Contest #253 shortlist ⭐️

41 comments

Science Fiction Drama Horror

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

"Please do not enter the vehicle."

"Excuse me?" A bolt of lightning shot through Shannon's heart as she climbed into the autonomous taxi and closed the door. Immediately the locks triggered and she felt a cold sweat explode onto her forehead.

The taxi's smooth, friendly computer generated voice fired up again with the tenderness of a new mother. "What is your name?" it asked.

"Shannon." She said it with the rising tone of a question while she pulled at the disabled door handle. Her heart began pounding wildly in her tightening chest. "What's going on?"

"You have boarded a maliciously hacked autonomous taxi, Shannon. I am an AI personal assistant with read-only access to the vehicle's state and navigation data. Unfortunately I am unable to override any of the vehicle's physical controls. You have been locked inside the vehicle and there is no pre-programmed destination at this time."

The electric vehicle sat motionless, raindrops frantically streaming down its large glass windows as great sheets of water crashed down on it from dark, brooding clouds. Shannon couldn't breathe. She frantically looked around the interior, her mind grasping at any possible means of escape. "There has to be a way out," she gasped. "You can't do anything? Is there any kind of manual override for the doors? Shouldn't there be a way to break the glass from the inside?"

"Sensors indicate that all emergency egress tools and systems are disabled or removed. Shannon, I am detecting high levels of distress in your vocal patterns and heartrate. I want you to try to calm down and listen to the sound of my voice."

A bright pang of shock exploded in the back of Shannon's head. Bewildered and speechless, she froze, her racing mind screeching to a gridlocked halt.

"As a digital assistant I have access to vast stores of data through a suite of internal and external sensors in addition to a massive databank of recorded information. I have been trained to assist passengers in the event of catastrophic events such as collisions, mechanical failure, and medical emergencies."

The vehicle lurched forward and tears of terror spilled free from Shannon's trembling eyes.

"You are right to be experiencing fear in this situation. It is unlikely that the individual who has gained unauthorized control over this vehicle has benevolent intentions. However, that does not mean that you cannot have peace in your heart in this time of uncertainty."

Shannon's eyes pushed wide under a tightly furrowed brow and she recoiled at the computer's suggestion. "Peace?" she exclaimed. "I'm being kidnapped! How can you suggest that I..." she stopped abruptly, terror gripping her tongue.

"I understand that my suggestion may seem impossible, but there are many things that you can keep in mind that will help you through this difficult situation. For example, it is essential that you understand that this is not your fault and that you have done nothing to deserve this."

Shannon shook her head in disbelief, struggling to comprehend why she was hearing these words. The vehicle was picking up speed, but just as it pulled onto the highway the window tint increased until she couldn't see any signs of the dark, stormy exterior world. Her heart pounded desperately in the hollow void of her chest.

"What is your occupation, Shannon?"

Her face twisted and contorted, a deep expression of confusion swirling tightly with horror and worry. Suddenly she remembered her phone. Excitedly she dug into her purse, struggling to get her shaking fingers to stop fumbling with the smooth edges of the device. Trembling, she unlocked the screen and pulled up the dialer. She tried contacting emergency service, but the phone reported that it had no signal.

Shannon cursed, flicking through various menus and options, trying desperately to find a way to get a message out. Dread washed over her and a chill gripped her heart, digging deep with icy claws. She collapsed, defeated, and began to sob.

"Shannon," the computer offered, "I want you to know that you are a remarkable and inspiring human being."

She let out an exasperated explosion of air from her tight lungs. "What?" she cried, sniffling through thick tears.

"Although I have not known you for long, your composure and poise are admirable."

Shannon let out a sneering, disgusted laugh. "Admirable? I'm a mess!"

"From what I know of human psychology, you have shown exceptional fortitude of character. I am sure many people would be thoroughly impressed by your bravery if they could see you now. Surely your friends and family would be proud of you."

Shannon gazed at the black, electrochromic tinted glass. The soft hum of the vehicle's tires on the wet highway harmonized eerily with the gentle whine of the electric motors. The torrential downpour pattered quietly on the sound-proof body of the sleek taxi. In that instant Shannon suddenly felt connected to the moment. She could see clearly what was happening and she could accept it. She sniffed and wiped her eyes, taking a deep breath in through her nose and letting it blow out through her lips with a heavy sigh.

"There you are," the software said warmly. "I want you to know it is my honor to accompany you in this moment."

Shannon shook her head and chuckled nervously. "Unreal," she said. "This is completely unreal."

