Dust in the Crucible
The roaring had not gone away, but it became soft, distant; his heavy footsteps, dusty boots against polished, creaking floor planks, was audible now. He didn't hear anything else. This was a small funeral home, made of stone and brick. In the parlor where he stood, the walls were painted green, swirled with an overlay of gold. The chairs set against the walls and the table with the book of names on it were dark cherry wood, almost black. It was a space cast eternally in shade.
How did one get out of it? It was better than the stuffy box in which he'd woken. That had been cardboard, like he'd kept his sneakers in, only in place of the brand name the lid said HEAD. It had been claustrophobic in there, pitch dark as the bottom of the lake, and he didn't like it. At least there was light here, even if it warped like melted glass with every passing cloud. Or was that the eye the metal had sunken through? Either way, there was a window in this room, and outside it, past its thick woven curtains, he could see outside. The sky was the cream color of early morning. The leaves of the distant trees shook lightly. The road stretched into the distance, and that road would take him home. He had only to find his way onto it.
He wished he were there now, or anywhere familiar, where there wasn't any awful mechanical screaming like had overwhelmed him along with the darkness. Jason Voorhees did not process pain like that man who'd been operating the noisy machine, but he did feel it. There was more now than there ever had been before. The machete lodged in his neck had not hurt like this. The axe that almost split his head had not muddied his vision so much. He was aware of something like exhaustion, although this, too, was unlike what others felt. It was one with the dark and the noise, and it soaked all the way through him. It would be too much trouble to rest here, though. Maybe there wasn't anyone here to disturb him now, but someone would come. Someone always did, in a place like this. He glanced at the door he'd closed firmly behind him. It led to the room with the horrible machine and its horrible sound. Someone would come looking for the people he'd left there. He felt like laughing when he thought about what they'd find.
The tall, lanky one with the red hair so closely-shaved Jason had seen his scalp through it; they probably wouldn't find anything but dust where he'd been. That was the man who'd kept Jason in that sneaker box. Worse, he'd tried to throw the box into the screaming furnace. Jason had felt the heat when the door opened; that was what had prodded him to finally climb out of it. The lanky redhead had screamed. He'd tried to run. Jason had taken him by the collar of his white jacket and thrown him right into the flaming maw, burning the one who'd thought to burn him. That hadn't been the end of it, though. There was another, a woman with hair the unnatural color of a penny left on the ground too long. She tried to help the tall one, and when she'd reached for him, Jason had closed the door right on her neck, snapping it. The third, who'd been busy sifting through a pile of crumble at the other end of the room, like a paleontologist, he'd been too shocked to move. Jason had moved him. Well, some of him, anyway.
The box said HEAD in very big letters, so that was what Jason had placed on top of it.
All that waited through the door behind him. Jason had to leave before someone came to open it. There were so many twists and turns here, though. Down one hall was a bathroom. Another, a place with lawn furniture and a coffeepot. Jason hated the smell of coffee. His father's breath always smelled like that and it sickened him. Or at least got him as close to sickened as a dead boy could get.
There was a small fountain beside the sign reading "Whittier's Funeral Home." Mist floated along the water's edge. Out there, it would smell like morning. That would be so much better.
Especially when he was back in Crystal Lake.
Roy Burns rubbed his eyes. He tried to concentrate on his newspaper, but the words blurred. He read the same sentence at least four times. It made less sense each one. He lowered it, and found Cecilia Hale sitting across the table from him. He jumped. He hadn't even heard her footsteps.
"I don't look that bad, do I?" She laughed, pulling books from her rolling suitcase. With each one thick as a cinder block, her stack quickly dwarfed her, all except the highest-teased bangs of her short spiral perm. There was no point in trying to fit those books into a backpack, so she'd opted for luggage. Roy used a suitcase, too, but for a different reason. Today was Wednesday. He only had one class today, and hence, only one brick to haul across Pinehurst Community College. The rest were stashed in a coin locker.
"It's not that. Early class, long night last night. I almost dozed off."
