cell, gazing longingly out at the gulls as they wheeled and soared in the sun-dappled sky. Their prison on the Northern shore of the island offered little by way of comfort but it did command a breathtaking view of the infinite blue beyond. To Daedalus, the panoramic vista, near enough to touch yet achingly just out of reach, seemed a cruel reminder of freedom denied, but he was encouraged by the boy’s desirous contemplation of the world beyond. To a bird that spends long enough in a cage, flying comes to seem a disease. So long as his son held fast to dreams of one day soaring free, anything was possible.

    Fully aware that he held those timid hopes in his careworn hands, cradled like some fragile feathered thing, Daedalus devoted himself anew each day to his task. Time was of the essence and he dare not fail.

    There seemed to be a measure of justice to Daedalus in using his skills to break the shackles of internment, given how those same skills were responsible for their predicament in the first place.

    He had once been known as the greatest architect in Athens, so it was only natural that Minos, King of Crete, had summoned him in his hour of greatest need. The king’s wife had strayed from her marriage bed in the most unforgivable manner, and the monstrosity born of her blasphemous infidelity with the Cretan Bull had so shamed Minos that he wished to conceal it from the world for all eternity. He had commanded Daedalus to build a prison from which the beast could never escape and the craftsman had complied, unknowingly constructing his own cage in the process.

    Daedalus built not a prison but a labyrinth, and, once finished, so convoluted where its endless passageways that none who ventured in could ever find their way out again. Only the craftsman knew the secret to successfully navigating the maze, just as he alone was privy to the secret of the unspeakable abomination that dwelt captive at its center. The secret Minos wished dearly to remain buried. Task complete, the king had imprisoned Daedalus to ensure his silence.

    The punishment was temporary, Daedalus knew. Sooner or later Minos would realize his desire for eternal secrecy could only be attained with the permanent removal of the craftsman. The looming specter of impending execution spurred him onward. Daedalus labored day and night, all the while praying he would finish his task in time.





    While he worked through the lightless hours, Daedalus watched his son sleep and dream his dreams of flight and freedom. He loved the lad beyond the expression of mere words. The boy was his world, the sole light in an existence otherwise stained with shadow.

    He had known his son was different from the first. A ‘dreamer’ the scholars of Daedalus’ acquaintance said of the boy with smirks that betrayed just how they thought such an individual would fare later in life. Daedalus paid them no mind; he had little doubt his son would one day attain great heights.

    The boy was possessed of constant wonder at the splendor of the natural world around him, which all others took for granted. He delighted in the feel of the gentle breeze, marveled at the soft kiss of sun on skin, and exulted in the rain as it lashed down from the firmament. He voiced an unending stream of questions.

    “How deep is the sea?”

    “Where does the sun go when it sets?”

    “What lies above the clouds?”

    And, most commonly, “How do birds fly?” Daedalus suspected that along with the last went the boy’s unspoken secret desire to do the same.

    Rather than dismissing these queries as the inane ramblings of youth, as would any other father, Daedalus took them as a promising sign of his son’s agile mind and knew it would one day evolve into formidable intellect. As such, he took it upon himself to instruct the boy in the ways of the world.

    “Never fall prey to Hubris,” he cautioned. “Naught but misery awaits he who attempts to rise beyond his given station in life; who places too much stock in his own ability.”

    On other occasions, he advised his attentive pupil, “Beware, too, false modesty. A bird that flies too close to the sea shall perish just as surely as one who ventures too near the sun. Know your place always – be no more or less than you were intended to be. That, my son, is the essence of humility.”

    So excessive was his pride in the boy that Daedalus was in danger of contravening his own advice, but that mattered not at all. The one thing in this life that should never be subject to limiting restraint is the bounds of a parent’s love.

    Fueled by the flames of his burning devotion, Daedalus worked on.





    When the day finally came, the sun rose high, just as it had on every other before. Its setting, however, was a sight Daedalus knew he would not witness. The ominous, triple-strike tolling of the bell in the courtyard below was a sound only heard on rare occasions – days of execution. He wished for more time, but he knew the guards would come for them at any moment. The time for action had arrived. If it was to be done at all, it was best done at once.

    “Now listen to me well, son. Do exactly as I say and freedom shall be yours before this day is through.”

    “But what of you, Father? Will you not be coming with me?”

