Part 2 of my new serial. If you have not read part 1 yet, it is here
Well, to say I was not in the same place is not technically true. I was sat on a chair and at a table just like the one I was on moments ago. It was the world around me that had changed.
The glass and steel structure to my right had no fewer than six solar panels tilting towards the sky. On top of the same building was a row of small wind turbines. In fact, the city around me seemed to be a mass of wind turbines and solar panels.
The most surprising thing was the River Thames – undoubtedly the same river because I could see Tower Bridge on the horizon – was blue. And there were children paddling in it. In the London I knew, that would be a sure-fire way of catching diseases nobody had had for decades, and maybe some that experts had yet to discover.
‘Where am I?’
My companion chuckled. ‘Where does it look like?’
‘Good morning gents!’ The high pitched voice of the young girl startled both of us. She thrust menus on the table before us and I cast a glance down. The coffee shop had become a juice bar. ‘Can I recommend the Mediterranean Medley?’ she said, pointing to it on the list. ‘But if you like spicy the Aztec Fire is new to JuiceKing. You’ll be surprised how refreshing chilli juice can be.’
My companion handed the menu back. ‘I’m adventurous enough to try that!’
‘Very good!’ she gave him a sweet smile before turning to me. ‘And you sir?’
I scanned quickly and found something that looked vaguely interesting. ‘I’ll have The American West.’
‘Another great choice!’ she exclaimed and walked away.
‘What the hell just happened?’ I asked my companion.
‘We ordered drinks and not a drip of caffeine in sight.’
‘No, before. How did you do that?’
‘Oh, that. Well, we are in another version of London.’ He cast a glance over my shoulder again.
‘Did you know that was going to happen?’
‘Oh yes, I have been able to do it since I was a child.’
‘And you didn’t warn me you were going to do it?’
‘No, we didn’t have much time.’
‘Is this some sort of trick?’
‘Yes. Do you really mean to tell me I’m in an alternate reality, like in science fiction?’
‘Yes, you are.’
‘Can I get back?’
I sat back in my chair. ‘What is this all about? You said you needed my help. Tell me what you want and then take me back.’
His eyes darted over my shoulder again. ‘Oh shit.’
‘Don’t turn around. She’s there. We can’t stay.’
Before I could protest, he touched my arm again and we were somewhere else. For a moment I thought we were back where we started. In truth, there was not much to tell it apart from the London I knew, but there was a sense of wrongness about the place. The river was brown-grey, the sunny weather was the same and Tower Bridge dominated the near horizon. We were most certainly at a coffee shop again.
The video board on the embankment rolled around from this season’s perfume to this season’s high-performance car to a man wearing a football kit advertising the summer sale at a well-known chain of sports supplies shops. He looked vaguely familiar but I was distracted then by a young boy holding a pen and a magazine towards me.
‘Please Mister, can I have your autograph?’
Amused, I took the magazine from him and was startled to see the same poster that was on the board. No wonder the man in the football kit looked familiar – it was me.
As I pressed the pen to the paper, I scanned the text and saw little clue to my identity – footballer or male model? Perhaps both?
‘What did it feel like?’ asked the boy.
I smiled. ‘What did what feel like?’
‘Lifting the World Cup for England, silly!’
It took all me effort to contain my surprise and I almost dropped the pen. ‘Really good!’ I smiled at the boy and signed my name with a flourish.
The boy skipped away, beaming at his mum who gave me a friendly wave.
‘Hey brother, you’re a national treasure. World Cup winner.’ He laughed out loud.
‘Will you please stop calling me that. I hate it.’
‘Brother. I’m not your brother.’
He pursed his lips, let out a sigh and said just three words. ‘Yes, you are.’