Autopilot

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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.

Original Author: Skarjo

57 Comments on 'Autopilot'

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  • Commented on January 12, 2014 at 12:54 am

    Ho-ly shit.
    This pasta has pepperoni.
    Awesome. Very well done.

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  • Commented on December 20, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    Amazing story, honestly it’s one of my top 10 creepypastas. I love how the build-up actually ended with something that made it all worth reading, unlike a lot of pastas. A disturbingly logical pasta, that I’m sure I’ll be eating again.

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  • Commented on April 17, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    Wow. This is incredible. People use the term “rambling”, but that’s the point isn’t it? You set the reader in a routine. Autopilot information>hot day description>autopilot information>hot day description, to the point where the reader’s brain just stops computing the new information, then you drop the bomb. You disengage the reader’s autopilot. When it happened, and I read the final ten lines or so, I woke up and said oh shit! I felt what Emily’s father felt in that moment. Delicious pasta. Well done.

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  • Commented on December 23, 2013 at 8:34 pm

    This was an awesome pasta. I was reading it thinking “This is just another long rambling shitty pasta.” Then BAM. You bring it all together with a “Holy motherfucking goddamn shit!!”

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  • Commented on July 5, 2014 at 11:26 pm

    I read this creepypasta then I found out about the Cooper Harris case where the father drove to work and allegedly “forgot” to drop his son off at the daycare center..and well… 🙁 This story is so horrifying. Fantastic job.

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  • Commented on January 6, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    What, with the barrage of subpar stories that have been submitted lately, it’s great to read a creepypasta that, let’s say, breaks the routine.
    Excellent work.

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  • Commented on April 3, 2014 at 1:52 am

    Really well written and executed. The almost rambling repetition of what makes a routine and what breaks it while giving a tiny bit of the progressing story nearly lost me but it was definitely worth sticking with. There was a point where my brain tried to tell me something was wrong a little over midway through the story but I glossed over it, however the moment that the storyteller was back in his car, one word, and I knew what happened, but my mind didn’t want to admit to it. Being so close to my nieces (no kids of my own yet) and hearing how paranoid we both get about them, my brain refused to accept the reality of the ending until the very last, with my eyes wide and choking back nausea with my hand over my mouth. Very well done.

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  • Commented on April 25, 2014 at 2:19 am

    Is it strange that I literally just read a creepy pasta where the murderer is a little girl, named Emily… so now its adding to rje creepyness! Love it!!!!

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  • Commented on December 19, 2014 at 7:11 pm

    I’ve listened to a reading of this on YouTube, so I was excited to see it finally. I love this one, it’s a slower paced story with a “kfkroskfm” type of ending. Xx

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  • Commented on October 3, 2015 at 9:11 pm

    This one was amazing. It was horrifying. Most people try to scare the reader via monster/demon. They need to realize that to make a story truly terrifying it needs to be realistic. 100/10. Excellent. Would read again

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  • Commented on January 24, 2014 at 11:46 pm

    Very Very well done Pasta! you are one of my favorites now. This pasta tastes like WOW!

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  • Commented on January 25, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    Oh my god, i actually cried at the end.

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  • Commented on March 13, 2014 at 10:21 pm

    I really like this pasta

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  • Commented on March 17, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    Haha! YES. I freaking love that ending, man! 11111/10 Best mindfuck ever!

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  • Commented on April 1, 2015 at 4:11 pm

    This pasta was indeed probably one of the most realistic ones i’ve read thus far. The truth is that I also get into that ‘Autopilot’ phase and it can cost me something horrible. Throughout reading the story I was a little blind sided when there was a mention of a “Bad Smell” and I immediately started having to think what was the cause. I personally thought it was maybe leftover food or something, the child in the back seat was a real twist. 10/10

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  • Commented on July 14, 2016 at 4:05 pm

    I figured it out right before the end and I have to say my heart nearly stopped. This has been my worst nightmare fear as a mom and this story just disturbed me badly. Too realistic of a story. Great job plAying on the fear of people in general.

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  • Commented on July 14, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    So disturbingly real that I had to read it twice and force myself to feel the fear and terror at the end. I like the fear, that’s why I read these, but I don’t like the fear at the same time. I can ignore booymen, they don’t scare me. Overly gorish stuff just turns me off. But oh god the fear of reading what could actualize in real life. A fear I have always myself had. I can see each day my hopelessness in autopilot. I have forgotten my phone because of routine. My phone is on the counter too sometimes. But h god I have been so afraid the autopilot would cause me to forget t other things too. I wish I hadn’t read this. My anxiety is pounding. My fear mounting. I run to check on my son, now eight. He’s playing his computer game. He smiles. He’s happy to give me a big hug, and wonders why I’m hugging him so tightly.but he loves to hug so he doesn’t mind. He’s no old enough to be embarrassed by moms affection yet. I hate this story. It is the best one I have ever read. It scared me. I will remember this for many weeks. I will do anything to prevent myself fromforgetting my phone. It is summer here. The heat is unbearable. I will from now on break my routine daily but I will not allow myself to forget I broke it. I must not Llow routine to put me on autopilot like it does. I just can’t risk what else besides my phone I could forget. Routine is not worth the risk.

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  • Lorna
    Commented on July 21, 2016 at 5:56 am

    On average, 37 children die from heat-related deaths after being trapped inside vehicles. Even the best of parents or caregivers can unknowingly leave a sleeping baby in a car; and the end result can be injury or even death.This was a very realistic story.

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  • Commented on August 11, 2016 at 7:26 am

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

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  • Commented on January 6, 2014 at 3:29 am

    Damn. I didn’t even think she would of been in there but slowly it pieced it together then it was just like sadkfjsl.

