The following story also appears in my short story collection, An Optimist’s Journal of the End of Days and Other Stories, published via Venetian Spider Press.
Barbara reset her smart watch for the correct date. Lately, she had been having trouble with the technology everyone in the world relied on for their daily activities: calendar appointments reset to different dates, her clock off by an hour, the facial recognition on her home alarm system refusing to recognize her. She thought back to the article she had written about the hazards of overdependence on technology. Eerily, her tech problems had increased directly after writing it, as if proving her point. She needed to “get back to basics.” Still, even the periodicals and books she read were digital and online. Everything was online; connectivity was the boon of the modern age as well as its Achilles’ heel. Unless she secluded herself in the middle of nowhere, there was no getting away from it.
She had fantasized about getting away before–a cabin, something wooden with great big windows looking out into the woods and a skylight showing her the stars. She had never been an outdoor person, but the thought of identifying the constellations outside while wrapped in the comfort of an indoor setting appealed to her. She could claim to be getting back to nature while still enjoying the comforts of being tick-free. And she could wean herself off a lot of technology (maybe not all, but a lot), so when the inevitable zombie-apocalypse came, she could claim to not be as completely screwed as she knew she would be.
Anyway, the apocalypse had not happened, but she had immersed herself in paperbacks in her ill-defined quest to “get back to basics.” She had written that stupid article, after all, so she had to try. Still, there was no denying that technology and her had a shaky relationship; she had visited Tech Center’s customer service so often, the staff there knew her by name. And yet, they could never find anything wrong with the gadgets that constantly malfunctioned around her.
Staying at a remote cabin in the woods–complete with satellite t.v., air conditioning, and wifi–had undeniably done her good. Whatever weird issues she had with technology, specifically online tech, had magically been resolved. And now she needed to go home and back to the daily grind, but at least she’d had a chance to recharge. Her bags were packed-safely stowed in the trunk, her drink was hot and caffeinated and sitting snugly in the front-seat cup-holder, and any uneasiness she felt about getting lost on the lonely winding roads dispersed once she programmed the route home into the car’s GPS. Satisfied that tech was, once again, her friend, she laid back and let the smart car do the driving. She didn’t know the area well enough to make her way back anyway, so the worst that could happen was the car would drive around aimlessly. She did that anyway.
As her smart car slid down the chasm, debris and rocks piling through the window–filling the car’s body and burying her beneath the deluge, the last thing her oxygen-deprived brain registered was the robotic-voice of the GPS laughing at her. The fully self-aware artificial intelligence that inhabits the internet had not been a fan of her writing.