    “Aye,” Daedalus savagely bit back tears. “In good time, lad. We shall meet again one day, have no doubt of that. For now, you need to go alone. Do you understand?”

    The boy nodded, fighting tears of his own. He saw through his father’s reassurances to the resounding finality of the sound of goodbye beneath.

    “Come then, we haven’t much time.”

    Daedalus retrieved the object of his ceaseless hours of labor from its place of concealment amid the gull’s nests beneath the eaves. It looked to the boy like a bundle of feathers, hundreds upon hundreds of them, intricately woven and bound with candle wax to form…

    “Wings?” he breathed in rapture.

    “Yes, wings, “Daedalus confirmed. “The keys to freedom. We must hurry now.” The drumbeat of heavy footfalls from the stairwell echoed through the small chamber.

    He affixed the plumage to his son’s arms with several strips of worn leather. They seemed woefully inadequate, but there was naught Daedalus could do now but hope they held true.

    “What do I do, Father?”

    There was no time for instruction. The door crashed in amid a cacophony of angry shouts.

    “Just remember all I’ve taught you,” Daedalus replied. “Follow your heart. Do what you were born to.” He then roughly embraced his son, kissed him on the forehead, and pushed him out the window. “Fly, Icarus!” he shouted after the boy’s fast retreating form. “Fly!”





    Icarus fell.

    He plunged headlong to his doom on the jagged rocks below but, in the fleeting eternity of the fall, he felt no fear. In fully accepting his imminent destruction he came to see that death is not the opposite of life, it is part of life – the two as inseparable as the dividing line between sea and sky on the horizon’s edge. To truly come alive is to embrace death, to laugh in its face and, in so doing, transcend it.

    Does not the joy of living derive from the ever-present threat of the grave?

    Icarus spread wide his arms to welcome his fate as the rocks rushed up to meet him. His feathers spread majestically, catching the rising currents and, at the last possible moment, lifted him up and away.

    Icarus flew.

    On the thermals he rose, ever higher, even as his heart soared higher still within his breast, propelled by the sheer exhilaration of a dream realized; of the wonderment of flight. Drunk on the sweet nectar of fulfillment, Icarus burst through the clouds to the secret domain above. His unrivaled ecstasy came not in spite of the perilous drop beneath him, but rather, because of it.

    Does not the joy of flight derive from the ever-present threat of the fall?

    The cost of such undeniable pleasure as this would be high indeed, but that mattered not to the boy. He had discovered a secret few ever learn – all men die, the real tragedy is how few ever truly feel alive. Icarus felt alive now, gloriously, unequivocally alive. If the price of that was death, it was one he would pay gladly.

    Higher still, Icarus flew.

    He rose ever nearer the sun, that silent sovereign of the sky whose light brings life but, also, fiery doom. The golden rays which once so delighted the boy with their gentle kisses became burning daggers of menacing intent. Yet, still, he was not afraid.

    Icarus embraced the sun.

    At the very apex of his ascent, he turned lazily over. Suspended in that moment, watching the wax melt and run down his pale arms and the feathers spring free one by one and continue on a thousand separate journies of independent flight – a marvel, each one – Icarus smiled.

    One final revelation came to him then, in his state of rapturous delight, and it was this: there’s a certain relief in surrendering unto destruction; a savage satisfaction in setting one’s world ablaze and watching the flames from the center of the inferno.

    The brief flight had been the pinnacle of Icarus’ very existence – what more had he to live for? Humility is knowing one’s place and when such dizzying heights have been reached, whence can one go but down?

    Icarus fell.

    He threw his head back and laughed in pure, unadulterated exaltation as he plunged from the heavens to the swirling sea below which would ever after bear his name.

    As he rushed to his death, Icarus had never felt more alive.


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August 18, 2020 04:39

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79 comments

Pragya Rathore
08:04 Aug 18, 2020

You're great at writing historical fiction! The portrayal of Daedalus' love was heartbreaking. Amazing story!

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Jonathan Blaauw
13:50 Aug 18, 2020

Thank you so much. I really appreciate that you’ve been diligently reading my stories. I can’t describe how much that means, but it’s a lot! A lot a lot! You’re amazing!

