The book that turned me into an amateur guerrilla solider
By Millie Backway
I can hear them calling my name. Over and over their voices ring out into the night. They are fed up with trying to find me. My face is pressed into the dirt and I am almost certain I have bird shit smeared all over my hand. I’ve been lying in this position for 45 minutes, shielded from view by a line of dense hedging. But I refuse to reveal myself. It isn’t just a matter of pride. It is a matter of life and death.
I can hear their boots crunching on the gravel as they unknowingly move closer and closer towards my hiding place. I stop breathing, fearing that they will hear my heart thundering away inside my chest.
“ Mill seriously, we’re freezing, we’re going inside,” my cousin calls irritably.
The gig is up.
OK. I’ll admit, maybe there was a time when I tended to get a little carried away with a humble game of night time hide and seek. But there was only John Marsden to blame. His series, Tomorrow When the War Began entered my life quite simply but a few chapters in it took hold of my life and most importantly my imagination.
I was swept away into a world which to me was very real and plausible. Invasions and wars have all happened before, over and over again throughout history. Why should Australia be any more impervious to the threat of unknown enemies? In my teenage brain the only logical thing to do was to train myself for the possible threat of invasion.
I recruited my closest friends into my games of ‘training for the invasion’. One of my favourites was ‘hiding from oncoming vehicles’ basically we would ride or walk around a neighbourhood and if we heard a car coming we would have to be out of sight before we saw the car, otherwise we were dead.
So picture this, a bunch of teenagers are riding along a quiet road when they hear a car and simultaneously they all begin leaping from their bikes and commando rolling into patches of undergrowth by the side of the road.
I also felt it was very important to learn how to drive, although I was only fourteen. How else was I supposed to transport myself and my gang of guerrilla soldiers to our hiding place in the dead of night? This lead to many partially/mostly illegal driving lessons.
I still remember fondly my dad’s curious and somewhat concerned expressions as I trailed along behind him on a bushwalk, reciting the exact method one could use should they be attempting to blow up an entire airfield.
At the time, my young mind was consumed with the preparations for being a proper 16 year old (adult) like the characters in the books. Thoughts of Being Allowed to Go Camping with Boys, Driving and the Possibility of Relationships all weighed heavily on my mind. I couldn’t wait to grow up.
But when I look back now and think of an only slighter shorter version of myself covered in dirt, hair full of twigs and bark chips from crawling through the undergrowth in the bush I can’t help but laugh as I realise that rather than speeding up my accent into adulthood, Tomorrow When the War Began only increased my youth and playful innocence.
Millie Backway is a Victorian bred country bumpkin who is currently seeking her fortune in the UK. She works in a French restaurant where she spends her days sampling delicious food, day dreaming about the gelati of Europe and pinching chocolate truffles out of the bar fridge when she thinks no one is looking.
This post is a part of a fortnightly blog series. You can read more here.