Cecilia frowned as she pushed the books aside so she could see him. She made Roy nervous. He'd found that most people didn't expect him to talk. They wanted to talk about themselves, and all he had to do was give a few generic answers to questions like, "how are you?", then give them an opening to say what they really wanted. But Cecilia was different. He couldn't placate her with a vague response. If he tried, she kept asking questions until, before he knew it, he was giving her detailed descriptions of working as an EMT. Maybe she should be studying to be a therapist, not an LPN. From what she'd said, though, nursing had been her lifelong dream, and she'd started the program right out of high school. She'd be interning soon, and wanted to know what to expect. Which meant, Roy thought, she was going to ask him what kind of long night he'd had last night. He was right.
"Was it that car accident I heard about on the radio?"
He shook his head. "I was off duty. No, hypothermia."
"Without breaching confidentiality," Roy said, "the guy worked at a restaurant. He tried to unload a pallet of shrimp by himself. His jack malfunctioned and it fell on him. He was unconscious in the freezer at least half an hour before the night watch found him. On top of the frostbite, the lowered core temperature, and the disorientation, he'd suffered multiple crush injuries..."
"Did he die?"
"We got him stabilized before we made the hospital. If it could always end so happily."
"And then you've got Pharmacology first thing in the morning."
Cecilia took a long drag on her cigarette and sipped her diet Pepsi. This early, the cafeteria wasn't crowded. Most of the long tables were empty. Only a few drowsy students speckled the bright, yellow, sterile room. Roy also sipped his drink, black tea. This wasn't really a preference on his part. He drank the tea because it and coffee were free, and he hated coffee. He flattened his paper, wondering if he should try to read it again, when he caught Cecilia peeking at the headline.
"'Killing Spree Ends in Crystal Lake'. Shit. I heard about that. That's a fifteen minute drive from here. You know the killer, Jason Voorhees... you know his dad?"
"Elias," Roy said.
"Yeah, Elias Voorhees went to the same high school I did! Isn't that scary? What if, like, I sat at his desk or something?"
"I hope they've gotten new desks since he was in school."
"And the murders started on the day of the mid-term," Cecilia said. "Speaking of which, any idea when we're getting those back?"
"Soon, I hope. I've been sick at my stomach for the past week."
"Why? You've got the best grades this semester. I'm the one who should be losing sleep over it. If, you know, we ever got to sleep."
Roy raised his tea. "I hear you."
"Great. While you're listening, can I ask you a favor? My car broke down Monday and I was fifteen minutes late to the lecture. Can I borrow your tapes, if you can spare them? Just to fill in the gaps in my notes?"
"No problem, but you didn't miss much. Langston was on one of his political tirades. Not a whole lot to do with pharmaceuticals, unless that's how he inspires them."
"Then he needs to start bringing enough for the whole class," Cecilia said, yawning.
Roy was careful to block the contents of his suitcase as he fished out his lecture notes. He could give someone else an excuse for the clothes tucked inside, that he was going to the gym, or a concert, but Cecilia would see through that. As he slid the tapes across the table, brushing off her thanks, there were other things on his mind. Things it was best to avoid bringing up.
It was the picture, not the title, that caught Roy's attention: a fluffy white dog-head, smiling at the end of a snake's body. From his back, a jubilant boy raised his arms. Roy smiled. The Neverending Story. Was that a movie Joey would like? It looked like it. He'd been watching something like it that afternoon, a cartoon full of magic and dragons, when Roy had visited after class. Perhaps visiting was the wrong thing to call it, though. Actually, he thought with not a little cynicism, perhaps "stalking" would be a better word. He only walked to the house to make sure everything was okay, sometimes take a picture, if the one in his wallet was outdated. He thought about knocking on the door many times. He'd thought about it this morning. But always, he came to the same conclusion: not yet. So he'd turned around and started back. Now he sat beneath the old red courthouse's shadow, resting and picking through his paper.
