Natasha practically shouted in my ear. Classic Tash – she loved to exaggerate her response to everything, ramp up the enthusiasm levels and really affirm everything she was told. It developed during her ‘my-parents-are-divorced’ phase; she’d come in to school pumped for registration, the ubiquitous American Beauty rip-off art projects suddenly became ‘inspirational’, and the canteen sticky rice and brown beef sludge was like her last frickin’ meal. These things ALL sucked, so I figured she was used to pepping up her mom when dad was out banging the chubby girl from the pizza place on Greenberg Ave, and eventually it just filtered into being part of her personality. After twelve years it still bugged me, but it was often cute as heck so I always let it slide.
“I mean it’s like he’s waving RIGHT AT YOU?!”
The man she was talking about wasn’t real. And there was no way he was waving at me. But she was right, it did look like he was. He had popped up in the middle of my macbook desktop four days ago; it was the autumn mountain range one, white-capped grey stone peppered with brown and dark green bushes that blended into yellow orange red flame fir trees, reflected in a glass mirror lake.
“How SPOOKY!!” Tash yelled.
“Alright Tash reign it in – I’m only showing you because I wanted to show someone before it went away again, and Miller isn’t picking up his cell.”
“No but seriously – that is FREAKY! How are you doing it?”
I sensed her fold her arms over my shoulder.
“Well… what did you do?”
“Nothing, I swear. I just booted it up the other day and then suddenly there was this tiny guy in the picture.”
“Did you google it?”
I held back the eye roll. She was a sweetheart but at times she could be a dumb blonde.
“Yes, Tash, it’s 2018. I googled it straight away but I can’t find anything. Here, look -” I pull up Google – “there’s nothing. See? I only found results on troubleshooting frozen desktops and shit.”
“Did you change it?”
“No – well not before – but I swapped it to a different one, and – here, let me show you -”
I went into System Preferences and changed the background to another of the pre-selected desktops – a close up of the moon surface. As soon as it changed I tapped the bottom left crater.
“WHAT! How is he in that one too?”
“Right? And – look -” I point my finger at the crater and with my other hand switch back to the mountain range. The man is back in the trees, almost an inch to the right of the crater.
“Oh my GOD he MOVES??”
“Yeah… and Tash, I swear it isn’t me – like, it’s not a trick, I just have a tiny man stuck in my laptop.”
I switch to a safari backdrop. The man was now in the far right, peering through the tall grass and reeds. I hadn’t actually clicked on this one before; it was light and airy, removing the shadows that obscured his features in the others. You could now tell he was wearing a black tracksuit top, zipped up to his neck. He looked thin – his face was particularly hollow and gaunt. He had a short black fringe and a spiky black moustache; the inky blacks made his skin look even more pale. His limbs seemed gangly and weird – something gleaned on the wrist of his waving hand – a watch?
Tash didn’t say anything. There was an awkward pause for a few seconds. I turned around and she was staring out the window.
“What do you mean ‘well?’ – I’m not an IT expert, maybe you got a virus or something.”
She seemed distracted, her tone was flat. Her body language had shifted; her arms were folded tightly across her chest, her legs were angled toward the door and her shoulders were hunched forward.
“No, I checked – no virus. But Tash I haven’t told you the weirdest thing yet.”
She looked back at me. Her face was kinda pale and her eyes were kinda wide. Her chest was rising and falling faster than before. She looked scared.
“OK – so don’t call me crazy – but, like – I swear he’s getting closer to the screen.”
Tash’s eyes widened.