REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE

Author’s notes: None of the main characters are mine. However, characters that I have created for earlier Hellboy stories I have written may be hinted at. I saw the film before I read any of Mignola’s comics and generally this is based on a scene from the movie. But I have fallen in love with the original comics and even though my stories are mostly movieverse Hellboy’s character has a tendency to be a mix of both. If you haven’t seen the film yet avoid reading this story unless you don’t mind encountering big-time SPOILERS for the end of the movie.

One of the reasons I loved the movie Hellboy, and the comic that it is based on, is that there is a depth suggested in the subtext that is far beyond the surface storytelling. Not that the surface isn’t also fascinating, but I love writing about what I see in the subtext.

Some years ago, in the course of my professional work, I ran across the quote I use below. I loved it so much that I pasted it up on my desk and look at it almost every day.

The climactic scene in Hellboy reminds me of this quote. Frankly, in my opinion, Rasputin was crazy enough to think that what he wanted Hellboy to do would actually be a good thing. And Hellboy himself was very tempted to commit a great wrong as the means to what, at least for him personally, would have been a very great good.

“When Satan wants to seduce you, he doesn’t send you an evil deed to do, because that you will resist. He sends you a good deed to do at the wrong time and in the wrong context, and that will seduce you.” Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk (1787-1859)

Remember Who You Are

The being who had become the demonic creature Anung un Rama was tempted to do so by the one thing he couldn’t resist—saving the life of someone he loved.

This demonic creature had at one time been merely known as Hellboy; merely known, in some circles, as the greatest field operator and monster hunter for the clandestine FBI Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. He had also been known, in these same circles, as the adoptive son of Trevor ‘Broom’ Bruttenholm the British scientist of the paranormal who was the founder and director of this organization.

Hellboy knew that a group of Nazi occultists, along with a Russian they had called Grigori, had conjured him up in 1944 to be something bad—the man he called Father had told him this. But neither Trevor Broom nor Hellboy himself knew exactly what he was supposed to be.

Hellboy had been kind of cute when he was an infant, looking just like a little stereotypical red devil—complete with horns, tail, and cloven hooves. The very Catholic Trevor Broom had taken one look at the baby he had inadvertently named ‘Hellboy’ and what immediately went to his heart when he had coaxed the little thing into his arms with a Baby Ruth candy bar had been a pair of round, completely innocent, yellow eyes.

The only thing about baby Hellboy that wasn’t tiny was his right hand, which appeared to be made out of solid stone, and was all out of proportion to the size of his infant body. Inconclusive tests in his youth had shown the slight possibility that this was not really his own hand but had been grafted onto him in some way during the conjuring.

As Hellboy developed he eventually grew into the size of that hand, but in proportion to his almost seven foot tall, 350-pound frame it was around five times the size of his normal left hand.

He never could figure out what exactly was the use of a hand like this with its four stone appendages and the indecipherable occult runes that were carved into it.

The only thing it seemed good for was its use as an indestructible weapon—for punching its way through almost anything and for beating the crap out of demons and monsters.

Other than that it was almost useless as a functional hand; it was too large and hard to control.

Hellboy grew to hate looking so different. He especially hated having horns. At around age ten he had snapped off and completely filed down his horns to nothing but nubs on his forehead.

For almost sixty years Hellboy had preferred to live his life by completely avoiding the issue of his origins. As far as he was concerned he was nothing more or less than the son of Trevor Broom, the man who had nurtured and raised him. Basically, despite Hellboy’s unusual origins, their relationship suffered mainly from the not-so-unusual ups and downs of an ever patient and loving father and his ever-juvenile son.

If there was one thing that Trevor Broom and his love had nurtured in Hellboy over the decades, it was a huge capacity for devotion coupled with a basic responsibility to protect others. This was true despite the fact that Hellboy was often unable to express these things—despite his tendency to live outwardly as a rather abrasive, cynical, cigar-chomping adolescent.

Everything pretty much went on the same as it had for decades— until Hellboy had fallen hopelessly in love and the undead Grigori Efimovich Rasputin and his undead Nazi cohorts, Kroenen and Ilsa, turned up again toward the end of the year 2004 and killed off Trevor Broom.

So Hellboy and many of his BPRD colleagues, including the woman he loved more than anything else in the world, went off to Moscow to get Rasputin—exactly what Rasputin wanted him to do.

Rasputin had managed to trap Hellboy and had him chained to a yoke that despite his superhuman strength he had been completely unable to break loose from. This uncharacteristic weakness was, as Rasputin matter-of-factly informed him, due to the locks on this yoke being inscribed with Hellboy’s true name—a name that he never even knew that he had.

