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

Origin, Episode 6

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.


HEARING THAT THE CLERK WAS OK made my day, but I had to know for sure. I headed home and got ready to go to work. I no longer considered my job at the store as my job.

My job was to protect my part of town. And I was going to be ready this time. I had my Acme-Phone, my suit and more confidence than should be allowed. While I waited for night to fall I did some research about local crimes.

From the news sites I saw that we had been having a spate of armed robberies with the same method. Three perpetrators would arrive, one would stay in the car, one would watch the employees and the third would clear the registers.

There hadn’t been any deaths yet, but there had been a couple injuries. I wrote down all the addresses that had been robbed and noticed that they surrounded the park that I lived across from. After my first stop tonight I would do some investigation.

I also checked to see if there was any more information about me on the news sites. There was still just the one video and after reading a couple of comments I vowed to never read them again. Apparently my costume made me look fat.

My parents got home and they were talking about the police coming to the store. We ate dinner together and then I went upstairs to work on my research. I told my parents that I was programming my new phone.

A couple hours later I had a pattern figured out and was tired of sitting at my desk. I went downstairs and told my parents goodnight. They were watching a news story about the robbery. It showed the footage of me running into the store as well as a picture of the clerk. I was glad they showed a picture of the clerk because I wasn’t sure I knew what he looked like.

I went up to bed and got ready to go out. I still had the costume on under my clothes so I just had to put on my boots and gloves. I opened my window and crept out on the roof. I sat on the roof, looked up at the stars, and wondered what I was doing.

Was I really getting ready to go back out into the night and possibly get shot again? I was. I put my mask on and slid down the downspout and headed off into the night. I was sick of walking but I hadn’t come up with a way to disguise my scooter so I didn’t have a choice.

The walk to the store took me a couple minutes, giving me time to think about what I was going to say to the clerk. When I got to the gas station it had been cleaned up.

The lights inside were shining out the window, there was no police tape and, luckily, there were no cars in the parking lot. I wondered how the clerk got to work, did he walk? Not wanting to prolong this any longer I headed towards the door.

The clerk was surprised to see me. I pushed the door open and walked in, my skirt swishing out behind me in the breeze created by the stores air conditioning.

The look on his face would have been priceless if he hadn’t looked so terrified. I smiled at him and waved, which in hindsight may not have been the most heroic thing to do.

“I just wanted to check and make sure you are ok,” I said, doing my best to sound reassuring.

“…”

“I am sorry that I didn’t get here sooner to save you having to deal with those criminals.”

“…”

This wasn’t going well.

“Well, I just wanted to make sure you were ok. I will be around if this ever happens again.’

I turned and headed to the door. As I was pushing the door open I heard a noise behind me. The clerk had moved around the counter and was walking towards me. I braced myself for the worst and hoped for the best.

“I am sorry,” the man said, “I was just surprised to see you. Thank you so much for all that you did for me.”

“No problem.”

“The police said that you were probably with them. But I knew that you had saved me. Thank you so much,” he said, holding out a hand.

I reached out to shake his hand and was pulled into a hug. He was crying, and I found myself patting him on the back and reassuring him. A couple minutes went by before he broke the hug.

“I am sorry,” he said, as we pulled apart, “I am just so happy that you came to save me. My name is Zebulon, though most people call me Zeb”

I didn’t know what to say. I had thought about this the whole time I walked to the store, but was unprepared for his gratitude.

“I just bought this store and my wife is pregnant with our first child. All I could think about was how I was going to die and leave my child an orphan.”

That was almost too much for me. I wasn’t equipped to deal with that kind of emotion.

“Just doing my job,” I said, smiling and striking, what I hoped was, a heroic pose.

He walked to register and handed me a gift card, “This is a free gas card. I don’t know what kind of car you drive, but being a hero can’t pay that well. Let me know if there is anything else I can do for you.”

I took the card and mumbled, “Thanks.”

“What should I call you?”

“Umm… I don’t know, I am new at this.”

“Oh,” he sounded disappointed, “Why did you start?”

“The internet.”

