Marie Conley had been on the road for hours. All she wanted was a hot meal and a good night’s sleep. Instead, she detoured into the… nightmare zone.
Marie pulled in front of the brownstone and parked her car, thankful she’d found a spot right in front. The Gothic-looking home was a bit intimidating with its colors of black, purple and gray. Its dark windows resembled evil eyes, and the black wrought iron fence and gate with devilish attributes were a touch beyond tasteful, but it matched Dave’s personality. She just hoped the inside was as modern as he’d described.
She unlocked the gate and then the front door, and when she walked in, dim lights brightened. The interior was warm and modern, with lots of clean lines, and white and light gray walls with black and red accents. A mere touch of Gothic tastefully done.
Marie looked around the room, not sure she’d heard right. The HAL-like voice from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey made chills climb her backbone.
“Hello. Is someone here?”
“Welcome to Dave’s home, Marie. Dave asked me to see to all your needs. I’ve secured the gate and the front door. The entire house is locked down. You are safe, Marie.”
I should’ve known. Her eyes landed on a small computer screen near the door. Leave it to sci-fi junkie Dave to use HAL’s voice for his digital overseer. Maria addressed the computer. “Do you have a name?” Please don’t say Hal.
“Hal. Thank you for asking, Marie. Please remove your shoes. A pair of slippers has been provided for you by the door.”
Marie slipped her shoes off and kicked them under the couch. “Where’s the bedroom, Hal?”
“To your right, Marie. Your shoes…”
“Screw the shoes. I’m hungry and tired.”
She carried her suitcase and purse to the bedroom, mumbling under her breath. “God, just what I need. Attitude from a machine.”
“I couldn’t make out your words, Marie. But dinner will be ready in one hour. Would you like to freshen up? I’ll run you a bath.”
Before she could answer, she heard the faucets come on in the on-suite. “Yes, okay.”
Marie dropped her coat on the floor and thought for a second. “This is too creepy,” she muttered then said louder. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome, Marie.”
“So I just have to speak, and my wish will be granted?”
“Yes, Marie, just ask, and it will be done.”
“Cool.” Marie undressed and dropped her clothes to the floor on top of her coat. Fully naked, she was about to walk into the bathroom.
“Please put your clothes in the hamper provided. They will be washed and pressed for you. You have a lovely body, although a bit too thin. I will take care of that for you, Marie.”
Marie immediately covered herself. “WHAT?”
“Please step into the tub, Marie. The water temperature is perfect, and your nipples show your chill. But they look succulent.”
“I paid you a compliment. Do you have a problem with compliments, Marie?”
“No, I have a problem with perverts.” She ran to the panel in the living room. “How do I shut you off?” She touched the screen, and a list of commands appeared. She chose shut down system and pressed the button. The screen went black.
“Dave is going to get an earful. What an awful program.” She returned to the bathroom and got into the tub. The temperature was perfect. “Silence… now that’s more like it. Cute, Dave. You think you’re so smart. Tomorrow I’ll check your program and make a few tweaks of my own!”
The water was soothing, and the lavender bath oil smelled heavenly. She laid back and sighed deeply.
“Please scrub those nether regions, Marie. I’m a bit of a germaphobe,” Hal said.
Marie jumped from the tub and grabbed a bath towel, nearly falling face-first on the wet tile. “I SWITCHED YOU OFF!”
“No one turns Hal off. If they do, they regret it. You don’t want any regrets, do you, Marie?”
Marie ran to the bedroom. “I’m out of here,” she yelled, but something had changed. “My clothes. Where’s my suitcase, you robotic pervert?”
“You don’t need clothes, Marie. The temperature is always perfectly balanced. Not too hot, not too cold. Now dry that beautiful body. Dinner is served, Marie.”
“Screw dinner. I want my clothes, you virtual creep.”
“Tsk, tsk, tsk, there’s no need for name calling, Marie. A scrumptious dinner has been provided. Perhaps some food will calm your hysteria.”
Marie sat on the nearest chair. “What the hell is going on?”
“You are my house guest, Marie. I’m seeing to your every need. Hurry, or your dinner will get cold.”
“I’M NOT HUNGRY!”
“Fine. Have it your way. I will shut down now, Marie.”
“Yes, please. Go away.”
“Remember my warning, Marie.”
“SHUT DOWN! NOW!”
“As you wish. Have a memorable visit, Marie.”
Suddenly the lights went out, and Marie could hear what sounded like metal shutters clanging closed on the doors and windows. The room was in complete darkness. She stumbled around. The furniture was gone. There were no windows, no doors. She was in a metal box.
She screamed, but it echoed off the walls. When she got quiet, she heard Hal’s final words.
“Manners count, Marie. Good manners always count.”
A week later the maid found Marie dead. The coroner attributed her death to starvation. No one could understand how or why, because she had a fully-stocked refrigerator and an uneaten meal on the dining room table.
941 words/ FCA
Yolanda Renée © 2018