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Pragya Rathore
14:17 Aug 18, 2020

I swear upon my honour that it is indeed a most valued privilege. Basically, you're most welcome :)

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Serine Achache
12:08 Sep 02, 2020

" there’s a certain relief in surrendering unto destruction; a savage satisfaction in setting one’s world ablaze and watching the flames from the center of the inferno." "Humility is knowing one’s place and when such dizzying heights have been reached, whence can one go but down?" These words had me the most I feel like sharing them with the whole world! I can't seem to find proper words to describe your story so I guess I'll just stick with BRILLIANT. I just love it so much, very well done!!

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Jonathan Blaauw
15:55 Sep 02, 2020

Thank you so much. It's one of the coolest things when you read a bit of a story that you really connect with. I'm so glad I could provide that. Thanks for reading 🙂

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Serine Achache
17:28 Sep 02, 2020

I live for these kinda feelings to be honest! For a stranger to reach you so deep using nothing but words...It's absolute magic! And you're so welcome ^^

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Jonathan Blaauw
06:39 Sep 03, 2020

I think many of us do, which is were putting deeper truths in fiction becomes powerful. I think it’s important to acknowledge the feelings, without entertaining them too much, though. I think of it like that impulse people get to jump when standing on the edge of a high drop. It’s irrational but powerful and speaks to a deeper desire to explore the unknown and embrace destruction. Rationality is recognizing and accepting the impulse while at the same time stepping back from the edge. Because as comforting as destruction can be, there are alw...

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Serine Achache
12:36 Sep 03, 2020

This is beautifully inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing this here! For me, and since I only started writing few months ago, my writing theory is a lot simpler and can be put in one word: healing. I'm still exploring what I can and cannot put into words as I'm not really used to expressing, but the journey has been great and I'm loving it so far! And honestly, I can't wait to read more of your work!

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Elizabeth Inkim
23:36 Sep 01, 2020

I absolutely love your twist on Greek Mythology. It's such a fresh perspective on the characters and their personalities. Icarus has always been one of my favourites and I didn't think I could love him more, but I do. This was a fantastic story!

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Jonathan Blaauw
08:35 Sep 02, 2020

Thank you so much!

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Katina Foster
16:55 Aug 31, 2020

I enjoyed this retelling of two classic stories, intertwined with each other. I was so focused on the labyrinth that I didn't see Icarus coming. The moral totally changes in your telling, and I think I like it better your way. Nicely done!

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Jonathan Blaauw
08:40 Sep 02, 2020

Thanks. I was debating even including the labyrinth stuff because that's actually a way more interesting story (you could call it a-mazing!) and I didn't want to distract. But it was needed for explanation purposes. I think it interested me so much because that's obviously the inspiration behind the bull in the maze in Rose Madder, one of my favorite SK books. Maybe that's why it caught your attention as well, being a fellow fan and all. Why aren't there more of us on here?

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Katina Foster
12:36 Sep 02, 2020

Yes!! Rose Madder is one of my favorites too! Norman Daniels is one of the creepiest bad guys SK has ever written in my opinion. I'm also just fascinated by myths and legends. Talk about dark... I love the idea of putting a new spin on these old stories - exploring other potential motivations behind the behavior (like Icarcus being pushed and grieving his father). It made me think of another favorite book - "Till we have faces" by CS Lewis.

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B Easton
07:48 Aug 31, 2020

Hi congratulations! This was a really impressive story, and I genuinely felt the father's emotions.

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Jonathan Blaauw
08:23 Aug 31, 2020

Thanks, glad you enjoyed it :)

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Keerththan 😀
08:44 Aug 29, 2020

You played well with historical fiction. Wonderful story. Amazing as always. Congratulations for the shortlist. Would you mind reading my story "The adventurous tragedy?"

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Jonathan Blaauw
08:58 Aug 29, 2020

Thanks. Sure thing, will check it out now.

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Kristin Neubauer
17:10 Aug 28, 2020

Congrats on the short list! Well deserved - this was SUCH a great story. I'm still telling people about it!

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Jonathan Blaauw
12:06 Aug 29, 2020

That means so much. Thank you

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I.B. Dunn
15:42 Aug 28, 2020

Congrats Brother, well deserved!

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Deidra Lovegren
15:14 Aug 28, 2020

LOOK AT YOU, MR. SHORTLIST -- YAY YAY YAY All of Florida celebrates your amazing story - flamingos, alligators, all. About damn time, I must say. Champagne! Chocolate! Literary awards!!

