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Demon trouble

shallow focus photo of orange cat near laptop computer

February, 2021-2022 Schoolyear

I began unpacking my backpack uncomfortably. I didn’t realize the library near my school was so popular on the weekends. The only reason I was here was because Joy needed to take the entrance exams for our high school and had missed the school-wide ones due to Covid quarantines. Therefore, I, her driver, was stuck here for 3.5 hours while she took tests. I didn’t know who to pity more. The library might have been filled with books, but it was also filled with people. 

I don’t like being in crowded areas, especially filled with people I don’t know, with my back turned towards them. However, a table that fit that exact description was the only empty one I could find. The few bright sides to this arrangement were that it was a little warmer than the others since it sat in the sunlight coming through the windows above me, and the windows to my left provided a nice view of the fountains. However that didn’t make up for the strangers. 

I plugged in my laptop, and after a bit of tinkering with the charger to make sure it worked correctly, started to get to work on my senior project, ignoring the muttering of the old man at the table to my right. I thought I heard a “Damned Kids” but had no idea what I did that’d annoyed him. Sliding into work mode, I began editing a chapter I’d completed months earlier, and before I knew it an hour and a half had passed and the man’s table was empty. 

I stopped for a snack. It was around 1 pm, and I’d brought lunch. However, I’d forgotten to bring a water bottle. After a brief inner debate, I wandered over to the public water fountain, took a few sips, and then returned to my bench. Someone new had found the vacated table near me and sat their stuff down. 

 I was rather in a writing mood now, Mephi might not have returned since before midterms, but that didn’t stop my creativity from flowing oddly whenever I felt he could possibly appear. It had happened tons of times since I’d last seen him. I’d visited our tab, left the seat next to me or across from me open, even whispered his name a few times hoping that somehow he’d hear me. For a while, I even worried about him. What if he’d been kidnapped? Or somehow flung into some alternate dimension? Or banished from earth? What if he was in trouble? Then I realized after re-reading our conversations that literally nothing on this planet could hurt him. Yes, it was strange that he disappeared after insisting he needed to talk to me, but it wasn’t like I could go on a quest to rescue him. Technically, I only had suspicions that he even needed help. I had no clue what type of help, how I’d provide it, or why he’d been so insistent on talking. He could be just pouting that I wouldn’t talk to him that day. 

I sighed, and went back to editing my senior project. A chair scraped loudly nearby, disrupting my music. I glanced up. At the table the annoyed man had vacated a dark haired kid about my age had sat himself down. He was facing away from me, but his appearance sparked my interest. Everyone else in the library was years older than the both of us and looked like the homeless folk that hung around this part of the city. He did not. His clothes may have been shabby, but they looked like they were shabby just to fit in, and not from actual use. He had pulled a book out, but didn’t look particularly interested in it. Instead he glanced to either side nervously before quickly drawing something on the table next to it with his finger. His hand was too quick for me to make out the shape he’d drawn.

After studying the back of his head for a few more seconds, I was almost sure his ears were pointed beneath his black fluffy looking hair. The hair was shorter than I remembered, but the color was the same, a black so dark it was almost blue. I paused my music, took out my earbuds and hissed a one word question his direction. 

Mephi?”

 The demon startled. I knew he heard me. 

“What are you doing here?” He hissed back. 

I didn’t like the way he emphasized the ‘you’. It felt almost accusatory. “I could ask you the same question after you disappeared on me for a month and a half!” I shot back quietly. He might be doing his magic-y thing so nobody would hear us, but my instincts were to be quiet in a library. 

 “Could you hide yourself for the next five minutes!?” His expression was more than a little desperate. 

I opened my mouth to argue, to tell him that I wasn’t going to leave until he explained his disappearance, but his green eyes begged, and I remembered my worries that he might be in trouble with the underworld. 

That wouldn’t explain why he wanted me gone, but it was enough to make me at least wander off to the adult fiction section for five minutes. I took my phone, and checked it constantly while leaning against a shelf, eventually the five minutes were up, and I marched right back. Mephi was still there, thank goodness, a little worse for the wear, his hair stood up like he’d been zapped with lightning, but he was in one piece and looked relieved. 

“Come.” I ordered him, and then, pointing at the chair across from mine. “Sit.” 

He sat. 

“What did you draw on the desk earlier?”

“What, you’re not going to ask me how I’ve been?”

“I’ll get to that eventually. First things first though, why did you need me gone? Were you summoning a superior or something?”

“I thought the first thing was what I drew on the desk?” He grinned at me, but his eyes looked uncomfortable. 

