“Come on Alex, Grandad’s waiting.” Alex’s mum pulled him through the hospital corridor by his hand as he looked around and tried to see what was going on. They had taken a wrong turn and Alex’s mum was stressing about the whole situation.

“I don’t see why they had to move him Harold. It’ll only agitate him more.” Alex was struggling to keep up as they rushed down the small corridors.

“You know fine well he should have his own room Claire.” Harold, Alex’s dad, was huffing at their rush to Alex’s grandad’s new room.

“Well I’ll be making sure to question Dr Lawrence about this.” Claire turned on her heel and entered a small room. The boys followed her inside to be met by Dr Lawrence, a tall jolly man, and a small foreign nurse. She smiled at Alex when he saw her and gestured him over to the bed.

“Your Grandad has been asking for you all morning! Talks about you a lot. Says you two have a special secret.” The nurse gave Alex’s grandad a ‘I should be disapproving but I’m really finding this quite funny’ look and poured him some water.

Alex bounced on the side of his grandad’s bed. The old man had grown paler since Alex had last been in and seemed to be sleepy.

“Grandad? Guess what? I won that football game I was telling you about. You should’ve seen me, Mum said I was definitely the best there and she doesn’t even understand football.” Alex blabbered on about his winning goal and his teammates as his grandad listened intently.

“Who would’ve thought eh? Tripped over the ball more times than he could kick it,” Grandad grinned even though his eyes showed his exhaustion.

Alex giggled and his grandad laughed whole heartedly. Alex’s parents were talking to Dr Lawrence, concerned looks on their faces.

Alex’s grandad beckoned him to come closer. A mischievous look covered his face. “I’ll tell you something for nothing son, your parents think I’m losing my head. More fool them, I’m as sharp as I’ve ever been. They won’t get rid of me this time!” Alex’s grandad placed his hand firmly on Alex’s shoulder and pretended to the rest of the room that they’d just shared a joke.

“Alex, your Dad and I have to go sign some paper work with Dr Lawrence. Will you be okay here with Grandad for a while?” His mum was bent over looking Alex in the face, her hand on his back.

“Of course he will!” Alex’s grandad answered for him and Alex nodded.

His parents left the room and Alex’s grandad paused for a moment as he watched the door. Once the coast was clear Alex’s grandad unleashed his cunning plan.

“Alex, they want to off me here, think I’m ill and I’m delusional. We’ve got to get out of here son, they’ll off me if we don’t.” He spoke quickly and his eyes darted around. Alex’s puzzled look reflected his understanding.

His grandad sighed. “Okay. Let’s make it a game then. Let’s see if we can get out of here without your parents noticing, yeah?”

This option appealed to Alex much more and he nodded with excitement. Alex bounced onto the bed and looked at his Grandad expectantly.

“I want you to go have a peek out the door and tell me if you see anyone.” His grandad gestured towards the door with his finger. Alex galloped over and slowly opened the door. He stuck his head out a little and looked both ways down the hallway. He could see one nurse sitting at a reception desk typing away to his left and a hallway with double doors at the end to his right.

Alex shut the door and turned to his grandad. “We can go that way Grandad,” Alex’s excited tone was met with his grandad nodding assertively. He grumbled as he got into a seated position and Alex ran across to help him move feet to meet the floor.

“Okay son, we’ve got this. Just don’t let your parents see us.” He was close to Alex’s face and looking him straight in the eyes. He paused as his gaze flickered from Alex’s left to his right eye quickly.

He smiled and stood up tall.

“Time to go.”

Alex tiptoed towards the door and his grandad shuffled closely behind him.

“Shhh!” Alex turned to his grandad with his hand on the door. Alex’s grandad mirrored Alex with his finger on his lips and tried to look smaller.

The pair crept into the hallway and started towards the double doors. Alex peered over his shoulder towards the nurse’s desk. She was on the phone making large gestures, pen in hand. Alex nudged his grandad to hurry up. He hobbled forward a huge smile on his face.

