Hellboy: Oddest Jobs Page 26


"Is she the urgent matter?" asked Hellboy.

"Yes and no," said the Reverend. He brushed some hair out of his eyes, finished washing his hands at the sink, and then came over and embraced Hellboy. "Good of you to come."

"Never could turn down a breakneck ride in a golf cart. It's a character flaw." He examined the Reverend for a moment, then nodded. "That whole Is-He-Jesus-or-Charles-Manson? look is working for you. You got a new collar, didn't you?"

The Reverend reached up and flicked his thumbnail against the annoying white clerical collar around his neck. "Blue-light special at the Vatican Garage Days Sale, ten for a buck."

The little girl on the sofa rolled over, made a soft, pained noise, and dropped the small stuffed blue pony she was holding. The Reverend picked up the pony and held it toward Hellboy. "These things still give you the willies?"

"Yes," replied Hellboy, taking a step back. "Don't ask me why, I know its just a damned stuffed animal, but ponies are creepy. Evil, even. Evil pony. Get it away from me."

The Reverend grinned, slipping the evil pony back into the little girl's arms. "In case you were about to ask — and I suspect you were — I found her in an alley about a mile from here. She'd been beaten, starved, and left to die, yet through all of that she somehow managed to hang on to her stuffed animal. It never ceases to amaze me how resilient children are."

"What's going on, Reverend?"

The Reverend stared at him for a moment, and then knelt next to the nameless little girl on the sofa and began stroking her hair. "The ancient Greeks believed in two kinds of time, HB: chronos and kairos. Kairos is not measurable. In kairos, you simply are, from the moment of your birth on. You are, wholly and positively. Kairos is especially strong in children, because they haven't learned to understand, let alone accept, concepts such as time and age and death. In children, kairos can break through chronos: when they're playing safely, drawing a picture for Mommy or Daddy, taking the first taste of the first ice-cream cone of summer, when they sing along to songs in a Disney cartoon, there is only kairos. As long as a child thinks it's immortal, it is. Think of every living child as being the burning bush that Moses saw; surrounded by the flames of chronos, but untouched by the fire. In chronos, in the everyday world, the one where you're going to eventually die, you're nothing more than a set of records, fingerprints, your social security number; you're always watching the clock, aware of time passing — but in kairos, you were, are, and always will be."

"Okay ... ?"

"I need to know you understand that. It's important."

"Man, you sound a little freaked."

"Maybe that's because I am a little freaked — and you know what it takes to do that to me, right?"

"Now I'm getting freaked."

"Look at me, HB. Look at — there you go. You understand what I just told you, right?"

"Yeah, chronos sucks, kairos rules, I got it."

"In a few minutes, as the chronos flies, you're going to be meeting someone whose duty — one among many, anyway — is to make certain that chronos and kairos stay separated, that one never bleeds into the other long enough for it have a permanent effect. Especially for children like little Sara here."

Hellboy stared down at little Sara and her evil pony, and as he watched, some of the physical wounds she'd had just a few moments ago — some tiny scars, several facial bruises, badly scraped knuckles, and a handful of open cuts — began to heal with the Reverends every touch. "How special is she, little Sara here?"

The Reverend shook his head. "As far as the people in her life are concerned, she's just a sack of human meat, unwanted detritus, a burden to bear. She's not special in the least, not her or a million other children just like her."

Hellboy held up his left hand, palm out. "Don't go all high and mighty on me, Reverend, okay? You're preaching to the choir, so save your breath, I get it, and I agree. So why am I here?"

"Ever read Dickens?"

"Yeah, but I like the movies better, especially the ones with Ronald Colman. Why?"

"The heart of Dickensian philosophy — at least insofar as it was useful to the Star Trek films so they could make everyone think they were being deep and thoughtful — was that sometimes the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few — "

"— or the one, right. Wrath of Khan. I dug that one."

"Is that something you personally agree with? That sometimes the needs — "

"Heard you the first time, Reverend. And, yeah, I can see how that might apply in certain situations."

