The Ice House

by Jane Roberts

 

“The ice house is where they send you to cool off…”

In the grounds of the Georgian manor – now a communal carcass stuffed with families meandering from the course of “normal living”—ivy stumbles in-between the crumbling lime mortar brickwork of the ice house and establishes itself like tiny electrical wires trying to pulse life into a decaying corpse. Detritus-threaded earth is piled high inside; a convenient, secluded dump.

“If you’re not good, you’ll go to the ice house…”

Empty threats for hardy kids used to making their own rules.

“Kids don’t get sent to the ice house. And they don’t just disappear. People miss ‘em – parents, and teachers, and other kids”, says Kai, the leader of the pack.

What about Daisy Mulligan?

That was what the other kids wanted to say. What about the little girl that went missing: the one with pigtails tied with purple ribbons; the one who wore pink glitter jelly shoes; the one who, despite her innocent appearance, was never very good.

Then a toy uproots itself from the earth around the ice house. Nothing very scary about that. Nothing chilling. The kids laugh at the joke. And then they find a pink glitter jelly shoe. And then TV crews gather outside the wrought-iron gates that are half fairytale swirl and half prison bar, because no one’s forgotten Daisy Mulligan even after all this time. And then the men in ghost-white overalls dig up three feet.

 

Jane Roberts

The Ice House by Jane Roberts was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize for Flash Fiction in 2013. It was first published in Issue 3 of Bare Fiction Magazine (July 2014).