Proxy. Ch 1. Not recommended for readers under 16.

YOUNG HEALTHY MALES NEEDED FOR MEDICAL EXPERIMENT

PLEASE CALL THE NUMBER BELOW IF INTERESTED

ASK FOR LEONIE

EVERY PARTICIPANT WILL BE PAID FOR USE OF THEIR DNA AND BIOLOGY

I read the flyer and take one of the tabs off the bottom; I’ll call Leonie after Studio. I’m studying Fine Arts in Melbourne, my strength being painted nudes.

“Baxter Breckeridge?” Susannah, a fifty one year old painter hippy dressed in grey hemp-infused capris and a velvet orange jacket, calls out my name to make sure I am indeed sitting in her studio. She reminds me of Professor Trelawney from Harry Potter, with her messy mousy brown dreadlocks piled hopelessly above her head, and her massively oversized and clear-rimmed plastic frames engulfing her paint-spotted face.

“Right. You’re all here. Get to it.” She says, and we jump off our high stools and go into the back room where our works are, in calico fabric, so they aren’t smudged. I set my canvas on my easel and go about squeezing paints out of tubes in a specific way, in order with the colour wheel, so that I can access any colour I want provided its primary colour is blobbed onto my palette. I pick up a paint brush with my right hand and start adding colour to my girlfriend’s rosy lips and nipples. It’s funny how a woman’s lips and her nipples are so close in colour. Rosie. My girlfriend. I met her last year when we both started Fine Arts at RMIT. She’s cool. She’s indie and a bit rock. She likes wearing ripped black tights with short short denim skirts and baggy tshirts and leather jackets. She’s blonde. She’s hot. She likes to think she looks like Taylor Momsen. After chatting during our lunch break for an hour in first semester, we headed to the men’s toilets in Building 1 and I fucked her on the edge of the last basin while the door was locked. A few men banged on the door, but they’d have to go elsewhere, we figured, as I grunted and she moaned, and she bucked her hips against me, and we came together, while the work men on the skyscraper-tall crane outside had probably watched the whole thing through the open window. I don’t think Rosie cared much. I sure as hell didn’t.

We’ve been inseparable since then.

Leonie lets me into Mr Spoon’s office, and I sit down dumping my canvas bag on the ground. At first I think I am alone in the office, and Mr Spoon will be in shortly, until I start hearing a noise coming from the chair in front of me and a little man wrenches himself upward so as to be seen. First the top of his head appears above his mahogany desk, and then his eyes, then his nose, and then his mouth, until his chair will go up no further, and I must lean onto the desk to chat with him. He is a dwarf and looks like one of the keepers at Gringrotts in Harry Potter. I stifle my laugh so as not to offend him. He is the first dwarf I’ve ever seen. He has hair sprouting out his ears and his nostrils, and while his complexion is freckled and sun-spotted because of his age, his teeth are perfectly white and shapely. I can tell they aren’t dentures. His hair is balding and he has an oval of exposed scalp in the centre of his crown.

“Very funny Mr Breckeridge. Never seen a dwarf before?” He asks me, and I gulp.

“Should I answer that….” I say.

“No, don’t answer it. Here – have a lolly.” He says, proffering me a small glass jar of Minties.

“Thanks.” I take a wrapped Mintie from his lolly jar and sit back in my swivel chair.

“You’ve come because you’re a student and you are in need of some money, am I right?”

“Yep. Broke student. That’s me.” I say.

“What do you study?”

“Painting. Fine Arts.”

“Are you a good painter?”

“I think so.”

“You think so?” He looks coyly at me.

“My girlfriend thinks I am.” I say.

“Ah – you have a girlfriend. Tell me about her.”

“She’s eighteen, blonde, and hot. She’s a painter too.”

“How long have you two been together?”

“A year and a bit.”

“Young love. I remember it. Vaguely. My youth was a long time ago you see.”

“So what is the experiment?” I ask, getting to topic.

“Ah yes, the experiment. Well. How to put it. There is no experiment, but something much more, let’s say, existential.”

“So, I won’t get two grand?”

“Oh, no, you will. You will. Afterward, my friend.” He smiles, and I’m a bit weirded out by him.

“So why am I here Mr Spoon?” I ask him.

“I have an illness and there is a cure for this illness, however it isn’t in existence for another twenty years. I need you to go to the future, get the cure, and bring it back with you. Can you do that?”

“Umm… ok. Umm. Mr Spoon, umm, I don’t watch Dr Who, but you are starting to sound a lot like that.” I say.

“Ah yes, well, I guess, in a way, this would seem, a lot like that. Time travel does exist boy. It does. I have done it myself.”

“Well why can’t you go and get your own cure then?” I ask a bit rudely.

“Because, Mr Breckeridge, if I went to sleep with the dosage of Gyliptin required to transport my body and soul forward twenty years, I would certainly die in my sleep.”

“You need a healthy, fit, young man for it?”

“I do.” He smiles, and clamps down on a Mintie.

“What’s your illness?”

“Lobadantriosis.”

“Never heard of it.”

“It exists in twenty years.”

“How did you get it?”

“I visited the future forty years ago, and contracted the virus over many years. I am seventy years old now. I am too old to travel to 2046 again.”

“Whoa. Ok. How do I know any of this is true?”

“Leonie.” He shouts out. Leonie enters his office.

“Yes Mr Spoon?” She asks.

“Leonie are you on your lunchbreak? Any chance for five minutes?”

