I have a lot of complicated feelings about specifically the JJ Abrams “Mystery Box” approach to storytelling, as referenced near the end of the article, but I understand the compulsion to prefer a world with Unknowns.
A long time ago, during a move across the country to Maryland, I awoke early to head to the airport to fly back west and box things up for a second leg of the trip and discovered that my car wasn’t in the parking lot. I got a ride to the airport, made some calls, and found out it had been towed for not having a parking pass. A family member retrieved it, got a pass, everything was fine. Then, a few days later, it was missing again. This time, it was not towed. It was stolen.
Two weeks later, on my birthday, the police called to tell me it had been recovered, with damage to the steering column and a burnt out engine. Months of haranguing with insurance passed and finally, I had my car back, mostly intact. And, while it was missing a couple things from the trunk, something else had taken its place: a cassette tape. It was not my cassette tape – the handwriting wasn’t mine, it wasn’t a brand I’d ever used – so it must have been left behind by the thieves. But what could possibly have been on it? Were its auditory charms what compelled them to commit grand theft auto? Would Sadako emerge from my car’s dashboard?
I held onto that tape for seven years, wondering about all the secrets it could possibly store, before I finally put it back in the deck and hit play. It was some Walmart parking lot mixtape level freestyle over casio beats, which had themselves been taped over a church sermon. I hit the on-ramp for the freeway and threw it out the window.