Midnight in Creidhile
Rebecca Jones

It was a place of sickness and death, of cruelty and malice, where none who went in deserved the punishment, and few made it out. But the world didn't
seem to care, so they let it continue, let them keep taking innocent teenagers to torture and put through Hell. None of them realized exactly what they were doing, until the place is populated by five-hundred children
from age twelve to nineteen. Then comes a girl named Zel, who must experience and live through it all, and realize that she is not alone; this
is not a punishment for her. And through her, and those closest to her, people begin to understand how sick and wrong the whole idea is, and that
maybe, for the children who still live, there can be hope.

Chapter One Creidhile was a strange place, with a strange story behind it. It had been built by two nuns who had wanted to get away from everyone. From everything. So they had put up a neat little square hut, fit just perfectly for two, and lived out their long lives, eventually building a small kitchen building, so they had a place to cook, and a small cellar, with three rooms, whose purpose was unknown. They had been dead thirty-three years when three men came upon it; three officers, who decided it would make the perfect juvenile correction facility.
So they began brining people in, leaving them in the dark cellars until death was near, then working them to that exact fate. They were forced to work from just before sunup to just after sundown every day, getting only one meal. And in the spring and summer they worked the fields, without tools. In the winter they built houses and were given a hammer and nails, but nothing else. Every year they'd be beaten, and if they didn't get their day's work done, they'd be beaten. Ten of them lived in the small hut that had been built for hardly even two, and for a long time it was just those ten, until all of them died from lack of sleep, lack of food, lack of energy, the beatings, and most of all, lack of the will to live.
So they brought in ten new people, then ten more, as they built another small hut, and that winter the twenty children built a brick mansion for the officers who worked there, and then more huts. Twenty six years after it began, fifty square huts stood in the middle of the ground, with a mansion to their south, a small village that no one would inhabit to their west, and open fields to their north and east. For a while it had gone down to eight children a hut, since the crime rate had gone down and the children were dying off. It was then they had the idea of brining not only criminals, but other children as well. The place needed to be filled. The work needed to be done, and some people just didn't deserve to live, even if they hadn't done anything wrong.
For two years that's the way it worked. Criminals and innocents lived side by side, worked side by side, got punished side by side. But as sick as the officers who ran the place were, they realized it was unfair. Sure, the innocents needed their punishment, but the criminals shouldn't be treated equally with them. So that winter the children built a series of underground buildings, like cells, but smaller, darker. No windows. And spikes on the walls, and no room to move at all. In these rooms the criminals would be kept, made to stand until their legs could no longer hold them and they leaned against the spikes. The girls were raped whenever the officers felt like it, and the boys whipped and beaten. That seemed to solve the problem, until the population above ground went down to five a hut.
So admittance to the place became much easier; one complaint was heard, and the person was off to Creidhile, and to their sample of Hell. For a long time it worked well, and it cycled perfectly; every year five or so would die, and they'd travel to a town and get new ones. But the age kept getting younger, and instead of that killing them, it helped them to live. IF they accustomed themselves early on to the inhuman conditions, they would live. It was no longer survival of the fittest. So the day you turned twenty they would kill you, or, if you were lucky (that being that many had already died and not many were being brought in) they might let you leave, and tell your tale to the world.
No one believed them, so it didn't matter what they said. It was in these times that our story begins. In the summer of 2002.

