Stephen woke up suddenly and unexpectedly. Looking at the clock told him it was just past three in the morning. Fragments of the dream he had just been having were still present in his mind, but they were quickly recessing back into the fog of time. He grabbed his phone and activated the voice recording app before speaking out loud the few things he could still remember:
“Chase Center…Steve Kerr…the portal re-summoned…ancient Sumerian rites…” he said, and he wanted to say more, but found that the dream had fully left him. Setting the phone down and crawling back under the covers, he wondered, not for the first time, what the nature of these dreams was. Since returning from his interdimensional excursion two weeks ago, these cryptic dreams had assaulted his sleep. Each time, a portal was opened with the unspoken promise that it would lead him back to the Three-Point Shooting Amulet, but there was never enough detail to get a complete idea of how the portal had been brought into existence.
Stephen wasn’t even sure if these dreams were truly visionary or if they were simply a product of his desperate yearning for the amulet. He had received visions before, but those had been much more concrete, as they had been given to him by the all-powerful deities which resided outside of time. These were weaker, in a way impotent…was there another, different intelligence at play?
Sleep returned to him just as unexpectedly as it had been taken from him. As soon as his eyes were closed, the dreams resumed, but his conscious mind, as always, would recall very little of them. All that would remain of those dreams was their single defining characteristic: an overwhelming feeling of wanting to be reunited with the Amulet at any cost.
After ringing the doorbell of what his sources had told him was Larry Bird’s home, Stephen waited patiently. A few seconds’ wait was nothing compared to the nearly unbearable weeks that had passed since the Three-Point Shooting Amulet had been left behind in a higher dimension. Eventually, there was the sound of lumbering footsteps from inside and the door swung open.
“I told you, I’m not buying any of your cooki—oh,” Larry started before he saw that his unexpected visitor wasn’t a Girl Scout. “This is definitely worse than getting shaken down for cookies.”
“Can I come in?” Stephen asked.
Larry sighed, and at that moment, he had never looked older. “I suppose you’d better. If you’re here for the reason I think you are, you probably won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”
Stephen put on a lopsided smile. “You’re right. I wouldn’t.” Larry walked back into the house and Stephen followed him in, closing the door behind him. They went to the living room, which wasn’t as luxurious as Stephen expected, nor was it distinctive in any way; it looked like it could belong to any suburban home anywhere in the country.
“You want the amulet back,” Larry said, skipping the pleasantries that would be expected in a conversation between two NBA legends.
Stephen nodded. “And so do you.”
Larry didn’t seem offended at this accusation, but his eyes didn’t light up at the thought either. “I admit, the thought of possessing the amulet again does intrigue me. Although,” he continued, and, at this point, he did affix the younger man with a stern gaze. “This forbidden desire of mine cannot ever be spoken of to anybody. Your coach thinks that the amulet no longer grips me, since he himself no longer feels any lust after it.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure,” Stephen replied.
“You have to understand, Steph,” Larry went on. “Us old men, we know that, without complete mastery over the amulet, its detrimental physical effects could kill us. Literally kill us.” He sighed again and gazed out the living-room window, as if the Grim Reaper himself was standing out there waiting for him. “But there’s part of me that craves the power and the responsibility of being the bearer of the amulet. To this day, I feel it exerting its force on me, though we both know the amulet lost to the mysteries of the cosmos.”
Stephen waited to see if Larry would offer more information. When Larry seemed content to just sit in his chair with his thoughts, Stephen pressed on. “You were there when the first amulet was forged. Did you…?”
Larry correctly guessed where Stephen was going with this line of questioning, and shook his head. “No. Or, at least, I don’t think so. The ceremony, while vile and arcane, took place wholly in this dimension.”
Stephen stood up. While it was good to know that Larry was an ally, there was no more information that the old man could offer him. With a disappointed, “Thanks, Larry,” he left.