“You own this gallery?” Rosie asks.
“I do. Do you like it?” Volt smiles. He is European-looking, tanned, has brilliantly-white teeth, huge piercing chocolate eyes, and a dimpling smile. He wears beige trousers, with a starched-white shirt, and a navy blazer that has an orange handkerchief peeking out the top of his left breast pocket. The dress sense and tastes of 2026 linger.
“You are just the man we need to speak with then.” Rosie says.
“Oh, is that so? How can I help you?” He flashes a very handsome smile. Rosie would be swooning internally, I imagine.
“My husband here has some very old artworks he painted in his youth using the old form. Oil on canvas. Would you be interested in buying them from us for your gallery?” Rosie is a fucking genius. She worded it brilliantly. Duke is beaming. He is loving this little business transaction, he never being a painter himself, but someone who was always fond of my work nonetheless.
“I might be interested. Which year are they from?” He asks, turning to me.
“From memory, the years 2025 and 2026.” I say, unwavering.
“Hmm, you were quite young when you painted them then. Bring them in. Or have your robot bring them in. I’ll take a look at them and see if they’ll work in this space.” He smiles again.
“Oh darling, you will adore them. Baxter is a wonderful painter. He painted Rosie nude when they were eighteen.”
“Did he now? And was this nude any good?” Volt’s brows go up.
“It was.” Rosie says.
“It earned me a fifty eight percent out of sixty, so I guess it must have been.” And I realise I have announced my grade for that painting for the very first time in my life.
“Did it?” Rosie is surprised.
“Wherever did it go?” Duke asks.
“I took it home when the exhibition ended.” Rosie says.
“Do you still have it? I would love to see it again.” Duke says, admiringly.
“I can see if Mum has it. Baxter and I live in Hobart now. We are here, only visiting.” Rosie says.
“Oh, you guys moved! No wonder I haven’t seen you. Golly, you guys must move back. Melbourne is a much better place to be.” Duke says, somewhat naively.
“I hate to break your heart crumpet, but Tasmanians have a richer appreciation for art than Melburnians do.” Rosie winks at a flabbergasted Duke.
“Dolly, don’t tell me that. I might have to cry.” Duke is so distinct in his expression. That’s what we love about him.
“If you can find this piece that sounds so ravishing, we just might be able to work something out.” Volt says.
“When shall I come in?” I ask.
“Tomorrow at nine. After breakfast. I’ll be free then. Come on darling.” Volt says. Duke kisses us both on our cheek twice.
“Toodleloo you two!” He says, winking and floating away with his partner.
“Well, that all happened rather easily.” I say, sipping my wine.
“It did. It did.” Rosie grins.
“If we can get the money we need, we can get Proxy. And now we know exactly who to get it from as well.” I say.
“Is there something scarily too easy about all of this?” Rosie asks me.
“A tad, yes.” I admit.
We go past Rosie’s old house, jumping the fence and breaking into her garage where she says the portrait of her lying naked on my window sill is. She isn’t ready to see her parents yet. We grab the painting, jump back over the fence, and go back to my house, adding it to the rest of the paintings still resting against my mum’s kitchen bench.
We take George into the city with us to keep the paintings safe. Money is a hard thing to come by nowadays seeing as only ten per cent of the human population work. While he sits on the tram he nestles the paintings in between his kneecaps. If anyone attempts stealing them, they had better watch out. We arrive outside the Gazer in good time. We stroll into the foyer and wait. Volt will know if we have arrived or not. Five minutes later Volt greets us in the foyer before leading us into the gallery.
“Hello. Good morning. Thank you for coming.” He says.
“It’s our pleasure.” I say, shaking his outstretched hand. Immediately to our left we follow him down a narrow spiralling stairwell, into a cellar, where a few people we don’t know are sitting on suede and leather sofas, snorting lines of coke and ice, or lying down on them sideways in the realm of the flying, sans hoverings. Duke is one of these cellar dwellers who is flying in his drug-induced dreams.
“Would you like some?” Volt asks me, motioning to the ice on the low coffee table to my right.
“Maybe later.” I say, never having dabbled in the art of snorting white substances into my nasal passages.
“Give me a look at these beauties.” Volt says, taking the calico off the canvas and throwing it to George who catches it in his metal hands. George doesn’t like this man’s demeanour. After Volt has inspected all seven paintings including Rosie’s nude portrait, he shakes my hand sealing the deal.
“Will you take two million for them all?” Volt asks me.
“Two, you say? Can Rosie and I have a quick chat?” I ask.
“Of course. By all means. Here.” Volt hands us two glasses of pinot gris. Great way to start the day, I think to myself, accepting the glass and handing one to Rosie. We walk a way away staying in the cellar which is the same length as the gallery above us.
“What about my parents huh? They need Proxy too.” Rosie is angry.
“I know babe. What am I meant to do? I can paint something else?” I say.
“You had better, because if my parents remain demented at their age, I’ll hold you accountable.” She’s fuming.
“Rosie, you’re a painter too. Why is all of the pressure on me for? Why don’t you paint something to save your parents?” I growl back.
“Maybe I will. If I can track down some blank canvas. I will.” She’s equally as pissed off.
“Should I take the money Rose?” I say, exhaling loudly.
“Take the fucking money. But remember my parents if you do.” She says.
