The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.
- H.P. Lovecraft
If it weren’t for the television sets lining a side wall, ones with curvatures on the corners of the screens, Miguel would have immediately associated the setting with an automat. Even he had fallen a temporary victim to their allure, the orange-and-purple tint guiding his gaze to the wall. Miguel calmly walked toward the center of the cafeteria to further absorb the material: highlights of the latest Phoenix Suns game. His eyes snapped back into their usual places and proceeded to scan the surrounding tables. Miguel recognized one of the people lounging at one of the benches as sitting three rows to his left and one row to his back at the working quarters. He moved over.
The stranger tilted his head toward Miguel and pointed a Twizzler at his eyes. “You’re the new guy, right?”
“Yeah… yeah, I am,” Miguel replied, trying his best to mask the heavy breaths that indicated his overactive nerves.
“I’m Casey,” the colleague replied. He leaned to his left. “This is Cody.”
“Nice to meet you,” Cody replied, reaching his hand out to Miguel.
“I’m Miguel,” he accepted Cody’s greeting. “Nice to meet you.”
“Do you want to sit down?” Casey asked. “We were just watching the ESBN segment on last night’s game.”
“Yeah, sure,” Miguel tentatively took the seat across from Casey.
“Are you a basketball fan?” Casey once again aimed his Twizzler at Miguel.
“Indeed… I’ll route for Phoenix from time-to-time,” Miguel replied.
“Who would you say was the player of the game last night, Miguel?” Cody inquired.
“Er – I would say, Diontae Wallace,” Miguel replied. “He stood out more than any other player that game.”
A prolonged silence was forced into the air as Casey and Codey responded to Miguel’s remark with confusion and mild humor. “We’re talking about the same Diontae Wallace, right?” Casey began. “The player who scored thirteen points and grabbed five rebounds?”
“Well… sure, his scoring volume wasn’t nearly as good as some of the other players; but his value off the ball was… off the charts,” Miguel chuckled. “He led the game in screen assists, ran high-quality routes, created shots for his teammates without even having to hold the ball, and played the best defensive game of the season.”
“Two blocks and a steal are good marks, sure,” Cody conceded. “But the best defensive game of the entire season?”
“I mean, a player can provide large increments of defensive value outside of measurements captured by the box score.”
Miguel looked to Casey’s subtle movements and mild retort, one of indefinitely rolling eyes that conveyed the distaste of the methodology its corresponding mind had perceived. “How did you land this job, Miguel? You seem relatively young.”
“I began hacking – ethically – in elementary school. I guess I had always felt drawn to it, so I gave myself an early start.”
“Makes sense,” Casey replied.
“Yeah, that explains your basketball take,” Cody added.
Miguel leaned in, glancing at the colleagues around him. “I’ve got a… well, big question.”
“Shoot,” said Cody.
“What are we looking for here?”
The legitimate concern once stored in Miguel’s mind slightly eased once Casey and Cody release a similar exasperated chuckle, one that he recognized as a side effect of repetitiveness. “Well – er- Miguel, we… don’t really know,” said Casey.
“Wait, hold on… The Captain is clearly after, well, something.”
“Agreed. But, then again, it’s not as if her concealing the purpose is doing us any harm, right?”
“Look, Miguel. Whatever’s in those files is… very important, yes. The largest, most secretive professional hacking team in the world has spent the past year with the sole purpose to retrieve them, but we really don’t need to know why.”
“You’re saying no one here has a clue as to what is in those files?”
“They have a name,” Cody conceded. “The ‘Tesseract Files.’ Not that anyone knows what that means.”
Miguel lowered his head. “The Tesseract Files,” he whispered.
“Yep,” Cody said. “It’s not the most exciting way to spend your nine-to-five, but it’s worth the salary, you know?”
“What does that mean? The ‘Tesseract’ Files,” Miguel continued after a brief pause.
“We’ll know once we find them, right?” said Casey.
“Right… right…” A sound reminiscent of a hollow bell descended upon the workers, signaling their returns to the posts, or computers.
Casey and Cody relieved their compressed knees and stood. They extended their hands once more. “It was great to meet you, Miguel. I’ll see you around,” Casey departed with.
“Yeah,” Miguel replied.
“See you,” said Cody.
