Icarus had returned to Brighton every summer for as long as he could remember. He liked to comb the beach for the detritus washed up from further down the coast or jettisoned from the boats that flecked the horizon. He’d rented the same locker at the railway station for the last ten years and had turned it into a nest, filling it with sticks, shells, doll limbs, broken glass, old coins, rope, wood, plastic bottles; the forgotten memories of a thousand days out. The only other possession he kept in there was the book, the book he had taken all those years ago from the second-hand stall beside the old well in Chapelkill’s market square. Icarus had been challenged to steal it by the girl he adored shortly before she unexpectedly agreed to marry him. She was gone now and Icarus still blamed the book for that. He blamed the book for everything that had happened since it had come into his possession. When he tried to return it, the stall on the market place had gone. The other traders said the old man who ran it had packed up early one afternoon and never returned.
1. a beggar
2. a male member of a religious order that relied solely on alms
Spatters of rain cut through the sunshine. It looks like the devil’s beating his wife again, said the voice from inside his mouth. Icarus mumbled something in reply as he rummaged through the bin; it was the end of summer but there were still riches to be had.
From a distance Icarus could have been a giant crow. His long crooked nose almost met his bottom row of teeth and he pecked at the salty chips in the newspaper without raising them to his mouth. The knee-length, ancient black coat that clung to his crooked back fluttered in the sea breeze like a pair of tired, ragged wings. Long toe nails poked through the holes in his boots; yellowing claws that curled through the gaps in the pier. Dark eyes, small and round, watched the world unblinking, swallowing up the light around his face and plunging his features into permanent shadow.
Be mindful Icarus. The voice in his mouth spoke again. With sudden, awkward jerks of his head Icarus watched the slow approach of the straw men. One of them was glowering at him from the back of the side show further down the pier; it stared at him with such fury that Icarus began to shake. And so he dropped the bag of chips onto the wooden slats through which the world below him heaved and sighed, and he shuffled back towards Marine Parade, mingling once more with the crowds…”