He was informed that his true purpose was to be the key to opening the locks on a large white stone monolith and letting into the world the Ogdru Jahad, the seven gods of chaos. This was what Rasputin had been attempting to perform in 1944, but the interference of Trevor Broom had thrown everything out of whack.

‘The Right Hand of Doom’ was what Ilsa had called his stone hand and she gleefully predicted a ‘new Eden’ that would spring up from the ashes of the destruction of humanity.

Hellboy had lived his entire life among humans. He almost considered himself human. Scientific testing in his youth even showed some evidence that he, despite his superficially hellish appearance, may have had some human origins.

As far as Hellboy felt at the time of his capture, his death at the hands of Rasputin was preferable to feeling that he would be to blame for the destruction of the very humans he had always considered his friends, his family, and his colleagues.

He already felt partially responsible for his adoptive father’s death and that was about as much grief as he could handle. Hellboy, at first, categorically refused to perform what Rasputin was urging him to do.

But Rasputin had managed to get his hands on Liz Sherman and, in the long run, Hellboy couldn’t bear the idea of allowing another person he loved to die if he could prevent it. He would do anything in his power to save her.

Rasputin ripped from Hellboy’s wrist the one thing that he had left that had belonged to his adoptive father—his father’s rosary. Rasputin tossed it away contemptuously.

“Your true name,” he shouted, “Say it!”

So Hellboy spoke the words that had no real meaning for him, but that Rasputin claimed were his true name, and he became the demon Anung un Rama.

This time Rasputin thought that things were going exactly as he wanted. He never saw the enormous flaws in his plans to use Hellboy as the key to the coming of the Apocalypse.

Rasputin had assumed that all he had to do to get Hellboy into his control was to get rid of Trevor Broom and trick Hellboy into coming to Moscow. He never in his wildest dreams considered that the strength of a devoted father’s love could survive even his death.

“Your God chooses to remain silent. My God lives within me,” Rasputin had said to Trevor Broom right before he had Kroenen kill him.

Rasputin, though he had at one time been a monk, never considered that the silence of this God that Trevor Broom believed in, and had taught Hellboy to believe in, was much, much stronger than the noise of the chaotic, tentacled god that Rasputin was incubating in his own body.

But, at first, it did seem like everything was going exactly according to plan.

The minute Hellboy had spoken his true name there was an almost immediate transformation of his physical being. John Myers, his BPRD colleague from the FBI who was now chained to a pillar a little distance away, was completely dismayed by this transformation.

He had tried to shout at Hellboy to get him to stop what he was about to do, but Ilsa had firmly kicked him in the face to shut him up.

The creature that was now Anung un Rama could not have cared less for some puny human’s shouting. This creature that had once been Hellboy felt, with its crown of fire and its massive burgeoning horns, completely powerful and finally perfectly normal.

This demon, that was now at least eight feet tall, flexed its powerful shoulders and breathed out fire as it strode toward the monolith that was the gateway. It walked right past Liz Sherman, who now meant nothing to it. The only thing that mattered to it was this wonderful power that it felt and the absolutely compelling need to use its huge right hand for what it knew it was good for—opening the gates for the Ogdru Jahad to wipe humanity from the face of the earth.

The small spark of consciousness that was all that was left of Hellboy was almost completely buried within the smothering, but completely cold darkness that was Anung un Rama.

“Father! Father!” Hellboy cried, “I’m all alone in the dark and I’m so afraid.”

The young Hellboy had often been frightened of the dark and of thunderstorms. They had reminded him of something terrible he could never quite remember and he suffered terribly from nightmares. Whenever this happened a kind, gentle man would come to him and allay his fears.

But now there were no comforting hands that came to hold him, no comforting voice with a slightly Americanized British accent to hush away his fears.

Instead there came another voice from this freezing darkness.

“My Son,” the deep, strong, dark voice said, “finally you have returned to me; my favorite son.”

“Son?” thought Hellboy, “this voice doesn’t sound anything like Father.”

The dark, cold voice continued, “You must remember who you really are. You were once, many centuries ago, conceived of a human woman in Hell who had consorted with me, your real father. You lay dormant until the opportune time for your destiny. You must now forget this paltry human who raised you. He served one purpose and one purpose only—to keep you alive until the time prepared for your final triumph. You had the right idea when you were eleven years old; this man is too small and insignificant to be your real father.”

Hellboy struggled with this. The longer this terrible voice spoke to him the more he forgot who he used to be. Maybe this voice was right; maybe it really was his real father.