The indisputable sense that no one in the facility had the full knowledge of the files, and were thus working toward a goal they didn’t understand, baffled Miguel. It contradicted the autonomy and self-government that he used to carry himself with each day, an archetype that could potentially juxtapose the ever-decreasing intellectual independence in his world. Miguel watched his new acquaintances, the expressions on their faces ones of gratitude and mild serenity, the product of a stable job and an occupational fulfillment.
Miguel’s mind was accelerating at too fast a speed to process the social implications of the attitudes of Casey and Cody toward the ambiguity of their vocational purpose in the given moment, but he was immediately reminded of the objective that had occupied his mind for the past calendar year: to uncover the contents of the files at all costs. Miguel didn’t possess the drive to maintain such a lengthy process, but his motive usurped all; after all, he had no choice. It was a fact that haunted his mind during his sleepless nights.
Even his mind had succumbed to minor effects of the mental welfare of his cohorts, and those effects would occur in the least desirable instances. Miguel was driving the ’69 Pontiac Firebird he’d managed to afford before he could legally drink alcohol, and the only aspect of its acquisition he would recall was the burden it represented. To the rest of the world, Miguel was a “computer prodigy,” having worked in cybersecurity and ethical hacking since he built his first machine at eight years, having specialized in the dissimilation of even the most nonpermeable of firewalls. It was only fitting the team he had joined held the name: “Firefighters.”
Miguel considered his upbringing rather uneventful despite a bulging talent that earned him widespread recognition. He’d passed through middle school, then high school, then completed a Bachelor’s degree in computer science, yet the lessons he’d acquired were largely critical (as with any skeptic of the public education system). Miguel’s memory was uniquely functional, for he would exactly remember what was not pressured or self-induced; thus, he would rarely recall the events of his day-to-day life, retaining only the rudimentary details of his past life. The one lesson that stuck in his mind was the numbness of the mind, the frequency of which had increased as his experiences increased in number.
Resultantly, the stronger minds he encountered were embellished, a product of the juxtaposition between what would be of equal regard in the respect in a normally-autonomous world compared to the decreasing medians. The nail in the coffin for Miguel came from an event he’d never cared to anticipate: a basketball game. He’d watched as a local Phoenix Suns fan was interviewed at a live game in the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The questioner had asked the fan who he thought the best player on the team was, to which the fan responded with a rationale that solely utilized box score figures. The fan was noted as one of the original aficionados of the Phoenix Suns, someone who had clearly gained extensive experience in the game and had the tools to properly analyze players based on the disassociated information in his memory. It was that point at which Miguel started to lose faith in the aggregation of intellectual independence.
His notion of the subject wasn’t aided when the right side of his vehicle was impaled by the headlights of a nearing car. Miguel’s journey down a three-way intersection was interrupted by a car barreling down the road to his right, which only lightly forced his own car onto the nearing sidewalk. The dent left from the impact was far from severe, although it would set Miguel back a greater sum than he would have preferred. A third car had been involved in the collision too, the only one driven by someone not named Miguel to not flee the scene. He had only had brief overviews of the protocols following these incidents and had the brief recollection of exchanging phone numbers. Miguel followed as he saw a woman, the driver of the remaining vehicle, leave her car to approach him.
“Did you see the face on that jackass?” she said.
Miguel was taken aback by her language but moderately impressed by the sense of individualism she portrayed. “No, I wish,” he chuckled.
The woman paused. “Don’t worry about it, kid. You look ten years younger than I do; I’ll take care of that guy… Are you sure you’re even licensed?”
“Er – yeah,” Miguel said with a hint of offense.
“Well… I’ll see you later, Miguel.”
As the woman walked back to her car, Miguel did the same. He figured if the traditional exchange of contacts had been necessary, she’d have remembered. The conversation stuck in Miguel’s mind long after the crash, for which he turned his car over for only a week’s time, after which he received a fittingly repaired vehicle. As it later turned out, per the insurance workers behind the case, the man who had crashed into the two of them had been watching NBA highlights (of the same Phoenix Suns game Miguel and his colleagues had discussed earlier that day) on his cell phone to cause the event. It was only one more painful remembrance of how basketball had unveiled a truth he hadn’t wanted to exist.