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  • Commented on March 12, 2016 at 8:41 pm

    This was great. I was expecting a boring rambling story. This was definitely a “mindfuck”. Excellent job.

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  • Commented on September 27, 2016 at 9:25 am

    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.

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  • Commented on October 26, 2016 at 12:11 am

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

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  • Commented on October 31, 2016 at 7:34 pm

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

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  • Commented on November 16, 2016 at 4:14 pm

    H O L Y S H I T…

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  • Commented on January 28, 2014 at 9:42 pm

    I love this – it literally made me stop with my mouth agape at the end. Fantastic 10/10

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  • Commented on February 5, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    Fantastic creepypasta! 10/10

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  • Commented on February 7, 2014 at 6:14 am

    This made my heart drop.. I love this one!

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  • Commented on July 29, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    This hit me like a ton of bricks, very well written.

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  • MistyDay13
    Commented on December 25, 2014 at 4:49 am

    I figured It out early, but I am so glad I held on to the end because the end was AWESOME!!! Love it!!

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  • Commented on January 3, 2015 at 1:51 am

    Wow! I won’t sleep tonight

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  • Commented on January 18, 2015 at 7:20 am

    Awesome story one of my top favs so far I love the ending because it’s like CRAZY the daughters dead!!!!!!!!!!! MIND BLOWN!!!! it’s the routine

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  • Commented on January 23, 2015 at 12:14 am

    Ho…ly…SHIT! This was awesome.

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  • Commented on January 29, 2015 at 9:46 pm

    Wow, this pasta is amazing. That ending totally threw me off!

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  • Commented on January 30, 2015 at 6:32 am

    Quite realistic. This has always been one of my favorite short horror stories. Though this story wasn’t actually originally a creepypasta. The original story came from NoSleep on reddit, as far as I know.

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  • Commented on February 3, 2015 at 1:26 pm

    🙁 *cries*,was really good but that boring start thou。

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  • Commented on February 3, 2015 at 8:36 pm

    my heart actually sped up at the end game. beat to get out of my chest… great use of suspense, and delivery of conclusion.

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  • Commented on February 17, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    My absolute favourite pasta EVER

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  • Commented on March 28, 2015 at 12:51 am

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=544&v=XxoP757Xx-A

    Not sure which actually came first or if it’s the same person but….

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  • PastaCritic
    Commented on May 6, 2015 at 6:44 pm

    I can’t say much that Toxxiclullaby hasn’t already. Well done, your pasta was almost perfectly al dente with only a few minor grammatical errors.

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  • Commented on May 15, 2015 at 6:29 pm

    OMG. This is awesome. You get so used to ‘auto pilot then information then auto pilot again’ that you just ignore it and are completely oblivious to the fact that it doesn’t say ‘I dropped Emily off at nursery THEN went to work’. It’s just says ‘I went to work’. I didn’t notice that.

    And then you just wrap it up… Wow amazing!

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  • Commented on May 20, 2015 at 11:37 pm

    This was amazing I’m so glad I stuck it out till the end

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  • MsFlynn
    Commented on June 12, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    That is some real life horror right there! So creepy because, if you think about it, technically it could happen o.O I read this pasta on Youtube, here’s the link if you wanna check it out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZPX6VgOY78 Thanks!

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  • Commented on June 14, 2015 at 9:14 pm

    Fcking amazing!!!

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  • Commented on June 24, 2015 at 2:00 am

    Oh gosh I almost shed a tear

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  • Commented on October 20, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    This pasta….is actually real. In my area a man is being charged with this and is using the autopilot excuse.
    http://www.wsbtv.com/news/news/child-dies-after-being-left-car-near-cumberland-ma/ngNc4/

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  • Commented on December 1, 2015 at 8:38 pm

    This is amazing, because it could so happen!! And i’m sure it has too. It’s scary to think that one thing that many not matter could snowball into something huge.

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  • Commented on December 1, 2015 at 8:40 pm

    This is amazing, because it could so happen!! And i’m sure it has too. It’s scary to think that one thing that many not matter could snowball into something huge. I love it.

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  • pooperoni
    Commented on December 24, 2015 at 12:55 am

    First 5 stars I’ve ever given on here and I hated the ending. Maybe cos I have my own little girl at that age but it was well written and plausible. I figured it when he said early in the piece that he wasn’t sure where she sat in the car. I always buckle my littlun in so I know.

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  • Commented on January 26, 2016 at 5:40 am

    Mmm. I was getting a tad bored, wondering how you were going to finish this, but the ending was rather pleasing. Well done.

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  • Commented on March 4, 2016 at 10:45 pm

    i really liked this. it is very relateable for normal 8-5 routine workers all over the world because we all live it. and when something goes out of whack, its like the butterfly effect. its relentless. great pasta.

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  • Commented on May 12, 2016 at 8:55 pm

    me gusta

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  • Commented on December 22, 2013 at 8:25 am

    Awesome read! Though at about halfway of the story when the daughter and burning heat were first mentioned, the ending immediately pops in to mind. This is probably due to the author’s ingenius description of the logicality that made it really easy to piece together the twist at the end.

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  • Commented on April 17, 2015 at 5:45 am

    OMG!!! That was awesome well not the girl dying but the ending part the tension build up amasing!!! I love it!!!

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  • waitwhat
    Commented on December 28, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    Wait, is human really can be cooked to death inside a car with a burning weather? Never heard of it before

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  • Commented on October 15, 2015 at 5:57 pm

    The “routine” thing is not actually that great for me. You could’ve at least have anticipated such situation since routine can be inevitably change. Good though but a downer for me. Sorry.

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  • Commented on March 13, 2014 at 2:19 am

    predictable and poorly-paced. interesting concept, mediocre execution.

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