Icarus (Part 21 Choice 18)

in writing •  last year


Lost? Start from the very beginning here! Or find the previous choice here!

Choice: Eighteen

Something inside says you should bet on blue. Though it glows in your least favorite color, you hear a call from this ring of alluring azure that you can only recognize as destiny. Closing your eyes, you follow that call and step forward into the blue. Almost like walking through a door, your foot lands comfortably on the other side of the portal. When you open your eyes, you see the world around you has changed considerably: all light has gone missing. At first you worry you’ve lost your sight; but once your pupils adapt, the shadows’ variations start to level appear. Still, it’s dark, wherever you are: the walls around you comprise its only distinguishing features, according to which you decide you must have arrived either in a long room or a hallway.

Moving forward with your arms outstretched, you try not to collide with anything in the dark, though you find only a shallow and empty midnight. Then, out in the distance, you see a light emerge from a now-illuminated doorway standing some ten feet in front you. The splayed light coming from the opened door reveals the hallway you’ve been blindly exploring. Along its walls hang portraits of young men and women. Many consistently feature an elderly-looking man. Must be a grandfather or something.

Staring at a photo of the old man in a Christmas sweater, you hear a gasp from beyond the door, but decide to ignore the noise: for some reason you feel too pleased, studying these photos. I wonder what this man did to have all these pictures. He doesn’t seem to have much. Just a never-ending slew of people with him. Still, though he doesn’t seem to have had much—either in these pictures, or outside of them—this unknown man looks sincerely happy just for the family, friends, and partners: everyone smiling in every shot.

Even more impressive to you, all the photos appear completely candid. How often does he just randomly smile like this? You try smiling in impersonation: mockingly at first, but soon just as sincerely. While imitating a photo of the man, you hear the quick bang of a gunshot; indeterminate words, and finally, a sizable thump. A body most certainly just fell... ugh, I hate that I know that. The situation has suddenly evolved into something more serious, and with no way out, you can think of no plan except to stay still.

Motionless, you wait in fear of what threat might lie in the room beyond the door. I just need to stay calm. Eventually the killer will just leave, and then I’ll do the same. How do you know he was killed? The bang of gun and the noise of a falling body make it pretty clear. What’s clear is that the man is dead. What’s unclear is who killed him. The guy was clearly shot. I don’t know by who. Obviously, you know that, because if I knew, then you’d know, because you’re me. I’m happy to hear you admit that to yourself, but what I mean is: why do you assume someone shot him? I think you know he shot himself.

You shake your head at the idea, panning your vision across the photos once again. This man wouldn’t shoot himself. We’re all essentially lonely. You know that better than most. Look at these pictures. Everyone loved him: not the type for suicide. There’s no such thing as a type for suicide. There’s only pain, and choices to end it. Look at these photos. He’s lived more than anyone we know. And life is pain. You know that. Ask yourself, Icarus: what kind of man would surround himself with photos of a past better than his present? Memories aren’t meant to make you sad, and this man was smiling all the time. So, he knew how to lie. Good for him. Can you say the same? I know what you’re doing. Then you know I’m right.

Though freighted with your latest fit of depression—or, otherwise, motivated from its agitations—you take your first step toward the door, stalking forward slowly so as not to surprise whoever waits on the other side. Fighting someone with a gun won’t make me go away. So, you do think he was shot? I think you’re looking for an out, but don’t have the stomach to take responsibility for yourself, so you’re just trying to get killed by whoever. You want the shooter, whoever that may be, to kill you. It’s whomever.

Standing parallel to the doorframe and peering into the room gives you a greater vantage of the room’s interior. The light shows the small room: concrete walls lined with a series of filing-cabinets, drawers all drawn, surrounding a modest desk. Behind the desk, a young woman reads a file—one stolen from one of the cabinets, no doubt—with enough focus to ignore your entrance.

“Hello?” you say to gain her attention. Surprised with your presence, the woman quickly grabs for something you can’t see from her hip: the glare from the light above refracts against whatever she holds, but you can take a guess. Walking forward into the room, you feel stunned to see your suspicions seemingly confirmed—the man from the pictures lying dead on the floor. Raising your eyes from that shock, the woman comes into full view, and you see for certain that she holds a gun. As soon as you see it, your arms jump straight in the air.

Well, at least he didn’t kill himself, you think with an inward smile. But that silver lining proves short-lived as you recognize this woman brandishing the gun. “Cemone?” you ask in disbelief.

Her nod alleviates the tension, though you feel it quickly replaced with contempt, and begin dropping your arms. “No!” she orders. “Keep ’em up!”

“No, you ‘no’! You cut off my leg!”

Cemone looks legendarily confused. “What?! No, no I did not.”
What a liar! “Yes, you did! I remember, you cut it off!”

Cemone points at your legs. “You have two legs!” she shouts.

“Yes! Thank you! I’m aware!”

Cocking the gun, she silences your tantrum. “I hardly know who you are, why you’re here, or what you’re doing here. But I know you need to leave.” She gestures with the gun to the hallway. You glower at the command.

“I’m Icarus Holmes: the person you chained to a bed—and whose leg you cut off. I’m looking for a way home, and I thought I was in my father’s garage.” The answer sounds dumb and strange as you say it, but it’s true. With this foresight, you know what comes next.

Anticipating her next move, you leap just before she fires and crash into a cabinet. In an instant, you rip two drawers from the cabinet and fling one at Cemone as you jump to the other side of the room. The drawer misses her narrowly and then smacks the wall, scattering its contents into the air. Papers fly all over, creating an obscuring wall of white files and manila folders through which you throw the second drawer, then hear the cry of contact along with the sound of Cemone’s gun hitting the floor. Taking the noise as a sign of opportunity, you dash forward. Up and over the desk you tackle your disarmed enemy with all your weight, slamming Cemone against the wall behind her and knocking her out cold.

The fight is yours. With so few victories under your belt, you don’t know what to do next. I could call the police. Say that she killed the man. Or I could finish her like she tried to do to me.

You look at Cemone lying unconscious on the floor, and the dead man resting beside her, before finally sighing as your sense of victory sours over your presumed responsibilities. **Another problem for Icarus. Surprise, surprise. **

Shaking your head, you gather what few shreds of your happiness remain from having won the fight, and notice meanwhile that the effort required for further action of any kind produces an unexpectedly intense exhaustion that forces you to take a knee—except the floor receives you too kindly, and you fall through it into a luminescent void.

(go to Nineteen.)

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