Thursday, June 17, 2010

Reflections of Niccolo

A response to T.S. Bazelli's "Author Aerobics: Details Challenge" posted in her blog, Ink Stained.

Icarus wielded the rooster-feathered duster, not like a soldier with his steel sword grasped tight, but lightly with his dead leg stuck straight, the knee locked. Scooting to reach the other side of the apprentice's mirror, the patches in his breeches caught on the rough wood of the half log with its fitted mortise and tenon joints. The pine wood shone in a sunbeam. Something flitted across the corner of the mirror, a breath of morning fog. Icarus watched the face. The face of Niccolo, his son. The face drifted across the mirror, leaving a path of ethereal mist behind to evaporate leaving a chill crawling across Icarus's back. He stared into the morphing eyes, the face elongating, stretching into other older faces but coming back to the raw essence of Niccolo's face. Icarus would recognize that face anywhere. The mouth shouting in a ghostly circle, silent but his skin crawled like the screech of fingernails on slate.

Afternoon church bells rang the end of siesta. The sunbeam illuminated the iron tools with their well oiled handles, each apprentice's tools in their proper place on the shelf. How had the hours passed?

Icarus caressed the inlaid gold filigree that had been embedded in the woodframe, the silver mirror reflected his sun-seamed face and the workroom behind him, no trace of Niccolo. How could Niccolo have been there, he would be dead two years when the harvest came. Placing his dead leg with its locked knee, he shuffled towards the door. His nights haunted, now his days were too.

Passing the door's threshold, Elise crashed into Icarus knocking him to the ground. Pain shot up the dead leg as Icarus pushed himself off the ground gritting his teeth.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Amati," said Elise.

Looking at the girl, brought memories flooding back of Niccolo following in her footsteps, she'd been Niccolo's favorite apprentice. No, Icarus could not tell her. She wouldn't understand. He looked down at the white pebble pathway leading towards Master Andreas' house.

"It's no problem," said Icarus. "I... I think I'll lie down. This is nothing, I'll heal." Icarus stretched his good leg and swung his hip to move the dead leg shuffling away from the girl.

Master Andreas strode down the path, his long strides kicking up pebbles. He grasped Icarus's shoulder. "Icarus --"

"No, I just need to lie down for a second."

"But," said Master Andreas, "you should see this."

"See what?"

"A spirit, trapped in a mirror," said Master Andreas.

Inside the workshop, Elise sat on the bench before the mirror where Icarus had seen Niccolo's face. The mirror's flawless face reflected only the room.

"I swear I saw a face," said Elise. "I'm not going mad, am I?"

Master Andreas placed his callused hand on the girl's shoulder. "No, and I don't think you're the only one who's seen it. Is she, Icarus?"

"How'd you know?" asked Icarus.

Elise's hazel eyes looked at Icarus, a yearning in the tight muscles focused on him. "You saw him?"

"Yes," said Icarus. "He was in pain, troubled with silent screams."

"Trapped," said Master Andreas. "The spirit can get left behind."

"That's not what they teach," said Elise.

They, the church. After the wasting sickness had taken Niccolo, Icarus, Master Andreas, and all the apprentices had stood on the green hill below the church as the priest had promised a life eternal for the boy as two men shoveled dirt onto the handcrafted coffin, the clods echoing off the wood.

"What can we do?" asked Icarus.

"Elise, get your awl."

Icarus hovered over the two craftsmen, watching the man teach the girl as they cracked one of the joints of the frame and chipped the edge of the glass. The wind whooshed, a timbre to its whistling reminding Icarus of Niccolo. A whirlwind, dust ricocheting off of Icarus's face centering on the dead leg. The two craftsmen tinkered with the wood. Icarus felt pins and needles along his legs, for the first time in years, he stretched his back popping.

"It is done," said Icarus. He left the master and apprentice talking about wood grains and joints and walked, his back straight. Outside, a rose petal blew from one of the trellises rising over the door, it stuck in his hair. Dulcet notes from a violin carried on the air, he took a breath. Perhaps, he wouldn't rest after all. He turned towards the source of the violin's trill.


  1. As I read this I was wondering if it had anything to do with the legend of Icarus, but I think it does not, does it? The setting brought to mind a small European town where everyone knows each other, and the loss of one person affects them all. The ending was gently done. It made me wonder, how and why the son was trapped in the mirror.

    Thanks for participating again! Looking forward to more :)

  2. Very interesting. The use of the name Icarus made me keep looking for details that related back to the legend of Icaraus and Daedalus, too... Looks like it was a red herring.

    But yes, I like the way this story ended, especially. There's something about it, I can't place my finger on it.

  3. Tessa & Undiscoveredauthor, yes, I had thought to riff off of the legend; however, I obviously didn't do my homework. I should have used Daedalus; my intent was to link the loss of his child.

    Tessa, I'm glad to hear that it brought to mind a small European town, it meant those small details worked ;) Thank-you for organizing the aerobics.

    Undiscoveredauthor, I'm glad you appreciated the ending.

  4. Ahh... In that case, yes... that might have made some sense.