The Little Ice Cube knew he was in big big trouble. He could see that what had once been a full tray of twelve ice cubes was down to four. Ice cubes were missing and presumed dead. Every time the freezer door opened the Little Ice Cube held his frozen little breath, knowing it could be his last. Three quarters of his kind had been lost, tossed into tumblers, crushed in the name of the margarita, or slurpee, or used to ice a sore shoulder. And with only three others left, the Little Ice Cube didn’t like his odds.
The Hand. His worse nightmare came to light as the freezer door opened and The Hand reached in. The light that flashed on as soon as the door opened gave no warning of attack, so there was really no chance of the Little Ice Cube making a run for it, out of the tray. He was stuck frozen anyway, so, there really was no hope of escape at all. All he could do was do his best to hold on tight every time the tray got smacked against the counter. The Hand always went for the cubes that got shaken loose. Still, even if he was to hold on to the end, he knew there would still be an end and he could only wait for his time to come when he, too, would be tossed in a tumbler, maragrita, slurpee, or, dish cloth to ice a sore shoulder.
The tray was smacked against the counter.
‘Here it comes,’ thought the Little Ice Cube, straining to stay put as the tray was turned upside down and the last ice cube to his left fell from the tray into The Hand. The Little Ice Cube never had a chance to see where the others were taken. All the Little Ice Cube knew was that they were missing and presumed dead. They never came back. They were taken, this much was known. What happened after was anyone’s guess. The Little Ice Cube guessed that they died a horrible horrible death. He thought he wanted to think the best, but he guessed he only knew the worse.
“He’s a goner for sure,” said the ice cube right in front of him, Dora, who occupied the last square to the right of the tray.
“That’s right, no one ever comes back,” agreed, Hatty, the ice cube to the right of Dora. The Little Ice Cube was now on his side all alone since The Hand had taken Bill, his last neighbor to his left. “I bet it’s a painful death. I bet it really hurts,” opined Hatty.
“You just bleed to death, I don’t think it hurts at all. What hurts is the not coming back part. You have to leave all this, all this beautiful cold. It’s freezing in here, I love it. Out there, it’s hot. That kitchen’s scalding, actually, that’s what I’m afraid of, being away from all this glorious cold,” worried Dora.
“You’ll never survive. Ten minutes out there you’re a puddle. Our only hope is to run for it, escape,” The Little Ice Cube finally spoke up. Neither Hatty nor Dora had heard him speak in days, for the Little Ice Cube had stopped speaking after he figured out that it made no sense trying to make friends with anyone, seeing as sooner or later, any and all of these other ice cubes would eventually be taken away and presumably murdered. The Little Ice Cube knew it was now or never; it was time to make a break for it.
It took Dora a few seconds before addressing the odd little ice cube across from her. He sounded so defeated. They both knew there was no where to run. They could run no further than the confines of their little freezer above the fridge. They were stuck frozen to the tray, shaped by the dimensions of the tray, framing twelve individual cubes, one inch by one inch, marking each ice cube identically. Yet, still, the ice cubes were never entirely identical. There would be a crack in one ice cube here or a bit more of a bubble on another ice cube there that they were never entirely the same. Dora always thought the little ice cube across from her was kind of cute, weird, but cute, the way his ice had a touch of silver at the top, the only side of him that he exposed. The cube’s other five sides were all buried in the white plastic tray. And the Little Ice Cube had said so little, Dora had a hard time guessing a side of his personality beyond laconic.
“Where can we escape to?” Dora finally asked him.
“I don’t know,” said the Little Ice Cube, “it was just an idea. I can’t even get out of this tray.”
“You’re just dreaming. The Hand will return any time and take us,” said Dora, though, not wanting to sound so negative, she added, “it’s a nice dream, though.”
“Maybe if we hid behind the ice cream or bag of frozen peas…” The Little Ice Cube offered.
“We just have to get out of the tray,” reminded Dora.
