May Day Story 2023: “Any Percent”

Happy May Day! Last year to celebrate International Workers’ Day, I shared a full story on my newsletter, Titled “May Day” of course, it’s about what happens when a pair of groundhogging immortals start bringing more people into their time loop. It’s one of my favorite short stories I’ve written, falling squarely into the genre niche I’ve come to call ‘socialist surrealism.’ So I’ve decided to make posting a proletarian-themed story a May 1st tradition.

This year my May Day story is titled “Any Percent,” and it just went live on the storied online webzine Giganotosaurus. Imagine you could play a video game that let you live a whole human life in a matter of minutes. What would it mean to “win” in that game? What would it mean to speedrun?

Click through and give it a read. Here’s a short excerpt, from a ways into the story.

Mechanically, the way he did whenever he needed to escape the bleakness of IRL, Luckless daubed gel onto his temples, closed his eyes, and held START. When he opened them, her small, brown hands were stocking cans on grocery shelves. It was her birthday, of course, but she was mostly worried about when she’d find time to study for her GED, how late the buses were running after midnight, whether her mother had been sober enough to feed baby Diwa before bed. The algo in her earbuds beeped at her to pick up the pace.

Normally, Luckless would drop the can, shed the earbuds, steal a car, and head to the nearest skip he could remember. Tonight she was in Columbus, so Ohio Truck Skip wasn’t far. From there it would be routine to buy her way into the underworld, get a new identity that could make money moves, never have to do manual labor or think about where she came from ever again.

In her back, her feet, her arms, she felt that deep-bone tired. The same tired Luckless felt every day of that one, unskippable life.

She finished work and rode the bus home, nursed her baby, and slept. The next morning she got out early, went to the diner across from the grocery, where a few of her coworkers were gathering to talk about organizing a union.

Read the full piece in all its gamer glory here.