I stop. I look around me. I’m in my living room. I don’t know where that is. By the feel of it, I’m standing on some really nice cushioned carpet. I look at the carpet. It’s a light grey. Nice. I peer down at my feet; I’m not wearing any shoes. I’m wearing light grey tracksuit pants and a fitted navy blue gym top. My pecs look defined. I must go to the gym or something. I pull the rim of the neckline outward a little to catch a glimpse of my chest. There are a few more hairs on it than there were twenty years ago. I smell my underarms and when I am expecting a mild odour there is none; only the clean smell of Rosie’s body wash. I call her name. There’s no response. She must be in bed asleep or in the shower or something.
I go into my kitchen and find a black leather wallet on my granite benchtop. I open it to stare at an address on the licence behind the plastic sleeve.
Mr Baxter Breckeridge. Automatic Licence. Expiry date: 03/2050. My signature is really cool. We still live in Melbourne which makes me relieved. The coldness of the tiles under me registers in my slowly-processing brain.
I go into my bedroom and see an empty bed. Where the hell is she, I think. I go into the bathroom and the room is nice and still. There are no noises, the shower is not running. I stand in front of the mirror. I still have my ponytail which is good. And im sporting a lot of stubble. My eyes are as blue as ever.
There is only one toothbrush next to a tube of toothpaste on the vanity. I rush back to the living room to look for that little button Mary was talking about.
The digital button isn’t in the centre of the room but off to the side which I think is quite weird. I press it down with my second toe and a transparent screen comes alive on the wall beside my enormous bookcase.
“Good morning Mr Breckeridge. What would you like to do today?” A female voice asks me.
“Call Rosie.” I say.
“Are you sure sir? Would that be wise?” It asks me.
“Of course it’s wise. Why wouldn’t it be?” I growl.
“You haven’t spoken to Rosie in twenty years sir. Are you sure you want to make this call?”
“What? What do you mean? Isn’t she my wife?” I ask dumbfounded.
“No, Mr Breckeridge. You don’t have a wife. You are a bachelor.”
“A bachelor? A bachelor? Why am I a bachelor at thirty eight years of age?” I ask incredulous.
“You are a womaniser Mr Breckeridge. And this trait dissuades women from settling down with you.”
“What? Where the fuck is Rosie? Call her right now!” I’m fucking furious. This voice is telling me what I am. I know what I am. I sure as hell am not a womaniser.
“Okay. If you are certain. I am calling her now for you.”
“What’s your name? Who are you?” I ask the voice.
“My name is Dafina. I am your guide. I keep your schedule, make your calls, and answer your calls for you.” Dafina says.
“Hello?” Rosie says, and I can tell she is driving somewhere because of the noises in the background. In fact, they are quite distinct and I feel like I’m in the car with her, or that she is in this very room with me.
“Rosie?” I breathe.
“Baxter? Baxter – is that you? Oh my Lord. What are you doing? Why are you calling me?”
“Rosie. Yes, it’s me. Baxter. Where are you? When are you going to be home?” I ask frustrated.
“Home? My house? Umm in around an hour. Why? Hang. On. One. Second. Baxter. You cheated on me. Why are you calling me? Why am I even talking to you? Fuck!” Rosie ends the call. She doesn’t behave like she was eighteen just two minutes ago. She behaves like she remembers and has lived the past twenty years very naturally; like she hasn’t just been in theatre with me and Mr Spoon.
“I told you that was a bad idea.” Dafina says.
“Why? What? Rosie is my girlfriend. Well she was my girlfriend two minutes ago.”
“Mr Breckeridge, what are you talking about? You haven’t seen or spoken to Rosie in in twenty years.”
“Haven’t I? Fuck. I thought. I mean. I thought we were together. I thought by now we’d be married. Have a few kids. Find Proxy.” I slump down onto my couch and stare at my TV screen.
“You have one of those things but nothing else.” Dafina says.
“Which one?” I am curious and she has piqued my interest.
“You have Proxy. You created Proxy. You patented it. It belongs to you. As for the kids and Rosie being your wife, that’s a pipedream sir. That will never happen.”
“Well that’s great. I have proxy. I can go now.”
“Go where Sir?” Dafina asks.
“Can you call me Baxter? Sir sounds so old fashioned.”