“Oh, how I’d give anything to get out of this tray,” Hatty said, and as though The Hand had been listening at the door, reached in and took the tray out. There were a few immeasurable and insufferable seconds where each cube knew that this could be the time that they were popped from the tray and plopped into someone’s drink, dissolved and drunk. Time was melting away. Dora had a moment when she thought to reach across to the Little Ice Cube and hold him for comfort until she realized they had no hands and no way of connecting physically.
Hatty was the one taken. The Hand slammed the tray against the counter, broke Hatty from her cubicle and added her to his drink before returning the tray back to the freezer. Dora didn’t dare speak till the freezer door was firmly shut.
“That’s it, we’re the only ones left. The Hand will come for us any time, what can we do?” The Little Ice Cube answered in silence. Dora got tired of waiting for a response that wasn’t coming. “I don’t know about you but I’m going to make the most of the time I have left.”
The Little Ice Cube was intrigued. “How do you hope to do that?”
“By thinking positively. It’s all we got. We can’t walk anywhere, seeing as how we don’t have feet and we’re frozen stuck to this plastic tray. But, we still have our minds and our hearts, we can still dream. Let’s dream we’re somewhere happy and safe and then we will be.”
The Little Ice Cube had a hard time even pretending to accept this logic. “No, we’ll still be right here. Worse, we’re even closer to the end.”
“I don’t know about you, but right now I’m taking a cruise in the Arctic Ocean on an iceberg. Weeeeee!” Dora added for effect. “Look out, I’m about to hit a penguin!”
“Penguins are in the antarctic, not the arctic ocean,” the Little Ice Cube added insipidly.
“Look, don’t ruin this for me. If I say I’m taking a cruise in the arctic ocean on an iceberg passing a school of penguins, then that’s where I am. I’m not gonna let mr. chip-in-his-ice like you tell me different and spoil my fun. You can go wherever you want, but if you want to come on the iceberg cruise, there’s room for one more, so long as you don’t rain all over it and melt the fun away.” There was a long pause before she asked, “Are you coming?”
“Ok, I’m coming,” he said without enthusiasm.
“You gotta be a lot more excited than that. This cruise is reserved only for happy and fun ice cubes.”
“Yay, we’re on a cruise passing penguins,” the Little Ice Cube said, doing a poor job hiding his sarcasm. Dora could sense that he was at least trying, so she let the sarcasm go.
“Oh, look, a polar bear! And look he’s juggling snowballs! Have you ever seen a polar bear juggle snowballs before?”
“No,” the Little Ice Cube couldn’t help but laugh.
“Me neither. This was worth the price of the ticket right there.”
And as they played with their imaginations, they gradually put away all thoughts of The Hand. The Little Ice Cube actually found himself having fun and wishing he’d gotten to know this brilliant little ice cube across from him, Dora, a lot sooner. He tried not to think of the time they’d missed, but the time they were having.
Until they were out of time.
And the freezer door opened and The Hand invaded their space once again, taking the tray and this was it. This was really it. There was no where left to hide, not even in their imaginations.
“It was great knowing you,” Dora whispered as The Hand grabbed hold of their tray.
“You too,” breathed the Little Ice Cube.
They said nothing more as their ice cube tray was lifted out of the freezer and hovered over the counter, the same counter they had seen used to smash apart so many other ice cubes before.
Instead, a miracle.
Instead of getting slammed against the counter, the white plastic tray was placed beneath the tap and cold water flowed over the nearly empty tray, filling each empty cube with the hope of new life. Water washed over both Dora and the Little Ice Cube’s faces, melting them, slowly bleeding them to new life drowning in their own blood.
The tap was turned off, and the tray was returned to the freezer, with Dora and the Little Ice Cube swimming in their new forms, truly connected, their bodies becoming one, solidifying stronger together with each passing breath of frost shared between them.
And as they were left to sit again in the glorious cold, the water froze solid, and what had once been bleeding them, bonded them, freezing the two ice cubes together in love.