by DeAnna Knippling
Young adult/Crime/Coming of age. An MMORPG Noir…I think I’ve been playing too much World of Warcraft and Rifts lately.
This cover was designed by the excellent Zachary Lin. The story was actually written to fit the inspiration from that hand…awesome. What would a digital hand of glory be like? I had to find out.
Georgia’s brother didn’t hang himself for being gay or for being bullied about it. He was murdered over something that happened in the game—possibly over a mysterious hacker’s item called the Hand of Glory or Butler’s Candelabra, that lets you go anywhere, kill anyone, and steal anything. And now it belongs to Georgia.
Warning: Strong language.
When you’re playing the game, you don’t think about ethics. You don’t think about right or wrong. Kill a unicorn? All right. Bring back eight unicorn hearts, still beating, never mind the drop rate. All right.
You do the job, and the next job, and the job after that. You level. You raid. You bring home the blues and the purples and you sell them at the auction house. You donate to your guild. You build up honor and reputation, both the kind you get points for and the kind that means when you say you’re going to show up on a Saturday night for a raid, you do it. You don’t wig out.
That’s the ethics of the game: don’t wig out.
They said Charlie finished the raid, wrote a suicide note, and hung himself off the back of one of the support beams in the basement. Meanwhile, upstairs, I was still logged on because I had some crafting to do.
Two floors below me, my brother was thinking, “Gosh, that was a great instance that I just ran with my little sis; we didn’t wipe once. What better time to kill myself for being gay?”
Okay, the fact was, his Facebook was filled up with posts from his classmates at high school calling him a faggot and a queer and threatening to expose him to the world. Like he wasn’t already exposed. He didn’t try to hide it; the only secrets he kept were other people’s. For example, I wasn’t supposed to know who his boyfriend was, but I did: Gary Martin.
Gary was in my grade. I’d known him since we were little. In a world where kids waved at you their last day of school saying they’d see you again in the fall, then disappeared forever, Gary was a fucking rock. He didn’t live down the street, but he was within biking distance. I was kind of embarrassed at first when I found out he and Charlie were together, because neither one of them had told me. I felt like Gary didn’t trust me. The guy who swapped homework with me. The guy who lied for me about being at the library. The guy who told me to get my hair cut and stop staring at my feet and dragged me onto the dance floor to make my super secret crush jealous (that last part didn’t work as planned, but I got to dance with him anyway). Charlie, well, he always had his secrets; I’ve always spied on him.
We didn’t find him that night. He swayed back and forth in the basement from that piece of wood, on a piece of clothes rope. In the morning he didn’t follow the routine of getting ready for school. It was loud; the sound of not running out of hot water was loud. I was late getting out of the shower because it took longer for the water to get cold and Mom yelled at me and I was surprised: I had water temperature vs. time down to a science.
So I tore off downstairs to see what the fuck Charlie was up to. I ran down the stairs two at a time, thinking, “That’s it, this time I’m going to tell him I know about Gary.” I kicked open the door, because it wasn’t me who was going to get blamed when he moved out next fall for college if there was a hole in the drywall. The door hit the wall so hard it punched a hole through it and stuck.
By then he wasn’t swinging.
Oh God I fucking screamed. I don’t remember breathing.