Freddy generally didn’t enjoy outings with his ‘father’. He was only ever brought along because he was too young and too unpredictable to be kept at home. And consequently, he would often be left to sit quietly in the back of the car or wander around on his lonesome. Mr. Underwood rarely took him anywhere of interest. It was usually a casino, or the shopping mall, or a distant lake Mr. Underwood claimed was the best location for fishing in America. He especially loathed the lake, because unlike the former two places he was regularly dragged to, there was nothing worth pilfering at the lake. At least if he was made to accompany Mr. Underwood for grocery shopping, he could grab a chocolate bar or a toy on his way out.
Most boys would have thrilled at the opportunity to explore a lake, but Freddy, being the alleged son of a hundred maniacs, had never quite fit the description of ‘most boys’. He preferred to remain indoors, to play with the bones of the animals he killed and examine his collection of stolen goods. He was sure Mr. Underwood had seen him playing with the bones, once, which was probably why the man scarcely visited his room anymore, preferring to call him down to the basement for his beltings.
The moment the rusty red Cadillac came to a stop a little ways from Camp Crystal Lake, Freddy slid out of his seat and to the lush green grass. He jogged to the outskirts of the forest before Mr. Underwood could make any sort of demand of him. Occasionally Mr. Underwood liked to sit him down and have him keep an eye on one of his fishing poles, usually for hours at a time, and Freddy didn’t want to give him that opportunity.
“Freddy!” Mr. Underwood bellowed as he disappeared into a throng of trees. “Freddy, you get back here!” It wasn’t long before the crunch of leaves and twigs beneath his feet drowned out the sound of Mr. Underwood's yelling.
He never ventured too far from the lake. He knew Mr. Underwood wasn’t above leaving him there if he didn’t hurry back before sunset. While Freddy was a superb punching bag and had gotten good at luring men into the alleyway in which his father pimped women, he wasn’t so valuable that he would go looking for Freddy if Freddy didn’t return.
Having already explored the circumference of the lake multiple times during past visits, Freddy decided he would spend the day loitering around the forest instead. As long as he kept the lake in view, he would be able to navigate his way back to the car.
He tried climbing a few trees and threw rocks at birds lounging on the branches too high for him to reach, then sat down in the dirt and built himself a miniature shelter out of leaves and branches. When sitting in his makeshift shelter began to bore him, he resumed walking through the forest, glancing to his right periodically to make sure he hadn’t drifted too far.
Only when he came upon a long winding path did he stop walking. It appeared relatively untread. He’d explored the shacks and surrounding trails before, but this path was new, and new was interesting, and he was in dire need of something interesting to keep his adolescent mind occupied.
After a moment’s hesitation, he started to follow the path into the depths of the forest.
He wasn’t sure how long he walked before he finally saw something other than forest on the horizon. At the end of the path stood a towering red-brick house, far more lavish than any house Freddy had ever been exposed to. The disrepair of the place didn’t detract at all from its magnificence.
He trudged up its rickety veranda steps and peered in through a window. The house appeared to be empty. Pressing his face closer to the dusty glass, his gaze caught something he’d missed the first time he’d looked. There was indeed someone inside, sitting in the corner of their living room with a picture book spread open on the floor. They didn’t appear to be reading it. Their attention was on a worn teddy bear in their lap, one they appeared to be attempting to groom with their fingers.
The boys head was very large. In cartoons, that usually meant their brain was too large for their skull. Freddy was curious to find out if that was the case for this boy, so he knocked on the glass to get their attention.
Their head immediately shot up, and they turned to stare at Freddy with an unsettling intensity. It wasn’t until Freddy knocked again, more insistent this time, that the boy stood and lumbered over, examining him through the glass.
The boy didn’t respond. He glanced over his shoulder, and Freddy suspected, then, that the boy wasn’t as alone as Freddy had first assumed.
“Do you have a big brain?” asked Freddy. “Is that why your head’s so big?”
The boy self-consciously hunched his shoulders. When he finally spoke, his voice was barely audible. “No.”
“Oh.” That was disappointing. “Why’s it so big, then?”
“’Cus ‘m special,” said the boy. He looked to be younger than Freddy, but he seemed very tall and broad-shouldered despite that.
“Oh,” said Freddy again. “Why’re you special?”
“M’ mommy says,” replied the boy, glancing once again over his shoulder.
