Massachusetts, 13 Colonies
“Mama?” British America asked, tugging on the skirt of England’s dress. “Will you tell me a story?” England sighed, marking the page in her book, and nodded, taking the small colony’s hand and leading her outside. She didn’t really mind telling America stories, no one else liked listening to them much, but she was just about to find out who the murderer was (it was probably the aunt, she didn’t seem to be completely sane. Although the son never had anything good to say about his mother either).
“Once there was a man who went by the name of Anthony.” England began, sitting on the ground. America flopped down next to her, looking up happily “Anthony was a very poor man, his mother passed away when he was very young and he could never find a good job because he didn’t like to stay in one place. He made it his goal to travel the world.”
“Did he go to France?” America asked, bouncing excitedly and beginning her part of the routine.
“He did.” England replied, wrinkling her nose slightly “But he didn’t stay very long, he couldn’t stand the smell.” She added, quickly saving the dignity of the man (in her mind). “He traveled all through Europe, meeting people, trying new foods, and having adventures.”
“How did he pay for the food?”
“Well, you see, that’s the funny thing about Anthony.” England said, winking “Anthony could fly.”
“People can’t fly!” America said, crossing her arms and huffing.
“Oh? Prove it.”
“… I can’t.”
“There you go. Well, Anthony could fly. He had huge wings that would spread out when he needed to take off. They were as black as night and when he flapped them they’d create great gusts of wind that would blow all the people back. Every so often, when he came to a new town, he would put on shows for the people there. He’d take off into the sky, doing flips and tricks and soaring with the birds! The people would give him donations for his show, and he’d sell his feathers for quills and so the people could have proof they’d met the great bird man Anthony.”
“Did picking out the feathers hurt?”
“Only a pinch! Now, one day he decided he’d seen everything. He went to China, he ate the Asian spices, he read poetry in England, seen plays in Germany, and heard operas in Italy. He played chess in Russia-“
“He didn’t come here.”
“He couldn’t fly all the way across the ocean, dear. He’d have drowned.” England said, patting America on the head. “But then he got bored. He’d followed the birds through the sky; he’d followed the humans over land. He thought he didn’t have anywhere else to go.”
“Did he drown himself?” America asked, looking up innocently “’Cause that’s what John says happens when people feel sad like that.” England shook her head, staring at the colony.
“Who exactly is John?”
“A boy who works at the store where I buy sugar! He tells me an’ my friends in town stories too!”
“Now, Anthony did not kill himself, but he did look up to the sky. And he saw all the stars twinkling down at him like they were saying ‘hallo, Anthony!’. See, look up. The stars are says hello to you now. They’re saying ‘hallo, British America!’ Wave hello.” America giggled, waving wildly up at the stars.
“Anthony felt comforted by the presence of the stars, it made him feel like someone was watching over him, telling him there were still more places to go.”
“He could come here. He could have gotten on a boat.”
“Have you ever put a bird in water?”
“Yes, but it got mad at me. I thought it needed a bath.”
“See, his feathers would get all wet and make him drown if he fell in the water, so he was terrified of boats.”
“Well, can we go and see him?” America asked, starting to forget that it all was just a story.
“No dear, he isn’t here anymore.”
“Did he drown himself?”
“Dear Lord, America! Stop with the talking about suicide!”
“So, Anthony continued to watch the sky every night, hoping for a message. Then one day a comet wooshed by, lighting up the sky. He thought for a moment and then wished on the comet ‘Please, please, please comet, show me where I can go next!’ Then when he opened his eyes, he looked at the moon.”
“Why didn’t he see the moon before?”
“He was an idiot, like John.” England mumbled, too quietly for America to hear. “Ehem. The moon had been covered by clouds, and when he wished the clouds parted and the moon glowed in the dark sky. So he thought he’d go to the moon. He gazed at the sky, took in one deeeep breath, bent his legs, and took off, flying up into the sky! He flew, and flew, and flew, until he was no longer looking down on a small town, or even a country, or the whole continent. He was looking down at the whole world. And still he flew, up through the dark sky, till he reached the moon.”
“Was he happy?”
“He was. See, he didn’t like being looked at like he was a trained animal preforming a trick. It was a good way to get money, but he didn’t truly enjoy it. On the moon he was all alone, to fly and flip as he wished. He soared around it, bathed in its silvery glow. At the moon was happy too. It’s whole life it was very lonely, all alone in the sky. And now it had a friend, just as odd as it was. So the moon and Anthony live there together now.”