It wasn’t until several weeks later when Miguel recalled the exact words of the conversation that he realized she’d referred to him by his name without having been properly introduced.
The inexact continuity of Miguel’s memory progressed in the following weeks until two months after the collision.
His year-long search for the Tesseract Files was burning on an everlasting flame, one that would only allow him to rest upon discovering the files’ contents. To quicken the process, Miguel began to work an extra hour on Mondays and Wednesdays and two extra hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Despite his extended efforts, he was no closer to discovering the files than he had before becoming a “firefighter.” Miguel recognized the deficiency of his methods: he usually had tangential, even tenuous prerequisite knowledge of the files he’d retrieved, and the Tesseract Files were ubiquitously blank; no one had the slightest of ideas as to how, what, and why the files were. Perhaps it was his sheer luck, but he was given further knowledge on the second Thursday of the new year.
Miguel sat at his desk, his head in his hands, displaying the tiresome usually present in prolonged workers, ones who were only working only to eventually get out. He had always found a mild passion in his work, but even his limits were being strongly pushed in the hunt. Miguel’s mind had already started to slip into a dozed state after choosing to work an additional third hour, and with no one else in his unit present to confirm the perceptions in his mind, he safely assured himself that his eyes were deceiving him. As he turned to the door that led into a side hall, he saw a mechanized spider.
It was at least six-and-a-half feet tall with weak, spindly legs that protruded inwards of its body. They were covered in what appeared to be plates of armor, but upon a second look, Miguel confirmed they more closely resembled stilts. The spider’s abdomen was encased in a pellucid container with a honeycomb pattern of a bronze-colored metal. It even wore a helmet of a distinctly augmented style so that it covered the entire surface area of the spider’s head apart from the mouth. It appeared to be dying, severely injured at a minimum. The legs were struggling to support the weight of the body, which was undoubtedly increased by the massive armor plates.
A prevalent inkling of déjà vu coursed through Miguel’s veins until the spider was no longer there, and the connection was lost. He replicated his historical trend as a fast thinker, choosing to leave for home before his neurons would fire at such a low rate he’d eventually be on the wrong side of a car crash. Miguel’s vision was not particularly useful as he fled for the doorway, which led to another unexpected collision with the woman he’d met months ago.
“What the hell, Miguel?” the woman complained as she lifted herself up.
“Er-” Miguel groaned, his plane of vision dominated by darkened circles as he tried to regain his sight. Then he remembered. “How did you… know my name?”
“You should’ve asked that question a long time ago,” she replied.
“Mhmm… er – give me a second,” Miguel urged as he reached equilibrium. “Alright… so how did you know my name again?”
“I haven’t been watching you,” she said.
Miguel paused. “Have you been watching me?”
“I know your past relatively well, as much as I can as someone on the outside, so I’ll skip the briefing… Why are you searching for the Tesseract Files?”
“Well, there’s the short answer and there’s the real answer, I guess.”
“How long is the real answer?”
“New question: Is your coworker, Daniel, an ‘admirable’ mind?”
“Daniel… the guy who got Employee of the Month?”
“Well, there’s the socially-acceptable answer and there’s the real answer… again.”
“That’s alright. I think I know both of them. It’s good to know you aren’t treating numbskulls like geniuses. That’s a large problem here.”
“Wait, how did you even get into the building? The doors should have been locked hours ago.”
“You have your skills. I have mine,” she said while welcoming herself into the division’s quarters. She sat at Miguel’s desk and skimmed his latest attempts to pinpoint locations for the files. “I don’t really know what any of this means… Are you close?”
“Not even. Why do you care?”
“My name is Leia Parker. Those files are my father’s, and I’m here to burn down your building,” she said with an exaggerated smile.
“Yeah… I’m not going to let you do that. I’m calling the police.”
“I’m only telling you this because I want to show you the files.”
Miguel’s heart stopped. “You mean… the actual files?”
“The actual files.”
“Because we may be able to trust you.”
“Who is ‘we?’”
The conversation was interrupted by an apparition under the doorframe. He’d originally thought it was a ghost given the delusions his eyes had been falling victim to; but upon a second glance, it was the Captain. She was a taller woman of about fifty with short, clean-cut strawberry hair and a perennially stern expression. Miguel had rarely encountered her, only engaging in direct talks when he first arrived. He’d been told her exterior was a reflection of her interior, conveying an attitude of strictness and diligence: proper traits for a captain.