Saturday, March 6, 2004 For many years they hadn't come to our community. They hadn't even known about it. We were a quiet little town, nestled perfectly on the side of the mountain, keeping to ourselves. We liked it that way; we didn't like the influence of the outside world.
But Chelsea changed that all. She was the first person ever found guilty in our town of murder, and what better way to punish a juvenile delinquent, then to put her in a place where she would never come out. Mind you, they didn't have to kill her; no, she would work herself to death. That way, everyone was happy. No one had to kill her, but herself, and she paid well for what she had done. Never mind that in the process she was tortured, raped, and God only knows what else.
But they didn't only come for Chelsea. No, it never worked that way. They liked the place full, and there were ten empty slots. So there were nine of us that went along with her. Eight of us had never done anything really wrong in our lives, one of us was Chelsea, and one had been accused of robbery, but never found guilty. So why did the other nine of us end up going there? Because people are cruel. People are sick. They have no grip on reality, no idea what torture, pain, torment, Hell, no idea what they mean. I met many people in Creidhile, all with tragic stories much like my own. There was Ellen, who became my best friend. People at her school had heard that at Creidhile, we barely got fed, and we did a lot of hard labor, and they thought it would be a nice way for her to loose weight.
And there was Jake, whose parents thought he needed a little focus in life, so they had sent him to Hell and back again, thinking that's how he'd achieve it. And myself; my boyfriend had told them I was nagging him too much.
They never really needed a good reason to take us; just someone who said we might need to go, and it was perfectly legal. Of course it was; so much better than the death penalty. A great way to teach children what's what in life. The only way I can describe it is Hell, only two times worse. People are so human, so selfish, so stupid. They'll do anything just for a couple of laughs. Anything just to get back at someone who offended them. There were five hundred of us there when I went. Five hundred innocent teenagers, ranging from twelve to nineteen, who had been condemned to a fate worse than death, an experience that can never be repeated, a place that will haunt us for the rest of our lives, a sickness there is no cure for. Not to mention the children there because they actually committed a crime. God only knows what happened to them, and I pity Him for holding that knowledge.
And we have no one to blame but our fellow humans, who, even after seeing us, after knowing what happened to us, still don't care. Because they never had to go through it; now they never will. So what do we matter? How is it their problem that we can't sleep, for fear of the dreams? Can't even talk, for fear that someone might decide they hate us and condemn us once again. Why should it matter to them that in the space of twenty-five years thirteen hundred innocent lives were lost in the most cruel ways just because someone decided they didn't like someone?
Creidhile was reality, and too many of us had to face it.

Chapter Two
Summer, 2002

It was a sleepy little town, nestled in the middle of nowhere, boasting of the peace the world had never known. Populated by only two hundred or so, everyone knew everyone, and nothing was kept secret. Everyone knew who the current couples were, everyone was at everyone's wedding, the whole town helped in naming babies, and there were only two on average at every age. So the school, too, was very old-fashioned, with classrooms for the older children, and classrooms for the younger children.
None went past the small schoolhouse; none went to college. You either got married and had children, or, if you were a woman, got a job as a teacher, or a clerk, or at the grocery store. And if you were a man, worked the police station and the desk jobs. There had been six girls from thirteen to fifteen, and only one boy. His name was Colin, and he had fallen freely, and madly, in love with Jenny. They'd been together since they were thirteen, and now, at sixteen, they planned to wed within the year. So the group that was now fourteen to sixteen was left boy-less, all ready to face the fate that must befall them.
That is, until Ian and his family moved in. No one knew exactly where they came from, but they were quick to learn everything else about them. Ian had a little sister named Lauren who fit into the ten to thirteen group, at age eleven, and she quickly picked up friends, and got into the swing of things in the town. Ian's mother was quick to adjust as well, fitting right in to the cooking parties and quilting meetings and working at the church.
His father was a businessman, who cared little for small-town life, and they saw little of him. As for Ian himself, he didn't much like the quiet, easy ways of the place, and didn't understand half of what was going on. If it hadn't been for Zelanai, a pretty girl at fourteen, with long, colorful brown hair and big brown eyes that were caught between clear amber and sweet chocolate, he might never have lived to see the end of the first year. She reached out, knowing many of her friends would enjoy him as a life-long mate, and maybe even fancying him for herself, but he responded, learning quickly and beginning to appreciate the life.
It wasn't until six months of his spending endless time with her that he realized she was the one out of all the others that he wanted for himself, and made his claims on her quickly. It would have been much more impressive, maybe, if there had been other boys wanting her, or even any other boys their age at all, but she appreciated it none the less, and shyly stepped into the role of his girlfriend. Her good friend Taylor was speaking to her about it not long after it happened. "He's handsome and all, but I don't know if I really trust him."
"Why not? He's never done anything wrong."
Taylor laughed. "He's only been here for six months, Anai, and no one knows about their family's life before they got here."
"What, you think he's dangerous?" Zelanai raised her eyebrows, looking at her friend.
"Yes. And no. I don't know, Anai! All I know is I just get a bad feeling when I'm around him, OK? And my mother told me it would be smart to stay away from him."
"My mom has said no such thing, and I feel perfectly right around him. It's the first time I've really believed in God, you know. He knew I wasn't meant to be alone for the rest of my life, so He sent Mr. Right, in the form of Ian."
"You always have been a dreamer, Anai."
"You're just jealous you don't get a man. You're upset you'll spend the rest of your life all alone."
"If you're right, about God sending him and all, then if I'm meant to be other than alone, he'll send me a man too. I will do as He, the one who made us, wishes. I have no strong desire for a man, but I would not be upset to have one."
"You sound like a little goodie-two-shoes. 'I will do just as God wishes.' Christ in Heaven, Taylor, you know as well as I do that God doesn't really care, if he even exists!"
"Anai, you need to pay attention more in church. No, well, yes, because they'll teach you there that God really does care, and that He loves us. But I guess if you fell so empty, than He doesn't believe in you, or maybe you're just not good enough for him."
Zelanai rolled her eyes, signaling the end of the conversation. But she would remember it for the rest of her life.

