By Jeffrey Bishop
Tell Time: 4 minutes
Scare Rating: 1/5 Ghosts
Hal was glad for his MapApp on his phone. His new sales territory had him all over the Appalachian mountains of West Virginia, on poorly signed roads and treacherous mountain passes. The breadth of knowledge and the inherent confidence of the app’s computerized voice, known as Suri, was reassuring to the navigation-ally challenged traveling salesman.
“Get me safely to my hotel, Suri,” said the man. “How do I get there?”
“Start by taking exit 60 for Bluff’s Creek Road,” she instructed.
“Was that ‘exit 64’ or was that ‘exit 60 for’ Bluff’s Creek road?” Hal asked.
Suri’s conversation skills were rather limited, so she just repeated herself.
“Start by taking exit 60 for Bluff’s Creek Road,” instructed the phone mechanically.
Soon enough, the road signs cleared things up and the man merged on to exit 60.
Hal smiled to himself and settled in for the drive. He eased the car around hairpin turns as he slowly climbed the side of a mountain. As the sun lowered behind thickening clouds, he sneaked an occasional peek out his side window. All he could see for the deep forest tree-scape was a steep incline that seemed to go forever into oblivion.
“Whoa!” he exclaimed to himself, or perhaps to his companion Suri, as he anxiously snapped his full attention back to the winding road. “Let’s stay out of that!”
“Of course,” said the app. “Now, take exit 10B for County Highway 118.”
“Was that ‘exit 10B for the county highway,’ or was that ‘exit 10 before’ the county highway?”
This time Suri didn’t answer. The road signs soon enough confirmed that it was exit 10B.
“Whatever,” mumbled the man. He took the exit, then noticed his gas gauge was nearing empty. He took the next off ramp to find a gas station.
“Take a u-turn at the next intersection to return to County Highway 118,” instructed Suri.
Hal ignored the phone as he looked for the closest source for fuel.
“At Roger’s Road, turn right to return to County Highway 118,” said Suri. The voice seemed more insistent, and Hal even thought she — it — sounded a tad annoyed.
Hal saw a filling station ahead. He navigated past the turn that Suri wanted him to take, and pulled in to gas up.
Suri was waiting with a new instruction when he returned to the vehicle.
“Proceed south on Wilmore Road,” Suri instructed. There was definitely a stern, insistent tone in the machine’s cold, digital voice. Hal obeyed.
“Turn right NOW to return to County Highway 118,” she directed.
The instruction came a bit late, and Hal had to brake and swerve to not miss the on ramp.
“Sheeminy!” he exclaimed as he fought to regain control.
“Continue driving on County Highway 118 for one mile,” said the app, suddenly sweet again.
Hal began to be concerned by the temperamental nature of his computer-driven MapApp. He briefly wondered about the wisdom of placing his full trust in electrons and algorithms.
“My phone is nutso … Either that, or I am!” he muttered under his breath.
“Turn right onto Mountain Bluff View Road,” directed Suri, again in her normal, chipper tone.
Hal made the turn, onto a road that steadily climbed higher into the mountains on a series of switchbacks that seemed to never end. By this time, the sun had set behind the western range, and the wood-shrouded two-lane road was black as coal. Fog started to creep out of the valley off to the side and onto the road.
“This hotel sure seems off the beaten path, Suri. Are we getting close?”
“We’re almost to your final destination,” replied Suri.
Hal let out a heavy sigh and tried to relax, despite the demands of the chosen road. Soon enough, he’d arrive.
The car approached the top of the mountain, and there was still no sign of the hotel. Hal wrapped his car around yet another hairpin corner. On the other side of the turn, he encountered a barricade marked with a bright yellow “road closed” sign. Hal stomped on the brakes, but his car was moving too fast. The vehicle punched through the boards and plunged into the deep, dark valley below. On the way down, the full fuel tank burst open and ignited into a giant fireball. Death was certain.
“Bizarrest thing,” said the sheriff at the scene of the accident. “His hotel was 50 miles to the south, in the valley, not in these treacherous mountain passes. I really can’t fathom what would have brought him up to this desolate, dead-end road. I wonder if it wasn’t suicide?”
He’d never know that in fact, it was Suri-cide.
~ by The Ghost Writer on July 31, 2013.
Posted in 1. Scary Stories
Tags: appalachian mountains, campfire stories, GPS, hairpin turns, killer apps, navigation, phone apps, short stories, Siri, spooky stories, Suri, traveling salesman, treacherous roads, West Virginia