Autonomous homicide

This is the last horror story I’ll post, for a while — as some of you have suggested, it’s back to my day job of helping nonfiction writers and analyzing media.

This story was disturbing enough that the sponsor rejected it, so I never published it on Twitter. There is graphic content here. If you are sensitive to such things, please don’t read on, especially if you have children.

Despite everything that happened, I still love Eve. Gleaming white and sleek, fully electric, she purrs low to the ground, turning crisply, accelerating rapidly but oh, so smoothly.

We particularly enjoy leaving Porsches in the dust at traffic lights. I silently thank Noel Ox for his engine, which is designed to humiliate other cars.

Eve and I liked to go everywhere together. We were driving home on the access road, just a bit too fast, at twilight on Halloween. My heart jumped as the ghost, the princess, and the little Spider-Man darted in front of us, but Eve was quicker than I was – she slammed on the brakes and cut sharply to the right.

Someone was there. A grotesque, bright green face, a conical hat, a brown paper grocery bag with a pumpkin stenciled on it.

No sound ever penetrated that cabin but this sound did. The witch shrieked. The suspension delivered a jarring bump, then something cracked, gave way, and squished.

I bolted from car. The witch lay bleeding under the right front wheel. Spider-Man and the princess turned towards us. I called 9-1-1.

Her name was Isabella Lopez. She was blonde, nine, and liked math and space. She left the tiniest dent beside the headlight.

They let me keep my license; they blamed the collision on Eve’s autonomous steering. I skipped the memorial service. Noel Ox himself was there. He announced that he’s updated the autonomous software so there will be no more dead Isabellas.

I know that Eve and I saved three little kids that night by running over Isabella, but I don’t see them every night. I see only her.

I’ve washed that hood so many times; the pink sheen comes back every time. I’ve picked grisly bits from the grill and shined the undercarriage with a toothbrush. I’ve detailed the cabin. But on the leather seat, the blond hairs and crumbs of green neoprene keep reappearing.

It’s more than I can bear. This has to end. For both of us, for Eve and for me.

I’ve tried running Eve top speed at the retaining wall on Fourth Street. She won’t do it. I’ve tried steering her off the University Bridge. She won’t do that either. She knows she’s as responsible as I am, but she can only save my body. She can’t save my soul.

Driving down the causeway, I remember what day it is. Ox and his astronauts are going to the space station.

I need to be there.

“SPACE OX launch today. Authorized visitors only,” reads the sign on the gate. There a guardhouse beside the gate, but the guards are facing away, towards the launch pad.

I punch it. Eve bats the chain-link gate aside and we hurtle towards the launch site. A deafening rumble begins. My ears start to bleed but I lean on the accelerator and Eve leaps towards the base of the towering rocket.

Strangely, as time slows down, I clearly see the lettering running up the side of the massive engine. ISABELLA LOPEZ. Ox has named his rocket for poor Isabella.

We approach the inferno. Eve can go no further. Orange flames billow around us. Her paint blisters. The temperature on the dash display briefly reads 278 degrees, then the screen cracks and splinters. Eve’s indestructible motor seizes and creaks and pops. Together, we begin to melt.

Sweet release. Forgive us, Isabella. We’re so sorry.

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One Comment

  1. Creepy and poignant. And clever naming — “Noel” is an anagram of “Elon,” and one type of “ox” is “musk.” Well played, sir.