Short Story: Backseat Driver

One of my favorites, this creepy tale will have you second guessing your car’s navigation system. Technology isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. In this scary story, a man buys a GPS system called The Sergeant, guaranteed to guide him with excellence. But when the guidance system takes over he’ll discover who’s really manning his Buick.

BACKSEAT DRIVER

by Jaimie M. Engle

buick skylarkMark plugged in the new GPS unit. Static hummed through the speakers. The guy at Radio Shack had guaranteed The Sergeant would provide excellent guidance and direction. Bloody-well better, at the price Mark had paid for it. The Sergeant was voice activated and able to communicate on the spot, altering its conversation to each owner.

“Let’s give it a shot,” Mark said, turning over the engine.

The Sergeant was quiet.

Mark cleared his throat. “I’d like directions to the nearest bar in Melbourne.”

Nothing happened. Not a blip. Not a beep. Not a word.

Mark enunciated, “Near-est-bar-in-Mel-bourne.”

Silence.

“Great. It’s broken.” Mark reached for the door handle as the Radio Shack sign dimmed and the lights turned off. He pounded on the glass door, but no one answered. Mark stormed back to his Buick, peeled out, and hopped onto the highway.

Suddenly, The Sergeant lit up. “Private, exactly where do you think you’re going?”

Mark smirked. “Er…just driving.”

“You will address me as ‘Sir. Yes, Sir!’ is that clear, Private?”

Mark stared at the green camo box attached to his dash.

“PRIVATE!”

“Sir. Yes, Sir!”

“Good. There’s hope for you yet.”

The car continued down the dark, two-way highway. Not another car in sight. Mark’s palms sweat.

“Switch lanes, Private.”

“But that’s the oncoming traffic lane.”

“Are you questioning my orders?” The Sergeant screeched.

Mark swerved over. “Sir. No, Sir!”

“You leave the thinking to me, you spineless excuse for a driver!”

Ahead, the distant lamps of a semi rounded the bend. The Sergeant was silent. The semi approached. The truck flicked the headlights on and off. Mark swerved back into his lane.

“Jesus H. Christ, Private. What the hell are you doing?”

“Are you serious?”

“Did I or did I not give you a direct order?”

“You did, but—”

“And you decided, like the scum that you are, to disobey my order.”

scared driverMark was speechless. Was this really happening?

“Did you suck on your mama’s milk-maker for too long? Did you look at her one day and realize it was time to see other people? Or do you still dream of suckling her when you lie in the dark?”

Mark listened to The Sergeant’s heavy breathing. It sounded so real. So alive.

“You move when I tell you to move.”

The car swerved back into the tractor trailer’s lane. Mark yanked on the unyielding steering wheel.

“I will not tolerate insubordination, even if that Jezebel of a mother of yours did. Do you understand me, Private?”

“Sir. Yes, Sir.” Panicked tears streamed down Mark’s cheeks.

“You will not eat a snack or take a leak without my permission. You belong to me now, you worthless swine!”

An air horn blared through the still night air.

“Where’d you learn to drive, scum?” The Sergeant berated. “Did you find your driver’s license at the bottom of a Cracker Jacks box?”

The horn blasted in alarm.

“Please!” Mark screamed.

“Answer the question!”

“Sir. No, Sir!”

As the semi drew close enough for Mark to make out the dark features on the driver’s face, The Sergeant pulled the Buick into the correct lane; the semi passed before Mark’s eyes as a blur.

“Now,” The Sergeant said, “do we have an understanding?”

Mark’s heart hammered in his chest. Adrenaline coursed with the rising and falling of the RPM’s. “Sir. Yes. Sir.”

“Good. At the road up ahead turn right.”

Mark spied the opening to the dirt access road. “But—”

The Sergeant forced the gas pedal to the floorboard.

“Sir. Yes, Sir!” Mark flicked his turn signal to emphasize his commitment.

The Sergeant released the accelerator.

The road neared. Mark turned. Trees towered as guardians on either side of the one-lane pass, bearers of the dark deeds that transpired beneath them. Mark couldn’t see more than a few feet ahead on the bumpy path. A fog rolled in as a clouded memory.

“What are you?” Mark asked.

“The Sergeant, you fool.”

“What do you want with me?”

“My only obsession in life is to take you from the worthless maggot that you are and make you into a man. Isn’t that what you want, Private?”

Chills crossed the back of Mark’s neck. The doors locked. The headlamps burned out.

“Sir! Yes, Sir!”

Please let me go!

The lights turned back on.

“Turn left here,” The Sergeant directed.

Mark angled the car and drove into the expanse of trees for several yards until he came to a ledge. He slammed the brakes. “Why are you doing this?”

“Not everyone is cut out for the core, Son. I’m afraid we’re gonna have to let you go.”

Mark began to whimper.

“Drive, Private.”

“No!”

“DRIVE!” The Sergeant said as a choking heat flooded the car. “No one will miss you. They won’t even notice you’re gone until your rent is past due. Your useless life will end tonight.”

Pain swelled in Mark’s chest as the car slipped into gear.

“When they finally do ask, I’ll let them know the truth.”

Slowly, the car edged forward. Mark’s eyes widened in terror as his own foot compressed the accelerator.

The Sergeant whispered the truth Mark was afraid to say aloud as Mark screamed.

“The devil made me do it,” The Sergeant said, to which Mark replied, “Sir. Yes, Sir.”

car over cliff

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Short Story: Backseat Driver

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