The Phantom Ice Cream Van

Life, so they say, is full of little mysteries. From the Mary Celeste to Sherlock Holmes, unexplained goings-on have captured the public imagination ever since our ancestors developed the question mark.

Even I, as level-headed and rarely spooked as I might be, have fallen prey to the odd conundrum. The following are the various mysteries that have added spice to my otherwise bland existence.

The Phantom Ice Cream Van

I live in a fairly typical student house; thin walls, biohazards in the the kitchen, and locks on every door. It’s a cross between living in an institution and a war zone, but with more shit telly.

My housemate, despite coming from a country whose winters last eleven months of the year, hates the cold. I mean, she hates the cold. If she had it her way, there would be legislation forcing everyone to wear thick socks all the time.

She’s also the only person in my house with any idea how to control the central heating – as a result, our house is constantly boiling and our energy bill is through the roof. I’ve been emailing her pictures of dead penguins, with little success. To avoid sweating through my pyjamas, I’m compelled to sleep with my window open, even in the dead of winter.

It was October when I first heard it. I was in the kitchen sifting through the forest of junk mail we’d got in the last week, when suddenly I heard the unmistakably cheery jingle of an ice cream van. Strange, I thought to myself; but I thought of it no more.

That is, until a particularly frosty night in November when I woke suddenly from a dream about retiring to a peaceful life in the countryside. I was in that half-sleeping phase where everything is half-real. For a moment, I thought the ice cream van music was just another part of my phantom retirement; but suddenly I was jolted awake. The music was real.

I lay in bed, heart pounding, thoroughly confused. Who the fuck was operating an ice cream van at (I checked my phone) 01:47? For that matter, who would buy ice cream in winter, no matter the time of day? After all, this is not one of those sitcoms with no seasonal variation: this is Sheffield and it’s fucking cold.

By the time I had crawled out of my nest of blankets and headed to the window, the music had stopped; I was left shivering in my Batman pjs, gazing out over the silent city.

Since then, I have heard this enigmatic tune no fewer than six times, all at equally inappropriate times for ice cream: at night, during a hailstorm, in January…

I thought about putting up flyers to see if any of my neighbours had also heard anything, but the last thing I want is to scare the mysterious caterer away. If someone is hiding an ice cream van, I want to get on their good side; they’re either a maniac or a legend. Either way, it’s best not to alienate them.

One day, when the time is right, this ice cream van will reveal itself to me; until then, it remains a mystery, a phantom.

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