The land ahead fell away into a shallow valley. Steve lay on his front, unzipped a pouch and took a pair of green binoculars out. Spending time scouring the forest for movement, all was still so he packed them away. The wind rasped his ears as he strolled back down the hill and over the bridge, turning toward the woodland. Passing along a grassy edge, he reached a point where the stream ran close to the trees. The waters trickled and the bank gave way to sand and pebbles. Steve leapt over the stream and his boots thudded on the other side. Scrambling uphill, he climbed over a barbed wire fence. It angled away with his weight and swayed until he grabbed a tree and jumped into the final field. This was his usual entry point to the forest.

Once over the jagged perimeter, he walked uphill through fern and deeper into the woodland. A breeze washed through the trees as dried leaves crunched underfoot. Climbing upwards, he held onto trees to steady himself. It was slippy as the soil was wet from recent rains. Gasping for air, he circumvented the steep incline and reached a point where the hill was gentler toward the top. As the wooded hill levelled out, Steve moved slower and stopped to look around. Sweat ran down the side of his face. He squinted as shards of sunlight pierced the canopy above. He spotted something out of the ordinary in the forest and stood stock still. Then he beamed.

Slow and quiet, he moved toward the old “Private Keep Out” sign still strapped to a branch. As a souvenir, he took his phone out of a pocket and snapped a few pictures from various angles. Putting the phone away, he looked through the woodland. A track was up ahead. For a moment, Steve stopped and listened. He heard a noise. Dropping to a knee, the faint sound of an engine penetrated the greenery. It was coming nearer. His heart skipped a beat. The same feeling of excitement coursed through his veins as if he was still a boy and the gamekeeper was tracking him. He knew this forest like the back of his hand. The vehicle was some way off, so he ran back toward some wet mud on the forest floor.

Copyright © 2023 Callum Stanford.  All rights reserved.

Author: C.Stanford

Writer, blogger, outsider, survivor.

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