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I don’t really remember how much time I spent in that place, or even how old I was when I first stayed. But there was one thing that I did know at the time. Eventually, those who entered would have to die. Whether it be from old age, accidents, or god forbid, murders. I guess I should start at what I remember most.

That would be the guy we called, ‘Crowe’. He was much older than us, probably in his late 20s, barely old enough to be considered an elder, but most certainly an adult. He wore a thick black cloak which draped down onto the floor and curled upwards, we used to joke that since we always saw him wear it every day he never bathed. His hands were gloved in black leather with stains on them. We never really knew what they were at the time, but knowing from my days there, I assumed it was blood. The most striking thing about him was this helmet (I guess you could call it), it was shaped like a goat’s skull with black horns on either side. Obviously there were holes, but they were blacked out beyond belief, I still have no idea how that guy walked around without bumping into everything. Well, I guess there was no way to determine if they were a man or not, their voice was filtered beyond belief, possibly from some voicebox inside of the helmet.

He lived in a place that we would call, ‘The Sanctum’. It was supposedly a place of purification, where, as Crowe would put it, ‘the ancient gods would bless us with gifts inside of the most well-protected place known to man’, even though it really was just an old church. The windows were cracked and broken and crows would sit on the shards of broken glass that still hung in the frame, I still wondered how they didn’t cut their toes by resting on the glass. The crows were everywhere around the place, in fact I’m pretty sure that’s how the Crowe and the town got its name, “Croweville”. I don’t think I can fully grasp how many crows were there, possibly hundreds, the least I counted was 60 but that was just for a minute. But the sky seemed to be black at all times, an eternal night birthing crows to sit on the shattered stained glass.

We could practically do anything inside of the Sanctum, except for three ‘rules’. Number 1, Don’t damage the church. Number 2, Don’t enter past midnight. And the most important rule, Don’t enter the room behind the altar. Break any of these rules and the punishment would be severe. It’s not like any of us were big or strong enough to resist the punishment, I mean we were kids after all. That was the most notable thing to note. Every person who lived in the town except for Crowe was a child. The youngest person I met there was 4, the oldest was 12. I escaped when I was about 9 I guess, but I don’t remember what age I was when I first woke up in Crowetown. Of course, I don’t know why kids were involved in all of this or how they brought us here.

The earliest memory I have of Croweville was when I first woke up, I can’t remember what age I was then but the first thing I saw was Gloves. That was my nickname for her, truth be told I can’t remember names very well and to this day I still haven’t remembered mine. I still haven’t for the record and I’m kinda weirded out by that. Back then I was petrified, who wouldn’t be in that situation? You’re a child, one day sleeping in a bed, and when next you wake you’re in some room with thousands of bunk beds and a girl smacking your face, both of which you don’t recognise. I guess she knew that as well, so when I started to freak out, she tried her best to calm me down.

At that point Gloves was about 6 or so, she looked to be a bit older than me. She wore a blue skirt and a brown t-shirt with some cartoon unicorn printed on it. She had dirty-brown hair which was unkempt and shaggy, almost as if it was never cut in her life. The most notable thing about her was that she wore black gloves. She always had the, on her hands at all times, even when she grew older she would just hunt through the whole of Croweville to find gloves that fitted her. Her appearance was... strange to say the least, but it’s not as if mine was any better. When I got out and saw my face in a mirror for the first time, I was shocked. I never expected my hair to be so blonde and beautiful, and yet my face was covered in scars and scratches. But back in Croweville I was dressed head-to-toe in a small leather plague doctor’s outfit. I had no memory of putting it on, and aside from the mask I had no idea how to take it off.

Gloves was friendly towards me and even gave me a nickname of my own, “Beaky” on account of my mask. There were other kids in the room as well, but they were doing whatever they were doing, too pre-occupied with playful fightings, or their toys than the new kid having a freak-out about 5 feet away from them. The room was so very long, it looked like it could stretch out for miles, in fact there were several doors on one wall, allowing for more children to get out without hurting each other. On the other side were rows upon rows of bunk beds with the same teddy bear with the same mechanical voice placed on the pillow. I can guess that I was partnered with Gloves as my bunkmate.

The first time I saw Crowe, I was intimated to say the least. A great cloaked figure towered before me wearing the skull of an animal with horns on either side. He looked like a demon. And that voice shook me to my core, it vibrated off the walls and echoed so every child could hear what Crowe had to say. Since I was new I had to go on a “tour” of Croweville along with all of the other new kids, about 9 kids (including me) all as confused and frightened as each other. There were 5 notable places inside of Croweville that he showed us on the tour.

