Origin, Episode 8
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.
MY SCOOTER STARTED RIGHT UP and I tore out of the parking lot, throwing up more dirt than a scooter this size should be able to do. From my research I knew that The Rat would be headed towards the park. I headed that way fast. I heard horns honking as I blew through stop signs, narrowly avoiding getting flattened by a garbage truck. In the distance I could see a car speeding away. I was pretty sure it was the same car I had seen at the gas station.
I twisted the throttle more, trying to squeeze every ounce of speed out of the scooter, but I was at the limit. I did my best to track the car as it pulled further away. Losing the car as we got close to the park, I started racing through the neighborhoods around the park. I was getting ready to give up when I saw the car parked in the yard of a house near the park.
Parking the scooter, I rushed over to the car. I saw footsteps heading towards the park dented in the grass. I followed them into the park and promptly lost them in the myriad of footsteps packed into the grass. Looking around, I searched for any sign of The Rat and his henchmen. Finding none I ran back to my scooter and drove it up onto the sidewalk.
Racing around the park I cut across sidewalks and paths, still not seeing any sign. As I finished my circuit of the park I noticed my face was wet with tears. I had messed up. I should never have gotten involved. I should have just let The Rat rob the store and hunted him down later. My dad was dead and I had caused it. I slowed the scooter, rolling to a stop in one of the clearings of the park.
Looking around I saw a young couple using the privacy of the clearing, privacy that I had clearly interrupted. The boy took out his cell phone and took a picture of me why the girl adjusted her clothes. I took off on my scooter again, screaming in frustration. Entertaining ideas of going back and smashing that boys stupid face I headed back to the store. There was nothing I could do since I had lost The Rat.
I as drove I checked in on my police scanner and heard a report of a maniac on a scooter at the park. A few seconds later I heard the police announcing the arrival of the EMTs at the store. They said that there was a “white male, gunshot wound, not-stable” and a “white female in distress” both being taken to the hospital. My dad was still alive I booked it home to change, there was no point in going back to the store if I was just going to have to deal with the police. I needed to get to the hospital and see my parents.
Parking the scooter by the garage I headed inside. My mind was racing a mile a minute, trying to process what was happening. I pulled the stairs to my room down and started peeling off my costume. Instead of being greeted with light when I flipped the switch, the bulb sputtered and popped leaving me with only sunlight to change clothes to. I threw the suit into my closet, not wanting to have anything to do with it.
I pulled on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, grabbed my phone and headed to the hospital. The hospital has been in a constant state of renovation since I was a child, which forced me to figure out where the current emergency room entrance was. The parking lot was full, forcing me to park on the street and walk. I jogged towards the entrance, hoping that everything was ok.
The nurse at the desk looked about fives years older than me. I tried my best to be coherent but while I tried to say, “My parents were brought here, I think my dad was shot,” it came out ‘Bwhaaaaa, bwana bwana bwaaaaaaaa.” The nurse handed me a tissue and I tried again. This time she understood what I was saying. She asked for my last name, when I gave it to her I could tell something was wrong.
She called another nurse up to the front and took me back into the triage area. I saw my mom, who was sitting in a hospital bed surrounded by curtains. Oxygen ran to a mask on her face and an IV line snaked from her arm up to a bag hanging about the bed. My mom was grey, the pigment gone from her skin. Her hands were the dark brown of dried blood, one of them was clenched into a fist.
When she saw me walk in her eyes lit up for a second and then faded away. She started to sob, which made my crying worse. I climbed into the bed with her and we hugged each other and cried. She patted my head, I tried to not pull on her IV. We laid there for few minutes before I had the courage to ask.
My mom sniffled a little bit, pointed towards the closed door at the end of the hall. The door had a big white sticker with ‘O.R.’ printed on it. The nurse came in while I was staring at the door.
“Don’t worry, Hun, they are doing everything they can.”
Who was she to call me ‘Hun’? I thought wanting to lash out. I pushed those thoughts away, knowing that it wouldn’t be productive.
“Any news?” I asked.
“Nothing yet, but as soon as we know anything we will let you know.”
She closed the curtain as she left.
“Mom? Why are you on oxygen?” I asked.
