Dad's obsession with conspiracies is growing. I don't think I can get through to him.

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic


I consider myself level-headed, rational, and fairly smart. That’s why my eyes roll like cue balls when Dad mentions the latest conspiracy theory he’s into.

I told myself he’s retired and probably bored. Mom mostly ignored it, like she did with most of his comments.

Most conspiracies were innocent enough, like when he started talking about something called the “Mandela Effect” - a bunch of things he swears he remembers despite never happening, like Nelson Mandela dying in jail in the 80s. Hence, the name.

I laughed at that one. Remembering things differently is as innocent as conspiracy theories come. That’s why every time he came up to me with a theory, I just laughed and moved on.

I wish I hadn’t.

It didn’t surprise me when dad started talking about the evils of technology. Tech companies have taken a lot of hits for user privacy over the years. Personally, I never cared much. Sure, I kept my location services off (yeah right) and tried paying for things rather than using free versions to avoid data collection, but you can’t avoid it entirely in this day and age.

I’d heard it all before, but one thing he said stood out.

He started talking about this documentary he watched. It claimed that tech companies were trying to change our behavior not only to help advertisers sell products and services, but on an individual level, and far deeper than influencing a purchase.

Dad was convinced they were using phones, apps, and other things to directly make us do things we otherwise wouldn’t do. Things that served the technology itself, not the users or advertisers.

He said the reason car crash fatalities increased while the number of crashes decreased was that some drivers were being made to actively target people who spoke out, and they weren’t even aware they were doing it. To him, that was just the tip of the iceberg - anyone who was anti-technology was a target.

My instinct was to laugh this one off just like I did the others, but he persisted. He became single-minded in pursuing this theory until it became the only thing he could talk about. Every time we spoke, it went to the same damn topic.

Eventually I got frustrated and set out to prove him wrong so we could go back to having normal conversations again.

As with all conspiracy theories, there was some truth to it. Traffic fatalities have gone up even though the accident rate has gone down. And sure, some of that is because drivers are distracted by their phones or other devices, so you could say that technology changed their behavior and caused the fatality.

That’s a far cry from the phone actively making the driver target a pedestrian. So I kept looking.

It started with an article I read about a pedestrian being struck and killed by a car in a nearby town. It seemed standard enough as far as these things go - the driver was on their phone, got distracted, didn’t see the pedestrian crossing the street, struck them, killed them.

Except the pedestrian was struck on the opposite side of the street.

According to the article, the car swerved into the oncoming traffic lane at the last second, hitting the pedestrian at a speed and angle that made survival virtually impossible.

I looked into the pedestrian. His name was Dr. Bindler, a professor at a nearby university and has written and spoken extensively about the dangers of being dependent on technology, something he calls “life by algorithm”.

This all sounds bad, but there are plenty of professors saying the same thing who are still alive. It also turns out the driver had lost his job recently and was suffering from various undiagnosed medical issues affecting his brain function. Forensic investigators concluded the fact he was not taking any medication, combined with the stress of losing his job, plunged him into a manic state.

I told Dad about this story. I saved the articles on my phone and tried to show him how this tragedy was a result of circumstances rather than a targeted killing. He was having none of it, so I kept looking.

I spent more and more time paying attention to similar stories, anything that had technology involved. They were fairly easy to find. For each one I read, at least 3 similar stories were suggested in my news feed. More car crashes, botched robberies, industrial accidents, all easily explained.

It was there in black and white. Dad still wasn’t having it. He had an explanation for all the evidence I showed him. It was starting to get very annoying. How could he not see he was living in a bubble?

So I had to change my approach.

I actively looked for articles where vocal anti-tech people were mentioned. It was tedious, but once again the news feed recommendations helped. I missed a lot of work, and my girlfriend wasn't happy about spending almost no time with her, but it was worth it. It had its downsides, sure, but technology has given us so much and made our lives so much better. I had to show Dad the truth.

Last time I went to see him, I brought my laptop. I had articles indexed, categorized, referenced, the whole nine yards.

Nothing.

Not a word of understanding. He actually accused me of falling for it! He called me a patsy! Can you believe that? I was livid. Not only was he not listening to reason, but he was trying to turn this around on me! We got into a shouting match, which escalated until I pushed him and he fell to the floor. The look of pain and fear in his eyes as he watched me leave was one I’ll never forget.

We didn’t talk for months after that. I kept finding examples to prove him wrong. When he called, I thought it was because he finally let go of this stupid theory.

Nope.

He didn’t waste a second getting into it again, telling me that I’ve changed and he doesn’t recognize me anymore. I’ve never seen him cry, but I could hear the tears in his voice as he spoke. He called me a monster.

He said he found a ton of evidence that proves everything. He was on his way to a hotel downtown to meet with a group of journalists to blow the whistle, and he hoped it would help me see the truth. Then, he hung up.

Clearly, he was too far gone. This theory had taken over his life, and he was about to ruin our family’s name for it. I didn’t want to be the butt of jokes for the rest of my life, I couldn’t let that happen. I had only one option. I got in my car and entered the hotel’s address in my phone’s navigation app.

I had to get there quickly.

I had to stop him.

I had to kill him.


Submitted: March 25, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Mister Skulk. All rights reserved.

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