Keep Out

At the top of the wooded hill, the boys pushed deeper into the forest. Scotty was in the lead and stopped short of a forest track. It was where they had seen the gamekeeper speed along in his vehicle a few times. Steve dropped to a knee and signalled with his torch for Scotty to look upwards. The beam hit a slate sign attached to a branch with  ominous white stencilling.


They grinned and moved toward a natural dip in the land. It was dark in there and they got to work. Scotty brushed dried leaves away to reveal mud on the forest floor. Steve crept away to find a silver birch tree, the bark of which contained flammable oil. Those trees were aplenty in this area so he soon located one. Opening his bag, he pulled out a knife and peeled the bark sideways. With a small pile of curled bark in his pocket, he moved back toward Scotty and stopped. Clasping his hands together, Steve blew into both thumbs and made two hooting sounds, like an owl. Seconds later three hoots returned through the darkness. It was their all clear signal. Steve returned to Scotty, who had built a pyramid of branches. The silver birch tree bark was placed inside the branches as tinder and Steve prised open the lid of his survival kit. From a waterproof container, he poured an amount of potassium permanganate and sugar mix onto the silver birch bark. Striking a match, Steve soon got the fire going and the flames licked around the dry wood. Smoke billowed and Steve looked up to see the tree canopy above and moonlight shining down.

Copyright © 2021 Callum Stanford.  All rights reserved.


A week later, Steve and Scotty got permission from their parents to camp in Scotty’s back garden. It was the summer holidays and they had already put the tent up, and arranged their gear. The boys each had a bag hidden inside. Scotty’s Mum had cooked some food earlier and they were now in their sleeping bags as dusk settled in. The boys switched off their torches at about 10:30 p.m. and their eyes became accustomed to the darkness. But they stayed awake, whispering about their plans for the night. Scotty looked at his watch and nudged Steve with an elbow. It was 11:36 p.m.

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