"Could you apply it to a certain situation if you had to?" The intensity in the Reverend's voice and behind his gaze caused Hellboy's right hand to actually begin shaking.

"Could you be a little less hypothetical?"

The Reverend rose and began walking toward Hellboy, his eyes never blinking. "I really don't mean for all of this to make you nervous."

"You'll buy the drinks later. Be specific."

The Reverend stood less than two feet away from Hellboy now; if anything, his gaze was even more electrifying and unsettling. "If it were absolutely necessary, you — ?"

"Not your job, Reverend," came another voice from the far side of the room.

Both Hellboy and the Reverend looked over just in time to see a figure emerge from the wall like a bas-relief painting that had decided it had no use for the boundaries of three dimensions. When it was fully free of the wall, the figure shook itself as if tossing off a deep, wearying chill, and then turned to face them.

"Wow," said Hellboy. "Don't take this personally, but you are one ugly son of a bitch. What happened, you try to French kiss an airplane propeller while it was still running?"

"That's it, exactly," said the figure. "And it never returned my calls, either. The nerve of some things." Looking at the Reverend, the figure raised its hand and gave a small wave. "Reverend, always a thrill."

"As is the never-not-annoying manner of your entrances, Rael."

"Just keeping my hand in the parlor-tricks game while I still can."

The Reverend pointed between Rael and Hellboy. "Do I need to make formal introductions?"

"Nah," said Rael. "He's already heard you call me by name, and we have satellite television and magazine subscriptions. Everybody knows who Hollywood is." He started toward little Sara and her evil pony. "Damn, Reverend — you didn't tell me that the big K was this intense in her."

"I thought it might be a nice surprise, given the circumstances."

"You're right. Thanks, man." Rael put a hand on the Reverend's shoulder and continued staring down at Sara. This close to Rael, Hellboy saw how much worse Rael's face actually was than he'd first believed.

There was very little soft tissue on the upper portions of his face, and what flesh there was had become hardened to the point where it more resembled scales on a lizard's back; in places this scale-like flesh was semi-translucent, allowing Hellboy to see the red and blue veins that spiderwebbed the areas where most people had cheeks. Rael had no nose, only two tear-shaped caves through which he breathed, both of which seemed to leak constantly. His left eye was a good quarter inch lower on his face than his right, and he had no ears to speak of, just bits of dangling flesh on either side of his head. Though his jaws were intact, he possessed almost no chin; the flesh under his lower lip had only the smallest of rounded bone fragment beneath it, the rest simply blended into his neck like melted candle wax, creating a thick, disturbing wattle that pulsed with every leak from his nose caves.

The worst part, though, was the overall shape of his face and head; his skull seemed to have been wrenched apart with a crowbar, then pieced back together by someone with no knowledge whatsoever of human anatomy; there were lumps where none should have been, craters where there should have been lumps, and one section, beneath his too-low left eye, where the cracked and yellowed bone was actually exposed to the elements; Hellboy caught a glimpse of something metal and realized there was a rusty pin holding those two small sections of his faceplate together.

"Didn't anyone ever teach you that its rude to stare?" said Rael.

"Sorry. It's just ... you're quite a sight."

Rael looked at the Reverend. "Sensitive, tactful sort, isn't he?"

"Yes. Remind you of anyone?"

"What are you?" asked Hellboy.

"'What,' is it? 'What?' This, coming from the poster boy for why you should never fall asleep in a tanning bed."

"Rael is an angel," said the Reverend.

"Technically," said Rael, "I am a Hallower: a half-human descendant of the Rephaim Grigori, who were among the Fallen Angels. In retaliation for God's not having shared all Knowledge with them, the Fallen Angels stole the Book of Forbidden Knowledge and came down to Earth and gave countless Secrets to Man. Most of the Grigori coupled with human women during their time on Earth, and my race was one of many that issued from that coupling — though there aren't many of us left, of any of the races, not now. I am a descendant of, among others, the Fallen Angel Kokabel. He gave mankind the Forbidden Knowledge of Time and Science and assisted the Grigori Penemue in giving children the Knowledge of the lonely, bitter, and painful." Rael lifted his left hand, palm facing outward. "He also tainted the Mark of the Archangel Iofiel, who holds dominion over the planet Saturn." He placed the tip of his right index finger at the base of his left middle finger. "Its because of Kokabel that, in Palmistry, the Mount of Saturn brings such deep sadness with it.

