Jabari Parker had his eyes closed, but he knew exactly where he was. The milky white glow pervading through his eyelids was a telltale sign. The fact that his knee felt no pain, despite its ligaments having been critically torn for a second time, was another indicator.
He had returned to the so-called “Land of Immortals,” the other-dimensional realm which served as a sort of limbo for those who had suffered catastrophic knee injuries. Opening his eyes confirmed this known truth. He was lying in a grassy field, underneath a sky of pure white. It was blissfully quiet, a welcome respite from the chaos of an NBA court surrounded by fans. Here, in this heavenly place, Jabari could find peace, even if it was temporary.
Yet, despite the serene surroundings, Jabari’s mind was not at ease.
A slender, long-haired woman, head wreathed with a ring of carnations, was approaching. She wore a long, flowing garment that was as white as the sky above and was almost too beautiful to look at. “It is never a happy occasion when one returns to this realm after their initial visit,” she said softly. “But you were strong once before, Jabari, and I know that you can be strong once again.”
“If you had any real power, you would have healed up my knee so good that this wouldn’t have happened again,” Jabari replied angrily, getting to his feet to address the woman face-to-face. “Don’t give me any of that ‘power of the mind’ garbage. I’m sure I’ll get enough of that when I get out of here and back to the real world.”
“It is common to have negative thoughts after such injuries as you have sustained,” the woman sighed. “It is true that we have no control over the physical world you inhabit. But your soul, your spirit, and the collective spirit of humankind, we can touch more deeply than you can comprehend.”
“Again with the condescension,” Jabari said. “Last time I was here you were being all mysterious about what exactly this place is, and now you’re telling me that I ‘can’t comprehend’ your power. Well, maybe its YOU who can’t comprehend MY power.”
The woman didn’t seem perturbed by Jabari’s outburst; the placid smile on her face had not changed. “I see that your inquisitive nature cannot be quenched, Jabari, so I will explain further. We currently reside in a parallel universe synthesized from the combined thoughts and emotions of humanity. I, and the others of my kind, represent a race of beings who have crossed multi-dimensional gulfs to provide aid to less-advanced races.”
As promised, this explanation was too complicated for Jabari to fully understand. He struggled to process the woman’s words, and reconcile the landscape around him with what he had just been told, but only managed to make himself more frustrated. This frustration compounded with his anger to create a deeper rage that was growing by the second.
For the first time, clouds began to appear in the blank white canvas of the sky. The woman looked up with mild concern. “We have never had clouds here before,” she said. “Whatever it is you’re doing, please stop it.”
But Jabari, perturbed that an interstellar race of aliens would meddle in the affairs of humans yet only offer empty platitudes under the guise of “help”, and enraged by his newest knee injury, could no longer contain his fury. A heavy wind was blowing, and the sky was rapidly darkening.
“Jabari, you are disturbing our peaceful land with your negative thoughts,” said the woman, whose hair was whipping in front of her face. “Have you no concern for others in your predicament?”
Black tar was bubbling up from the ground, and the grass was withering away, leaving scarred brown dirt. Acidic raindrops were falling from the sky, creating light hissing noises whenever they contacted flesh. The tar and rain were mixing to create a noxious stench which filled the air.
Now holes were forming in the ground as dirt and rock dropped away, revealing a star-filled black void underneath. Jabari could feel power being wrested away from the immortal guardians; their realm was crumbling.
The woman was watching all these occurrences with concern, but now, the beauty was literally dripping from her face, revealing a hideous alien visage underneath. When she spoke, her face was harsh and low-pitched. “You impertinent human fool! This is no way to treat your masters!”
Jabari’s smile was twisted with cruel irony. “I have no master,” he said. Then, the last bit of land broken apart, the last light was stripped away, and Jabari could feel himself plunging through the empty space of pure blackness.
Jabari opened his eyes to see Michael Beasley looking at him from above. Other teammates stood nearby with concerned expressions similar to Michael’s.
“You good, man?” Michael asked, the false calmness of his voice betraying his knowledge that Jabari wasn’t good at all.
“Yeah. I mean, my knee is screwed, but I’ve come to terms with some stuff,” Jabari replied. “Now, you gonna help me up or what?”