Roy couldn't stand having time off. He found it bewildering, not refreshing; he spent it wondering what to do between now and his next class or shift. Perhaps today, he'd watch this film. He could imagine Joey watching it at the same time, laughing at the same jokes, delighted by the same special effects. He balked at the price, though. A show this early would probably only be a buck or so, but it was money that might make the difference between having books next semester, having lunch at work, or staying at St. Margaret's. His next check came Friday. Was it safe to stretch it until then? He'd regretted little indiscretions like this in the past, the unnecessary packs of chewing gum, the bag of pens to replace the one he gave to Lance in Shock-Trauma, the little toy robot that turned into a car, which he'd wrapped carefully in newspaper and then never sent, afraid Joey was getting too old for those. Was he too old for this film? The boy on the dog-snake looked the same age...
A car zipped past the courthouse, ruffling the picture and the words on Roy's newspaper. It wasn't going fast enough to snap him out of the mental calculator but its windows were down, and a song floated out of the window, an almost dirge-like new wave tune. In spite of not knowing the lyrics, Roy hummed along. Days like this, the outdoors weren't bad. The sun was high, but not scorching. The wind was mild and the sky was clear. The puddles from that big storm had finally dried. Too bad you could only count on it for two, maybe three months of the year, in this town. The rest was all snow and frost. The worst winds could tear a stake out of the ground and slam it right through a telephone pole. Just another reason to hate the days off.
He pulled out his wallet and counted, but stopped at the photo. A sheepish boy, just a little older than thirteen now, with messy, wavy hair and a blue windbreaker. Joey. It wouldn't be long now. Roy just had another semester to go, then a certification test. Then he'd be making more than a K-mart employee. Then he could get an apartment, a nice one he could share with a kid. Then he could start making up for all those years he couldn't be there.
Just a little longer, he thought, tucking the picture back into his wallet.
He folded up the newspaper. That was enough rest, so he stood. Maybe he'd regret it later, but he wanted to see the movie. The theater was a ways away, though, in Wessex. He wished he'd thought of it earlier, so maybe he could've hitched a ride with Cecilia, who lived down that way. It wasn't an impossible walk, though. He could make it. What was the worst that could happen?
A rusted metal bar stuck out of the concrete support of the bridge, like a fishhook, and Jason sat beneath it. He didn't know what made him drag as he tried to walk, like a vehicle with something broken inside, grinding all the way down the road. All he knew was that he wanted to stop a moment, and this place was out of the way, quiet, and shady. Sometimes the world looked too dark, but now, the problem was searing brightness, and the bridge blocked it. He propped himself up under the rusty fishhook, scattering the old paper wads and whiskey bottles that collected around the base. That wasn't enough, so he buried his face in his arms, to keep the sun and flaking rust out of his eyes and the wounds around and inside them.
"What's this? Looks like we've got a visitor!"
Jason didn't have to look to know they circled him; he could feel their footsteps. There were three of them, two teenagers and one a little older, maybe twenty two or three. The shortest had cowboy boots and muddy jeans. The one next to him had a ripped T-shirt. The one who'd spoken had black hair and an upturned pug nose. Almost interchangeable, these three, who paced and laughed when he wanted most to be left alone.
"Come on, Gary," ripped T-shirt said, "Look at the guy. What could he possibly have on him?"
"Who cares? I just feel like some bear-baiting. What about you? You hear me, you fucking useless..."
Jason felt the Gary's kick coming at him as acutely as he'd counted their footsteps. He caught his foot in its denim casing and raised his head, letting all three of them get a good look. He loved doing that, loved the way they screamed at the sight of the taut, gored skin. If he hadn't been in so much pain, it might've even made him smile. He twisted Gary's leg until he heard a satisfying snap. He didn't stop there. He kept it up until blood began to soak through the cloth, mixing with the dirt.
"You son of a-" Boots charged him with a knife. It was a small, single piece of metal, a ninja knife those were called. Jason threw Gary to the ground with a splat and another crunch, then grabbed Boots's throat. He choked and sputtered. That was distracting enough that Jason forgot about the ninja knife until it was sticking out of his stomach. Jason looked down at the hilt between his ribs. How annoying! With his free hand, Jason yanked the blade from his flesh and returned it to its owner, pointy end first, right between the eyes.
