Hellboy: Oddest Jobs Page 3

That would be neat, he thought. Maybe she would die of fright, because she couldn't stand much of anything. Bugs made her scream. Bad news on the TV she couldn't stand and wouldn't watch. She liked a world that was controlled. And so did he. That's why he had his basement. It scared him to think that maybe, at least in some ways, he and she were much alike.

He thought about all this as he came up the stairs. He could feel the sweat on the back of his neck, and his heart was beating fast, his knees ached from carrying his weight.

When he came into the kitchen, his mother was standing there, her purse tucked under her arm like some kind of growth.

"You took long enough," she said. "Get the keys."

Wilbur got the keys and they went outside. The world out there was more and more foreign to him. He didn't like it. It couldn't be controlled.

They got in the car, which was a big old thing, and dated. The only driving that was done was from the house to the store and back, and to the car dealer for its checkup, so the car was almost brand new and ran as well as the day it had come off the showroom floor.

Wilbur turned the key and the car purred. "Now don't drive fast, Wilbur, and obey the laws, and be sure your seat-belt is tight," his mother said.

"Yes, Mother," Wilbur said, and he eased the car out of the garage.

They drove by the newspaper office, and as they did, Wilbur craned his neck to look and see if he could see Naomi's car, and he did. He saw it, and somehow the sight of it made his insides flutter.

His mother said, "You're thinking about that girl, aren't you, Wilbur?"

"Leave me alone, Mother," Wilbur said, and gave the car a little gas.

"She was no good."

"You didn't even know her."

"I knew her type."

"You didn't know her, so you didn't know her type."

"I know she was a tramp and she would have ruined your life."

Wilbur took his eyes off the road, looked at his mother. "Ruined my life? What life? You ruined my life, like you ruined Dad's life. He killed himself over you."

"Put your eyes on the road, Wilbur."

Wilbur looked at the road. A car whizzed by close.

"You're not being careful ... And your father, he was weak. That's why he died. He couldn't stand life because he was a coward. Watch the road, Wilbur."

Wilbur looked ahead and saw the Cold Shepherd courthouse. The road went left and right when you got to the courthouse. The steps of the courthouse were dead center of his path. He had to turn right to go to the store.

"Mother," Wilbur said. "You make cowards of us all."

And with that Wilbur hit the gas.

"Wilbur," his mother said, "you're driving too fast."

"Yes. Yes, I am."

"You won't make the turn."

"No. No. I won't."

More gas. The car leaped like some kind of great fish. It hit the steps of the courthouse, and surprised Wilbur by climbing them, running right up them. As the car completed the steps and made the concrete landing above, a tire blew. His mother screamed.

"Crom!" Wilbur said, mimicking one of his pulp heroes, Conan.

The door of the courthouse jumped up in front of them. Wilbur drove the car into it and everything went black. When he opened his eyes, he saw his mother, smashed up against the cracked windshield like a bug, having been snapped right out of her belt (didn't fasten it right, he thought, all that nagging, and she didn't fasten her belt right, oh, boy, that serves her), and then blood ran into his eyes and his head felt as if it was coming apart and the pain was so intense in his skull that the world went dark again, dark like his basement, and he was glad of that, and dove right in just as the car exploded and the flames licked throughout its interior and wiped the flesh off the corpse of his mother, and wiped him as well, nearly down to the bone.

Three or four times he came out of the basement into the light of the world, and between the flutters of his eyes, he saw it was a world he didn't like, full of men and women in white coats in a bright, white room. He could see that he was wired up like a spaceman and he was being asked questions, none of which made sense, and then he closed his eyes again, and he could feel himself walking downstairs, into the dark, but walking much more swiftly than usual. He felt good and lean and strong.

He heard something just before he reached the bottom of the stairs. "Can you hear me? My name is Doctor Stone. Can you hear me?"

He understood that, but somehow, it still didn't mean anything to him.

Wilbur looked up from his position at the bottom of the stairs, and all he could see was the doctor's shadow against the wall. He willed the door at the top of the stairs closed, and it closed, snapping away the doctors shadow and all the light there was in the world.

