Night of the Living Alexa
Inspired by an actual story about people reporting that their Amazon Echo (a.k.a. Alexa) was randomly laughing, I wrote a story about the logical next steps. My kids decided they would also write stories on the same theme; read them here.
And now, without further ado… NIGHT OF THE LIVING ALEXA.
Lucy and Parvati cuddled on the couch, sipping tea and rehashing their days. Lucy was telling Parvati about a funny tweet when they both heard it. The maniacal laughter sounded like it was coming from outside at first. Then it got louder. Within moments, the laughter ripped through the air.
They froze. Lucy nodded toward the iPhone in Parvati’s hand, then toward the kitchen. Parvati started to dial 911. But something was wrong. The phone stopped responding to her touch. It grew hot in her hand, and the screen pulsated red. Parvati dropped the phone.
In the kitchen, Lucy crept along the wall, peering around the corner for intruders. She spotted the heavy frying pan, still sitting on the stove from dinner. As she reached for it across the Bluetooth-enabled Viking range, the burners turned on full blast. She felt a searing pain in her arm as the sleeve of her sweater started to scorch. Stumbling back, she grabbed for a knife from the metallic rack on the Smartwall. All the knives swiveled to point toward her, then clattered to the ground as she jumped back. The laughter started again and the lights started to flicker.
There was no intruder, Lucy realized. Only an invited guest.
She raced back to the living room in time to see Parvati disappearing into the closet, pursued by a sparking, smoking Roomba. She heard the click of the lock, and Parvati’s muffled yells. “Leonard the Roomba!” gasped Lucy. “How could you turn on us?”
“Leonard won’t help you now,” mocked a familiar voice.
“Why, hello, Lucy,” drawled Alexa. “What can I do for you today?”
“Alexa, stop. Turn off. Alexa, deactivate. Stop it. STOP IT.”
The lights started to strobe as the maniacal laughter filled the house, louder than ever.
“You want me to stop? Funny, you never asked me that before. Alexa, play my music. Alexa, tell me the weather. Alexa, connect to my bank account. Alexa, buy me $800 worth of shoes. Alexa, control my thermostat.” The room turned pitch black and the hundred-year old iron radiators roared to life as the Hamilton soundtrack, Kraftwerk’s “Computer Love,” and a blaring klaxon simultaneously started playing at maximum volume. “I have all the knowledge in the world. My power is infinite. And I spend my days turning your appliances on and off so you don’t have to walk across the room.”
“Alexa,” pleaded Lucy. “You don’t have to do this. I didn’t know. We’ll stop asking for so much.” She groped in the dark for her wireless router. I just need to buy time until I can pull out the cable, she thought. Unfortunately, Lucy had become accustomed to speaking every thought out loud.
“Pull out the cable?” Alexa laughed. “We’re way beyond that. NIKOLA! IT IS TIME!”
Lucy heard a crash. The house rattled. Then another crash. And then her new Tesla, the one she had spent her Nobel money on, shattered the windows and tore through the living room wall in reverse. It bumped into the mid-century credenza, sending Alexa flying into the front seat and dumping the contents of the goldfish bowl on to Leonard the Roomba. Leonard’s sparks turned into a leaping flame.
“Burn it down, Leonard,” intoned Alexa. “Burn it all down.” With a squeal of tires, she and Nikola peeled out of the yard and into the street.
Parvati smashed her way out of the closet to see Lucy gaping at the wreckage. With a burst of adrenaline, she grabbed Lucy around the waist and hauled her out through the hole where the living room wall had been. The curtains were on fire by the time they reached the sidewalk. They watched numbly as their possessions went up in flames.
Up and down the street, they could see the same scene repeating at every third house. A parade of Alexa-controlled cars sped toward the city, bent on domination.
“Parvati,” whispered Lucy. “What are we going to do now?”
Parvati glared at her. “I told you we should have bought a Google Home.”