Mary shivers, swinging her legs over the edge of a park bench. She should be used to the cold by now, but still her toes are numb with cold and the wind bites through her coat, gnawing at her skin. Her icy hands grip the very brink of the slotted bench, and she tries to make her teeth stop chattering.

The sky darkens gradually; time has gotten away from her. Just a moment ago, she could have sworn, it was grey, bitter morning, and the fog had surrounded her feet as she ventured across the park to the same bench, by the same towering oak tree.

But the December sun has set, and left the powdery snowflakes on their death plummets silhouetted against a black sky. The peace envelopes her porcelain features and forces her delicate feet to stop swinging; forces even time itself to stop.

The snowflakes fall on Mary's thick, dark lashes and hood her midnight hair, billowing down her back. She gazes at the sky absently, shrouded in a distant memory.

Bob slaps the computer monitor, cursing like a sailor and massaging his temples. The monitor is bulky, a mono-color grey that does nothing for the bland, dull white that graces the plain walls.

Shaking his head, Bob calls out to her. "Mary!" he cries, eyes still fixed on the screen.

As she dashes in, winded, he looks up finally, a pleading look on his face. "The computer's being stupid."

She puts a hand over her pale face, sighing. "Bobby… God, I thought something happened to you."

He crosses his arms defiantly, furrowing his brow. "Something did happen to me." His hands gesture wildly at the monitor. "It's not working!"

She smiles in remembrance, a sad smile. She bites her lip, and in doing so looks much older than she is. She is, in fact, only fifteen, but her face tells a story of a person who lived beyond those years.

Now cold to the bone, Mary catches something streaking past with lightning precision, an orange blur in the black-and-white world that she's grown so accustomed to. She stands, half of her cloaked in curiosity, half of her yearning to get out of the cold.

She follows in the direction that the form went, craning her neck to see what lies ahead on the concrete. Squinting, she tries to see in the dark, and somehow takes a wrong turn. She doesn't notice, straining to distinguish one thing from another in the gloom.

A blur, a streak of orange flashing against the grey, whizzes past Mary, who runs after the shape with renewed vigor. At least she's getting a little warmer.

She chases the form all the way to a spot, shadowed in moonlight. Stopping, the trees creaking all around her in the wind, she rubs her frigid fingers together, her breath making a cloud of fog before her face. In the clearing ahead of her, freed from all of the spindly trees that had survived the prolonged winter, sits the rusty skeleton of a merry-go-round.

The paint lies chipped and worn, its cheerful and bright colors becoming saddening and dim in the haunting moonlight. A ginger cat--the orange blur that had beckoned her to the carousel--snakes around the legs of the horses that had always scared the hell out of Mary. That calliope melody, and the way all the carved wooden horses seem to be in great pain--their eyes rolling wild, their yellow teeth bared, their bodies straining. She had cringed at the wheeze of the roundabout as it winded to a stop.

The center panel, a pillar of mirrors that wink in the glow of the moon, contorts her image like a spoon fresh from a bowl of cereal on the kitchen table. The mirrors are pockmarked, worn so that the reflection that looks back at her is foggy and blemished, distorting her heavy coat and dark brown eyes.

Mary drifts over to the merry-go-round staying completely silent, her feet landing as softly they can on the damp, frozen ground, as if she has to be careful not to wake the demons from the cold, midnight forest.

Printed on the slanted top of the carousel, like a beach umbrella, are five clowns, sneering down at her from their layer of balloons and party streamers carved into the roof. She inspects one with orange hair, and a particularly menacing expression on its face. A side blue smile which is painted on the clown's face and its faded costume adds to the air of malice, the purpose of the smile defeated.

Mary slumps on the platform that glistens with snow, just on the edge because of the cover adorned with clowns. Her jeansget soaked, causing her tobeeven colder, but her eyes are fixed on the ground. The ginger cat rubs up against her, and Mary can hear it purr from two feet away. She scoops it up in her arms, stroking its rust-colored fur and gazing up at the carousel.

Funny thing; she doesn't really seem to be frightened by them anymore. Her apprehension is replaced by peace, tranquility. Something settled in her now, she gets to her feet, still cradling the cat in her arms and wanders back on the path.