Basil and Gonz Grow Old - Part 1 of 2
a short story by Joshua Coffman
Skip to Part 2 -> here
Early morning wisps of dust curtained their way over the desert, dancing with the wind in a mischievous race to the next cactus. A sun bleached white F-150 sat outside of a cute but worn, ranch-style house. The house was large, but it wasn't extravagant.
On the porch, under the awning was a rocking chair and enthroned sat a majestic cat, observing the desert hautily. The kingly cat sat still but a small twitch of his tail indicated that he was still curious about his immediate neighborhood which consisted only of a few desert flowers and a beautiful windmill. No houses could be seen for miles.
The house was plain, no fancy paint jobs, no elegant architectural flourishes, the only noticeable feature was a large mech suit perched in the backyard. Its shoulders, when parked, arched just over the roof and looked, to the uninitiated, like two slightly odd antennas. There was an odd water tank closely sat next to the mech suit. A small buzzing noise could be heard if you listened closely.
Beyond the house there was a small patio paved with brick and a small shed. A few chairs, an outdoor table and another cat looked out over the desert towards the back.
Out in the distance a dust cloud could be seen approaching. A silver Tesla pickup raced over the barren landscape both terrifyingly quick and gracefully gentle. Another car followed behind in lockstep. Desert Driving Automation (tm)
The kingly cat jumped to attention to greet the Tesla pickup. He knew that glorious wet bribes and royal pets were part of this procession in the desert. The Tesla parked directly behind the Ford and the passenger waited a moment for the dust to settle before exiting the vehicle.
As the dust settled you could make out the second vehicle as well, it was a small, two-door transportation automaton. The red paint was etched by the sun but inside was a paradise of cool, refreshing splendor. This particular automaton was a new model of Mobile Humanification (tm) and it carried a fresh abundance of nutrient dense, Old Foods (tm) (foods that preexisted the Great GMO Disaster)
The Tesla passenger door opened and out stepped Basil. Basil had his VR headset on and two giant googly-eyes peered out at the desert. A long silver beard groomed handsomely against a gray t-shirt draped beneath the VR headset and white hair peeked out around the technology donned on Basil's head.
Basil adjust his VR headset to primarily AR and reached down to pet the cat that now mercilessly nudged his legs. He felt a sharp pain in his lower back. "Getting too old" he thought.
He reached into his fanny pack and pulled out a bag of wet treats for the feline friend at his feet. The cat happily obliged to eat every treat handed to him. When the treats ended the monarch circled his benefactor a few times then went to explore his kingdom.
Basil walked with a bit of a limp onto the porch and walked into the unlocked house. He adjusted his lower back to find some relief and made his way into the kitchen. He turned on what appeared to be a radio on the counter but no noise came out. He made a sandwich while he hummed an old familiar tune "I'll keep you warm and safe... in my people...hmmm... hummm"
He took a bite and his google-eyes closed as he enjoyed the taste for just a brief moment of time.
Across the world, in a densely packed urban neighborhood, a shouting match broke out between two men on the street. Hebrew expletives were hurled for a brief moment then the men stormed off to their respective destinations.
The shadows were not deep yet, the evening was still young. Pigeons pattered on the corner looking for crumbs from the local pita shop.
Cars had been banned from public view and instead raced in tunnels deep underneath the Israeli landscape. Large, genetically-modified trees towered over the smaller apartment buildings and businesses. GMO gardens dotted the eyescape from the street level. Advertising was banned in Israel now, not even the tightly controlled GMO trademark holders were allowed to label their products.
An Orthodox man walked down the road. His beard was a bit spindly but it was quite long. His facial features revealed his Japanese heritage, Gonz had converted to Orthodox Zionist. His non-Zionist neighbors glared at him from their windows as he scurried by.
Gonz was too deep in thought to care. His pace quickened until he was nearly in a run. He also ignored his feeble knees. His tassels swung wildly. He struggled to remind himself to "think on the commands of Gd!" But something else was demanding his attention.
He turned into a beautifully decorated solid wood door. The deep red hue matched perfectly with the soft beige trim that decorated the stately home front. A tree towered overhead, reaching its branches from all the way behind the house.
His old hands shook violently as he pulled out a key and attempted to unlock the door as his heavy breathing hindered him. He closed his eyes for a moment and tried again. The door swung open.
Gonz kept no technology in his house at all. It was simply decorated, it reminded him of his old California home. But upstairs he went, taking a few moments on the landing to keep his knees from buckling. Once at the top, he limped to the far door down the hallway. He reached up above his head and grabbed a small key from above the deep trim around the door.
For a second time he unlocked a door between his racing heartbeats. The door swung open and he quickly stepped into what appeared to be a den of some sort.
