A black car drives up to a farmhouse in the middle of the country. The vehicle’s sole occupant, a man dressed in black with a white collar, blesses himself in the name of the Holy Trinity and exits the car. While standing before the decrepit farmhouse, he offers a brief pray and asks for the conviction to do his good work.
A plain-looking farmwife answers the door. She tells the man, who towers over her diminutive figure, that he is right on time. He asks where the girl is, and after she tells him, he heads upstairs to see her. “Better stay down here till I’m through,” he tells the girl’s mother. She asks if there is something she could be doing to help. “Praying,” he says, “that the Lord Almighty forgive your sinful daughter.”
“Margaret? Mary Margaret?” he calls out as he reaches the top of the stairwell. A timid voice answers from one of the bedrooms. He opens the creaky door to see a small girl in a yellow dress cowering on a stool, alone in the dark. Blood stains her dress near her torso and ankles. The priest tells her not to be afraid; her mother sent him to help. Crossing the room, he asks to see Mary Margaret’s hands, and the frightened girl looks up with tears in her eyes. They won’t stop, she cries. They won’t stop bleeding. She presents her hands, both of which bear gaping, vertical slits.
“The stigmata. The wounds of Christ,” the man mutters. He asks when this began. Six months earlier, Mary Margaret says, when she first began having dreams of strange people: a boy who is a snowman, one with fire in his eyes, and another who has wings, like an angel…
Meanwhile, a lanky, teenage blond boy in a track uniform gracefully vaults over a high-bar and lands safely on a cushion. “Wow – and there he went, ladies and gentlemen! Man, that kid can fly!” the announcer shouts over the cheers of the crowd. Not only is this high-jump by Warren Worthington the Third easily the day’s best, he announces, but it is officially the new all-time high-jump record for the state of Vermont! “Let’s hear it for Warren Worthington and the St. Joe’s Knights!” Warren stands and raises his fist victoriously in the air while the St. Joe’s cheerleaders rally the spectators.
While the St. Joe’s track team celebrates its victory in the locker room, the coach has a private chat with Warren in his office. Warren’s high-jump of seven feet, eight inches, is not just a Vermont record, Coach says; it’s an Olympic record. Warren’s response is nonchalant, at best. “Warren, it pains me to ask you this, but after what I just saw,” Coach begins, “on top of which, the last few weeks, I’ve noticed you getting faster on the track, getting stronger in the weight room…looks like you’re slimming down too. Getting leaner…” Warren finally interrupts his coach’s rambling and cuts to the obvious question: does Coach want to know if he is he taking steroids? “That’s what I’m asking, yes,” Coach replies. Warren vehemently denies the insinuation. He has been stepping it up a bit lately, but isn’t that what he, the team’s captain, is supposed to do?
Coach tries to speak, but Warren cuts him off and continues ranting. Shouldn’t his coach be grateful about his performance instead of accusatory? After all, isn’t his yearly raise determined by his team’s performance? Coach takes offense to this insinuation. Despite what Warren may believe, he values the health of his athletes more than his salary. Warren, finished with this conversation, gets up and leaves. On his way out, he tells Coach to start worrying less about him and more about the rest of the team’s lackluster performance.
Of all the comments for his teammates to overhear, this last one is quite possibly the worst. Unfortunately, the track team happens to be standing right outside the office as Warren exits. They stare at him with betrayed looks on their faces. His teammate Brandon is especially hurt; Warren already upstaged him in the high-jump earlier that day, and now he hears him dismissing the entire team as inferior athletes. Warren tries to explain himself, but they don’t wait around to listen. He hangs his head as they walk away. Andrew, the towel boy, tries to cheer his friend up, but Warren demands he stop.
Sometime later, the entire student body of St. Joe’s Catholic School assembles in the chapel for Mass. While they sing a hymn, an attractive blond girl named Amanda turns around, signals to Andrew, and asks where Warren is. “How would I know?” he asks.
“You’re his sidekick, aren’t you?” she says.
