MY NAME IS ODD THOMAS, though in this age when fame is the altar at which most people worship, I am not sure why you should care who I am or that I exist.
I am not a celebrity. I am not the child of a celebrity. I have never been married to, never been abused by, and never provided a kidney for transplantation into any celebrity. Furthermore, I have no desire to be a celebrity.
In fact I am such a nonentity by the standards of our culture that People magazine not only will never feature a piece about me but might also reject my attempts to subscribe to their publication on the grounds that the black-hole gravity of my noncelebrity is powerful enough to suck their entire enterprise into oblivion.
Now, I am twenty-one years old. To a world-wise adult, I am little more than a child. To any child, however, I’m old enough to be distrusted, to be excluded forever from the magical community of the short and beardless. I lead an unusual life.
By this I do not mean that my life is better than yours. I’m sure that your life is filled with as much happiness, charm, wonder, and abiding fear as anyone could wish. Like me, you are human, after all, and we know what a joy and terror that is.
I mean only that my life is not typical. Peculiar things happen to me that don’t happen to other people with regularity, if ever.
I see dead people, spirits of the departed who, each for his own reason, will not move on from this world. Some are drawn to me for justice, if they were murdered, or for comfort, or for companionship; others seek me out for motives that I cannot always understand. This complicates my life.
I am not asking for your sympathy. We all have our problems, and yours seem as important to you as mine seem to me.
Perhaps you have a ninety-minute commute every morning, on freeways clogged with traffic, your progress hampered by impatient and incompetent motorists, some of them angry specimens with middle fingers muscular from frequent use. Imagine, however, how much more stressful your morning might be if in the passenger seat was a young man with a ghastly ax wound in his head and if in the backseat an elderly woman, strangled by her husband, sat pop-eyed and purple-faced.
The dead don’t talk. I don’t know why. Perhaps they know things about death that the living are not permitted to learn from them.
I see them and wish I did not. I cherish life too much to turn the dead away, however, for they deserve my compassion by virtue of having suffered in this world. I am a companion to the living dead who sometimes come to me for justice.
Nevertheless, an entourage of the recently dead is disconcerting and generally not conducive to an upbeat mood.