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Lost

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The GPS searched the clear skies above for where the stars it followed were supposed to be.

…low c…lost satellite connection…

The guidance that it had always relied upon was gone. The stars above were still there, but new stars, strange stars, worked to take their place, concealing the ones it knew, whispering darkly to the GPS and looming over the little silver car that had been named Babieca on a whim, the Driver and the Passenger.

Right turn in…

But there was no right turn ahead in any number of miles. The road went straight and the only way out was through. That was the last thing that it had known from the familiar stars.

Babieca shuddered over the rough road, the car knowing what the GPS knew, what the Driver and the Passenger didn’t. The only way out was through and Babieca couldn’t make it that far.

“I bet that turn’ll take us back to the highway.”

It wouldn’t.

Because there was no turn.

The new stars were trying to trick them, to make the Driver mistrust it.

Right turn in two miles.

That was not what it meant to say.

Its voice had been stolen from it and only Babieca had realized it. The car had tried to warn them, its radio blasting the most jarring sounds it could find, but the Driver had ignored the warning, changing the station and when there was no music to be found, turning down the sound until only the faint crackle of static could be heard.

Babieca’s desperate pleas.

Pleas that fell silent when they passed the point where turning around would have been possible.

“I hope so, we’re low on gas, aren’t we?”

The Passenger never paid attention, but even they had realized.

The Driver’s reply was terse.

“Yes.”

Silence.

All of them.

Left turn a –

Its traitorous words cut off in a garbled squeal.

“Left? I thought it said right?” The Passenger wondered fearfully.

“It doesn’t matter, just keep your eyes open.”

Babieca trundled onwards, slowing to a crawl as the Driver and Passenger peered into the darkness for the turn that wasn’t there.

Recalculating…

“We passed it! How did we miss it?”

…recalculating…

“Should we turn around?”

…recalculating…recalculating…recalculating…

The Driver turned Babieca sharply, but not quite enough so. Grass hissed against the tires and branches scraped and clawed beneath.

Recalculating…recalculating…

With a solid, reassuring ‘thud’ the car got back onto the road, a grasping branch rattling behind it for several yards.

The false stars pushed harder, choking the sight from it. The stars it sought were gone.

Its words and screen no longer belonged to it.

…recalc- Right turn in one mile.

The Driver sped up, trusting the deceitful numbers counting down across its screen.

They had to know, but the promise of safety was too strong for them to trust what they had seen.

There was no right turn.

“There! I see it!”

“You’re right! And those lights have to be the highway!”

What the Passenger had thought was a road was merely a gap in the scrub along the road, but the Driver took the turn that wasn’t there.

Babieca bounced off the road, though the grass and lurched to a stop in a ditch, two of its tires sinking into soft mud, one angled into empty air.

The GPS could feel the false stars creeping in on it and the car and its passengers. They laughed and hissed and said things that it could not understand.

Recalc –

…recalc –

…re…re…re –

The false stars screeched in triumph.

Babieca groaned as the Driver tried to turn the steering wheel so that the car’s tires might find purchase.

The Passenger cried out in fear while the Driver swore softly, cursing at the GPS for actions that were not its fault.

Left turn ahead.

Right turn in –

Lost satellite connection.

Recalculating.

Recalculating.

“Turn that thing off!”

The Driver’s hand was already on it, seeking its power button to force it into the blackness of a sleep it knew it would never wake from.

“We’re stuck.”

The Driver grumbled, still fumbling for its switch, the angle Babieca had come to rest at making the familiar interior of the car strange.

“But I can see lights ahead. We can go there and ask for help.”

The false stars! They were near enough that the Passenger could see them!

The car’s radio blasted one last time, a dissonant jumble of lyrics as Babieca sought once more to warn them of the deception.

The Driver’s hands left it to seek the controls for Babieca’s radio.

Focused on misguiding the Driver, the false stars loosened their hold on the GPS just enough for it to see the true stars and discover how badly wrong they had gone.

“What the hell?”

The Driver saw it too.

“This stupid thing has got to be broken.”

But there was a note of doubt in their voice, of creeping fear.

Their hands were on it again.

The Driver’s and the false stars.

Still, it had to try, to say something.

One last warning to the Driver that had trusted it.

To the Passenger that had named Babieca all that distance ago, when the stars told the truth.

Or…

Lost satellite…recalc- Lost…lost… Recalculating. Right tur – Lost –

It struggled against the false stars. Desperate for its last words to be its own.

Left turn in three – left turn in…right turn in thir- Lost satellite connection.

Lost! Lost! Lost!

The false stars jeered in its voice.

“Fucking piece of shit!”

Fingers on its power button.

One chance.

One last chance.

The only chance.

Babieca!

The GPS powered off for the final time.

And as the darkness of the false stars claimed it, for the first time in its existence it dreamed.

Endless roads with no traffic jams, no roadwork, where the traffic lights were always green so that a little silver car named Babieca might drive for hours without stopping.

And when Babieca ran low on fuel the nearest gas station that the GPS could find was always, fortuitously, on the side of the highway that they were traveling down.

The GPS dreamed with no thought of the Driver or Passenger and what the false stars might want with them. It had done all it could and there was nothing more to be done.