Nature Boy: Chapter Two

Nature Boy: Chapter Two

A Chapter by spence
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An escape from a dangerous situation leads Paul to Wythchthorne Woods where not everything is as it seems.

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After due consideration Paul decided that he was not going to attend the ‘appointment’ after all. He knew that he would have to escape school as soon as he possibly could to avoid getting involved in a needless fight. There would be consequences for avoiding the meeting with Kai and possibly for bunking off school in order to do so, but that couldn’t be helped.

Paul had no intention of sitting anxiously in class for another two and a half hours while hoping to avoid humiliation and pain at the end of it.

He would take affirmative action now and save himself a lot of stress, he affirmed.

With this in mind Paul waited for the bell to sound and signal the end of lunch. He then shouldered his old fashioned satchel then joined the confusing throng of around three hundred rushing, pushing, shoving school kids.

Paul made his way side-on through the milling swarm, feeling very much like an animal trying to cross a busy road through streams of hectic traffic. Being of diminutive stature and rather agile for it he managed to avoid the majority of oncoming collisions while negotiating a haphazard route to the reception area and main entrance opposite the dinner hall.

Once this objective was achieved Paul opened the door to reception slightly and squeezed his way inside, all the while praying that Mrs Davidson wouldn’t see him. Luckily for him the receptionist was taking a phone call at that moment, facing away from him as she talked. Paul used this opportunity to duck low and crawl below the glass hatch that opened out from her office before quickly opening the door to outside and escaping the main building undetected. Paul was greeted by bright September sunshine and a brisk jog to behind the adjacent glass fronted science block took him to the iron railing that fenced the schools attendants in from all sides.

Here there was a narrow gap between where the fence met the corner shop, (by which he was supposed to meet Kai and company), and squeezed through to freedom. There are some advantages to being small and thin after all, he thought. If nothing else he had developed the ability to avoid confrontation by using brains over brawn. Paul considered that perhaps this was why the Neanderthals died out and modern Humans ended up ruling the earth, but also that perhaps, maybe, the battle for supremacy was still going on.

The thought of Kai, Aiden and Kieran as cave-boys who would eventually become extinct through their stupidity made him smile as he crossed the quiet road by the shop. He then headed to the stop for the bus that he anticipated would take him to Wytchthorne, (the strangely named village in which he had come to reside), three miles from the township of Sunnydale.

The bus stop lay two stone clad terraced streets from Sunnydale High so Paul felt quite certain that he would remain undetected, but pulled off his red and yellow striped black school tie just in case. Unfortunately for Paul the bus driver refused to let him onto the vehicle, stating that his pass was only valid from 3:30 p.m.

‘I’d go back to school if I was you,’ the driver advised the boy, ‘your education is important, besides- it has to be better than walking.’

Paul greatly doubted the validity of the drivers’ wisdom, but as a mark of respect he watched the bus pull off and round the corner before setting off in the same direction.

Despite only being here a little over a month he knew the area well enough to work out that the space between Sunnydale and Wytchthorne was roughly to his left across the wheat fields. Off in the distance there was an expanse of woodland atop a plateau like hill he imagined would guide him in the general direction of home. In any case, once he was there he could gain his bearings without worrying about having to give reasons for his absenteeism.

It occurred to Paul that the unscheduled walk may give him scope to fabricate events by making it appear as if he had attended school all day and was returning home at the usual time. Paul would normally avoid lying to his parents, but he did not want to worry them unduly so soon after having arrived here.

The only drawbacks to Paul’s plan were the hayfever that was already itching at his eyes and throat and the fact he didn’t own a watch. Still, he reckoned if he took two anti-histamine pills, used his inhaler regularly and walked at a moderate pace not only would he avoid discomfort, but the timing of his arrival would be about right.

With this in mind Paul strolled leisurely across the yellow fields, swallowing the pills with bottled water from his satchel and enjoying the stretch of cloudless blue above him. The countryside in this part of England looked far brighter and the weather was far warmer than the northern lad was accustomed to and so immersed was he in his surroundings that he barely noticed the woods again until he was almost upon them. Paul meant to skirt the edge of the large mound and begin walking toward where he thought the village might be, but on a whim decided to explore the woods instead.

If nothing else it would kill enough time to make his arrival home appear unremarkable and he would not have to confess his personal traumas to his parents. 

The uphill hike soon became a lung-bursting struggle, however but by using the roots and tree trunks as hand and footholds Paul managed to scale the considerable height in a matter of five minutes. When he reached the peak he sat and caught his breath for another five minutes before delving into the interior.

‘This place is beautiful!’ he murmured as he looked around.

Golden light flickered through the green canopy above while bracken crackled and crunched underfoot as Paul progressed deeper into the woodland overgrowth. The lack of full sunlight gave the forest a chilly feel and Paul shuddered as he followed a natural walkway between the large trees.

