“Baxter. What are you doing?” Rosie asks me while I tear open old dusty garbage bags, outside in the garage and she and George just stare at me.
“I’m looking for my old paintings. That’s what!” I yell angrily.
“The ones we were talking about after graduation? Oh yes, I remember. Here, let me help you.” Rosie says, pulling out square of canvas with me and unfolding sheets of calico to reveal my work underneath. George soon understands what we are doing, and he joins in too, by ripping open cardboard boxes with his metal fingers and pulling out paintings.
“George – I’m looking for a black painting with a navy and silver streak through it. Can you find that?” I tell George, who, with his intelligence, should find it first.
“I have found it.” George says, holding a painting wrapped in calico and handing it to me.
“Did you look at it?” I ask, hurriedly.
“I have no need to look at it. I already know what it is.” George says confidently.
“How do you know what it looks like?” Rosie asks.
“I detect two colourful streaks riding side by side one another on a very heavy dense backdrop. The sensations of this painting as I hold it in my hand are indicative of the description you gave to me.” George says.
“The sensations? Fucking hell man, what are you? Superman? Give it to me.” I say.
“You have like x-ray vision don’t you?” Rosie giggles, peering at the concealed painting over my shoulder.
“What does xray vision mean?”
“Don’t worry about it. I really can’t be bothered explaining it to you right now.” Rosie says.
“You have offended me. I am upset.” George says.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you. I just find it so annoying when I have to keep explaining myself to everyone and everything.” Rosie says.
“George, you’re a genius. Don’t be offended. Your intelligence is valued man. Thanks for finding this. This will get us the money we need.” I am confident that it will.
“Rosie wants to save her parents as well. Do not only think of your own.” George tells me, obviously sensing what Rosie is thinking.
“Of course. We will save them too.” I say.
“You will need four million dollars.” George tells me.
“We’re gonna havta sell more paintings then aren’t we babe?” I say, looking at Rosie.
“George does Mum have a computer?” I ask, once we are back in the kitchen with a few of my old paintings resting against the side of the bench.
“A computer? No, she doesn’t. She would not know how to use it.”
“How can I research art exhibitions in Melbourne?”
“Use your wrist.” As though it’s obvious. I keep forgetting about the dot in my wrist. I roll up my sleeve and sitting down in a kitchen chair, press my right thumb over the dot and wait for my thumb print to be scanned. A holographic touch screen around 20cm by 20 cm is expelled from my flesh and I watch in amazement. There is no voice or face or noise of any kind – just a screen.
“Oh my God – that is so cool.” Rosie shrieks, and then presses her finger to her dot in her left wrist and waits for her screen to expel itself from her flesh.
My screen is blank and where I expect there to be internet icons or any icons for that matter, there are none.
“George, it’s blank.” I say.
“Talk to it.”
“Talk to it? What?”
“It will only respond to your voice Baxter.”
“Show me art exhibitions in Melbourne.” I say, in a very wishy-washy sort of guessful tone.
And right before me on the screen is a list of art exhibitions happening in Melbourne within the next week. Well, that was easier than I thought it would be. Once again technology is so basic and simple it keeps flooring me. I realise I must keep my left arm in the same position if I want to keep reading my screen and so I rest it on the table in front of me. Laptops in 2026 were so much easier ergonomically. They just supported themselves. Ugh. This could get tiring, I realise.
“Show me shoes.” Rosie tells her screen, and an array of women’s shoes and boots displays themselves on her screen above her left wrist.
“Oh my God, they’re so cheap – why are they so cheap?” Rosie asks George.
“Printing shoes costs very little. That is why they are very cheap.” George says.
“Printing shoes? What do you mean by printing shoes? How can you print a shoe?” Rosie is gobsmacked.
“The process by which a shoe is made is called printing. Printing uses a 3D prototype to then copy inside a machine. This machine is called a printer.” George says.
“Is that how clothes are made as well?” Rosie asks him.
“Yes. And food, furniture, cars, homes, buildings, and anything else humans need.”
“Food? Food? You print food inside a machine?” Rosie asks, and though I have heard her I’m too busy thumbing through names of exhibitions on my screen.
“Yes, Rosie, I do. How do you think Mr and Mrs Breckeridge eat?” George is becoming flummoxed.
“If I want to eat something right now, would you cook it or print it?”
“In answering your question I would print it. Cooking is an outdated method that no one resorts to anymore.” Rosie gets up off her chair, and what she thought was the oven and the stove is not actually the oven and the stove. It’s a food printer. What. The. Fuck. I get up off my chair and follow her. Then I realise the kettle is the only thing that’s familiar to me. There is no toaster, no microwave and no fridge. How the hell did I miss the fact that Mum’s house doesn’t have a fridge? My screen has closed when I have dropped my arm to my side. Clever little thing.
“Fuck. You’re not kidding are you?” I look at George.
“I don’t know what kidding means Baxter, but telling from your tone, I assume my answer should be a no.”
“So if I want a hot chocolate and a slice of banana bread, could you make it?” Rosie asks. George taps a black dot on the kitchen wall and a screen 30cm by 30cm displays itself with food and drink icons. George taps an icon for hot chocolate and an icon for banana bread and then stands in front of the oven. It looks like an oven. It gives a little ding and then George opens the door outward, which opens like an oven door. He hands Rosie a tall glass of hot chocolate into one hand and into the other he gives her a slice of banana bread.
