I was standing in a field of grain fifty miles outside Oklahoma City’s corporate limits. My car was stuck in a ditch off the road where I crashed it. I was sober. Lights surrounded me overhead.
I’m getting ahead of myself.
I used to laugh at how stupid the premise of “Space Jam” is. I get a bunch of come to life cartoon characters playing basketball. That seems like just the kind of crazy antics a bunch of cartoon animals would love. But aliens from outer space? That never felt believable to me. Wouldn’t a creature with a completely different physiology than humans be interested in their own sports designed for their own bodies and their own gravity? It always felt far fetched.
Besides, I am skeptical about aliens visiting Earth anyway. I believe in aliens. It seems mathematically impossible with an infinite or near-infinite Universe that other life wouldn’t exist. Even other life more technologically advanced than we are. I believe in all of that, but the same gigantic Universe that makes me believe in alien life also makes me believe it would be close to impossible to find our one tiny planet in the vastness of all of existence.
That’s why I discounted reports of strange happenings around Oklahoma City since the Thunder moved from Seattle to their new location in the prairie land. You hear about odd light formation and impossible paradoxes in the sky, and you ask where the photographs are. You ask about videos. Even a drunken farmer has a smart phone these days.
You ask about evidence in a world where we can document anything about our lives and post it on the Internet in half a second. When you find out there is no evidence, you discount it immediately. Like I did. Like you are probably doing right now.
And when these drunken farmers and random rural shut-ins say they tried to record what they saw, but it inexplicably wouldn’t record, you say, “Of course.”
Reports of animals turned inside out are easily explained. Wild animals. Teenage pranks. Satanic cults. There are answers everywhere you look as long as you don’t really look.
I don’t blame you for not thinking twice about these strange occurrences or any of the others I could list if I really wanted to get offtrack. I was the same as you, and for good reason. This all sounds absolutely absurd.
That was before I received the below picture in the mail. It had a note on the back that simply said, “Meet me at that return address.” Checking on Google Maps, the address was for an apartment building in downtown Oklahoma City.
Obviously, I was intrigued. I thought the photograph was probably a Photoshop job by an extremely deft hand. The mystery of it all was undeniable, though, and I’m a sucker for mystery. I figured I would have a fun story about some guy trying to frame Russell Westbrook as being an extraterrestrial.
To my surprise, a high school acquaintance of mine occupied the apartment. He had been one of the smartest kids in my graduating class. He was always interested in sports, so we would talk about basketball before and after classes sometimes. I have a hard time calling him a friend because we never hung out after school or anything, but we were friendly.
The defining characteristic I remember about him was he always had it together. He was the least likely to party. Most likely to make something out of his life. No temper that I could remember. An even-keeled guy with a bright future.
The person who opened the door was someone different entirely. Twelve years can change a person, I know, but I didn’t recognize this person until he saw my confusion and told me his name.
“You were the only one to come,” he said. “I sent that picture out to everyone I could think of.”
The walls of his apartment were covered in candid pictures of Westbrook. Pictures that mirror the one I posted above. His counters were covered in empty Ritalin bottles and loose pills that I suspect used to fill those empty bottles.
He walked around his apartment, explaining how and where and why he took each picture. Grabbing pills off the counters and chewing them like candy.
“What’s with the pills?” I asked him.
“I’m not normally like this,” he said. “But I don’t think I have a lot of time. I’m on a deadline of sorts.”
I asked him to explain what he meant, but he wouldn’t.
“Level with me,” I said. “These pictures are all faked, right? This is a hoax?”
“If only,” he said. “You see, I have it all figured out. Presti has assembled a team of aliens. Well, mostly aliens. He’s made some kind of deal with them. I don’t know what they get in return, but he gets these aliens disguised as humans. They’re supposed to only use their alien technology a little bit, but…”
“But Westbrook has gone rogue. First he started using their technology to destroy people on the basketball court. Now he’s getting bolder. More unpredictable. Presti and the team can’t contain him anymore.”
He slipped another pill into his mouth.
“You don’t believe me,” he said.
“It’s a little far fetched,” I said.
“I know the whole thing sounds crazy. Come with me tonight, and you’ll see.”
“Where are you going tonight?”
“On a stakeout,” he said.
We waited in his car outside the arena. We listened to the game on the radio. Westbrook ripped apart the Timberwolves. My acquaintance munched on his pills that he scooped from a sandwich bag. He held the bag out to me.
“Want some?” he asked.
I kind of did. But he was high as hell, and one of us had to stay sober. I was starting to wonder if the pills were really just Ritalin anyway.
He began to talk about things he saw. Lights that spun in the sky like a never ending staircase. Displays of bastardization of gravity that would make Westbrook’s in game dunks look as impressive as a toddler’s first wobbling steps.
