The dining room table was haphazardly covered both with computer components and the packaging they had arrived in. Sitting at the edge of the chaos, Jarrett Allen wondered why his computer builds always turned out this way. It was like he couldn’t just sit down and do things in a logical manner. He had to spread everything out like a buffet of silicon.
All the online tutorials for computer-building recommended plugging a bare minimum of parts into the motherboard to ensure that they were all working. Jarrett thought that was stupid. He would just have to unplug them again to get the motherboard into the case, and, besides, he had already built four different PC’s for himself, so he was more of an expert than some faux nerd on YouTube with a stylish haircut and a Hyper-X t-shirt. So he forged ahead.
Two hours later, the case was standing upright with its cover back on. Behind the tempered-glass panel he could see the gleaming video card, the overengineered but aesthetic watercooling system, the memory banks fully loaded with a glorious 128 GB of memory, and the RGB light strips just waiting to illumine the whole system with whatever color, or combination of colors, struck his fancy. Next to the tower, an ultrawide curved screen sat waiting to deliver millions of vibrant pixels in perfect 4K resolution. Feeling giddy at the truly obscene amounts of gaming he was going to get done while his NBA career was temporarily on pause, Jarrett hit the power button on the case with confidence.
Jarrett felt a momentary sense of disappointment, but then he remembered that he hadn’t switched the power supply on. A common mistake even for seasoned PC-building enthusiasts such as himself. He flipped the switch, then hit the power button again.
Still nothing. Not a single light came on. Not a single fan spun.
Maybe the idea of testing the components before doing the full build wasn’t so stupid after all. Now he would have to pull out all the custom watercooling piping and undo his carefully-planned cable management schemes just to figure out which component was a dud. At least he still had all the original packaging if he needed to send something back; his cat Artie was amusing himself in the avalanche of cardboard and plastic.
Mourning his stillborn new computer but comforted by the fact that his current PC, which he had built soon after his first NBA game checks had shown up in his bank account, could still play most games on medium settings, Jarrett started the process of disassembly. Almost everything had been unplugged and set aside when, suddenly, there was a jolt of activity: the power light turned and fans began to spin. It stopped as soon as it had started.
Jarrett was confused. The motherboard power connector was dangling freely, and the power supply had been unplugged from the wall outlet, so how had anything else received any power? Was there an electrical short that was somehow electrifying all the components? Jarrett didn’t know much about electricity, but he thought that was unlikely. Slightly disconcerted at this very atypical PC-building excursion, he reached into the case to start popping out the memory modules.
He yanked his hands out when the fans started spinning again. Now he noticed that a faint, distorted image was appearing on his new monitor. As he watched it, the scattered, flickering pixels coalesced into a more recognizable image. The image of a human face. Tim Duncan’s face.
“Hello Jarrett,” Tim said, even though there were no speakers connected to the computer.
“You aren’t real,” Jarrett said.
“I am real. There’s no time to explain,” Tim said. “My soul is being converted into electrical signals as we speak, but my soul is not an infinite resource. Soon it will be depleted.”
“So you’re, like, living in my new CPU right now? Is that why my new build wouldn’t turn on?”
Tim looked annoyed. “I told you, there’s no time. I need to give you some advice before my soul runs out.”
Jarrett was still pretty sure he was hallucinating or dreaming, but figured that dream-advice from Tim Duncan was just as good as real advice from Tim Duncan. “Okay.”
Tim held up one finger. “First, pick your financial advisors carefully.”
“My only financial advisor is the cryptocurrency community on Twitter. And Spencer Dinwiddie.”
Tim nodded in approval and held up a second finger. “Second, try to add some kind of jumpshot to your game.”
“Dude, I am trying.”
Tim held up a third finger, but his face was already breaking up. “Third, ignore all women and play video games instead,” he said in a voice that was crackling with radio static. “Surround yourself with the right people. The kind of people who like to have LAN parties.”
Jarrett felt a tear come to his eye. He knew that the man he was talking to was the real Tim Duncan. “Thank you for your advice, master.”
And then Tim was gone.