Part three of The Bear Pit. Part 1 is here, and part 2 is here. The siren wailed as she ran through the dark empty streets, a child’s hand in each of hers gripping tight enough to break, the shelter too far to go now, the bombs about to fall. She felt like an animal on the run, out of her mind, almost too scared to move, her only thought to find somewhere safe, somewhere deep and safe. The bombs came at night - mostly - many people heading up into the hills that ringed the city before dusk these days, where families would sit and wait till morning, some with tents, some with tarps, some with only overcoats, OK as long as the rain didn’t come too. Batteries of artillery ringed the city, up there on the edge of the moor, and she supposed sitting where these guns blazed at dark shadows in the cloud made people feel better, not like victims. But that was what they were, no great speeches from the prime minister worth a damn when the ground began to lift and shake, your babies screaming in the cellar. The bombs were flung down at the steelworks, at the railways, at the coal yards, but most fell on the people like her, as the hammer of war always did. Some had shelters in which they hid, walls a foot thick of concrete, the ones who did not wish to take to the hills, knowing full well that a bomb would kill you with just its blast, crush your body inside out. She had seen a family one morning, a mother and three small ones, laid out between two houses, naked - their clothes blown off - and dead, without a scratch on them. You hear about death first, just people you don’t know, abstract and sad. Then it’s your neighbours, and then your friends, no tragedy - at first - until you see your own death wrapped in theirs. Next comes something else: relief, that it’s not you, the death used up by them, the shards and shrapnel soaked up in their blood, that someone has to die, please make it anyone but your own. Then, after a while you just feel numb to it, don’t allow yourself to give death feeling or reason, second guess its coming, consider your own end.
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