18 Chapter 17: Green Release

The second game of the playoffs had come, and I was more ready than I had ever been ready for anything in my life.

Immediately upon entering the school's gym, my team and I were met with the electric roar of the crowd. I could see my family in the crowd, waving to get my attention near the top of the stands, I waved back at them, smiling a little before putting my game face back on.

Stacy was in the crowd as well. I waved slightly to her, but I still felt awkward about the whole little situation.

This was it.

My week's worth of training, which was actually a few months' worth in Ky Time, was finally going to show. Still, even though I trained so hard, I was still horrified.

Without my powers, I was a nobody.

When it came to school, I used my powers to cheat on exams.

When it came to conversations, I would reverse time over and over until I got the desired result.

Of course, when it came to basketball... It doesn't need to be said how I manipulated the game with my powers.

It wasn't until this very moment when my team and I made our way over to the bench as I reflected on my past, I realized that I hadn't been using my powers outside of training at all for the past week.

I hadn't used it at school to cheat or anything. Even with Stacy, on our little hangout, I didn't even use my powers a single time.

'Maybe... Maybe I am something without my powers.' I thought. If I could do all of those things, though just for a week, without using my abilities, I could win this game. I understand that not using my powers to cheat at life for a week doesn't sound that impressive, but this comes from someone who used their powers in every facet of life.

I guess as I was hyping myself up in my head, my teammates noticed that I wasn't really in the zone. "Aye, man... You good?" Miles asked, elbowing me slightly so as to get my attention. Snapping out of it, I nodded. "Yeah, I'm good. All good." Though my voice claimed that this was the case, I think it was written on my face that I was in fact NOT all good.

"Ky! Get your head out of the clouds! I don't know what's wrong with you suddenly but you're acting like a whole new person. Are you his twin brother Kyle or something?" My coach didn't seem too happy, which I understand. His star player was suddenly playing like shit in practice and was spacing out just before the game.

"Ky is short for Kyle... Sir." I told him. I was genuine when I said this, I thought he should've known, but that only pissed him off even further.

After a stern talking to, the buzzer for the game to commence went off, and the starting five started walking to center court. However, before I did so, my coach stopped me. "Ky, wait a second. Stand next to Ganke."

Doing as he said, Ganke and I stood next to each other. I didn't realize it until then, but I was taller than Ganke by a rather big amount. I was only eleven, and he was twelve, yet I was about five feet, seven inches tall.

"That explains why you play like a newborn gazelle. You've hit a growth spurt and your coordination is all out of whack." Coach told me. "Miles, you're point guard now. Ganke, you're our shooting guard. And Ky, you're our small forward, got it?"

"Yes, sir!" the three of us spoke in unison before walking toward center court. As we walked, my two friends started to tease me about my height. "I guess you really did grow huh? No wonder your shorts seem so small."

"Yeah, you look like you're wearing a fourth grader's PJs."

They both laughed and I sort of laughed too. However, what Ganke said next would completely shake my core.

"It's like you aged by five years or something."

As he said this, it felt as if the world around me distorted and completely stopped. 'Like I... aged?' I couldn't see my own face, but I'd imagine my eyes were nearly bulging out of my head as I stared blankly at the nothingness in front of me.

It all made sense.

The growth spurt.

My shoe size growing rapidly.

The hair on my nuts.

I was aging faster than normal because of my powers.

But there was something about it that didn't make any sense to me. If I was aging faster, wouldn't I just be a few months older? Why was I seemingly reaching pubescent age? According to my calculations, I was slowing time down by maybe four or five hundred percent. So in seven days, I should have aged by four or five times that; twenty-eight to thirty-five days.

Then it hit me.

'It's because I'm not just slowing down and reversing time. It's because I'm moving through slowed and reversed time while also manipulating the time around objects-'

Before I could wrap my head around it all, I heard a whistle blow and the ball bounced past me. I was so caught up, so lost in thought, I missed the opening jump ball.

The ball then bounced into the hands of one of the players on the other team and they began dribbling down the court. Wanting to redeem myself, I sprinted after him, staying by his side until we reached the basket.

Thanks to my height, I was able to block his layup attempt and send the ball bouncing toward Ganke who then picked it up and threw it across the court to Miles. Miles caught the ball, dribbled past his defender, and took the ball straight to the rim with a textbook layup, scoring our first two points.

The crowd erupted, and for the first time, it was actually earned by me. However, that sweet feeling of success was being overwhelmed by the haunting feeling of death as I continued to think about my body. 'Does this mean I'll die younger? At this rate, I might not even live to thirty years old...'

This story of mine isn't about basketball, so I'll spare you the details of the game up until the end. It was a close one, and I was doing pretty decent but not anywhere near as well as I usually played when I was using my powers. Nonetheless, the score was seventy-five to seventy-seven with only five seconds on the clock and it was our ball.

We needed to score two points to tie or three points to win. Our coach liked to gamble, so he drew up a play for us to score a three and win the game. However, what shocked me was that the one who would be taking the shot would be me.