Faintly, as if from a million miles away, Hellboy heard a voice speaking words that were almost meaningless to him.

“You’ve been grumbling about him not being your ‘real father’. Well, how much more of a ‘real father’ do you want than someone who practically gave up his entire life and fortune for your sake?”

Hellboy pondered what he heard this other voice say.

“Was there someone who had given up his life for me?” he wondered, “Could someone really love me that much?”

He didn’t think it could be the dark voice that had been speaking to him just now, the one that claimed to be his father. But he couldn’t think of who else it could be.

Could a person have two different fathers? One with a dark, ugly voice and one with a kind, gentle voice that he found himself totally unable to recall?

The darkness around him became even more smothering, all encompassing, and cold.

He could no longer remember anything that had happened before this total blackness.

He could no longer recall the meaning of the word ‘love’; he could no longer recall the meaning of the word ‘father’.

“He called me Son,” this brief thought flitted through the freezing darkness and then Hellboy could no longer remember what the word ‘son’ meant.

What was left of Hellboy almost ceased to exist.

Suddenly a lot of shouting voices intruded into this ever-contracting darkness and it retreated just a little, tiny bit.

Someone was shouting something about an eclipse that was beginning.

“No! Don’t do it! Listen to me!” shouted another familiar voice.

But these voices were not in Hellboy’s head like the others had been. They were coming from somewhere outside of himself and his internal struggle.

Hellboy suddenly realized that he had his eyes closed tight in an almost paralyzing fear.

With a great struggle he opened them, but all that he could see was this huge stone-like hand, with its strange occult symbols glowing with an unearthly fire.

He stared at it in wonder. Could this huge thing really be his own hand?

Hellboy watched helplessly as Anung un Rama inserted that hand into a hole in this huge stone monolith where it fit like a key. As it triumphantly turned this key a bolt of sizzling lightning leapt to the eclipsed moon and opened a huge portal—a portal that felt terrifyingly familiar to the watching Hellboy.

Suddenly another voice intruded into the again suffocating darkness. This voice was very strange and yet at the same time quite familiar.

“Hey, you, boy, tell me your name.”

A tiny light intruded into the darkness and brought a glimpse of memory with it.

In 1959 Hellboy had been compelled by Trevor Broom, very much against his will, to leave his ill father’s side to go to Ireland at the behest of a distraught mother who was convinced that a fairy changeling had replaced her little baby.

It had ended up that the mother had been correct and Hellboy had to work out a deal with three strange little men who eventually let Hellboy retrieve the child. As hard as it was for Hellboy to have been separated from his father, he had been glad that he had gone on this trip. To rescue little babies was one of his favorite things to do. It made him feel more like his father.

The voice that was questioning Hellboy reminded him of these little men. A little more light crept into his darkness even though he was still unable to remember much of anything else.

“Hey, boy, are you deaf? Or are you just plain stupid? I asked you to tell me your name.”

Hellboy pondered this strange request. “What is a ‘name’?” he finally, slowly asked.

“You are stupid, aren’t you? A name is what people call you. So, what do people call you?”

Something surged from deep within that horrible, freezing darkness that surrounded Hellboy.

“Anung un Rama,” Hellboy whispered, “That’s what they call me: Anung un Rama.”

“Pooh!” shouted the voice, “Them’s just words, boy. Do you know what those words mean? What that name means?”

“No, I don’t know what it means,” replied Hellboy and the darkness started to close in again.

“How stupid can you be?” complained the voice, “It can’t really be your name if you don’t know what it means; it means The Great Beast, The Destroyer. Tell me, is that who you are?”

“No,” replied Hellboy, the darkness retreating again, just a little, “I don’t think so.”

“Then you’re not Anung un Rama are you, boy?” the voice concluded triumphantly.

“But, it’s the only name that I know,” whispered Hellboy, “Can you tell me who I am? I just can’t remember.”

“My Son,” intoned the dark, cold voice from before, “do not listen to that silly gnome. Anung un Rama is exactly who you are. Become the Great Beast, the Destroyer you were always destined to be. Complete what you have already started and open the gate to the Ogdru Jahad.”

Hellboy looked again at the enormous hand that Anung un Rama had just pulled out from opening the first lock. This hand, the hand that Hellboy realized with suffocating panic really was his own hand, reached out for the second lock—the final seal that once unsealed could never be closed again until the earth was a blighted wasteland. This hideous truth was the only thing that Hellboy knew; the only thing that he could remember.

