By Mistypaw

Several years ago, the state of New York decided an old church upstate would make a wonderful place to raise children, and so St. Nicholas' Home was founded. After several restorations, it passed the various inspections such places go though and children were brought in from the crowed city orphanages. While they thought the country and open space would be good for the kids, they overlooked that many of the younger ones would be frightened by the long hallways and tall spires. The rule of bedtime didn't need any stronger enforcing than the sun setting over the hills. The rumors of people disappearing and ghosts did such a good job, that teachers never even checked to see if anyone wandered the halls. The few older boys who did it on dares, would often come back with tales of partially seen moving shadows. But no one every noticed that Melissa's bed was always empty at night. The short, pale, thin young girl was often worried upon. People thought she must have been horribly emotionally scared from her parents death. Some thought she was sick. But no one knew that she was the pale face seen from the shadows at night. She was the dark form wandering down the hall.

It was only a few months ago when she came here. It was a miracle she was even alive. She and her father lived in Brooklyn, in an apartment above her father's antique shop. Melissa grew up looking at all these beautiful quiet things. Her father taught her to appreciate and care for them. He and that store were her home. Then one day there was a fight in the street. Melissa was coloring at the counter, when the front window broke. It hit against an old tapestry and there was fire. She heard her father calling her, and she tried to find him. The fire grew bigger and engulfed the whole building, but she still followed her father's voice. The last thing she remembered before she past out was looking at the fire through some colored glass.

Melissa was an insomniac, afraid to sleep for what she may see in her dreams. But even awake these visions chased her through her nightly walks. Her father was never found, though she was somehow safe in the only section the flames didn't go in. She had no other family, her mother having died in childbirth. So the state sent her here. She found a certain bit of peace in the huge gothic designs of the church. It reminded her of the antique shop, and she would often hide in the basement or attic. Melissa was always careful to not let the doors shut.

Then one night there was a storm. She was hiding in the cellar when the door slammed shut suddenly. The room was pitch black. She ran to the door panic stricken to discover it had locked. Quietly, Melissa sat on the stairs and hugged her knees to her chest, watching the darkness. Who knows how long she sat there, and she thought she must have fallen asleep, because then next time she looked at the door, she saw pin points of light coming through the cracked wood. It looked like stars shining as she reached forward to knock, hoping someone would hear.

But she never touched the door. Instead she walked right through, further into the field of stars. Melissa ran a little, but found no way out. She called out in her small voice, "Hello?...." For a few seconds there was silence, until she heard her own voice answer her back, "Come closer..." Melissa stepped forward slowly, and apprehensively. She was walking on nothing. There was no wind, no up, no down. Lost in vertigo, she cried for help... and then she landed.

There was a soft light coming from no where, and she sat on the floor of a large circular library. An old book lied open on in front of her. She read a few lines, and it was like reading something you've read a million times over; only, she knew she never had. She suddenly remembered times and places and other people. All these pictures and stories where there in front of her, but she knew them already. Then she came to an empty page. As Melissa stared at it, a picture showed her sitting on the steps of the cellar. But she was not only scared little girl, and her true name was not Melissa.

The library dropped away and she fell into the picture. She woke up in the cellar, in a cold sweat, feeling as though she had run a mile. Her eyes quickly adjusted to the darkness, and she turned again to the door with a smile. She saw and smelled with newly sharpened senses, and again reached out for he door. Almost as instinct, she fell. She was tiny, and slid right under the door.

On the other side, her perspective slowly returned to her normal height. She smiled and walked on. Melissa was still inside her, but now there was so much more. There were many secrets to be read in her library, and many more she could add. From that night on, the children of St. Nicholas' Home feared the dark, somehow knowing the darkness was more than a vauge shadow. And Melitha watched them all, day and night, out from her midnight black eyes.

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