And so, with five seconds left, Ganke inbounded the ball and we began commencing the play that the coach drew up for us. Miles set a screen, allowing me to break free of my man before Ganke passed the ball to me.

In my head, I counted down every last second, though it was hard to hear my own thoughts due to the volume of the crowd.

'Five.'

I dribbled past a defender, nearly losing the ball as I stumbled past half court.

'Four.'

Another one of our teammates, his name was Jake, set a screen for me, allowing me to go around another defender and toward the left side of the three-point line.

'Three.'

Of course, things wouldn't be so easy, and another defender switched and helped on defense. Regardless, the clock was ticking and I had to make the shot.

'Two.'

I stopped in my tracks about a foot away from the three point line. Everyone in the building, including my defender, my teammates, and the crowd, knew that I was about to fire a shot right where my feet were planted.

The crowd, my coach, and my teammates on the bench all stood up in anticipation. For once, the crowd had gone completely silent, or perhaps, I was so locked in, my body was tuning out the noise.

'One.'

I rose in the air, high enough to where my defender's fingertips barely couldn't reach the ball, and flicked my wrist to release a textbook jump shot. You know that feeling when you release the ball from your fingertips and it feels perfect? Just knowing that the shot you took was going in just by the way it felt in your hands? That was what I felt at that very moment. It felt like a green release in real life.

(A green release is when a player perfectly times a jump shot in the NBA 2K video games. A green release means the shot is guaranteed to go in.)

I couldn't tell if it was due to my powers or if it was all in my head, but time began to slow around me. I took a look around, seeing Miles and Ganke holding up three fingers as if they could feel it too, my green release.

My dad, Bryan, the look of pride on his face nearly brought a tear to my eye as he stood up pumping his fist. My mom, Jessie, too looked proud of me, holding onto Bryan tightly with both hands. Emily was still sitting, looking at the ball intensely as it soared through the air. Even Stacy was watching with a smile on her face, sure that this shot of mine was going in.

For the first time in my life, I could sense the value of having support from others, but at the same time, I felt the fear of knowing that I could possibly let them down.

My eyes then darted back toward the ball as it began to fall and the buzzer sounded. As if the grating sound disrupted my mind, time resumed at a normal speed and the ball continued to fall.

The ball then hit the back of the inside of the rim, then the front before skipping up into the air onto the front lip of it. The crowd went silent for a second as the ball teetered on the rim, only for the crowd to erupt when the ball fell...

But the ball did not fall through the net.

I missed.

The other team and their supporters cheered as I missed the game-winning shot.

I stood in the same spot at the three-point line, emotionless, as the other team sprinted around me and people began storming the court to celebrate the fact that they would be moving on to the semi-finals and we wouldn't.

Heartbroken, I fell to my hands and knees as tears began to well up in my eyes. I was trying so hard not to cry, especially not in front of all of these people, but I couldn't help myself.

I finally understood just a fraction of what Shark Boy felt after my team beat him. That feeling of working so hard to achieve something just for it all to be stripped away hurt so badly. To make matters worse, I let people down.

My family, my friends, my team, and my school were all banking on me to win and I fucked it all up.

'I guess it's true.

I'm nothing without my powers.'

"Ky." I heard Miles's voice and felt his presence in front of me, along with Ganke. I looked up to see that they too had tears in their eyes, having made it this far just to lose when we were so close.

"I'm sorry. I blew it." I told them. "It's all my fault."

"I missed shots too." Miles admitted and Ganke agreed, adding onto it. "Me too. It's a team game, Ky. We all blew it."

What they were saying was true. It's a team game and every shot matters. To me, however, I blew the very last and most important shot. Nothing else mattered.

"I missed the one that mattered the most. I let everyone down."

"Are you sure about that?" Ganke asked me. "You didn't let me down."

"Yeah, me neither." Miles added.

"You didn't let us down either, champ." I heard the voice of Bryan behind me, standing with Emily and Jessie next to him. "You did good."

"But I lost."

"You did lose. But you worked hard to get this far and that's what matters the most to me. Besides, how can one improve without experiencing failure?"

Bryan was right. He was so right, it was almost scary.

This was truly the first time I experienced failure in this new life of mine. Whenever I failed, my powers were there to back me up and fix things. It's why I stagnated in life. I wasn't getting any stronger, or smarter. I for damn sure wasn't growing as a person, not until now.

"You're right." I said, standing up and wiping the tears from my eyes. As I did so, Stacy appeared from almost out of nowhere and hugged me. I started to recoil, but I think I stopped myself because I needed that more than anything at that moment.

Looking around, I realized that what I had in front of me right then was far more important than winning any middle school championship.

I had people who supported me.

People who cared about me.

People who loved me.

Regardless of my failures, these people would always be there for me. They didn't care whether I passed or failed. The whole reason I played basketball and cheated was so that way people would give a fuck about me. I wanted to be popular. I wanted to not be a complete loser like I was in my last life. At least, that's what I thought I wanted.

Really, I just wanted friends. Real friends, like the ones I had in front of me then.

Looking back, I'm glad I missed that shot.

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