|A Ghost In The Family
Author: Dragon Empress PM
Sometime during his stint at the B.P.R.D, Hellboy got called out to a small town in the American West to deal with a haunting. But, as it so happens, things can haunt you in all kinds of different ways...Rated: Fiction T - English - Supernatural/Drama - Words: 2,255 - Reviews: 6 - Favs: 3 - Published: 08-26-08 - Status: Complete - id: 4500215
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This is my first attempt at writing a Hellboy story, one that came to me whilst I was reading Weird Tales for probably the twentieth time. It's something that may have happened whilst Hellboy was still doing his bit for the B.P.R.D. My own Weird Tale, if you like. I don't own Hellboy, or the B.P.R.D, or anything like that. I'm not so lucky.
- - -
There was a ghost in our attic. Sounds kinda cliché, but man, it was true. There was a ghost in our attic, and he or she had been up there lurking since I was a kid. And believe me, buddy, I'm not a kid anymore, and haven't been for a pretty long while…
But yeah, the ghost. It was never a very violent ghost, or even a particularly troublesome one. Sometimes painting would hang crooked, even though you could've sworn that you'd straightened them out just minutes before. Sometimes the pipes would rattle, and doors would creak and slam shut behind you. It was all very PG stuff, really, and I had simply gotten used to it. Me and my Dad.
For a long time it had been just me and my Dad; a collection of years that I file away in my mind between my mother leaving us without a word, and me growing up and leaving (with many words and tears and promises to visit) with my new husband John to go live in a house of our own, thirty minutes away down the freeway. Before John, before our house and our car and our son, Greg, it had always just been me and my Dad. We were in it together, to quote another cliché; it was us against the world.
Well, there was, of course, our ghost there too. That pipe-rattling, door-slamming creature of fiction. He (or she) was there too, and as constant a companion to me in those lean, lonely years as my old man, or the little, stripy cat that he bought me when I was seven, Tiger. If anything, you know, I got used to the funny, little sounds and weird temperature changes that would signify our spectre's presence. When I didn't really have any friends (and I really didn't, for a long time), I had a Dad and a cat and a ghost and I was almost okay.
But then everything changed. I don't know why, but they just did. That's life, I guess.
And death, too.
When it all happened, I had been living with John for almost eight years, and Greg was now four. I still made a habit of visiting my old man at least once a week, usually on Fridays after kindergarten got out early. I always took Greg with me too (but never John; John and Dad didn't ever really get long).
We let ourselves in, as we always did, and in a heartbeat I knew that something was wrong. The air was colder than the sunless side of a rock, and still as a tensed-up sky as it waited for a storm. Greg clutched at my hand with both of his little, sticky ones, and let out a low, frightened whine, like a mosquito flying too close to my ear.
He asked, "Where's Grampa?"
I didn't know what to tell him. Or how; my tongue was stuck to the roof of my mouth like had been coated in peanut butter. I felt sickened and dizzy. We went into the kitchen.
And Greg's question was swiftly answered. Like a freshly-painted Jackson Pollock, my father's blood made a grotesque artwork on the white kitchen tiles, and all up and across the once-neat wooden countertops. There was an awful lot of it, and for a second, my heart was like a suicide; it fell forever inside me and I didn't think that it would ever stop.
Then, Greg said, "Grampa!" and my free-fall ceased, replaced with a cold lump of fear in my chest, big as a fist.
I heard myself say, "Fetch me the phone, Greg", and I remember him doing so. I remember fumbling with the buttons, my fingers so stiff it was as if they'd been frozen.
You probably think that I called an ambulance. Or maybe even the cops.
I did neither.
- - -
Before I go any further though, I think I should tell you a little bit more about my old man. He's not from here you see, not like I am. I was born in this little, American town, but Gregor Rabinovitch was born in Eastern Europe, when the glory days of the Third Reich seemed endless, and it was more than difficult to even look a little Jewish and escape with your life. But my grandmother did just that, with her young son in tow, fleeing the Nazis like a rabbit flees wild dogs. A generation of people used to being hunted down like animals; they brought that mentality with them to the new world. The idea that all you love is fleeting, and easily lost.
But yeah, anyway, things got better, as they always eventually do. An American education, and American college degree, a whole host of opportunities that previously, in the old country, my father would have been so quickly and definitively denied. He went to UCLA, as it turns out, got a degree in English Lit., and then…well, then he got a job that, shall we say, combined the education he got here with the somewhat more unorthodox teachings he had learned as a boy at his witch mother's knee.
He went to the B.P.R.D. Strictly research, of course, but none the less. He signed a confidentiality waver (that he broke, but only for me). He saw some damned weird things, back in the day; he met some damned weird people.
So when I picked up that phone, any guesses who it was that I called?
- - -
They took him to the local hospital anyway, as it so happens, and we soon learned that, although bloody, most of his wounds were pretty superficial. But he was an old man then, and so I sat in the waiting room and worried anyway. Sometime after five, John came by and took Greg home. It would have done neither of them any good to have stayed.
There was nothing, really, that any normal human man could have done. Which is why, I suppose, that they sent him.
Looking huge and mountainous and thoroughly alien in our cold, clinical surroundings, the big, red giant perched at an uncomfortable angle on an uncomfortable waiting-room chair.
