There is a place that I remember with such clarity that I am frightened by the power and longing one place can bring. I remember the golden gates of the palace and the way they would slowly allow me to enter as if testing my worth. The best part of being allowed to enter was the knowledge that I was worthy enough for the palace of angels. I remember the sounds of music playing lightly, laughter, birds cooing, and above all the melodic voices of the angels. The idea of a fluffy heaven with marshmallows and white stallions is entirely false in everyway there is to be false. Wouldn't you be lost in the blandness of white? No, the palace was gold and vibrant. The corridors were always shined and perfect. They gleamed with a regal importance, which made me reluctant to touch my bare feet to it. No one wore shoes; they all just walked about with their pearly feet grazing the floor. The lighting was natural, except for when night came and I lit vanilla candles to make the stars job easier. The stars were divine. They grinned and beckoned to me from their velvety, blue perch that seemed so close, but was so far away to me. I can also remember the smell, a rich citrus smell mingled with rich vanilla. The orchards were beautiful in the sunlight and the fruits were always large and ripe, weighing down the rough branches. I climbed those branches almost daily, because sitting there while the olive leaves rustled and the angels sang gave me such a peace. It filled my lungs with blessed air and let my mind explore new places. It was like opening floodgates of happy emotions that leapt into me, refreshing and clear. The towers were made of a fine marble and stood majestically over us. They struck the blue sky with a vengeance as if trying to compete. The birds were not rude creatures fighting over scraps, but calm and sweet. They came to sit on your shoulder and never were skittish. They loved you and I loved them. The blankets were silk, the food delicious, the instruments always played serenely, the rivers flowed with a bubbling, pure liquid, and everything was all right. I remember this place with all of my heart and I will return. But for now I am Shauna of the Shadows, and that memory an imprint of my life before. The imprint stays as if in sand and glares at me, staring me in the face with a tantalizing brutality. I wanted to thrust my hand into the sand and push away the desire I have to return. But I can't. So I stay and watch the tides wash up and sink into the sand, because for now I live in the darkness, even though I want to see the golden palace again. So I have no golden sand, smooth and ideal. I have the ashes that leave a horrible dirtiness on my hands, and no amount of bitter tears of regret will wash the marks away.

Shauna looked at the dark alleyway before her and tears raced to her eyes. She was cold, but then she had taken the bronze warmth for granted before. Humans, she glanced around at the bustling people who knew nothing of what she had given them, nothing. She had sacrificed and now she was ash. She was Shauna, the Shadow Maiden. They ripped her name from her and plastered a new one upon her. She ran her pale hands along the worn bricks of the nearest building and lay her cold forehead upon it. How could they have done this to her? The question raced through her mind, but she pushed it away. No amount of pondering would change who she was or what she had done. The past is the past and the past is the future. Mistakes of the past haunt the future. Shauna wandered her way down the alley, ignoring oversized rats that scurried around, and found the broken door. She wound her way through the rubble and found her belongings lying in a small pile. A blanket of thick wool, nothing like the smooth-stop. It kept her warm, no more thoughts of the past. A coarse hairbrush with thick bristles that threaded its way to make her hair straight, her dull black hair, how she longed for-stop. She tugged at it with longing and then picked up her locket. It was beautiful. The intricate detail and ornate engravings made her adore it even more, clicking it open she saw her mother. Her mother with the flowing golden hair and fiery green eyes, a modest smile gracing her tan face, Shauna frowned. The last possession was a piece of a mirror that had broken; she had dug it out of a trash bin. She gazed in it, hoping her normal face would stare back, but instead seeing a pale-faced girl with limp raven hair and gray eyes. They stole her away from herself. She cried herself to sleep in the old building while the wind howled outside, unaware of a concealed angel hovering on the windowsill gazing in at the lost maiden. The angel sent two birds carrying a bundle into. They flew their lustrous wings glowing in the muted light. In the bundle was a golden chain for the locket and two apples. Two glowing apples picked by a shining hand from the orchard in the golden gates. Plucked away from their wonderful lives and thrust into an intimidating world of shadows and deception, but they would be comforted. They would be cherished and appreciated by a friend. The angel soared away with a clear tear in her eye, fearing she had not done enough, but knowing she could do no more.