The dark green of broad-leafed Alders dominated the periphery of the wood where the curve of the incline collected water while just inside the drier pinnacle birch of both silver and downy variety dominated. Dotted about were yew and pine conifers, the evergreens intermingling with their deciduous cousins.

Paul wandered through the sun streamed tree line until he came to a clearing that he imagined would be somewhere central to the woodland hill. The glade was almost perfectly round and at least as wide as any child’s play area that might contain swings, slides and roundabouts and was concave like a gigantic bowl. In the very centre of this bowl grew an enormous gnarled and mossy oak tree the branches of which stretched farther and higher than any of the trees that surrounded it on all sides.

Paul imagined that the natural indentation of the earth would form a pool during wetter months, but at this time the fervent green grass was dry and dotted with large buttercups and daisies. The sun shone from above and Paul guessed that it would be around two hours before the school closed for the day.

This seemed the perfect place in which he could allow time to pass before setting off in the direction of home. In order to keep his bearings Paul walked directly to the ancient oak and placed his satchel on the side from which he had emerged into the clearing. If he carried on in a direct line he imagined he would come out at the opposite side and from there he could find his way home, but for now he contented himself with sitting with his back to the tree basking in the glorious heat of the day.

Paul pulled his bottle of water from his satchel and sipped the thirst quenching fluid while admiring his surroundings. A gentle breeze moved the tops of the trees and created a swishing sound around the perimeter of the clearing. Birds happily chirped their various songs from within the canopy while crickets played their rattling chords in accompaniment.

‘Nature’s orchestra’, his Grandfather called it.

 Paul removed his glasses and closed his eyes to better concentrate on its lulling tune. No matter how he tried though, Paul simply could not remove the image of Kai Brunswick and his evil cohorts from his thoughts and the frustration this gave rise to spoiled the ambience somewhat.

The fact that they could get to him even here distressed Paul so he looked to the skies and inhaled deeply through flared nostrils, the back of his head pressing against the gnarled bark of the old oak tree as he did so.

‘Take off your shoes,’ he thought.

At least he thought it was his thought. He’d been thinking of causing harm to his oppressors when it came to him from out of nowhere.

He looked down to the meshed covering of his hiking boots. Ordinarily they were comfortable and exceptionally practical, despite, as his fellow school pupils had pointed out enough times, being not at all fashionable, but in this mazy heat they felt heavy and awkward.

‘No one here cares if you take off your shoes,’ urged a whisper in his mind.

 ‘There’s no one here to care if you take off your shoes,’ Paul assured himself and began to untie the laces that were wrapped around the ankles of his footwear.

He smiled happily as first his boots then his socks parted company with his feet and he placed them flat to the tickling grass. The warming sun upon his newly exposed flesh gave him cause to sigh and he wiggled his toes joyously at the comforting feel of nature.

Suddenly there were no more thoughts of school or bullying to ail him. Paul felt invigorated by the feel of the grass and the heat of the day and stood from the tree to walk about the circular clearing. The more he walked upon the soft green the heartier he felt and soon he was running and leaping around the oak, yelling his feelings of liberation with abandon.

After several minutes of this activity Paul came to a breathless halt, his hands on his thighs as he laughed and wheezed in tandem. He hadn’t felt this contented since his family had moved south.

It had been a very stressful year. In February both of his parents had been made redundant from their community work jobs then in March his Granddad Harry had been diagnosed with cancer. In April he’d undergone a surgical procedure to remove a tumour from his brain. There was no certainty that he would survive the operation and even if he did it was possible he would become dependant on others for the rest of his days. Luckily he came through it as well as could be expected, but he was still unable to look after himself properly.

This was supposed to have been temporary, but it seemed to Paul that his Granddad was getting worse instead of better.

 As the months went by his Dad had spent so much of his time in Wytchhorne that eventually it proved easier to for them to move there as a family. It was 300 miles away from Paul’s home and friends. 300 miles away from just about everything and everyone he had ever known.

During the frightening spring and the relieved yet worrying early summer, his parents’ redundancy money had dried up and they needed to find new work as well as look after Granddad. They had put their house on the market, loaded their caravan with their belongings and driven from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne to Wytchthorne during the summer holidays.

Paul usually spent this six or seven week period attending events and visiting theme parks, but this year he had been virtually housebound while his Mum began her new job as a carer and his Dad and he cared for his Grandfather’s needs.

It was the hardest time in Paul’s life and he was trying his best to be strong, but sometimes he felt like giving up and crying.

Paul longed for the days he spent at the inner-city social centre with his Mum and Dad, helping plan trips and activities to various events and attractions, assisting in budgeting, cleaning and safety checks for the running of the city centre project, but most of all he missed working in the community gardens with the young people and children of the families they worked with. Paul loved to nurture tiny seeds to full blown edible fruit and vegetables.

