Awkward Visitors (Further Revisions to Icarus Down)

The Sun

An additional scene added as part of the revisions taking place with Icarus Down. Here, Simon is recuperating from horrible burns sustained during his accident, and wondering why his classmates aren’t visiting him. Rachel, his nurse, notices this and goes to the Flight Academy to raise some heck, and his classmates arrive all at once.

For a couple of days, Michael and Rachel and an assortment of nurses and doctors were the only people I saw. That disappointed me. I had no other family, and my friends from vocational school had moved on to jobs or apprenticeships, but the flight academy? After I’d lost Rachel at Nocturne, I’d thrown myself into my studies, left myself little time to socialize, but I’d made friends. Or so I thought.

I suspect Rachel noticed my loneliness. She may have gone down to the flight academy and lit into them like the sun. Whatever she did, the next day I got a visit from much of my class.

They came in one group, bearing gifts.

“Hey!” said Leah, leading the way into the room. She was the hotshot pilot of our class. Liked speed. Had to be warned against doing barrel rolls in the chasms. “How’s our downed bird? Getting up again?”

My eyes widened as the room filled with people. I was delighted, but also embarrased. I was wearing nothing but a hospital robe. I pulled the sheets higher on me.

“Hey,” I said. I reached for the crank to raise the bed, but I was nowhere near ready to lever myself up. Instead I just pointed at it. “Could you…”

“How you doing, lazy bones?” said Calvert warmly, coming forward to crank me into a sitting position. He was a steady flyer, but preferred the mechanical side of things. He’d make a good maintenance officer. He moved to slap my shoulder, but stopped short just in time. He patted my arm instead.

“Yeah, you’d best get better soon,” said Caleb, “Or I’m telling the Flightmaster you’re goofing off.”

We all laughed at that. Well, them more than me. They laid their gifts on the bedside table. Hastily gathered gifts, the sort you can get in a society as rationed as what we lived in. They had books from the library and flowers from the arboretum. They’d all got together and signed a card.

They gathered around, talking in cheerful tones, but from the looks on their faces I knew I wasn’t up to facing a mirror yet. It wasn’t long before the cheerfulness ran out of steam, and an awkward silence stretched.

“So,” said Caleb, his smile joking, “You got many calls from the press?”

That put a chill on the room. The others glared at him and Leah actually slapped the back of his head.

“Sorry?” I said. The reaction, of course, made me all the more interested in Caleb’s question. “What?”

“Don’t worry about that,” said Leah, looking serious. “We’re just glad you’re alive.”

“Yeah, we all are,” said Calvert.

I kept waiting for somebody to make a joke, break all this seriousness, but none came. That made the awkward silence stretch more.

A nurse rescued us, informing the group that visiting times were over. They bid their goodbyes and left. I noticed they hurried out of the room a lot faster than they hurried in.

I didn’t see them again.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. We were pilots. We were young. We thought - they thought they were immortal. Me? I was a ghost they didn’t want to face.

I was alone again after that. Rachel looked in on me, even when she didn’t have medicine to deliver, but the awkward silences continued. By myself, I stared out the window and brooded.

The light above my bed kept flickering, and twice it went out. Faulty batteries, I was told. It felt - I don’t know. It felt like something dark was coming.

I thought of Isaac. I thought of Mom. I don’t think she jumped, Si. I even ordered up the coroner’s report on her, but it had been routine, and had long since been recycled. I wasn’t surprised. When your only source of fibre is a forest inhabited by monsters, you don’t keep records around just for the heck of it.

Still, somewhere, someone made note of that request. And someone decided it was time to turn Simon Daud, pilot, into something else.

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