(((

Ellen smiled slightly, leaning her head back against the cold wall. Colin came and sat next to her, looking out the square window at the end of the hut. "Midnight in Creidhile." His voice was expressionless, waiting for Ellen to decide what he had meant by it. She was good at that; guessing things about people they didn't really know themselves.
"It would be terrible, Colin, but do you want to know why it's not?" He looked at her and tilted his head, smiling slightly, encouraging her to continue. "See John? He's spending his night awake; he has finally come into sync with the place. He's one that will last long, you just have to look at the determination in his work, and the slight hope that still shines in his eyes to know he'll last. Katie, Jenny, Becca, Marie, and Sammy, they might not last, in fact, they probably won't. Like me. We just live because it's all we have to do. Don't shake your head at me, Colin, you know it's true. But we fight hard to keep our nonchalant calm. We've lasted this long, and none of us are about to give up. We've become a family. But most of all, what makes this place not the living Hell it should be, is those two. Jake and Julie. They shine with such light; it is truly a blessing to find such a thing as love in a place like this."
Colin nodded slowly, avoiding Ellen's gaze. "What's wrong?" He asked, not looking at her.
"Who said anything's wrong?"
"I've lived and labored by your side for three years now, Ellen. I know you as well as you know yourself, if not more."
Ellen nodded, then realized he wasn't looking at her, and said quietly, "Three years exactly tomorrow."
At this he turned to look at her, and the color that had just been in his cheeks was gone. "Tomorrow? You mean, the whipping? Christ, when is mine? Two weeks? And Becca between them. Damn."
Ellen looked into his eyes, her deep gray ones reflecting the half- hidden fear of his own. "Jake's eighteenth birthday is in two months, and he can't forget it; it's also his six year anniversary. He's lasted long; he'll make it two more years. It all depends on what they decide to do with him afterwards."
Colin's face changed slightly. "Julie in six months."
Ellen look at him and blinked. His smile back was mirthless. "Come now Ellen, you must have noticed how she lags behind, how she's lost so much weight, how she doesn't eat. Look at the pallor of her skin. She won't last past the whipping. What will happen to Jake then?"
"He'll live. God does not take people away from us unless we are ready to loose them. He may have just found her, but if she's dying so soon afterwards, then she obviously is not meant for him."
"You've changed your attitude quite quickly."
She tilted her head. "What do you mean?"
"Just a minute ago you were talking of the light they shed and how wonderful love was in a place like this."
"They are in love Colin. It's not that odd to fall in love more than once. In fact, it's quite normal. Julie, don't take this the wrong way," she glanced at the blond head huddled against the wall, pale blue eyes staring at nothing, while the handsome figure of Jake sat next to her, talking quietly, "she's like a trial run for him. Almost like God is preparing him for the one that will come next."
"You have no doubt there will be one?"
"Jake was not meant to be alone. I can promise you that." A pretty girl with tight brown curls, followed closely by a mirror image of herself, walked up to Ellen and Colin, smiling slightly. Ellen nodded. "Hey Becca, Jenny."
The first girl, Jenny, sat down on Ellen's right, while sat at Becca Colin's left. Jenny looked across at John. "He's made it through a month without sleep. Obviously the place finally got to him."
Becca sighed. "That's not a good thing, Jenny."
Colin shook his head. "It depends on the way you think of it." He tweaked one of Ellen's red curls, then got up and walked over to John, winking over his shoulder.