Snap back to the present

Excerpted from Hellboy's report

Delivered late, as usual

Ten miles outside of Cold Shepherd was the National Guard. They saw me and waved us through. No faking a big red guy.

When we arrived at the border of Cold Shepherd, at first it looked as if there was a great wall of dark rain in our path. The not-so-cheery Reverend Jim Jeff pulled over and we got out of the car and stood near the sign that read Cold Shepherd, Pop. 2,895.

I studied the darkness in my usual astute manner, and it is my belief that I cut quite a figure standing there in the sun, the average left hand in my trenchcoat pocket, looking at darkness where light should have been, thrashing my tail out from under my coat, looking like Satan's aviator with my sawed-off horns.

The darkness was maybe three feet away from me. It looked less like a wall of rain close up. It was more like a gossamer curtain stained in ink. We walked past the sign, into the darkness, and I stuck out my hand. The big one that I like to call, in my more poetic moments, The Big One. I think this matches my Big Gun and my Big Bullets. Other large accoutrements are not discussed in mixed company, or in the company of dour reverends, or in reports to the Bureau, but if you would like to ask in private, I can explain.

Anyway, nothing happened to my big paw, so I pulled it back and poked the other one out there. The darkness had texture. I put this fact into the great computer that is my brain, let that evaluate, came up with my response. "Huh."

The moon hung high in the sky, bright as pirates gold, but it looked like a big plate up there, not the moon we knew, the one made of cheese. Sorry, couldn't help myself. Back to the moon we don't know. It was shiny and smooth as a baby's ass and it made me want to sing Moon River. I had the force of will not to, but I did hum a few bars of Blue Moon.

Reverend Jim Jeff, ever stylish in all black with an expression as warm as stone in shade, walked up to me, said, "Look over there."

I looked where the Reverend was pointing. The horizon. The darkness was starting to melt away, from the ground up, melting in streaks. Daylight was poking through. "The illusion is coming apart," the Reverend said.

"It's more than illusion," I said. "Its true matter. If its like Kate said," (not that I doubt you), "maybe whoever is projecting this universe is coming awake, and it's all going away."

"Someday," the Reverend said, "I suppose the god I believe in will do the same. Come awake, and we will all go away."

And I'm thinking, maybe that's not all a bad thing. I have those kinds of days, you understand, and I'm also thinking if God is dreaming, is our world a sweet dream to him or a nightmare? Some place in between? I know this is a report, but I think we all profit when I wax philosophical, don't you?

But back to our story, which is something I've always wanted to say.

Not having a witticism at hand, I said to Reverend Jim Jeff, "Then let's drive on through," and we did.

We coasted down the highway, into the dying darkness and the melting moon, and by the time we came to the back end of Cold Shepherd, all the shadows had been torn away and flung out of sight and the moon was less than a thin circle through which the sun shone.

The Reverend cranked up the air conditioner and we drove on through the connecting towns, little clutches of civilizations that had gathered near a thin trickle of water that the residents called a river — or so stated a sign that named said body of flowing water something most likely Native American in origin, and something I couldn't pronounce. I can't even spell it, which is why it does not appear here. So, look it up.

I could give you some neato geographical descriptions of the countryside, but I don't want to, so all I'll say is that when we came to those towns in line with Cold Shepherd, they were all losing their darkness and their moons. And when we reached the far end of the farthest of the three towns, there was no more darkness, just light. The towns were empty. Not a thing moved, not even a bird flew overhead. I wondered if there were even insects on the ground. I was tempted to have the Reverend pull over so I could stop and look for ants. But not tempted enough.

We drove on and I realized something important. I was hungry.

When we came to the next town, Sand Rock, it was so different. There were cars moving about and people walking here and there, and when I let the window down I could hear the noise of the cars and people and I could smell exhaust and the normal smells you would expect, food cooking, a whiff of sweat, and pops of women's perfume. This town was alive.

