The sky was a hazy shade of grey when I woke the next morning. Beams of warm orange sunlight were just beginning to break through the darkness, signalling the start of the new day. I closed my eyes again, listening to the melodic sound of birds calling to one another from the paperbark trees above. The liveliness of the surrounding nature empowered me to rise and go for a relaxing, without Kieran's company. For as long as I could remember, wandering aimlessly through the bushlands had always been a form of escapism for me. Whenever distress or conflict would rear its ugly head in my home, I'd avoid it like the plague. I'd race off into bushlands by myself and hide until the issue had passed.
I continued to press on through the tall cluster of trees, with no idea of where I was actually headed. It was then that I noticed the piece of paper nailed to one of the trees, the light morning breeze causing it to flutter like a bird's wing. Curious, I trudged over to have a better look.
We will NOT be your slaves!
We will NOT be your puppets!
We will NOT submit to your dictatorship!
The Domination will DIE!
It appeared to a poster, protesting some kind of political act or organisation. It meant nothing to me. Living in the school, we'd been sheltered from everything in the outside world. It was like waking up from a two year coma, having not the slightest idea of what occurred while you were asleep. I pulled the deformed, rusty nail out of the tree, grabbed the poster and shoved it in my pocket.
"You know if they catch you with that poster their gunna kill you," an unfamiliar voice drawled.
I jumped with shock like a deer at the sound of a gun. I turned around hesitantly, my legs trembling so much I nearly fell over my own feet. Standing there was a man, who appeared to be in his forties. He had a mop of shaggy blonde hair on his head, which was partially covered by his ratty, grey bucket hat. A friendly smile spread across his face, but that wasn't enough to convince me that he was ally. "Who are you? What do you want?" I asked, slowly beginning to back away.
The man just chuckled. "Sorry, I didn't mean to scare ya. The name's Addison. Addison Rivers." Addison extended his hand as a polite gesture. "And what might your name be?"
Reluctantly, I reached forward and shook the man's coarse hand. "Annaleise," I mumbled, still uncertain about this stranger.
"Well, Annaleise. What brings you 'ere?" Addison pried, taking a seat on a fallen log.
"I used to live here, in Alumuna. Before I was sent away to the school," I explained. "I hated it there, so my friend and I came back."
"Aah, a rebellious little runaway. Well, at least at the school you kids were safe from The Domination. Kids like you are being forced into some hard yakka these days."
"What's The Domination?" I asked, wondering why I'd never heard of it before.
Addison stared at me as if I'd just spoken in a foreign language. "Seriously? They never told you 'bout The Domination? Wow, you kids really were kept safe from the outside world." He scanned the vast area of bushland that surrounded us. "Perhaps we should find a safer place to be. I've been hearing explosions and gunfire lately. Wouldn't wanna get caught up in that. How 'bout you come to my place?"
"Sure," I replied, eager to find out everything I could about the events I'd missed over the past two years. "But first I better go get my friend, Kieran. He doesn't know where the hell I am."
Addison's home was well-hidden. The entrance was a tunnel-like hole in the ground, covered by rocks in an attempt to make it appear less suspicious. The hole was fairly narrow, just wide enough for Addison and Kieran's broad, manly shoulders to fit through. The tunnel led down into a more spacious hole where Addison lived. The ceiling just high enough for him to stand up without whacking his head on the timber beams that secured the area. Addison had a decent stock of food and beverages. Judging by the various bottles of liquor, it was obvious that the man enjoyed his alcohol. He had a space with pillows and blankets set up in one corner and, much to my surprise, a corner filled with complicated-looking technology. Wires were tangled like jungle vines amongst various control panels and screens. I was tempted to ask what he used it for, but decided to stay quiet.
"Welcome to my hole!" Addison exclaimed. "Make yourselves at home."
Kieran and I sat down on the floor while Addison fixed himself a drink. "I apologise for the excessive amounts of dirt," he said. "I've been meaning to steal a vacuum cleaner so I can tidy the place up a bit." Without wasting any time, Addison immediately got stuck into his story about The Domination. "The Domination is an organisation of extremely idiotic, but unfortunately powerful people. Some say they've been around for decades, but no one really knows when they formed. All they want is to rule the world. Basically, they've succeeded. They had secret recruits in almost every country. It was terrible. Government members were assassinated, towns were bombed, people came in with guns. Innocent civilians that put up a fight against them were killed. The whole world is under their control."
"So… how does the school fit in to this?" I enquired. "Why were we sent away?"
"Our Government had heard about The Domination before the attacks began. They said that their immediate priority was the safety of children. So they set up these hidden schools and informed parents of the situation. But the school's objective wasn't just safety. I'm not sure exactly what they were teaching you, but I know for a fact that the school's aim was to embed survival and military tactics in your heads. They wanted to create soldiers of the future. They wanted you separate from the world so you wouldn't be brainwashed by all this garbage. They hoped that someday you'd be able to restore our country to what it once was."
I don't know about Kieran, but I was speechless. The information was too much for my brain to process all at once. I didn't understand how so much could occur in just two measly years. I don't know why but, after a few minutes of nothing but the sound of Addison glugging is drink, I impulsively asked an irrelevant question. "What's all that technology stuff for?"
Addison put down his drink and looked over at where I was gesturing. "Come on, I'll show you."