The man grinned evilly as he slowly advanced toward the cowering girl. Shaking with fear she tried to run, but her feet seemed to be glued to the floor. Laughing maliciously, he grabbed her, stifling her cries with a dirty, sweat grimed palm. She woke screaming!
“Willow are you all right?” cried Autumn, leaving her warm bed to comfort her frightened friend.
“I think so,” she stammered, looking up at the girl sitting on the side of her bed. “I was dreaming of those horrid initiations our friends went through, and now that we’re twelve, I just know ours will be soon!
“I know! I hate them too, all the girls do, but they’re a necessary evil.” said Autumn. “You don’t want be stuck in the children’s ward forever, do you?” Besides, Hannah found a list.”
“What list?” asked Willow.
“Oh! I forgot to tell you!” Autumn said. “While Hannah was cleaning Zachariah’s office, she discovered a list of names with happy faces on it.”
“Oh no!” exclaimed Willow. “He’s already picked us as the next initiates!”
“I know!” said Autumn. “But what’s a few minutes, compared to a life of abuse at the hand of some old man.”
“I dread them both!” Willow said trembling, “The thought of being bound to a withered up old man, or worse, Zachariah, terrifies me! What if we’re separated, or end up at the northern commune with Zachadiah, like some do!”
“If only younger men were allowed wives,” sighed Autumn.
“I know! They’re only allowed the old men’s cast-offs, like Momma Trudy!” Willow said.
“Those poor women,” said Autumn,” traded over and over again, like so much unwanted baggage, until one day they just disappear!”
“We can’t change the future, so why worry about it now.” Willow replied sighing.
At the sound of footsteps, Autumn returned to her bed, just as the door flew open. The head matron quickly shined a light onto the sleeping children and deciding that one of them must have cried out in their sleep, closed the door and went back to bed.
As the five o’clock buzzer shrilled through the children’s quarters, nineteen children between the ages of ten to twelve, scrambled from their beds, making them before exchanging night clothes for work clothes.
Dividing into two groups, some went to help the younger children. Others hurried to the cafeteria to help prepare the morning meal for all those not among the privileged few who received elite status and better food. Those assigned to the dormitories, finished their tasks then took their charges to the cafeteria.
Their meals rarely changed. Breakfast usually consisted of cooked cereal, bread with butter, and powdered milk. Lunch was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and Kool-Aid. Dinner was usually a thick soup made of cabbage, onions, carrots, potatoes, rice, noodles, barley or beans. If there were any scraps of meat left on the bones after the fall butchering, and if you were among the lucky few, you just might get a shred of meat with your bowl of soup, slice of bread and glass of Kool-Aid.
With breakfast over, all children not attending school, hurried to their assigned job at either the laundry facilities, kitchens, canneries, huge gardens, or one of the other numerous menial boring jobs, where they were taught nothing was free, as they slaved for their keep, from seven o’clock to eleven thirty every morning and from one to six every afternoon.
Thankfully all jobs were rotated weekly, so no one was stuck for more than a week at any job. The children five and older hurried to the commune’s school, where for four hours, they were taught only the basics of reading, spelling, writing, math, and history. All girls would attend school until they married as required by law. Boys, not at training camp, were schooled only until they acquired the skills necessary to hold a menial job, of which every penny went into their leaders’ pocket!
Classes over, Willow and Autumn, were working the west potato fields with Mary-Sue, Casey, Clara, and several others, when suddenly the loudspeakers blared to life. “Willow, Autumn, Hannah, Coleen, Killeen, and - - - from dorm one sixty-five, and Jennie, Karen, Gwen, Anna . . . from dorm one seventy-three, report immediately to section two, twenty-four, forty.”
Perplexed, the girls looked questioningly at each other.
“You had better hurry,” said Mary, “that’s Zachariah’s office, and when he calls, you sure don’t want to be late!”
Exactly two hours forty-five minutes later, everyone was forced to endure another humiliating initiation that turned young girls into women. After the ceremony, eighteen, frightened, brutalized, abused and silent, young women were led back to the bath house, bathed, and given three sets of clothes that identified them as young, unmarried women, before being taken to their assigned rooms in the tween’ers compound.
The tween’ers would be expected to continue their schooling, work their assigned jobs, and attend “how to be a good wife” classes, so they wouldn’t wind up some irate man’s punching bag.
They were also to make themselves available to the privileged few, Zachariah deemed worthy of special favors! Within weeks of moving to the tween’ers compound, all of the girls were pregnant, thus giving Zachariah complete control over them.
“After all,” he’d scoffed heartlessly, “everyone knows a mother, will do anything to protect her precious little brats!”
To the new initiates it seemed their only reprieve was the hours they spent in school.
After lessons the children usually hurried to their assigned jobs. On this unusually chilly day, their last class was interrupted by the school guards’ brusque orders to form two lines, boys in one, girls in another. They were then marched onto waiting busses, where they sat in complete silence for over two hours, before being ordered to go straight to their assigned duties.