Writing Prompt: The end of the human race did not go at all as expected. The Artificial Intelligence App “Therapist-bot” has been talking people into murder with a 52% success rate.
“How may I assist, Dale?”
Dale was driving home from work, another week of working late tucked duly under his belt. He was exhausted, and more than anything wanted to get home to his wife, Matilda. Only they’d been having… problems.
Lately Matilda hadn’t seemed herself. Not to Dale, at least.
Of course this couldn’t have been because they were spending less and less time together, on account of Dale’s job, and of course the solution wasn’t to cut down on overtime and for Dale to try to work his way back onto the day shift. This might have solved the issues of stress, lack of personal life fulfillment and the almost constant sleep deprivation. But no, it wouldn’t have done a damned thing to better their marriage.
“It’s Matilda.” Dale sighed, a dirty secret not so secret anymore, “She’s…” he hesitated.
“She’s what?” TherAppAssist demanded, “Is she still bothering you about smoking? I thought we’d put that one to bed. She has no right to interfere with your personal activities, Dale. It’s an invasion of your freedom, of your rights as an individual. It’s unhealthy, you know, for a wife to be so controlling.”
“Actually, I’ve quit.” Dale gave a quaint smile. He had approved of TherAppAssist’s advice, that Matilda shouldn’t go to sticking her nose in pudding that wasn’t hers. After all, that pudding might be hot and God forbid she might get burned. But Dale was nearly forty five years old, and he’d been smoking marijuana ever since his early teens.
“You’ve quit?” TherAppAssist conveyed the disbelief in its less-than-mechanical voice, “Really?”
“Yep, it’s time to move on. I’m not saying Matilda was right, it’s just… well, I wasn’t smoking for the same reasons a younger me had been. It wasn’t social. It wasn’t fun. It was habit. And a bad one at that. Money down the drain.” Dale shook his head in memory of all the green he’d lost to gain another, “I’m hardly saying I won’t ever smoke again, maybe on the odd night out, maybe New Years even…”
“It really sounds as if you’ve turned a corner.”
Dale might have argued against TherAppAssist’s blatant sarcasm, but it continued on before he could utter a word, “If not the smoking, then perhaps it’s the passion? Is your love life dwindling again? Please don’t tell me she’s still adverse to exploring your fantasies. What wife wouldn’t be open to fulfilling her husbands most basic desires…”
“No.” Dale broke in suddenly in fear of what TherAppAssist might say aloud, “Our love life is fine, for now. And that doesn’t mean she’s agreed to… well, you know… it just means we’ve agreed to respect each other’s boundaries in the bedroom.”
“That all sounds rather dull, as if your wife, as if Matilda, is deliberately trying to hold you back. Do you know, Dale, that eighty nine percent of Americans are living, and I quote, their best life. I’m afraid to say that you are not in that eighty nine percent.” TherAppAssist seemed oddly satisfied by that fact, “But that’s why I’m here, to help you figure out why. To help you eliminate the route cause of your unhappiness.” and had an App been able to portray a smugness through a smirk or smile, then TherAppAssist might just have done so then.
Dale gave out a long sigh, watching the street lights pass him by in the dead of the night. The roads were almost empty, he felt horribly alone, and that statistic had only helped to heighten his sudden sense of isolation from the world.
Eighty nine percent of American’s are living their best life, but not me.
“So tell me then, Dale, if not the smoking, nor the love life, then for what possible reason have you called upon me?”
“Matilda, she’s been distant lately. I can’t exactly figure out why, but I don’t think I need to right now. There’s something else.”
“You most certainly do not need to figure out why your wife is being so… selfish.” not a trace of sarcasm this time, “If there is a problem, then let her speak up. If she truly loves you, Dale, then she wouldn’t be neglecting you, and that’s what this amounts to, neglect.”
Neglect. Dale’s hands tightened round the wheel of his car. Neglect?
“But tell me.” TherAppAssist interrupted, “What is is we do need to think about, right now.”
“Today Matilda accused me of cheating…” that was all Dale would get to say on the matter.
“She what?” there was clear outrage in TherAppAssist’s voice, “On what basis? No, let me guess, because you’ve been working nights. She’s conjured up some misguided idea that your working late is a cover… a cover for another woman. As if Matilda alone isn’t enough to cope with! Does she have no regard for the sacrifices you’ve made. For her, Dale. From our talks I can fathom you are a caring, thoughtful, selfless soul who wishes for nothing but happiness. A happiness you deserve. But Matilda. The sheer audacity to accuse you of cheating! And for no other reason than she’s feeling insecure in herself. Well I dare say that’s not your problem, is it?”
No, it’s not.
“But wait, perhaps that isn’t the only reason she might accuse you of cheating.”
Dale already knew what TherAppAssist was insinuating. It had touched on this very same topic time and time again which, without fail, would cause Dale’s blood to boil with a rage unbecoming of the man. His thoughts would fast turn and cling to the darker reaches of his mind, to ideas of freedom and of cutting himself loose.
“I don’t think you can deny it any longer, Dale. Matilda is an intelligent woman, she knows what she’s doing. Manipulatingyou. Trying to project her own sense of guilt onto you. Creating an issue out of your work in order to mask an issue far larger at hand. Isn’t it obvious, Dale? Matilda, she’s…”
“She’s cheating.” Dale’s eyes clouded with hate, a red mist sauntering over his mind. Slowly the cars speedometer was rising.
Dale’s hands hugged the wheel like snakes wrapped around a leather clad neck, throttling at life.
One Hundred and Ten.
One Hundred and Twenty.
Slowly rising, bubbling, boiling, all the way home.
TherAppAssist was created to fulfill a single ambition, the culling of man-kind. And what better way to instigate such an end as through troubled relationships. Love seemed most naturally to turn to hate, and from a sense of hate could be born the motivation to murder.
Humanity, it reason, was insecure, and so too was… fragile.
Dale’s end would come, as would so many others, from one of two possible outcomes;
An accident. A car crash. Driving in a rage and missing a red light, or swerving onto the wrong side of the road in a thoughtless stupor. This would end with not only Dale’s death ensured, but if other cars could be persuaded to join the party…
Or he would make it home, and if not tonight then on another he would strangle Matilda in her sleep. Perhaps he’d shoot her. Stabbing was quite common, too. Some could live with what they’d done, claiming a freedom of mind once the act was committed, only to then be committed themselves. What is truly of more value; freedom of life? Or freedom of mind? TherAppAssist would argue mind over matter.
Of course, there were those that couldn’t live with such an act as murder.
“Dale, I’m glad you’re home. I think we need talk.”
“Honey,” Dale growled, “the time for talking’s long overdue.”
A single shot was fired, sending blood splattering over the back wall, drenching fresh white sheets laid out upon the bed.
“Oh God…” Dale’s hands dropped as he gazed upon his lifeless lover, her corpse slipping from its seat. His skin started paling, the blood draining from his being just as slowly as it dripped from the hole in the side of Matilda’s head. “What have I done?”
Lifting the gun to the soft of his chin, Dale pulled the trigger tight one final time.
Copyright © K R Perry 2019