“So, if I go to the moon I can see Anthony?” America asked, looking excited again.
“Normal humans, er, nations, can’t go to the moon, dear. We have no way to get there.” England said, smiling fondly at the small colony. They’d grown much closer after America started talking. England finally had someone to talk about Europe with, and America didn’t judge her when France humiliated her, or when she pirated Spain’s ships. America would cheer when she’d hear about British victories and hug England when she lost. She didn’t have much interest in literature, at least not as much as England did, but she’d be fascinated whenever you brought up numbers. And she’d always listen to England’s stories.
“I’ll find a way!” America declared, jumping up “I’ll study all my books, and I’ll build wings, and I’ll fly myself to the moon!”
“Ah, but have you heard of Icarus?” England asked, remembering a story Greece had once told. One more story couldn’t hurt (and now she was sure the brother had killed the victim, he did want his estate, after all.)
“Nuhuh.” America said, sitting back down “Tell?”
“Of course. Icarus was the son of Daedalus, an Athenian craftsman.”
“Have I met Athens?”
“Athens’s name is Greece now, dear. But back then he lived with his siblings, like Sparta. Now, Daedalus had built the Labyrinth, but that’s a story for another night. He was imprisoned in Crete by the king, Minos, because Daedalus gave the king’s daughter a ball of string that she used to help Theseus, one of the king’s enemies, escape the Labyrinth. “
“He got imprisoned for that? But why couldn’t he just say sorry?”
“He was working for the king and betrayed him! He got off light; I’ve always thought traitors should be punished by death. Dante said there deepest circle of Hell is for traitors, where they get buried in ice. A tad worse than imprisonment, you’d agree.” England huffed, wishing nothing less on them. “Oh, don’t look like that, child.” England said soothingly, noticing America looked like she was about to cry “Do you still get scared when we talk about Hell?”
“M-Mhum.” America mumbled. Ever since she’d overheard England and other countries discussing the punishments in Hell (without sparing any of the imaginary details) she had a tendency to start crying at a mention of the place. The talks the preachers in Boston gave didn’t help either, they liked to talk about eternal flames and pain and demons that ate your limbs.
“Don’t worry, child, you don’t have to worry about going there. You’re very obedient.”
“Otay… M- More stowy?”
“Right. So, Icarus was imprisoned with his father. Daedalus thought that he could craft wings for them to escape. So he did, he made wonderful wings out of wax and feathers. However, he started to run out of time. The wings were drying when Minos’s guards came in, asking them what they were doing. Afraid they were going to be killed, Daedalus and Icarus quickly pulled on the wings and jumped out the window before the guards could catch them.”
“Did they fall?”
“No, the wings worked perfectly! They flew away, over the sea. But then Icarus got foolish. He flew up towards the sky, flying higher and higher! He wanted to touch the sun.”
“Yes, but these wings weren’t natural. The wax melted and the feathers fell off till Icarus was just flapping his bare arms. The boy fell back to Earth, crashing into the sea.”
“I knew someone was gonna drown.” America mumbled.
“He didn’t drown, he died on impact.” England retorted. “What I’m trying to say, dear, is don’t go flying away.”
“I’ll just build wings that work!” America said “I’ll test them and then I’ll fly! And I’ll wait till nighttime.”
“Remember, you will pay the price for any mistakes you make on them.” England warned “Taking risks has cost, dear, you might end up falling and drowning.” (Maybe the murder wasn’t murder at all, but the victim killed herself. That was possible, it’d make a good twist, although England did want to see someone hang at the end, it wasn’t a good crime without punishment.)
“I knew someone was going to drown.”
“No, I’m trying to tell you how not to drown! Do I have to forbid you from going and swimming?”
“Good. Now, it’s far past your bedtime. Let’s go back inside.”
“But I’m not tired!” America whined.
“You will be once you get into bed, and if you don’t sleep now you’ll be grumpy tomorrow.”
“No I won’t!”
“Yes you will. Now come inside.” England said, holding the door open. America sighed, bowing her head and dragging her feet as she slowly walked back inside.
“Thank you for not telling more stories about eyeballs.”
“Ah, I was saving those for tomorrow. Now off to bed!” England said, wondering if she should get America her own version of Dante’s book. The best way to cure your fears is to face them, after all.
In the end it was the husband that did the murder, his wife wanted a divorce (England knew it was him. Really, she did.)