WHAT THE PLUMBERS FOUND

Author’s notes and disclaimer: Outside of some biographical details derived from the movie and the original comics, this story is my own. The two plumbers derive from the original materials, but their names are solely my own. Abe Sapien derives from the Mike Mignola’s "Hellboy" comics and is also a major character in Guillermo del Toro’s movie based on the comics. In the film, very little is revealed of Abe's origins.

What the Plumbers Found

Saint Trinian’s Foundling Hospital, Washington, D.C.
October 1978

The first plumber into the long-concealed chamber gasped in surprise as the glow of the flashlight he held reflected off of the odd tanks and weird surfaces. “What is it?” came the voice of his partner, “What do you see in there?”


The hospital where Matt Huff and Harry Lewis worked as the resident plumbers was housed in a more than ancient building. If there was one thing they hated, it was descending down into the dusty and cobwebbed lower basement. The only things stored down there were old equipment and ancient files, much dating to before the Civil War. There were also some long-abandoned laboratories; the reasons for these were now concealed in the mists of time.

Recently, evidence had come to their attention that water was seeping into the basement from behind a wall that could not be an outer wall according to the dimensions of the building. Yet, none of the original plans to the hospital indicated any use for the space that must be located behind this surface.

So, armed with plumbing equipment, Matt and Harry switched on the one bare electric bulb in the middle of the ceiling of this ancient space and descended the creaky, old wooden stairs. After playing a flashlight closely over the surface of the wall, it became more apparent that it was not made exactly of the same stone as the other basement walls.

With a clang, Matt set down his huge box of tools and turned toward Harry who had the smaller box and the flashlight. “You know, I never paid much attention; but doesn’t this wall look a bit newer than the rest down here? Certainly the mortar looks a touch whiter, if you know what I mean.”

Harry just nodded and played the flashlight lower down the wall, eventually catching a reflection back from a puddle of water that appeared to be spreading into the basement from behind the wall.

“Damn,” he sighed, running the flashlight over the wall again, “Doesn’t look like there’s a way through this wall, Matt. Run back up for the sledgehammer; we’re going to have to smash our way in.”

While Matt was away, Harry took a smaller hammer and tapped along the wall, to check things out; but also just to keep busy, as being alone in that basement made him nervous. He was more than intrigued by the hollow sound that echoed back; the space behind the wall seemed to be quite large.

Even while he was doing this, he couldn’t help noticing that the puddle of water coming from behind the wall was getting larger. He hoped that Matt wouldn’t be too much longer.

Once that wall had been broken through, neither Matt nor Harry ever expected what they ended up seeing caught in Harry’s flashlight beam. Ancient-looking equipment and two oddly constructed tanks were in that long-concealed chamber. The glass of one of these tanks was completely broken, but the other was still intact, if now cracked, and was obviously the source of the flow of water.

What is it? What do you see in there?’ The sound of the question Matt had just asked Harry seemed to echo in that weird room forever, before they finally dared to venture further in.

“I don’t know,” Harry almost whispered, wondering why he felt compelled to be that quiet; after all, who was there to hear him beyond Matt? The flashlight beam caught a piece of old parchment stuck to the side of the intact tank: Icthyo Sapiens, April 14th, 1865

The day Abraham Lincoln was shot; that fact, recalled from his school days, ran through Harry’s mind just before it came to both their awareness that something was in the tank. Something that was anatomically male, if more fish-like than human. From the movement of its gills it was certainly alive.

After reporting their find, Harry and Matt refused to leave the odd creature’s side; even in the face of a whole parade of government officials, including President Carter himself.

“The poor guy oughta have a name, Professor,” Harry whispered to Trevor Bruttenholm, the director of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, “Me ’n Matt kinda picked ‘Abraham’, you know, after President Lincoln.”

This odd room with its tanks and scrap of parchment was as much as anyone knew for a very long time about the mysterious origins of fish-man Abraham Sapien; including Abe himself.

Thanks for reading. All feedback welcome, Beth Palladino

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