Freddy crossed his arms over the windowsill, making himself comfortable. “Do you like frogs?” he asked.
The boy tilted his head at him.
“I like frogs,” continued Freddy. “I find them around the lake. Mr. Underwood won’t let me keep any, though.”
“Yuck,” said the boy. “Frogs are slimy.”
Freddy shrugged. “I don’t mind. They feel interesting. They’re all soft and slimy, but they have bones.”
The boy shivered. “Don’t like frogs.” He lifted his teddy bear into view. “Bears are nice.”
“Bears have big claws-“ Freddy started to say, but the boy mouth pulled into a frown, so he stopped. “They can be soft too, I guess,” he added, shrugging.
The boy smiled. “My bears name is Captain.”
“He’s a pirate,” the boy added a matter-of-factly.
Freddy snorted. “Well, I better get going,” he said, pushing off the windowsill. “I’m Freddy Krueger, by the way.”
“Will you come back?” asked the boy.
“Sure,” answered Freddy. It was nice to have another kid to talk to. Whenever he tried to befriend the kids in his class, they were driven away by the rumour that he’d been conceived from one hundred maniacs.
He started to jog his way back to the lake. Halfway down the track, he realised he’d forgotten to ask for the boy’s name.
He discovered in subsequent visits that the boy’s name was Jason, and that he was seven years old to Freddy’s ten and a half. He remembered being a lot more active and talkative than Jason was at seven years old, but he didn’t mind Jason’s reticence. Actually, it was kind of nice to have a friend with such good listening skills. Most kids couldn’t keep their mouth holes shut for more than a few minutes at a time, which Freddy found annoying.
Every so often Freddy had to be ushered away from the window at which they convened when Jason’s mother or babysitter came to check on him.
Jason wasn’t supposed to talk to other kids. Jason’s mother said they were bad, but Jason told Freddy he wasn’t sure about that. At least, not where Freddy was concerned.
Neither of them made any attempts to broach the topic of their home lives. They’d made a silent agreement in that regard. While Freddy did wonder why he scarcely saw Jason step foot outside his house, he wasn’t curious enough to ask.
Generally, they chatted – or Freddy chatted, rather – about animals, and the lake, and toys, and anything else that came to mind. Freddy particularly enjoyed talking about the various toys he’d nicked from stores. His father refused to gift him with any, so he only had a few, but he treasured what he did have. His favourite was the little wooden boat he’d built all by himself out of a building set and a small tube of superglue. He would have brought it to show Jason, but he didn’t want to risk his father finding out about its existence. The last time he’d found one of Freddy’s toys, he’d crushed it beneath his heel and thrown it in the trash.
During one of their more animated conversations, Jason abruptly fell silent. While this wasn’t abnormal for him, Freddy could tell something was amiss.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, squinting past the glass and into Jason’s house. He couldn’t see anyone emerging from the other rooms.
Jason lifted a hand and pointed behind him.
When he turned to look over his shoulder, his heart plummeted. His father was stomping up the pathway with his fishing rod in hand, his features twisted into a snarl of rage. He must not have caught anything. He was always left in a bad mood when that happened.
Freddy smacked his palms on the glass separating him from Jason. “Lemme in,” he hissed, as loud as he dared.
Jason’s bulbous brow furrowed.
“Come on,” Freddy pleaded. “Just for five minutes.” That would be long enough for Mr. Underwood to give up and return to fishing.
Jason gnawed on the edge of a lip with his misshapen teeth, then undid the window latch and pushed the window up just high enough for Freddy to squeeze through. Breathing shallowly, he ducked low, hiding his head against Jason’s bony knees. To his surprise and unease, Jason’s long fingers came to rest on his head, carding through his thick ginger hair while Jason made vague attempts at soothing sounds.
The sensation of fingers stroking over his scalp was very strange. He’d never felt anything quite like it. It was almost frightening in how pleasant it felt, and Freddy had to swallow down the urge to violently evict himself from Jason’s gentle grasp.
Heart in his throat, Freddy coiled his hands into the thick fabric of Jason’s denim overalls and closed his eyes, counting down from a hundred, just like he did while in Mr. Underwood’s basement.
One hundred, ninety nine, ninety eight, ninety seven, ninety six…
Jason’s clumsy fingers tucked a few stands of hair behind his ears.
