Melanie stands in the middle of the floor, twirling around in her pretty pink tutu gifted to her for her sixth birthday. Her family surrounds her, clapping in awe as she spins faster and faster until she loses her balance and falls into her father’s arms. He lifts her off her feet and plants a soft kiss to her cheek, gazing into her dancing eyes of utter excitement. Her brother, Nick, sits in the corner, eye-balling the sweet exchange before folding his arms in disgust.
Before Melanie’s birth, Nick was engulfed in love and attention from his two loving parents. When his mother died from complications of childbirth with Melanie, life as he knew it changed drastically. His father was forced to sell their home and move due to the financial pressure of losing his job and the overwhelming responsibility of raising two children alone. Melanie was the spitting image of her mother and Nick hated the nostalgia in his father’s eyes when he looked at Melanie. Nick strongly believed Melanie’s existence was the cause of his despair and he missed his mother’s presence greatly. He now feels like the black sheep of the family and decides that on this special day, revenge would be more than sweet and endearing, but satisfying. So, he decides to take Bob up on his offer for Melanie.
Nick goes to the back door to unlock it without missing a beat of the party action, just as Bob suggested. He returns to the party and scans the room for the awkwardly tall Bob, who is present for the celebration of Melanie’s sixth year of life. He finds Bob having a heart to heart with his dad and patiently waits for their eyes to meet. A few minutes into the conversation, Bob glances over, and Nick gives him the long-awaited approval nod. A subtle grin flashes across Bob’s face, and Nick knows the plan would now be in motion. Melanie’s ultimate demise is just a few short hours away.
With eyes closed, Melanie sees red lights, or maybe they are blue. High like the stars, bright like the moon, yet it is soft silk surrounding her body. She is numb, and all sound is muted. She listens with all ears, but not even the crickets care to make her believe that this is a dream.
“Don’t turn off the lights, please,” Melanie begs Nick before bedtime.
Nick constitutes Melanie’s fear of the dark, which never eased as her age progressed, as pathetic. Nick’s infamous scare tactics and movie choices such as Friday the 13th and Hellraiser assisted the lurking shadows of tree branches just outside her window. The wind was howling her name like a creeper standing at her window. Except, the monster is not dressed in a white mask; he has no weapon, yet he is full of intention. He is a man, and the familiar smile as he stands at the foot of her bed gives her the shivering creeps.
“Melanie,” the man whispers. Melanie is still, lying like a doll resting on a plastic bed of pink flowers and butterflies. Melanie follows the voice, yet remains motionless. She is met with images of angels dancing slowly around her room, and she peeks through the shadows to see Bob’s frame.
The walls were closing in, and so were Bob’s hands. Ten inches from her face, 60 seconds of this nightmare of a dream left. The ice cream truck, hopscotch, summer fun, running, jumping, and laughing would end.
Melanie drifts off to the memories of the last twelve hours of celebrating her sixth birthday with friends, family, and those who loved her the most. Knowing her father and possibly Nick were just a few doors down from her nightmare, she screamed out for help, but no sound filled the air. Bob’s presence consumed the room, and he had full control of her every movement. Melanie knew that his admiration for her had probably purposed his current actions. He was addressed as Uncle Bob because he grew up with her Dad and visited frequently. He always motioned for Melanie to sit on his lap, but almost always out of her Dad’s sight. Before bed, Melanie’s Dad tucked her in, promising another day full of surprises to continue her birthday celebration. Melanie smiled sweetly at him and drifted off into candy drops and colorful cotton balls, never thinking this would be their last encounter.
When the 60 seconds ceased, so did Melanie’s heart. Bob wanted more, and he took what the universe would have never given him. As the assault came to its ratchet end, so did Melanie’s story. As Bob whisks Melanie’s lifeless body quietly down the steps out of the unlocked back door and to the trunk of his truck, all that was left of her went riding down the long damp road.