“The feeling I get from the team through my sources is they are afraid he’s going to do something in game that is inexplicable through our understanding of science,” he said. “And I’ve seen things that tell me they’re right.”
“You have sources?” I said.
“I’m not a total nut job.”
We followed Westbrook’s car out beyond the suburbs. He parked on the far side of a corn field. This was miles from where I began my story. Miles from where this story ends.
He ripped his own face from his head. It was an elaborate mask. He revealed his true, nightmare form to the night. A creature that must have had a similar evolutionary path to us humans, but not quite the same. You’ve seen the picture. You know what inescapable nightmares will come to you in your sleep now.
He pulled wooden boards out of his car. He dragged them into the stalks that swayed in the Oklahoma night. We followed behind him at a distance. Peering at him through the corn. He began placing the boards down on top of the crops.
“What is he doing?” I asked.
“Just watch,” my acquaintance said.
“Why is there corn here? Is this normal? It’s winter.”
“Now you’re getting why this is so fucked up,” he said.
“This isn’t safe.”
“I have a plan.”
He lifted his shirt just enough to show me the handgun he had tucked into the waistline of his pants. He let the shirt back down to cover it again.
Westbrook made impossible symbols in the corn. Perfect circles and lines. Their perfection so unmistakable, we didn’t need to see them from above.
We crept closer to Westbook, the beauty of his work transfixing us. Lulled into a siren trance. Pulled along by sight rather than sound.
We found ourselves in the middle of a circle. Unsure of how we got there. Westbrook standing in front of us, smirking.
“I think we’re caught,” I said.
I pulled the handgun from my acquaintance’s waistline. I held the gun up at Westbrook. My finger shaking on the trigger. Westbrook laughed and stepped closer.
I shot at him point blank. The bullet swung around his body like a planet caught in the rotation of some great star. Stuck in orbit instead of going straight into him.
“Don’t you realize Patrick Beverley is the only thing that can harm me?” Westbrook said.
I shot my acquaintance in the leg and pushed him towards Westbrook. I heard them rustling in the crop circle behind me. I darted through the stalks that reached up to the sky like hands grasping at the heavens.
The car was still running. The doors still unlocked. I jumped into the driver’s seat and burst out onto the road in the vast emptiness of the Oklahoma countryside. I sped towards the big city when marvelous lights caught in all my mirrors.
Hovering above where Westbrook made his strange symbols, a spacecraft with impossible lights had appeared. Spinning in place like a top where all its parts appeared to move in separate directions.
I stopped the car. I moved it into reverse. I plunged forward and followed the lights as the craft moved above the fields.
It appeared to move slowly, but the car was pushing 80. Then 90. 100. Faster. Ever faster.
The spacecraft was hard to predict. It moved in new directions without any warning. Weaving one direction then the other while keeping its effortless speed. I realized where Westbrook learned all his best moves.
I took a turn too quickly and the car flew into a ditch separating the field of grain from the road. I got out of the car. The craft was in the middle of the field. Seemingly waiting for me.
I followed the lights.
My acquaintance was spread out under the lights in the middle of the field. His pants had a hole in them where I shot him. Blood surrounded the hole, but there was no wound. He was sleeping peacefully below the spectacle hovering above us.
Westbrook was kneeling beside him. I couldn’t remember if he was there all along or had materialized while I was looking at the wound. His smirk was still ever-present.
“You fixed him,” I said.
“We aren’t monsters,” Westbrook said.
He stepped forward, and I took my gun out to shoot my acquaintance again as a distraction.
“There’s no need for that,” Westbrook said. “The only place I want to destroy Earth humans is on the basketball court.”
“Sure,” I said. “That’s good enough for now, but what happens when it isn’t enough?”
“It’s not like you can stop me either way, so don’t worry about it.”
“I’m going to tell everyone.”
“Do that,” he said. “See who believes you.”
I dragged my acquaintance halfway back to his car. He woke up screaming and walked the rest of the way himself. We didn’t talk the entire walk back. We didn’t talk during the drive to my hotel. The GPS did the talking for me, telling him where to go. He parked the car in front of the entrance.
“You were right all along,” I said.
“No, I wasn’t,” he said.
He drove away before I could shut the door. It flapped open and shut down the street until the car turned a corner and out of my view.
I can’t say if he doesn’t remember or refuses to speak up. I can’t say what happened to him in those minutes where we were separated. In those minutes where he was my sacrificial lamb.
It seems like I’m the only one left who is willing to tell the truth about Westbrook. He isn’t human. He isn’t the same as us. He isn’t the same as most of his NBA co-workers.
You probably don’t believe me. I wouldn’t believe me either.