First was the ‘Pathway’. It was a long and dark hallway, only illuminated by several lamps on the walls so we could see better. There were doors all over the right side of the hall, upon inspection I realised that these were the doors that were also in the room I woke up in. The walls were made of solid steel, welded into place and sturdy where not even an explosion would faze it. It would take at least an hour to reach the end of the hall and back and we only rested when observing the other rooms on the tour. Near the roof were a system of loudspeakers which would tell us when it was time to gather together and eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. Next was the ‘Cradle’. The Cradle was the place I woke up and met Gloves. It seemed to be where most of the children spent most of the time inside, nothing really to note that I haven’t mentioned before.

Next was the ‘Communion’. It was essentially a giant cafeteria, as well as the place that housed the kitchen. It was old and rusted, nearly all of the plates had at least a bit missing or broken. The walls were covered in clear white tiles, but the colour faded over the years due to the muck and grime from food fights. We never got to see the kitchen. It was behind a large door that was locked all the time. The lock was a generic padlock that either became clean every year or was changed regularly. The food was served in little cardboard boxes and was offered from a giant metallic tunnel, big enough to allow about 3 cardboard boxes to pass through at the same time. There were too many tables to count, possibly enough to fit every child in Croweville. The crows from the Sanctum would often flock to this place and pick at whatever was inside the bins, or if they were feeling very nasty they would attack some random kid.

The second to last stop was the ‘Purge’. It served as a little nurse’s office but we could barely see inside there. Unlike the other rooms, it was cramped, maybe allowing 5 people in if you were lucky, plus the only light inside was from a dim lantern which barely lit up the room so a kid could bump into the walls easily enough. What’s strange is that even though I spent most of my childhood inside of Croweville, I barely saw anybody go to the Purge, if a kid was having a nose bleed or grazed his knee I’d sort of understand, but when one kid in a green t-shirt got a concussion from banging his head on the metal bunk beds, Crowe didn’t immediately rush him to the Purge, didn’t tend to his wounds. It was like he disappeared for that one moment. Kind of ironic considering after that incident we never saw Green-Shirt again, but it was only until a week before I escaped that I realised why.

The final stop was the Sanctum. The Sanctum was placed at the very end of the Pathway and it definitely stood out from the other places. The double doors was made from fresh brown wood with an actual handle placed in the middle of the two doors. There’s nothing really to mention about the Sanctum aside from what I said before, but what really stood fresh from our minds was the door behind the altar. It was old and rusted, it was practically coming off of its hinges. One girl from the group asked what was behind that door, but Crowe just fell silent and stared at the girl until we got back to the Cradle. Speaking of the altar, it was draped in a dirty white blanket which was covering a chest compartment. Me, Gloves and a few other kids would often check inside of the altar to see if anything was inside, but most times we ended up empty.

Croweville was a pretty ok place to live in I guess. It didn’t really feel like a town or village of sorts, it was just some form of community of kids and this weird guy in black. I barely interacted with anyone aside from Gloves and a few other kids that were older than me, presumably other friends that Gloves made. Gloves was like a big sister to me, I mean it’s not like I had any siblings (at least not that I know of) but she did treat me like her little brother, everywhere she went, I went as well. But she seemed to know that things were off, I’m pretty sure she was in Croweville long before me. I would often find her digging through the trash cans inside of the Communion, looking for some secret tunnel where the trash would go, or to find new gloves.

The last time I saw Gloves was when she just turned 10. She was one of a few kids who remembered their birthday and even their age so she seemed to be respected or at the least tolerated by most of the other kids. I decided to go to the Purge, grab the teddy bear from my bed and stitch some black fabric that came off another kid’s clothes onto the bear’s arms, y’know, in an attempt to make the bear wear gloves. Or at least, I tried to. I wasn’t very good at stitching so I would often jam the needle into my fingers accidentally, causing me to bleed. The pain was so great at the time, I screamed so loud that as a result Gloves came rushing in to help. She then noticed the bear and took the gift in good grace, I like to think to myself that she liked it. However, I wished she would see what would ultimately be the greatest present I could ever give her; the outside of Croweville.