Anung un Rama gleefully began to insert the Right Hand of Doom into the final seal. The demon loved the feeling of power and strength that filled it. It had always despised the puny humans who were so much weaker than it was. It was glad they were finally to be eradicated.

John Myers, who had finally managed to pull one of his wrists from his chains, reached out for and grabbed the rosary that Rasputin had earlier snatched from Hellboy and tossed away.

“Remember who you are!” he shouted desperately as Hellboy inserted his huge right hand into the final seal. Myers tossed the once cherished rosary at Hellboy.

Hellboy in his isolated, suffocating darkness heard a familiar voice shouting at him.

“Myers,” he said, as he suddenly recalled a name, “That’s John Myers shouting.”

But oddly enough when he listened more closely it was not John Myers’s voice that he heard.

It was a more familiar voice, a well-cherished voice—a voice that he thought he would never hear again. This was the voice of the British man who used to chase away his infant nightmares.

“Hellboy,” the voice shouted, “Stop that! Stop it right this instant!”

Hellboy pulled his right hand out from the lock and swung around in amazement toward his father’s voice. Trevor Broom never shouted at him and he almost never called him ‘Hellboy’.

He turned around just in time to catch in his left hand the rosary, his father’s rosary, that John Myers had thrown at him. The crucifix burned deep into Anung un Rama’s demonic flesh.

Hellboy dropped the rosary to the floor and stared at the cross-shaped scar that was left behind on the palm of his hand. Tears came to his eyes, but the tears were not related to the searing pain he felt from the touch of the blessed object; they were tears of shock and dismay.

Hellboy knew from what his father had taught him that only evil creatures were burned like this by blessed religious objects.

Trevor Broom had been firmly convinced that Hellboy was not an evil creature. In the past none of his father’s relics or rosaries had ever done Hellboy any harm whatsoever.

This fact had always calmed whatever fears Hellboy had over his mysterious origins.

Since when had Hellboy become an evil creature? He had always tried so hard to defend the world the way his adoptive father had taught him.

Other voices started shouting at Hellboy.

“Open the final seal!” shouted Rasputin, “Do it.”

“You have a choice,” shouted John Myers, “Your father gave you that choice!”

The darkness around Hellboy that was all that was left of the now weakened Anung un Rama started to dissipate. The dark voice that had claimed to be Hellboy’s real father tried again to get Hellboy’s attention, but he shoved it away.

“Screw you!” Hellboy shouted at the now quickly retreating darkness, “I was wrong when I was eleven; there is nothing small or insignificant about my father. Trevor Broom is the biggest man who ever walked the face of this earth and I am proud that he called me Son!”

Hellboy reached up with his two arms and, with an indecipherable growl, snapped off his newly grown and hideous horns.

“What have you done!” shouted Rasputin running up to him.

“I chose!” Hellboy growled as he stabbed Rasputin in the stomach with one of these horns.

Rasputin fell to his knees clutching the horn that had impaled him. “You will never fulfill your destiny. You will never know the power that is within you,” he groaned weakly.

Hellboy walked to where Liz was still lying unconscious and gently lifted her into his arms.

“I guess I’ll just have to live with that,” intoned Hellboy stoically.

Hellboy inside of himself was sobbing.

Hellboy realized that Liz was still breathing, but had no idea how to wake her up and wondered how much longer she could live in her condition. He had just lost his father to a terrible death. Now he had found himself to be too much his father’s son to destroy the entire earth even to save the woman he loved.

These two losses, one right on top of the other, were almost more than Hellboy could stand.

“Child,” whispered the dying Rasputin, “Look what you have done—You have killed me, an insignificant man—but you have brought forth a God.”

Hellboy, caressing the hair of the unconscious woman in his arms, looked over at the dying Rasputin who now had a mess of tentacles growing from his wound.

“Great!” Hellboy thought, “Just what I need right now, another tentacled monster to fight.”

“C’mon Myers,” he shouted, “Let’s get out of here.”

Hellboy carried Liz up some steps and the bloodied, but essentially unharmed, Myers stumbled up the steps after him.

Author’s afterword: This turned out to be an interesting conglomeration of stuff from the movie combined with hints of Mignola’s Hellboy comics The Corpse, Box Full of Evil, and The Chained Coffin. I left the ending intentionally ambiguous. At this point Hellboy really does believe that he committed the ultimate sacrifice of the woman he loved to protect the rest of the world. Dialogue and action in this story was mostly worked up from memory, so it won’t be exactly like either the movie or the comics.

Tell me what you think. Thanks for reading. Beth Palladino

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