Ninety two, ninety one, ninety…
He could still hear his father stomping around, now yelling his name.
Eighty six, eighty five, eighty four, eighty three, eighty two…
“The man’s gone,” said Jason, his voice impeccably soft.
Freddy immediately threw himself upright and reached for the window, pulling himself back out onto the veranda with startling speed. Jason barely had time to react before he was bolting for the forest.
“Fr-“ was all Jason managed to get out before Freddy disappeared into the woods.
He found the thickest throng of trees he could and lowered himself to the tangle of roots, heart beating fast in his chest.
The next time Freddy was able to visit Jason, they didn’t talk about what had happened. Jason did, however, keep the window unlocked and would periodically reach through to touch Freddy’s forearm. Freddy wasn’t sure why he let him. It was weird and uncomfortable; it made him question things about his life that he didn’t particularly want to address, but he didn’t pull away.
By the time Freddy was thirteen, he’d started to become involved with one of Mr. Underwood’s ‘employees’. The woman restricted their sessions to chaste kisses and groping hands, but that was still more action than anyone else his age was getting. When he tried to regale Jason with stories of his budding libido, the boy frowned and grimaced, so Freddy only ever brought it up the once. He got the impression Jason had yet to receive the ‘birds and bees’ talk from his mother and wouldn’t understand how cool Freddy was for managing to woo a woman at his age, anyway.
In the two and a half years they’d known each other, Jason hadn’t changed much. Gotten a little bigger and lost a few teeth, but that was about it. Freddy, on the other hand, scarcely resembled the boy he’d been at ten years of age. He was no longer meek or quiet or submissive. He sought out fights at school and he rebelled against his adoptive father in ways he never would have dared at a younger age. Though his back was riddled with scars from his behaviour, and his smart often made the subject of bullying, he’d been beaten often enough that physical abuse was useless as a deterrent.
For Jason, though, he remained as close to how he had been at ten years old as possible. He didn’t think Jason would like the changes he exhibited in front of everyone else. Jason was much too young, too naïve, too innocent. Sometimes he wondered if the boy even understood the concept of change.
With how little Jason seemed ventured outside, it was no wonder he was the way he was. But Freddy didn’t mind. There was so little innocence in his own life that it was intriguing to see it in someone else’s. Part of him wanted to see it corrupted, but he valued Jason’s friendship enough not to try.
He suspected Jason’s mom had spotted him playing with Jason over the years, but if she ever did, she never said anything, nor tried to separate them. Generally it was best to spend time with Jason when his mother was busy at the camp kitchens, as Jason’s usual babysitter paid him little mind.
One on of the rare occasions Jason’s mother wasn’t present, Freddy showed Jason a BB gun he’d bought from the local toy store. It was his favourite toy, nowadays. Mr. Underwood had yet to take it from him, despite knowing of its existence, and he suspected that had something to do with the thought of Freddy shooting him with it. While the little metal pellets wouldn’t cause any serious nor permanent damage, they would most definitely hurt like a bitch.
Jason didn’t have any idea what it was when he presented it to him. He reached through the window to touch its shaft, running his pale fingers over its barrel.
“It’s pretty cool, huh,” said Freddy, grinning toothily. He had a butterfly knife, too, but he wouldn’t show Jason that. He didn’t want to scare him.
“What’s it do?” asked Jason, withdrawing his fingers.
“It’s a BB gun. I can shoot stuff with it.”
Jason tilted his head, like he didn’t quite understand what ‘shooting stuff’ meant. And maybe he didn’t. Freddy suspected he’d never so much as heard the word ‘shoot’ before.
“D’you want me to show you?” he asked
“Yeah,” said Jason, shuffling closer to the window.
Freddy drew a chocolate bar out of his jacket pocket and carefully balanced it on the veranda railing. A little precarious, but he didn’t need it to stay upright for long. He trained his BB gun on the bar and pressed down on the trigger, sending it flying over the sparse shrubbery surrounding the house, across the front lawn, and into a bush. Behind him, Jason yelped.
“Hide, hide,” he babbled, and it was only then that Freddy realized the bang would have been loud enough to draw the attention of the babysitter.
