Now, I know what you’re thinking. “I’m a reasonable human being who has never even heard of the Cairo Bluewings, of course they’re not my favorite sports team.” And I get that. That’s a good thing – but in case they just so happen to become your favorite sports team in the next couple of weeks – hear me out. I work for a defense contractor, and my job is to study outbreaks of biological weapons, whether accidental or intentional. You won’t hear about it on the news, but it happens more than you think. Now, before you freak out, that isn’t what this is. I don’t know what this is. At first, I thought it was an elaborate joke, but when I asked, nobody was smiling. Then, I figured it was a PSYOP, and I was being tested, but fast forward a couple hours, and I realize that wasn’t it either.
Here’s what happened. They pull me and a couple others off another project – no notice – and say we’re going to the briefing room. The entire hall outside was locked down, more than anything I’ve ever seen. Security everywhere, but I didn’t recognize any of them. It was like they replaced all our guys just for this. We get to the room, and as soon as I step inside, all the sound just drops. Everything’s deafened, like I’m listening to the world through a foot of concrete no matter where I stood. I look around, I notice these metal clamps on the walls that I never seen before, and I realize that they’re what’s doing it – they’re dampening all the sound in the room. The guards hand me a pair of earbuds, I put them in, and sign a bunch of forms telling me to keep my mouth shut. Normally, stuff like that’s already in my contract, but they were pulling in some people from the outside for this, and I guess they wanted the extra layer. Clearly, it was extremely effective. I take a seat with the others. Up front, there’s an older guy with a throat microphone, and he’s wearing a military uniform, but it’s not from any branch or country I know about. It had a patch with two interlocking scythes, with the word ‘breach’ printed over them in all caps, and when I asked about it later, I got told to stop asking.
This guy starts speaking, and he tells us about a small town around the bible belt, population of only a few thousand – and they all have the same favorite sports team: the Cairo Bluewings. No arguments, no variation whatsoever, just “the Cairo Bluewings are the greatest sports team in existence.” Now, if you look up the Cairo Bluewings, you will see that they don’t actually exist. Not for these people – they will insist that the Cairo Bluewings are not only a real team, but the best team. If you try to inquire as to what exactly they are the best at, they’ll get confused, like the question doesn’t make any sense – because they’re the best at everything. Every sport.
I still wasn’t sold. Then they showed me the video. It was a baseball game, the local team standing on the field looking nervous. They’re in their places, the pitcher shifting around with the ball in his hand like it’s too hot to hold, while the catcher’s crouched behind the plate. There’s no other team. Everyone’s in position like there is another team, but on film, you couldn’t see anything, and by the reactions of the players, neither could they. You could see the banners of both teams above the stands, but I wasn’t looking red and white stripes of the local team – I was looking at the blue banner up top, depicting what the brass called a “flaming tesseract.” It was fabric, but every time it moved with the wind, it was like a bunch of cubes were flowing together into a single shape. My eyes hurt just thinking about it.
Then, the game started, and my jaw hit the floor.
The pitcher throws the ball like his life depends on it – form so perfect you could print it on a magazine. The ball flashes through the air so fast you could barely see it, and then, it happens. A sonic boom cracks through my earbuds, distorting the sound. A shockwave rips out from where the ball was hit, blasting the catcher back and breaking every bone in his body. The air splits in a fraction of a second, just a line of distorted space going clear into the sky, and throwing back the clouds in an open circle. The aftermath of the boom echoes into the distance, and then fades to a silence so empty you could near nothing but the wind. The audience in the stands is just watching, dumbstruck. The catcher’s on the ground, not moving.
Some invisible pitcher just hit the ball into literal orbit.
Then, the crowd goes wild, getting up from their seats and cheering like they just saw the show of their lives. No exceptions. Nobody looked bothered that they just saw a baseball accelerate to a hundred kilometers a second, and kill a man faster than they could blink. They looked ecstatic.
The local team immediately forfeited, and ran away.
Now, the reason anybody noticed all this nonsense in the first place is because while the town was small, the sports scene was big. They got visitors in from other towns pretty regularly. Only thing was – they stopped coming back. Athletes were going missing, and the only connection anybody found was a single sports team that was apparently annihilating the competition in every single event there was: the Cairo Bluewings.
So, I did what any insane person in this situation would do, and went there. The paycheck helped.
