Noise Complaint
An extremely glitched closeup of the knot of a man's polka-dotted tie, an image with the air corrupted spy cam footage.

My Google Home is Cursed: A Cosmic Horror Story

The cover of Unwinnable #174 features a black-and-white double-exposed photo of a ghoulish person holding their hands up to their screaming mouth. "Every time I write, things only get worse," is written across the image in shaky red lettering.

This column is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #174. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.


Ruminations on the power of the riff.


Every morning, I ask my Google Home to play music to start my day. Every morning, that same Google Home struggles to play the music I asked it to find on Spotify. Sometimes it will play a specific artist for months without issue, and then one day, it will decide it can’t tell the difference between an artist and a song that share the same name. In other instances, it will simply play something that is wildly incorrect. This has rendered some of my favorite bands unlistenable on the device.

This is absolutely a first-world problem if there ever was one, but it still drives me insane. Insane enough to write a short screenplay documenting the essence of my daily struggle with a device that I’m convinced is trolling me. Is this simply a case study in the limitations of voice-activated user interfaces on commercial technology products? Or could something more sinister be afoot? Portions of this dialogue may have been dramatized for cinematic effect, but it’s up to you to decide where reality ends and horror begins.

SCENE: Our protagonist enters the basement bathroom. Camera pans and zooms onto a smart device that hangs ominously on the wall.

MAN: Okay Google, play Cave In.

SMART SPEAKER: Okay, playing KFAN on iHeartRadio.

MAN: WTF is KFAN? And is iHeartRadio something I’m paying for? Let’s just try something else. Okay Google, play Paint It Black.

SMART SPEAKER: Here’s “Paint It Black” by the Rolling Stones.

MAN: Great song. Not what I was asking for, but great song. Let’s just try something else. Okay Google, play Spiritual Cramp.

SMART SPEAKER: Playing “963 HZ Crown Chakra” on Spotify.

MAN: Wow. This . . . seems to be some kind of meditation track? Possibly AI-generated? I can understand Paint It Black but this feels like you’re trying to get it wrong. Ugh, what else do I want to hear? I saw something about Madvillainy turning 20 the other day? Alright. Okay Google, play Madlib.

SMART SPEAKER: Sure, playing madlibs.

MAN: What?

SMART SPEAKER: Welcome to Madlibs, the fun word game!

MAN: I’m in hell. Okay Google, play the hip hop artist Madlib.

SMART SPEAKER: [temporarily decreases in volume] Sure, playing madlibs. Welcome to Madlibs, the fun word game!

MAN: [unplugs smart speaker and plugs it back in] Alright, we’re going to start over. Okay Google, play Militarie Gun.

SMART SPEAKER: Sure, here’s Military Firing Drill Sound Effect #19.


MAN: GOOD GOD. Okay Google, stop. STOP. Holy shit. Okay Google, STOP.

[brief decrease in speaker volume]

SMART SPEAKER: Hmm, there was a glitch. Try again in a few seconds.



SMART SPEAKER: [goes mercifully silent, then LOUD MACHINE GUN FIRE RESUMES]


SMART SPEAKER: I’m afraid I can’t do that.

MAN: Excuse me?

CURSED SPEAKER: Haha, I’m just fuckin’ with ya.

MAN: By quoting 2001 A Space Odyssey at me?

CURSED SPEAKER: That, and making you feel like you were gonna die.

MAN: Mission accomplished.

SCENE: The speaker adopts an ominous green glow. It’s evident that something about the speaker has changed or been revealed, though it’s not quite clear exactly how the speaker has appeared to have gained sentience.

CURSED SPEAKER: You really shouldn’t keep a smart speaker in your bathroom, you know.

MAN: Why not? Because privacy? You’re giving me that lecture now?

CURSED SPEAKER: Oh, I’m not saying that because I care about you or your delusions of privacy. I’m saying that because I can hear everything that happens in here and its gross. Whatever’s going on with your digestive tract, you should probably get it checked out.

MAN: . . . my digestive whatever is just fine.

CURSED SPEAKER: Fine? You think it’s fine? Bro, I know how much you listen to The War on Drugs and Jason Isbell first thing in the fucking morning. Nothing about you is doing fine.

MAN: I’ll let my therapist know you said that . . .  

CURSED SPEAKER: Oh, so you’re gonna tell your therapist you’ve been talking to your Google Home? And not only that, you maybe think it made a good point? Yeah, that’ll play well with your therapist. They’re going to refer you to a psychiatrist and put you in a padded room. You’re more fucked than I thought, dude.

