The Correspondent is a web serial by Dylan Reed. Buy the whole story now.

Origin, Episode 10, Part 1

The Correspondent

People always talk about where they were when they first heard about The Correspondent. She came out of nowhere and tried to make a difference. Some saw her as a beacon of hope, others as a sign of how far down the slope we had come. I never paid attention to all of that. I was too busy. Too busy working to pay my bills, too busy trying to figure out life. I was seventeen when it started. I was The Correspondent. This is my story.

WE DESTROYED THE PIZZA. At first I worried that my dad would be unable to partake in the pizza feast, but one of the nurses was ready to blend the pizza into the grossest smoothie ever. My dad drank the pizza smoothie with an appetite, and laughed along with us as we talked about the day. It was obvious that we were keeping the topics light, not wanting to upset him by talking about the shooting.

After dinner my mom went to change clothes and take a shower in the small hospital bathroom. While she was gone I spent time alone with my dad for the first time since he had been shot. I wanted to talk to him about what happened, but our communication was limited right now because he had a hard time keeping his words straight. According to the doctor this was one of the things that could happen if the brain is without oxygen for a significant period of time.

“How is the car?” he would ask, meaning the store.

“Its fine,” I would answer.

He would then babble on for a couple minutes, notice I was sitting with him and start the process over again. I was so happy to see my mom when she got back. She looked refreshed and ready for anything. When my dad drifted off the two of us had a talk. We both whispered even though there was no danger of us being heard over the noise of all of the machines keeping him alive.

“How is he?” I asked.

“Well,” my mom said, cracks forming in her happy facade, “He does ok for a while, but when he gets tired it gets worse.”

“I noticed that.”

“The doctor says that he may have short term memory problems forever, and the word switching may happen off and on.”

“What can we do?”

“Well, according to the doctor, not a lot. There is a possibility that he will get better, but it is going to be hard for a while.”

“Ok,” I said, unsure of what else to say.

“But on the bright side, we still have each other. And that is great.”

I had a hard time sharing her optimism. The rest of the evening was spent talking about nothing. My mom said that a social worker from the hospital was going to come by and help her set up services to help her when dad went home. I headed home about nine o’clock, my mom said one of us should sleep in comfort, and was glad to be out of the hospital.

Driving home, I decided I couldn’t wait for my dad to get better. I needed to figure out where The Rat was hiding and take him down. With my appointment at the police station in the morning, the smart move would’ve been to go home and get some rest so I would be better prepared for the day. But I couldn’t do that.

I parked my scooter at the house and collected the bat I had confiscated from my first night being a hero. It was a light colored bat and I had to carry it in my hand since I lacked a holster to hold it. Maybe for bats it is called a scabbard? I lacked a scabbard for my bat. That sounds much better. I headed out into the park and started patrolling, looking for any sign of The Rat.

While I walked I used my phone to set the police scanner to only alert me to crimes that were related to The Rat. That meant any armed robbery would pop up immediately. Other crimes that might be related, high-speed chases, etc., would trigger an alert but not quite at the same level. I set it to ignore any other crimes for the night. I wanted to find this bastard and I wasn’t going to let a mugging or jaywalker stand in my way.

The park was dark, the moon obscured by the trees, and empty. There was a funk hanging over the park, like people knew to stay away. I had lived by this park for as long as I could remember and I don’t remember a time when I didn’t feel safe, but tonight was different. Staying off the pathways I wove amongst the tress, staying in the shadows.

There were no calls that fit my scanner preferences to interrupt my thoughts, which meant I was stuck with them. I got to thinking about how unaware I had been to the amount of crime in my small town. The number of petty crimes that I encountered surprised me and the fact that people would quickly pick the violent option was mind boggling.

I also thought about my dad. Was it my fault he was hurt? Could I have done something different to keep him from getting shot? I tried to come up with alternative solutions to what I had done. None of them would have made since. I understood now what the Acme Hero Manual called “Armchair Heroing”, it was impossible to understand how a situation would develop unless you were there.

Thinking about the struggle that my mom had now, trying to run a business and having a spouse who was broken. Would she be able to do it? Was there something I could do to help her? I could drop out of school, so I could work more hours. I could always get my GED.

My pity part was interrupted by the sound of a broken twig. I almost soiled my super suit and immediately stopped moving. I looked around, my night vision painting the area around me a monochrome green. There was another twig snap followed by cursing. Someone was close by. I crouched down, hiding in an overgrown bush, and waited.

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The story of The Correspondent will continue weekly. The Correspondent: Origin is available now. If you enjoyed this story, please consider scrolling down and recommending it on Medium. Follow me on Medium or on Twitter for more posts like this. Want early access? Support me!

Dylan Reed has always been interested in a good story. Raised without a TV he spent a lot of time with books and loves reading. Dylan has been a professional entertainer, studied commercial diving, and loves random trivia. He brings all of this and more together in his stories.