"You got a ghost alright." He rumbled, deep and bass. "I gotta feel for that sorta thing; I could sense it."
I just nodded. This was nothing I didn't already know.
"You've got an angry ghost." He clarified. "Judging by the mark-up on your old man anyway."
At this, I shook my head. "It was never like that before," I replied, feeling bewildered. Feeling sad and exhausted and strangely cold all over, like an old friend had betrayed me. "I grew up with that thing. Why the sudden change?"
I guess to anyone else that would have sounded pretty stupid, but Hellboy just shrugged his massive shoulders and got to his, uh, hooves. "Maybe we should ask your Dad?"
So we headed for Room 41B in silence, undisturbed by any doctors or nurses who might have reminded us that visiting hours were over. I reckon that when you're bright red and built like Mount Rushmore, there are precious few people who would even try to tell you what to do, let alone succeed.
Inside, Dad was awake, but glazed-over from the morphine. A livid scratch ran down the length of his face and around his jaw-line, as red and as threatening as the man-thing that stood beside me.
I smiled a little, "Hey, Dad."
He didn't return it. He just stared at Hellboy, all wide-eyed and frightened. Hellboy, in turn, just stared right back, grim and unblinking. I began to suspect that there was something I was missing, then. Something that I had not been told.
So I asked, "What's going on, then?" And my voice was thin and annoyingly shaky. "Why did the ghost attack you?"
Hellboy cleared his throat, the sound a rockslide in miniature. "Time for the truth, Mr Rabinovitch."
At this point, I was extremely discomforted to see my father start to cry.
- - -
So it all came out right there and then, the truth, in all its ugly, unvarnished glory. I just sat there and listening to all of it with Hellboy, not saying a word, either one of us. Just listening, as all of my life's previously-unseen jigsaw pieces began to fall into place.
I don't actually remember my mother's departure, you see. I don't remember the first time I realized that our house had a ghost. I was tucked up in bed all safe and unknowing, the night that my father took a kitchen knife and buried it six inches deep into my mother's fragile skull.
She was leaving him, you see. Since joining the Bureau he had gotten stranger and colder, spending hours alone with ancient, crumbling textbooks, muttering things in ancient, evil tongues. He wasn't the man she'd married, my Mom said, he was a stranger in his own home. And she was done with it.
So he killed her. Just like that. Killed and dismembered her right there in our kitchen, before taking the pieces and throwing them all into the furnace in our basement. I can remember closing my eyes at this part of the story, feeling the tears begin to prickle and the imaginary stench of burning flesh assault my nostrils, as if by magic. I remember wishing that this whole thing could just be over.
That's when I left the room.
Much like my mother before me, I was done.
- - -
But I wasn't really, done, not yet. Hellboy filled me in on the rest of the details later, when he managed to find me again. It wasn't so hard to do, really.
"We're going to let her go," he said, all red and dark and impossibly large in the narrow spaces of my childhood home. His tail lay coiled in a ring at his feet. Or hooves. Whatever.
I hung my head. "I guessed as much," I said. And then, "I spent my whole life thinking she just left me, you know, like she didn't even care." Suddenly, my entire childhood felt like one great, big lie. "But my Mom was here the entire time"
"Not by choice though," Hellboy informed me, quietly. "You left before your Pop could get to the worst part."
"Oh, yeah?" I thought, worse than this?
"Yeah. When he, uh, cremated her, he kept some of the ashes in a special, little jar, covered in gypsy spells and talismans and all'a that junk." He frowned then, deeply, like such things disgusted him. "Her body may have been gone, but her spirit stayed, trapped. So that not even death could truly take her away from him."
I felt pretty disgusted by that point myself. The whole, my-life-is-a-lie feeling that pulsed in my gut could only intensify.
For we had been a family all along; Mommy, Daddy and me, all under the same roof for almost two decades. Us against the world, right?
I heard myself asking, "Why did she only try to hurt him now? It's been years."
Hellboy once again shrugged those epic shoulders. "The older your Dad got, the harder it was for him to keep your Mom's spirit under control. He anger, her hate, they just kept getting stronger as he could only get weaker. Eventually, the reigns just…snapped, I guess."
"Oh." My throat was raw, like I'd been gargling with broken glass. "And you took the jar away?"
He nodded. "We've got people on it right now, setting her free." The lines of his face creased into something that might have been sympathy, then, but I'm not sure. "We're…gonna have to take him too."
"Not your fault." I was dismissive, my mind elsewhere. All I could think about was how little we really know about the people we call our parents, about how you could be a fun, gentle father and a cold, monstrous husband. About the multiple layers that somehow add up to a life.
Hellboy left, eventually. There was nothing left for him to do, after all. He had already done it all. I left too, in the small hours of the morning, moving like a sleepwalker and not trusting myself to drive all the way home.
John picked me up. The entire ride home we didn't speak. Not a single word.
There was nothing I could say. I was completely without words, and not just because sometimes, the strangest things in life are the ones that hurt all the more for being true, but because, ultimately, all that we love is fleeting and easily lost.
Do you know what I mean?
- - -
Well...what did you think? Worth a review?