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7 min read

Autopilot

Author since 2013 8Stories 2 Followers
Autopilot

Have you ever forgotten your phone?

When did you realise you’d forgotten it? I’m guessing you didn’t just smack your forehead and exclaim ‘damn’ apropos of nothing. The realisation probably didn’t dawn on you spontaneously. More likely, you reached for your phone, pawing open your pocket or handbag, and were momentarily confused by it not being there. Then you did a mental restep of the morning’s events.

Shit.

In my case, my phone’s alarm woke me up as normal but I realised the battery was lower than I expected. It was a new phone and it had this annoying habit of leaving applications running that drain the battery overnight. So, I put it on to charge while I showered instead of into my bag like normal. It was a momentary slip from the routine but that was all it took. Once in the shower, my brain got back into ‘the routine’ it follows every morning and that was it.

Forgotten.

This wasn’t just me being clumsy, as I later researched, this is a recognised brain function. Your brain doesn’t just work on one level, it works on many. Like, when you’re walking somewhere, you think about your destination and avoiding hazards, but you don’t need to think about keeping your legs moving properly. If you did, the entire world would turn into one massive hilarious QWOP cosplay. I wasn’t thinking about regulating my breathing, I was thinking whether I should grab a coffee on the drive to work (I did). I wasn’t thinking about moving my breakfast through my intestines, I was wondering whether I’d finish on time to pick up my daughter Emily from nursery after work or get stuck with another late fee. This is the thing; there’s a level of your brain that just deals with routine, so that the rest of the brain can think about other things.

Think about it. Think about your last commute. What do you actually remember? Little, if anything, probably. Most common journeys blur into one, and recalling any one in particular is scientifically proven to be difficult. Do something often enough and it becomes routine. Keep doing it and it stops being processed by the thinking bit of the brain and gets relegated to a part of the brain dedicated to dealing with routine. Your brain keeps doing it, without you thinking about it. Soon, you think about your route to work as much as you do keeping your legs moving when you walk. As in, not at all.

Most people call it autopilot. But there’s danger there. If you have a break in your routine, your ability to remember and account for the break is only as good as your ability to stop your brain going into routine mode. My ability to remember my phone being on the counter is only as reliable as my ability to stop my brain entering ‘morning routine mode’ which would dictate that my phone is actually in my bag. But I didn’t stop my brain entering routine mode. I got in the shower as normal. Routine started. Exception forgotten.

Autopilot engaged.

My brain was back in the routine. I showered, I shaved, the radio forecast amazing weather, I gave Emily her breakfast and loaded her into the car (she was so adorable that morning, she complained about the ‘bad sun’ in the morning blinding her, saying it stopped her having a little sleep on the way to nursery) and left. That was the routine. It didn’t matter that my phone was on the counter, charging silently. My brain was in the routine and in the routine my phone was in my bag. This is why I forgot my phone. Not clumsiness. Not negligence. Nothing more my brain entering routine mode and over-writing the exception.

Autopilot engaged.

I left for work. It’s a swelteringly hot day already. The bad sun had been burning since before my traitorously absent phone woke me. The steering wheel was burning hot to the touch when I sat down. I think I heard Emily shift over behind my driver’s seat to get out of the glare. But I got to work. Submitted the report. Attended the morning meeting. It’s not until I took a quick coffee break and reached for my phone that the illusion shattered. I did a mental restep. I remembered the dying battery. I remembered putting it on to charge. I remembered leaving it there.
My phone was on the counter.

Autopilot disengaged.

Again, therein lies the danger. Until you have that moment, the moment you reach for your phone and shatter the illusion, that part of the brain is still in routine mode. It has no reason to question the facts of the routine; that’s why it’s a routine. Attrition of repetition. It’s not as if anyone could say ‘why didn’t you remember your phone? Didn’t it occur to you? How could you forget? You must be negligent’; this is to miss the point. My brain was telling me the routine was completed as normal, despite the fact that it wasn’t. It wasn’t that I forgot my phone. According to my brain, according to the routine, my phone was in my bag. Why would I think to question it? Why would I check? Why would I suddenly remember, out of nowhere, that my phone was on the counter? My brain was wired into the routine and the routine was that my phone was in my bag.

The day continued to bake. The morning haze gave way to the relentless fever heat of the afternoon. Tarmac bubbled. The direct beams of heat threatened to crack the pavement. People swapped coffees for iced smoothies. Jackets discarded, sleeves rolled up, ties loosened, brows mopped. The parks slowly filled with sunbathers and BBQ’s. Window frames threatened to warp. The thermometer continued to swell. Thank fuck the offices were air conditioned.

But, as ever, the furnace of the day gave way to a cooler evening. Another day, another dollar. Still cursing myself for forgetting my phone, I drove home. The days heat had baked the inside of the car, releasing a horrible smell from somewhere. When I arrived on the driveway, the stones crunching comfortingly under my tyres, my wife greeted me at the door.

