Miki was twirling atop an ice cube when Vida first saw him. Each time he leapt off the edge with his fist in the air, her heart followed. Perhaps it was too soon, but she couldn’t help it.
She’d heard the stories about the children from Hiemslandia. The ice thieves. The giants. And the rescue—of course the rescue. Even with the condensation droplets in the way, Vida could see Miki’s wounded eyes that shone through the chilled glass.
Vida sat down at his empty table and smiled. And Miki sat down on the ice and looked back at her. He extended his arm to the foggy covering and polished it with his sleeve. His action was nothing—not really. But Vida, seeing his openness toward her, giggled and loosened her shoulders.
“How are you?” she asked.
“A little warm, and I’m thinking about giants. But I’m okay. I guess,” he replied through a tiny blue straw, with his voice not even that of a whisper.
Warm? She was wearing a sweater, a coat, and a scarf, and, still, her arm hairs tingled.
“I want to help you. Is that okay?”
Miki stood up and scratched at his chin. The ice cube rocked, but, instead of wobbling, his body swayed confidently with it.
He grabbed the straw again and spoke into it. “If you really want to.”
She didn’t hesitate when she slapped the buzzer on the corner of the table. “I’ll take
him!” she shouted. “I’ll take him—Miki—now!”
The adoption mixer’s hostess tottered to Miki’s table and pulled up a stool beside Vida.
“Are you sure?” she asked.
Vida looked over at Miki, who now was on his knees with his head turned down toward the ice, and her heart jumped again. “I think he’s praying. I bet he’s thanking God for me,” she said to the hostess. Then, she took a deep breath and spoke softly. “I am sure,” she said.
The hostess stared at Vida until Vida looked away.
“Very well,” said the hostess. “I’ll pack Miki securely for you, and I’ll even toss in a couple of extra ice cubes from his home planet. He’ll need to stay as cold as he possibly can.”
Vida watched as the hostess took Miki to the back. She hoped this would be the only time she would not be by her son’s side.
“Good luck,” the hostess said as Vida and Miki headed home. “You’ll need it—“
And the door shut.
Vida shook her head. “What a strange woman,” she whispered.
At home, Vida filled a glass pitcher with as many ice cubes as it would hold and poured a cup of water in it. Then, she grabbed Miki and placed him inside his new vessel.
“What do you think?” she asked, with her hands shaking against the glass.
His lips moved, but his voice wasn’t strong enough to fill the empty room.
“Oops, sorry. I forgot something,” Vida said, and she reached in her pocket to retrieve the same blue straw he’d had at the mixer.
“Let’s try that again. What do you think?”
“It’s spacious enough,” Miki said. “May I have one of my cubes from home, though?”
“Of course, sweetie.” And she ran to the freezer to open the airtight package the hostess had given Vida as she was leaving.
Vida held the cube in her hand and lowered it to where Miki stood.
“Thank you,” he said.
“You’re welcome,” Vida replied.
Vida smelled of her hands. Hiemslandia. She closed her eyes and imagined her son’s homeland. The blue ground. The water flowing under the ice. The horned beasts flying as if they were delicate birds. The miniscule people laughing and dancing. And, then, as if she couldn’t help herself, she saw the final days. Destruction. The giants who’d come. Their colossal feet breaking the ice—their homes. The bodies like naked splinters among the broken landscape. And worst of all: Miki’s face before and after.
The pictures she’d seen on the news had all been blurry. She was both proud and sad.
Sometimes seeing something with a filter is the only way to see it at all. The lens froze when they got too close. Only the rockets, which retrieved the children when the time came, could touch the planet’s surface.
When she opened her eyes, it was dark.
“How about we talk all day tomorrow? Your dad will be home then,” Vida said.
The giants had been men.
Vida took Miki up the stairs and placed him on a towel on her nightstand. “I’ll sleep here, so if you need anything, all you have to do is call me,” she said. She added reassuringly, “I’m a light sleeper.”