I was hungry. The want of food burned my throat as I choked down the apple I had found lying near my head. It was another reminder of my golden past; I had to eat it, to make it disappear. I walked over to the window, my hands scraping over the rough concrete, and my eyes raking the view. Nothing was pretty about this place, it was vague and dull, and unlike everything I had come to love from my other life. A voice called out harshly, scraping against my weary mind, begging for help. Suddenly, something took over my body and I was flying, possessed across the landscape. Falling into a back alley, where a young man was holding a weeping child, a stony expression on his face. He was handsome, I had seen creatures like him before, but none this compelling. The little girl in his arms was screaming, hoarsely. I leaned forward and reached out for the child, the boy whipped back. "Who are you?" He asked, his voice steely and cold. "I am here to help," I answered, not knowing what else I should say. He looked at my face and then down to the little girl in his arms, who was pounding his chest with her tiny fists. "Give her to me." Suddenly, protective of the little girl, I reached out my arms and took her into them. He let me, but his eyes watched every move.

I cradled her head in my hand and sat in the middle of the dirty street. I held her in my lap so that her skirts didn't touch the grime, only mine and held her until she paused from the crying to take shaky breaths. Then, I began to sing. I don't know what possessed the song to flow from my lips, but I began to sing, strong and melodic. The song weaved into her system, spreading warmth to cold limbs and spreading happiness to fill the tears. She was quiet in a few minutes, her steady breathing showing she was sleeping. Her hair, golden and curly, fell damp around her face. I tilted her face to the light and saw her rosy cheeks. She was beautiful. The boy still stood above me, menacingly, as if daring me to try anything. I glanced up at him and was caught in the deep azure of his stare. "Who are you?" He asked, his voice less strained and more curious. Should I speak the truth? "I don't know." The words were accurate, I wasn't sure who I was, or who I had used to be. He laughed, but pain wove its way in. "Why was she crying?" I asked, my voice tired, my arms tired from the girl, but not willing to let her go until she was fully satisfied. "Our parents are dead, we were cast from the orphanage." I looked at the girl in my arms, "Do you need a place to stay?" He looked up, "Yes. But I have no money, yet. I still am looking for a job to pay for me and Emma." Emma, the name fit the sleeping child, I smiled. "You may stay with me. Follow this alley down, turn right, and go until you arrive at a broken door, turn left, go up the stairs and then enter the door, curtained with a black torn curtain. In there, you will stay. My belongings are few, but you will find a blanket to wrap the child in. I must go, I will be back."

I handed him the child, something called again, ripping pain through her. He turned and headed down the alley while I lost control of her body and was forced to fly to the next tortured soul. The next was a woman who had lost her baby in birthing; I held her hand through the pain and while the midwife took the baby away from her. She turned and wept on my shoulder, a flower was blooming in my hand. It just appeared, and so I kissed her forehead and she seemed dazed. I set the flower into her hand and wept the sweat droplets off of her head with a cloth. Then, another soul called and I sped away. A little boy who had fallen from a tree and broken his arm, he had no way of getting to help. The vineyard was huge and his cries fell short as he wailed for his auntie. My arms would be strong before the end of this, I decided, as I carried him through the weaving vines to the house. My worn leather sack I wore around my waist caught grapes as I scraped along them; I set the boy on the moist ground. His aunt began to come; I could see her wiping her floury hands on a checkered apron, a toddler hanging to her skirts. I pushed his long hair out of his eyes, settled his arm in a comfortable position, and popped the sweetest grape into his mouth. He smiled, "Thank you, miss." And then, another feeling of pain scraped along my mind and I was off. I vaguely saw his aunt walk out and gasp in shock, but I knew he would be fine.

I walked into my little apartment, exhausted. So many souls needed me at once; it felt as if my very soul was being torn in many different directions. But the looks on their faces.the little boy's gentle grin as he chewed on the grape and the little girl who I had helped find her way home, the laughter of giddy relief. I was exhausted, but something filled me that had never happened before. Pride swelled inside me, because I had made a difference. The feeling left me happy, but still weary. I saw Emma lying on the ground wrapped in my course cloth blanket. Her brother was standing, looking out of the window, and humming a sour tune to no one I could see. He started as my shadow fell across the room and turned to face me, "Who are you?" He asked, voice tense and ready, "Answer me honestly this time, your name."