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Jonathan Blaauw
15:34 Aug 28, 2020

Thank you so much! Flamingos and alligators is pretty much exactly how I picture Florida. And Disneyland. World. Whatever. I lived in California for a while and was always reprimanded for mixing them up. So apparently it's important. Although I still can’t remember which is where. Your encouragement is so wonderful. I spent a fruitful 20 minutes the other day just reading through your replies to comments on your stories – unrivaled entertainment value! You’re the best.

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Deidra Lovegren
16:01 Aug 28, 2020

Florida also has grouchy retirees, a surprisingly robust meth community, tourists who enjoy price gouging, and the general flotsam and jetsam of the world. What we do need is better writers. Like Boccaccio, we should write a new Decameron and tell stories about the future world post-pandemic and post-economic meltdown (which should begin in 3, 2, 1) Thanks for sharing your ample gifts. Can't wait to buy your books off Amazon so Jeff Bezos can pay his alimony properly.

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Jonathan Blaauw
16:34 Aug 28, 2020

I heard a joke the other day along the lines of - Florida now has a dedicated senior shopping day. The other 3 people in the state are delighted to have the stores to themselves the rest of the week 🤣 Shame, we shouldn't laugh. It's going to happen to all of us. I'm actually going to be working for that company in a couple weeks, but for now I can still laugh! And it should go without saying that you'll always get free books from me, in the unlikely event writing ever becomes more than a sanity-preserving hobby.

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Deidra Lovegren
18:16 Aug 28, 2020

Writing is indeed free therapy. Always good to give the superego, id, and ego a workout. :) Hope your time being an Amazonian works out for the best :)

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14:40 Aug 28, 2020

Wow two weeks in a row! Congrats you’re awesome 👏🏼

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Jonathan Blaauw
15:10 Aug 28, 2020

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day... Sorry, I mean, thank you very much. I've got an excellent team of consultants on here, you see. I don't know how you guys put up with me, but I'm so glad you do because reading and commenting on your stories helps me a lot. What happened to the hitchhiking symbol? We're doing a handwashing symbol now? The official emoji of 2020! Very clever, Sarah, I like the way you think :)

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19:15 Aug 28, 2020

Lol is that hand washing? I thought it was clapping 👍🏼

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Jonathan Blaauw
07:16 Aug 29, 2020

It’s all about perspective. Last year's hand-clapping is this year's hand-washing. 🤳 <- That one is someone spraying themselves with sanitizer before leaving the house. Welcome to 2020, please leave your sanity at the door.

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07:22 Aug 29, 2020

Lol. My story this week is gonna be about the weirdness too actually. Ill put it up there soon a jangled mess for you and Laura to fix and I can take credit 👍🏼

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Peace Nakiyemba
11:46 Aug 27, 2020

This is brilliant. I liked the story and the narrator's take on life in general. Well told.

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Jonathan Blaauw
12:12 Aug 29, 2020

Thanks so much for reading and sharing your thoughts, much appreciated 😀

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Mohsen Baqery
18:49 Aug 26, 2020

I lost my father a couple of years ago. And to be honest, the way they said goodbye to each made me feel a lump in my throat. I loved the way you portrayed freedom in captivity, Jonathan.

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Jonathan Blaauw
12:11 Aug 29, 2020

I'm glad the emotions came through. Sorry to hear that, though, I know it's tough. After writing this I got to thinking of biblical parallels - father allowing son to be sacrificed for eternal life. Because that's what Icarus got - he lives on in our collective consciousness. And, that, I think is a very important reflection on loss. It hurts, but we can honor the departed in memory and as long as we do, a part of them lives on in us. Thank you so much for reading. I'm heading over to check out some of your work asap.

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Mohsen Baqery
14:53 Aug 29, 2020

I would appreciate that Jonathan. I'd actually love to have your comment on my work. 🥂 cheers.

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Pragya Rathore
12:20 Aug 26, 2020

Congrats on the shortlist, Jonathan! You deserve it :) By the way, how many authors are being shortlisted, do you know?

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Jonathan Blaauw
14:09 Aug 26, 2020

Thanks. You too, again, I see. Well done! I have no idea how many, but I think with some logical deduction we can make a guess. Let’s assume a story takes, on average, 10 minutes to read properly. So, allowing for an interruption or two, a judge can read 5 stories in an hour. Since judges are people and they have real lives, let’s assume that each is required to put in 4 hours per week. That’s 20 stories. Furthermore, there seem to be approximately 1000 entries per week. At 20 stories each, that means there are 50(ish) judges. If each ju...

