4 comments

Speculative

AUGUST 30th, 2029

 

Dear Becca,

 

I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time. Your Sweet Sixteen. Weren’t you just in pigtails and braces a second ago? I know every parent (or in my case, parental figure) says it goes by fast, but I swear to God, I can close my eyes and you are still in pigtails and braces, squealing happily as we explore the woods. You used to love to pretend to be the captain of a shipwrecked crew, corralling your brother and sister to scour the underbrush for sticks to be used as swords, and rocks shaped like the crescent moon, and discarded bottles with treasure maps inside. You always had such a vivid imagination.

I am by no means a wealthy man. But I’ve been putting aside a little crypto every month for this very occasion. And if there’s anybody in the world who deserves the best car money can buy, it’s you. My eldest niece. I am so proud of the woman you are fast becoming. I may not be your actual father, and I would never seek to replace him in your mind, but I know he’d be proud, too. You earned this vehicle and then some.

That said, there are a few things to consider with modern muscle cars like the Dodge Marauder. For starters, the term “muscle” is far more literal than it used to be. The cardio-engine block is constructed with electrified polymer actuators that mimic the smooth muscle of an organic heart, essentially pumping biofuel into each chamber for chemical combustion. There is also a stem cell reservoir that allows the engine to repair itself, which I think is pretty neat. This is why today’s automobiles get stronger the more you drive them, rather than depreciate the minute you take them off the lot. Think of it like a pet. Your car needs exercise and fresh air to stay healthy. It requires your utmost care and attention. I can’t tell you how many cars come into my shop that have clearly never been driven by their owner, their control arms wimpy and underdeveloped, their suspensions creaking like knee joints in a nursing home. Don’t let it be sedentary! Don’t be afraid to take it out for a joy ride! Your car will appreciate you all the more for it. And by the time you get to college, it will have tripled in value.

   Speaking of college, please don’t ever get behind the wheel if you’ve been drinking. Just because you can connect to the gridway, and a car can technically drive itself, does not make it safe to operate under the influence. After what happened with your dad, I’m sure you have an aversion to alcohol, anyway. But things can change. You might go to a party one night and decide to sequester yourself back to your dorm, and let the AICM (that stands for Artificial Intelligence Control Module) take over and get you there. But all it takes is one idiot on manual to swerve into your lane and cut you off, and in its effort to avoid a collision, your car will hurl itself into the nearest ditch, and then it’s game over. So please, if there’s only one thing you listen to me on, don’t drink and drive. Just order an Uber and call your car home in the morning.

Also, I know you’ve been to driving school and had plenty of practice in your mom’s SUV, but this vehicle is an altogether different beast. For instance, it has regenerative brakes. That means every time you stop or slow down, the kinetic energy of the car in motion gets converted into electrical energy instead of being dissipated as heat. This energy gets transferred back to your solar battery for storage. Not sure what teens consider cool these days, but if you ask me, that’s one of the coolest inventions in human history. Just remember that the braking system also adapts to your style, so if you’ve got a heavy foot and really hammer the brakes at every stop, you’ll end up increasing the response time rather than shortening it. This is because the car is designed to always strike the most efficient balance in every system. Similar to homoeostasis in the human body. So go easy! Balance is key. I’d be more than willing to take you out for some lessons when I come to town.

You’ve always been such a responsible person; I know you are up to the challenge of taking good care of this car. I only wish your dad could see you in it. I guarantee it would put a sparkle in his eye. He always said out of his three kids, you are the most similar to him, and I have to say I agree. Just don’t tell your brother and sister.

I love you. I know you’re going to do tremendous things in this life. And I’m honored to be able to help you do so, in whatever way I can.

 

Love,

Uncle Wes

 

P. S. The fob is expensive to replace, so don’t lose it!

 

***

 

BeccaB0ss: Omg u guys, check out my new baby!!! [marauder.jpeg]


HouseofDemonz: Oh my. She is a beaut!

 

Mr_Jackpot: Sick!!! Have you driven it much yet?

 

BeccaB0ss: Yeah, a few times. Took it down to the lake. I swear this thing is sentient. When I put my hands on the steering wheel, I can feel its power coursing through me like a drug. It's so quiet you can barely tell it's been turned on. And its so sensitive to how I operate. Like it basically anticipates my needs in advance. The other day it came to a complete stop out of nowhere. Thought I did something wrong at first and started panicking. Then all the sudden a flock of geese landed in the middle of the road!

 

HouseofDemonz: Bruh your car is psychic. Low key jelly, ngl. If my car was an animal, it’d be a sloth.

 

Mr_Jackpot: A flock of geese is called a gaggle btw

 

HouseofDemonz: That’s your takeaway from this story, Jack?

 

Mr_Jackpot: Js

 

BeccaB0ss: Anyyywaayz. I’m thinking about asking Steven if I can pick him up for Homecoming instead of vice versa. My car just has so much more rizz than his old jalopy. Do you guys think he’d find that too emasculating? I’d be willing to let him drive us after I pick him up.