Chapter Three Ellen walked up to the door, all color draining from her. Three years. Three years too many, that's what it was. Damn straight to Hell the kids who had put her here. She'd been nothing but a thirteen-year-old girl slightly overweight, and as a joke kids in her school had sent her here, knowing they did tons of work and hardly got fed. God damn them for putting her through Hell and never realizing it.
She smiled grimly, looking at her bony figure, thinking, well, they got what they wanted. Sixty-seven pounds off my poor frame. If only they could see me now. The door swung open and a blue-clad man with a beard and mustache gestured her in, smiling widely, showing off his yellow teeth. "Have a good meal?"
Ellen thought back to the small pile of mush that had been her only meal for three years, given to her just after sundown each day. Surprising herself, she managed a nod and a smile, saying, "It'll do."
"You're the pretty one, aren't you? The one in number 14, one of the few huts that gets its work done on a normal basis. Been a while since we got to whip one of you for anything but your Creidhile birthday. Pity too, you and two others in there are quite pretty little missies. Come now, I haven't got all night."
"No, you have prisoners to torture in sick ways." She said under her breath, closing her ears to the moans and screams that could be heard non stop anywhere around the cells.
She stood still as he whipped, clenching her teeth tight together, waiting for the blackness that meant it was over. It came quickly enough; she didn't have any fat to protect her any more.
((( Becca looked at Jenny, her heart pounding. She had noted the first two times during their whipping, how Jenny had disappeared before it began and then came back when it was over, but she hadn't thought to question it. Jenny was her baby sister, though only two minutes younger, and Becca felt responsible. But now, as the realization dawned on her, she wanted to throw up.
They had told Ellen there were two other pretty ones; Ellen was exceptionally beautiful, with her solid gray eyes and wild flame red hair, but the rest of them were just teenage girls, definitely not repulsive, but not holding much charm. Long ago Sammy had offered herself to the chief in order to avoid her first whipping, and had been labeled the "pretty" one not long after that. Now that's what they were calling Jenny. "Jenny?" Becca asked tentatively, looking at her twin.
"Yes?" Jenny looked up from her pen and paper, folding it quickly and putting it away.
"Are you- are you still a virgin?"
Jenny's face went white as she looked at her sister, then back down at her paper. "You read over my shoulder?"
"What? You wrote about it? My God Jenny! How could you! I would rather get beaten a thousand times then give myself to one of those- those- Jesus Jenny, why did you do it?"
Jenny looked down, quiet for a long time, then mumbling so quietly that Becca had to lean forward to hear, "I'm not brave like you, Becca. That first year, that was more Hell than anything else, and when they said I didn't have to go through it again if- Becca, how could I say no?"