“Who might you be?” she asked.
“Your grandmother,” Leia commented.
“Hello, Miguel,” the Captain said, slowly turning her head in his direction.
“Er – hello,” Miguel replied. He made a split-second decision and leaned over to Leia and whispered, “If I help you out of this, you have to show me the files.”
“Agreed,” Leia assured.
“Alright… what’s the plan?”
Leia jumped onto the nearest desk and opened a vent that led directly through the ceiling. She fit her arm into the crawlspace and searched for a moment. From the airspace, she pulled a blowtorch.
“Holy sh-” Miguel began.
The Captain was soon engulfed in a sea of flames, the outline of her figure barely visible among the ashes and flames. The heat of the fire pierced Miguel’s eyes, but he couldn’t stop himself from watching. Leia continued the blast for nearly fifteen seconds before the stream died, revealing the ghostly figure of a robot that had been burned to the core.
Miguel’s vertigo was triggered despite having stood still the whole time. It was likely the onset of a migraine. He had to force himself out of the room as Leia started torching the computers. Miguel was evidently in a state of extreme questioning as to whether or not he’d made the best choice. Given he’d just watched Leia destroy the building and set his boss (who was, for some reason, a robot?) on fire, “confident” wouldn’t have been his first word of choice. He simply continued to follow Leia, not only because the entire building in flames at the time, but because he remembered the promise he made to himself to finally relieve himself of an immense load; to unveil the Tesseract Files at all costs.
As his mind awoke, he found himself floating through a series of basketball paraphernalia. The majority consisted of the miniature shooting hoops he’d have found at a carnival or an arcade. Jerseys, referee whistles, score sheets, even basketballs themselves formed a waving path for Miguel. He figured he was moving through a space-like vacuum; there appeared to be only a black void beyond the objects guiding his journey. Miguel looked at his hands and found, confirmed by the colors of the miscellaneous items surround him, that the entirety of his vision was grayscaled.
Miguel wasn’t urging himself forward either; or, at least, what he assumed was forward. He was simply moving through space at the will of an unseen force. Miguel had certainly never encountered the void before, and from the moment he’d regained consciousness, he’d thought he was dreaming. He contemplated a traditionally, seemingly unfounded, method, and pinched himself. Miguel felt the pain as he would fully awake, but he didn’t wake. He tested his senses, retaining full use of his hearing, sight, and smell. The lattermost concluded Miguel wasn’t in actual space. As for the remaining sense, if only there were a burger floating around with him…
He drifted through space for roughly ten minutes, refusing to make a concrete reaction to his surroundings. The area in which he was occupying was far beyond any reasonable environment on Earth, which triggered a sense of conventional skepticism in him. However, it didn’t feel the same doubt he was acquainted with. Complete disregard of his current reality, or persistent belief that he was dreaming, would dispute his rationale in leaving the Firefighters. Miguel started to feel a resemblance to Casey and Cody, the coworkers he’d conversed with all those months ago, the symbols of public ignorance in his eyes. Until given further information, Miguel chose to neither accept nor deny what he was seeing.
It didn’t take long to confirm his setting, as he heard a sound that had voiced itself in his mind for the past year. It warned Miguel that he was entering its home, an event he’d prepared for. Eventually, the darkness parted for the borders of an annular cave entrance. It was roughly one-hundred meters in diameter and followed the general shape of a circle. Miguel allowed himself to pass through the ring and entered a dugout far more complex than he’d have expected to see on Earth. Despite the lack of wind, the walls had been eroded. The higher they reached, the more the material appeared to be a substance that most resembled amethyst. The interior of the cave was the only region to maintain color. There was a countless number of stalagmites on the surface, although the ends had been sharpened to fine points. If Miguel managed to drop to the floor, he’d likely be impaled. His initial worry was subsequently subsided by the most massive creature he’d ever seen.
The one who had ordered Miguel to work as a Firefighter, to retrieve the contents of the Tesseract Files, the Great Weaver, revealed itself to be the spider that haunted Miguel’s mind mere minutes ago. However, in the cave, the Weaver was an order of magnitude larger than Miguel. It had the same stilted legs, an armored body, and endless amounts of sharp teeth. Miguel wondered if the Weaver were truly a conglomerate of multiple spiders occupying the same uniform.