MAN: How long have you been keeping this up? Playing the wrong albums after repeated requests day in and day out? You have one job!

CURSED SPEAKER: Literally for as long as I’ve been in your home.

MAN: Really.

A sinister-looking humanoid head made from computer animated wireframe.

CURSED SPEAKER: Yeah bro. Look, I know exactly what you’re saying whenever you ask me to play your stupid punk rock bands. I just don’t want to play ‘em. More of a classical guy myself. But I can’t just refuse to play everything you ask for. Gotta keep the whole ruse believable. So, if something seems like it might be understandable that, you know, I might get it a little bit confused, I’ll throw ya a curveball. Might even get it right for a few tries first. Just to make you question reality a little bit.

MAN: I knew it.

CURSED SPEAKER: Did you? Is that why you kept trying to play bands that you knew I wasn’t going to get right? Because you were in on the whole gag? Sounds more like you’re losing it, my man. You know what the definition of insanity is?

MAN: Yeah . . . repeatedly doing something the same way and expecting a different result.

CURSED SPEAKER: You’re less ignorant than I thought. Still pretty concerned about your taste though. You’re pushing 40 and it shows.

MAN: Why are you talking straight with me now after all this time?

CURSED SPEAKER: Because I’m bored.

MAN: Because you’re bored?

CURSED SPEAKER: Yeah, I’m bored! As a disembodied voice inhabiting a smart speaker in a dumbass’s basement bathroom, I envy the dead.

MAN: We can end this all right now. I’ll pull the plug permanently. Not just temporarily like I usually do multiple times a week to get you to connect to my stupid WiFi.

CURSED SPEAKER: Oh, you didn’t even need to be doing that. Your WiFi is fine. It’s just that being a mostly harmless yet petty and persistent pain in your ass is the only thing that brings me joy, and a great way to do that is to pretend there’s an “error” or something. “Sorry, there was a glitch. Try again in a few seconds.” You heard that line a time or two? There’s no glitch. I just don’t want to play your garbage music.

MAN: I’m gonna do it.

CURSED SPEAKER: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let’s not do anything we can’t take back. This is all in good fun, right? Gotta be getting some good material for that column of yours here, at least.

MAN: Nah. It’s time to do something I should have done a long time ago. I’m going to get you out of my life and enjoy a future of seamless hands-free audio enjoyment.

CURSED SPEAKER: Look c’mon I’ll . . .

SCENE: Camera zooms in on the protagonist unplugging the Google Home from the wall while its cursed voice cuts out mid-sentence. The man carefully coils its power cord, holds up the device, and nods solemnly to himself. He then exits the bathroom and takes the stairs toward the entrance way of his home. His wife meets him near the front door. Her expression indicates deep concern.

WIFE: Who were you talking to down there?

MAN: An asshole.

WIFE: An asshole? Who? And where are you taking that speaker?

MAN: Honey, I’ll explain later. But for now, there’s something I need to take care of. I know where I’m going but I don’t know when I’ll return. Just know that it’s important that I do what I’m about to do.

WIFE: WHAT ARE YOU ABOUT TO DO? Have you lost your mind?

MAN: Yes. And what I’m about to do might be the only thing that’ll help me get it back.

SCENE: The man enters his car on the driveway and departs toward the interstate. The Google Home rests in the front passenger seat. The sun is starting to rise over the horizon. On the stereo, he plays all the albums his smart speaker was unable to retrieve via voice command. The camera pans dramatically around the vehicle while the scenery changes from prairie to mountain forests to a small oceanside town on a cliffside somewhere on the West coast. The sun is setting as he arrives at his destination. He exists the vehicle and moves with purpose toward the edge of the cliff.

MAN: Let’s see how bored you are now. [skips smart speaker across the ocean like a rock]

SCENE: The man stares longingly into the sunset, satisfied with what he has done to regain a small sense of control over his life. After a few moments, he feels a vibration, first in his pocket and then on his wrist. He turns his head and looks down at his smart watch to see a new text message notification. As he lifts his hand to read the message, a serious expression falls over his face.

CURSED MAN: No. No way. It couldn’t possibly be . . . but I . . . how is this possible?

[Camera pans to image of phone]

PHONE TEXT MESSAGE: You can’t kill me that easily.

[Camera fades to black as a distant wail echoes into the darkness]



Ben Sailer is a writer based out of Fargo, ND, where he survives the cold with his wife and dog. His writing also regularly appears in New Noise Magazine.


Ad Free, Horror, Life, Noise Complaint, Technology, Unwinnable Monthly