By this time, the Gary had clawed his way back to his feet. He wasn't interested in helping his two friends. He wanted to escape now. He got two steps away before Jason grabbed his mop of black hair. Gary struggled, kicked, alternated between curses and bribes of equally crass repulsiveness. Also annoying. His breath was too limited now to be wasting on that. Jason lifted Gary and jammed the fishhook through his back, hanging him like a coat. When that didn't silence him, he pushed down until the metal broke through the front of his chest, spattering red. That was two, but where had the third one gone? The one with the torn T-shirt?
He'd have found T-shirt, even if his unpracticed waddling through the underbrush hadn't told on him. The teenager sounded like a freight train or a tornado, and Jason's head hurt. He stooped to pick up one of the wine bottles at his feet. He struck it against the concrete and it shattered, leaving only the neck and glass teeth like a dog's.
T-shirt stumbled. Watching the path behind him and the looping images in his head of his two friends dying had obscured his way. He didn't see the tree root curling out of the dust until it pitched him into the ground. The impact was like lightning, and for a moment, he couldn't breathe. Pushing himself up like for gym class, pine needles and rocks sticking to his hands, he staggered and threw himself into a tree. Where had that man gone, perhaps he was thinking; or, more likely, what made his face look like that? Perhaps he looked for a way to run. Perhaps he wondered if he'd lost his stalker. Trembling, T-shirt slowed, chose a path-
The broken bottle slammed into his throat.
Back under the bridge, Jason stared at the pile of friends he'd made. He couldn't take them back home and introduce them to Mommy, like he wanted. He still felt too awkward to carry so much so far. That meant there was only one thing left for him to do.
When Jason left the bridge, it was much more fun than it had been when he got there. Stretched across the girders, as if they were a rack, as if this were the middle ages, were the three boys. Blood dripped; in the eyes of Boots, where the knife still lodged, in a small thin trickle like veins; in the throat of T-shirt, in a thick red line like a drain pipe; finally, in a giant bright starburst right in the middle of Gary's chest. The things inside always made such exciting patterns.
A lean figure, blackened by the overhead sun and the billowing smoke, watched the stretchers, covered in white sheets, roll out of Whittier's Funeral Home. Sirens blinked red and blue and yellow atop the vehicles that had come to clean up the mess and put out the fire. The official reports stated a furnace malfunctioned, killing its operators, but he knew better. His errand here was now pointless. The property he had come to claim was gone. Fortunately, he also knew exactly where it was going, and how it would get there.
Besides, if there was any doubt, he was sure it would leave him a wide, red trail to follow.
Cecilia drove her blue Chevette along a gravel road, forest on either side of her. She'd turned off an even worse street to get here, and so had not passed the bridge and its grisly decoration. She couldn't afford the long way around; she only had a half an hour's gap between classes, just enough time to zip back home for a bite of lunch. This was the quickest route to and from home. She'd memorized it. She could drive it in her sleep. Good thing, too, because that was practically what she was doing. If only her next class were some pointless elective, like typing! Then she could skip it. But no. It was A+P, where she'd already gotten her mid-term back and had points to fight for. She was so busy mulling over the arguments she'd use, drifting between them and the material she'd read for class today, whether or not she could remember it, that she screamed when the man walked out in front of her car. She swerved, spinning along the asphalt, eventually coming to a stop on the wrong side, facing the wrong direction. The wrong direction to go home, anyway. She had a perfect view of the killer as he approached.
Cecilia kept a bolo knife latched to the driver's seat of her car. It was there so she could cut her safety belt if it jammed in an accident and trapped her under water or in the middle of an impending gas explosion. That was what she used it for first; her belt had gotten stuck, or perhaps she was just too nervous to undo it. She unlatched the knife and cut through it, fraying the beige ends, and when she found the door too dented to open, she crawled through the window and fell in the grass.
Even though it was a very nice knife, much more interesting than Boots's little stealthy one, if not as useful as an axe or a machete, the girl couldn't think she could use it. She didn't have the arms to do anything with it. She was half Jason's size and barely as thick as one of his legs. He paused, regarding her. Was this one old enough? When he was at camp, Mommy always told him not to tease the little children in the Bunny cabin. She said they were too young to keep up with him, and the others his age who bullied them and took their toys were insecure cowards who deserved a spanking. Jason didn't want to act like that, not if it upset Mommy so much. But this girl couldn't be that young. She had been driving. Now she was on her hands and knees in the dust, trying to keep hold of that knife. Would she crawl? It didn't look like it. She wasn't moving much. Sometimes they didn't. Sometimes they just froze in place, as if he were some kind of animal that wouldn't see them if they were still. That made Jason angry. He'd finish this quickly so he could go home...
