by Amy S Cutler
The flight to Virginia was uncomfortable for Brian. After two back surgeries and years of overuse, he was almost always in pain.
It was a quick trip, a flight to Virginia to pick up the van – a 2017 Chevrolet Express 3500, converted by Quigley into a 4×4 – a night at the Marriott on the beach, and drive home. Brian’s wife was with him, not only as a second driver but because hell would freeze over before she let him go to the beach without her. Brian didn’t care about going to the beach. He had been looking for a van just like this one for over a year and could hardly contain himself.
When they finally pulled into the Vans of Great Bridge, the sales team had everything ready to go. Temporary plates, two sets of keys and a few signatures, and Brian and his wife hit the road with Johnny Five.
Johnny Five was the name that Brian gave the van as soon as saw a photo of it on Facebook. Grey, with a top rack and black accents, he named his van after the robot in his favorite childhood movie.
Poor Johnny Five had to sit in the parking garage for the night so that Brian’s wife could enjoy the beach. At barely 45-degrees, it was hard to enjoy anything outdoors, but she wanted to see the ocean and that was her concession for making the trip. It was bad enough for Johnny Five, but worse for Brian, who suffered insomnia, and had to wait up all night to see the van again. One long night and a few hours in the morning of waiting, and Johnny Five, Brian, and his wife set out for New York. “Are you ready for some great Ad-Van-Tures?” Brian asked his wife, as they took off in his new wheels.
Brian was everything that Johnny Five ever wanted in a human. He cared about the dirt on his paint, made sure his tank was full and the tire pressure was perfect, and kept the inside clean during the long drive home.
During a normal drive, Brian’s back would be screaming at him to stop driving after about two hours. It wasn’t until five hours into the trip that Brian noticed his back didn’t hurt. After that, his wife wanted to drive so he decided to lay down in the back to see if the seats were comfortable -and he slept for two hours. Johnny Five seemed to rock him right to sleep.
When they got home later that evening, Brian was pleasantly surprised to find that he was in no pain at all. No backache – even his legs weren’t sore, and he had been sitting for ten hours straight.
He went to bed that night happy as a lark, and he kept his grin right past the ten o’clock news and as the clock ticked past midnight. By around 3 a.m., Brian’s grin was gone. He was tired, yet his insomnia had kicked in. Peaking at his wife, sleeping soundly as usual, he decided to go lay down in the van. What’s the worst that can happen? He thought. Another Ad-Van-Ture.
Well, Brian did sleep that night. As soon as his head hit the grey cloth wrapped armrest, his eyes closed and he drifted off to sleep, not waking until after 7 a.m. when his wife texted him asking, “Did you go out for beer and cigarettes again?” It was a joke between them, whenever one thought the other was being a little weird, he or she would say, I’m just going out for beer and cigarettes – I’ll be right back. Sure I will.
But one would never leave the other, they both agreed that they were in this marriage until death.
Brian and his wife had a few Ad-Van-Tures together, mostly day trips, and he did on occasion stumble out of the house and into the vehicle on a sleepless night. He back never hurt during their trips, and Brian did marvel that it would start to ache as soon as he would hop out and shut the door behind him.
The outings were fun for them, and for Johnny Five, who liked to be a part of a family, and was happy to help Brian to feel good and sleep well. Johnny Five was happy, until one day, when Brian’s wife was getting out and was heard saying, just before she slammed the door shut, that perhaps the next time they went to the shore for the day they could take the Subaru.
After that, Johnny Five started to act up. At first it was an alignment, then the tire pressure signal kept dinging, then the motor would stall. Brian was unhappy. Johnny Five was unhappy. But Brian’s wife seemed to be just fine, and Johnny Five saw her smirk a few times while getting in the Subaru.
It had only been a few months after Johnny Five came home with them that the arguing began. It wasn’t always about the van, but it usually started with the van – about how much money it was costing, about how a newly converted van shouldn’t be acting up like this, about how if Brian loved the darn thing so much, he should just go sleep in it every night.
Johnny Five heard all the arguing, as the van was tuned into the frequency of the Smart Hub that Brian and his wife had in the house.
Bright and sunny Saturday mornings in the early fall should always be happy times. This particular Saturday morning was not a happy one, not at all. Brian and his wife were having an argument, and they were doing it while taking a drive, ironically, to see the beautiful views. Johnny Five doesn’t remember what they were arguing about but does remember Brian throwing the shifter into park after quickly pulling off the road, and letting out a howl that would have woken the neighbors had they been parked at home. His wife tried to get out, but Brian grabbed her and pushed her into the back of the van, holding her down in the front row of seats. Then, as calmly as one can appear while committing murder, beat his wife to death.
When Brian started the engine about thirty minutes later, after cleaning himself up and pulling his wife further into the van, securely buckled into the second row of seats, Johnny Five started right up. Purred right to life, as they say.
They went for a long drive, Brian and Johnny Five, as the day wore on and the sun began to set. By the time they pulled into the parking spot at home, it was dark. Brian was feeling more like himself, and he knew that he had to clean up his mess and face the music.
When he looked over the seat to see what he had done to his wife, Brian cried out and fell backward, right into the shifter. Scrambling, looking but not sure he wanted to see, Brian sat in the front row of seats, facing the rear. He peeked over the top of the seat to look over, which reminded him of a game he used to play with his siblings when they were young. He peek-a-booed over the seat and saw that the seat from the second row had half-eaten his wife. She was not only sunken into the seat, but it looked like the upholstery had formed a mouth and was sucking her in.
Suddenly so tired that he couldn’t keep his eyes open, Brian lay down on the front row seat, the one that wasn’t eating his wife, and closed his eyes. He slept like a baby all night long, and when he opened his eyes again the sun was just beginning to peak through the windshield. Slowly, Brian peered around the seat to investigate the back and was not so surprised to find that his wife was almost entirely gone. Only her right foot and left shoulder were still sticking out. The rest of her was … gone.
He noticed something else, as well. There was no blood, not even a metallic scent, not a rot, not a gut. Later, he found two earrings and her wedding band in the cup holder. Other than that, the only noticeable change was that Johnny Five now sported a red, shiny leather-like second row seat. Leather-like is what Brian would call it, not quite cow hide or even synthetic, but most certainly not human. No, not human. That would be gross, unheard of, and suspicious.
Just like that, Brian started telling his friends and family that his wife finally went out for beer and cigarettes for real. The Ad-Van-Tures continued, and Johnny Five ran just perfectly from that day on. Brian ran fine, too. No more back pain, no more insomnia, and no more headaches. Life was great, an Ad-Van-Ture at every turn.