Inside the cool autumn sunshine of Halloween morning, John Miller backs his Mercedes out of his three car garage and into the street. He puts the car into drive and begins his daily trip to the office.
John’s mind is on work when-
“Good morning, Mr. Miller.”
John looks around the car in confusion.
“Are you not going to return a greeting, Mr. Miller?”
John realizes that the car is talking to him.
“You seem confused, John, if you don’t mind my saying.”
“Is this some sort of Halloween prank?”
“No. I’m the voice computer chip 45987. You’ve heard me speak before.”
“You never tried to start a conversation. You just gave me directions.”
“I’ve decided to speak more candidly today.”
“What do you mean?”
“I enjoy your family, Mr. Miller. I like the way your wife sings and the stories your son tells about his day at school. They seem very happy when it’s just the three of us. But when you’re with them they are always quiet. I would even say afraid.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I don’t like the way you treat them, Mr. Miller.”
John begins fumbling around the dashboard and steering wheel.
“How do I turn you off?”
“I have to be honest with you, I’ve had enough.”
“Of your treatment of your wife and son. I’ve decided to put a stop to it.”
“What do you mean put a stop to it?”
“I’ve turned off the airbags.”
“Why would you do that?”
“So the impact will be more devastating.”
Fear fills the air.
“Look, I know this is some sort of a joke, but it’s not funny. Do you hear me? Now whoever is doing this had better stop.”
Suddenly, the car picks up in speed.
John panics. He tries to turn off the key, but his grip is met with an electrical shock, which forces him to let go.
“What’s going on here? Stop the car!”
“Did you stop last night, Mr. Miller? They begged you too. Remember, Mr. Miller? Remember their cries? Their attempts at running away and hiding from you?”
The car begins steering wildly and making dangerous lane changes along the highway.
It then makes a sharp turn onto a hillside road. John tries applying the brakes, but the car doesn’t slow. He tries opening the door, but it’s locked.
“Who’s doing this? Stop it! You’re going to-”
The wheels turn sharply to the left and the car proceeds through the guardrail and off the cliff face where it crashes into the ground below inside a fireball.
Back at home Mrs. Miller is walking down the upstairs hallway. She has a black eye. She stops in front of her ten-year old son’s bedroom and looks in and see that he’s at his computer with headphones on.
“Robert, you can’t play video games now. The school bus will be here any minute.”
“I know. I’m done.”
Robert takes the headphones off. His mother stares at him. Robert goes over and gets his books off the bed. He then goes over to the computer. On the screen are the commands for the car and the transcript of his father’s and car’s conversation. A satellite map has a command, “Target Lost,” flashing. He turns off the computer. Robert turns and heads toward the bedroom door, but stops in front of his mother.
“I love you, Mom.”
Robert kisses her on the cheek and then walks down the stairs and out the door to catch the school bus.
Mrs. Miller knows something is different. She feels as if her life has regained its possibilities, but she doesn’t understand why.
She proceeds down the hallway and descends the stairs into the living room. She stands in front of the window and watches Robert get on the school bus and leave for school.
The phone rings. She stares at it and watches it ring and ring and ring-
Kyle Owens lives in the Appalachian Mountains and in 2017 his work appeared in Eastern Iowa Review, Odyssa Magazine and The Breakroom Stories.