The Car That Ate Your Brain
This Story Is About A Car That Ate Someone's Brain
The translucent egg-shaped shuttle glided silently to the curb. A bright light flashed my face, causing my vision to blur and a second later a woman’s gentle voice said, “Welcome aboard, Andrew.”
The interior of the shuttle was Airbnb-sparse but inviting. I sat on the gray leather bench and pulled out my phone. There were several bottles of water next to a box of Kind bars and some succulents. Smooth jazz oozed from hidden speakers.
But the shuttle stayed stationary, and my phone was dead, a black rectangular void; the Company’s shuttles were essentially rolling Faraday cages: no wireless service allowed. They had to be for what came next.
The mood lighting suddenly shifted to a spastic, woozy display of neon pinks, blues, and greens as an advertisement for the latest energy drink consumed the shuttle’s interior. All trips via the Company’s shuttles this month were subsidized by the energy drink. That’s why they were so cheap. Next month would be underwritten by a dandruff shampoo. The month after that, the US Army.
The ad was way louder than it needed to be. The flashing, staccato lights were starting to make my eyes burn. I remember a time when you could skip after five seconds. I remember being able to opt out.
"I remember being able to opt out"
Eventually, the shuttle began to drive. It knew where I was going because it had all my metadata, including my search history. Over the course of the trip, I was bombarded with targeted ad after targeted ad. The shuttle’s AR windshield became a tapestry of wish-fulfillment: images of my face on a more sculpted body in an ad for a barre class, an image of me with a beautiful woman purring about a dating app. Did I know there was available real estate in this neighborhood that was within my price range? My phone was still bricked. I tried shutting my eyes, but infrared sensors picked up on that and the shuttle slowed to a crawl. These ads were mandatory viewing.
Opening my eyes again, I was startled by the sudden appearance of a hologram of my mother on the armrest. “Don’t forget to buy life insurance, darling,” she wailed, her face frozen in anguish. The shuttle was using a funeral home photo plucked from my cloud as a reference for the hologram; I could tell because she’d never in her life worn that candy-apple-pink blush the mortician applied. The algorithm was primed to look for an old photo, but of course, the funeral home photo counted as old, all these years later. I flinched as her tiny, translucent hand reached for mine. Was I dreaming, or was it getting colder? “Fifteen minutes saves you 15 percent,” she moaned.
My dead mother stayed with me until the end of the ride, imploring me to buy life insurance, Yankee candles, and a new air freshener called “Avocado Breeze.” Finally, the ride concluded, and she morphed back to her reference photo before vanishing. I felt cold and wanted to step into the sun, but the shuttle door remained closed and locked, trapping me inside. Three more ads in exchange for my freedom.
The techno music began to peak, building and building and building. They were cramming in as many images as possible. It became an unreadable blur, but the tempo kept ascending. I felt dizzy, nauseous, near death. In despair, I waited for the beat to drop. Finally, I implored it to, screaming at the flashing screens, begging for relief. But it never came.a
This story was from my childhood.