by Sonya Taaffe
In the middle of the olive harvest a man tumbled out of the sky: shedding feathers, screaming, not much scream left in him after the long, long, burning plunge, spattering wax and exaltation as he struck.
We approached the crater warily. I had meant to say something witty—"Look, Chremon, it's raining!"—but the sight of that fantastic fall stoppered my mouth like a wineskin. Just as well. If you had seen him lying there like a splintered statue, hand crushed around a broken feather like his body around a dream of the sun, you would have kept quiet too. Something like pity, something like wonder, something like a sharp star of envy igniting under my breastbone, all shut me up: this was not a time for mortal mockery.
Meanwhile, Chremon was sick. "We've got to do something with him," he said when he could raise his head.
"Fine. What do you suggest?"
We pried him loose from the earth, wax and feathers and all, and tumbled him into the sea. The splash was much less than the sound of his landing. He would have raised steam if he had hit. Then we drank to his memory, until we could almost forget the sound he had made tearing out of the sweating sky, and went back to the harvest.
You have to understand, he was no legend then. Just a man fallen out of the sky, a boy almost, the perfect age for first love and that first shocking taste of death you get in battle: you never quite rid your mouth of it. Just as I could not rid my thoughts of him as I sweated in the afternoon sun, silent alongside silent Chremon: tugged out to sea in the backwash of the tide, turning, feathers spinning about him while the waves washed his wounds for him as we had not, no coin under his tongue, no earth to fix fast his shade, only the long sea-journey west with the sinking afternoon, going out to meet the sun where it quenched itself in the sea . . .
That was a good year for olives.
Sonya Taaffe has an acknowledged addiction to mythology and folklore. Currently she is finishing her master's degree in Classical Studies at Brandeis University. Her short fiction and poetry have appeared in Not One of Us , Mythic Delirium, Maelstrom Speculative Fiction, and Glyph .