I was flown out, and then driven in, the completely inconspicuous black van turning down as many winding roads in the middle of nowhere as humanly possible. It was mostly fields, with a few sparse trees set between the farms. The air smelled like copper, the further we went, and if you looked up, you would see birds circling way overhead, until you focused your eyes, and realized they were drones. We slowed, and hit a military blockade, men with M16s and full camo glancing our way from the back of their APCs, while two enormous tanks faced toward the distant town. A ways off, I could see a sniper and his spotter set up near an old sycamore, but they weren’t looking at us. Nobody was looking at us, save for a moment of brief curiosity. Whatever they thought this was, it had them scared, and you could feel the tension in the air. To this day, I still wonder what exactly they told these guys, because it was definitely not “there’s a town full of really passionate sports fans, and you gotta’ kill ‘em.” An officer walked up to us, and talked with the driver, but I don’t remember what they said. A moment later, and we started moving again, heading straight for the town peaking out over the horizon, the soldiers looking at us through the windows like we were dead men walking. Driving. Whatever. The point is, there were blockades like that at every road, and surveillance on every spot between them. Nobody was getting out of that town.
When we finally reached the place, you’d never guess that anything was wrong. It was almost idyllic, everyday people walking down the sidewalks, filtering in and out of the stores that populated the town center, before heading off with their cars and bags to the quaint little homes that dotted the distance. People chatted, waved to one another, and smiled so wide they looked like they were on Valium. Then, I started to wonder why none of them cared that we were there – usually places like that obnoxiously zeroed in on any newcomers to figure out if you were their ‘type,’ and they had to be aware that their town was completely locked in. The terrain was mostly flat, so you could see the blockades from there if you really looked.
We parked, got out of the van, and the first thing I noticed was the feeling I got, like the air was vibrating all around me. It felt charged, like I’d get a static shock if I tried to touch anything, and it tasted like raw electricity. The others noticed it, too, recoiling from the sour tinge and licking their lips with a look of confused disgust. We split up, and we started canvassing the town, checking out all the local spots, and interviewing people to get a sense of what was going on. I can’t say it was comfortable. The entire time I felt like I was about to get zapped by a lightning bolt, but the skies were clear and sunny – just a whole lot of blue, and a whole lot of heat.
I chose a bar, the wooden interior filled with a few odd patrons, scattered throughout the tables. Nobody scowled at me, or made me feel unwelcome. Quite the contrary – everybody was rather friendly – but I still had this feeling beneath it all. This slow drip of adrenaline that I couldn’t shake. I chatted up the only guy sitting at the bar, middle-aged with a half-finished glass of beer in front of him. I bought him another drink, and shifted the conversation to boxing, because that’s honestly the only sport I know anything about. The guy’s face lights up like it’s the best day of his life, and then, he sneaks it in. The question.
“You ever hear of the Cairo Bluewings?”
I didn’t even have to bring it up. He takes out his phone, and he shows me a video. That was when I realized that the Cairo Bluewings were not only the reigning champions of every team sport, but every form of one-on-one competition that could vaguely be labeled a sport. I don’t know how that works, but they were still only billed as the Cairo Bluewings. The video he showed me was a bare-knuckle boxing ‘tournament’ held in some guy’s back yard. There was a hairy, shirtless dude with his gut hanging out surrounded by drunk spectators, squaring up against his invisible opponent. He looked like he had completely psyched himself up for whatever was about to happen. He was ready to go.
The ‘ref’ – which was some guy in his 90s rotting in a reclining chair – gave a grunt of approval, and the fight began. The shirtless dude takes a step forward, and I hear the crack of his ribs breaking. He stops dead in his tracks, and a red hole appears in his chest. An invisible hand rips out his heart, holding it up in the air like a trophy, and the guy’s body hits the ground. The referee grunts again in an apparent decision, and the spectators go wild, cheering and screaming and jumping up and down like they were kids again.
The guy at the bar grins at me, like he’s expecting me to be anything but horrified and confused.
I left it at that, and continued my investigation, discovering what was essentially the same thing everywhere else. The local bowling alley had a hole in it from where a ball was hurled down the lane at supersonic speeds. The minigolf course was put out of business from massive structural damage, and what our guys are calling ‘minute tears in the space-time continuum,’ following a friendly tournament that resulted in the violent disintegration of six people. The owner wasn’t even mad. He was just grateful that he got to host the Cairo Bluewings.