“Where’s Emily?”

Fuck.

As if the phone wasn’t bad enough. After everything I’d left Emily at the fucking nursery after all. I immediately sped back to the nursery. I got to the door and started practising my excuses, wondering vainly if I could charm my way out of a late fee. I saw a piece of paper stuck to the door.

“Due to vandalism overnight, please use side door. Today only.”

Overnight? What? The door was fine this morni-.

I froze. My knees shook.

Vandals. A change in the routine.

My phone was on the counter.

I hadn’t been here this morning.

My phone was on the counter.

I’d driven past because I was drinking my coffee. I’d not dropped off Emily.

My phone was on the counter.

She’d moved her seat. I hadn’t seen her in the mirror.

My phone was on the counter.

She’d fallen asleep out of the bad sun. She didn’t speak when I drove past her nursery.

My phone was on the counter.

She’d changed the routine.

My phone was on the counter.

She’d changed the routine and I’d forgotten to drop her off.

My phone was on the counter.

9 hours. That car. That baking sun. No air. No water. No power. No help. That heat. A steering wheel too hot to touch.

That smell.

I walked to the car door. Numb. Shock.

I opened the door.

My phone was on the counter and my daughter was dead.

Autopilot disengaged.

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Delta
Delta
2 years ago

now im gonna second guess EVERYTHING I DO

MAXIMUM611
MAXIMUM611
5 years ago

The first time i read this i was speechless. i think about this pasta every time i think about my morning routine and my little boy. autopilot disengaged.

I
iamlegend
5 years ago

it started out like a book i would read in my psychology class then took a dark turn.

T
ThirtySev
6 years ago

yes i loved this !!
i love the way it was written.
the non stop chatter in his head rattling off as he goes about his day continuing to distract himself of the main issue at hand which was NOT the phone .. you start to wonder whats wrong with the phone.. this was amazing.. i loved this.

D
DaemonGraeyson
6 years ago

The juxtaposition of a child to a cellphone is horrindesly sickening. 1/5 I’d have chosen 0 if I could have.

mixcook avatar
mixcook
6 years ago

This was great, it is scary because it happens. The writer chose a topic that most people can understand and that makes you get that horrible, sick feeling in the pit of your stomach. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard of something like this happening and thought to myself that there is no way in hell a person could actually forget their child like that, but this story makes you wonder if maybe, just maybe, that could really happen. Am I the only one that immediately thought “this guys marriage is over, there is no coming back from that”?

One thing, though, I saw the ending coming very early on, it’s hard to write something like this that people won’t figure out right away. I mean, it’s a creepy pasta, there was nothing in this story that could have been disturbing but that. As soon as the daughter enters the story and makes the comment about “the bad sun” I knew exactly where it was headed.

msandrea22 avatar
msandrea22
7 years ago

I knew what was going to happen as soon as you mentioned how hot it was and the baby being in the back seat. As a mom I caught on immediately. There is no autopilot in forgetting your kids. However this was a very good read and def. a true nightmare!

Omfi avatar
Omfi
7 years ago

This is not scary 1/10

cjblack
cjblack
7 years ago

no … I didn’t care for this one … as a matter of fact, I was pretty disappointed … that wasn’t good at all … I used to love this story but that version was catastrophic.

D
DarkDementor
7 years ago

I just about died when I read that.

TheDestroyer avatar
TheDestroyer
7 years ago

whoa….the story got creepy real fast

B
Person
7 years ago

[I realized what was happening when it mentioned Emily shifting in the car to get out of the glare of the sun. Still, this was eerily realistic.][/spoiler]

JF13 avatar
JF13
7 years ago

[spoiler]Oh whats that smell?My daughter! [/spoiler] Those last few sentences had my heart frozen in place.Great pasta

Sogeking avatar
Sogeking
7 years ago

Suddenly the story turner dark lol

michelle wilhelm
michelle wilhelm
7 years ago

Mother here! Figured it out as soon as he started talking about the heat, but was still very well done

Ugavemethecreeps avatar
Ugavemethecreeps
7 years ago

H O L Y S H I T…

Harmoniaes avatar
Harmoniaes
7 years ago

I think about this all the time, after having originally read it when it was published. This is horrifying, great work.

J
Jbrown0210
7 years ago

So scary, because it can happen. Well written. I and to go back and reread to catch the [spoiler]the part about the girl not getting dropped off at daycare[/spoiler]

IamMoose avatar
IamMoose
7 years ago

This is my favourite creepypasta ever, i love it so much. I HAD GOOSEBUMPS. It was very good the part where emily dies is sad because this can happen in real life to anyone of us. I just love it so much.

LadyElayne avatar
LadyElayne
7 years ago

A good tale elicits and emotional reaction… When you got to the iced drinks and loose ties; my stomach dropped… Go you. Very twisted.