Gloves told me later that day that about a day or so ago, she was mucking about with the other kids with a football inside of the Sanctum. One kid kicked the ball too hard and as a result the ball went flying into one of the church’s windows and also hit one of the crows which fell to the ground and killed it. Almost immediately, Crowe came in through the entrance and took the kid by his wrist. It was then that he dragged the kid to the forbidden rusted door behind the altar. Gloves didn’t know what happened next as she burst out of the room and eventually found my accident. However we did see Crowe, but not the boy. One of the other kids that could remember their birthday was also the oldest at 12. However, when everyone was supposed to be asleep, Gloves witnessed Crowe drag the 12-year-old by his feet and exit the Cradle and into the Pathway. The strange bit was that we never saw the boy again. Later while we were having breakfast, she found an old newspaper from 2004 that one kid was using as a napkin. We couldn’t make out the exact words (due to us both not being old enough to understand them and the mess that the kid made on it) but the newspaper documented a rather strange string of disappearances of children between the ages of 4 and 7 near the seasides of Scotland.

So we went out into the Pathway and decided to try and create a plan to get to the bottom of what exactly those disappearances meant and (both the two kids that Gloves saw, and the newspaper article we found), and how to escape from Croweville. The first thing that we needed to scope out was the locked door behind the altar. Gloves decided that she was, in her words, “the live bait for Crowe”. She would grab a large and heavy piece of equipment from the Purge and throw it at every window she could find inside of the Sanctum, hopefully kill some crows as well. I would hide in the chest inside of the altar and with another tool from the Purge, clobber Crowe over the head, knocking him out. We would then search what was behind the door and find a way out before Crowe woke up. It was a full-proof plan in our minds but something went wrong, horribly wrong.

The door to the Purge was welded shut, not even the mightiest blow could get it open, so we were forced to take drastic measures. Gloves would use the voicebox from inside the teddy bear I gave to her and use that to cause a distraction. I didn’t have anything to smash Crowe’s head in so I had to wait until no-one was around to open the door. I had to make sure I hid well so even under the dirty blanket on top of the altar, Crowe wouldn’t recognise a thing. It took a while for Gloves to break one window, so much so that I didn’t actually hear the smash as I had slept inside of the chest for a good few hours. God, now I wish so much that I hadn’t.

When I woke up I immediately came out of the chest, but Gloves was nowhere to be found, yet shards of shattered glass and crow feathers were near the windowsill nearest to the altar as well as the voicebox with the teddy bear right alongside it. I bent down and picked up the stray voicebox, wondering why Gloves had just left it there. I then snapped out of it and remembered what I had to do: Go and see what was on the other side of the rusted door. As quietly as I could as to not alert Crowe. Surprisingly, even though the outside of the door looked old and rusted, it didn’t make a sound when I opened the door that towered in front of me. There was no turning back now at this point, but every time I think about it, I wish there was. Nearly every day I wish that I could just forget about what was behind the door, about Croweville, about Crowe himself, and most importantly, what happened to Gloves.

The room was grey and dirty and smelt absolutely awful. Tools hung from the ceiling ranging from drills to spanners, all covered in a dark substance, almost like rust. There was a large metal vent connected to a structure in the far left corner of the room, a hole was present so that objects could be dropped into the vent, or even get out of it. On top of it were cardboard boxes with string, I figured this was where food for the Communion was prepared, which confused me greatly. If this was where they prepared the food, why was there a kitchen in the first place inside of the Communion? On the structure there was a clean white sink, as if it was just recently cleaned, albiet with noticeable bloodstains dotted around it. In the middle was a ladder that seemed to reach up to the heavens, it would take me forever to climb that, but at least I now found a supposed exit out of Croweville. Near the far wall was a refrigerator which contained several upon several plastic bags with about 3 rats inside of each, the mousetrap still attached to their limp bodies.

On the side of the structure was a switch, which when turned on operated the garbage disposal unit inside of the sink. I accidentally dropped the voicebox inside of the drains, the mechanisms from the disposal unit created a loud grinding sound, fearing that Crowe would hear me, I turned it off as fast as I could. The drain caught several pieces of fabric and brown animal fur, the colours almost faded out by the darkness, but it looked like a piece of clothing from what I could make out. Underneath the sink was a cupboard with the door slightly ajar, almost as if it is was intentional. That was where that awful smell was coming from. With a nervous hand, I opened the door and looked inside. And what was inside of the cupboard severely traumatised me.

After I escaped from Croweville, I was traumatised, as any kid would be. I saw about 3 psychologists in my lifetime as I tried to convince them of what happened there. Due to several coping mechanisms that my therapists taught me, I can’t remember the exact scene but the one colour that stood out to me was the colour red. Red was everywhere, a mysterious body was inside covered in the thick red liquid itself. I pulled out the body and stared in confusion and shock for a good few minutes. The face was almost unidentifiable, the body was mangled from being stuffed inside of the cramped cupboard, but the clothing was most certainly recognisable, especially the now crimson gloves. I stood there for a good few minutes until the dinner announcement from the loudspeakers snapped me back from reality. My motive was now clear; I had to escape from Croweville.

