Late May, 2021
Note: this one is a little long,
“You’re here again.” Mephi says, looking at me. “Why are you in this tab?”
“Well, I didn’t get into Gov school. I need to reorder my life plan list.” I reply, staring at my computer screen instead of the handsome demon lounging on the arm of the couch.
“Wait, You didn’t get in? After all that work making those resumes?! Collecting all those stories?!”
“Yep. Waitlisted forever.” I smile sadly. “I tried my best, but it wasn’t enough. So now that school is over I need to reorder my summer. Life still goes on.”
I get distracted by my little brother interrupting to ask me to set up Doctor Who, but finish with that soon enough. Mephi is still waiting for answers when I’m done with him though.
“So what’s that paper that you have there?” He asks, nodding towards a sheet on my lap that is not even halfway covered with small boxes and writing. “And why do you have so many tabs open?”
“Well a couple of those can be closed.” I say, pressing a few buttons. “There we go. Now the one on the far right is for music, the ones next to that were for once I’m done with this, and that one on the left is for AP scores. I wanted to find out when I’ll receive them. Come to think of it, I should probably note that down on my phone. Give me a second.” I go over to the charging area, pick up my phone, and set a reminder. Then I go to the top of the document and put a reminder there. “There! All done!”
“But what’s the sheet of paper about?” Mephi picks it up and reads it. “College? You’re planning on going to school longer than the mandatory 13 years? Why?”
“To further my education. Even simple jobs want college grads nowadays.”
“You don’t need a certificate to be an author.” Mephi says, raising an eyebrow.
“Yes, but not all authors are successful enough to live off what they make from book sales.” I say, grabbing the paper. “I might need to do something else for a living as well. To go into the fields that I’d be interested in, I need a college degree. Masters, doctorate, at least something!”
“So what are you interested in? Some sort of uber-sweet volunteer lifestyle no doubt.”
“That would be nice, but probably wouldn’t pay well. Besides, I’d have to work with people a lot. Which could get very annoying very fast. No, I was thinking of some sort of biology or environmental science degree. Something that will help me help the world prevent or survive the coming apocalypse.”
“You seem very certain there is one.”
“Well even if there won’t be, it’s better to be prepared, no?”
“Hmmm…” Mephi leans over my shoulder. “That doesn’t explain why German is also in that box of what I’m assuming are interests?”
“No, well yes, but no. They’re courses I want the college to have. German because it is better to know more than just American English if I’m ever going to be taken seriously when I live in Europe. Although I already know a bit, it would be best to keep it up. Especially since taking a class in it would mean review of grammar with peers. Since we don’t have the VR technology to instantly make everything everyone says to me sound like German, I need some other way to pick it up besides reading or embarrassing myself horribly in front of my grandparents and dad1. By the way…” I go off on another phone tangent to find what webtoons I can read in German. Mephi eventually gets bored of me oohing and ahhing over what episodes have been fan-translated and taps my shoulder.
“So what’s the rest of this stuff?” He asks, looking at my paper which he’s stolen again. “Heart Nature slash greenspace, what? In this one box you say you prefer smaller class size, in the other you say it doesn’t really matter.”
“I don’t know, okay? I have trouble knowing what I would prefer because I haven’t experienced a lot of these things. I’m just trying to narrow down colleges. I want something that offers these courses-” I gesture to the earlier small box. “-preferably fit these requirements, and have an Honors college. I have to make a list of ones I like, and then dad would be willing to take me on a college tour.”
“So, you’re making a list so you can take a tour to narrow down your list to send applications before the end of summer.”
“Yep. Then I have to start finding scholarships and apply for them.”
“And at the same time you are also trying to set up a website and get ready to publish your book, and get a headstart on your senior project, which may be a lot harder than you think if you choose to change it to make it slightly more interesting. Not to mention you have to find a mentor for that senior project-”
“Don’t remind me.” I mutter. We both pause as my mom comes in to talk about the pool rules for the summer.
“Hey at least your siblings won’t be bugging you to lifeguard for them.” Mephi says after she’s done.
“True.” I sigh.
“But that doesn’t make this summer much easier.” He says frowning. “No wonder you’ve been slacking off since school ended. You don’t even know where to get started with all of this do you?”
“Well that’s what I’m here for!” Mephi says.
“First of all. No, it isn’t. I think you said your job was to lead me onto the wrong path, right?”
Mephi sighs. “True, but-”
I interrupt him. “I wasn’t done yet! Secondly, if I’m going to have you help me with all of this so that I’ll get out of this funk I’ve been in for the past three days, you need an outfit change.”
“Into what exactly?” Mephi asks, suspicious.
“Sebastien Michaelis, tutor form.2” I say flatly. “No negotiations.”
“Acceptable.” Mephi says without batting an eye. We’ve worked it out so that I don’t change him without his permission and a warning of what he will be changed into, (Except in special cases or as a punishment). This has worked out pretty well for us, and the few times I do change him without warning he has later admitted that he probably deserved it.