We stopped at a Mom and Pop place and ordered something to eat, and of course, I was someone who drew the eye. I signed some autographs. The waitress came over and she had a camera, had Reverend Jim Jeff take her picture with me. She was cute. I prolonged that one as long as I could.

Anyway, we sat and ate, and Reverend Jim Jeff said, "Considering your origin, you don't have to be on our side."

"One way of looking at It," I said, "but I never really give it any thought. I do what's right because its right and I don't need another reason."

"That's good. I like that. But right is sort of in the eye of the beholder, isn't it?"

"Well, a lot of people say they are doing right and believe it, but to me, if it involves helping out innocent folks against nefarious supernatural badness, then right is as obvious and clear as the nose on your face. Which, by the way, is not any kind of comment on your nose."

"I was raised by wolves," the Reverend said.

"And your manners are so respectable."

"No. Really. Werewolves. My parents had the curse. They couldn't help it. They knew right from wrong, but it's a disease. Not some kind of astral werewolf like Kate was talking about. I don't doubt her word on that, but we weren't astral. We were werewolves."

"Not a lot of twelve-step programs for that, are there?"

"No. But they raised me and taught me and showed me how to live in a proper way. They didn't kill humans. They raised sheep. It wasn't like the old stories, the full moon and all that."

"Different kinds of werewolves, just like there are different kinds of dogs," I said.

The Reverend nodded. "They could become a werewolf any time of the month, whatever the phase of the moon. It had to be night, and that was it. They locked themselves up in cages on those nights. With a sheep in each cage."

"I suppose the sheep didn't get much sleep."

"In the morning, an automatic timer let them free, unlocked their cages when the curse was worn off."

"How did they come by the curse?"

"Not a bite, but they were cursed. It's a long story. Let me put it this way: our background is Romanian. They came from there. They had the evil eye thrown on them."

"That can be nasty."

"Most of that stuff, it's just talk, bluff, but the woman who put it on them was not kidding. They don't even know why she did it. It made their lives miserable, of course."

"Didn't do the sheep any good, either."

"No, guess it didn't. When I was growing up I was taught to manage the cages. The automatic locks, once they opened too soon and my father went on a kind of... well, rampage. He was shot, and not by a silver bullet. As a werewolf he was strong, but still he could be killed."

"Silver is something for the super-werewolves. Those are bad dudes. My Big Bullets would kill one, I might add. Silver in them, holy water, shavings from crucifixes, not to mention good old gunpowder. Did your father die?"

"Not from that. Old age. Anyway, he discovered ... I don't know how to put this delicately ... he ate his neighbor's wife."

"Ouch. That's bad for neighbors."

"No one knew of their affliction other than them and me."

"Is them and me correct English?"

The Reverend didn't crack a smile. He said, "I'm not sure.

"Anyway, I became their keeper. And then I discovered something as I grew older. I too had the curse. It had been passed on by the Evil Eye to their children, or their child in this case. I was the only child they had. So we all spent the nights in our respective cages, and we went back to the timers. Never had any trouble with that again, by the way, and our neighbor never figured out who killed and ate his wife. A pack of wild dogs was suspected, and for a while, every stray or dog that had gotten loose of their pen or their home ended up shot."

"Werewolfery is tough on the animal community," I said.

"You don't take anything serious, do you?"

"Problem is, I take everything serious. Come on, Reverend. Look at me. Do you think I'm living large? I got a life going, and a lot of it's good, but this body is, as they say, a blessing and a curse. I don't laugh a little, I don't see life with a little humor, well, I might as well take my Big Gun and put it to my red head and shoot myself with one of my Big Bullets. And I wouldn't want to do that, because it would surely leave one hell of a mess. But don't think I don't hear you. I do. You've had a strange life. So have I. So, baby, here we sit eating a meal and bonding."

I stuck out my fist. The Reverend just looked at it. "Come on," I said. "Show me some knuckles." He made a fist and touched mine with a light tap. He looked as awkward doing that as a cow trying to put on house slippers.

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