I stamped off into the Communion, strangely Crowe was nowhere in sight, I thought I was going to be dead as soon as I stepped out into the Sanctum, but he seemed to be missing. I sat on one of the tables on my own, feeling sad and angry due to... well, what happened to Gloves. I got my dinner from the massive vent and proceeded to pick at it, not feeling hungry in the slightest. But that was when I noticed something strange.

Inside of the messy meat were screws, small enough to fit inside of a voicebox. But now I realised something far greater, I had no idea what kind of meat that we were given, until I saw little bits of hair and fur and most frightening of all, fabric. That was when I realised, the meat wasn’t chicken, or lamb, or any other kind that would be normal to eat. We were eating a messy combination of rat meat and... humans. Maybe... maybe that’s what happened to Gloves, she just wasn’t grounded down into edible meat first. Maybe that’s what happened to the other kids who broke the rules or whose who were too old for Croweville anymore, so even from the start, we were eating our fellow friends in a cannibalistic nature without prior knowledge.

That shook me to my very core so my eyes darted for something to look at, anything that would distract me from this newly-learned fact. It was then that I noticed the vent where the food came down from. It looked like I could squeeze inside, if I had the willpower than maybe I can go back to what was behind the rusted door, that’s gotta be where the vents lead to! And then I could climb that colossal ladder and escape! It seemed like a good idea, I just needed to find an opening. I decided that when everyone was supposed to be sleeping, that was where I could make my escape. Before I could do that though I had to go get something.

I rushed to the Sanctum and sure enough the teddy bear was still there. I picked up and stood there in silence for a good few minutes. Then, wet hot tears came streaming down my face. I had to escape, not just for Gloves, but to save everybody inside of Croweville. As soon as I escaped, I would call for help, police, secret agents, anything that could help. A loud crashing noise alerted me, I seemed to come from behind the altar. I looked at the rusted door and I saw a recently installed padlock on the door handle, probably installed by Crowe. I knew this wasn’t going to be easy but I had to act fast and make sure my plan went off without a hitch. I went into the Cradle, and acted to be fast asleep for a good few hours, to make sure that nobody would suspect a thing and tattle on me to Crowe, so I wouldn’t have the same fate as many others in the past few years.

When I got out of bed, I had to make sure that I was being as quiet as possible. The silence in the Pathway was deafening, it seemed like an eternity had passes, but Crowe was nowhere in sight. Finally, I stood in front of the Communion’s entrance. I stole a lighter from one of the younger kids, without it I would be bumping into every table, making noise. But with the light in hand, I climbed into the metal vent, it’s gaping mouth beckoning me to freedom. I barely had room to climb but I only had a short period of time until the breakfast food would be transported through the vent, forcing me back down. It was cold and damp inside of the vent and it was a very tiring process. By the time I got onto the other side I was so tired I could barely move.

I placed my head on the hard wooden floor, wanting to rest, just for a minute. But I was at the final hurdle now, all I had to do was climb the ladder to freedom. It took almost as long to climb the ladder as it was to crawl through the vent. My bones and body ached tremendously but I had to climb, I had to ascend. I had to, for Gloves. A bright light from above welcomed me as I climbed more and more. I placed my hand around the edges of the light and I could feel a sharp pain striking down on my fingers, accompanied by rain and a sloshy texture from the ground. I hauled my entire body as I felt rain pour down on my body. I didn’t care that my hand hurt, upon further inspection I realised that the pain was from a mousetrap. This was probably where the rats from the freezer would be caught and eventually thrown down below. My eyes started to feel heavy and I finally slept for what felt like forever.

When next I woke, I was in a dirty orange room, on a comfortable bed in a room that I didn’t recognise. Next to me was the Gloves’ gift that I made and the painful memories started to rear their ugly heads again. On the far side of the room was an elderly gentleman sitting on a chair, concerned for my wellbeing. Apparently, he found me on his daily morning walk and brought me to a bed & breakfast that he owned. I tried to tell him about Croweville and all of the other things I experienced but he simply dismissed it as my overactive imagination. He could tell that I was disturbed so he contacted a brother of his who worked as a child psychologist.

The rest of my life was ok I guess, I’m 20 now but I couldn’t get those images out of my head. The old man named me Caleb, I don’t think that was my actual name, but if I told him that my name was supposed to be Beaky then he’d probably laugh again. I was now living in Scotland, Fife to be precise. I started working at a local orphanage about 3 months ago and everything was normal, that was until yesterday. A little girl went missing when playing near the sea at night, and nobody has seen her for 24 hours. I fear that what happened to me, was happening yet again...