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Short Story: Basil should climb

What’s studying at Hanze going to be like after the year 2050? Will our teachers be robots? Will all classes take place in virtual reality? Fourth-year Game Design & Development student Evalien Wiersma takes us on a trip to Hanze’s future with her short ‘what if’ stories! 

“Basil, we’re baking today!” Amanda announced. With sparkling eyes and a dangerous whisk in her hand, she stared at her patient. Basil, standing in the middle of an empty kitchen, seemed less excited about this jolly initiative. With good reason, because all the previous activities hadn’t gone too well for him. Painting had left his orange hair streaked with blue and green, photography had led to a mildly damaged camera and woodworking had reminded him so much of home, he had to leave the room in tears. Nevertheless, Amanda optimistically tossed a flower-patterned apron at him.

Basil threw her a mistrustful eye as he caught it. Reluctantly, he tied the pink ribbon around his round belly. “I know what you do,” he said disapprovingly in broken English. His thick eyebrows merged into one as he frowned. “You try cheer me up, so I join next research. This?” he gestured around him, “Not working.”

It was not a complete surprise he would figure it out so soon. From 2054 till last year, he had participated in an IQ enhancing research at the Hanze Human Intelligence Center. At the end, Basil’s intelligence had been doubled. As a result, he also gained new self-awareness, which unfortunately had spiraled Basil into an existential crisis.

When Amanda was hired as his psychologist, his caretakers had said that Basil was not the usual patient and should be handled with extra care. However, she started to think she had been approaching his condition completely wrong.

Realizing Basil and she were accidentally having an intensive stare-off during her deep chain of thought, Amanda quickly cleared her throat. ‘Basil, why don’t you want to participate?’

Basil’s big eyes widened. After being treated like a fragile thing for so long, this direct question came as a refreshing surprise. Goodbye, ‘creative’ and ‘energetic’ activities that made him feel like a failure. Hello, serious conversation. His normally aloof, leathery face split into a content smile. Then he solemnly placed his hand on his heart.

“I alone. One of kind,” he said pitifully, “You are many.” Then he tapped on his temple. “Old friends think I too smart, but I not part of your kind either.” He paused. “Who am I?”

It was a question that needed no answer, so Amanda merely nodded. She had heard about this phenomenon from other psychologists at the center as well. Then an idea sparked in her head. “What if I told you that you were not the only of your kind in the research program?” she mooted excitedly. “Would you participate in the research if you’d be brought in contact with the others like you?”

Basil glanced up hopeful, his eyes almost looking human. “More like me?” pointing a long finger at his apron-covered chest. He busted out in a roaring laugh, showing his strong white teeth. Then nodded contently. “Now, we bake.”

Never before had Amanda seen an ape bake an apple pie with such spirit.