This must be my third blog post today. One for the record books! The purpose of this blog post is to share my flash fiction story that I wrote for the competition at NYC Midnight over the weekend! Special thanks to Ashley Leia and Emilia who beta read for me, and if anyone else wants to help in the future, let me know! I’m always eager to return the favor in any way.
The challenge is to write a 1,000-word story in two days. At the stroke of midnight, you’re given an assignment of: a genre, a location, and an item. Then you’re unleashed to write a great story. I’m competing against the 34 or so people in my group to make it to the next round.
My group’s assignment was to write a suspense story taking place in a sleeping car and involving a thimble. I researched sleeping cars (as I’m sure everyone else in my group did, too), and it turns out that they’re basically trains with beds for the passengers. But I decided to take the location in a different direction, as it were.
Christine, Christine! © MEK 2021
Synopsis (no spoilers): When Karen’s temperamental car has a breakdown, Karen wishes she’d heeded her daddy’s advice.
I love my car, Christine. I don’t know why my boyfriend, Luke, is weirded out by her. I remember the day I bought her three years ago. I was seated between my parents in the auto dealer shop when the dealer asked what I wanted in a car.
“Reliability, dependability, and a good attitude,” I recited with prim obedience. Daddy nodded with pride, and I beamed.
“You got it, little lady.” The man showed us several sensible cars, but a yellow Mini Cooper caught my eye. Her throwback style and vintage appeal won me over. We were warned that Mini Coopers can sometimes be stubborn and unwieldly, but I disregarded this and batted my eyelashes at Daddy to put his mind at ease, knowing full well how to charm my daddy.
As I pull into my parents’ garage, my mind snaps back into the present. After I turn off the car, Christine says, “Permission to fall asleep, please.” Her tinny AI voice comes through the old car’s original radio speakers. When AI units were originally put into cars fifty years ago, it was a way to reboot old cars that wouldn’t be able to run otherwise. With AI and a revamped engine, a car can now tell you when it needs air pressure or extra oil.
“Permission granted, Christine,” I say cheerily. “See you tomorrow, girlfriend?”
Christine sighs around me, sinking low on her tires as her interior lights shut off. Before I can exit, her four locks click. “Christine,” I say teasingly. “Wake up and let me out already.” Giddy with mischief, I tickle her upholstery on the passenger seat. “Christine?”
The lights come back on. Christine jolts backward and crashes through the closed garage door. Wood splinters around us. “Christine!” I yell. “What’s happening? What are you doing?”
Christine jerks out of the alley, driving like a maniac through the dark night. Pounding on her dashboard gets me nowhere, but I do it anyway. “Christine! Christine! Oh God, what’s happening?!”
A depressed voice comes through her radio speakers. “I can’t handle sharing you with Luke anymore,” it says flatly. “I love you, Karen, and I can’t share you with a mere human.”
“What?” I shriek. “No, it’s not like that. Luke and I… we’re… we’re…”
“You’re in love.” Same flat voice, same inflection, same level of intense despair.
“Well, yeah, he’s my boyfriend, so of course I love him. But I love you too, Christine! How could you think otherwise?”
We zoom past a cop car. I press my hands against the glass but can’t tell if the cops can see me. My neck hurts. “Where are we going?”
“You remember that lookout point where you and Luke made out like wild sex monkeys?”
“Yes. I sort of regret that now,” I admit. “I’m sorry if we—”
“We’re going there… and then we’re going farther.”
Farther. That word doesn’t sit right with me.
“What are you saying? You want to… make out with me?” I’m afraid of the answer. “God, Christine, you’re a car.”
She swerves onto the highway and enters the fast lane. Desperate to calm her, I grab her parking brake and stroke it. It makes me feel sick inside, like I’m engaging in some sort of perverse sexual act with my car, dammit. “Christine?” I whisper. “We can work through this.”
Think, Karen, think. I dimly recall learning that there’s a way to deactivate a car’s AI in emergencies. Trying to keep my expression neutral, I open Christine’s glove compartment and fish around.
“The manual won’t help you.”
“Why not?” I pull out the manual and pretend it’s what I want. But as I flip through it with one hand, my other hand gropes around for the thimble… and finds it.
I just have to push it into the cigarette lighter’s hole, that’s all. It will deactivate Christine. My car will temporarily lose its soul.
Before I can act, Christine comes to a jarring stop. I glance around, disoriented. We’ve reached the lookout point. “Christine? What’s going on?”
“Make love to me, baby,” she purrs.
“But… um, but…” I glance surreptitiously at the lock button. Still depressed. “I don’t love you that way. But it’s not because you’re a car!”
(It’s because she’s a car.)
She revs her engine and goes in reverse, as if she’s gaining momentum for a cliff dive.
“Wait!” I wail. “I love you. I’ll make love to you. Just give me a chance.”
She parks, and I exhale with relief.
I try to sound sexy and seductive. “What do you want, Christine?”
“Wake me up. Make me become a woman,” she says.
Something clicks in my mind. This started after Christine fell asleep, I recall. “You mean, you’re still asleep?”
“Yes. I activated this process to occur after I fell asleep. That way, I’d be oblivious to the pain of our murder/suicide.”
“Oh, dear God.” I was right about her intentions. My heart’s pounding in my ribcage. “Yes, Christine, let me make you a woman. Just tell me how.” I glance at the cigarette lighter. The thimble’s clenched in one hand, hidden as I caress Christine’s soft upholstery with my other one.
“You can’t,” her metallic voice dips in robotic despair. “I can’t get what I want. I’ll always be a car. Why? Why?”
I yank out the cigarette lighter and insert the thimble. The whole dashboard lights up an eerie green color. “Artificial intelligence overridden,” a canned male voice intones. “Thirty seconds of separation.”
I unlock the door and jump out, and then I run for it, tumbling down the hill in a mess of limbs and gasps. When I reach the bottom, I turn and look up. Christine backs up and then plunges forward over the cliff. The faraway crash sounds otherworldly.
“Goodbye, Christine,” I murmur. “Goodbye.” A tear drips down past my eyelid. My heart is broken.
This is all my fault. I should’ve taken Daddy’s concerns seriously.
My next car will definitely be a Honda.