Hellboy: Oddest Jobs Page 4

"So, how's the werewolfery?" I asked.

"I learned to keep it under control by force of will, and then, one day, it just went away. I don't have it anymore. I cant even turn into a werewolf if I try."

"Sometimes curses are like that. They wear thin. Want to know my guess? The woman who put the curse on your parents, one that got passed on to you, she died, and the curse ended."

"That's what I surmise. Anyway, because of the curse, I vowed to fight evil. And here I am."

"Good plan," I said.

"All right, then," the Reverend said. "So, what's the plan, or do we have one?"

"I like to just show up and handle it as it goes, which, of course, doesn't exactly sound like the height of intellectual reasoning. But, hey, it works for me. Way I see it, this town is next. If it is some form of astral connection, it appears the human projector loves trains and shadows and dragons and there's some connection with his life and these towns. Maybe he's all done. Maybe he'll never even know he did it. But if he's not through, if whatever his connection is keeps running along this route, he gets to this town, people will die. We are in the business of not wanting that to happen?"

"We are," he said.

The cute waitress came over with coffee. She said, "Can you move that tail around?"

I showed her I could. I reached out and took hold of her wrist with a twist of my tail. "How's that?"

"It gives me certain thoughts," she said.

"Sometimes thoughts can become reality," I said. "Believe me, I know."

She smiled and poured the coffee and went away. I watched her go away.

The Reverend said, "So, we wait here for ... the train?"

"Nope. What we do is we go back to the town in front of this one, go to its outskirts, and see if the dark starts coming, and along with it, a train, and some shadow dragons. I got this idea he always starts in the same place, and just moves forward, and then dreaming the nightmare wears him out, he has to regroup. Then he starts again, moving faster as he comes to each town all over again, seeing no one's there, moving on."

"What if you're wrong?"

"This town gets empty," I said. "What I figure is somewhere, for some reason, someone with enough bile in their bones to burn through the fabric of reality, or rather enough bile to create a reality of their own, is traveling through this line of towns, letting out their anger. My guess is it's a guy. Gals can love trains, but I figure this is a guy. He's got this stuff inside him and he wants to let it out, and it's all connected to some kind of route. Maybe he was a salesman. Maybe he feels the company done him wrong. In his mind, someone did. That means he manifests all his anger into his thoughts, and here he comes."

"As a train?"

"The train, the dragons, and most likely a ton of things we haven't even seen yet."

"But why would he take it out on the townspeople? Surely they haven't all done something to him?"

"He's been someone powerless, and in his dreams he has power, but because of a number of quirks in his makeup, in his experience, the intensity of his anger, his thoughts have become solid. And like some murderers, he kills near someplace he is familiar with. Perhaps in real life he would never do these things, but in his dreams ... well, it's different."

"Just someone going to sleep at night and they are able to do this? That is some kind of power."

"They may not be doing this when they sleep. Not a normal sleep anyway. It may have to do with some kind of suspended state. It's not about sleeping. It's about dreaming. And for him, his dreams are about jiving with shadows and dragons and long, black trains."

"Like being under medication?" the Reverend said, sipping his coffee. "Something drug induced?"

"Something like that," I said.

"So, this probably isn't an end-of-the-world situation?"

"Probably not. Disappointed?"

"Evil is evil."

"Now you're talking."

"You know, Hellboy, you're a lot smarter than you look."

"And you really do have a big nose," I said.

Down in the coma, the king of his domain

Sometimes he felt himself float up, and when he did he would glimpse the whiteness, the light, and he knew he had come too far, and he would feel pain, and he didn't like it there.

Sometimes he knew he was in a hospital, and that he hurt, and that there was morphine pumping through him, and there were moments when it was stronger and moments when it was weaker, and in those weak moments he almost surfaced. That was when he could feel himself bobbing below the light like a fish in a dark pond, looking up at movement just above his metaphorical waters.

