Jabari Parker woke up from the nightmare with his heart racing. His cat, Kempy, who had been sleeping on his feet, noticed that her owner was awake and walked up towards his head, wanting attention. Jabari scritched the cat’s ears while the vivid scenes of the dream replayed in his mind. Going up for a dunk…feeling that horrible popping sensation in his knee…falling to the floor in agony…fans, teammates laughing at him…trying to get up, to run away from their ridicule, but being unable to…
He hated that he still had these dreams. He hated that he was powerless to stop them, no matter what bedtime rituals he partook in. In his waking life, he had gotten over his injury-related anxiety after this two separate ACL tears, but when he was asleep, it was like those trapped-away anxieties escaped and took over his every thought.
Not only did Jabari loathe having to go to sleep, knowing that the nightmares were waiting for him when he closed his eyes, but he often was unable to get back to sleep after being woken up frome one of the horrible dreams. That was the case now. Even though it was just four in the morning, he swung his legs out of bed and began his morning routine. Kempy followed him into the kitchen as he made his coffee, then followed him to the patio where Jabari liked to catch up with world news on his phone.
On one local news site, a job posting caught Jabari’s eye. Usually the job listings didn’t even register in his consciousness, but this one was odd enough that he couldn’t help but take note of it. Morgue Assistant…what would a morgue assistant even do? Push around corpses on carts all day? Jabari chuckled to himself and continued reading the article he was on.
But, as the days passed, thoughts of the unusual job listing kept coming back to him, and a strange plan began to form.
“Well, that’s it for your training,” said Jabari’s new boss, Richard. Both he and Jabari were dressed in the nursing scrubs that were vital to maintaining cleanliness in the morgue. “Any questions?”
Jabari shook his head even though there was one question in particular that was pressing on his mind: how long would it be until he had free reign over the bodies in the morgue without supervision? He didn’t have tons of time before training camp started and he would have to quit. “I think I got it. I’ll go back to my desk and get started on that paperwork you need done.”
Later that day, having filled out some mundane paperwork on the status of various corpses housed in the morgue, Jabari found himself wishing that something more exciting would happen. Something like a breakout of disease at a hospital that would result in lots of extra bodies that the morgue would have to process.
“Jabari, come with me, we’ve got a new arrival you can help with,” Richard said, poking his head into Jabari’s workspace. Jabari followed, and when they got to the examination room, he found that his hunch had been correct; the “arrival” in question was actually a dead body.
“Just take note of what I’m saying while I do the autopsy,” Richard instructed. “There’s a form there with checkboxes, you saw it in your training.” Jabari looked at the paper in front of him. It was vaguely familiar, but he hadn’t really been paying attention during his training. He was just waiting for a chance to be left alone with the corpses.
Jabari spent the next hour daydreaming about what he was going to do with the bodies while sometimes marking off a random box on the paperwork. Then, he heard the words he had been waiting for. “Alright, I’ll close this one up, and you take him back to cold storage.” Jabari handed his boss the paperwork, then tried not to act too excited as pushed the body to the morgue’s storage room. It was only his first day and he was already being trusted with the cadavers.
When he got the body to storage, he paused before sliding it into its assigned spot. A shiver went across his body, and it wasn’t caused by the cold temperature of the room. Furtively, he withdrew a pocket knife from the pocket of his scrubs. After checking to make sure he was alone, he began to cut.
Jabari walked into the gym for the first day of training camp feeling not only confident, but well-rested as well. His sleep had been much better ever since taking the job at the morgue. He greeted his new teammates eagerly, wanting to form the bonds of friendship early.
But his teammates could do nothing but stare at his legs. “Uh, dude, what’s up with your knees?” asked Trae Young.
Jabari looked down at his knees, where numerous extra ligaments has been stitched on in a bloody mass, and then back up. “I spent the offseason getting more ACL’s. That way, you know, if I tear one, I’ll always have a backup.”
Trae made a face. “But where…? Actually. Don’t answer. I don’t wanna know.”