Their camp was just outside the old boundary wall of the city, in a wooded area on the crest of a hill that overlooked the valley below. Central City sprawled out before them as far as they could see. The secluded camp sat in a clearing between six oak trees. Branches from the trees stretched into the middle of the space, creating a natural covering that protected their dwellings from rain and snow in the winter, from searing heat in the dry summer, and from surveillance drones and satellites all year round. The leaves had recently fallen from the branches, covering the forest floor in a damp, orange-yellow carpet. In the centre of the clearing was a campfire, with stones gathered round it for seats. A collection of mismatched tins, pots, plates and cooking utensils were gathered in a pile, still to be cleaned after their meal the previous evening. Danny picked up a metal pail and walked across the clearing. A hundred metres through the woods was a small burn that flowed down the hillside. It eventually joined with other streams and flowed into the river, heading towards the sea. Danny heard a steady trickle through the trees, the heavy rain the night before had swelled the flow of fresh water. His feet shuffled through the fallen leaves, he kicked pine cones as he wandered along. In the peace of the forest he could have forgotten they were overlooking a war zone.
Danny reached the stream and bent down, careful not to lose his footing on the slippery bank. He dipped the bucket into the river and water rushed into it. Once full, he heaved it out and stood. He looked along the stream, following its path until it dropped out of view on its journey down the hillside. Beyond, he saw the expanse of the valley open up below. He picked out the river and looked along it to the spot where the chimney towers of the arms factory had stood the day before. In their place he saw plumes of smoke. The rain during the night had extinguished the large fires, leaving just burning embers among the rubble.
This is an excerpt from my latest novel ‘State Of War’ and is in response to the #writephoto Prompt: Vista curated over at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo. Click on the link to read other stories inspired by the image.
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