After we have picked up Rosie’s new shoes from the shoe printer in the city, we hop onto a tram that takes us back to Carlton. Trams have come a long way in twenty years – they no longer travel along two metal strips in the road, but glide in the air as though they are flying close to the ground. We get off the tram with the shopping bags and bask in the beautiful sunny day. There are many cars flying overhead and they all look like they will crash but they never do because each car has an inbuilt GPS system. Life in 2046 is fun and easy. There are no homeless people and nobody is poor. We are all rich in material items for they are free. There are no monopolies because creating products does not create profits. Product printers are in the millions worldwide. Need a carton of milk or a chocolate bar or some chewing gum? That local printer on that kerb outside will print you those things for one dollar. Thirsty on the tram or train? The printer inside will print you a bottle of water or coke for one dollar. Everything is so damn convenient and easy. And to everyone else – this is the natural evolution of things, but for Rosie and I, who have only lived in 2046 for two days or so, this kind of future is unfathomable. People go into the city with their robots in case they forget how to get home. Lobadantriosis is so varied, it’s hard to tell who’s demented and who isn’t.
“Isn’t Melbourne wonderful?” Rosie says to me, grinning.
“Melbourne is wonderful. The rest of the world will be the same you know?” I say.
“Of course. All those underdeveloped countries will be on par with us. Of course! Poverty has been eradicated.” Rosie is glowing.
“It has. It has taken hundreds of years but modern technology can feed millions of people now. People will never go hungry again.” I say, and the thought makes me all mushy inside. Fuck. Human kind really has come A LONG way.
“Shame humans themselves have regressed mentally, intellectually and socially.” Rosie says.
“Well when you take all the jobs from the people that’s what will happen.” I say.
“The bots are quicker, more efficient and make fewer mistakes if any at all. It’s only natural humans lost their jobs.” Rosie explains.
“Is it? Is it fair we have no work? I don’t think that’s very fair Rose.”
“Evolution is unfair babe. It’s destiny, fate, the way of things. This is how God wanted it to be.”
“God? Since when do you believe in God?”
“I don’t. But you know what I mean. The thing that ordains everything. There’s something out there. Something created all of this.”
“Hmm, it did. I just don’t know what. And we never will find out.” I say.
“No, we won’t.” Rosie opens our front gate, and we walk to the front door. George lets us inside – he’s still wearing the clothes he put on earlier.
“How many shoes did you buy?” He looks at the shopping bags.
“Seven pairs.” Rosie says.
“Would you like me to put them away for you in the second room?” George asks.
“No thanks George. Your idea of putting things away is throwing them away, and I wanna keep these.”
“Yes, Rosie. I understand now. I did some research while you were gone. Young women like to have many things. I vow not to throw your purchases away from now on.” George smiles.
“Mine too. I want to keep all of these.” I say. I dump the shopping bags on the kitchen table and go into the laundry. The laundry is empty. The washing machine and dryer have been discarded.
“George – where did the whitegoods go?” I ask.
“They had to be crushed Baxter. They served no purpose.”
“Served no purpose? God! No wonder you throw the clothes away every day. You don’t wash them!” I am pissed off.
“No Baxter. I do not wash clothes. I wash your parents only. That is all.” He says it like they are household products. I guess, to him, they are, in a way. Products that need to be washed and fed and put to bed.
“George can we have dinner at five thirty? Rosie and I are going to an art exhibition at seven and I want to be ready by then.” I say, trudging upstairs with the shopping. Rosie is closely behind me. In the second bedroom where we slept last night, there are no drawers, and in the wardrobe no clothes hangers on which to hang the clothes.
“George?” I scream down the staircase hoping he knows this means I want him to come upstairs.
“Yes Baxter. How can I help you?” George must have run up the stairs.
“George, do we have any clothes hangers?” I ask.
“What are clothes hangers?” George asks.
“You know. Those things to hang clothes on?” I say.
“I have never hung clothes before.”
“Do you have a sheet of paper and a pen? I’ll draw one for you.” I say.
“What is a paper and what is a pen? I am unfamiliar with these nouns.” George.
“Fuck. Is there anywhere where I can draw?” I say, becoming annoyed.
“Draw? Yes, of course. Downstairs on the dining table.”
“The table?” My brows go up. Rosie and I leave the shopping and go downstairs to the kitchen table that serves as technological paper.
“How do I turn this thing on?” I yell at the table.
“Press that little black button.” George says, pressing it for me. The kitchen table which was a rich mahogany has become a digital screen alike the screens we have found everywhere else so far.
I drag my finger across its surface drawing what I hope looks like a coat hanger.
“This George. This is what we need.” I say.
“I have never seen one of those before.” He says.
“Where can I buy at least thirty of these from?”
“I can’t? Are you kidding me? They don’t make coat hangers?”
“Nobody makes those. Not anymore.” George clarifies.
“Are you kidding? What are we supposed to hang our clothes on?” I ask.
“The closet will hold them for you.” George says.
“The wardrobe will hold my clothes for me?” I repeat what he said.
“Yes, it will. It is equipped with pinchers for clothing. I researched that young women use them the most. For fabrics such as chiffon, and for silk and satin dresses.”
“Why didn’t you tell me this before?” I growl, kicking back my chair and running upstairs with Rosie and I to inspect these pinchers he speaks of.
