As Trae Young peeled off his jersey, he heard a shrill burst of laughter come from above him. However, when he looked up, there was nothing on top of his locker that could have caused the noise, other than maybe a hidden prank device of some kind. Next, he looked to the side, where Jeremy Lin was also getting out of his game jersey. Jeremy wasn’t making any indication that he had heard any unexpected noises.
“Yo Jeremy, did you hear that?” Trae asked in what he hoped was a casual manner, despite the anxiety that the unexplained laughter had struck his heart with.
“Hear what?” Jeremy asked, confused.
There was another piercing attack of laughter, and now Trae thought that he saw something moving on top of his locker. When his head swiveled to the spot of the perceived movement, however, there was nothing there that he could see. “You don’t hear that?” he asked again, feeling slightly panicked.
Jeremy shook his head. “You feeling okay? You look nervous.”
Trae was about to answer that he was feeling fine (even though he wasn’t), but the reply caught in his throat when he saw a little face, dark olive-green in color, grinning a sharp-toothed grin at him from behind Miles Plumlee’s locker. “WHAT’S THAT?” he yelled, jumping back and pointing at the small creature, which was emitting a series of light cackles.
Turning to where Trae’s finger was pointing, Jeremy looked for a few seconds, then turned back. “That’s just Miles. Don’t tell me you don’t know who Miles is?” he joked.
“That thing! That gremlin! You don’t see it?” Trae asked wildly before screaming out in surprise again. “THERE’S ANOTHER!” Another wrinkly-skinned creature was crawling out from one of the vents in the ceiling. When it created enough space for itself, it dropped from the ceiling and landed on the carpet before advancing menacingly towards Trae.
“Man, maybe you wanna sit down, I’ll get you a Gatorade,” Jeremy said uneasily. “The stress can get to you sometimes.”
More gremlins were emerging from their hiding places and coming towards him, including a group of three that had peeked their heads over the top of his locker. Trae’s head darted from side to side, trying to monitor all of them at once. However, when he felt one jump onto his leg from behind and latch its claws onto his flesh, then start climbing, the panic that had been threatening to explode finally did just that.
“AAAAH! HELP ME! HELP MEEEEE! GET THEM OFFFFFF!” he yelled, kicking his leg furiously to try to knock the creature loose. Having lost track of his adversaries, he felt more of them grab onto his body. His eyes were closed and he was desperately slapping them with his palms, but it was no use; their grip was too strong. Now, the whole locker room was watching the unfolding spectacle. “GET THEM OFF! GET THEM OFF!” he screamed over the steadily increasing din of demonic, mischievous laughter.
Suddenly, a stinging sensation from the top of his head overpowered the smaller prickles that Trae was feeling on his arms and legs. When he opened his eyes, he saw one of the gremlins hop down triumphantly from the top of his head holding a curly clump of Trae’s own hair in its little hand. Another stab of pain came from his scalp, and he instinctively swiped at the gremlin that had caused it, knocking it off balance and to the floor. There was an unintelligible clatter of angry complaints, but Trae’s moment of success against them seemed to cause them to collectively call off their attack. Running across the floor in every direction in a way that should have been impossible for his teammates not to notice, the gremlins were soon gone.
Slowly, normalcy returned to the locker room, but Trae just sat in his locker, rubbing the painful spots on his head where his hair had been stolen from him. Nobody attempted to talk to him. Eventually, he and Vince Carter were the only ones left.
When Trae felt a hand on his shoulder, he flinched, then looked up. It was Vince.
“You ain’t going crazy,” Vince said to the younger player. “They’re Hair Gremlins, and they’re real.” With that simple statement, Vince, too, left the locker room, leaving Trae by himself. However, as he looked at the ceiling vent that was still askew, Trae couldn’t even be sure of his own solitude.