“Where do you need to be Baxter?”
“I need to go back to where I’m from. I’m from twenty years ago.”
“I believe you. People time travel all the time. But you need to find Mr Spoon to go back twenty years.”
“Mr Spoon? Mr Spoon? Is he alive? Do you know him? Where can I find him?”
“I know him. He’s a lovely gentlemen. You really are not from now. I can tell. If you were, you wouldn’t be asking me all of these questions.”
“No I’m not from now. I live in 2026.”
“That is well before my time. I wasn’t created until 2040.”
“Do you have a face?” I ask.
“I do. Please choose from the selection.” She says, displaying eight random women’s faces on the screen. I tap the one I want her to adopt. She has a short blonde bob, wears a suede dinner jacket and bright white pearls. She has blue eyes and wears bright fuschia pink lipstick.
“Good. Now I feel like I am chatting to a real person.” I say.
“I am not a real person Baxter. Just a friend. I am to you what they used to call a secretary.”
“I figured. So where does Mr Spoon live?” I ask.
“He lives with you of course!” Dafina laughs.
“Really?” I look around the room. I feel quite alone.
“He is playing golf at the moment. He will be back later this afternoon.”
“Can I call him?” I ask.
“Of course. Calling him now.” The call opens and I hear outdoor noise.
“Hello?” I say.
“Ah Baxter. Good morning son. The day is a beauty! What are you doing today? Still arguing with Dafina? You two were at it something shocking last night.” Mr Spoon chuckles on the other end of the call.
“Were we?” I’m confused.
“I’ve never heard a more heated debate on politics in my 90 years. You should have been Prime Minister Baxter.”
“I could have been if you didn’t tell me to enter science.”
“Ah yes, well that is very true, very true indeed.” Mr Spoon chuckles again. He sounds a very spritely ninety year old man.
“How’s your Lobadantriosis?” I ask, impressed I can finally pronounce the damned word.
“I haven’t had it in years. You know that. What brings you to ask about it now?”
“Mr Spoon, I’m the Baxter from 2026. Can you please help me go back home?” I say.
“Oh dear. I was wondering when I would meet you. Very well then. I’ll finish this round and then I’ll be home.” He clearly is very laissez-faire and doesn’t understand the urgency. He ends the call.
“Is he always so laid back?” I ask Dafina.
“Yes. That is Mr Spoon for you.” Dafina smiles.
“Did we really argue politics last night?” I ask her, sitting down on the sofa again, wishing I could read the newspaper, or some such thing to pass some time.
“We did. You are an extremely formidable opponent Baxter. You should have entered Politics. Would you like the paper sir?” Dafina opens a screen to my right where a digital newspaper is displayed and in the place where photos would accompany an article, there are videos instead. It’s an understatement to say that newspapers have evolved in twenty years.
“Thank you Dafina. Mr Spoon led me in the direction of science when I was eighteen years old. Politics was never going to be on the agenda for me, Dafina.”
“I know all of this Baxter. You need not tell me. I know everything about you. Everything.” Dafina smiles.
“The Age is a bit heavy. Can you show me the Herald Sun?” I ask, immediately realising that I have intuitively adapted to futuristic technology like a duck to water.
“Of course.” The Herald Sun replaces the Age and the heading catches me.
DR BAXTER BRECKERIDGE NOMINATED FOR SCIENTIST OF THE YEAR AWARD
It shocks, surprises and saddens me. Painting truly was a past time and it feels like only yesterday I was painting the nipples and lips in Rosie’s portrait.
“I don’t paint anymore do I?” I ask, already knowing the answer.
“No, you don’t.”
“You don’t have the time.”
“No, you don’t. You are always busy working in your lab.”
“My lab? Where is it?” I ask.
“In the city.”
“How do I get to work every day?”
“You have a chauffeur.”
“Do I? What’s his name?”
“Does he drive me on weekends?”
“If you need him to.”
“When do I need him to?”
“When you play tennis. When you play golf. When you go out for lunch. When you go shopping.”
“I shop? I mean, I go shopping?” I’m surprised.
“Where do I shop?”
“All of the best places. Mainly in town though. You won’t wear just anything when you’re socialising.”
“I’m wearing just anything now.”
“Those sweat pants are Dolce and Gabana and that sweatshirt is a Tommy Hilfiger Sir.”
