Alice’s Fancy Gloves is a lovely little novel about a world free from want, and the hologram determined to save it. It is still very much in progress…
“Where’d you nick those fancy gloves?” asked Uttey. “Let me try ‘em on.”
“Fuck off!” Alice snapped. “I did not nick them. I found them.”
“Oh, of course. I completely believe you simply found them” Uttey repeated, with the sort of voice you might use to tell a prostitute “I believe you have no STDs…” Sarcasm. Yes, that was the word.
“I did,” she insisted.
“Just lying around in our little luxury burnt out warehouse, eh?” Uttey said, again in the tone — sarcastic. Uttey is in a sarcastic mood, he thought. “You want me to believe some bloke left a perfectly nice pair of silver gloves with all them fancy bit bobs on ‘em? Are you drinking again?”
“Yes,” she said, though he couldn’t tell which question she was answering. Probably the latter.
“And look what they do.” She pointed, with the gloved finger on her right hand, at the overturned cable spool that passed for their coffee table. At once, a milk appeared, in a clean round glass. She pointed again, and a plate of Hydrox cookies materialized beside the milk.
“What in the…” Uttey said, with the sort of voice you use when cookies appear in front of you from nothing, a voice for which he could recall no descriptive term.
“They’re magic,” said Alice, her lips lightly pursed.
The little bit bobs — if that was even a real term — had lit up as soon as the milk appeared, but their light was now fading.
“That’s not magic,” said Uttey. “Look at all them lights. Those are science gloves of some sort. From the future or what not.”
“Well that means they’re magic,” said Alice. “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
“What’s that from?” said Uttey. “It sounds familiar, and too smart for you.”
“It’s from a book,” said Alice.
“Of course,” Uttey said, plucking a dog-eared paperback from the arm of Alice’s coffee-stained loveseat. Profiles of the Future, this one was called, by a bloke named Arthur, whose last name could be found wherever the torn off bit of the book’s cover had gone. “You and your bloody books. I say, any sufficiently wordy nonsense is indistinguishable from bullshit.”
“You lay off my books,” Alice warned, scowling.
“Your books are losing the war for your brain, luv,” he laughed. “They’re no match for all the booze and methamphetamine. Surrender is imminent!”
Alice snatched the paperback from his hands; his fingers recoiled quickly, uncertain whether they ought to touch her strange, silver gloves.
“Now, can you make anything you like with those, Alice? Or is it just cookies?”
Alice nodded. “Anything, I suppose.”
“Then why did you make bloody Hydrox?” he asked, biting one of the dry black biscuits. “Why not Oreos?”
“I’ve never had an Oreo. Mum always said they were too posh.”
“Can you me a car?” he asked, chasing the cookie down with a swig of the milk — powdered. Dammit.
“What kind?” she asked
“Aston Martin,” he said.
She pointed her fingers at a patch of empty floor, just beyond the rat-eaten couch, at the one area of the second-story warehouse floor which wasn’t littered with items they’d rescued from London’s dumps. Then she bunched her eyebrows together for a moment.
“I can’t,” she said, relaxing her brows. “I’ve never seen an Aston Martin. Would you like a yellow Vauxhall?”
“Oh for Pete’s sake,” Uttey groaned. “Just give me the gloves and I’ll do it.”
“Oh. I suppose you have seen an Aston?” Alice said. She’s no stranger to sarcasm herself, that one.
“I seen loads of ‘em,” he replied. “I was a valet, you little cheeky. I’ll have you know I drove Astons every day.”
“You mean you parked Astons every day… until you got high and crashed one,” she reminded him.
“Yes, but the point is, I can make one if you give me the gloves.”
“No,” Alice said.
“Then make me my own.”
“What? Your own pair of gloves?”
Alice seemed to consider it. It always looked to him like her eyes vibrated a bit whenever she thought deeply, as though her brain were some old diesel engine shaking itself awake.
“Isn’t that like wishing for more wishes?” she said, finally. “Probably ill-advised.”
“It’s science,” said Uttey. “It’s not magic, so there’s no genie what’s going to punish you. Where’s the harm in trying?”
And so, Alice pointed at the sham coffee table and created, from nothing, an identical pair of silver gloves with strange bit bobs. Uttey picked them up and carefully brushed off cigarette ashes and Hydrox crumbs before putting them on.
He stood up and went over to the empty space, kicking away some old tyres and a pile of used, water-stained books which Alice had intended to read. Conjuring an Aston Martin from thin air required a bit more ceremony than creating a plate of Hydrox. This was a big job, and called for him to crack his knuckles.
“Careful, don’t stretch them. They’re probably delicate,” Alice said.
“Nonsense,” he replied. “Future stuff is always more durable.”
And he pointed at the space, picturing in his mind a steel blue Aston with red leather seats and an iPod connector. He could make the iPod later, he thought.