As they reached the double doors Alex’s grandad pinned himself against the wall, out of sight through the doors windows. Alex looked at him and giggled. He approached the door and stood on his tiptoes to peer through.

“I can’t see anyone Grandad,” Alex whispered.

“Excuse me?” The nurse had noticed them.

Alex froze in his place and his grandad looked at the floor searching for an excuse.

She came around the reception desk and walked towards them.

“I just need some air, the lads taking me outside.” His grandad smiled at her and walked through the doors before she could reply, pushing Alex through.

Alex’s grandad picked up his pace once through the door and quickly took the first hallway to the left. Alex giggled.

“I like this game. Do you think Mum will be mad at us?”

His grandad didn’t answer as he peered around the corner to see if the nurse was following them. After the coast was clear he turned to Alex and grinned.

“No,” he blew air out of his mouth as he spoke, “she’ll find it funny too.”

They continued down the hallway towards the exit.

“…so we’re looking at surgery?”

Alex’s grandad halted in his tracks and placed his hand on Alex to stop him. Alex could hear his Dad’s voice coming from a room in front of them.

“Unfortunately it’s his only option. At his age there’s always a risk but we do need to operate and soon.”

Alex looked up at his grandad, confused. His grandad’s face had a dark and worried look cast over it.

“Grandad?”

He shook himself and a determined look appeared on his face. “Let’s go Alex.”

There was a straight pathway to the exit and Alex could see cars passing by. He was close to running now with the speed his grandad was going. Hospital staff were passing by them not paying much attention. Alex turned around to see if his parents had noticed them. When he turned back around Alex walked into someone. Upon looking up, Alex was faced with a tall young doctor.

“Oh, hello there little guy,” he smiled at Alex. Looking to his grandad for approval, Alex was met with a ‘play along’ look. He smiled back at the doctor and turned to walk away.

“Are you two alright?” His question was directed more to Alex’s grandad.

“Yes, yes, fine son. Best be off.” He grabbed Alex’s hand and they strode towards the exit. They were almost out the door when a voice called out to Alex.

“Alex! Get back here!” Alex’s parents were racing down the corridor towards them. Immediately Alex’s grandad dropped his hand and raced out the door to a nearby bus shelter. The bus was preparing to leave and his grandad leapt aboard using his hand to encourage the driver to shut the door.

Alex’s parents ran past him and he wanted them try to catch the bus. His grandad grinned and waved from his seat and turned to face forward.

Alex’s dad through his hands in the air in defeat. “It was an appendix surgery, that’s it! Silly old man.” His mum was ranting and raving on the phone. Alex watched the chaos and sat on the beach opposite the bus shelter. He smiled smugly to himself.

Clay dragged his feet along the gravel path. The road that sat parallel to it was now home to his old beaten up Jeep.

“Stupid piece of crap,” he muttered to himself as he looked over his shoulder with a scowl. Clay focused straight forward towards the nearest town, remaining completely ignorant to his scenic surroundings.

He should’ve guessed that today of all days his car would break town; it was the tip of the iceberg. His work was becoming unbearable with his horrible boss and suck-up co-workers and today Clay had really let them know how he felt. At the morning meeting Clay listened to all of the business jargon about targets and sales and so on and sat in his chair, deflated. It wasn’t until the topic of bonuses was brought up did Clay start to take interest. His boss, Mr Ramsay, had ‘regretfully’ told his staff that their bonus may need to be cut. Ramsay had acted torn up about it but Clay could see through his fake sincerity. Clay exploded and threw some harsh words around in the heat of the moment. He’d stormed out and headed home and this was how he now found himself storming away from his car.

Clay ran his hand through his sandy blonde hair and blew air out his mouth. He dreaded to think about his next step in life.

His literal next step was echoed with wail. Clay whipped his head around towards woods which lay beyond a grassy field to his right hand side. Clay could faintly make out a female figure with long bright auburn hair and a dark green cloak. He turned his body towards her and squinted, his full attention captured. She began to wave him in a beckoning way towards her. Without thinking Clay started walking.

