I haven’t quite nailed down a title for my cyberpunk novel, but the protagonist’s name is Serotonin Overload. (It’s not her real name, obviously. It’s a handle. A self-chosen sobriquet. A suggestive, not-quite description.)
My original choice was Xanax Shortage, but I feel like maybe I shouldn’t going messing with corporate trademarks in a novel that embraces deeply anti-corporate sentiment. Heh.
Serotonin Overload lives in Capital City, called Cap City by just about everyone who lives there, which is a hell of a lot of people. Millions, crammed into an urban sprawl akin to Night City or Megacity One, a massive future metropolis of megatowers and sky bridges and neon. Oh, the neon. There’s a lot of it.
She wasn’t born there. She comes from this weird little recluse community in the hills outside the City. Her people rejected modernity. They farm and raise livestock and prattle religious nonsense about how screens are the devil. She didn’t stick around, but lit out for the big city with the neon-drenched nights and the thirty-story holograms.
Sera, as her few friends know her, is a mess. She’s got this near-crippling anxiety. That’s the joke of her name, yeah? It’s weird to write panic attacks. Oh, I think I’ve got the details down. I’ve had some gnarly panic attacks of my own. Along with brain zaps, which I’ve decided Sera doesn’t share (she didn’t spend her twenties at the same parties I did).
Anyway, it’s weird to write panic attacks because they feel so … self-indulgent, perhaps, once they’re over. Certainly not in the midst of one. That part is pretty awful. Dramatic, traumatic, and most entirely psychosomatic. Ha. Oh, look, perhaps you can even see how I don’t like talking about it. So imagine what it’s like to try and honestly portray it, the onset, the duration, the quivering aftermath.
Sera takes pills for her anxiety disorder, pills she’s always fumbling for in her pocket or scrambling to grab off the table. She thinks about the pills a lot. Needs them. Or does she?
See, I think Sera’s a lot tougher than she realizes. The pills are a necessary crutch, sure. They help. They blot down the incipient symptoms, jiggle her brain chemistry around to where the breathing comes a little easier and the heart doesn’t feel all explody and the skin can actually pick one, hot or cold, and not be this prickling, burning, freezing, shivering, sweating blanket wrapped too tightly around her. They perform this very important function, and without them that function wouldn’t be performed, but …
Sera gets through the hairy bits with her brains, and her bull-headed stubbornness. She bullshits her way through until she figures it out, and she’s a whole hell of a lot braver than she thinks she is. Crushed by anxiety, sure. But she doesn’t let it stop her, even when she can’t find her damn pills.
She’d better find them. She’s going to need those pills, along with all her obstinacy and quick-wittedness, because the city’s police are after her, operatives of the world government are interested in her whereabouts, and the solar system’s most notorious and feared terrorist has her in mind for a little job that needs doing…