Imagine that Icarus didn’t fall. That Apollo heard the cries of his lover and caught his hand just in time. We would have two suns in the sky, curling around each other in fierce adoration and burning with the merciless vigor of love.

Imagine the loss the ocean felt when she watched from a distance, longing lacing around her heart and regret tearing through her throat. In a jealous rage, the ocean would make the world end. In less than a minute she would flood the coast and sweep inland, with the heat of her fury evaporating the ocean spray. Only the return of Icarus to her embrace would dissipate her wrath and spare the lives of mortals.

Imagine that Apollo, like any other god, is selfish to a fault. He craves worship and the sweet words of his lover won’t be enough for eternity. Icarus would eventually fade and crumble between his fingers, and Apollo knows this. With a sorrowful excuse dripping off his lips, he lets Icarus slip from him like the wax melting beneath his hands.

Imagine the receding waves that reached up to meet Icarus’ anguished screams as he fell away from his lover. While his tears sizzled on the still-hot wax of his burnt wings, reeking of betrayal and absent abandon, he cursed the gods and pitied those who worshiped them.

—No matter what variation the myth takes on, the fall is inevitable, and somehow it’s more heartbreaking that way | a.h