Webisode 1-1

THE MESSENGER WEBISODES
Episode 1.1: Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A gentle snow is falling on my hometown of Ocean City, Maryland. Not the kind of gray blanket that accompanies a Nor’easter, but rather a delicate glaze of flurries, borne aloft just a bit by a breeze off the ocean. I stand looking out my kitchen window at the stretch of beach that is my back yard. I watch the snow provide a downy blanket for the sand, and I feel a sense of peace in my soul.

My name is Tristan Shays, and I work for God. I’m not a priest or a missionary or even a church secretary. And to be perfectly accurate, I can’t even be sure that an immortal being is my employer; but somebody is controlling my life, and if it’s not God, I don’t know who else would want the job. I am, for lack of a better job title, a messenger. Periodically, and without warning, I receive in my mind, visions—detailed, vivid depictions of someone in grave danger. They might be in the next town or halfway across the country. Wherever they are, something very bad is going to happen to them in the next few hours or the next few days. I know where, and I know when.

And my job is to stop that from happening.

Perhaps you’re thinking, Oh, how nice. What a thoughtful man, to do such a thing for a total stranger. Much as I would like to accept that compliment, I should also divulge at this point that if I don’t drop everything and deliver my message of warning, I am all but crippled with a pain that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. It always travels from place to place on my body, but it’s always there, demanding that I do everything in my power to keep this person alive and safe. It started about six months ago, and—at least for the time being—it’s what I do.

Fortunately, I have enough money to live on. My father helped invent the light-emitting diode, the LED as they’re commonly known, and after he died, I continue to get a fraction of a cent for each one put into anything worldwide. Last year, 47 billion were manufactured. So I’m doing all right for myself. I try not to let the money change who I am. Wealth can lead to dangerous mutation in the douchebag gene, and I swore to myself I’d never let that happen. So my money just … is. I live in a nice house—not a mansion. I drive a fuel-efficient, comfortable car, because so much of what I do now involves driving. And I give generously to worthy causes, because I can and I want to.

What I lack is someone to share it with. The nature of my calling doesn’t lend itself well to long-term companionship. I’m frequently gone for days at a time, and things sometimes get dangerous. Neither of these circumstances screams, “Let’s go steady!” Occasionally I’m courted by someone who gets inside the sacred circle of doubt and suspicion. Some of these are drawn to the bank balance; they betray that little secret in a hurry. Others are looking for something brief and physical; tempting as that sounds, I find it almost impossible to base a relationship strictly on sex.

So, for better or worse, I spend a great deal of time alone. I have a few friends, but they’re very busy people, so I don’t see them as much as I’d like. As the only child of deceased parents, there’s not much family to speak of. I have a couple of uncles and aunts, and I’m told I have some cousins, though I don’t think I’ve seen them since childhood. Have I? No, I guess not. I say all this not to evoke pity, just to provide an understanding of why things are the way they are. I suppose if I stopped for a prolonged period of navel-gazing, I could find reasons to feel sorry for myself. But you know what? Fuck that shit. (Oh crap, sorry, I should have warned you—I tend to swear a lot. Comes from being alone so often. If you’re offended, I won’t be upset if you switch journals. I believe there are some good ones from the Discovery Channel.)

Where was I? Oh, right—not feeling sorry for myself. I decided that there’s nothing to gain from it. Self-pity? “That and fifty cents’ll buy you a cup of coffee,” my father would say. Of course, he said that about twenty years ago, when fifty cents really would buy you a cup of coffee, in the days before twenty-ounce mocha-choka-latte-yayas. So I power through the pain, and I accept the assignments I’m given. (When I’m feeling particularly noble, I’ll call them missions.) And I get in the car, head out into the world, and sometimes I save lives. All things being equal, it’s not such a bad thing. I don’t know how long I’ll be required to fulfill this; it could be a week, or it could be the rest of my life. Whatever it is, as long as I’m physically able, I’m going to give it my best effort.

I’d better cut this short now, because it occurs to me that my right foot hurts. Really hurts, as if I’d accidentally filled my sock with roofing nails and bits of broken glass. I might find this unusual, except I’m also seeing in my mind that in six hours, three children are going sledding on the Charles River in Boston, and if I’m not there to stop them, they’re going through the ice, never to resurface. So I’d best be on my way. There’s work to do.

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