The first thing I’ve written for Part II

Simon checked that the safety was off on his rifle and turned the handle to open the pressure hatch from the underground bunker. The shelling last night had been fierce, and he didn’t think that there was much of a chance that there’d be anyone there, but he wasn’t about to take any chances. He took one last look down at Emily and the rest of their companions, nodded, and then shouldered the hatch open.

The fields were indeed empty, as he’d suspected, but the destruction was so much more than he was ready for. The earth still smoked from whatever had been used to set fire to the nearby villages, and the air was filled with the acrid stink of chemicals. One by one, the six of them climbed free of the bunker and began the trek to the next safe point. The umbrella’s direction sense was unerring, and it guided Simon from its perch on his back with subtle nudges.

The band walked past a charred oak, the last sign that anything had ever lived in this field. Two short lengths of rope, as black as the rest of the tree, hung an arm’s length apart from a stout branch a few feet over their heads. Emily could remember the sounds of the children who’d lived in the farmhouse echoing through the night as they’d secreted themselves in the bunker, and shuddered. She dropped a hand down to her stomach and decided that she’d tell Simon tonight, although she was worried how he’d react, especially now that he had so much responsibility on his shoulders.

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