Every night Alice had the same dream.
In it a huge block of ice glided towards her, dragging with it all the things she knew and thought she loved. It stripped the valleys of her childhood of childish things; the meadows of her youth it raked bare, and the hills of her history it eroded, crushed and reshaped. Characters from her life story became brittle cracked sculptures of themselves. And all around the ice a hundred thousand prisms sucked in red and violet stars and blew out laser white rays.
In her dream Alice watched the approach of the mammoth with fascination. But, always, before the ice reached her, she awoke.
She told no-one about her dream, especially not her husband. His mind was crowded enough; the last thing he needed was her foolishness.
Then one morning, she overslept.
The glacier approached, as it always did, its speed increasing as it drew closer and closer. Like a spectator at the Coliseum, Alice watched. When it was within two feet of her she wondered if she should scream. She opened her mouth and a dagger of white air escaped. As it did, she realised that to scream now would defeat the object: she wanted to find out what would happen. She would not be afraid. This was only a dream; she could come to no harm.
The noise was deafening as photo frames and china dolls, beads and books, unable to resist its power, crumbled and were scooped up by the unstoppable ice block.
But when the glacier was just inches from her toes, another sound penetrated the whiteness. Her husband’s voice cut diamond sharp through her dream state. He would be late for work and it was her fault: she had forgotten to set the alarm.
When he had gone, Alice tried to go back to sleep, to return to the place she had left, but when she did at last doze, the glacier had retreated.
She told herself she was silly, paying such attention to a dream. She resolved to put it out of her mind and to concentrate on real things. And for a time it worked. She continued to have the dream but wouldn’t allow herself to think of it.
Then Alice’s husband had to go away with work. Just for one night. But one night was all she needed.
She went to bed early, switched off the alarm and slid between the crisp sheets. Without the warmth of her husband’s body, they were cold to the touch. She shivered and turned off the light. She fell asleep quickly but, for a long time, the glacier didn’t move. She feared, at first, it had come to a halt, that she was too late. But when it started to creak and scrape and scour its path towards her, building up its speed as it did, she knew there would be no stopping it. Now it came closer, faster than ever before.
She held out her arms to welcome it. Its glassy weight thrust against her. She thought she would be knocked flat but, where the ice touched her body, it melted and took her shape. The colder than breath air that surrounded her froze the water droplets and a new skin coated her.
Alice felt no fear. She felt nothing except relief: the weight of feeling had become a burden. But if she could have felt it, she would have been light-hearted.
She awoke the next morning to find herself encased in ice. Only a thin covering but strong and impenetrable. She smiled to herself as she glided through her daily chores wondering what her husband would say when he returned that evening.
But ice is notorious for catching people out. They don’t see it until it’s too late. In time he came to notice a change in her but couldn’t have said what that change was or when it had happened.
Alice no longer dreamed of icebergs; instead she dreamed of dark rooms peopled by grey men and women doing monochrome jobs. Joy and misery became strangers, leaving calling cards that she only glanced at before shredding. She watched others mourn through a frosted window, or, when required, carefully applied the make-up of happiness. If she saw a rainbow, she would remember a stirring of what might have been delight, but it was too insignificant to crack the ice.