‘I’m telling you, it’s another world.‘ Jake’s eyes widened as he gestured towards the strata of advertising posters on the wall. The rain had washed off the top layer, revealing part of a picture of a smiling blonde woman standing in front of what looked like one of the old forests.
‘Look closer. There are two suns in the sky. I saw it on one of the other posters too. Hold on.‘ He fumbled through his jacket and pulled out a penknife. After glancing over his shoulder at the disinterested crowds opposite, he leant over and began to gently peel off part of a poster extolling the soothing virtues of Peterson’s Perineum Powder. Finally, he stood back and admired his handiwork.
‘It’s probably just a printing error. Or part of that poster you just removed.‘ I squinted at the two white blobs in the clear blue sky. One was larger than the other, but they both seemed to be roughly the same shape.
Dropping the knife back into his jacket pocket, Jake raised an eyebrow: ‘More to the point, when was the last time you saw a forest? I mean, actually saw one for real. When was the last time anyone saw one for real?‘
I sighed ‘It could just be a painted backdrop. Or they could have projected a photo of her onto an old photo of a forest. I mean, there was this bloke on public radio who worked in a photo lab, and the things they can do there…‘
Jake shook his head and pointed at one of the trees: ‘Look at the shadows. There would have to be two light sources for those shadows to look real.‘
‘So, they built the backdrop out of fake trees and someone thought that two spotlights would look more dramatic than just one. It doesn’t prove anything.‘ I laughed.
Jake took a couple of steps backwards and pointed to another part of the wall. ‘Ok, look at this one. Not only is that man unnaturally happy, but take a look at that.. thing… in the background. Have you seen anything like it before?‘
I wandered over and stared at the poster. It was an advert for ginger pills. In the corner of the pristine lounge behind the grinning man, there was a large black box with a glowing blue square in the middle. There seemed to be some kind of typewriter in front of it – but the carriage return, platen, typebars and ribbon spool were missing.
‘And don’t say that it’s some kind of trendy sculpture or anything like that.‘ Jake sighed ‘There’s electrical wiring coming out of it. And, if you look at the photo on the wall above it, there are the two suns again.‘
I squinted at the tiny photo. ‘It could just be a reflection from the camera flash.‘
Jake rolled his eyes and rifled through his pockets for some change before walking towards the phone box at the end of the street ‘Well, I’m broadcasting about it. Public relay five should be pretty quiet at this time of the evening.‘
He’d barely even finished dialling when the van showed up. It screeched to a halt beside the phone box. The passenger door swung open. The air popped and crackled loudly. The door slammed shut. The engine revved. The van was gone. The phone box was empty.
Of course, I filed a report with the police. I even blagged my way into Jake’s flat, just in case the whole thing was an elaborate joke. He wasn’t there. Even his usual seat at the pub was quickly occupied by an old man who looked like he’d been there even longer than the dartboard had.
The next time I saw Jake was when my bus was late. Beside the graffiti-coated timetable, there was an advert for Stevenson’s Solar Supplements. I spotted the two suns almost immediately, even though one of them was badly concealed behind the leaves of a giant tree. Below it, Jake held a box of supplements. At least he looked happy. Unnaturally happy.