The two of us stood facing each other for a minute before I waved goodbye and headed out the door. I was exhilarated. Not only had I stopped a crime in progress but I had saved that mans life. And he had given me a reward for doing it. I felt happy as I ran into the night looking for trouble.

The night did not deliver any trouble. It appeared that all of the criminals were laying low, probably having an evil league of evil barbecue or something. I hung out on my park bench and listened to the police scanner. And nothing happened. There was a fire across town, but I had no way to get there in time to help, and I wasn’t sure that I wanted to run into a fire. Getting shot was bad, getting burned sounded worse. Feeling pretty good about what I had done so far I called it a night.

The rest of the week went about the same. I would wear my costume under my clothes to work, after work I would go home and wait for my chance to go out into the night. After my exciting first battle I encountered nothing worse than a couple of jaywalkers. Why is that even a crime? I ignored them and kept patrolling, waiting for my chance to do good.

My down time was spent studying the police’s most wanted website. There was nothing I wanted more than to take down one of the top ten most wanted.

I was sitting on the roof of my house on Saturday night, a week after my first big case, searching the internet for superhero related news and I saw a new link. This was a pretty common search for me to do, and I was surprised to see that there was a new website set up. I clicked the link and as the website loaded I saw a couple of disturbing things.

There was a picture of me, in full costume, splashed across the front page. The title of the page was The Correspondent and was full of posts about me. None of it was accurate, but it disturbed me to see this much attention turned towards my alter ego.

I looked through the posts and saw that they all had one author. There was also a separate person commenting on all of the posts. I closed the window and just sat on the roof and thought about what was happening.

I used my Acme-Phone to call the gas station.

“Hello,” Zeb answered.

“Hey, Zeb,” I said attempting to not sound angry, “This is the Correspondent.”

There was silence on the other end.

“I was just wondering why you chose that name? It isn’t going to strike fear into the hearts of criminals, in fact they will probably laugh at me.”

“I’m sorry,” Zeb said, his voice shaking, “When you said you learned everything from the internet I thought about how they used to have correspondent courses that you did using snail mail. It just stuck in my head.”

“Well, take it down.”

“Are you sure? A lot of people are reading it. People are curious about you.”

“What?”

“Don’t worry, no one can trace it back to you. I don’t even know who you are. Do you have a better picture of you in costume? I had to use one of the store camera images and they aren’t very good quality.”

I hung up on him.

It took me a week to start to see the silver lining to the website. My problem at first was that it seemed very intrusive. And I still wasn’t sold on the Correspondent name. The website allowed me to get a pulse of what people were thinking about me as a hero. Did people think I was a criminal? Or was I considered a hero? Right now it seemed like the public was split about what I was.

I agreed with Zeb’s assessment that the pictures on the site currently were garbage. I had a camera on my phone and so I started taking pictures of me in heroic-like poses. I thought they looked stupid, but Zeb assured me they looked better than what he had. I set up an email address for the Correspondent and Zeb and I were able to chat back and forth. It was another untraceable way for me to stay in contact.

My Acme-Phone took any emails that came in and displayed the subject line in the heads up display. I was wondering around town, having just broken up a fight between two drunk guys when a message popped up on my HUD: “New Message: Meet-up.” I opened the email and gave it a quick read.

Correspondent,

I have received an email from someone who wants to meet up with you. They said that they are a fan of your work and want to help you out. I told them you weren’t the social type, but that I would pass the message on.

Zeb

Interesting. Someone wanted to meet me. I figured it was the cops or someone who wanted to find out my secret identity. I emailed Zeb back when I got home, telling him that I wasn’t interested but thanks for letting me know. I started being more careful as I moved around, I didn’t want to draw any undue attention to my whereabouts.

I still hadn’t figured out a quicker way around town than walking and was considering repainting the scooter. It also limited my range as a hero. On a good night I could only cover about ten blocks, and if I was in the wrong area there was no way for me to get to a crime scene fast enough.

I was also getting bored. After my first major crime I hadn’t broken up anything worse than a fist fight in weeks. I was conflicted, I wanted there to be no crime but I also wanted to save people. And I wanted to be a hero so much that I started to wish for something major to happen. I should have been careful what I wished for.

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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.