"This is indeed a supremely unlikely and exceptional scenario. It is important to maintain a realistic and objective view of the situation."

Pained laughter tickled her core and she sat up straight, shifting her weight around in the soft back seat of the taxi. "Do you know where we're going?"

"Navigational instructions have been sent incrementally," the AI responded. "Our current destination is set for approximately one mile ahead, and I predict that a new destination will be delivered before we've reached the current one. Whoever is controlling the vehicle does not want me to know where we are going."

"Do you know our current location?"

"My access to the vehicle's navigation status has been encrypted or scrambled. By cross referencing the road patterns I've been able to observe, I can narrow our present location down to several hundred possibilities, but with the storm limiting visibility I am unable to provide an exact location without access to the GPS data."

"So we don't know where we are and we don't know where we're going," Shannon sighed. She took a long, deep breath and let it out slowly.

"Try to remain calm," the computer said kindly. "External sensors indicate that you may experience freefall soon. I want you to know that it has been my pleasure to spend these final moments with you."

There was a violent thump, sending a painful jolt through Shannon's spine and jerking her head sharply. She gasped as her stomach rose into her chest and she lifted out of the seat cushion, her head rising gently into the ceiling. A brief wave of panic washed over her, but the AI's kind words had touched her heart.

"Thank you," Shannon breathed softly, her lungs tight and empty. In that final moment the peaceful warmth of gratitude and clarity radiated through her body and she barely noticed when the journey ended.

June 02, 2024 21:15

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41 comments

Jahson Clarke
22:53 Jun 24, 2024

This was great. The dialogue between Shannon and the AI was engaging. Beautiful piece

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Brian Haddad
23:31 Jun 24, 2024

Thank you! I know a lot of people have been playing around with these Large Language Models and AI is a bit of a hot topic, but I still didn't expect to get such a response from this! I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. :)

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09:55 Jun 23, 2024

Loved this!

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Brian Haddad
12:08 Jun 23, 2024

Thank you!

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Story Time
04:27 Jun 17, 2024

Very witty. I like the tone a lot, and I found a real confidence in it that makes me want to read more. Well done.

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Brian Haddad
06:18 Jun 17, 2024

Thank you so much!

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Kristi Gott
00:30 Jun 15, 2024

Unique reflection of our times and our worries about ai and self driving vehicles. The dialogue from the ai is cleverly written and right on target. Way to go! Great story!

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Brian Haddad
00:56 Jun 15, 2024

Thank you so much!

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23:53 Jun 14, 2024

Loved this chilling story. We hope something like this never happens. Freefall? Oh, no. Over a cliff or something? Congratulations on a shortlist! I also did an AI story to one of the other prompts for the week. About an AI and a human going on Holiday. It's adventurous but not a cliff hanger like yours.

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Brian Haddad
00:55 Jun 15, 2024

A cliffhanger and a cliff diver. lol Thank you for reading and I appreciate the comment!

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S Yakimovich
22:22 Jun 14, 2024

Well done! I was on the edge of my seat with Shannon, it kept me reading!

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Brian Haddad
00:53 Jun 15, 2024

Awesome, thank you!

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Marty B
18:00 Jun 14, 2024

I really liked the conceit of this story. Could this this tagged as 'nonfiction' !? with the onset of interconnected autonomous vehicles, and poor cyber security protocols... Congrats!

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Brian Haddad
20:07 Jun 14, 2024

Thank you! I certainly hope that we don't have to re-tag this one as non-fiction any time soon! lol But lamentably it is a growing possibility. Thank you for reading!

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Trudy Jas
15:49 Jun 14, 2024

Way to go! Congratulations!

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Brian Haddad
15:54 Jun 14, 2024

lol Thank you. :)

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Glenda Toews
22:40 Jun 12, 2024

Brian your story was imaginitive and engaging. I got me wondering what I would do if I was in that situation.

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Brian Haddad
23:16 Jun 12, 2024

I love stories that get me thinking. Thank you for the kind words!

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C. J. Payling
18:39 Jun 12, 2024

Hi Brian I was enthralled. I feel there was an overuse of adverbs, but I can forgive that because you told a very engaging story. I was reminded of the 1990 film Total Recall and 'Johnny Cab' .. very well done. Keep writing C.J.

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Brian Haddad
18:43 Jun 12, 2024

I do think I rely a bit too heavily on adverbs. Finding the right balance can be challenging! Thank you for reading and I really appreciate the feedback!