“You’re his girlfriend--”
“Yeah, and obviously, that just kills you,” she snaps back. Father Reynolds overhears the two students whispering and reminds them to be silent. Their eyes return to their hymnbooks for a moment before the girl dares address Andrew again. “Way to get us in trouble, wuss,” Amanda says. “Now heed my words: if you see your roommate before I do, tell him he’s dead meat.”
Meanwhile, Warren, standing alone in the bathroom, takes a long, hard look at himself in the mirror while mentally composing a letter to his parents.
Dear Mom and Dad, greetings from pastoral St. Joseph’s Preparatory School for Wayward Boys (hah-hah), the letter reads. Even though he speaks to his parents over the phone bi-weekly, what he has to say right now is too hard to do say in any form other than writing. Warren thinks he may be dying. His body is changing and he does not understand why. Despite maintaining his usual exercise regimen, he continues to lose weight. He figures this extra energy is going toward fueling his...change.
His body is stronger, faster, and more agile. In addition, mysterious bruises have appeared on his back, and despite his best efforts to hide them, they continue to grow and continue to hurt. He refuses to see the school nurse as he wants to keep his condition a secret, which brings him to why he is writing this letter.
I want to come home, Mom and Dad. I want to deal with this at home, in secret. And I know what you’re gonna say, Dad: That I should be man enough to take care of this myself. That asking for help is weak and cowardly. But the deal is…I’m really, really scared, and I don’t know what to do. Please help me. Please send for me to come home.
Love, Your son, Warren Worthington the Third.
The autumn leaves fall to the ground and the wind blows, whipping Warren’s scarf through the air. Warren, dressed in his school uniform, stands in front of the campus mailbox, holding the letter to his parents in his hand. Although he desperately wants to send it, he cannot bring himself to drop it in the mailbox. He destroys the letter in his hand, walks to a nearby trashcan, and discards the crumpled fragments of his heartfelt cry to help.
The students shuffle out of the nearby chapel at this same moment. Andrew sees his forlorn roommate standing by himself in the distance and calls his name. Amanda, spotting Warren at the same moment, shoves Andrew out of her way as she descends the stairs. She catches up with Warren, who doesn’t seem very excited to see her. His unenthusiastic reaction does not go unnoticed. She asks why they haven’t spoken in so long, and why it feels like he is deliberately avoiding her. Amanda gets in Warren’s face while he struggles to come up with a suitable response.
From beneath a nearby tree, the track team observes Warren and Amanda fighting. Brandon remarks that Amanda should be his girlfriend instead of Warren’s. A teammate reminds Brandon he already has a cheerleader girlfriend; what’s the difference? “The difference is – Amanda’s hotter. And…” Brandon hesitates for a moment. “…And we both wanted her, okay? And she…she chose him. And that just galls me,” Brandon says. He is sick of Warren getting everything he wants. The same teammate has to remind Brandon he is the Vice-President’s son; he gets everything he wants too.
Mary Margaret continues to describe the angelic boy from her visions to the priest. He is blond, seventeen, and lives away from his parents in a place where the hills are green, she explains. The priest asks if there she has any other information. “He…he’s worthy,” Mary Margaret says. The priest doesn’t understand. “He’s worthy,” she repeats. “H-his name’s…Worthy.” The man thanks her, and tries to piece together the clues. A boy named “Worthy” who lives in a place with green hills...maybe she means Vermont.
He stands up and puts his hat back on his head, but Mary Margaret looks up and asks if he can help her hands stop bleeding. “Your hands. Of course I was,” he says, reaching into his jacket. “There must be no signs of his good work.” He tells the frightened child to close her eyes. Mary Margaret manages to ask what he is doing before a loud BLAMM! cuts through the otherwise silent night. Mary Margaret screams. Her mother runs upstairs and, upon seeing what has happened to her daughter, begins shouting hysterically at the man. She begs for mercy as the second gunshot rings out.
Warren Worthington III, meanwhile, wakes up from a nightmare. What a horrible, horrible dream, he says, sitting up in his bed. He curses the cancerous stumps on his back before glimpsing an unusual object lying in the center of his room. Picking up the long, white feather, Warren has just question on his mind: what is happening here?