Seized with an idea for a short-short, I put aside the story I am working on in my Copious Free Time for long enough to write “Dying in the Zone”.
“My friends,” the crime lord says, “if we could all put our weapons down, I’m sure we could make some kind of arrangement.” You watch him strike a wooden match and draw on a cigar; his cheeks bob in and out under thick black sideburns until he is puffing blue smoke around it. The view out the window is a pixel-perfect Arizona sunset. The bodyguards who flank him do not lower their revolvers. Neither do you.
“The password, Mr. Franklin,” repeats Dmitri. His weapon is still fixed on the bodyguard across the room, a stout, sunburned man whose paisley vest is straining at its buttons.
Franklin says nothing.
“Don’t think your simulated henchmen frighten us. If they kill us here in the Zone, we just wake up, relaunch our apps, and find you again. If—”
The smoke, overpowering the smell of sawdust, makes your eyes water. Franklin laughs. His eyes dart between you and Claire. “If they kill you in the Zone, you wake up? Did this charlatan—” he gestured with the cigar— “actually tell you that? My dear, dear friends, once you get beyond the practice levels, if your avatar dies in the Zone, your real body dies along with it.”
As usual, if you are willing to comment, I am willing to send you the whole thing. It’s less than 550 words, which is a change of pace for me.