 

HouseofDemonz: Girl, if his masculinity is that fragile, is he even worth it?

 

Mr_Jackpot: Yeah, as a dude, I’d just be stoked to get to drive a Marauder. That’s like every guy’s dream car.

 

BeccaB0ss: It looks more like a boy car, tbh. I kinda wish my uncle had gotten me one in pink instead of jet black, but I’m not one to complain.

 

HouseofDemonz: Shit, can you loan me your uncle?

 

Mr_Jackpot: The model coming out next year is supposed to have an exterior you can customize. You’ll be able to program it to look however you want. You’ll have to register every change with the DMV of course, and they’ll charge a fee, but still pretty bad ass…

 

HouseofDemonz: Omg. I would totally put Handsome Squidward on my car

 

BeccaB0ss: I’d go with Among Us.

 

Mr_Jackpot: THIS CAR IS SUS

 

BeccaB0ss: Lmao. Y’all are too much. OK gtg I’ll ttyl <3

 

***

 

           SEPTEMBER 22nd, 2029

 

Dear Uncle Wes,

 

You are literally the best uncle ever!!! I love love love the Marauder. I wash it three times a week. My boyfriend taught me how to wax it, so it really shines. I get up early every morning just because I’m so excited to drive it to school. I’m one of the few sophomores to have one, so as you can imagine, my street cred is way, way up. Did you know it has a retractable sun roof? It’s very warm here still, so I like to cruise with it open and let my hair fly out, and let the sunshine in. I remember you told me that when you were in high school, there was a popular book you guys passed around called the Perks of Being a Wallflower. I haven’t read it yet, but I did see the movie. I like the part where they’re driving through the tunnel, and Charlie stands up out of the truck bed to raise his hands and embrace being young and infinite and free. Don’t worry though, I’m not going to replicate that scene. Even though it would be super easy with the self-driving capabilities!

This is probably a silly question, but do you think cars can be haunted? Especially now that they have lab grown organic materials? Or maybe the onboard computer can read my thoughts a little bit, like those targeted ads? I only ask because when I’m driving by myself, I think about Dad a lot. Some of my best memories are with him in the car. The trips we took to Daytona, Ruby Falls, the Appalachian Trail. How his lime green eyes got that certain sparkle to them. Like that time he took me out of school randomly and we went for ice cream, just the two of us, and he told me the story of how he and Mom fell in love. He always shared his deepest feelings with me on those trips. Told me all about how you guys loved to fix up old cars with Grandpa when you were kids. So I was ruminating on all that, and on two separate occasions, the radio kicked on by itself and started playing Glass Animals. I don’t even have more than one track of theirs on my playlist! But it played one of Dad’s favorite songs both times! Kinda spooky. But also warmed my heart and made me cry.

Mom is excited for me, but I can tell it makes her nervous. She’s just not used to vehicles being so in tune, you know? She keeps trying to get me to hang a cross and rosary beads from the rear view mirror. But I’m more of the hula-girl-on-the-dashboard type. Maybe I’ll get a bobble head Buddha as a compromise. She told me to tell you that you’ve outdone yourself. And she joked that you’re going to have to buy Francine a speed boat for her birthday, and Ethan a private jet, otherwise they’ll be jealous forever. They’re being chill about it, though. Probably because I’m the first one of us who can drive, so they’re being extra nice so I’ll give them rides LOL.

Anyway, hope you’re doing okay up there in Virginia. Can’t wait to see you. When will you be coming down for your next visit? Are you spending Thanksgiving with us?

I’m going to my first Homecoming next Friday! Wish me luck :)

Bye for now

 

Yours Truly,

Becca


***

 

Mr_Jackpot: Did you hear what happened to Bec

 

HouseofDemonz: No…?

 

Mr_Jackpot: Oh, man. I thought you would’ve heard by now. It’s intense. Sure you’re in a good place?

 

HouseofDemonz: Just tell me, Jack

 

Mr_Jackpot: Okay. So I guess Steven agreed they’d take the Marauder to Homecoming. At first, everything was cool. He was sober and drove them there without issue. Everyone was hype over the car, making memes of him and Bec together with #couplegoalz, and stuff like that. They had a great time at the dance, and even though Steven was Homecoming King and she had to watch him go up on stage with Jenny Ford, you know Bec, she doesn’t get jealous. She was livestreaming the whole thing and laughing and being in a good mood, you can watch it on her channel.

 

HouseofDemonz: Dude, please get to the point.

 

Mr_Jackpot: Okay. So apparently Steven decided to do a keg stand in the parking lot with his buddies from the football team. And then a bong rip. And then do a couple shots of Fireball. And then some molly.

