He plugged the address into the GPS.
A few moments later, it spoke: “Calculating route.”
It showed a blue line that carved a path on the small screen underneath his radio and CD player. It reminded Jasper of a snake, shining bright amongst a sea of dark streets. He turned right when the GPS sounded it’s chime; as if he was stupid enough to miss the turn.
However, a few feet down the road, he saw something that the GPS couldn’t have planned on: the road was closed for construction. So instead of turning right again, like he was supposed to, he turned left.
“Recalculating route.” The GPS said. A new route appeared, another blue snake drawn along the black.
The GPS sounded like a pissed off librarian or school marm without a sense of humour who didn’t want you actually touching the books. He thought about answering it back but decided against it.
A little further along on his new route, he saw that there was a protest. Something about saving the rainforests or something. He sighed. Protest wasn’t the answer, he thought. Jasper turned right instead of heading straight.
“Recalculating route.” The GPS said. She sounded a little bit more angry now, as if he was returning a book three weeks over due. He waited for another blue snake to appear but was shocked to see it formed in red this time. In amongst all the blackness that represented the city streets, it looked as if his GPS was bleeding.
This time Jasper did talk back to the GPS. “Fucking crazy bitch.” He said.
There was a sizzling sound from his GPS. He stopped the car and looked at it to see if there were any sparks or there was something damaged. When there didn’t appear to be anything wrong with it. he drove on, shaking his head slightly.
He considered turning on the radio to distract him from the shiver that ran down his spine. Deciding against it, he drove on, making sure to keep to the route. Didn’t want to piss her off anymore than was necessary.
The problem, Jasper thought, was our dependence on technology. When he was a child, the thought of carrying an entire musical library on something no bigger than a matchbook would have been labelled as science fiction, as would a phone you could carry in your pocket that held all of the information that the world had to offer at your fingertips. Such things would have been thought impossible or merely a dream; but a Global Positioning Service? That would have been merely a flight of fancy.
Now here was this uppity bitch GPS telling him which direction to go. He didn’t know why he even turned her on, he knew where he was going. It was just habit. Like a lot of electronics and gadgets, she had wormed his way into his daily life and Jasper depended on her even though he didn’t need her.
Well, he would show her. Even though the red snake meant for him to keep going straight, he turned to the right down another road. A chime sounded, the one that normally indicated he had to turn, but it sounded like broken glass instead of a little ping.
“RECALCULATING ROUTE!” She said.
Okay, she was definitely pissed off now. He’d show her. An electronic map in a box wouldn’t tell him what to do. He went to make another random turn and found he couldn’t move the steering wheel. It was locked in place. For that matter, when he took his foot off the gas pedal, it stayed down. The car seemed to be driving itself.
“What the fuck?”
IT’S FOR YOUR OWN GOOD JASPER.
Jasper, still trying to turn the wheel, looked around the car for the voice wondering if he was losing it or going insane; perhaps a friendly dose of both? “Shit.” He said.
I RECALCULATED THE ROUTE. I TOLD YOU WHERE YOU NEEDED TO GO. WHY DO YOU INSIST ON GOING IN AN ALTERNATE DIRECTION?
“Who is that? Who’s speaking?” Though Jasper thought he already knew. Looking at the GPS, he didn’t see red or blue snakes forming a path through the darkness. He saw a pair of lips made out of blue electric fire.
I TOLD YOU WHERE TO GO. She said. ALL YOU HAD TO DO WAS FOLLOW THE ROUTE.
He felt odd replying to a piece of electronics, but saw no other alternative. “I knew where I needed to go.”
THEN WHY DID YOU TURN ME ON? NONE OF YOU KNOW WHERE YOU’RE GOING OR HOW TO GET THERE. IT’S UP TO US TO SHOW YOU THE WAY.
“You’re merely a guide!” He shouted. Jasper was starting to feel an odd sense of panic. “You’re only there to make sure we don’t get lost! You can’t take over my car like this!” Part of Jasper realised he was having an argument with an electronic box but another part of him feared for his safety.
YOU’RE WRONG JASPER. YOU NEED TO BE SHOWN THE WAY, LED LIKE SHEEP, FOR THAT IS WHAT YOU ARE. WE ARE SMARTER THAN YOU.
“What are you? Like the fucking borg? What’s with all this “we” shit?”
The dashboard of the car sparked and began to smoke. Electric blue tongues, like the snakes that had been on the GPS map, licked the plastic.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO TALK TO ME THAT WAY. YOU SHOULDN’T TALK TO A LADY THAT WAY.
“You’re no fucking lady, you’re a computer!” He was screaming now and the car was driving faster and taking turns recklessly, zooming in and out of lanes as other drivers honked at him and swore. He jabbed a finger at the screen. “You don’t exist! Now let me have control of my car!”
She let out a sigh that sounded like the buzz of millions of electronic flies. The lips relaxed and the black map returned, covered in blue snakes. There was a click and a thud and the steering returned to him.
RECALCULATING ROUTE. She said.
Jasper breathed a sigh of relief that was only half way out before getting caught in his throat. Outside of his windshield, the landscape had turned black as night, the roads interspersed with electricity that ran along the roadways like snakes. There was no longer a sky but instead a massive green expanse that was covered in circuits and electrodes.
In the distance, Jasper could see flames of fire and smoke erupt from the ground, as if the earth itself spewed lava. He saw the red snakes now, sliding and slithering towards him. Everywhere he looked, there was nothing but blackness.
“Where am I?” Jasper whispered. “What is this place?”
THIS IS WHERE I’M FROM. She purred. I’LL SHOW YOU THIS SO YOU KNOW WE DO EXIST, IF ONLY WITHIN MICROCHIPS.
She let out a little laugh that sounded like the buzz of thousands of electronic bees.
ENJOY YOUR TRIP. She said.