A summer evening's rust turns to darkness. The cicadas sing in the trees. The screen door slowly opens and a young Michael Jordan looks at a well-worn basketball hoop. His hand touches the ball, just the fingers at first, feeling the texture, then the whole of his palm. He looks at his father. His father sees himself in his son, his faults and his strengths, the mistakes he has made repeating in young Michael's face.
What am I but sand in this winding river of time? he seems to ask. But there is something more there...young Michael takes a shot at the basket. The travel of the ball through the air is as slow and purposeful as the course the moon takes across the night sky.
Dirt-smeared aliens climb the active caldera of Moron Mountain. Their limbs shed ash in slow motion. Picaresque plumes of magma burst behind them. They are unmoved by the natural wonder. Their eyes are heavy, half-lidded, and their stride is a methodical, heartless march through the Moron Mountain amusement park.
A larger alien stands amid the shower of ash and watches his customers file through the park. It is Mister Swackhammer.
I am a carcass left for vultures, he thinks, and they've grown sick of the taste of me.
He turns to his assistants. There is a quiet tension in the room. They can see that Mister Swackhammer has something to say, but none has the courage to prompt him.
"We need a new attraction," says Mr. Swackhammer. " Something new. Something wild. Something wacky. Something Loony."
He looks at a screen. Bugs Bunny is standing in a carrot patch. Elmer Fudd is watching him. Bugs Bunny runs his fingers over the green tops of carrots. He plucks one out of the ground and begins to gnaw at it. He smiles at Elmer Fudd, now out of focus, as the hunter begins to drop slowly to his knees.
The basketball thrown by young Michael Jordan smashes through the hoop and we see it is a modern basketball game. Michael Jordan is dunking in slow motion. He flies through the air with ease, as if his body was made to never touch ground. We see his father. We see the lights and the stadium reflected in his father's eyes.
"It's a boy," says the doctor, passing young Michael Jordan as a baby to his father.
I can't do this, thinks the father. I can't make him save Tune Land.
Michael Jordan is in a space locker room. He looks at a picture of his own son. The stress of being abducted by cartoons is wearing on him. The anguish of wondering if he will ever return to earth is written on his face.
"Yeb-da-yeb-da-your father is dead," says Porky Pig. "Yeb-da-yeb-da-yeb-da-yeb-you can't re-ba-re-ba-resu-resurr-resu...bring him back."
"I know," says Michael Jordan. "Let's jam."
Midway through the game. Daffy Duck is smashed into the shape and size of a manhole cover. He is rolled into a giant coin slot. We see the horror on his face. The anguish of what he has become: just a prop for better players, better cartoons.
Was your life full of hope? Daffy seems to ask Michael Jordan as he is rolled into the coin slot in slow motion. Mine was overflowing with it. To be a pilot. To meet a beautiful duck and have a family. To help people and be loved. Do you think you will have what I could not?
Michael Jordan launches himself into the air and dunks the basketball into the hoop. The backboard shatters. In the reflections of the breaking glass, Michael Jordan sees the face of his son and the face of his father and hundreds of other faces of all the lives he has touched including Phil Jackson. There is a Hanes logo and a Space Jam CD.
Darkness. The sounds of sneakers squeaking on the hardwood. Michael Jordan says, "My father isn't dead. Tune Land is saved and my father will live forever."
Michael Jordan watches his son step out onto the basketball court. A warm wind stirs the palm trees. The evening's rust fades into the night and into a lasting darkness. Pan up to the stars.
Roll credits. Play the Quad City DJ's Space Jam theme.
Ernest Cline, writer of Ready Player One, shares his newest poem.
Honestly, the Assassin In Love poster is nearly perfect to begin with. It just needs a few minor tweaks.
The Something Awful front page news tackles anything both off and on the Internet. Mostly "on" though, as we're all incredible nerds.