“Sorry. I am forgetting. It’s an ingrained habit now.”
“I’ve never had designer clothes before.”
“Yes, you have. You’ve been wearing designer clothes for the last ten years.”
“Since I’ve been working?”
“Since you got your first lab job yes.”
“What about Savers?”
“Savers no longer exists sir. People who rid of their clothing leave it outside for other people to take.”
“The economy doesn’t support places like that does it?”
“No sir. Only companies and businesses that reap exorbitant profits.”
“There were many companies that were going bankrupt in 2026. How is it viable to even have shopping?”
“Stores are not as they once were. You won’t see racks and racks of clothing. You’ll have to tell a robot what you like, pay for it, and then have the printer print it up for you. It’s clothing on demand.”
“That’s crazy! How would I know what to order? Is there a catalogue or something I can flick through?”
“No sir. Catalogues do not exist. The robot will display a selection for you in his store. You can choose from the selection. The robot will measure you. Robots in the clothing sector are very quick nowadays. They used to be rather slow but they have improved one thousand-fold.”
“Where do I go for my coffee?”
“You go to Primer’s. They’re based in Collins Street.”
“Yes. People don’t work in cafes or shops anymore.”
I hear the door open and close and Mr Spoon strolls in, with his sunglasses on his shirt pocket. His head is magically full of thick healthy white hair. His right hand is resting in the pocket of his coffee coloured slacks, and the two top buttons are undone on his pale blue Rodd & Gunn shirt. He does not look ninety! And he is six foot tall! And his moustache is gone! And he has hair! He is handsome.
“Mr Spoon? How are you? I mean, what? How are you six foot tall? How do you have hair? This is impossible!” I blurt out. He is very good looking.
“Ah Baxter, nothing is impossible boy. Our time has its advantages, especially for dwarves. You yourself created a drug that allows dwarves to grow to a desired height. It also regrows lost hair.”
“How old are you?” I blurt out.
“I’m ninety. I am looking well, yes, I know.” Mr Spoon comes over and kisses the top of my head. Well is an understatement! He looks like a very fit and suave fifty year old!
“Did you just kiss me?” I ask, a little freaked out.
“Yes, why? Is that a problem? I always kiss you. You’re my son.”
“What? What do you mean?” I turn around and allow my body to follow him into the kitchen where he stands in front of the percolator to make himself a short macchiato.
“Would you like a mac?” He asks.
“No thank you. What do you mean about me being your son?” I ask.
“You patented proxy Baxter. You saved my life. And the lives of millions of others.”
“That’s what you wanted me to do.”
“It is. And you succeeded my boy. You won.” Mr Spoon smiles; there’s a familiar glint in his blue blue eyes.
“I don’t feel like I succeeded. I’m not married to Rosie and we don’t have kids. I’m a bachelor! At my age! And I don’t paint. At all. And I love painting. Where’s the success in that?”
“Calm down my boy. Let us talk. You cheated on her. You know this now. When you go back you can fix all of it. Those temptations, the women who throw themselves at you, the parties, the drugs, the yachts. Ignore it all. Young love is young love but I can see you are terribly distressed about this.”
“That’s because I’m still young. Well, I was young three hours ago.”
“Go back to 2026 and fix it then. Do not cheat on your girlfriend. Be a good boy.” Mr Spoon hands me a glass of water and sits down beside me.
“Mr Spoon, are you gay?” I blurt out.
“I am indeed Baxter. But it isn’t why I kiss your forehead every day boy. I kiss your forehead daily to remind you how grateful I am you agreed to help me all those many moons ago.” I’m still holding the water in my hand. I haven’t had a sip of it yet.
“Dafina bring up the recipe for Proxy. I want Baxter here to have a good read through it.” Mr Spoon says. Dafina displays my handwriting on the 1m by 1m screen in front of me and I move down the list of ingredients storing each item into my photographic memory. I understand and grasp all of the methods though they are extremely complex.
“I understand all of this Mr Spoon.” I am surprised.
“Yes, you do Baxter. You devised this. Remember it. Remember it well.” Mr Spoon chuckles and reads it with me.
I drink the water and deposit the glass onto the coffee table in front of me. My head falls sideways onto Mr Spoon’s shoulder, I disappear, and return to 2026.