When he got close enough, the girl latched the knife behind his knee and pulled.
What was this? Jason didn't feel very much, because the throbbing in his head didn't let him, but that leg immediately gave out from under him, sending him into the dust with her. He grabbed at her, but now she moved, crab-walking backwards out of his reach. He flattened one hand against the hood of her car, denting it as he pulled himself back on his good leg, trying to find balance. That was the passenger's side, and she dashed back to the driver's, hurled herself back through the window, laid on the ignition.
She tried it again, and again, but it just kept grinding, like a softer version of the furnace. Hand over hand, Jason pulled himself to her side of the car, where she was hunched over the steering wheel.
He slammed his fist through the windshield. It impacted her head... then the seat behind it... then something behind the seat... crunch.
He pulled his fist back and Cecilia slumped. Jason ripped the door off its hinges and she fell out sideways, one arm flopping over her head. Her knife clattered. That was what he'd been looking for. He might need that later. He'd best take it with him.
Roy watched the fields pass through the window of Enos's semi truck. He'd used to think on family trips, as the rows distorted with the car's velocity, that there was a man in the field, a wiry long-legged monster man who could keep up no matter how fast you were going. Crazy how your mind had to go inventing things like that, as if there weren't enough in the world to be scared of. He turned his attention from the view outside the cab to the inside, to its driver, with his broad shoulders, plaid shirt, and wilting baseball cap. He was lucky Enos had picked him up. He hadn't been giving rides like he used to, not since that young hitchhiker had been murdered on the road not far from where he'd dropped her off. Enos had never forgiven himself for that.
He was an easy man to talk to, though. He had a concerned old lady, one great kid with a good job selling life insurance, one deadbeat kid who moved in and out as he found and lost one dead-end job after another (Roy studiously avoided speaking in the latter's defense, or even cringing in sympathy, when Enos berated him for his "laziness"), and three nieces who were, in Enos's opinion, the most frivolous things to ever draw breath. If Enos ran out of things to say about them, he was also a veritable repository for all the most scandalous town gossip, and not the sort to hoard this treasure to himself, he liberally showered all he encountered with its largess.
"I bet you're glad you're not working today," He said, when he noticed Roy watching him.
Not really, he thought, but said, "Why?"
"You haven't heard?"
"I took a walk after school this morning."
"One of the crematories exploded at the funeral home. You know, Whittier's? Set half the place on fire. Nobody survived."
"But that's not the worst of it," Enos said, and his tone told Roy this is what he'd really wanted to talk about. "You know what I heard? I heard they were cremating that Voorhees boy there today. Oh, they were keeping it quiet, wanted the media's nose of out of it. But someone got wind that Elias was on his way down there. He wanted to pick up the body, give his son a real burial."
Fine time to play daddy now that he's dead, Roy thought acidly. He'd read about Elias in the paper, how he'd been handed everything Roy fought for his whole life and thrown it away, walked away from his home, traded his beautiful wife and son for some younger model. As far as Roy was concerned, what happened to Pamela and Jason Voorhees after that was nobody's fault but Elias's. That blood was on his hands. End of story. "I guess that's not happening now," He said.
"I guess not. That's one way to burn the psycho to ashes."
Actually, cremation doesn't result in ashes, Roy thought. It breaks the human body down. Relieves it of moisture, of corruptible elements. What's left over is more like gravel. Like you'd put under a swing set. I'm sorry he didn't get buried, though. It's not his fault his father's an asshole. "Sure is."
Enos wasn't done, but he also wasn't sure how to say his next bit. Roy could tell from the way his eyes alternated between the road, the mirrors, and him. "I can only imagine what some folks think of it, the place catching fire right on the day of. The more superstitious townspeople think Crystal Lake is cursed. That you can't even take a piece of it one county over without something going wrong. That the place taints everything it touches."