She sat on the edge of the bed and reached to turn off the lamp, and then it hit her. She’d forgotten something. She ran to the bathroom and returned with a pair of scissors. She picked the pitcher off the nightstand and unfolded the towel. She cut one of the corner’s and folded it back perfectly. Vida’s friends all talked about the joy in tucking their children in at night. She was a mother now. She deserved this moment.
“Miki, sweetie, this blanket is for you. I know that you don’t really get cold, but it might help you be more comfortable. If nothing else, you might can rest your head on it,” Vida said, handing Miki the tiny blanket she’d made him.
Miki grabbed the piece of cloth and looked at it. He ran his hands along the edges of it and then smelled his hands. He nodded.
Vida crawled into her bed again, and this time she turned off the light.
Miki watched her sleep for the longest time. Then, he grabbed his blanket and folded it under his head. He was safe for now. He could sleep. So, he did.
It was the light’s rays that startled Miki from his sleep. The giants. Were they back? Were they here to conquer all that remained from Hiemslandia? The heat scorched the back of his neck, and his delicate skin reddened, even under the protection from the pitcher’s thick glass. He stood on the edge of his cube—the one from his home—and he glared into the light. He faced the heat. He ripped the blanket and wrapped it around his head. A bandana. A warrior. Like his mother—his real mother. Like his sisters. He would fight. He would stand his ground. The giants could kill him. They could crush his body. He’d seen it all before. But they couldn’t defeat his spirit. They wouldn’t. They couldn’t.
The light’s intensity increased by the second, but Miki didn’t budge. His hands sat on his hip. The muscles in his face tightened, and his lips swelled.
And, then, just as the light seemed to back down from Miki, the bedroom door squeaked.
It was one of the giants.
Miki jumped from the pitcher and charged the enemy.
“I’ll save you, mother,” he said, but he’d forgotten to hold the straw to his lips.
Miki’s soaked, bare feet trekked across the nightstand and down the cracked drawers.
Perched atop the last hurdle, he grabbed his straw and vaulted to the carpet. His feet smacked the surface, and his bones popped and throbbed. His tiny feet tackled the carpet. He breathed deeper with each step. Dust flew up from beneath him, and stray fingernails knocked him over. Still, he rose and ran toward the giant.
The giant approached. Slowly and quietly. He hadn’t seen the boy from Hiemslandia escape. He didn’t know the battle had begun.
The toes of the giant towered Miki.
Closer and closer they came.
With each step, the heat from earth grew stronger and stronger. Sweat covered Miki’s body so much that discerning between water and his own fluids was impossible. Miki had one shot, so he took it.
He dived into the giant’s toes and ripped and roared with all of his strength.
The giant, in return, howled.
Miki, sprawled on the bedroom carpet, looked up and saw the giant retreating. He had won.
“For Hiemslandia!” he cried. “And for you, Mom!”
Miki was with the ones from Hiemslandia again.
David had tried to be quiet when he entered the bedroom as the morning sun rose.
He knew about Miki, and he’d rushed to get back home. He—the new father— wanted to surprise his wife and his son, but he had stubbed his toe on something and had to go back to the switch to turn on the light.
Vida didn’t seem alarmed when the lights came on. Instead, she looked at the pitcher.
“Good morning, sweetie,” she said. “I want you to meet your dad.”
Her eyes weren’t playing tricks on her. He was gone.
“David, Miki is gone! He’s gone!”
Vida and David got on their knees and crawled around the bedroom. It only took a few seconds to find him.
The tears poured.
“Why would he get out of his pitcher?” she asked. “Why would he leave his ice cubes?
He knew better.”
David picked up his son. “Maybe he was so excited for a new dad that he got out to look for me.”
As David held Miki, Vida noticed the headband. No. Miki understood that they were a
“He would’ve loved you,” she said. But she didn’t believe it.
Bradley Sides is a writer and English instructor. His work appears at Electric Literature, Fiction Southeast, The Lit Pub, Literary Orphans, The Rumpus, Toasted Cheese, and elsewhere. He lives in Florence, Alabama, with his wife, and he is working on his first collection of short stories.