Jason stood in the centre of the clearing, a faint breeze rustled the leaves of the trees around him. He pulled his jacket a little tighter, it wasn’t a cold day, but it would get colder. Right on time Todd ran into the clearing, he stumbled and tripped over a tree root that was no longer there. As always Jason studied him carefully, everything about him was pale and washed out, like a photograph faded by the sun. Todd rolled over and started scrambling backwards, Jason couldn’t see what he was trying to get away from. Todd’s mouth opened in a scream as a bright red tear was opened along his stomach, more opened on his arm as he tried to shield himself. Jason watched as more and more cuts and scratches appeared. Todd floated into the air, dragged upwards by his arm, his face screwed up in pain. He was thrown partway through the clearing, his body stopping mid-air before collapsing to the ground. Jason had cut down the tree several years ago, hoping it might do something to alleviate his friends suffering. Todd lay on the ground, his chest rising and falling slowly. Jason moved closer and sat beside his friend, reaching out he grabbed Todd’s hand and Jason felt a deep cold move through his body. He could hear Todd whimpering and groaning in pain. Todd looked up at Jason, he frowned faintly, his face stained in blood that was too bright against his skin, it almost looked like paint, “Jason? Where did it go?”
“Don’t worry, you’ll be ok, help will be here soon.”
“I didn’t see where it went, it’s still here somewhere, oh god it’s going to kill us both.”
“Just try to stay calm, it isn’t going to get us. I took care of it. Everything will be ok, I promise.”
He sat in the clearing for hours, Todd fell in and out of consciousness, Jason kept promising that help was coming, it would be just a little longer. Finally Todd closed his eyes one last time, then he faded from view leaving nothing but a few streaks of blood on Jason’s hand. Jason stood, his muscles sore and stiff, he shivered despite the sun still shining above. He wiped at the tears that were falling, he felt drained, empty. He had taken care of the creature himself the day it happened, pure dumb luck really. He had been holding a gun and the creature pounced on him, in his surprise Jason accidentally fired, the bullet going directly through the creatures head. It had taken him a while to get out from under it and longer again to find Todd, who had passed away shortly after he arrived.
He came back on the anniversary, not really knowing why, just that he had a strong need to return. The first time Todd had stumbled from the woods he had screamed and then tried to talk to him, Todd was more defined then, not as faded. No matter what he said or did Todd could never see him, not until after he was thrown at the tree. Jason returned every year and would until either he died or Todd faded away completely. So far he had been unable to change things, unable to stop them, he could only watch and then be a comfort to his dying friend.
Jason took one last look around the clearing, it was starting to get dark, “I’ll see you next year.” He turned and started the walk back to the car.