"Is Crystal Lake tainting the people, or are the people tainting Crystal Lake?"
Enos stared. Dammit, this is why Roy stayed so far away from conversation. When he wasn't talking about medicine, he always said something wrong. Enos shrugged and shook his head. The rest of the ride passed in silence, and Roy went back to watching the long-legged monster-man running outside the truck, keeping perfect time no matter how badly Enos broke the speed limit.
Roy hopped out of Enos's truck at the first stoplight in the town of Crystal Lake with fifteen minutes to spare. In the distance, he could see the outdoor mall, the theater that was his destination. He could just make it if he took a shortcut. He thanked him for the ride and, drawing his suitcase behind him, started walking. He'd turn down the alley, cut across the back lot of the record shop. That would get him there in time. He was glad he'd taken a nap during the ride. Not only did he feel more up to the task, he was in less danger of falling asleep during the movie (no sense paying for it if he was going to do that).
The alley was quiet, abandoned. There was something unsettling about it. What was it? That newspaper story? This wasn't St. Margaret's in the dead of night, with street sounds just outside the wall. This wasn't Enos's truck. This was the middle of the afternoon, in a public place. Even if nobody was here now, it wouldn't be hard to find someone in one of the many open cafes. Hell, there was the police station, in dashing distance. So what if the side of the record shop cracked weathered orange, smothered with a million calligraphic variations of "anarchy?" So what if the ground beside it was strewn with broken glass and cigarette butts? So what if the door out front opened and Roy caught the distant opening notes of that eerie song he'd heard this morning from the window of a passing car?
Really, this was just embarrassing. Roy had slept in worse dumps than this. Under that bridge, where a man had been knifed to death; he'd stayed there once in the middle of winter. What did he have to be afraid of here?
Were those footsteps? Well, so what if they were? It was the middle of the day. There were bound to be other people on the street. But why did they sound so irregular, like something heavy dragged across the concrete?
Limping into the alley was the most horrifying figure he had ever seen, and that was saying something. The thing Roy couldn't believe, could barely comprehend, was his size. Even with the limp knocking him sideways (trauma to the tendon?), the man towered over Roy, over all his surroundings, like something mythical. Next to that, the blood, gushing from his leg, staining the green and brown clothes a soupy black. The set of his face, like someone had actually grabbed the skin and twisted it like unformed clay.
But it wasn't long before Roy noticed the knife he carried.
Once the initial shock went away, it was replaced with confusion. This was too much to believe. He'd seen that face this morning, in the newspaper, but the man it belonged to was dead. If Enos was to be believed, the man it belonged to was the fine consistency of granulated sugar, with maybe a few recognizable bone chunks left over. After he'd been chopped in the neck, axed in the skull, and stabbed through the eye. Jason Voorhees.
The first swipe, Roy dodged. It was a reflexive action. He saw the glint of metal coming at him and he jumped back, into the wall. Jason kept coming, though, and this was a narrow stretch; there wasn't anywhere to run. Roy tried to run anyway. The knife met him, glanced his cheek. Didn't get his head, which was what Jason had been going for. Roy had to move again, because Jason punched the wall behind him. Cracked the brick into shatters, like a mirror, crumbling the artwork and its message behind him into dust. Fine grain dust like the cremains he was supposed to be. Insane that anyone could be that strong, that unstoppable...
The knife hit Roy in the stomach.
Sideways. Not deep. If he'd hit anything essential, kidneys, liver, spleen, then more would be gushing between Roy's fingers. Jason seemed to know that hadn't done the damage intended. His hand wrapped around Roy's neck, pulled him up the wall. Keep pressure on the wound, that's what he should be doing. But what Roy actually did was pull out his wallet. He didn't think offering Jason money would make him go away, not that he had enough to make going away worth his while if it were otherwise. But that's not what Roy was removing from the folds of the fake leather.
If this was it, he wanted to see Joey one more time.