“Ok. I will. Ok. Are we cool? Come here. I love you. Remember that ok? Nothing is gonna tear us apart.” I say.
“This just might.” She says, burying her face into my chest.
Walking back over to Duke and Volt who are kissing on the couch, I tell them we have a deal.
“Fabulous! Hold out your wrist. I’ll transfer the money now.” Volt says, pressing his finger to the little black button on his left wrist, expelling his screen, and tapping away at it until he is looking at an interface for monetary transferral.
“Full name, blood type, date of birth, date the chip was inserted.” He asks, and I’m shitting myself because I only know one of those answers.
“His blood type is B positive.” George says from behind me.
“Thanks George.” I say.
“Go on…” Volt says.
“Last name’s Breckeridge. Date of birth is the second of May 2008.” I say.
“Your chip insertion date?” Volt’s looking at me, waiting.
“I can’t remember it.” I say.
“Go into your device’s settings. It will tell you in there.” Volt says, annoyed.
“December Eleven 2031.” I say, relieved this little black dot holds all of this information.
“Done. You should have the money.” Volt says, his screen rescinding back into the little black dot.
“That easy huh?” Smiling at him.
“That easy.” He smiles back. “Now have some of this stuff. I don’t want it wasted.” And because I’ve got two million dollars embedded in my skin, I’m feeling powerful, euphoric, and like I can conquer the world; I accept his offer, take the straw from his hand and inhale the row of cocaine on the table in front of me. And then I disappear.
When I wake up, I’m strapped to a medical bed, naked, in a warm room, on a bed that vibrates with the noises that accompany it massaging my back, arms, thighs, and calves. I look to my right and see nothing but a black wall. I look to my left, where a naked Rosie has just woken up and has gasped for air.
“Rose…” My voice is hoarse from not being used in I don’t know how long.
“Bax…” She breathes, looking at me.
“What happened?” I whisper.
“I followed you. I took some too.” She says.
“We need to get outta here babe. Fast.” We are strapped to a bed and neither of us can help ourselves. A robot walks into the room we are in to check on us.
“You are both awake. You should both be asleep. Why are you awake? More Gyliptin for you two.” He says, injecting more Gyliptin into our drips. We return to 2046 for the third time.
“I’m really tripping. You two just disappeared and now you’re back.” Duke says, his eyes rolling in his head, and his words slurred.
“This stuff is good Volt. It must be the best huh?” I say, from the floor.
“Only the purest. The monkeys can have the rest.” Volt is high.
“Thanks for everything man. We gotta go.” I say, trying to stand up. My head swirls, a tree is growing in the middle of the cellar and the sofa everyone is sitting on is a giant red telephone.
“Rose. Why are they sitting on a telephone?” I say.
“Wha?” She’s as high as I am.
“Who put that tree there?” I ask.
“I dunno, but those fairies are really starting to bug me.”
“The ones kissing you. Can’t you feel them?”
“Nah man. I can’t feel no fairies. We have to go home. I really am tempted to stay for another cocktail though. The balloon ones were delicious.” I say.
“I feel ya. The flower I ate sounded lovely.” Rosie says.
“You have Lobadantriosis. I must get you home.” George says, scooping both me and Rosie up off the ground effortlessly, and going up the narrow spiral staircase sideways so as not to hit our heads on the brickwork. Apparently seeing a robot holding two high humans in his arms and boarding a gliding tram to Carlton isn’t peculiar or catching in the least. People see us, ignore us, and go about their business.
“Rosa! The concrete is purple.” I squeal.
“The concrete is not purple. You’re fucked.”
“I am not. I have Lobadantriosis.”
“I know. So do I. It’s fun, isn’t it? My mum’s gonna kill me.” Rosie says.
“She’s not here.”
“She’s going to be so upset that Collingwood didn’t win the grand final.”
“What grand final?”
“The fairies want to see you naked. So do I. Yummy.”
“Rose, George doesn’t wanna see me naked, do you George?” George doesn’t answer.
“He doesn’t answer because he’s gay.”
“Rosie, robots are not inclined to harbour a sexual preference, or be sexually inclined in any sort of way.” He says.
“The shampoo is coming out of my nose. Yuck. Get it out.” Rosie’s picking her nose and wiping her snot on George’s metal head.
“Rosie, there’s a squirrel in your ear. Pass me that croissant.”
“I’ll have a double quarter pounder, a large chips, and a chocolate sundae please.”
“I don’t want to go to school. How many times do I have to tell you?”
“George, where’s my chocolate sundae? You told me the printer makes everything.”
“Two million dollars is yellow. My skin’s going to sound like the clouds are smiling when I buy that bike I have my eye on.”
“You can’t buy bikes anymore Baxter. You piece of shit.”
“Why are you yelling at me? Everyone knows you’re the emo.”
“Can you both remain quiet for the next seven minutes?” George tells us.
“The time is flying and I don’t know what seven minutes is.” I say.
“Gyliptin Sleep doesn’t work that way. Gyliptin Sleep has no time.” Rosie says.
George dumps us in our bed upstairs, pulls off our shoes and pulls the doona over us. We fall asleep spooning one another; I’m dreaming about Gyliptin and Mr Spoon and the amazing cocaine his grandson Volt Spoon gave to me.