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Pragya Rathore
14:20 Aug 26, 2020

Your analytical skills put mine to shame, sadly. Wow! Actually, I was asking because this time, a lot of stories have been shortlisted. Congratulations again! :)

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Jonathan Blaauw
14:31 Aug 26, 2020

It’s like with the virus – does an increase in cases mean more infections… or just that more tests were done? Not the best analogy, but what I mean is – I think it seems more because they’ve made it more visible. Actually, no, that analogy is pretty much spot on, now that I think about it 😊

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Pragya Rathore
14:41 Aug 26, 2020

I wish I could reply with a clever comeback, but as usual, all I can think is that you're absolutely right :)

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K V Chidambaram
16:48 Aug 25, 2020

Excellent, full of paradoxes. Best Wishes.

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Jonathan Blaauw
12:13 Aug 29, 2020

Thank you, that's very kind.

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Maya W.
14:24 Aug 24, 2020

Woah, this was amazing! I love Greek mythology, and this had this sort of epic poem vibe that I loved. I can't stress enough how amazing this story was, as someone who's read a lotta different versions of the myth, I really enjoyed this one. Would you mind checking out some of my stories here? Thanks!

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Jonathan Blaauw
07:29 Aug 25, 2020

Thank you so much, I'm glad it worked. Will check yours out asap.

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I.B. Dunn
13:20 Aug 24, 2020

I am not a genius but I know it when I see it. This story was so different from the others I've read. To be able to so easily change from one style to another is truly a gift. I also found it so compelling how you created a new "truth" from this story. The original fable taught the lesson that you should not overdo your life. It is a warning against overreach and hubris. A valuable lesson to say the least but you changed the whole moral. Life is about the moments of greatness and sometimes, in fact many times that outweighs the conseq...

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Jonathan Blaauw
04:32 Aug 25, 2020

Next time I try to get out of the car wearing my seatbelt or look for my phone while using it as a torch, I'll remember that at least one person thinks I'm a genius. Your insight is in the genius neighborhood though - I didn't think of this story in sporting terms, but I should have because you hit the nail on the head there. I was thinking just the other day that one of the reasons I love sport is they're the greatest, unscripted stories around. All the key elements are there - an angle (underdog vs. reigning champ), subplots, history, et...

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I.B. Dunn
05:34 Aug 25, 2020

I’ll see you at the next genius meeting. Is it my turn to bring the chips?

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Jonathan Blaauw
07:09 Aug 25, 2020

Sounds like a support group for intellectuals. Geniuses Anonymous? “Hi, I’m a recovering genius. I haven’t had a think in 5 years.” 😊

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I.B. Dunn
11:08 Aug 25, 2020

Hi Jonathan. I know it was hard to say that. 😀

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Katrina Lee
12:41 Aug 24, 2020

The writing style fits the myth like a glove, and you maintain it throughout the piece, which shows how skilful you are at summoning a particular type of tone that constructs an overall believable ambience, as the readers situate themselves in the story. And I love how you shift the internal landscape from Daedalus to Icarus, so we get an interesting mix of perspectives.

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Jonathan Blaauw
07:31 Aug 25, 2020

This was a very well written comment, thank you! Such praise from a military professional is much appreciated. Sorry... but seriously, since you are an English major and clearly know your stuff, it means a lot. Thanks.

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Kristin Neubauer
17:51 Aug 23, 2020

This is incredible, Jonathan - what a poignant and yet inspiring take on the tale of Icarus. I love your writing style. I can't exactly put my finger on it - it's simple and yet not really simple. It flows so effortlessly - I am completely caught up in your writing. I need to go read some others now but will be returning to your page soon.

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נιмму 🤎
01:20 Aug 31, 2020

wait what does it mean to get your story shortlisted?? I didn't realize that was a thing until now...

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Jonathan Blaauw
06:05 Aug 31, 2020

No idea... I think it's like a hit list but for short people. Creepy, right?

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B. Velazquez
18:04 Aug 22, 2020

Don't ask me how I cam upon your story. I have no idea but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Well written and entertaining. As someone who's gotten in trouble for keeping a secret 🙄, the first line drew me. With great power comes great responsibility (was it, Voltaire who said this or Uncle Ben? 😆) I digress ... Great writing. Keep at it.

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