When Aron Baynes first opened his eyes, the bright light assaulting them made it hard to do anything more than squint. But what he saw through those squinted eyelids made him think that he had been transported to an Australian beach; there was cloudy sky above him, a sandy-colored material below him, and what looked like ocean in front of him.
That notion was dispelled when he realized that he was lying on some kind of hard surface. He had been to a lot of beaches in Australia, but none of them had been hard. And now that he thought about it, he could hear none of the normal sounds of a beach: crashing surf, chatting beachgoers, squawking birdlife, none of it was present. In fact, there was no sound at all in his ears. Total silence.
He sat up and opened his eyes a bit wider. What he had taken to be grey ocean water underneath a cloudy sky was just a wall made out of stone that rose up towards the ceiling. Looking up, he saw there was actually no ceiling here; the walls just went up and up until they vanished into a silvery, luminescent layer of clouds. Below him was a floor made out of beige-colored marble. It was hardly the sandy beach of his dreams.
Speaking of dreams, Aron couldn’t decide if he was dreaming or if he had died or what. He patted his body to check for his own realness and was surprised when his hand contacted chest hair. So he was naked too. Naked and alone in a temple or hall of some sort. If this was a dream, he thought, there were a lot worse dreams to be in. And if this was the afterlife, it felt a lot less judgmental than the afterlives of Earth’s mainstream religions. There wasn’t even a god around to make him feel bad about all the sins he had committed in his life.
Aron got to his feet and walked over to one of the windows that periodically appeared in the walls. Peering through that thick glass, however, did not illuminate his situation any, as there was nothing but a grey void beyond them. He started walking, thinking that eventually he would either wake up or find some clue as to where he was. There seemed to be no limit to how far he could walk; the wall continued along beside him, but one never appeared in front of him.
Instead of feeling the expected anxiety about his very strange situation, Aron only found contentment. There were no stresses here. There were no obligations. Peace of mind was a very rare luxury for NBA players but it could be found in abundance between these stone walls underneath shimmering clouds. If, and when, his legs got tired, there were many benches on which to rest. If thirst came to him, there were ornate fountains to drink from. It was, on the whole, much more serene than even the calmest days in his real life.
After some time, Aron noticed that there was somebody standing in the distance, gazing thoughtfully out one of the windows. He quickened his pace, eager to see if this person had any answers about the nature of the place they were in. But when he got there, he asked the stupidest question first. “Where’d you get that robe?”
The man turned to face Aron. “Oh, my apologies. I got lost in a daydream,” he said, and for some reason, he looked nervous. “You won’t mention my absent-mindedness, will you? The overseers are already displeased with me.”
Shaking his head as if to clear it, the man went on, “Sorry. Let’s start over. My name is Carlos Delfino, and, as the guardian of the Hall of the Thirty Point Scorers, it is my duty to greet you promptly. Please accept my apologies in my lax commitment to my responsibilities.”
“So I didn’t die?” Aron asked. The name ‘Carlos Delfino’ didn’t sound like the name of any deity he had heard of.
“No. Your mortal form still roams the earth while your disembodied soul is rewarded with ultimate peacefulness and calm here in the Hall.”
“Rewarded…” Aron murmured. Then he remembered the events that had precipitated his arrival here. His 37-point game. His nine three-pointers. “So my body is down there banging 10/10 chicks while I’m up here hanging out with a dude named Carlos?”
“We can bang if you want,” Carlos said mildly. “I’m afraid I’m not quite a ten out of ten, though. Or, if you prefer, I can arrange for your departure from the Hall.”
“No!” Aron said quickly. He knew that he was much happier here than he ever was in his real life. “This is cool. I think I’ll stick around for a while.”
Carlos smiled and handed Aron a white robe. “Good. Here’s your robe.” Before Aron could thank Carlos, the man had turned and walked away.
Aron put the robe on. It was impossibly comfortable. The bench he then reclined on was impossibly comfortable as well. Those chicks could wait. He was in no hurry to leave.