It was about noon on a Wednesday when the air raid sirens went off in Prague, which was unfortunate, because that was the precise time when the sirens were tested each week. It was nearly half an hour before people started to realize they had been going on a little too long, and tried to remember what they were supposed to do in a situation like this. There hadn’t been a war in a good long while. Who was trying to bomb them this time? Germany again? Russia? America? Or maybe it was Ukraine, or China, or Egypt. The streets were full of people sure they knew what was going on, and devoid of people who knew what they were actually supposed to do. Eventually, like proper Czechs, they formed lines, though hardly any of them could say what they were waiting in line for.
“It’s the Muslims,” remarked one shabbily-dressed young man with a shaved head and one or two missing teeth to the a young woman, perhaps a university student, just behind him in line. “I’ve been saying it for years. We need to ban them before they kill us all.”
The young woman, Sofie, who was, in fact, a university student, and also, as it turns out, a Muslim, stared at him, wide-eyed. “Is it possible you mean ISIS?”
The man just shrugged. “It’s the same thing. Everyone knows that. Islam is a violent religion. It’s obvious. They’re all terrorists. They teach their kids to blow themselves up and kill as many non-Muslims as possible so they can go to heaven.” He spoke as one does to an equal, confident that this young woman had the same understanding as he did, and was intelligent enough to see the truth. “You don’t see white people killing each other because they think God told them to.”
Sofie, who was white, did her best not to visibly cringe, not wanting to give her discomfort away. A man like this, in a tense situation like standing in a long line, could be very dangerous indeed. However, being a student, and still not completely disillusioned with the world, she made an attempt to bridge the gap of their respective background knowledge. “Actually,” she said in as non-threatening a tone as she could manage, “Christians have a long history of religious violence. Plenty of white serial killers throughout history have claimed that God told them to do what they did. And Muslims can be white, as well. So really, you can’t judge people based just on their skin color or religion. Anyway, the vast majority of Muslims are kind, peaceful people. It’s actually quite a nice religion. ISIS is about as representative of Islam as the American KKK is of Christianity. I really don’t think you need to worry too much.”
But the man had gone pale, and was no longer listening. “Muslims can be… white?” he asked, the terror visible on his face as his eyes darted around the crowd in obvious paranoia. He lowered his voice: “So they could be anywhere… How will we stop them?”
It was at that moment that a large glob of caramel swirl ice cream landed directly on the top of his head. He screamed and thrashed around, his fists balled up, ready to defend himself, and Sofie, who had recently been reading American news as part of a global politics class, silently thanked the government for their strict gun control laws.
The wave of religious fervor, denial, xenophobia, and paranoia slowly engulfed the world, which in many ways was hardly much of a difference from the way things had already been – only now, it was coated with ice cream. At first, there were news reports with death tolls due to suffocation, malnutrition, ketoacidosis, simple starvation, and violent injury due to conflict over food sources or, more commonly, ideological differences. Eventually, the news media gave up, or was cut off completely, and the world population’s fear and hatred was slowly buried under a silent, sticky mound of delicious ice cream. Was it a plague? An act of God? A cheeky prank by an alien race which was a little tired of seeing reality shows piped into space by satellite and had no regard for the myriad other life forms on the planet which were also being snuffed out? The few survivors each had a theory, but none had any real answers.
The last bit of oil finally spent, the lamp finally flickered out. Jim and Amanda, curled up in a ball under all their blankets, trying to stay warm and forget their hunger pains, hardly noticed at first. Finally, Amanda’s eyes flickered open for a moment, and she discovered how it felt to be blind.
It was hardly a surprise. They’d known that there wasn’t much fuel left. They thought about saving it, but in the end, they just couldn’t be bothered to walk across the room and turn it off.
There hadn’t been any more food for days, and they were on their last bottle of water. It wouldn’t be long now. They had long since given up any hope of rescue.
Amanda made a decision. She stood up weakly, on shaking legs, and grabbed one of the blankets to wrap around herself. Jim made no move to stop her. “I love ice cream,” came his faint whisper, followed by silence.
Feeling her way along the walls, Amanda located the apartment door, and shimmied down the hallway to the stairs. It was a long, slow process, and more than once she stumbled and fell, but with literally nothing left to lose, she simply stood back up and carried on until she reached the door to the roof. Fortunately, it opened inward. Amanda spared a chuckle for all the times she’d complained growing up about how exterior doors always swing inward and steal space from the inside of the house. Now she understood.
There was still nothing but cold blackness, of course. The wall of ice cream was well above the height of the building by now. And so, numb from cold and hunger, she reached out her hands and started to dig.
It was no easy task, digging a tunnel through ice cream. It was constantly collapsing and oozing around her. But she carried on digging. What else was there to do?
At long last, when she was nearly ready to give up, she realized she could see her hands faintly outlined against the ice cream in front of her. With renewed energy and strength, she dug onwards, upwards. The ice cream got softer and more difficult to dig through, but she carried on until she was practically swimming in it. At long last, she burst through the surface.
It went on in every direction, as far as the eye could see. There were patches of pink, green, white, and brown, oozing and melting. And it was still falling, with a steady sound that Amanda had grown to hate.
Plop. Plop. Plop.
Her strength completely spent, she collapsed onto her back and watched the globs of cold frozen sugary milk as they slowly covered her from head to toe.
Plop. Plop. Plop.