After his transformation he whips out a quill pen and says. “We need to make you a list, and break this all down Sarah. From what I know of you, that’s the best way to get things done. You need a to-do list, with slightly more reachable goals than ‘Making a college list, being great at German, publishing the story, and having your senior project completed the summer of your junior year
“Small goals, a day-to-day schedule is how you get things done, and although you’ve often managed to break big projects down by yourself, they’ve never been this big, this important, or this many at once before.
“You know what?” He says suddenly going off topic.
“What?” I say, curious as to what distracted him.
“I think I just figured out what makes junior year so hard. You mentioned that you had trouble understanding that earlier. It’s not the school year that’s difficult, it’s the motivation during the summer before senior year that’s hard. You have so much to do, (too much in my honest opinion), extra time on your hands, and no one to get on your case/no grades directly on the line. Most kids who didn’t do summer homeschooling probably delay it all and freak out!”
“You might just be right on that.” I say, considering. “It would make sense.”
“Anyways, back to that list…” Mephi begins.
“Sorry, but I’ll have to call a halt to that for now, bathroom break.” I say.
When I get back he says. “So, back to the list.” We try to ignore An as he voice types texts on the other couch, but it’s hard.
“German is easy enough to break down.” Mephi begins. “Perhaps don’t practice everyday, or vary your practices. Work something out with Ab,3 do your own stuff, and of course do Tagesschau4 whenever you can.” He writes it all down on the paper for me.
“Now the rest of this will be a bit harder to break down, but you already started with the book publishing, so let’s build off that.” He pauses slightly. “There’s a lot to do for this category, so bear with me. First we need to finish your edits. You are getting quite close. Already at the fights with Lyra right? But you can still start on finding a Beta Reader right now.” I shiver, and he notices. “Sounds scary right? Let’s break that down some more so it’s less scary.
“First of all, you need a book description, correct? Otherwise, no one will be interested. You’ve done all the research you need already. You know your book. You can do this Sarah, it’s just a summary. Also, remember how that one person you worked with earlier had to ask about you because you hadn’t set up a facebook profile yet? Fix that too. Give them info so they feel safe. Offer a book trade. You can make relationships like this, which will help with your senior project. Do this whenever you have a day you aren’t working on your story. You don’t waste a single day that way.
“Next stop in your book publishing journey will probably happen when you are in the beta reading process. You wanted a website right? Now is the time to make one. Your dad said he’d be willing to help, so get it done. While you’re doing that, figure out how/who you want to do your book cover. This is all very important if you want to build up a following. Normal people look at the cover first and then quip/summary to decide if they want to read something.
“Let’s see, what else… Ah! The fun bit. Research on how you want to publish things. This is very important as it can tie into if you are going to do this as senior project research. Traditional publishing, Kindle publishing, Kindle Universe Publishing, Amazon Publishing, Print on Demand vs having many copies vs having only digital copies. Etcetera etcetera. All the fun stuff. I think your mom sent you emails on that. If you want to, you can make this your senior project, although it might be harder to find someone to take you under their wing even if the sources would be easier.
“On to the senior project prep. I think what they said your homework was this summer wasn’t to get the whole thing done. Am I right?” I nod, astounded at how he’s easily just breaking down my summer into manageable chunks. “Just get your subject, your sources, and your mentor. If this all goes right, you’ll have all of those lined up by the end of the summer just from working at your other tasks. So stop worrying about it so much.
“Decide if you want to swap the topic over soon though, and if you do swap it over, consider going to a summer camp or something so that you get experience writing and can find a mentor who is already published more easily. This might cost a bit, which won’t be good for your backpacking trip next summer,5 but will be great in the long run as you’ll gain experience writing in groups and a possible mentor if you can bond with someone.”
“That seems rather underhanded though.” I cut in. “Keeping up a relationship with some lonely soul solely so I can benefit in school?”
“Isn’t that exactly what you’re doing with Ms. J though?6 And she doesn’t mind at all. In fact she tries to pay you for it. Trust me Sarah, this is what all humans do. Humans form relations with other humans for their own selfish reasons. Even kids do it. They don’t want to be lonely, they want to fit in, they want to be popular/powerful, so they ‘make friends’ and either mutualistically or communistically benefit from relationships.” I blink, I’d nearly forgotten Mephi was a demon and not some kind spirit sent to help organize my summer. Thank goodness he started on this tangent and reminded me of his true cynical nature. “The only problem is when that relationship is parasitical, like when they keep asking for money and never pay it back. Those relationships society deems to be evil/unnecessary, but that isn’t what you are doing. You are still in the communalistic region at least. You take nothing but time, and they give you help with school. In return they feel satisfaction. Nothing is wrong with that.”
“Says my demon.” I say, snorting. “You may sound logical, but how should I trust you?”
