Lance Stephenson awoke with a start. Had somebody been calling his name, or had that been part of his dream? He was just about to fall back asleep when he heard it again.
“Lance…I’m down here, Lance.”
Lance felt his heart rate jump. Unless he was losing his marbles, there was a voice emanating from beneath his bed. Actually, it came from just to the side of the bed, as if the speaker had his head sticking out from underneath it. In any case, he definitely was not going to look to find out. Instead, he closed his eyes and willed himself not to think about it.
“It’s just an old pal of yours, Lance. Let’s talk. Let’s…HAVE A CHAT!” A decomposing arm shot out from underneath the bed and grabbed Lance roughly by the leg. He began to scream and struggle, but his own great strength was no match for the strength of this zombie, or whatever it was. His mind was yammering nonsense as he was dragged from the safety of the blankets, off the side of the bed, and finally, to the musty underside.
“This isn’t happening. This isn’t real,” Lance told himself, still refusing to open his eyes. But the ragged breathing which was not his own told him otherwise.
“Come on Lance, you know me. We’re friends. Even given my current condition, we’re friends. We will always be friends.”
Now curiosity began to make inroads into Lance’s terror-wracked brain. Who was this? Was it an old friend from New York? A college teammate? A former member of his entourage? The urge to open his eyes grew stronger, but he didn’t know if his sanity would withstand the sight of whatever entity was beside him underneath his own bed.
“I understand your fear, Lance, but you must not be afraid. I am a friend. Open your eyes and see.”
With great hesitation, Lance opened his eyes a sliver. For some reason, the underside of his bed was lit with a dim yellow light, even though he always slept in complete darkness. He slowly turned his head to the side to get a glimpse of his tormenter. The blue-and-yellow #33 jersey gave it right away.
“Danny! What happened to you?”
Danny Granger chuckled. “As you can see, injuries have taken their toll. The medical staff tried their best, but even their vast expertise could not repair my ravaged body.”
Lance looked Danny up and down. Flaps of skin were hanging off his face, exposing the tendons and muscles beneath. His arms were in similar disarray. One of his feet was missing, the untreated stump oozing a gangrenous green-gray sludge. One of his eyes was similarly absent, a nest of crawling maggots in its place. There was no blood, but worse: total decay and necrosis. “So why ain’t you dead?”
“That part I cannot explain. I have a hunch that one of the Pacers front-office workers is versed in the satanic arts, and that he disinterred and resurrected my body to bring back the team’s beloved star.” A part of Danny’s jaw fell clean away as he talked, causing Lance to shrink away, but its departure seemed not to effect Danny’s ability to speak. “How I came to be here is not important, because I have some very important advice to give you after your breakout playoff performance.”
Lance no longer felt fear as he conversed normally with his deceased-yet-familiar teammate. “Not to be an asshole, but I’m not sure if I should be takin’ advice from a decaying corpse.”
Danny laughed, air rattling through his dessicated lungs. “Fair enough. I will make it brief, and you’re under no obligation to heed my words. But be aware, Lance: the fans of Indiana are among the worst in the NBA. You can play your heart out and lead the team to success, but they will always prefer the unrefined college game. If you want to end your career as an object of idolization, a franchise player to be revered, you must leave the Pacers.”
Lance nodded. He wanted to be an idol. Only a few years removed from his dominance of New York high school ball, he wanted that feeling again. “I got ya man. Thanks.”
Danny smiled. “One more thing, Lance.”
“It’s time for me to eat your flesh. I am a zombie, after all.” He reached out and trapped Lance in his iron grip. “I bet you’ll be a lot tastier than Tyler was. His brain was disappointingly dry.”
Lance began to scream, his sanity slipping easily away as sand through fingers. Danny was ripping large chunks of steaming flesh off of his torso, legs, and arms. Lance saw through rapidly-clouding eyes the gore of his torso, the mess that used to be his perfectly sculpted body. It would be the last thing those eyes would ever see, as Danny then put a hand on Lance’s head and cleanly crushed it, eagerly devouring the brains within.