"There aren't many of us left, Hollywood. In fact, its just me and two others, and one of those isn't quite a full blood but I'm in no position to get nitpicky. You see, I am also a direct descendant of the Sorcerer of Night, Unkempt, sometimes also known as the Archon Pronoia. My partner in crime is a descendant of the Archon Pthahil. They were the angels who assisted God in creating Adam. Pthahil sculpted Adams body from several handfuls of earth. Pronoia supplied the nerve tissue. Then God showed them how to give the body life. So we carry with us the knowledge and ability to make Man, and it was that power, that sentient race memory, if you will, that was awakened within us by some kind of survival instinct and forced to the surface at the moment when we should have died. We can create and heal but we can't unmake anything — including ourselves." He pointed to his tragic vaudeville of a face. "Used the old double barrel and only managed to ruin the wallpaper. Not that this GQ cover-model face is that bad a representation of what an angel really looks like.

"You see, not all angels are these ethereal, white-robed, wondrous, golden-winged refugees from a beauty contest that you're always seeing depicted in books and movies — oh, no. Many of them — and I'm talking about the ones who sit by Gods side and have His favor and love and respect and are the first to get tickets for the WWF Summer Slam — the good guys, capiche? — a lot of them are so hideous in their appearance that they make Lovecraft's Great Old Ones look like Playboy centerfolds. We're talkin' class-A uggos here, tentacles and dripping teeth and putrescent flesh all dark and oily with larval eruptions that drip phosphorescent goo. And don't get me started on all the begatting that's going on at all hours."

"She's stable," said the Reverend.

Rael looked down at Sara's face. "You sure?"

"I'm going to pretend you didn't ask me that."

"Sorry, Reverend. Its just... it wouldn't exactly be the high point of the evening if she were to buy the farm on the way home. I need as much Big K as she can provide."

"She'll make it." A breath, a look, a heartbeat. "So that leaves only ..." And both the Reverend and Rael looked at Hellboy.

"Oh, are we finally getting to it?" said Hellboy. "Someone's going to tell me why you two need me here? Wait, I want to sit down, this is too much excitement." He looked around, couldn't find anything that would support his weight, and so leaned against the locker. "Okay, my hearts all aflutter but I think I'm ready." Rael looked at the Reverend once again. "I like him. He's a smart-ass."

"And I've got both of you in the same room at the same time," said the

Reverend. "Am I the luckiest guy on the planet, or what?"

Hellboy began to speak, but as if reading his mind, Rael walked over and said: "Do you despair, Hollywood? When you look at little Sara over here, can you see what her life has been, that she's not had a good day on this Earth since the moment of her birth, and do you despair?"

Hellboy didn't even have to think about that one. "Damn right, I do."

"And if there were something you could do to help, would you?"

"You know it."

"I do now." He pointed to Sara. "Will you carry her?"

"Do I have to carry the evil pony, too?"

"Yes."

Steeling himself, Hellboy picked up both little Sara and her evil stuffed pony.

"Well, Reverend," said Rael, offering his hand. "It's been—"

"Tell him."

"What?"

"You heard me," said the Reverend, nodding toward Hellboy. "Tell him. Right here, right now. We agreed that it would be his choice"

"It will be."

The Reverend shook his head. "Not once you move through the scrim and take him to the others. That would be emotional blackmail—don't say it, I know, that wouldn't be the intention, but it would be the result."

Hellboy adjusted Sara in his arms and, whispering so as not to wake her, said: "Tell me what?"

Not taking his eyes from Rael's face, the Reverend replied: "The reason I asked you here on Rael's behalf."

"Not just my behalf, Reverend."

"Fine, on both our behalfs, and all our behalfs. Now are you going to tell him or should we stand here and argue a half dozen or so more parenthetical points and really give chronos a chance to tear you a new one?"

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