EXT. WOODS - DAY
A canopy of lush green leaves rustle in a gentle breeze. A carpet of waist-high ferns. The buzz of swarming insects in the shimmering heat.
The perfect summer’s day.
A SQUIRREL hunts for food.
It senses something, suddenly alert.
It stands on its back legs, whiskers twitching, searches for the source of its unease.
Then in an instant it’s up a tree and out of sight.
TOBY (14), a thin lad dressed in school uniform (circa 1965), satchel slapping against his side, bursts through the ferns at speed, his legs and arms pounding furiously, breathing ragged, sweat drenched, determination and desperation etched on his face.
Hot on his heels BAXTER (14), a brutal, cruel bully and his faithful sidekick EDDIE (14), lungs fit to burst, fuelled by anger and hatred as they close the gap.
Toby sprints for all he’s worth as the scenery whips past in a blur.
Baxter and Eddie getting closer.
But these are Toby’s woods.
Toby swerves under the branches of a tree, slides down into a hollow, sprints up the other side.
Baxter through, slides down the slope. Eddie, close behind him, loses his footing, tumbles, brings down Baxter too.
At the bottom of the hollow Baxter throws Eddie off. They scramble to their feet, lumber up the other side.
Tiring fast, Toby gains a few precious seconds. Will it be enough?
Baxter and Eddie out of view behind him, although their ragged gasps and pounding feet can still be heard.
A lone horse chestnut.
Toby runs to it, jumps at one of the lower branches, hauls himself up, scrambles quickly up the tree into the upper branches, the dense foliage partly protecting him from view.
Baxter and Eddie noisily crash into the clearing, slide to a halt.
Toby sinks into the protection of the branches and leaves, forces his breathing to quieten, clings to the branch, dead still, waits.
Then Baxter and Eddie are directly below him.
Baxter and Eddie exhausted, gasp for air, glance around, search the area.
Where’d ‘e go?
Eddie has no idea, searches a nearby hedge, comes up empty.
Toby clings tightly to the branch above them, becomes one with it. They’re going to glance up any second.
‘e ‘as to be ‘ere, we were right on ‘im.
Baxter ducks under a branch, peers up at the tree, searches.
Toby squeezes his eyes tight shut. Plenty of foliage between him and Baxter. But is it enough?
Then Toby’s satchel slips an inch, threatens to drop, to reveal his hiding place. Toby glares at it, sweat trickles down his face.
Eddie joins Baxter.
He up there..?
Baxter doesn’t answer, squints to get a better look.
Toby holds his breath, wills them to go away. The satchel slips another inch, scrapes impossibly loud against the bark of the tree.
Did Baxter hear it?
Baxter’s eyes focus in concentration.
Then Baxter shakes his head.
Nah, ‘e must ‘ave doubled back.
Baxter and Eddie jog back the way they came, scan the cover from side to side as they go.
Toby breathes out in relief, continues to cling to the branch, lets the satchel drop so it swings from his arm.
He listens to the sounds of the wood until they swallow all evidence of Baxter and Eddie.
Toby climbs carefully down from the tree, glances cautiously around just to be safe. Satisfied, he continues on his way.
EXT. TOBY’S COTTAGE - LATER
A small, picture postcard, thatched cottage, surrounded by lush hedges, with a rainbow of flowers brightening the garden.
A battered moped parked outside the garage.
Toby leaps over the garden gate, skips up to the front door, enters.
INT. TOBY’S COTTAGE - CONTINUOUS
The living room and kitchen are one, dominated by an ancient Aga.
A battered sofa, a wonky wooden table and chairs, a small dusty radio and a record player complete the meagre furnishings.
Toby enters, loses his satchel on the sofa. The creak of a floorboard upstairs.
NURSE BETTY (38), a tired looking nurse with a warm, friendly face, dressed in a well worn uniform, hurries down the stairs and enters the kitchen.
Got to shoot, busy weekend. Did you have a nice day?
Toby nods, his flushed, sweaty face tells the real truth.
Nurse Betty too rushed to notice. She hugs Toby quickly.
