Occupation: Vanessa’s Story

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A retelling of the most heart-breaking scene from the Australian feature film ‘Occupation’.

The young soon-to-be-mother, Vanessa, has spent the last eight months in hiding.

She’s hiding from a race of technologically-superior aliens known as ‘The Greys’ who have, for the most part, captured the surrounding area. Although she’d love to have more information, all media infrastructure is now useless. No more internet, no more television, no more radio.

Radio.

That reminds her of a member of her group of fellow survivors: Seth Grimes.

Before the occupation, Seth was a radio announcer for the local radio station. She’s overheard him say as much to other members of the group. The other members of the group will, invariably, say that they’ve never listened to the radio station. Seth always replies with something along the lines of ‘It’s okay, nobody else did either’.

She doesn’t remember him because of his radio station. She remembers him because he was the last voice she ever heard in the old world – the world before the occupation.

Along with being the local radio personality, he was also the local live sports commentator. She was watching Jackson (her boyfriend and the father of her unborn child) play football while Seth explained the on-field action to those stuck at home, or on the road, or even just in the various dead-end jobs offered by the small town in which they lived.

Her mind wanders to the other members of the group: Matt Simmons, the former captain of the football team. Amelia Chambers, his girlfriend. Marcus Chambers, Amelia’s younger brother. Arnold, the old-school farmer who had little patience for time-wasting or thieves. Dennis, the young homeless man and suspected thief.

There were also two strangers: Peter Bartlett, an apparently-reformed murderer, and his daughter, Bella. Well, perhaps ‘strangers’ was the wrong word – they’d both helped the group escape eight months ago on the night of the invasion and…

A sharp pain flashes across her abdominal region. Having been a nurse-in-training before the invasion, she knows what this means. It’s almost time. But she refuses to give in. Surely her first child deserves more than to be born in this grimy hut? It has served the group well so far, but would it be a decent place to raise a child? Does she even have any choice? Although she knows better, she decides to wait until the very last moment to let the others know what’s happening.

Her mind drifts back to the night of the invasion. She’d announced her pregnancy to Jackson, who’d been surprisingly happy about it. Although she loved him – or possibly because she loved him – she could admit that he was, for lack of a better word, unpredictable.

Perhaps that unpredictable nature is what gave him his natural skill on the field, leading to his captaincy of the football team. She remembers watching him play that night and listening to Seth commentate, when the power failed. Gone were the bright lights of the football field, and the live commentary alongside them.

The sound of thunder had filled the skies. She’d found this strange because the air didn’t smell like ozone, as it normally did right before a thunderstorm. Could an approaching storm have taken out the local power station?

This was the theory she’d have settled on, had she been given the chance. However, the crimson-coloured flashes in the sky implied that it was something different, something…

Another birth pang appears. The time is getting closer now. She tries her best to ignore it. Maybe, in the next few minutes, a miracle will allow her baby to be born into a better world, and when her child has grown into an adult, it (she doesn’t know the gender of the baby yet) will thank her for holding on. On some level, she knows that she has no control over when the baby arrives, but…

She closes her eyes and tries to think of something – anything – else.

That night on the football field, with the red streaks across the skyline, still filled her with fear. Short bolts of light appeared from the dark sky, striking people seemingly at random. Although she now knew they were some kind of laser fire from spacecraft of The Greys, she hadn’t known that at the time. Nobody had. Everyone had been running around, panicking and unaware that their lives were about to irrevocably change.

Somehow she’d made it to a mobile home with the other survivors. They’d all eventually ended up where she now was, with a rickety hovel as their home.

The baby, being as stubborn and unpredictable as its parents, refuses to wait any longer.

She calls out in pain, and the others come running.

Surprisingly, Peter – the murderer – is the most helpful. It is he who organizes a mattress for her to lay on during childbirth. Bella, who Vanessa has been teaching about medical matters, is comforting her.

Vanessa had studied childbirth but nothing could have prepared her for what she is going through. She doesn’t remember reading anything about bright amber lights glowing through the roof during childbirth. Before she has a chance to realise what’s happening, the others are shouting that The Greys have found them. She tells them to take her outside. They comply.

They take her into the dark bushlands outside, within earshot of their former home. The rain falls heavily, and in between deep breaths, she hears an explosion, which she correctly presumes means that their now former home has been destroyed. She silently curses herself for waiting for so long. On some level, she knows it wasn’t her choice but she still blames herself: Perhaps if she had called the others earlier, her baby might have been born inside a house, and not during a rainfall.

She calls for Jackson, who is off on an impromptu combat mission. Somebody runs off to get him.

Seth is yelling about how The Greys will find them if she doesn’t stay quiet. She wonders who’s louder, her or Seth. At breaking point, Seth suddenly raises a fallen branch to strike her and even more suddenly disappears from view. Peter also disappears from view.

The pain in her abdomen subsides a little, and Bella tells Vanessa that she has given birth to a beautiful baby girl.

Vanessa, utterly exhausted, cradles her newborn daughter in her arms, and names her Allison.

Completely drained, her daughter’s name would be her final words.

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