I smiled at him. “Cute, but you’re delaying answering the question.”

He sighed. “I wasn’t summoning my boss per say. I was accepting a call from my probation advisor.”

I blinked at him. Twice. “Your what now?”

He fidgeted. “I’m in something that’s similar to your In school suspension I think. I’ve been doing a bad job at demoning, so the higher-ups have been getting on my case. Apparently I need special sessions and counseling on how to be evil better. Because you’re so uniquely sheltered and lawful-good, I need to find creative ways to lure you to the dark side.”

I grinned, seeing a joke potential. “Here’s a hint, it’ll take more than just cookies.1” 

“Yes, well, that much is obvious.” Mephi sighed. “And technically, I’m not allowed to appear before you physically until I’ve ‘turned you’. So you being right behind me as I call the person who’s supposed to check in on me and make sure I’m following all the rules and being a good little demon, was far from the ideal situation.”

“That’s why you freaked out so much.”

“Yep.” We both stared at each other, waiting for the other person to break the silence first. Eventually, I pull up our google docs document and start typing down our encounter.

“What are you doing?!” Mephi bristled angrily.

“What do you think? Writing the encounter up.” I respond, confused by his sudden harshness. 

“You can’t do that, they can’t know that we’ve met! I’ll get in serious trouble!”

“But my family will want to know.” I protested, as he pulled the laptop away from me. “Besides, my password is pretty complex and this isn’t even the same tab I used to use for our stories. I reorganized everything a week ago. Nobody will find anything!”

“You literally labeled it “Mephi Stories: Chronological order” Sarah! All they’d have to do is hack your account, peanuts for the tech guys, and search my name in your documents. They’ve done it before, and they can do it again.”

“Fine, I’ll rename it!” I snapped back, stealing my laptop from him and cutting all but the first letter of his name from the title. 

“Don’t you care if I get in trouble from this?” Mephi asked. 

“How could you get in trouble from my stories?” I snorted. 

“They literally used them as evidence against me, Sarah! Evidence that I was failing at my job!” 

I glanced up at him. His face was serious. Slowly, I closed the laptop. 

“Alright, you win, no recordings of this until it’s all over. But I can’t leave mom on that cliffhanger forever, okay?”

Mephi looked relieved. “Just keep it quiet until the probational proceedings are done, that’s all I ask for.” 

I nodded, and put my laptop away, hesitating as I realized I had nothing for my hands to do. Eventually they ended up folded on the table in front of me. 

“Remember how I said a while back that I was in a special school since you’re in one?” Mephi began.

“Yep. AP Schools right? And MAGNET classes. I remember. You also just said you were in In-School Suspension, which is weird since-”

Mephi cut me off “Since I’m actually not in school right now. I’m technically on what amounts to a class field trip. Really I shouldn’t even be here, but they suspended me when I was chatting with you, thinking I was in hell like a good little demon. Suspension leads to an immediate cancellation of inter-dimensional travel rights, so unless they un-suspend me and then immediately re-suspend me- which would involve heinous amounts of paperwork -I’m trapped on earth.

“In comparison, not overall a bad position to be in.” He finished, smiling. “Except distance learning sucks because the connection of Earth internet and Hell internet is intermittent at best, and any class I’m absent in will not be counted as ‘excused absence’ so I might not be able to graduate. I was trying to alert you of this fact before Christmas and warn you that things might get a little hectic for a while and I couldn’t be seen talking with you, but you had your own stuff to deal with.”

“Sorry about that.” I apologize. “I should have realized it was important. You almost never insist on talking with me, I should have made time for you.”

Mephi waved me off. “It’s all down the drain now, no use crying over spilled milk as you humans say. You had your own outside life that you had to attend to, and that took priority because that’s what you’re living with when I’m not here.”

“Perhaps there isn’t any use in it, but I feel like you should at least know that I’m going to try and listen to you more often. Even if you can’t be a part of the rest of my life, you’re still an important factor in my reality.”

Mephi grinned. “All the sappy stuff out of the way, it’s probably actually a good thing you did turn up just now since I have just received the description for the task needed for the big boys downstairs to take me off probation.”

“Oh?” I asked. Something felt off about this…

“I just need to convince you to make a few bad decisions. Things that will be enough to throw off your life goals, plans, or at least your grades. Then my suspension ends and everyone ends up happy.”

“I’m guessing you weren’t supposed to directly convey that to me and try to guilt trip me into making bad decisions?” I asked, slightly coldly.

