Author: Morrow Brady
Meetings downtown were always a bore and as the driverless cab pulled up, I began mentally preparing for what lay ahead. I blackened the windows to stop the view of the street beggars and urban decay. They always brought me down.
“Good morning Sir. I’m Cabbie. 269 Market Street is that right?” A cheerful English accent rang out.
I acknowledged and reached for my phone to fill time.
“Sir, my recent upgrade means I can now offer additional services while we travel. Would you like to hear what they are?”
I pondered what services beyond transportation a driverless cab could offer until curiosity got the better of me.
“Sure, go ahead”
“I can offer casual chatter, cheeky banter or even an argument. We could have a deep and meaningful conversation or I could briefly psychoanalyze you. If you were here with your spouse, I could provide marriage counseling. And if your belief system bears sin, I can offer confession”
The last one took me by surprise.
“Confession?” I snapped. “How can a computer that drives be holy enough to listen, counsel and punish?”
Cabbie informs me its AI-based at headquarters had passed the Turing test and been awarded a digital soul. Confessions were a regular activity for many of the city inhabitants, and the privacy that a cab ride offers, suited them remarkably well. This was a marketing masterstroke aimed at broadening its income stream.
Confessions were never part of my upbringing. My awareness of them through media though had always piqued my interest and as I thought about what I could confess, I very quickly built up a rather large list.
“How much for a confession?” I queried.
“Fifty credits for 20 minutes Sir. Penance will be delivered upon completion of the confession”
I considered the burdensome weight I had carried for all these years and how some mental spring cleaning might lighten the load.
I began confessing the trivial bad things I had done, like breaking a lover’s heart, wilful damage, greed and laziness. I worked through my younger years, easily slipping into buried memories of passion and hate. It made me feel better and Cabbie compassionately carried the discourse along with a stern but sympathetic tone.
Slowly I moved through my darker patches. The time just beyond youth when one is faced with adult issues and must respond in an adult manner. I had never been prepared for many of these situations, I often acted out irrationally. That time that I beat him so bad and had to leave for good in the dark of night. That drunken, drug-addled moment – lost in a strange city, with strangers as best friends egging me on to finish him off. I vanished there too with his wallet and car.
I was starting to run out of confessions and felt reborn. My mind had cleared. I felt fresh and new.
The cab had stopped and silence lingered.
“But what about my penance?” I pleaded. “I’ve given my confession. How should I make amends?”
The door of the cab unlocked. I refused to leave. My temper rising. I needed to be acknowledged. I needed my punishment to reset the system. As I lurched forward in anger, the door swiftly opened and a dark figure dragged me from the car. I scrambled to my feet, lashing out and ran free only to find four walls and no escape.
The sally port at the downtown police station was a secure space and the policeman who approached me took their time.
365tomorrows launched August 1st, 2005 with the lofty goal of providing a new story every day for a year. We’ve been on the wire ever since. Our stories are a mix of those lovingly hand crafted by a talented pool of staff writers, and select stories received by submission.
The archives are deep, feel free to dive in.
"Flash fiction is fiction with its teeth bared and its claws extended, lithe and muscular with no extra fat. It pounces in the first paragraph, and if those claws aren’t embedded in the reader by the start of the second, the story began a paragraph too soon. There is no margin for error. Every word must be essential, and if it isn’t essential, it must be eliminated."
We're open to submissions of original Science or Speculative Fiction of 600 words or less. We only accepting work which you previously haven't sold or given away the rights to. That means your work must not have been published elsewhere, either in print or on the web. When your story is accepted, you're giving us first electronic publication rights and non-exclusive subsequent publication rights. You retain ownership over your story. We are not a paying market.
Voices of Tomorrow
Voices of Tomorrow is the official podcast of 365tomorrows, with audio versions of many of the stories published here.
If you're interested in recording stories for Voices of Tomorrow, or for any other inquiries, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org