This true story is something that happened to me many years ago whilst I was at school...
The day started much like any other... I was trudging my way to school trying to shift the ever leaden weight of my school bag from shoulder to shoulder. My school was about 3 miles from my house and so, as normal, I was making my way slowly but inevitably through the steady drizzle. The closer we came to school, the deeper the sense of dread I began to feel.
At this point, you may well be expecting me to start down some gloomy, dark narrative which concerns itself with fantasy, horror and something altogether more exciting than the places in which you are currently undertaking your education. You would be wrong; there is nothing gloomy about this story, in fact - quite the opposite. However, the dread I felt was because I knew, just like every other pupil at school, that the day was about to be filled with grey teachers talking about grey subjects, wearing grey clothes. Each one of those dreary drones believed they were inspiring our grey matter. Each one was wrong. When you added this to the other inevitable side of school life, which was the spectre of meeting one of the 'school bullies' - you can quite easily imagine why I was less than enthusiastic about hurrying to school!
But I digress - we will come to the bullies shortly. The day was like any other, as I said. The three of us, Alex, Suzie and myself reluctantly approached the school gates, each trying to fool the other that they wanted to be there, and each trying to believe the very same thing themselves. We were several minutes late and so we braced ourselves to sneak past the Head's secretary's window and lose ourselves in the rush to the first lesson of the day. However this morning, as we neared the school gates, we noticed a rather different sight: an ice cream van was parked directly outside the school gates. Our interest peaked; we hurried on over, eager to spend our dinner money on the second breakfast of the day. As we approached the slide window at the side of the van, jostling each other to be first, we were quickly disappointed to find that it was closed.
Just as we all turned away, the window suddenly flew open, crashing back and a rather flushed, pimpled face beamed out at us.
"Good morning" bellowed the face, still flushed, still beaming. I remember blinking nervously, unsure how to deal with this.
"Hello?" I questioned uncertainly, still planning my careful entry into school, and a little bemused why an ice cream salesman should find himself quite so cheerful at this time of the morning.
Suddenly, a huge slab of a hand thrust itself out of the narrow window.
"Me names Sam", the face bellowed, "Sam the 'ICE' man." And as he said this he laughed and without warning let out an enormous belch. The sound of his laughter appeared strange at first, after all... what was funny about an ice cream seller called Sam? But suddenly, almost as soon as I sensed the first whiff of his odorous belch; it felt as though I was overcome. I pursed my lips, as if about to frown and ask what was so funny. But the words simply would not come out! Instead, what can only be described as a cross between a wheeze and a snort burst from my nostrils. Blinking rapidly, I looked at my two friends and realised, they were making similarly strange noises.
As I looked towards the Ice cream vendor, I could hold it no more... tears began to stream down my face and my breath came in short sharp gasps. I looked over at my friends and the same things was happening to them.
The next few minutes is difficult to remember, but I do remember the paroxysms of laughter beginning to subside and my stomach muscles, aching form laughter, had relaxed somewhat. Unsure of how I had ended up slumped against the gate post of our school, I staggered to my feet and once more found my eyes drawn towards the red face in the window.
"So boys!" He said winking at Suzie, who actually did look a little bit like a boy with her short hair. "What's it to be?"
"Erm" stammered Alex, "I... I.." and then he seemed to choke and a jet of snot erupted from one nostril. This seemed to set off Suzie too and as another jet of snot spurted from her nose, I looked and held my breath, determined not to laugh.
"I'm terribly sorry," I muttered through clenched teeth and streaming eyes, "its just that... and I don't know why... its just th..tha..that.." and i got no further. Tears streamed down my face and I noticed a strange hooting, choking sound filled the air, suddenly the front of my shirt was soaked with a sticky green liquid, and I realised shamefully that i too had just erupted a burst of snot form my nose.
It took some minutes to return to something resembling normality. As I did so I was suddenly struck by the serious look on the Ice Cream vendor's face. He glanced at us quickly and said. "Same time tomorrow, if you know how to help yer selfs." The window slammed shut and seconds later the van was enveloped by a cloud of black exhaust smoke.
The three of us stared at each other shakily, aware that something significant had just happened, but each of us equally oblivious to the truth of what we were about to discover....