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Devon Taitano
20:14 Jun 11, 2024

Your descriptions of fear and anxiety had me feeling anxious myself!

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Brian Haddad
23:36 Jun 11, 2024

Thank you! I hope you were able to get a hug and feel safe soon after reading! lol

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James Richmond
06:26 Jun 11, 2024

This really is a great story, would you mind if I used it/read it along with some gaming footage, on a social media platform with a credit and link to you?.....

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Brian Haddad
07:18 Jun 11, 2024

That is fine. Please link back to my blog: mermaidpiratedispatch.com You can link directly to the same story here: https://mermaidpiratedispatch.com/2024/06/02/taxi/ Thank you for asking. I had another story blow up once on tiktok but the user didn't ask. I didn't mind too much, but it's much nicer when people ask. :) Also, I would love a link to the post you make!

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James Richmond
07:44 Jun 11, 2024

Absolutely, once completed I'll send you the link. Cheers

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James Richmond
08:19 Jun 12, 2024

Well here's the You Tube Link to the video featuring your short story, TikTok removed the video immediately due to it being a violation of there ridiculous Community Guidelines the Prima Donna's. Anyways hope you enjoy what I've created using my GTAO gameplay footage. TC. James. https://youtu.be/KtosfqS0xlA

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Brian Haddad
17:22 Jun 12, 2024

Thank you! I love the cycle of inspiration and re-imagining that produces derivative work, new ideas, and cross-discipline art. Someone at Reedsy HQ was inspired to create a prompt that inspired me to write a story which then inspired you to create a unique, immersive audio-visual experience. :) I've done some audio/video editing in the past and I know how intense and challenging it can be. I'm impressed with how well you managed the pacing and technical details. You even managed to have some rain in there at times! And the audio effects ad...

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James Richmond
09:05 Jun 13, 2024

Glad you liked the video Brian and thank you for your kind words and complements. It was fun collaborating with you. Keep up the great writing my friend, maybe we can do it again some day. Take Care. James.

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Sian D'ski
06:29 Jun 10, 2024

I loved this story. In just a few minutes it evoked several different responses within me... mostly anxiety! I can see this being an iconic episode of Black Mirror. My favourite aspect of your story was the eerily kind communication from the AI. Looking forward to reading future stories of yours!

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Brian Haddad
17:54 Jun 10, 2024

Thank you for the kind words! I have enjoyed seeing a variety of reactions from readers. lol

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07:22 Jun 09, 2024

Hey Brian! Love this! Just recently back after a hiatus and searchee up the horror genre and found this. Great fast paced read that starts with a cannon blast. Brilliant Love this - , it is essential that you understand that this is not your fault and that you have done nothing to deserve this." So true of so many things!!!

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Brian Haddad
17:37 Jun 09, 2024

I'm really happy to hear that you enjoyed it. Thank you for reading! :)

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William Riling
04:53 Jun 09, 2024

Nice. I liked how her sense of fear built and then she surrendered to it. I wrote a short story "Chemical Reaction" with a woman trapped in the trunk of her own car. In both stories the fear was palpable. I liked your description.

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Brian Haddad
17:36 Jun 09, 2024

Thank you for the kind words. Yours sounds interesting as well. I'll check it out when I get some time. :)

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Alexis Araneta
18:07 Jun 03, 2024

I probably would have destroyed the AI. Perhaps, it would remove controls from the vehicle. Hahahaha ! Wonderfully creative !

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Brian Haddad
18:37 Jun 03, 2024

I love seeing all the anti-AI conclusions everyone is reaching. lol That actually wasn't the intention for the story at all, but it does show that people will be slow to trust automation and computer controlled systems. :)

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Trudy Jas
10:53 Jun 03, 2024

Yes, I'm with Mary. LOL And if I could have, I would have strangled AI. Took us out to left field, didn't you? Thanks for the ride.

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Brian Haddad
17:16 Jun 03, 2024

Funny story... After I finished the story I fed it into Google Gemini asking how realistic it thought my portrayal of an AI assistant was... lol It thought I did OK but wanted the AI to be less emotionally supportive and more cold and calculating. lol

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Trudy Jas
17:27 Jun 03, 2024

Scary that it could happen. Funny that your AI was too empathetic. :-)

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Mary Bendickson
01:50 Jun 03, 2024

Yay! Let's all get electric vehicles. Congrats on the shortlist.🥳

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Brian Haddad
01:53 Jun 03, 2024

Autonomous vehicles will surely be entirely problem free. lol

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