The Raven and The Boy.

“What is that?”

“Who let that thing in here?”

“Demon! Kill it!”

The scarlet boy fired himself through the crowd, pushing himself through the stubby legs, swollen abdomens and grubby coats that blocked his escape via the tavern door. The blaring heat of the Mexican sun greeted him along with – hello- more screaming, shrieking, morally offended locals. “Look, over there”, the boy pointed in a non-specific and wildly chosen direction. This fooled no one. In fact, the scamp had unwittingly presented them with a stone hand: something that was definitely demonic and not normal to grow upon the arm of your typical 5 year old human boy. If the thick horns on his head hadn’t already indicated otherwise. “Oh f-funk”. Whilst the real bad F word was highly appropriate given the situation, Professor Broom’s stern censorship of language managed to hold up somehow, and no matter how big or naughty the swear was, it wasn’t going to armor the kid against the mob of religiously furious Mexicans now reaching for their closest weapon. So the Hell boy ran.

It was to his benefit that, though stocky, he was freakishly fast for his age, allowing him to manoeuvre with some speed but zero delicacy. Barrels exploded into shards as he executed a poorly chosen corner and tumbled into an alleyway. Hoards of the terrifying “do-gooders” flagged behind him, spurred on by their quest to vanquish this devil spawn. Frustrated by the growing void between them, they’d now started to throw things. The boy yelped as pelted rocks sliced through his skin, sending chunks of red flesh and a spray of darker blood flying. Spurred on by the jeering, he lowered himself to pick up the pace before shooting around the corner. He launched himself backward into the shadows, pressing himself flush to the red brick and swallowing a mouthful of air. The swarm grew louder, trampling past in a deafening burst before fading into the much yearned distance.

In the cooling silence, the boy remained firmly pressed to the wall, hesitant to relinquish the air that was now trembling in his lungs for fear of revealing himself. His breath finally exploded out of him, propelling him to clutch his bent legs with exhaustion. Now the flood gates opened, a torrent of tears trickled down his chubby cheeks and a translucent blend of blood, sweat and tears cascaded to the floor as the boy shrank himself. Droplets plopped into the ground and from the soil a sort of muddied lily grew. Within moments, lilies carpeted the area around him, purer ones sprouting where the kid’s bloody feet lay. He rested his horned head on his knees and sobbed quietly. Fearfully. Alone.

“You look weird.”

…Or not.

The boy yanked his head up in alarm to see a red headed girl towering closely over him. Though his observation that she seemed to match his age was somewhat soothing, he was very aware she could tattle on him. Humans were like that. Most, anyway.

“Don’t tell on me,” he whispered in a panic.

“Why would I?” The girl tilted her head to the side. Her eyes were wide, pale green and fixed on him curiously. She was a slight little thing topped off with a chubby cheeked porcelain doll face. A regular cherubim, save for the shocking orange hair that fell to her shoulders.

“I dunno, I just-“

She cut to the chase. “Is it because you look like a freak? Because you’re hidin’ in an alleyway bleedin’?”

The little girl’s outspoken bluntness caught him off guard, but somehow he knew that she wasn’t trying to be rude.

“I was being chased,” the boy replied.

“Because you look like the Devil?” questioned the girl. He nodded, averting his eyes with deep shame. After a moment of quiet hesitation, the cogs working furiously, she plonked herself beside him for further questioning.

Are you the Devil?”

“No!” the boy retorted, shooting a quick scowling look at her.

She paused again. “Then what are you?” The boy shrugged, still sulking from her previous question. I’m guessin’ you’re not from around here, huh?” she continued. He shook his head. “Where you from then?”

“Somewhere secret,” he murmured, “I…I ran away.”

“Why?”

“They…they wanted to control me,” he began to fume, “They wanted to hide me away from the world, from the eyes, a-and use me. Said I was helping to save the world. But they wouldn’t let me go outside! And the guards, well they’re not really allowed to talk about open-world stuff around me but I heard them. Two of them. Talking about picking up their kids and their friends from school. Friends! I didn’t even know that friends meant something other than “the ones you don’t kill”! It wasn’t fair, so…so I ran away. I wanted to meet other kids, other people. But…” The boy’s voice broke, “they all hate me. They run away or they…try to…” He began to sob harder.

