Olivia was eight years old when they took her away from her mum and dad. She was a child, who was only just beginning to learn about the world and how it worked. Before the lights went out all she wanted was to make her family and her friends happy. She was an active child and went to karate, gymnastics and dancing. She was good at these things because she was never afraid. She liked performing the most; reciting poems, singing and dancing. She told her aunt Verity many times “I want to be a singer and dancer” and Aunt Verity would always say, “You can be anything you like darling, all you have to do is believe that you can” and Olivia did believe. She was excited about growing up and being able to do all the exciting things adults could do. She loved learning about things and easily understood her lessons at school. She really was a lucky little girl and she felt loved. She was also very thoughtful and kind, especially for a child her age. She liked giving people things and never asked for too much. She listened to her mum and dad even if she thought they were being silly. She was a good little girl and she was happy.
That was until they took her and her brother away. Olivia could not really remember a lot about what had happened just before that. She remembered everything being normal and going to school, going to her classes, she remembered Aunt Verity coming to stay over and playing games with her and listening to her saying poems and singing and her mum being so happy to see her. She remembered being very sad when Aunt Verity was away but knew she would see her again soon and loved talking to her on Skype when she was in Australia. Somehow though, very quickly everything started to change and her parents started talking in hushed voices all the time and being so serious. Olivia can remember vaguely people around her, her parents, her gran and papa, her auntie Lana, her teachers all talking quietly to each other whenever there were kids around. She remembered all the adults watching the news all the time and telling Olivia to shush a lot. Her dad used to tell her everything she asked about things that were going in the world, but he just seemed to stop doing that and Olivia could just sense that something was wrong. All of a sudden things changed very quickly and everything seemed very panicked and on the news they kept talking about the oil running out and the lights going out in other countries and then came the day that she will never forget.
Olivia had not been at school for a while, maybe it was a week, her child mind could still not tell how much time was passing, but she was in the house with her mum, her dad and Jack house and the TV went grey and then black and it was all very quiet. Her mum and dad were sitting in the kitchen drinking tea and talking quietly again, telling Olivia to go out of the room when she came in to ask what was happening and when she would be going back to school. She had this feeling that something awful was happening and it was all the more frightening because nobody would tell her what it was. Her tummy was feeling sick. Jack, her little brother was being even more difficult than usual and his tantrums were more frequent because he was getting no attention. Olivia was being a little nicer to him then because they were both scared and it felt better to at least have someone.
Suddenly she heard a van coming round into the street and a lot of doors started banging and then there was shouting and crying. Someone banged on the door very loud. Olivia just froze at first, the knock was different. It was loud and sharp and it sounded serious. There was silence throughout house. Her mum and dad were still in the kitchen but they did not move. Olivia and Jack had been playing in the living room and ran through to the kitchen to their parents. Her mum was sitting at the kitchen table, eyes wide and face frozen. Her dad was standing up, but still and his face was such as Olivia had never seen before, he was scared and that made Olivia feel a dread she had never felt before. She simply looked up at him and Jack started to cry. Her dad knelt down quickly to Jack and said severely “Jack, you have to be quiet now. Go to mummy”.
Her mum took Jack in her arms, held him, and began to cry too and rock a little. The door banged again and still her dad stood there, thinking. He took a deep breath looked at her mum and started walking out of the kitchen.
“No Jake. Noooo” begged her mother in a wail. “I’ll handle this Elis” he stated his face as serious as ever.
Her dad answered the door and had started to say “How can I help you?” when several men barged through the door. Her dad was strong and muscly but Olivia could hear scuffling in the hall as he tried to stop them coming in. She heard further noises of a struggle and shouting. Olivia began to cry too and ran to her mother and Jack. They all held onto each other, all three of them just sobbing and grabbing on to each other. Olivia remembered looking at her mother’s face and seeing such an utter helplessness there. She had not understood at the time, but her mother was in despair and was paralysed with fear. It seemed like a long time they all sat there in the kitchen holding on to each other and crying, Jack now wailing. The men burst through the kitchen door, her dad behind them still trying to fight them off but they kept pushing and punching him out of the way. Olivia saw blood. The men came towards the three of them and still Elise held on to her two children with a great force, she was hurting Olivia now, but Olivia only held on tighter. She looked at the faces of the men their faces were as forceful as their actions and their eyes were blind to hers. She hated them.
