May 16, 2011

Short Story: Shifter

                Pressure was where he excelled, and David knew it.
                The whole school did.
                Down by 2 points with 10 seconds left on the buzzer for the district championship? David was right at home, in the clutch and ready to perform. The sound of his name brought him back out of the celebratory party he was certain would follow tonight.
                “Got that David? We need to tie it up!” Coach Braun was looking him dead in the eye. Every single eye in the huddle was focused on him.
                He threw out his trademark swagger of a smile.
                “Let me see what I can do for you coach.” The confidence beamed off of him, the entire team being carried by it. The sweaty hands all poured into middle. David placed his hand on the top. “Don’t worry guys, we’ve got this.”
                The chorus of a rally started up.
                “3… 2… 1… Vikings!”
                The crowd went wild as David started taking it all in. Not a single person was sitting, at least as far as he knew.
                James walked up to the referee who had the ball and David got into position. The guy covering him was a bit on the aggressive side, but that didn’t stop David. Shoving was expected with this much tension riding on the game. Then there was the opening.
                David turned to catch the ball. Everything was in slow motion for him.
                The point guard came out of nowhere to snatch the ball out of the middle of the air. David panicked.
                There was about two feet between the point guard and David, and he was already dribbling his way to make the point gap impossible to close. David focused all of his energy into chasing the player down. The deafening sound of the dribble was the only sound David could comprehend.
                The gap was closed but the other player was turned so David couldn’t get to the ball. He didn’t care, he reached out for the ball anyway.
                His eyes went wide and his brain began racing as he felt the texture of the ball. As if his subconscious knew what was at stake he could feel the ball move in the opposite direction, away from the direction the other player was moving. And then David saw it, the player lost control of the basketball and fumbled his dribble. David was there instantly, turning the momentum back in the Vikings favor. He glanced at the timer out of the corner of his eye.
                Four seconds.
                He sailed past half court, dibbling furiously. The confused point guard behind him was closing in, and the center was trying to do his best to stop David from advancing any further down the court. David clasped the ball in both of his hands leaned in as if he was going to bull rush through his opponent.
                The bait had been placed, and took. David bounced back on his heels and released the ball, sending it sailing towards the hoop. Everyone froze, their eyes transfixed on the orange globe travelling through the air. A pin drop could be heard without any effort at all in the silence.
                The ball bounced on the back of the rim and was on its way back out to the court.
                No!
                David threw his arms out somehow wishing it would help, although knowing that it wouldn't.
                It did.
                He felt the texture of the ball on his fingers again. He could feel the force of its movement being transferred into his body. In a state of panic he held his hands in place. The ball bounced off of them, even though his fingers were nowhere near the ball. It hit the back rim again and sank into the hoop. The crowd went wild with the buzzer signifying the end of the game following suit.
                David jumped in excitement. What a great way to cap off my junior year! The stadium erupted, the three pointer making the Vikings the district champions for basketball by one point, and making David the local hero. The crowd rushed the court, David getting hoisted up by his shoulders as he exchanged high fives with his team mates and friends. He was too caught up in the celebration to notice the figure in a black jacket with the hood drawn up leaving the auditorium.
                The figure reaches a car and gets inside while grabbing for a cell phone. A single text message is sent.
                “He has started.”