Clay passed through the long green grass of the field and stumbled towards the woman. The closer he got the more he could see of her. She was tall and slender and her pale skin contrasted to her fiery hair. Clay was now within twenty feet of her and as he walked he was trying to understand what was happening. She kept looking behind her into the wood and then back to Clay. He picked up his pace and called over to her.

“You alright?” He immediately scolded himself for the uninventive greeting.

Clay was now face to face with her. Her deep green eyes were wide and dominated the soft features on her face.

“My dog, I’ve lost him in the forest,” her voice was earthy and cracked as she spoke. She looked down to the ground and back up at Clay a sense of desperation in her eyes. “Could you possibly help me look?”

He was memorised by her raw beauty. That, and he was a sucker for a damsel in distress.

“Of course, lead the way.” He gestured into the forest and she spun around and headed in.

“So, what kind of dog is he?” Clay walked beside the woman and turned his head towards her as he waited for an answer.

“He’s a Jack Russell,” she smiled having quickly calmed down, “I think he saw a rabbit or something.”

Clay let out a small smile. He was pleased with how his day had turned around to his current situation.

“I’m Clay by the way,” he extended a hand towards her. She touched his hand and shook it in a fashion that was soft yet firm like a warm evening wind.

“I’m Summer.” Before she’d finished speaking a huge grin spread across her face, a mysterious flicker in her eyes. Clay found himself smiling back.

They continued into the forest, looking all around for the small dog. All around them were bright green bushes and old oak trees. Clay looked up towards the treetops. They allowed for some of the warm sunshine and heat of the day to creep through and the shadows that were created danced along the forest floor. Summer caught him looking up and down.

“Beautiful isn’t it?” Clay moved from looking at the ground to meeting her eyes. She was searching his face as she waited for an answer.

“Yeah, it really is.” She smirked and pointed in front of them.

“I think I saw something there.” She was indicating towards a denser area of the wood in the distance. They both picked up their pace.

“Is it normally like him to run off?” Clay asked, faking interest. Summer chuckled.

“Yeah, I guess it is.”

As they walked further into the forest their surroundings grew darker and the greenery that once surrounded them turned brown. Clay eyed up Summer while they walked. She really was exquisite. The dark green cloak floated around her while her hair bounced off her back. Clay was conscious that his work attire was pretty standard and unimpressive. He hoped she wasn’t too judgmental.

They reached a clearing in the forest. The ground around them was dirt and dead branches. Clay looked around searching for the dog. Perhaps if he could find it Summer would be grateful and would offer to see him again. Clay’s eyes were drawn to a fallen over large tree. The roots were exposed to him and in their shadow he saw movement.

“I think that’s him over here,” Clay stated in a masculine deep voice. He jogged over while Summer glided behind him silently.

The hole in which the roots used to be was deep and Clay placed a hand on the trunk steadying himself as he peered in. He saw dark shapes move but couldn’t make out the dog.

“Come over,” he called over to Summer while still looking, “I can see something but I’m not sure it’s him.” As Clay turned to Summer her hand reached out and grabbed his shoulder. She seemed larger as he crouched next to the hole. A breeze had picked up around them and dead leaves swirled around Summer. She smiled at Clay as she stared in his eyes, the deep green looked electrified with colour.

“The forest must feed.”

Clay stared at her bewildered and confused by what she was saying to him. He opened his mouth to say something and as he did so Summer switched her hand on his shoulder to a kick in the ribs.

Clay was sent tumbling downwards into the hole. He landed on his back looking up at the distant sky. Summer was standing on the edge above him. Her hair was whirling manically with the wind and he could see her wicked grin from metres below. The ground around him began to move. Branches and soil whipped around him covering his body and pinning him down, unable to move. Clay watched as the wicked grin that had thrown him in here disappeared from sight and darkness took over.