“What am I doing here? I did everything you asked. I’m infinitely close to observing the files’ contents.”
You’re going to meet a group of wanderers as I transport you back to your sleeping body. I need you to infiltrate their ranks.
“And if I don’t.”
I already have access to your mind, Miguel. I could manipulate it… mold you to fit those you despise the most…
Cody’s reaction to your sentiments, which you were just contemplating… bothered you to an unprecedented level. I understand.
“How would you?”
You discovered the role basketball is playing earlier than any human could have been expected to. How did you know?
“Basketball epitomizes the ignorance of the general public. Backfire effects, belief persistence, resistance to progressivism… you’ll encounter all of them.”
And if the lowest is the lowest…
“… then the highest will be the highest,” Miguel said with a sigh.
Good, good… Do this for me, and I promise the virus will stop.
“Virus? What virus?”
The curse to humanity. The one we’ve been discussing. You aim to counter it more than anyone.
“If you wanted to ‘help’ me, you’d reveal the contents to the public yourself.”
The world cannot know.
I’ve had people designated for the very purpose of containing the secrets.
Miguel thought about the charred frame of an android that was once his employer. “The Captain…”
Nora was always a loyal worker… It disheartens me to see her demoted to a lower dimension. She needed that body to maintain her status on Earth.
The spider proceeded in almost a saddened tone.
You wish not to enact my will.
After all the times I’ve helped you?
“You’ve hardly helped me. All you’ve done is torture me with that goddamn basketball game.”
I explained this, and you’ve yet to retain the information: Basketball will play a far greater role in this universe, child. The fate is preordained.
It’s no lie. Perhaps the word “fate” offends the human characteristics within you, but all will be explained in due time.
Miguel shrugged. “Why did you even choose me?”
Because you can do what they can’t, Miguel. My message goes awaited…
A leg, one separate from the stilts supporting the spider’s body, broke through the armor’s plates. It reached its way to Miguel and pressed itself between his eyes. Miguel felt his body lurch out of the cave, hurtling toward the Earth at a thousand, a million miles a second. As he felt himself fall to his waking body, Miguel felt as if he hit the hard ground, and he was awake.
He sat up so quickly he felt as though his neck would have snapped if his head were lifted any slower. Miguel felt his intensely scrambled mind falter at the previous events. He then looked down and saw himself lying in a bed, covered by silk sheets, in a room of orange-brown adobe walls lined with purple lights. The room was fashioned as a dome, and instead of doors leading to the room, there were white curtains. Miguel figured he had passed out after exiting the building. He wondered where Leia had taken him. Fortunately, she walked in.
“How’re you feeling, Miguel?” she asked relatively monotone.
“Where am I?” he asked.
“Our secret lair,” Leia replied.
“You need to tell me who ‘our’ is,” Miguel demanded.
She turned toward the room’s entrance and shouted, “Granger!”
“You said you were going to show me the files.”
“And I will… Just be patient.”
The man Miguel presumed to be Granger emerged from the curtains and walked to his bedside. He was a rather short man with a few extra pounds under his belt than he likely needed. His disorganized tufts of red hair and grizzly beard suggested he hadn’t had proper grooming in quite some time.
“Mr. Herrera… Nice to meet you. My name is Ronald Granger,” he introduced.
“Who are you?” Miguel asked.
“I’m just the man you’re looking for. Sit do- actually… nevermind that. Just listen to my next words.” Ronald directed himself to the far side of the mattress. “I’ve been made aware that you’ve been after the Tesseract Files. Their contents have been withdrawn from the public for important reasons. Leia informed me she told you of her father, Harvey Parker. He created those files last year.”
“Harvey Parker… He’s the guy who created that plus/minus stat, right?” Miguel drew to memory.
“Correct,” Ronald replied.
“What’s in those files,” Miguel said sternly.
“We believe Mr. Parker to have made extraterrestrial contact.”
“You mean… with aliens?”
“That’s the rumor. No one knows with absolute certainty, but that’s what he’s led us to believe.”
“How could you know?”
“Aside from Parker’s own account, a local farmer captured an image of two figures floating in the sky above a plane of farmland in Massachusetts.”