Bookshelves lined the walls, and not just any bookshelves but custom bookshelves with glass doors displaying the contents. In the center of the of the room, Gonz fixed his attention on a glass box.
In the glass box was a Nagamaki Katana.
Gonz paused only briefly, grabbed a floor lamp and smashed the glass.
Overhead a lone vulture circled closer and closer to the white F-150 sitting in the desert. Basil finished his sandwich and immediately thought of his old friend Gonz. "I wonder how he is doing?"
Many years ago they had separated after a successful network was launched. The Canary Network was an incredible community project that the two had spear-headed. But when they let go of the reins and watched the producers build it into a healthy, thriving truth network, they had grown apart.
Basil had continued with his own podcast as a hobby and Gonz had joined a radical Japanese Jewish sect who called themselves "The 613" Basil moved to Nevada where mech suits were free to license and Gonz and his wife decided to move their family to Israel where they could participate in something called the "New Tabernacle."
A cat jumped up on the counter and Basil summoned his VR assistant to pour fresh milk for his furry pet. A tinge of guilt struck.
He tapped his headset again and a call began to someone named "Little Samurai Princess" It rang several times then went to voicemail.
"Hey this is Basil, I hope you and your family are doing well. I really wanted to talk to your dad and I was hoping you may be able to connect me with him. Anyways, thanks."
He tapped the headset again and the call ended.
Little Samurai Princess saw the call come in on her AR headset. She hesitated for a moment. Something was wrong. Her voicemail chimed and she opened the message.
She felt a chill. "Mom!"
Her mom was downstairs playing a game with the grandchildren.
"Mom! Where is dad?" she shouted as she ran down the stairs.
Her mom calmly replied, "He's at the Bookshop."
"Can you watch the children? I need to go check on dad."
"Of course, is there anything I should know?"
Little Samurai paused and reconsidered mentioning her concerns. Her children were listening intently and she did not want to frighten them any more than she already may have.
"No, no. Everything is okay. Basil called."
"Okay, we will be here playing."
Little Samurai raced out the front door and quickly walked up the street. The "Bookshop" was about a mile away and was conveniently between the grandparents house and her and her husbands.
She didn't even bat an eye as she hurried by a giant. Giants were common in Israel. Genetically modified humans had begun to live into adulthood and they often were very large, usually about 8 to 12 feet tall. Their bones were much different to handle a much larger body mass to look similar in proportions to non-gmhs.
She saw the sky tree over her parents house in the distance. She felt her hair stand on end for a moment. Her anxiety spiked as she neared her fathers community center aka the "Bookshop." The neighbors looked down at her and shook their heads.
The door was locked and the lights were off. Her thoughts raced but she reigned them in for a moment and continued on towards her parents home. She swept away any thoughts of what she might find.
The neighborhood had not been kind to them. Orthodox worshippers tended to socially ostracize Zionist families and individuals. She was concerned that the animosity may have simmered into something more... physical.
Her fears were only compounded when she saw the front door wide open to her parents house. She took a deep breath and dashed up the stairs. Her father's den was open. Not good.
Glass was everywhere and the sacred sword was missing.
She now had no choice. She dialed 100 on her cell phone.
"Yes, I'd like to report a missing person."
Basil was glad Gonz moved out of California, but he could not bring himself to move to Israel to be closer to his old friend. Maybe someday he would visit if the Knesset moved to a more friendly stance towards the PDP (the decades-reigning populist party in the US). The Israeli legislature considered the PDP a terrorist organization and considered its rule in the US as illegitimate.
"I gotta talk to Gonz" Basil thought.
His notifications rang as a call came in through his headset. He answered "Hello?"
"Hey Basil, how you doing old buddy?"
A pause, something was off.
"You there Basil? Just calling in for old time's sake, you know?"
Basil hung up.
A different call came in.
It was Little Samurai.
"Basil! Dad's house is a mess and he's missing!"
"I ran over to check the 'Bookshop' and he wasn't there."
"Did you call the police?"
"I just got a..."
Yet another call came in.
"Hold on Samurai, I'll call you right back, wait for the police and file a report."
He answered the incoming call.
Gonz's voice came in again, but this time he was breathing heavy.
"Basil, listen closely, I don't have much time. There is a small flash drive buried in my yard in California. I need you to drive there. Are you listening?" He paused
"Yes of course, whatever you need." Basil encouraged him to continue.
"I need you to dig about a foot under the right side of my mailbox and GET THAT FLASH DRIVE. All you need to do is connect it to any internet connected device. ASAP!"
"Are you okay? Can I do anything else while we're driving?"
"Your daughter has already called the police."
"I will be okay. Please help me."
Basil hung up and took a deep breath. He gave one last pet to the snacking kitty and made his way back to the pickup. He plugged in his friend's old address and sped off across the desert. South-bound towards the City of Angels.
----> continued here