“Nooo. Nooo. Nooo. Nooo” her mother cried again and again and again, tears falling among the cries and wails all over the kitchen table. Olivia began to scream as the men’s hands were upon her and her brother, pulling, pulling them away, all just a blur of limbs and salt and screaming and pain in Olivia’s young mind. She could no longer really see what was happening she just feel the hands grabbing her arms and pulling her, the sounds of her mother crying and sobbing and screaming doing something to Olivia inside that would change her forever.
Somehow the men pried Olivia and Jack away from their screaming mother and their dad was lying on the floor beaten by the men, defeated. Olivia looked over the shoulders of the man who was carrying as the men carried her to the front door and the cold air outside. “Dad, daddy, help, help daddy” Olivia yelled tears soaking the shirt of the man who had her over his shoulder, she was kicking and hitting him now, hitting him in the face, but he was like a bull and did not stop.
“Daddy will find you. Daddy will find you. Daddy will find you” repeated her daddy, his face so contorted with blood and sadness. That was the last Olivia could remember, of her childhood and night after night after night every time she went to sleep those words circled around in her head, “Daddy will find you. Daddy will find you. Daddy will find you”.
They had taken her to a school underground and the children told that a massive flood was coming and that no one on the ground would survive. Later teachers taught them about what had happened to the world, about how they had used up all the oil, how humans had caused global warming which had caused the flood. Olivia listened to the lessons, but she inwardly she questioned everything they told her. She had heard the rain and the water overhead not long after they had arrived at the school and been aware of a change in the air, so she believed that the flood had happened, but she also knew that they were lying to her about a lot of things, and she could not believe that there was no one left outside or that God was punishing them the way they said, she believed God was good and that whatever had happened, there was a reason for it and a reason she was still alive and still sane.
She had been in the school for ten years now and daddy had not found her but she had never given up hope that she would find him and her mother. She had to at least try to find her mother, she just had this feeling that she was out there somewhere thinking horrible things about what had happened to Jack and Olivia, and she could not bare the thought of her mother living in such pain. If there was anything or anyone outside, Olivia had to find out, because if her mother was alive, she had to know that Olivia and Jack were still alive so that she could have peace. That thought kept Olivia going.
She was no longer a child, but she had not progressed through her childhood and teenage years in a slow transgression the way she should have, with all the mistakes and experiences and emotions of growing up. She had been ripped from her childhood in an instant like a tree from its roots and she was never the same since. Olivia was now eighteen years old, but she was not adult nor teenager, nor child.
The children in the school had never stepped outside in the world since the day they were taken away from their families. They were not allowed to play or socialise or interact like humans. They had lessons together, meals together, exercise together, but always under the watchful eyes of the teachers and they were never allowed to talk freely to each other or to the teachers. They were not shown affection or nurtured or shown real love. They slept in bunks on their own, separated from each other. Most of them had retreated into themselves and did what was necessary to appease the teachers and pass their tests. It was as though their souls were dead. They functioned like human beings, but they did not act like human beings. The existed without living, that was how it seemed to Olivia. She was not even allowed to interact with her brother although she had seen him at some of the classes. She could not tell anymore if he knew her or not. The younger children had been kept separately from the older ones for a long time, until they forgot Olivia supposed.
Olivia’s soul was not dead. She was like a snake lying in the desert as still as a stone, waiting for an opportunity. She was forever changed by what had happened to her, but not broken in the way some of the other children seemed to be. They had this vacant look in their eyes. Olivia’s face would not give away anything to anyone, but if anyone had looked closely enough, right down in the back of her eyes was a burning; not a naked wild flame, but a deep depths of the earth burning that would never go out and that only grew outwards the more she understood and the older she got.
Without sunlight and without life, the children still looked like children, their faces far too youthful and their bodies not fully grown, but they were not children.
Olivia had lost childhood the minute she was taken from her mother so violently but she also knew that really she was as old as the earth. Innocence was gone, love was gone but passionate earthly fire was not, the fury of injustice was not. It was not something that could be taught or that grew or that could be taken away, it was like the energy in the stars, it had always been there and always would be there and Olivia had decided that it was time to let some of it out. She was getting out of the school and she was taking her brother with her, and no one was going to stop her.