NURSE BETTY (CONT’D)
Don’t be late back tomorrow night, I need to
talk to you about something important. Gotta go.
She kisses him on the head, hurriedly exits.
Toby puzzled. The more he thinks about it the more worried he looks.
The moped starts up, roars off down the tractor track.
A troubled Toby watches from the window until Nurse Betty’s out of sight.
EXT. TOBY’S COTTAGE, REAR GARDEN - EVENING
A small rickety shed stands in one corner of the molehill ridden garden, an apple orchard at the back behind a tall, evergreen hedge.
Toby, now changed into shorts and a tee-shirt, in a sour mood, checks a mole trap, finds a dead one. He throws the dead mole into the hedge, resets the trap.
As he skims the edges of the lawn checking the rest of the traps, Toby spots something buried in the long grass. He extracts a dirty garden gnome, pulls the weeds from him, looks him in the eye.
What are you doin’ there, Dodger? Tryin’ to make a run for it?
Dodger just stares back at him, he’s a ceramic garden gnome after all. Toby takes him to the outside tap by the back door, rinses him off.
Toby plonks himself down on the back step, places Dodger next to him, worried again.
Important... what do you think she meant by important?
What kind of important? Good important, or bad important?
He glances at Dodger who stares at him accusingly.
What? I ain’t done nothin’. Honest!
Toby racks his brains, the cogs visibly whir. Could he have?
Na, he shakes his head, slips another sly look at Dodger.
I don’t suppose you know, do you?
Dodger doesn’t say a thing.
A great help you are.
A sudden, horrifying thought.
You don’t suppose..?
He glances at Dodger, who still accuses.
Maybe she noticed her catalogue is missin’?
A worried Toby bites his lip.
INT. TOBY’S BEDROOM - NIGHT
A small, tidy room, everything in its place. Three Airfix model battleships line up on a small shelf by the only wardrobe, one model partially completed.
Airfix aeroplanes dangle by string from the ceiling. Pale moonlight glows through the curtains, casts shadows of the model planes on the walls.
In a single bed, lying on his side, facing away from the door, Toby lustily studies the male models in the underwear section of a Littlewoods catalogue, using a small torch to see by, his other hand down under the covers.
A creak of a floorboard.
Toby kills the light, hides the catalogue, pretends to be asleep.
A moment later his bedroom door creaks open. An exhausted Nurse Betty, bags under her eyes, stifles a yawn.
Toby doesn’t answer, just lies there, anxious, his eyes wide open, dead still, waits for her to go.
A moment, then she closes the door. Toby remains still, listens as another door opens and closes, then he finally closes his eyes.
EXT. WOODS - DAY
Toby, in shorts and tee-shirt, runs through the woods, yells excitedly at the top of his voice.
He dives into a cluster of ferns. A moment later his head pops out above them. He scans the area.
Slowly his right hand, pistol fingers at the ready, rises up.
He aims down his fingers, then he’s up, running, dodging, shooting imaginary cowboys, shouting ‘bang’ with every shot.
Then Toby’s hit. He falls to the ground, clutches his chest, rolls in agony.
He tries valiantly to fight off his imaginary opponents, pistol fingers firing until they’re empty, taking more shots to his body until the fatal wound finally hits.
Toby rolls, kicks his legs into the air in the exaggerated throws of an agonising death.
Then he’s still, eyes closed, dead.
EXT. WOODS - LATER
Toby sits on a fallen tree trunk, his duffle bag beside him, eats his sandwiches, swings his legs, enjoys the view of the woods.
Behind Toby SOMEONE stalks him, treads carefully, big booted feet placed with care, edging closer, a shotgun held tightly in gorilla-sized fists.
Toby totally oblivious.
Then the Stalker lunges, grabs Toby in a bear hug, lifts him off the ground, legs wriggling in the air.
Got you, you thieving poacher!
Toby struggles in DAVID’s (24) grasp, his heart in his mouth.
David puts him down, ruffles Toby’s hair, sits himself down on the fallen tree trunk.
You bugger, you nearly gave me a heart attack.