“Because I am logical. You know all this to be correct. A feeling of satisfaction, the dopamine and serotonin released from helping someone, is more than enough payment for most people. And if it isn’t enough for your ‘mentor’ then they aren’t the right one you are looking for anyway.”
I smile at him. “True.”
“Not to mention, I’m almost unbearably handsome. People trust handsome people more, so you should trust me too.”
“That’s lookism Mephi.”
“It’s also human nature.”
“We should try to fix it, acknowledging it is the first step.”
“You’ll never succeed, and if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!” Mephi says, smirking. A strange look on Sebastien’s face, and I chuckle. “But in all seriousness now.” Mephi continues “the last goal on your list is creating a list of colleges. How does that work exactly?”
“Well, there are thousands of colleges in this country, and thousands more worldwide. I need to choose approximately ten of them I wouldn’t mind going to in a year and two months. Wow, that is closer than I thought. Anyways, I should have like 4 reach ones, that I don’t think I’ll get in, but I’d be pleased if I did, 4 fit ones, that I think I’d get into but are nicer than the certain, and then 2 ‘safe’ colleges that are a sure entrance, easier payment, and not as good as the reach. At least, that’s all the information I’ve gathered.”
“Yep. Very. There are search engines to narrow things down, but they mainly rely on things that I don’t have an opinion on yet like average class size, location, and sports offered. In-state tuition is cheaper than out of state, which could limit me to just Tennessee, but then I could also fool people about if I’m ‘in-state’ since I can live with family if I’m in New York, California, Ohio, Texas, or I think it was South Carolina, so suddenly my options expand again. I don’t know the differences between public and private colleges, but I certainly don’t want to do community colleges or military schools-”
“Awww… You don’t want the blood of other humans on your hands?” Mephi asks, smirking again.
“No thank you!” I reply. “I can deal with sap on my hands, but please, no human blood.”
“Okay. That all makes sense. I think I’ve got the hang of this now.” Mephi says, serious again. “So the first step in making a college list is narrowing things down. It sounds like you’ve already done this a few times.” I nod. “Well first things first, gather the results from those, narrow everything down again, and start comparing lists. Then do research. Rinse and repeat as much as necessary until you have your list. Report to your father with it and schedule a time to visit some of them.
“I think that would take maybe one to two days. You could probably finish it by this weekend. Let’s say I want most of this prepwork done by the 8th. If we haven’t gotten it done by then, no ice cream.”
“What!” I protest.
“Also by then have another couple chapters able to be read by your mother, and all your summer work found if possible. We need to go! Go! Go! There are only two months of summer, and you can’t spend both of them just reading webtoons!”
“I’d run out of webtoons probably.” I mutter.
“True. And you naturally can’t spend this weekend in the pool either. So now is the best time to get this over with. Anyways, once you’ve made your list and visited a few colleges, you should begin working on applications. Wait, no, that’s senior year isn’t it? Wait, you’re beginning senior year this year, so…” Mephi hesitates, confused.
I clarify for him. “Yes, I should start sending them out this summer, or at least start contacting teachers for recommendation letters.”
“This is all very complex.” Mephi says, frowning. “They expect you to do quite a lot this summer.”
“Yes, not to mention some kids are doing internships or summer jobs on top of this for cash.”
“They’re crazy.” Mephi announces, flopping down beside me on the couch. His head peers up at me from it’s position on the cushion.
“6,000 dollars is what I need for the trip to Europe next year. 3,000 if I expect Ab to pay exactly half, and as far as I know, he isn’t getting a job, so that’s unlikely. Frankly I can understand them. An got at least that much from his job, and I don’t know how much J got from his internship but it was at least that much. Meanwhile I don’t know if I’ll even get 100$ from my book which I’ve put way more hours into.”
Mephi sighs. “Sounds about right for hell. So much time spent, way too much work, no guarantee of any cash. But you’re on Earth, can’t you take a break? Find an easier path?”
“What would life be without a few challenges?” I say smiling ironically. “It’s 11 pm. now. If I want to get half the stuff done that you’ve assigned me professor Mephi, I should really go off to bed and get some sleep.”
“Sweet dreams Sarah.”
“I suppose the proper response to you would be less nightmares?” I ask. Mephi laughs and I turn away to close my laptop. When I look back at the cushion next to me, he’s gone.
1 All three are ridiculously good at German because they lived in Austria for a while when my dad was growing up.
2 Black Butler character, you can look up an image really easily, but I probably wouldn’t be able to post one here because of copyright.
3 He also takes German
4 German news broadcast that’s available on YouTube
5 Heading to Europe with Grandparents and Abe!
6 Clarification– it’s not as bad as it sounds. I volunteer to do her housework for service hours, but if I hadn’t needed her for that we’d barely know each other. She insists on trying to pay me and I refuse saying the service hours are enough.