I have forgotten more than you will ever remember. Time’s merciless progression has rested lightly on me, yet her watchful spectre still haunts my path. I laugh, now, to think I once believed you and I were disparate. You aged, you mourned, you died; and I, who have denied these forces all my existence, now find myself under their sway. Fools! I called you from the height of my pedestal, confident in the equity of my stature. But perhaps the greatest fool is I—I who have watched nations rise and kingdoms crumble, great men brought to their knees, besieged by foe without and doubt within, and lowly ones raised to the light of glory. I have scorned your folly and been blind to my own.

It is only natural that, since you raised me, your character should inform my own. Perhaps it is your pride that has blinded me to my fate. Mankind does not recognize its certain end; it runs from the shadow of death, squandering life in its avoidance. I am unjust in my universal criticism: there is much good in mankind—love and mercy and great sacrifice, virtue which is trampled under the feet of evil but which time and again I have seen rise above it to new heights. This internal dichotomy I have not gleaned from mankind. I myself am neither good nor evil; I merely am. I have been called beautiful, noble, but these are external perceptions. I am beautiful because I present your ideal of beauty, noble because my bearing and countenance are thus endowed by the ramifications of your sight. I do not judge myself by your standards, and so I once thought my vision true and unfailing. Only now, with the wisdom of one who recognizes the ceaseless passage of time, dare I admit that my eyes can be clouded.

And yet some part of you has been etched into my skin. After so long I can accede this. Or perhaps it is that, in watching you, I have begun to emulate the vices I have always condemned. The knowledge of my own mortality, though cast in a peculiar mold, has pierced mortal chinks in the armor of my pride. You exalted me in birth, and so I have always looked down upon you, but I can no longer deny that your fate is my own. I, too, fade from dust to dust. What does it matter if, in the time between, we were cast in marble?

We are a strange pairing, you and I, both half immortal. I have far outlived the generation of my birth, only to begin my fall at the feet of their children’s children. I have seen in your eyes that you revere me, but whether it is for what I am or what you have bestowed upon me, I have never known. You astonish me in every generation. In its dizzying plethora of faces, humanity has been my constant companion in the grave privilege of existence—a burden that falls more heavily on your shoulders than ever on my own.

Still I, too, begin to face my own mortality. How strange that a thousand gilded memories, a portion of your legacy, imperfectly sought and never claimed, will vanish with me. Is that why you have always sought my preservation: to assemble, stone by weary stone, the edifices of the past, all but eroded from memory? When I crumble, all that you have bound up in me will swiftly fade to dust.

Thus far I have only watched—a silent judge of your own creation, trying humanity on the accumulation of its merit. How strange that now, as I open my mouth to confide in you, you are deaf to my every word; how incongruous that you who have looked to me for inspiration, proud in your humility, cannot heed my wisdom. Although existence begins to make me weary and I feel the first fissures race across my skin, I know that your destruction will not be my own. If you, people of Icarus, stretch your gilded wings toward folly’s sun, perhaps I will yet seek a new measure of mortality.




Natalie Smith is a sophomore majoring in Neuroscience, Biochemistry, and Vocal Performance. She is from Seattle, Washington.