The little girl smacked him one.

“Argh!” He reached for his face, his hand nursing the freshly spanked skin, “What was THAT for?!”

“So you look weird. Like me. I like it.” She grinned cheekily, a sparkle flashing in her eyes. The boy stared at her dumbfounded.

“You don’t look weird, you look like them!” cried the boy, almost insulted at the suggestion that she could be any way as tortured as he.

The little girl smirked. “Watch this.” She placed herself in front of him and, as her eyes remained steadfast on him, the boy witnessed something strange. Her fair skin rippled back and revolved into a complexion of his own hue, and horns rolled up from her forehead. Soon he was face to face with a doppelganger.

A “woah” fell out his mouth as his jaw dropped agape.

“Woah” the little girl’s replicant voice echoed.

“How did you do that?”

“How did you do that?”

“Stop that,” he frowned.

“Stop that,” she frowned back.

“Stop it!”

“Stop iiiiiit!” she whinged back.

Silence. Then the two demon children rocked back and laughed.

“The name’s Raven,” said the unscathed mirror.

“Hellboy,” the bruised one replied, having now long forgotten the extent of his flesh wounds. “So you can turn into anything?”

“Pretty much, yeah” Raven shrugged arrogantly, “I don’t even look like I did just then, really”

“Cool!” Hellboy exclaimed, before curiously furrowing his brow, “so… are you a girl then?”

This warranted another slap, apparently an ungentlemanly thing to ask of a woman.

“Okay,” he sighed rubbing his cheek, “Can I see? What you actually look like, I mean.”

A flash of uncertainty seemed to skip over the girl’s face. Something vulnerable. This was an unfamiliar request and had he not been monstrous like herself she would not have complied. But his experience had comforted her, and before him her skin evolved into a brilliant sapphire from head to toe. Still the same little girl he’d met but with lizard-like eyes, slicked back orange hair and, well, blue. She was the most beautiful thing Hellboy had ever seen. There’s not much to say when someone reveals themselves fully, and the awkwardness is always palpable. So instead of grasping for words, the little devil plucked a pure lily from his side and presented it to the girl.

“Uh…” Raven squirmed, “no thanks. If it’s all the same. No offence.”

Hellboy nodded. “None taken.”

She smiled.

From the distance, the sound of the angry mob drew closer once more, shaking the pair out of the silence.

“Play dead.” Raven ordered.

“What?”

“Just fuckin’ play dead,” growled the girl, pushing him face down to the dirt. He dutifully froze into position, both stunned by fear and her use of the really bad swear word. Damn, she was cool. The noise was very close now, and in his peripheral he saw Raven’s petite shadow evolve into that of a tall and apparently balding man.

“I have caught him,” Raven’s husky ancient voice announced to the baying crowd, “The demon is dead!”

The crowd cheered. “Let’s burn him!” cried one of the followers.

“No, my children you must away” the man replied sternly.

“But Father-“

“No! You must go to you houses, far away- else your souls be tarnished by the demon’s remains!”

A collective of gasps rippled throughout the group and quickly the mob dispersed. Watching the last of them flee into their houses to douse themselves with holy water or whatever religious trash they possessed, the pastor laughed heartily. “Suckers…” he smirked. Satisfied, he turned to the boy. “Go home, son” the pastor’s gravelly voice melted into Raven’s honeyed tones once more, “you ain’t ready for the world just yet.” Hellboy obediently bowed his head and picked himself up, running down the alley way. He stopped and, before leaving the scene for good, called “I don’t think they’re all bad, y’know.” Then Hellboy vanished.

With the echoing goodbye of Hellboy’s grinding footsteps upon the dirt, Raven was now alone. She shrank back into her cutesy porcelain form, a little lost. One thing about being in camouflage for so long is that with time you become unaccustomed to conversation, something well suited for the girl until now. She bent down, hovering over the place where the boy had sat and offered her a pure white lily. Raven smiled, plucking the singular undesirably muddy lily that held its little ugly head high in the swarm of beauties. The little girl placed it carefully in her vibrant hair, and strode out proudly into the blazing heat of the Mexican sun.

 

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