 

HouseofDemonz: Jesus

 

Mr_Jackpot: Yeah, and Bec had no idea. So on the way home, Steven got it in his head that they needed to push the Marauder to its limits. He decided to drag race some kids from Sparkburg High, trying to be James Dean, I guess. I’m sure Becca tried to stop him, but that dude doesn’t listen to own his parents, much less his girlfriend. Especially once he’s tied one on. So they think he took a corner too hard and hit a curb, and that caused the car to flip and roll down the hill. Like 20x over and over. And then it crashed into the lake.

 

HouseofDemonz: omg

 

Mr_Jackpot: I know. Steven was trapped inside and didn’t make it out. He drowned.

 

HouseofDemonz: omfffggggg!!!!

 

Mr_Jackpot: It gets crazier. The sunroof was open, and apparently Becca was not wearing a seatbelt, so she was ejected from the car before it hit the water.

 

HouseofDemonz: So she’s still alive?

 

Mr_Jackpot: Yes. But she broke her spine in several places. She’s in the ICU and they say she is likely to be paralyzed from the neck down for the rest of her life. You really didn’t hear any of this?

 

HouseofDemonz: No! I am shaking rn. I cannot believe this!

 

Mr_Jackpot: I know. It’s insane. Here, there’s an article about it. I’ll c/p it.

 

A teenage male died Friday after a drag race went wrong. Emergency personnel responded to a call at Jethro Lake after the teen lost control of the car and crashed it. Witnesses say the owner of the vehicle–the teen’s 16-year old girlfriend–was ejected through the sunroof and landed on shore. She survived with serious injuries, in critical condition at Sparkburg Memorial Hospital.

 

HouseofDemonz: We need to go see her.

 

Mr_Jackpot: I agree. As soon as they allow visitors, we will.

 

HouseofDemonz: It’s a miracle she survived. But RIP Steven :(

 

Mr_Jackpot: Idk, I kinda don’t feel anything for him but rage. I mean, the car was brand new. And Becca’s dad was killed by a drunk driver. How could he be that selfish? And now poor Bec will never, ever be the same.

 

HouseofDemonz: This is too much

 

 

OCTOBER 1, 2029

 

Dear Becca,

 

By the time this e-mail reaches you, everything in your world will feel upside down. You will likely experience some intense disorientation for awhile, so no worries if it takes you awhile to get around to reading this. But I wanted you to have my words with you before I get there in person.

First, I’m not mad about the car. I could care less about that. I am just grateful you’re still with us. In a way, I feel partly responsible. I should never have given such a powerful machine to someone so young and inexperienced. This was not your fault. You put your trust in me, in the car, and in your boyfriend. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. Life can be very unfair sometimes. And I am so, so sorry for your loss. It must be a lot to process. Right now, just focus on taking things one day at a time. No need to rush your recovery.

Second, your mother and I have been doing a lot of talking on the phone, and we have come up with a plan. The doctors are saying you are the perfect candidate for a CerebroTex neural implant. If approved, this implant could go a long way in helping you regain functionality. You wouldn’t be able to walk, at least not until the tech develops a little further to be compatible with an exoskeleton, but you’d be able to use your arms and hands. And best of all, you’d be able to do things with your mind that other people can’t do. Answer e-mails, do homework, play games like chess and Baldur’s Gate. All without moving a muscle! There’s even a possibility that someday, you’ll be able to drive again by porting directly into a vehicle’s AICM. I heard they were able to salvage the Marauder. Maybe you’ll get to be behind the wheel again, if that’s something you want. Or maybe we’ll just take it to the junk yard and have it pulverized. Whatever you need us to do, hon.

With any luck, you have already undergone the procedure, and you’re reading this with your new implant. When one door closes, another opens, right?

There’s no one on this green earth I believe in more than you, kiddo. You’re just like your dad. A fighter through and through. Hang in there.

See you soon.

 

Love,

Uncle Wes

 

P.S. If the implant is up and running, click this link. It will take you to your dad’s favorite song by the Glass Animals.

March 30, 2024 03:14

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4 comments

Tee Farewell
02:26 Apr 07, 2024

Man, amidst a ton of projects, I don't read as much as I want to at the moment, but dang, I couldn't stop reading this story. It pulled me in. Once I read "stem cell reservoir," I knew I might as well just kick back because I was going to have to finish it. Nice work. I swear, sometimes people, and not just on this site, write stories that sound more confusing than they need to be because they think it makes them profound or whatever. But this right here is my kind of story. Well-written and entertaining, with a unique enough structure to...

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04:27 Apr 10, 2024

Thank you, I really appreciate the complimentary feedback!

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Karen McDermott
15:05 Apr 01, 2024

Wow, a real roller-coaster ride (or should that be log flume ride?). Excellent writing. The only error I spotted was a 'not' missing from "I could care less". But mad skills man.

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15:07 Apr 01, 2024

Ah, good eye! Thank you!

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