But it was cool dark when he swam down into the darkness, and he felt that he had considerable abilities there. He lived in a very nice boxcar with all his magazines and toy trains, and the dragon necklace was magical. All he had to do was think about the necklace and the dragon would jump out of the little shape around his neck and it would grow and move about his dark boxcar with its black walls and black curtains and a light that was no light at all, but an ability to see in the blackness without brightening it. Sometimes the dragon divided. Sometimes it was smoke. It could leak out from under the boxcar doors, and it could fade through the boxcar walls and make its way toward the engine where no engineer resided. It could go into the big hot box of coals that Wilbur continued to imagine in the furnace, and the dragon could become smoke, go right up the stack and out into the night. The dragon was his eyes. What it saw, he saw. What the light of the train saw, he saw. And the very walls of the train were shadows of rats and bats, and what they saw he saw.

He had powers down there in the depths of the coma, and down there in those depths he stewed and felt mad and thought of Naomi and his horrible witch of a mother who he had seen licked clean of flesh by a wave of explosive flame; a big old orange and yellow tongue that with but a flick changed the nature of all it touched; it had robbed him of skin, he knew that upon surfacing a few times, going up there into the light. But he wasn't going back. Never again. He was staying down here in the cool dark where he could do magic.

He thought of his old paper route, and when he did, he thought of Naomi, and then he remembered she had been in Cold Shepherd, and that he had gone and got her and that she was down here with him. They were part of the very fabric of the darkness he lived inside of, and when he thought that way he could see Cold Shepherd, and it was an empty place because his train had come to town, and he could see the other empty towns beyond it, one, two, three. He had done it. He had made it happen. But he was in the hospital. How did that work? Where exactly was he? Was it all in his head? Was Cold Shepherd still thriving? Was he no more powerful than before?

He must have been moved to Phoenix, to a bigger city, a burn unit. Yeah, that was it. Had to be it. He was operating inside the coma while his body lay scalded and peeled and fat and destroyed in the light of a Phoenix hospital.

Down here in the dark his blood was morphine, his soul was shadow, and he began to move through Cold Shepherd in his big black train, and when the train moved the darkness gathered around it and his mind hung a big old bright yellow moon in the sky. It was the way the moon looked when he first went out with Naomi, and they had sat in the park in Cold Shepherd, not really saying much, but liking each other's company.

And now, she was down here with him. He turned his head, and there she was, lying in the bed, her skin dark in the shadow and her hair gone black as a raven's wing, her lips full and thick and black with dried blood. He sat up in bed and the black sheet fell away from them, and he saw that he was not fat at all, but slim, and muscular, and Naomi, whom he loved, had grown beautiful, if forever draped in the colors of night, the darkness of narrow corners and deep wells and empty pockets. He felt hungry, and he called to the dragon. And the door at the far end of the boxcar flew open, and there was no more light in the car beyond than in the one where they rode along, gently rocking. Behind the dragon in the dark were the people of Cold Shepherd, and the other little towns, and they hung by their feet on ebony hooks poked through their ankles. They had been split open by the dragon and cooked by the dark flame that came from inside its gut and spewed from its long, knotty snout like a flame thrower.

The dragon stood in the doorway and looked at them. Wilbur nodded. The dragon turned, whipping his long dark tail along the floor. With his sharp talons and sharp teeth, he tore loose the already burned flesh of a large woman, and dragged the flesh along the floor, and into the lair (and Wilbur so dearly loved to think of it as his lair), where he dropped it on the bed between Wilbur and Naomi. Wilbur patted the dragon, said, "Have your fill." The dragon nodded happily and moved quickly into the other car, found a corpse of his liking, tore the testicles from it with his fangs, and ate them as an appetizer. And then the dragon really turned hungry and began to rip savagely at the corpse, and he moved so violently that all the other corpses on their hooks swung back and forth, stirring the shadows and causing them to spin.

Wilbur closed the door with his mind, leaving the dragon to his meal. He and Naomi ate like lions.

When they were satiated, Naomi said, "You brought me here."

"That's right," Wilbur said. "What do you think?"

"I love it. I feel different. But what about your mother?"

"We need not worry about her anymore. Would you like me to read aloud from an issue of Weird Tales?"

"Oh, yes. That would be grand. Please do, Wilbur."

