1 Sacrifice and Second Chance

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Today is such a wonderful day to go for a walk. Finishing work early is great, especially when you are your own boss. I've made a lot of money and live a happy life, but I still spend my days watching basketball. Whether it be YouTubers, NBA games, or college ball, I could have chased a position as a point guard, but my tiny town in Oregon isn't of interest to scouts or colleges. Everything I've worked for in my life has beared fruit, and while it's pitiful to dwell on the past. You can't help it when you love something so much. It's impossible to let it go and keep it from your mind forever. This park is my favorite to come to. This is where I came with my father. Mom would sit on her favorite bench and watch us play.

My mom and dad couldn't have given me a better life. They worked so hard and gave me so much love. There isn't really a danger growing up in a neighborhood that looks out for each other. I don't know what I did to deserve such an amazing life. I keep walking the stone path that leads around the park, getting the exercise I need. As I'm walking, I see a little girl get away from the supervision of her parents and make her way into the street. I look down the street and see a pickup truck rushing down the road. The driver isn't looking at the road. They are distracted by their phone. I'm closer to the kid now than her parents. I run as fast as I can from my spot, and I dash past the parents. They look at me strangely as I do.

As I keep running, I can hear their screams to their daughter and truck driver. That causes the girl to stop right in the middle of the road to look at her parents with a smile. Her mother screams harder and louder, and I'm getting closer and closer. So is the truck, I'm stepping on the road, and the truck is maybe a second or two from hitting the girl. I use all the power in my legs and core to dive at the girl. I get a hand on her and shove her out of the way as I feel a heavy pain rip through my body. I feel my bones shatter and my spine twist. A couple of seconds of excruciating pain later, and darkness surrounds me. It's familiar darkness, one that everyone will know once they meet it again. As I float in the endless nothing, a screen pops up in front of me.

[Well... Giving your fantastic life for another.]

[I can safely say you have impressed me.]

I look at the floating text in front of my eyes. I have put enough of what happened together to know I'm dead now. "So is this the afterlife? The place you judge people before you send them to heaven or hell?" I have believed in a higher power my entire life. How else could my family have made it the way it did. I even prayed when I remembered to.

[You can call it those things. It's a place that I use to talk to people like you. Ones who gave their lives for another.]

[What you did is the ultimate act of selflessness. If you ever give your life for an innocent stranger, it's an automatic way into heaven.]

I feel butterflies in my stomach as I read these words. I get to see mom and dad again. I have so many stories to tell them. "Does this mean I'm going to heaven?" I have to ask just to make sure. An eternal paradise sounds amazing.

[If you want to.]

[I give two options when this rare event occurs, and it is rare.]

I wonder what the second option is cause if it's hell, then I'm picking heaven in a heartbeat.

[It's not hell, I'll give you a chance to live the dream that echos in your heart.]

[You can choose between your dream of being a basketball player, or you can come with me to heaven and be with your family.]

[There is no wrong choice here, you have a good heart and a clean soul.]

[So, what will it be?]

I don't know what to think. If this is real, then there really is no wrong answer. Is it wrong to want to live my dream over spending eternity in paradise...

[When your life is over, if you choose to go back, you'll still come to heaven.]

This floating text can read my thoughts, or is it an intermission for the words from God? I already know what I'm going to pick, but that selfish feeling lingers at my choice. "I want to live the dream I never could." As I say that, a warm feeling spreads through my body, and I feel energy shoot through me.

[I'm glad you made this choice, I'm going to leave you with a gift to help you on your journey.]

[It's going to be the greatest help you can have. It's a gift that will keep on giving.]

As I read those final words, a bright light pierces the darkness, and my eyes shoot open as I spring up on my bed. I place my hand on my forehead, and that's when I notice my small white hands. I look over my entire body as I do this, and I'm so much smaller than I used to be. I'm a kid again. I look up from my hands and look around the room. It's the same room I had when I was a kid. Basketball posters cover the walls, and I see my old chest of toys. I get out of the bed and look towards the little mirror in the room. I look like I'm 11 years old again. I look towards the lego calendar in my room and see that it's September 19th, 2019. Two days after my parents died.

It makes sense that my parents wouldn't be here. They would have to leave heaven if that's how it works, but now I know for sure they are watching over me. That is one of the best feelings in the world. Aunt Ellie came to stay at our house when my parents passed in a car accident. She raised me herself after that. She loved me as much as mom did. "Are you coming down, Ulysses?" I hear the voice of my aunt, and my heart aches a little. She gave up so much to raise me, and I only got to spoil her a little before she passed from breast cancer. That's over 25 years from now, though. I make my way to the bedroom door when I hear a chirp from something. A text box opens in front of me.