“Yes, sir, I’ll go and get some.” Leonie totters off in her heels, and comes back with a small glass vial and lays down on a flat grey felted sofa in the corner of Mr Spoon’s office. I have no idea what “some” means. It must be the Gyliptin.

“Tell me who wins the Archibald in two days’ time Leonie.” Mr Spoon says, and Leonie drinks the clear liquid in the vial, drops the empty glass vial onto the carpet, and it rolls and stations itself against a piece of lint.

Leonie sits up five minutes later, and says “Matthew Glance wins it.” Leonie picks up the empty glass vial and the lint and leaves the office.

“There you have it Mr Breckeridge. The proof is in the pudding. If she is correct, do come back in two days and see me, won’t you?” Mr Spoon says.

I am gobsmacked. Maybe this is all a hoax? Maybe Leonie is an art dealer or an art collector, or maybe she is a painter herself? Maybe she keeps up with all of these things in the art scene? Maybe she is one of the Archibald Prize judges? I dunno, but I don’t want to be in that office for a second longer. I scoop up my canvas bag, throw the strap over my shoulder and get the hell outta there as fast as I can.

When I get back to campus Rosie is sitting on a concrete wall, her earplugs in her ears – she’s listening to Radiohead. She’s sketching on a sketchbook and humming to herself. She is in her element. Some skaters skate past, their wheels catching every rise and dip in the uneven pavement. She pulls the noise from her ears.

“Babeeeee.” She says, standing up to smooch me.

“You needa shave.” She says.

“Yeah.” I say, sitting down beside her.

“How was the trial? Are you gonna do it?” She asks.

“I dunno. They said I could think about it.”

“I wouldn’t need to think about two grand.”

“Hmm, there’s more to it than that.”

“Like what?”

“If I told you babe, you’d never believe me.”

“Tell me then and I’ll see if I believe you.” Her brows go up and she has a grin on her face. Her dimpled dermals deepen in her smile and she looks as hot as fuck!

“Mr Spoon, the guy, he’s ill. He needs some medicine from the future, but he needs me to go and get it for him.”

“What? The future? Whatdya mean?”

“2046. That’s where I need to go.”

“How? This isn’t fucking back to the future you know?”

“I know that. He reckons you take some stuff and you fall asleep and you travel into the future in your sleep.”

“That’s bullshit. Don’t go back there. Sounds like a load of crap if you ask me.”

“Yeah. I reckon it’s all crap too.” I say, unwrapping a Mintie in my pocket and stuffing it into my gob, mulling it over. Matthew Glance. Alright. Let’s see. Two days. And I will know.

Thursday rolls around and I type Archibald Winner into Google. Sure enough, bloody Matthew Glance has won it for his portrait of Gai Waterhouse. I ask Rosie if she’ll come to see Mr Spoon with me. She says she will, but that I shouldn’t expect her to believe a word the old shit crazy man says. I tell her I won’t. We arrive in Mr Spoon’s office and this time we are alone. Mr Spoon comes in shortly after balancing a teacup on a saucer with both trembling hands in front of him.

“Could you please put this on my desk Mr Breckeridge? My balance and coordination are poorly nowadays. ” He asks me, and I take the tea from him, and put it onto his desk.

“Thank you.” He sits down in his seat which is almost touching the floor, and begins his long ascension in his modified swivel chair, to meet me at chest level.

“You’re soo cute.” Rosie tells him. Her comment is a genuine one albeit highly inappropriate and naïve.

“Thank you. You must be Rosie.” Mr Spoon says, sipping his tea, and propping the cup back down.

“I am. You’re Mr Spoon.” Her brows are raised and her voice is too.

“I am Rosie. Now what have you heard about me? Good things I hope?”

“Weird things Mr Spoon. Is it true you can go to the future?” She asks.

“It’s very true. The absolute truth. I am unwell. There is no cure for Lobadantriosis right now but there is a cure for it in twenty years’ time.”

“Lobadandy-what? Sounds weird.” Rosie says.

“Lobadantriosis. In 2046 it’s as common as the common cold. It’s a virus that eats away at brain tissue from the inside out. Right now I have eighty seven percent of my brain left. Each day more of it disintegrates.”

“That’s terrible. I’m sorry. Can’t the doctors help you?” She asks.

“No, no Rosie. There have only been a few cases of this in history, and nobody knows what causes it nor how to treat it. Most people who suffer with it are diagnosed as having dementia, and then when things become really muddled they are placed into palliative care homes, until they must succumb to the illness.”

“So what’s the cure?”

“A pill called Proxy. One pill. That is all.”

“How do you know all of this?” She is intrigued and curious.

“I have been to the future Rosie. I have seen it all. Science in 2046 seems to think Lobadantriosis was caused from not using our brains. There are no doctors or surgeons in 2046 because robots do everything. They wash us and they feed us. There is a robot in every home. Artificial Intelligence isn’t a fable Rosie. I can assure you. It is quite real.”

“Wow.” Rosie is floored.

“Brain cells die from underuse. Then the disintegration starts. It takes many years, but I am seventy years old, and here I am. My brain is disintegrating Rosie. I need Proxy.”

“I want to help you. Can I help you Mr Spoon?” Rosie asks.

“Sure. The more the merrier. I am happy to pay you as well provided you get me what I need.” Mr Spoon smiles.

“Baxter says we go to sleep. How do we get the pill for you in our sleep?” Rosie asks.

“Excellent question. I was wondering when you would ask it.” Mr Spoon says.

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