Country life is tough. In folklore, the country attracts the toughest and most determined people – those dedicated to striking out in undeveloped land to develop a fortune for generations to come.
But the reality is far from this. The cheap land has attracted the misfortunate that can’t afford to live in the city. Towns centre around the local pub; alcoholism is par for the course. School is the only launchpad out of the malaise, but even then, it’s much easier to kick back.
Nothing ever changes, nothing ever will. Better to accept the world for what it is.
Such is life in Penrith; a distant outer suburb where nothing ever happens – and yet, unbeknownst to its residents, something stirs beneath their streets. Something ancient; something indescribable.
Something that wants to reclaim its home from the invaders that have settled atop its hunting grounds.
Something that has been awoken.
In middle school, your friends are more important than your grades, but luckily for Natalia, both tend to some easy to her. Year 9 can be a busy year in a girl’s life, but Natalia projects an air of confidence beyond her age.
Natalia’s old soul is kind to one and all, and somehow manages to find the good in everyone she meets, regardless of how they want to be seen.
But this is borne of necessity. Natalia’s home life leaves little to be desired. Her mother, a nurse at the local hospital, gives herself fully to her work, leaving little love left for her home, and work stress has literally driven her father to drink. Natalia cocoons herself at home to survive, hoping for the day that something will change for her.
Some people surround themselves with friends as a coping mechanism. Others withdraw from society as a whole. Michelle clearly counts herself in the second group.
Rumour has it that she was attacked when she was a child, and this has scarred her for life. It’s impossible for her to make connections with other people, and every day she sports a new bruise or scratch, visible through her torn and abused school uniform. Her hair is roughly cut – her fellow students suspect that she does it herself.
Teachers have confronted her about her injuries, but every time she has an excuse. The police can’t be bothered to get involved either – when it comes to battered children in Penrith she is far from the worst-treated, and she never seems to complain.
In fact, she barely speaks to anyone.
In contrast to his sister, Natalia, Doug is a middle-of-the-road student. Now in his final year of high school, he has one chance to achieve escape velocity and leave this town, else he’ll come crashing back down and settle in the tiny outpost.
With an average ability in sports and high-grade procrastination skills he’s on a path to mediocrity, but his sister is pushing him on; hoping that he can set an example for herself and those around her.
But, like many teenage boys, he doesn’t want to be told what to do – especially by his drunken dad. There’s a bubbling resentment there for the man who moved their family to this middle-of-nowhere town when they were kids.
Then again, something courses through Doug – some sense of justice that his mother instilled in him as a child. Just because someone is bigger than you doesn’t mean that they are right. Unfortunately, that has caused Doug to become quick to anger – much to the chagrin of his mother and sister – and a trigger for his father…
Some people don’t know how lucky they are. In a small town, even a slight difference in your parent’s salary can make for huge differences in your school life.
Max wouldn’t count as “rich” by anyone’s standards, but neither could you call him “poor”. He tries not to bring attention to himself at school, but after a long enough period, everyone is able to work out that there is something different about him. Combined, these factors have turned him into an island at school – everyone knows about him, but no-one can really get close to him.
Thankfully, Max’s saving grace is his personality. He universally puts others before himself, working to solve their problems before his. His calm nature also allows him to assess situations more carefully than other, hotter heads.
All he wants are friends to share his adventure with.