He should be preparing to harvest his potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and tomatoes, along with the continual supply of lettuce, herbs and salad leaves that were all used in the community kitchen and café, and tending to the pumpkins he grew each year to give to the smaller children in the area during Hallow's Eve. As gardening helped his asthma the move to the countryside was sold to him as a positive, but the community centre had been a part of his life since he was four years old.

It had been his school and his playground; his work and his passion, but when the centre lost its Government funding most of the staff lost their jobs. So now instead of enjoying the usual fruits of his labour Paul spent his days stuck in a hostile, alien place, doing hostile, alien things amongst hostile, alien people.

The informal nature of his education had been replaced with rules, regulations and stringent aptitude testing. The friendly faces he saw everyday had been exchanged for the snarling contempt of people hell bent on being his enemy. Where adults had always treated him as an equal and trusted him with taking responsibility he now had to put his hand up to speak, wear a uniform, address adults formally as superiors and meet deadlines he had no say in arranging.

He hated it here.

Maybe that was because of how much he loved his old life, he reasoned, but he hated it all the same.

Paul was beginning to be overcome with sadness when he heard a flurry of movement near the edge of the clearing. He looked up, shocked to curiosity, but then laughed at the sight of a group of adolescent squirrels play fighting near to where he had emerged.

There were seven of them in all and they seemed not to notice Paul as the danced and played along the perimeter of the clearing, spinning and twirling as they boxed and scratched, leapt and skipped to the opposite side of the oak tree. Once again Paul forgot his worries, placed his glasses back onto his face and then tiptoed back to the moss ridden oak to watch without alarming the rodents to his presence.

Paul couldn’t help, but laugh aloud as the entire group fell over one another and landed upside down and backside up further inside the sunny glade than they would have preferred. His outburst alerted them and they quickly scattered as if embarrassed to be caught in the act of playfulness.

By where the squirrels had ran there was a natural opening to the woodland on the opposite side of the tree and when Paul noticed it he thought to explore. He looked to his satchel and footwear intending to prepare to follow his curiosity, but then decided to leave immediately; barefoot.

‘They’ll act as a marker if I get lost,’ he muttered to himself then set off to explore.

………………………………….

It was not visible from the town of Sunnydale, but the large hill upon which the forest grew was not a hill on the other side. There was in fact a larger area of woodland behind that sloped flat and stretched toward the village of Wytchthorne. There was a rocky crevice to one side of the opposite incline and down this a trickle of fresh water flowed through a ditch. The ditch became a stream in wetter seasons and its winding course divided the tree lined walkways on either side.

Paul barely noticed the occasional sharp twig beneath the soft downy bracken now, nor did the chill of the shade bother him much. He had been too busy enjoying the wide variety of wild life and wild food for it to be any more than a mild discomfort to him.

Food foraging was a hobby he had learned from his father and Paul’s blazer, trouser and shirt pockets were filled with walnuts and chestnuts, two variety of plum, four of mushroom and crab apples. In his hands he held brambles, raspberries, blueberries, lemon sorrel and wild garlic. While on his exploratory travels he had encountered rabbits, pheasants, more squirrels and a fox while hearing the airborne screeching of birds of prey; Kites. Kestrels and Hawks he imagined. He was even rather fanciful that he had seen a badger, but knew this to be very unlikely in the daytime.

 Paul guessed he’d been exploring for the best part of an hour and decided to return toward the incline and retrieve his clothing and satchel. He imagined he would have plenty of time to make it home without arousing suspicion and so sauntered back the way he had came in a relaxed fashion. He ate some berries as he strolled back up the slope toward the oak tree, thankful of their juice to quench his thirst.

When he arrived back at the oak he sat again and began to put on his socks and shoes before thinking better of it and letting the sun heat his skin again. The sun was no longer directly overhead. It was beginning its westward journey to another day, but still it was blazing compared to when in the shade of the trees.

Paul closed his eyes and leant back against the tree.

‘I’ll set off in a minute,’ he thought, feeling as thoroughly refreshed of his problems as a person might when they cry them out of their system, but when he opened his eyes again the sun’s journey to the other side of the world was complete.

Paul looked to the blanket of starry night and realised to his horror that he had been asleep for hours and would have to find his way home in the dark.



© 2012 spence


Author's Note

spence
Again, there are aspects of this chapter that reflect my daughter's experiences and the lifestyle she is used to. If, upon completion, I go ahead with seeking a publisher I will amend to make certain nuances in characterisation more universal.

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Added on January 6, 2012
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Author

spence
spence

Grimsby, United Kingdom



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Just returning to WritersCafe after a couple of years in the wilderness of life. I'm a 40 year old (until December 2013, at least) father of two, former youth and community worker, sometime socio-pol.. more..

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