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Heart in Glass

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In Eerie, Indiana, kids still talk about the legendary Melanie “Wild One” Monroe and the last stunt she ever tried.

The plan, according to those who claim to have been there, had been to skateboard off the roof of the World O’ Stuff, perform some sort of complicated flip in midair, and land safely on the roof of the restaurant next door.

The actual execution had involved a slight miscalculation, and the sudden, messy interference of gravity.

Kids who’ve heard the story stare at the spot on the pavement where fourteen-year-old Melanie supposedly met her fate with the sort of awe reserved for the brave yet amazingly stupid.

***

In another Eerie…

It’s mostly the adults who talk about Melanie Monroe, the sweet, quiet little girl who died while waiting for a heart transplant from a donor who never appeared, and wasn’t that a tragedy? At this point, those who can sometimes express loud and fluent gratitude for the fact that at least their kids are healthy, as if it’s a ritual they need to observe every time this subject comes up, lest they find themselves in the same position as Melanie’s poor parents.

Among the kids, it’s only Devon and Marshall who really remember and regularly visit her grave. One or the other of them—they try to avoid ever being there at the same time—will sometimes bring her flowers, then stand for a few awkward minutes, saying nothing. In time, even they move away and move on.

***

In another Eerie…

Melanie eventually makes peace with the spirit of Devon, and manages to negotiate the sort of life that allows her to pursue her own interests, including dating other people. She has a few more or less satisfactory romantic relationships in her teens and early twenties before she eventually returns to Marshall Teller. They marry when they’re both twenty-five and settle down in Eerie, buying a house a few blocks over from Marshall’s parents.

She gets a job in logistics management at the Eerie Dairy, and prides herself at being the only mom in the PTA who takes skydiving lessons and can probably still execute a perfect bootlegger’s turn. Marshall works for his father’s company and writes short stories in his spare time. She tells herself they’re happy, in love, and still the same people they always were despite getting just a bit little older. At least up until the day she overhears her six-year-old daughter telling Marshall about the monster eating out of their trash can.

She hears her husband reply that he, too, used to believe in all sorts of scary things when he was young, and while scary stories can be fun, it’s important to remember that in real life, the only danger to the Teller family trash is probably a raccoon. It’s a perfectly reasonable thing to say, and she can tell he means it. She doesn’t understand why it makes her feel so devastated.

***

In another Eerie…

A part of Melanie realizes she might be ready to try dating again when she meets a guy named Dash X at Marshall Teller’s funeral, of all inappropriate places.

She’s still gun shy after losing two sort-of boyfriends in a span of mere months, and it doesn’t help when Dash refers to her as the Black Widow of Eerie, either. So it takes almost two years of random encounters and increasingly snarky conversations before she finally decides to ask Dash out. She’s surprised when he says yes.

Theirs is never a comfortable relationship. It’s fueled by danger and adrenaline, and consists mostly of furtive late-night make-out sessions in places where they’re likely to get caught, and daring each other into escalating acts of juvenile delinquency that start with petty theft, trespassing, and just the tiniest bit of arson, and end when, after a bout of what begins as mostly kidding around, she realizes she’s actually managed to talk him into helping her rob the Eerie Savings and Loan.

They’re just kids. They have no idea what they’re doing.

It ends about as well as you’d expect.

***

In another Eerie…

Melanie “Wild One” Monroe manages to talk her parents into letting her try kart racing. They give in with the realization that organized motorsports with kids her own age has got to at least be safer than anything Melanie’s likely to get up to when left to her own devices these days. She winds up being surprisingly good at it.

The Monroe family moves away from Eerie the following October. Melanie still misses Devon, but otherwise never thinks much about the small town where she used to live. At least not until years later, after she’s managed to turn her hobby into a successful career, when during an autograph session at Indianapolis, she suddenly finds Simon Holmes standing in front of her, handing her a copy of her Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, and asking, “So…are you a girl or a lady?”

She remembers, and can’t help but laugh.

She also can’t help but notice that the cute, little red-haired kid has somehow grown into a tall, handsome red-haired man.

They don’t have time to catch up then and there, given the mile-long line of fans behind him. She writes her phone number under her signature before handing the magazine back to him.

***

In another Eerie…

Actually, Melanie’s fateful career decision is made when she’s seventeen, during a make-out session with Syndi Teller that isn’t going particularly well. Melanie’s into it, and she can tell Syndi wants to be, but is once again distracted by yet another project with yet another looming deadline in one of her journalism classes.

It’s at this point Melanie simultaneously decides to a) give up on dating college women, and b) find out just what it is that’s so fascinating about journalism anyway.

Years later, NBC News correspondent Melanie Monroe is killed while on assignment covering the civil war in Saradia. The television-viewing citizens of the nation mourn.

***

In yet another Eerie…

Thirteen-year-old Melanie lies in her hospital bed, watching her many lives play out before her in the glass of the otherwise perfectly ordinary-looking antique hand mirror her parents bought her from Eerie’s city-wide yard sale.

Sometimes she lives fast. Sometimes she dies young. Sometimes she even leaves a good-looking corpse.

Other times, life is slow, or death bloody and ugly. Sometime she dies old, surrounded by her great-grandchildren, or by cats, or by an army of her fellow townsfolk making one last stand against the darkness.

There are shorter lives than this one, and many that are much longer. There are better and worse ways to die than in a hospital after collapsing during her walk home on a day she thought she was feeling fine.

She regards the mirror, taking a moment to wonder about its prior owner and to regret that she won’t get to tell Marshall he was right and that she’s now seen more Eerie weirdness than he probably ever will in one lifetime, before letting it fall from her hand.

The glass shatters when it hits the ground.