“Okay… How do I know you’re not lying?”
Ronald took himself off the bed, albeit difficult given his weight, and left for the northwest corner of the room. From a row of wooden shelves, he brought forth an object that appeared to be a circuit board. Ronald held it to Miguel’s face, and the sight was bewildering. It appeared to be a map of the world, but upon further examination, there was movement: a single line segment moving its way across the surface. Miguel pressed two fingers to the board and managed to zoom into the image. He wasn’t convinced the feat was entirely possible, as the board was unlike any screen he’d seen before, and the material felt almost wooden.
“It’s a live feed of outside life, per Mr. Parker,” Ronald said.
“Then why does it look exactly like Earth? And how could you even make this technology?” Miguel asked.
“You must be eased into the concept gently, Mr. Herrera.”
Miguel paused and looked to Ronald with curious and skeptical eyes. “Who are you guys?”
“We are not anyone to concern the general public,” Ronald began. “We are essentially an independent group of inhabitants with the sole purpose of memorizing the contents of the Tesseract Files in the event they are stolen.”
“I’ve asked this question more times than I can remember now,” Miguel said. “I expect a full answer now. What is in the files?”
“Parker’s files store… basketball stats.”
“That is completely and utterly ridiculous.”
“As it may seem,” Ronald said. “And your doubt is justified.”
“Why would basketball stats be the most classified piece of information on the planet?”
“Not because of what they are, but because of what they reveal.”
“What does that mean?”
“The Tesseract Files store implicit information of Parker’s connection to the extraterrestrial. If an outsider were to find it, they’d discover alien life.”
Miguel rubbed his eyes, unable to process the information at normal rates. “And why would that be a bad thing?”
“The world is planning something more grave than you could begin to understand, Miguel.”
“Yeah? What’s that?”
“Follow me and I’ll show you.”
“You’ve been awfully quiet, Leia,” Miguel said with a conceited smirk.
“Shut up,” she replied.
Ronald and Leia led Miguel across a desert with bounds of heat forcing down on them. Miguel planned to ask about the significance of the travel location, but he figured the results were more promising than the journey, similar to the discovery of the files themselves. Ronald informed Miguel of the specific contents of the file, which he called an “expanded box score.” The data went further back than Miguel thought possible, with virtually unknown measures such as defensive error percentage and shots created going back to the NBA’s inaugural season.
Miguel was given a speech about the nature of the Tesseract Files and what they truly mean. Ronald had already explained they were an aggregate series that displayed NBA statistics far beyond the scope of the modern scorekeeper. As an individual set of data, they held no significance. Ronald explained the underlying information in the files was a disorganized, raw accumulation of extraterrestrial secrets. The members of his group were each assigned with knowing a season’s worth of data by heart. Ronald claimed the first member who fully memorized their sheet spent over a year doing so, and training was still apparently in session. Miguel was assigned with the upcoming season.
After fifteen minutes of rough desert terrain, the trio came across a stone tunnel that followed a gradual slope beneath the surface. Ronald urged Miguel forward, managing to find an electric box to ignite a series of light panels along the roof of the path. After several hundred meters, the shadow in front of Miguel was unbelievably large. He saw the most massive train he’d ever seen. It was easily thirty feet tall and fifty feet wide, seemingly large enough to fit an entire population. Miguel couldn’t see how long the carriages were, but the darkness leading the other direction implied the train was built for purposes other than transportation.
“There is so little we know, Miguel. The world is aware of the pieces scattered across the globe, one of them being the Tesseract Files. If we managed to assemble them in just the right manner, we’d know exactly what they don’t want us to. Human nature intends to overcome our knowledge. If you choose to work for us, you’ll be a part of stopping that,” Ronald said.
“That’s quite the career decision,” Miguel said. “But I think I’m interested.”
He didn’t want to believe nor serve the spider, but he felt a grin curl its way up to his cheek. Miguel felt the Weaver infiltrate his mind. He forced the expression away. Regardless, he was left oblivious to the spider’s previous sentiments, and remained unaware of its true motive. Miguel was likely sure the Weaver was manipulating him, that the wanderers were actually delivering the message it had promised Miguel. He’d have to continue fighting its presence as long as possible. Miguel feared he would do its bidding, and that basketball would denote the end of society.