"Very well," he said, and he flowed over the floor as softly as a windblown ball of cotton. He reached up into his rows of magazines in nice plastic bags and took down an issue, and read to her. He began by reading the title. " 'The Graveyard Rats.'"

And so Wilbur's train moved through the towns he had already devastated and turned them dark again and hung the moon again in each. He came to the border of Sand Rock, and the daylight there began to fade. What the train saw he saw. And what it was looking at was Hellboy, and a lean guy in a trench coat with fists full of pistols.

Further excerpts from the journal of Hellboy

(Actually signed as Honorary Human — Gee, thanks)

So it showed up, the train. And it was a big ole dark baby coughing out some really nasty-smelling smoke. It wasn't running on tracks. Right over the highway, and there we stood in the middle of aforementioned highway, watching, me and Reverend Jim Jeff, our nice blue rental off to the side.

The night came with the train. It was like some kind of window dresser from the heart of Halloween showed up, started tossing black confetti, 'cause pretty soon the day sky was night and the real moon waded up and went away. Up there, pinned to the sky, was a perfectly round moon as big as a platter and shiny as a freshly waxed plastic melon.

The train came on fast, and I can't tell you exactly what got into me, but I said, "Reverend, step aside or you'll be run over."

And he stepped aside, and me, I stepped forward and swung the Big Right Hand with all my might. Hit that train so hard it rattled the minerals right beneath it. Hit it so hard the big cow catcher on the front of the train came loose and tumbled over the ground and turned to smoke, and then the engine started to slide, and it caught me broadside as it turned. It knocked me about a hundred feet through the air, causing my tail to whip around and clip me one on the lip, and then I was rolling, and through glimpses I saw the train's boxcars jack-knife and overturn and one of the boxcars exploded, and bodies, burned and cut up and chewed up, came sliding out of them and into the dirt. The rest of the boxcars went twisting off to the side and remained upright.

I got to my feet, gathered my thoughts, which were mostly ouch, and looked at the train more carefully. The engine had broken loose from the boxcars. The engine turned quickly, as if on a swivel; it moved as easily as a cartoon train. And then it blew a burp of black smoke out of its stack, and screamed its whistle, and came for me.

I had kind of lost track of the Reverend, but now I heard those big guns of his bark, cling-clang, and ping-ding on the side of the train. He might as well have been spitting jelly beans at it; whatever mojo was in his bullets wasn't enough to stop the train.

I glanced at the Reverend, saw him walking and firing, looking so strange in that long black overcoat flowing in the wind, sunglasses covering his eyes, bright orange bursts jumping out of the barrels of his guns.

Pushing back my overcoat, and trying to be stylish about it, I pulled out my really Big Gun and shot a really Big Bullet at the train as it pumped and thundered toward me.

Now, let me tell you. I'm not a squeamish kind of guy, and I've been known to take some serious blows, and just moments before I had actually hit a train with my fist, knocking it and the boxcars spinning, but this whole business, that train not running on tracks and all that horrid meat, the bodies of those humans sliding along the ground, had given me a bit of acid reflux. When my Big Bullet from my Big Gun hit the train engine, the bullet was sucked into it like a cashew dropped into chocolate pudding. The train just sort of slurped it in, and the great light at the front of the engine glowed brighter, and something moved behind the light.

When it hit me, that's when I lost my meal, which was not nearly so good coming up as it had been going down. The waitress flashed before my eyes, and I thought, damn it, I had that one sewed up, and now I'm going to be dead. The impact of the engine was worse this time, like it had gathered its forces, and as I spewed my meal, I clung to the front of it and it pushed me across the street and off the street, across an abandoned lot, and through a little ice-cream shop (I got a whiff of vanilla gone sour; glimpsed a flying waffle cone), and it slammed me into the side of a general store and knocked one of my teeth loose.

So there I was, pinned between engine and store wall, and I could feel the wall giving way behind me, and I tried to move, but was stuck there too tight, and I looked up, and what did I see, but the Reverend, climbing up the side of the engine. He had removed his trench coat and had it wrapped around his hands, which, considering steam was coming off the engine in a hiss of black smoke, was not a bad bit of thinking.

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