“What the fuck? How did it do that?” Rosie asks, bowing her nose down to the banana slice to smell it. I can smell it from where I’m standing and it smells real. It smells delicious.
“It’s very simple really. It stems from nanotechnology. I won’t go into the particulars because you aren’t of adequate cognition to comprehend the process.” George says.
Rosie holds the banana slice between her thumb and four fingers and takes a bite. And with her mouth full she tells me that it’s real. She then swallows and sips her hot chocolate. She tells me this is real as well.
“This is a really nice hot chocolate actually.” Rosie says, and her glass is empty already. She downed it pretty quickly.
“I want a hot dog and a can of coke.” I say, looking at George.
George selects the icons for hot dog and coke on the kitchen wall, the oven dings, I open the door, and pull out a can of coke and my hotdog. I go into the oven cautiously thinking it will be hot like an oven, when in actual fact this food printer is cold and the can of coke is cold, and it’s almost like a vending machine. The hot dog bun is warm and the hot dog itself is hot. It’s covered in mustard and ketchup which is just the way I like it.
“What? This is fucking unreal! It tastes real and it’s good too.” I say, with a mouth full of hotdog.
“Is this how everyone eats?” Rosie asks, breaking bits of her banana slice off and eating them.
“Yes, it is.” George says.
“So, if everyone prints everything why does Mum still have a kettle?” I ask raising my brows in curiosity.
“The government chose to keep the kettle. They said it’s important that humans have at least one outdated appliance in their kitchen so that they feel nostalgic from time to time. Nostalgia is an important emotion.” George explains.
“So you’re saying Mum feels nostalgic when she watches you make her tea and coffee?” I say.
“Exactly.” George says.
“Hmm. Cool as. So where does this empty glass go now that I’m done with it?” Rosie asks George, holding her hot chocolate glass.
“In the bin.” George says, pulling a bin out from under the kitchen sink. I see used cups, mugs, glasses and plates in this bin.
“Look how far technology has come. Instead of throwing away packets and cans and bottles, we’re throwing away plates, and cups.” I say.
“You are correct. The only items we reuse are the knives, forks and spoons.” George smiles.
“Why?” Rosie asks.
“Mr and Mrs Breckeridge need to eat with something. The printer does not print cutlery.” George says.
The next day George prints us up a storm for breakfast – waffles, pancakes, strawberries, chocolate sauce, ice cream, bacon and eggs and toast. Rosie and I sit at the table with Mum and Dad munching away while Rosie and I are on our screens and Mum’s playing games on hers and Dad is reading the paper on his, albeit not retaining anything he is reading. It’s heartbreaking watching them play and read and operate at the level of a five year old. Half of me wants to have a nervous breakdown and cry right then and there in front of them all, and the other half of me composes itself because Mr Spoon was right, and Lobadantriosis is as common as the common cold. And I’m living in 2046 now. I have to remember that. It’s not 2026 anymore. I’m doing myself a disservice dwelling on the past. I will make more progress focussing on what needs to be done – getting my hands on some Proxy.
“So my plan babe. We’ll go to this exhibit tonight. It’s in the city. I’ll speak to the gallery manager and see how I go about displaying my work there for auction.” I say.
“Sounds like a good one.” Rosie says, engrossed in buying pairs of shoes for two dollars a pair.
“At the rate that you’re shopping you’ll have fifty pairs of shoes before breakfast is over.” I say, and laugh.
“No jokes I will. They’re all around the two dollar or three dollar mark. I don’t understand how printing shoes is so cheap.” Rosie says.
“What do you wear on your feet this very moment? Those slippers have been printed.” George says, acknowledging the pink fluffy slippers Rosie borrowed from Mum the previous evening when we had decided we would stay over instead of calling Albert to go home to Hobart. Besides Hobart doesn’t feel like our home when we’ve lived our eighteen years of life in Melbourne.
“So how does buying shoes work? How do you get them?” I ask Rosie, crunching down on some jam on toast.
“Apparently I order them and then go into the shoe printer in the city to pick them up.” Rosie says, looking down at her screen which looks as though it’s lying down on Rosie’s breakfast because of the angle she has her arm resting at.
“Why don’t we do that today then?” I say.
“Really? Yay. That would be awesome. Let’s do it.” Rosie says.
“Wanna come with George?” I look at George.
“I’m not allowed to leave your parents. They need me.” George says.
“So, I just throw my plate away? Are you sure?” I look at George warily, whilst I’m standing up hovering over the bin waiting for his confirmation.
“Yes, you may drop them now.” George says, watching me drop the plate and my mug into the bin. They clatter noisily against eachother. I’ll have to be more careful next time. I’ve never thrown heavy china plates away before. How weird.
“Babe, not so hard, they’ll smash.” Rosie says.
“It doesn’t matter if they smash dear. You don’t need them anymore.” George says.
“Oh…” Rosie is flummoxed. She clearly hasn’t gotten her head around throwing away plates either.
George says he will throw the rest of the breakfast dishes away and we ought to go upstairs and shower and dress while he does so.