Writing Advice

Help for Authors and Writers

Prompt: Start a story with “So yeah, I’m a gamer.”

You wouldn’t think that being a gamer would escalate quite so quickly into a violent cyberpunk underworld!

“So yeah, I’m a gamer,” she said, “which is how I ended up here.”

“Wait, what?” he said. “Help me connect the dots. How does being a gamer land you in all this?” He waved his hand in the general direction of the crates of bootleg designer empathogens, dressed up to look like cases of olive oil.

“Well, you know Charlie?”

“You mean Razorback Charlie?” He stubbed his hand-rolled cigarette out on the brick wall, damp from a rusted-out pipe far in the gloom overhead. “Yeah, I know Razorback. I shot him in the face.”

“Hoh-lee shit.” Her grey eyes grew wide. “That was you? I always figured it was, like, a jealous lover or something. I’m surprised you’re still breathing.”

He shrugged. “It was a long time ago. He was working both sides of a deal. I was still wet behind the ears, had this gig with this hotshot business guy out of Atlanta. ‘Personal protection,’ he called it. Supposed to be easy money. Stand around for a few hours looking tough, make three grand, nothin’ to it.”

“Only there was something to it.”

“Yeah. Shit went sideways, things got sphincter-clenching, I shot Razorback. Funny thing is, I wasn’t even aiming for him. He just kinda got in the way, you know?”

“Well, you didn’t do his looks any favors,” she said.

“It’s not like he could get any uglier.”

“True. He never came after you?”

“Water under the bridge. Just one of those things, I guess.”

“I dunno. Charlie has a long memory.”

He took a pouch from the inside pocket of his battered leather jacket and started rolling another cigarette. “You still didn’t say how being a gamer got you involved in all this.”

“Oh. Right. Yeah, I was hooked on this massively multiplayer VR sim called Red City. Ever hear of it?”

“Yeah.” A match flared. He sucked on the end of the cigarette until the ember glowed. “Never got into it. Sims ain’t my thing,”

“Well, anyway, people use this virtual money in the game, right? And they’ll trade real money for it. Charlie was running this hustle, see, where he sells game credits for cash. They have algorithms that spot that sort of thing, so he recruits people in game to handle transactions, spread them out so no transactions are big enough to drop a flag,”

“Fuck me dead. There’s enough money to make that shit worth it?”

“You’d be surprised,” she said. “People take sims very seriously. Anyway, before I knew it I was helping him more than I was playing the game. He told me he was running some other hustles, online gambling, shit like that. Asked me if I wanted in. Of course I said yes. I had some expensive habits—”

“What kind of habits?”

“The expensive kind. So one day, I get this message, he wants to meet in person. Says I’m one of his most dependable associates, he has big plans for me, that kind of shit. Shit you say when you want to flatter a 27-year-old junkie who’s never done anything more than play sims all day, right? So I say hell yeah, I’ll meet him.” She shrugged. “Ugly motherfucker, isn’t he? Even without all that shit you did to his face. He gives me this bullshit story, says he needs someone to drive to Chicago, pick something up for him. ‘Course I didn’t know the car he gave me was loaded with pirate icebreaker software. Got ganked by the feds halfway there, did two years on the inside. Woulda been more but I was a girl, first offense, all that shit. I think the judge wanted to fuck me. Met a guy in lockup, he said to look him up when I got out, you can probably guess the rest.”



“Well, fuck me.” He took a drag on the cigarette. “I guess it’s true what all those public service ads say. Sims are bad for you.”

“You have no idea.” She slipped the gun from her hip. Three bright flashes lit the dingy warehouse. He went down with a look of surprise frozen on his face.

She took the cigarette from his fingers. “These things smell disgusting, asshole,” she said. She ground it out beneath her heel, then shot him one more time, just to be sure.

“Okay, bring the truck in,” she said. “It’s in the crates marked ‘olive oil.’”