[Welcome to the Prodigious Basketball System!]

[Do you want a tutorial of the system?]

I look at the floating text with confusion. I don't know what a system is. This must have been the gift I received. "Yes?" I answer in a confused voice. A new line of text pops up.

[Ulysses Kennedy]

[Age 11, birthday January 24th, 2008]

[Shooting- F] [Dribbling- F] [Passing- F] [Speed- F] [Defense- F] [Lateral Quickness- F] [Dunking (Locked)- F] [Rebounding- F] [Endurance- F] [Current Height- 4'11] [Final Height- ?]



[These are your basketball stats and badges. To improve these stats, you must practice them. No exp bar will be shown. The grade will change once you meet the criteria for a grade change. You will know and see the improvement as you go. So no need for exp bars.]

[While most would be compared to kids their age, your stats reflect the NBA level. So you are going to be at a much higher skill level than your fellow kids.]

[Grades range from F all the way to S+]

[Badges will be explained once you unlock one soon.]

[The criteria for grade changes are successfully completing drills, accomplishing feats in a competitive game, and practicing in the simulation space.]

[Would you like to see the simulation space?]

I think yes, and my mind is brought to a floating basketball court surrounded by stars. I look off the edge, and a barrier blocks me, but I can see earth down below.

[This is the simulation space. It allows you to practice your basketball skills. Be warned that you only progress half has fast here. It's better to train in the real world. This will become invaluable when you are traveling between places. You can use it while you sleep, but only for 4 hours.]

This place is amazing. I'm brought back to my body, and I feel a slight shiver go through me. I don't know how that works, but it's really cool. "I know that you don't want to go to school today, but it might help to see some of your friends..." Ellie is standing at the doorway with a sad expression. Today is a school day. I look at her and see that her eyes are red from crying. She just lost her brother-in-law and sister. Aaron and Milly Kennedy are the people who I lost in that car accident two days ago. I nod my head, and she leaves me to get dressed.

I walk over to my closet and see countless old clothes that I used to love at this age. I look in front of me, and the screen is there with a message.

[Do you wish to open the overpowered starter pack?]

That sounds cool. I guess it really is a gift that keeps on giving. I think yes, and a new screen pops up listing a bunch of things.

[You are granted three badges!]

[Quick learner][A]

[Description: You pick up basketball better than most, and you grow in these areas faster.]

[Shooters Touch][A+]

[Description: You have a natural ability to shoot the lights out, and this will draw a lot of attention.]

[One of a Kind][S+]

[Description: Your basketball skills will grow much faster and better than anybody in your generation.]

[You have been granted a legendary class!]

[Class granted: The Singularity]

[Description: This class marks you out as a once-in-a-lifetime talent.]

[Boosts to all stats by 2 entire grades]

[Boosts the rate at which your stats grow]

[Final height will be 6'11 without shoes once you are done growing.]

[Badges are special perks that add diversity to your game. The more badges you have the better.]

I look at all this information, and I see changes made to what I would assume is my stat panel. I bring the stat panel into focus and see the information. I can feel the change in my body and head when I think about basketball after these stat boosts. This is not something I ever thought possible, but I'm glad it is.

[Ulysses Kennedy]

[Class - The Singularity][Legendary]

[Age 11, birthday January 24th, 2008]

[Shooting- C] [Dribbling- C] [Passing- C] [Speed- C] [Defense- C] [Lateral Quickness- C] [Dunking (Locked)- C] [Rebounding- C] [Endurance- C] [Current Height- 4'11] [Final Height- 6'11 without shoes]


[Quick learner][A] [Shooters Touch][A+] [One of a Kind][S+]

[There is no shop or function of the like. If you wish to upgrade your stats or get new badges, you must do it with work.]

I finish getting dressed and remember this is the first day of middle school. It's going to be weird going through all this again, and the thought of being 7'0 tall by the time I'm done growing is kind of crazy. I look at my dresser, and I see my basketball. It's the one dad and I would play with while mom watched. I can't bring my heart to use it since I lost it in the future. I keep an extra under my bed, though. I grab it and put it in my backpack.

I head downstairs fully dressed and see Ellies making me a PB&J. I complained about it last time. She deserves better this time around. She hands me my NBA lunch box with a smile and kisses my forehead. Before she pulls away, I give her the best hug my almost 5-foot body can give. "Thank you so much, Aunt Ellie. I love you." I feel her wrap her arms around me fast as I say that. I didn't say it enough during this hard time. I let her go and run towards the bus stop. I see my best friend Mitchel waiting there too. We drifted apart after high school. He was like the brother I never had. We both wait for the school bus to come and we talk.

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