The elementary school tried to put on a fun racing event for every grade. It sounded great. Nothing could’ve possibly gone wrong – until the Cairo Bluewings decided to compete against the sixth-graders. They weren’t students – nobody questioned why they were allowed to compete – it was just accepted because it was technically a sport and the Cairo Bluewings were the best. I was sitting down with one of the teachers as she described this to me, a manic grin pasted across her face. Apparently, the kids were all out on the grass getting ready to race, their parents cheering them on from the sidelines. They get sounded off, and the race begins. A sonic boom blasts a twelve year old boy across the grass, and the rest of the kids fall down out of sheer disorientation. A second later, the ribbon at the end of the course splits in two, and gets catapulted a mile away. The parents go wild, cheering and clapping like they were happy that their kids just got absolutely decimated.
Most of them had blown eardrums, but they turned out fine. The boy who got knocked down by the shockwave, however, had a broken leg, a broken arm, several broken ribs, and internal bleeding. He got rushed to the hospital, and had to stay there for a while, but he thankfully recovered. Odd thing is, he got a package when he was in there. The nurse and receptionist I interviewed said that a blue box just appeared one day, addressed to the kid. The nurse took it to him, and he opened it up to reveal a blue jersey with a flaming tesseract printed on it. I never got to see the kid, but one of my coworkers – Sarah – did, and she said he was pretty happy. He was still wearing the jersey at the interview, which was several sizes too big. Nobody knows what it’s made out of, but Sarah said it was very soft, and unusually resistant to damage. She let him keep it, though.
All of this told me one thing in particular. Nobody actually talked with the Cairo Bluewings or any form of representative. If there was a competition, their name would just appear on the list one day, and nobody would question it, so whatever this was, it was clearly altering the way people thought and perceived the whole situation. The only question was: how did it happen – what’s the trigger. There wasn’t a single person in that town who wasn’t a fan of the Cairo Bluewings, but we were there, and none of us were affected. As far as figuring that out goes, most of the interviews were not particularly helpful, and usually just made us want to leave town as quickly as possible. To illustrate what I mean, this is how one of them went. It was between Sarah and a farmer named Dale, the two of them sitting in the back of a van with a camera recording everything.
“When did you first become a fan of the Cairo Bluewings?” Sarah asked him. Dale considered her question, nodding his head like he had just come to an awe-inspiring conclusion.
“From birth, really,” he said. “Time is all relative. You could say it was my destiny.”
“Would you say that you’re their biggest fan?”
“Nope,” he said, shaking his head. “We’re in this together, like a family.”
“Have you ever spoken to one of them?”
“One of who? The other fans?”
“The Cairo Bluewings.”
“Oh, no no no,” he said, shaking his head, and raising his hands like he was trying to make a very serious point. “I’m not worthy. I’m less than a speck of dust in the fantastic chaos of their wake. To hear their voices would burn my mind to dust, and expel my senses into the fathomless void beyond the stars. To witness their dread and terrible forms would –”
“Thank you, I understand,” said Sarah. “And what are you willing to do for the Cairo Bluewings?”
“Oh, anything,” he said. “Cut my face off. Sacrifice my kids. You name it.”
These people were also completely aware that their town was surrounded, by the way. They didn’t care. They thought the army was just jealous because their “teams” weren’t as good.
We all came up with the solution at about the same time. The baseball game. We called in, and asked to see the video again.
At first, the audience in the stands was shocked. Their reactions were appropriate. Then, the shock turned to applause. They started cheering, like something took them over. We didn’t have concrete proof, but we could make a strong prediction that it was the games themselves that were doing this. If you saw a game – if you were physically there – you were infected with a memetic virus, as soon as the Cairo Bluewings made their play. From then on, you were hooked.
We weren’t actually sure if this had any effect beyond making you a fan of a really weird sports team, but given that it inspired the fanatical worship of a single group that was immune to all retaliation, the potential ramifications made us … uncomfortable. For now, it was localized to that particular town, but if it ever got out, it seemed that the solution was stopping every sporting event that had the Cairo Bluewings marked down. Easier said than done on a potentially worldwide scale, especially if the definition of “sporting event” extends to bare knuckle boxing matches in old Lester’s back yard. We were still doing more research before I decided to write this, but honestly, nobody was coming up with much.
At least now that it’s out there, if somebody sees them about to play, they can run away before they become collateral damage, or worse, a devoted fan. Otherwise, I can’t do much other than break every clause in my contract and retire somewhere tropical, so consider this your heads up: the Cairo Bluewings are not your favorite sports team. You’re just being mind controlled.