Sure enough, inside the wardrobe are metal peg-like pinchers hanging from the closet ceiling; two claws for each garment. Rosie and I go about hanging our new clothes whilst George stands in the doorway watching us.
“What is an art exhibition?” He asks.
“It is a party where art is displayed.” Rosie says, lying down on our bed.
“What is art?” He asks.
“Art is like what you helped us find in the garage. You remember those paintings downstairs? They are art.” Rosie says.
“I wish I could make art.” George says.
“You can. All you need is paint and a few paintbrushes.” Rosie says, smiling.
“Such things do not exist.” He is crestfallen.
“How do you think Baxter painted those paintings if such things as paint and brushes don’t exist?” Rosie asks.
“They existed once upon a time, but not anymore. Artists use stylus sticks on digital screens to make art.” George informs us both.
“Is that so?” I ask.
“Yes, Baxter. Your form of art is quite rare. In fact I have never seen art like that before. On those white little square things. It’s quite odd, if you ask me.” George says, going downstairs.
“Babe, if my work is outdated and rare, you know what this means, don’t you?” I say.
“I sure as hell do. You’re gonna be a millionaire!” She shrieks.
“I am. I totally am.” I grin.
After dinner, we catch the tram to a building that used to be called The Gazer. The very same building artists used to congregate in twenty years ago when I was a Fine Arts student at RMIT. Twenty years has seen The Gazer go from being a two storey building to a twenty storey building with only a few floors in between. People do not walk but stand on hoverings – round flat floating circles that remind me of hover boards, while they hold glasses of champagne, wine and scotch. It isn’t until I look up that I understand why The Gazer is now twenty stories high. Art work is displayed randomly in thin air and on any wall – anywhere it wishes to be. Guests at this art do fly around slowly on their hoverings, admiring the work at a pace they wish to stick to. It’s an amazing, out-of-this-world, vertical art gallery, a kaleidoscope of people floating this way and that. There is so much to take in – I am in awe.
“Wow…’ Rosie breathes.
“It’s like the fizzy lifting drink scene in Willy Wonka!” I say, mesmerised.
“What happens if they fall off? Won’t they die?” She asks me.
“I don’t know babe. But it sure looks fun, doesn’t it?” I say.
“Ticket?” Someone asks me. I lift up the cuff on my dinner jacket and let him scan my wrist. Rosie holds her hand out to him.
“Here are your hoverings.” This same man says, holding two very thin and flat metal plates in his hand.
“Thanks.” We say, taking them from him. I push the two doors open in front of us and we enter the gallery. There are a few people admiring work on the ground floor, but most people are hovering. Once we have finished perusing on the ground floor we put our plates on the ground and stand on them. They immediately spring into action, slowly floating upward and off the ground. Rosie is like a ten year old girl – who has just seen Santa Claus, and I must admit, though I am thirty-eight years old myself – this is pretty neat. I am having the time of my life – the champagne is delicious, even if it is artificially processed, everyone looks stunningly fashionable and fabulous, even if the clothes are printed and then spat out of a chute.
Rosie herself, looks amazing. She is wearing a navy chiffon baby doll dress with satin black pumps. Which George insisted he put on her feet for her.
The floating art and the art on the walls is all digital – the paintings are painted onto pixels. There isn’t a frame or a square of canvas around and everything is rather futuristic by my standards. Though I am contemplating what futuristic even means anymore, because, despite it all being so alien and new to me, it feels so normal. It feels so normal to travel in gliding trams to art parties where electronic paintings float beside people hovering about, holding flutes of wine that was put together, particle by particle, atom by atom.
What is not normal however is who next taps me on the shoulder. I turn around to find myself looking right at Duke – homosexual photographer Duke who snapped Rosie nude a few times in our youth.
“Baxter! Buddy! How are you? What has it been? Twenty years?” He squishes me so tightly I can’t breathe. His Viktor & Rolf cologne is intoxicating.
“Duke! Duke! Oh my God man. Twenty years. Fuck. How are you? I’m well man, I’m well.” I say.
“Duke!” Rosie flings her arms around him, her wine swishing sideways in her glass, threatening to splash free from its glass prison. Duke’s hair is as slicked as it ever was, an accentuated parting on a severe angle across his crown.
“Guys. You’re married! I’m married too. Don’t know where my husband is though. Probably off somewhere flirting with a girl. It’s so great you’re still together. Are you both painting?”
“I haven’t painted in years man.” I say.
“Neither have I.” Rosie says. We are totally lying.
“I’m here. Floating around somewhere. Chloe. You remember Chloe don’t you? She was my muse for this season.” Duke gushes, the “I’m here” referring to his work, and the model in his work, a girl Rosie and I knew in our youth.
“Darling, this is Rosie and Baxter Breckeridge. Friends of mine from my uni days. Darlings, this is Volt Spoon, my husband, and the owner of this gallery. Isn’t he handsome?” His much younger husband more like. Spoon. Spoon. Fucking Spoon. I wonder if he is related to Mr Spoon. Rosie looks at me, thinking the same thing.
“Hello Volt. How are you? You wouldn’t happen to have an uncle or a father or a grandfather who is a scientist, would you?” I say, nonchalantly.
“I do. As a matter of fact. My grandfather is a scientist. An important one, if you know what I mean.” He winks. Oh. Oh. Oh. They are related.
“I know exactly what you mean.” I say.