Freddy leapt over the railing and into a small cluster of bushes just before a plump, blonde-haired woman threw open the front door and peered out. She had a girly mag clutched in her hand and a worried look upon her face. Her hazel eyes scanned the surrounding area for anything amiss, but she didn’t seem to notice the chocolate bar poking out of a nearby bush.
“What was that?” Freddy heard her ask.
Jason’s only response was to grunt.
“You didn’t break something, did you, Jason? Your mom won’t be happy if you did.”
“Alright, whatever. Keep out of trouble.”
After slamming the door shut, the woman retreated back into the room she’d come from, presumably to continue reading her magazine. Freddy emerged from his hiding place the moment her footsteps were no longer auditable. Hopping back over the railing, he knelt in his usual place with the BB gun in his lap.
Jason regarded him with a furrowed brow. Evidently he hadn’t enjoyed Freddy’s display with the BB gun. Freddy couldn’t blame him, considering they’d almost been caught as a result.
“Didn’t mean to scare ya,” said Freddy. His apologetic tone wasn’t very convincing, but it seemed to be enough for Jason, whose forehead smoothed over at his attempt at contrition.
“It’s loud,” mumbled Jason.
“So, you don’t like it?”
Jason shook his head.
Freddy shrugged. “I’ll bring something else next time, like my boat. It’s getting a little old now, though.” Another year or two and he’d probably throw it away. He was getting too old for such toys, anyway. Teenagers weren’t supposed to play with little wooden boats.
“Actually,” he started, struck with an idea. “You can have my boat, if you want.”
Jason’s one good eye widened. “Really?”
“Yeah. I haven’t done anything with it in ages.” He shrugged again. “Better you have it, or it’ll end up in the trash.”
Though it was a very small gesture, Jason appeared incredibly touched. His eyes were wide and shiny and Freddy hoped it wasn’t with tears. He didn’t much mind tears from people he disliked, but from Jason? He wasn’t so sure how he’d react, and he didn’t particularly want to find out.
“So, do you want the boat or not?” he asked.
Jason nodded his head vigorously. With how hard he did it, it was a wonder his eyes didn’t pop out of his skull.
Snorting, Freddy rose to his feet with his BB gun in hand. “I’ll make sure to bring it next time.”
“Wait.” Jason’s hands poked through the window. He felt those long fingers coil around his pant legs and then a gentle tug. For a ten year old, Jason was startlingly strong. Any effort he made to resist Jason tugging him closer was futile, and he was pulled into an awkward hug against the glass before he could flee. Only after a firm squeeze did Jason allow him to dislodge himself.
“I should go,” said Freddy, his voice soft and immensely awkward. He left without saying goodbye.
By complete coincidence, it wasn’t long after Jason’s eleventh birthday that Freddy gifted him the boat. He told Freddy as much as he gingerly set the boat in his lap, grinning wider than Freddy had ever seen him grin. It seemed odd that someone should find such glee in being gifted an old, chipped boat that had been made by a prepubescent child, but he supposed, secluded to his house as he was, Jason had to find pleasure in the simple things.
In subsequent visits, Jason gave him little things in return. Things to eat, usually. His mother seemed to have a surplus of the strawberry hard candies usually carried by grandmas.
As time went on, and Mr. Underwood started to lose interest in fishing, their trips to the lake dwindled in number. Eventually he was seeing Jason once a month, if that.
And then one day, he didn’t see Jason at all. His house was empty, lights off and interior stagnant. He called Jason’s name a few times, just to make sure he wasn’t somewhere else within the house, and received no answer.
When he came back the following month, Jason still wasn’t there. The windowsill at which they had so often convened had started to gather dust.
He visited three more times before it sunk in that Jason was gone, and he wasn’t coming back.
So Freddy resumed wandering the embankment as he had as a child. He found it odd, how quiet the place was now. The local camp seemed to have fallen into disuse.
During one wandering, he found the small, wooden boat he’d given Jason among the slurry of plant life attached to the pier legs. He wrangled it free and turned it over in his hands, wiping it clean with a sleeve as best he could. The wood was so soggy and rotten, now, that Freddy suspected it would come apart were he to apply too much pressure.
The boat wasn’t going to be seaworthy again even with extensive care. Nevertheless, Freddy set it down on Jason’s porch before he hopped back into the car to leave.
He wasn’t sure why he hadn’t just broken it. It wasn’t as though Jason would return one day just to retrieve a rotten piece of wood.