But when the two ton steel blue Aston Martin appeared beside him, on the second floor of the condemned warehouse, Uttey realized, in the last few seconds of his life, why they’d condemned the building in the first place.
Sam woke with a start as the silver helmet around his eyes folded in on itself and vanished with a slight pop.
“That was amazing!” he said. “Do it again!”
“No,” said the hologram.
“That helmet,” said Sam, “what was it?”
“We call it a passing thought projector. On the quantum level, human brain activity leaves a faint trace in the atmosphere for centuries. The device reads those traces, and employs a complex probabilistic algorithm to reconstruct the thoughts of a given person at a given moment in history. I’ve just played for you the last moments of Uttey Corker, twenty years ago, on the day a pair of our maker gloves found their way to Earth.”
“Why didn’t you put me in Alice’s head,” Sam asked, “if she’s the one who found the gloves?”
“The algorithm is based on an average brain for the target population. It cannot reasonably approximate a brain which deviates sufficiently from the norm.”
“Are you saying she was an imbecile?” Sam asked.
“In a way,” said the hologram. “Sadly, a lifetime of alcohol robbed her of the ability to retain new information.”
“So if not for the drink,” Sam said. “She might have been a doctor, or prime minister, or…”
“No,” said the hologram. “She was also an imbecile.”
“Could I use these gloves to make one of those helmets?”
“No,” said the hologram.
Sam slipped on his maker gloves and pointed. A silver helmet appeared in his lap.
“Oh by all means, try that on,” said the hologram. “This should be most interesting. A reconstruction of something you only saw from the inside, and know next to nothing about. I am curious to see what it does to your brain. My money is on electrocution, but liquifying is also a contender.”
Sam hesitated a moment, his hands hovering over the helmet as he prepared to put it on. At last, he reconsidered and snapped the fingers on his gloved left hand; the device vanished.
“Mister Puddle, I don’t understand why you’re being so tight-lipped about your technology,” Sam said, wistfully.
“My name is Pesseudahl,” the hologram corrected. “Third son of Arch-minister Chyrogani, and special agent in charge of…”
“Puddle will be easier for me to remember, if that’s okay,” Sam said.
Puddle sighed. “To answer your question: the reason I don’t share our peoples’ technology with you is because it would be irresponsible. You may have been a child then, but surely you were old enough to observe how a single pair of our gloves nearly destroyed your planet.”
“Strange that Alice didn’t learn a lesson from her mate dying,” said Sam.
“She did learn a lesson,” the hologram continued. “She simply learned the wrong lesson. You see, after Uttey Corker and his new sports car fell through the warehouse floor, Alice called an ambulance and a fire truck — but of course, she was drunk, and didn’t have a phone, so she conjured them out of thin air, and they both landed on top of Uttey and his Aston Martin. I suppose after that, her little mind snapped and she decided she could only make things right by giving gloves to everyone in her neighborhood.”
“So that’s how it started…”
“Yes,” said Puddle. “The rest is horrific history. Within a year, every nation on your planet was at war. Folk dropped tanks on top of buildings, and buildings on top of tanks. I suppose I don’t have to remind you about the day statues of liberty literally rained down on London while their creators shouted… what was it? oh yes… freedom, bitches!”
Sam shook his head.
“And let’s not forget all the other good times,” said Puddle. “The Summer of Nukes, the Marmite Massacre, Asbestos Wednesday, the Boston Tea Glacier, or the dozen other statue-of-liberty-ings of perfectly democratic cities around the world.”
“Okay!” Sam said, raising his gloved hand. “Point taken. But they sorted it, more or less. After the Summer of Nukes, they found Alice’s original pair and unsnapped all the other gloves. They started a corporation to protect the remaining gloves and now it’s all nice and regulated.”
“Ah yes,” said Puddle. “Top LLP. They control all the gloves left in the world. But for how long? How long before their management has a disagreement and starts dropping Bentleys on each other?”
Sam considered this a moment. “Probably not long.”
“My algorithm says six more weeks,” said Puddle.
“So that’s why you’re here…” said Sam, standing solemnly as realization came over him. “That’s why you, an alien hologram have come all this way, to bestow upon me, these gloves. I am the one man in a million… chosen to wrest destroy the evil Top LLP corporation and restore balance to the…”
“There are only six hundred thousand and twenty-four people left on earth,” the hologram cut him off. “Our options are limited. So yes, you were chosen, but…”
“Chosen from roughly a million people, though!” Sam exclaimed, gleefully.
“That’s not how rounding works…” the hologram remarked.
“Whatever it is, that’s pretty great! I was always chosen last for sport, but not this time!”
“Well, the algorithm picked twenty-eight others before you,” said Puddle. “But they are all dead now.”
“Fear not Sam,” said Puddle. “I have been refining the algorithm. Your chances of success should be well into the low teens. Shall we begin?”