Toby gathers himself, retrieves his dropped sandwich, brushes dirt off it, sits down and makes a conscious effort to ensure there’s a couple of feet between him and David, like he’s embarrassed to get too close.
What you got?
Got a spare?
Toby offers him the recovered sandwich. David screws his face up, shakes his head.
You been keeping away from the pheasants?
Na, bagged a couple earlier, one for Mum and one for
Daisy, reckon they’ll roast up good.
David gives him a playful shove. Then he reaches into his bag, extracts a couple of squirrel tails, holds them up in front of Toby.
Shot these earlier... no idea what to do with ‘em.
David smiles, genuine humour, yanks the tails out of reach when Toby tries to grab them. Does it again. Lets Toby have them on the third try.
Nearly got enough for another model. HMS Hood this time I think.
Then I’ll keep an eye out for more of those pesky squirrels.
David ruffles Toby’s hair again, jumps off the tree trunk.
See you around, Toby me boy.
David heads off with a wave.
And keep away from them pheasants.
Toby watches him go, longing in his eyes, followed by a huge sigh of frustration. When David’s out of sight, Toby finally takes a bite from his sandwich.
His face screws up in unexpected discovery. Toby pulls a small leaf from his mouth, looks at it curiously as he continues to munch on his sandwich.
EXT. WOODS, THE GIANT ELM - DAY
Toby tramps through the woods towards the giant elm. He barely hesitates, goes from walking to climbing in an instant, his foot and hand holds sure and familiar.
Toby reaches the upper part of the tree and sits on a branch.
On the trunk of the tree are markings, or names, including Toby’s cut into the bark. Some have been there for years.
Toby rubs a small carving of a figure of a boy, done years ago, almost grown over now.
Afternoon, Boy Ghost, seen any squirrels?
Toby gazes out over the surrounding area, a king surveying his land.
A sudden crack of splintered wood, raised voices. Curious, Toby jumps from branch to branch until he’s around the other side of the tree.
Below him, not far off, Baxter and Eddie drop a small branch they’ve broken off a nearby tree onto a fire they have going.
As soon as the leaves connect with flame a thick plume of white smoke rises from the fire, swirls around the area, causes Baxter and Eddie to cough loudly.
Toby watches them angrily from his vantage point, sees the fire, the way it’s not contained by rocks, shakes his head in disbelief.
Baxter empties a Coke can, drops it to the ground near other discarded cans. Toby glares at him in disgust.
(waving away smoke)
That should keep the ghosts away.
Wood’s full of them.
Don’t be daft.
It’s true... honest!
The only thing this wood’s full of is pansies and fairies.
Eddie laughs. Toby doesn’t.
He digs into his back pack, extracts a catapult, stretches it to make sure it’s fine. Perfect working order!
Toby takes a small round pebble from his pocket, rests it in the sling pouch, pulls back, aims for Baxter, a sly smile on his face.
Baxter walks to a bush, unzips, pisses. Toby’s aim never wavers.
Anyway, ain’t no ghosts in these woods.
There is, I swear. My dad said.
Yer dad’s full of shit!
An idea. Toby’s sly smile changes to a teeth gleaming grin.
He adjusts his aim, takes his time, a master of his weapon.
Then he lets loose.
The stone hurtles silently through the air, smacks into an empty Coke can.
The can jumps into the air, straight over a terrified Baxter’s head. Baxter and Eddie spin around in horror. WTF?
Baxter’s trousers stained with piss.
Then they run. They don’t look back.
Toby laughs, an avalanche of hysterical sobs he tries to keep a lid on, but they keep on coming, more and more of them.
Toby’s laughing so much he nearly falls out of the tree.
EXT. WOODS, THE GIANT ELM - LATER
Toby drops to the ground, wipes the tears of laughter from his face, makes his way over to the fire.
With his shoes he scoops dirt over the flames and burning wood, stamps on it, extinguishes it. Satisfied the fire is properly out Toby collects the empty Coke cans, dumps them in his duffle bag.
He walks to the last can, picks it up, examines it. There’s a dent dead centre. Toby grins, delighted with his accuracy.
The can joins the others and Toby trots off.