This happened sometimes. Faces would change, whole places would change right in front of Jason, as if time and matter were as liquid as the water that had swallowed him such a long time ago. Sometimes, strange things would become familiar, a girl he chased would become his mother, a building he'd never seen before would become his cabin, and it would knock him dizzy. It was even worse when he was hurt like this- he didn't know what that lady did to his leg, but it just wouldn't move the way he wanted. Now, this man in front of him, his form wavered, shifted. But he wasn't turning into something Jason knew. It was not what the man looked like that he found so arresting. It was what he didn't.
Clutching the picture of his son to his bleeding chest, staring at Jason with a barely-comprehending look of attrition, whispering over and over, I'm sorry Joey, I'm so sorry, Roy Burns looked the furthest thing in the world from Elias Voorhees.
Jason was used to rage, too, sweeping out of nowhere. This time, it was so powerful it almost overwhelmed him. But there was something different. Jason knew he was mad, more than he'd ever been before, so much he wanted to tear down the orange building and anything else he could get his hands on... but he also knew he was not mad at the bleeding father before him. It was a peculiar feeling, not being angry with someone who wasn't Mommy.
Lost in the rage, the suffering, Jason sank on his mangled leg. Since he'd been holding Roy up, they both fell.
He found what he was looking for. There, propped against his latest kill, was Jason. Had that old, sad-looking man fought back so effectively Jason was not moving at all? However he'd managed it, he'd done him a favor. It would be much easier to get Jason to the cemetery if he wasn't fussing all the way there. The old man's wallet lay beside him- Roy Burns, EMT- and he kicked it away. He latched his bony hand on Jason's shoulders.
He didn't see Roy wrap his fingers around the very knife Jason had swiped across his stomach, and that was why it came mere inches from his eyes. He leapt back. Roy was standing, bleeding, snarling like a dog, swiping at him with blind fury... protecting Jason from him.
"You're not taking him!" Roy stumbled, pulling himself upright to continue his delusional battle. "Thought you'd sneak after me and catch us off guard, but you can't have him! You're not taking my Joey away from me!"
Everything was in that attack: pain, anger, confusion, absolution. As long as Roy could stand, it was enough to hold the shadow man at bay, away from him, away from the heap against the wall. But Roy Burns was only a man, and a dying one at that. He spent his energy, then he collapsed again.
The monster-man stepped over him casually with his long legs and stole away with his son.
Loaded into the ambulance, Roy blinked. He could see the bald spot in the head of the blond man treating his gash. He must not have been out long. He was still cleaning the surrounding area, not yet to the cut itself.
"I've got a fractured collarbone, too," Roy said.
"Found it," Blond said. "I have done this before, you know."
There was an officer with him, a younger man with a trimmed moustache, probably just on the force. He leaned closer to Roy. "Can you describe who did this to you?"
"Not now," said the paramedic.
"The longer we wait, the less reliable his testimony will be."
"How reliable would your testimony be if you had a gaping hole in your abdomen?"
Roy thought. He reflected on the man from the field, the one who'd crept out, and decided he'd best omit that part. So, too, should he not mention he'd recognized the first man who'd approached him as Jason Voorhees, who was supposed to be burned. What could he say, then? As usual, not much. Just the barest bones of what was really in his head. "I can't help you. He was Caucasian, very tall. Over six feet. Hell, maybe over six-five, or maybe I was just that scared. That's all I have for you."
The officer snorted. "Narrows it down."
"Next time, take a minute off assessing yourself to take a glance or two at the guy mugging you," The paramedic added.
Roy's eyes fluttered. The light seemed so bright. "My wallet."
"We found it in the gutter. Everything was inside."
"Even my picture?"
The officer held up his photo and, though the paramedic tried to stop him, Roy snatched it from his fingers.
"That your boy?" the officer asked.
Roy spoke no more, even though everything inside him was screaming yes, yes he is. Not yet. He had to have more to give Joey than this, and soon he would. Just a few more years. Just a little more work. He had to get better for that. He had to keep going for that. It would take more than a nightmare man to keep them apart. Like Jason, he would be unstoppable.
As the sun set over the cemetery in the neighboring county of Wessex, a lone gravedigger surveyed his work. The new headstone was a black, two-dimensional silhouette against the lacelike fence behind it. In the waning light, the name on it could not be read, but the gravedigger knew what it said.
Beneath it, Jason slept, waiting.