by Nick Parker

Things being what they are these days, you can imagine that nobody exactly hangs out a shingle saying: forgeries here while u wait. But you only have to put your ear to the ground for a few moments to realize that the whispers are insistent and unanimous: Jackson is your man; his forgeries are flawless; his technique is unsurpassed; his equipment is the most modern that money can buy. The rumors say that Jackson has had his cameras and scanners smuggled in from America. This in itself, the whispers intimate, is proof enough of the greatness of his powers. But most of all, the whispers say: look around. Do you ever see or hear of anyone who has been stopped at the borders with a Jackson passport? A Jackson forgery is like magic. You will melt away like a ghost in the morning sunlight.

So we have gathered our meager savings and come to this lop-sided alleyway and knocked on the door just as the whispers have instructed. And a man with a face that is 80 per cent beard and 20 per cent spectacles has clapped us on the shoulder warmly and hustled us inside. We have sat in a back room, snug in the thick embrace of the smell of printing inks and nervous tension.

We have had our pictures taken with cameras that look complex and searching, and seem more related to X-ray machines. We have watched our faces be flipped and magnified on screens. We have watched Jackson’s fingers ripple over keyboards, work minutely with paintbrushes, rub delicately at shiny foils and complex papers with watermarks deep within them. And, finally, we have held in our hands those precious blue books that are our tickets to freedom, our talismans which, we hope, will make us, too, melt away at the borders like so many before us. We are soon back out again in the alleyway, with our ears still tingling with Jackson’s whispered instructions as to how to make the passports as old and weathered as we are ourselves.

And so now we stand nervously in line, afraid even to breathe too deeply lest it disturb the fragile atmosphere that surrounds the checkpoint. We finger the corners of our passports nervously, a last opportunity for some last-minute weathering on the little blue books. Out here, in this line, we are beyond even the reassuring hum of the whispers that once spoke of Jackson’s greatness.

It is then that we feel a clap on the shoulder, heavy and cold and somehow familiar, and it is then that we realize there is another explanation as to why nobody with a Jackson forgery is ever seen or heard of ever again.