“When I saw your father I tried to save him, when the paramedics arrived I collapsed. They are just taking precautions.”
I got out of the bed, careful to avoid pulling on my mom’s IV and pulled a chair over to her bedside. I sat down, held my mom’s hand and waited.
Time stands still in emergency rooms. While my mom dozed, wandering in and out of consciousness, I tried to figure out what was going on. The nurse checked in on us what seemed like every couple minutes, but was actually every half hour.
A doctor came in and explained that my mom was fine, she just needed to take it easy for a while. He advised that she stay away from stressful situations. I wondered if having a daughter that was a superhero was considered stressful.
After he left we had lunch, or dinner, and talked about dad. My mom was clearly shaken by what had happened.
“I don’t know what happened,” she said, “There was just so much blood. I am glad that you hadn’t arrived at work yet.”
“Yeah…” was all I could come up with.
“Your dad looked so pale, I thought he was already dead.”
I had thought he was dead.
“They think it was the same people who robbed the gas station.”
How did she know that? When had the police been in to tell her that?
“Why were your clothes in the break room?”
“I saw them piled in a heap, I don’t understand why they were there.”
There was a long pause as I tried to figure out what to say. I hadn’t thought about the fact that my clothes were still at the store, or how strange it must have looked to see them piled there. I have always been close to my mom, but I didn’t know if I was ready to tell her this. But I couldn’t lie to her.
“I was at the store when the men showed up. I tried to stop them. I thought dad was dead,” I said, unable to look at her while I spoke, “I chased after them but I couldn’t find them.”
My mom looked at me, her eyes searching for something. She seemed to be waiting for me to say I was joking. I looked at her, sitting in a hospital bed, and I saw the moment she realized that I was there. She closed her eyes, tears starting to fall.
“Are you the costumed person from the gas station?” she asked.
“Yes, that was me. I wanted to make a difference.”
She smiled at me, her smile almost reaching her eyes, “You did make a difference. Your dad could have died. The paramedics told me that the 9–1–1 call came from a blocked number. Did you call them?”
“Yeah, but I should have stayed with dad.”
I think my mom knew that I was still processing everything that happened and didn’t disagree. She took my hand and the two of us sat in silence, neither of us having any more to say. About the time I started to feel like I had to say something the surgeon came in.
“Hi,” he said, talking in the brisk manor of all emergency room doctors, “I am Dr. Faules. We were able to repair the damage and he is now stable. They will be taking him up to a room shortly and I will make sure they take you there. He has a long road ahead of him, a lot of therapy, but he will recover. His brain was without oxygen for a time, which may lead to some cognitive problems. Once we get him situated in a room I will come in and explain more.”
All of that was said in a single machine gun delivery. I felt like I had been hit in the stomach. Looking at my mom, I could see that she felt the same way. What did ‘cognitive problems’ mean? After the doctor left I got out my phone and tried looking up what cognitive problems meant, it didn’t look good.
Later the nurse came back and told us that dad had been moved up to a hospital room. She brought a wheelchair in with her and helped my mom move from the bed into the chair. I volunteered to push and my mom told me to make sure I didn’t crash into anything. The two of us laughed for a second before the gravity of the situation settled back into our lives.
The trip up to the intensive care unit was long. The nurse led us through the back hallways of the hospital, each extra wide double door giving us a glimpse at the clinical side of the hospital. Gone were the friendly pictures with positive messages on the walls, replaced with bright lights and posters about infection control.
Arriving at my dad’s room it hit me, he had been shot and almost died. He was wrapped up in blankets, tubes were running out of his body, some of them coming from an IV tree attached to the bed, others leading away to various machines. A steady beeping marked his heartbeat and a hissing sound as the ventilator helped him breathe.
I pushed my mom right up to the bed and she took dad’s hand. I stood there awkwardly, my hands still on the handles of the wheelchair. My mom was whispering to my dad; I couldn’t make out what she was saying. Getting tired of standing I took a seat in the pink, vinyl upholstered, chair. Sitting there I realized how exhausted I was.
Looking over at my mom I knew that we were going to have a long talk about what had happened at the store. But not right now, now it was just time to be a family. I closed my eyes and drifted off into a dreamless sleep.
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.