The Ice is Melting

Submitted into Contest #53 in response to: Write a story that begins with someone's popsicle melting.... view prompt

3 comments

General

Bella’s popsicle started melting shortly after she received it, and her shaking fingers only helped the mush relieve itself from the wooden serving stick. Within moments, she was forced to stare at the shiny, red-green puddle on the side of the street. Her grimace must have been apparent.

“Gotta finish ‘em quick these days. You want another?” The ice cream man smiled at her over the side of his truck. “On the house.” He waited a while for a response that never came and eventually drove off, not prepared to deal with whatever the woman on the curb was going through.

Bella stood there as the upbeat music associated with the truck faded away. Obviously, she should’ve known. Everyone knew. According to her parents, it had blared through the new cycle for weeks on end. At one point, it had been deep in the trenches of almost every conversation.

The Earth was dying. And it was irreversible.

Bella tossed her popsicle stick towards the overflowing trash-bin. It bounced off the rim, tapping the pavement as it fell. She began walking home.

In the end, it was the warming that sealed their fate. Of course, scientists had made attempts to change the course. Nuclear blasts at the poles, solar arrays in the oceans, propelled jet stream circulation. But temperatures only grew hotter.

Initially, there had been chaos. People quit their jobs and planned to never return. Why work when there were only seven years left? Murder and crime rates skyrocketed. There was mayhem for a while, and the world went on like that for months after the news began.

But Bella had not been there at the beginning. She had woken up from a coma six months ago. Her family had explained everything to her soon after she came to. It had been surreal, and it had been one of the first times her hands shook. They had not stopped shaking since.

She arrived at her home. She could hear her parents through the door. Her hands slowly clasped around the doorknob and pushed.

“Oh! Perfect timing, Bella! Will you tell your mother that she’s crazy?” Her father gave a half-grin and helped Bella to the couch. She sat next to her sister, Eloise, and called across to the kitchen table, where her mother was sitting, drinking coffee.

“You’re crazy, mom. But just so we’re on the same page, what are you crazy about right now?”

Eloise’s eyes widened slightly and tried to whisper in Bella’s ear. “Wait, please-“

“Bill thinks that Benjamin Franklin invented electricity. There’s no way. He may have popularized it, but there was definitely someone who used it before he did it.”

“Then why does everyone talk about him and his electricity kite thing?! If he did it second, no one would care.”

They continued their back and forth on what Ben Franklin did and did not do. Eloise buried her head in a pillow. Bella tuned them out, but she was glad to have them here, even if it was at a time like this. They acted just like they had when she was a child. Bella appreciated that at least a few things had not changed during her coma. Speaking of which…

“Oh, I almost forgot! Sarah invited me to brunch tomorrow. We’re going to Café Pamplona.” Sarah had been one of Bella’s best friends before the coma. Bella looked at her parents excitedly, but there was only a nervous silence in response. “It’s not that far away, you know. And staying at home isn’t gonna make anything go away.”

She knew why they were holding back. They didn’t need to remind her of that night. The night that she had slipped into the coma.

A couple of months had passed since the diagnosis. It had been degenerative and fatal. The doctors had told her she had almost a decade, but that it would not be a decade devoid of problems. According to them, it would be marked by a slow, but steady, degradation of motor function. Bella had not experienced it yet, but she feared what the next few years would entail.

She stood in the bathroom. The orange pill bottle stood silently in front of her. She had almost gone to bed without taking one. The daily pills were prescribed months ago, but Bella still occasionally forgot. She sighed.

She was exhausted from the physical therapy, and her entire body was sore. She reached for the bottle. It had been difficult, moving back into her childhood home after years alone and independent. Her parents were overprotective, and they used her sickness as an excuse to keep her near. She had no one to talk to, and she was constantly overwhelmed by the finality of her disease.

Bella attempted to open the lid of the pill bottle. She struggled with it for a while before it finally gave in a spurt, spilling all over the floor and making her lose grip of the bottle. She picked it back up and her heart dropped. She stared at her hand. It was shaking.

Bella slunk to the ground in despair. Slowly, one by one, she gathered the pills from off the floor. Then they sat there gathered in her shaking hand for a while, the room dead silent. Bella closed her eyes. She brought her hand to her mouth. A couple of minutes later, she slipped from consciousness, slinking even further down until her head lay on the floor.

Her mother shared a look with her father, and then walked over to stand next to him. He was slightly stiff, but he relaxed as she sidled closer. Her mother spoke. “Of course you can go to brunch with Sarah tomorrow. What’s the worst that could happen? The world ending?”

Bella lit up and fumbled to her feet. She ran across the room and engulfed her parents in a hug. A tear ran down her cheek. After a moment, she spoke silently so that only they could hear. “Thank you so much. You’re the best.” Her hands were still shaking, but she realized she did not care.

The next day, Bella stepped off the train station in Central Square. As the flutter of people moved around her, she was once again struck by the normalcy of it all. These people all had death sentences just like her. In fact, the dates when she and the world would die were so close that she had almost laughed at the irony. Sure, people had made mistakes in the first few months. But this was no longer the first few months. Looking around the station, Bella saw a people determined to squeeze every ounce out of the few years they had left. The world had gotten over its diagnosis. Maybe she could too.

Stepping off the stairs of the subway onto the street, Bella began looking for Sarah. She walked up a block and looked around the corner of the intersection. And there, across the street, was Sarah sitting on the curb, enjoying a popsicle.



August 07, 2020 22:26

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

3 comments

03:17 Aug 09, 2020

I love this story! I really like the way you built the world slowly yet personally. I wanted more when it ended!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Jackson Weaver
02:51 Aug 09, 2020

Fantastic story! I loved the use of the melting popsicle and the raw emotion of the characters

Reply

Jackson Weaver
04:26 Aug 09, 2020

I love the time jump

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.