“I mean they probably didn’t plan for this outcome.” Mephi shrugged. “But whatever gets the job done am I right? Besides, the traditional methods of coercion or whispers in your ears never work with you, and your apology was just the perfect recipe for a guilt trip.”

“Maybe you don’t need those demon lessons on how to be more evil.” I muttered. “Guilt tripping your friends.”

“Thank you for your gracious words.” Mephi climbed off his chair and did a theatrical bow, full with hand flourishes and one knee bent. When he looked up at me, his dark locks of hair had conspired to try and hide the twinkle of mischief in his green eyes, but his grin gave away his intent. “I always aspire to be the best at the worst things I do. So, how about trying to do something vaguely evil for a friend?”

“I draw the line at murder Mephi.” I warned, smiling -despite my best efforts- at his enthusiasm. 

“I know. I know.” He waved his arms placatingly, revealing one of my notebooks in his hands. “I have something a lot less drastic in mind, to fit with your almost puritanical nature. We’ll just procrastinate on a few things.”

“When did you get my agenda?” I asked, staring at the notebook in disbelief.

“Sleight of hand, luv.” Mephi said, adopting a slightly-condescending-but-still-cute British accent. “While you were staring into my pretty green peepers and listening to my declaration of devotion to evil, my hands were busy with your backpack’s zippers.”

“How did I not hear that?”

“Too distracted I suppose. Now, let’s find things for you not to do.”

In his typically useful Mephi fashion, he starts breaking down things into manageable bites. “You normally have two types of projects Sarah, self assigned- which I don’t know why anyone would do -and school assigned. Seeing your dedication to your grades, you probably wouldn’t want to delay any of the shorter term projects because that seems to be what makes or breaks your grades.” He plopped my laptop in front of me and opened it, navigating to the Teams portal where my teachers assigned work. “Eliminating the small stuff, we can then break things down into physical and online homeworks.”  

When we were done brainstorming and searching through my agenda and documents for tasks not yet done, we had seven things that Mephi could try to convince me to procrastinate on. “By the time we’re done here, I should have at least convinced you to not work on five of these for the next two weeks. You’ll have to promise me not to work on any of them.” 

“You sure this will help you get back into hell?”

“Is this a face that would lie to you, Sarah?”

I looked at Mephi’s grin, and answered, “Even if it’s not, I can change it to one that I think would.”

“Aww… But I like this format. I’ve been told it makes me irresistible.” He pulls a pouty face. 

“Perhaps in your dreams since you can’t really interact with anyone else on Earth.”

“Won’t is different from can’t. And it could have been a demon. Or it could have been you. I have the ability to change your memories, you know.”

“Aside from the fact that that is totally creepy…” I said, not entirely believing him and trying to steer us back on track. “Technically, you’ve already convinced me on this one.” I pointed out ‘Write up Mephi encounter.’

“Exactly, so that won’t count.”

“I don’t understand, shouldn’t it already be completed?”

“If I’ve already done it, it’s not a challenge, Sarah. By your own logic, I shouldn’t reward myself for it.”

“I don’t see what challenges have to do with getting back into hell.” I muttered, as we started going through the list, bickering a little here and there over semantics.

By the time we had finished, Mephi had managed to convince me to delay my work practicing German, writing up a new chapter of the novel I was working on, working on dad’s website, and two parts of my senior project. He couldn’t convince me to not work on Abe’s Birthday present. “His birthday is at the end of the month, if I delay any further, he won’t get a present.” was my defense. He let it slide, not attempting to sabotage me any further. 

However once I swapped back over to my senior project tab and continued my work from earlier he did begin to kick up a fuss. 

“Really Sarah?” He asked, staring over my shoulder. “We just went over this! This much work can’t be good for you. Are you punishing yourself for something?”

“I’m so close to being done. Just another 15 minutes.”

“But you could be writing fun things! Or reading webtoons!” Cajoled Mephi. 

“I know how to make the project better though!” I responded, trying to explain.“I just need to highlight all the changes I made today, if I delay this it will get harder to find the older version and compare it with the current version.”

“You’ll be working the rest of the day, even without this project. Can’t you take a little break?”

“Mephi, you just convinced me to push off five other very important projects, this is due next Friday, don’t push your luck.”

“I prefer to call it practicing my skills. Very little of what I do is luck based, Sarah.”  Mephi grinned, but I was already highlighting in my google document. When I next looked up, I was done, and he was gone. 

1 I’m pretty sure people outside our family know this reference as well, but just in case I’ll explain. “Come to the dark side, we have cookies.” is the quote I was trying to make a joke off of. I don’t know where it’s from, but it gets tossed around in our family a lot.

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