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The Beginning

fountain pen on spiral book

(September 2020-21 Schoolyear)

Note: I know this looks a little long, but this is the is the only one of its size, so don’t get too worried. The others are mostly around 1/10 to 1/4 as long. That being said, this is a very important part of the story, so please don’t skip it.

Your student,
Sarah Holzmann

Sarah finished her email with a smile and pressed the send button with a sigh of relief. “Only a ton more assignments to go and then I can start writing.” She mumbled to herself. She shut her laptop and turned to find her next piece of work in her notebook that she had written down all the assignments her teachers had given her. Instead of seeing her list though, she found herself staring at a pair of black clothed legs, attached to a torso, attached to the head of what looked to be a boy about her age. She blinked, sure she must be dreaming. 

“Excuse me, could you get off my notebook please?” She eventually managed to get out. 

“Sure.” The kid said, grinning and climbing off the table. “Although that wasn’t quite the reaction I was expecting. I thought that you’d freak out and scream.”

Sarah looked over the kid again, he definitely wasn’t anyone she knew, nor any of the neighbors. Perhaps he was new to the neighborhood? Then again, it still was super suspicious how he had gotten into her house. Surely one of her siblings would have noticed him. He continued grinning at her, dark hair curling rather nicely around his ears. His skin was pale, hair black, wearing a dark shirt and a nice forest green jacket over it. His pants were black as she had already noticed, and he was wearing a nice pair of boots too. Definitely not someone she knew, perhaps one of her older brothers’s college friends invited over? 

He cocked one eyebrow at her mischievously “Like what you see?” A movement over one of his shoulders distracted her. Was he wearing a cape of some sort? She didn’t know one of her brother’s was hosting a D&D cosplay party. Why hadn’t they told her? Scrap that, why hadn’t they invited her?

“Actually yeah, cool cosplay. Let me guess, fantasy steampunk? Where’d you get the jacket?”

“That wasn’t at all what I was talking about.” The boy says with a sigh.

Sarah thought it over, then snapped her fingers as the answer occurred to her. “Oh, you were trying to flirt with me. I’m sorry, nobody’s ever done that to me before. Although warning, you’ll have to pass my little brother’s trial. He wants to vet any boy I date. Which of my brothers are you in a D&D party with? I can probably find them for you.”

“What? No, what’s D&D? And I’m not here to party.”

“D&D’s an RPG, sorry. I thought you might -you know because of the clothes…” Sarah stuttered confused. “Um. Well, if you aren’t here for D&D, who are you and what are you doing here?”

“Oh I’m the manifestation of your fears, your inner demon if you will. I’m here to torment you, mock you, and lead you down the wrong path.” The boy smiled angelically. Sarah’s expression froze as her mind tried to work through what he just said. This couldn’t be real right? This sort of stuff only happened in stories. 

“Um, what?” She finally managed to get out. 

“And here I thought you were supposed to be smart.” The boy sighed. “Okay let’s retry this the less cool way. Warning, spoilers ahead.” He took a deep breath and continued. “Hi, I’m Mephi, no it’s not short for anything. I’m your personal demon. I’m here to make your life miserable and lead you astray. No one else can see me. Yes this wouldn’t normally happen, but in the future you’re going to be forced to write a short story about yourself. I’m the antagonist.” A smile started growing on Sarah’s face as she considered the options, but Mephi quickly noticed it and shut it down. “Don’t get too excited, there is a page limit, and a lot of stuff you have to cover.”

“Darn it.” Sarah muttered. “Well what is it supposed to cover?”

“Your goals and how much you’ve grown in them.” 

Sarah’s eyes widened “Darn it.” She muttered again.

“What’s the problem?” Mephi asked curiously.

“Well,” Sarah said, resting her forehead in her hands. “I don’t even know what goals I’m going to choose yet. The only one I’m certain of is number seven, the one about learning to talk in front of people. I talked with my Mom about it and sent an email to my teacher, but I just don’t know what to do.”

“Excellent.” Mephi said. Sarah glared at him. “I take back what I said earlier, you really do make a good antagonist.”

“What are you talking about? That bit of dialogue got deleted.”

“What? You mean it never happened?”

“Yep, page limit remember. Poor future Sarah keeps having to cut the fun bits, this bit might get cut too. Try to keep up please. You need to show growth after all.”

“Gahh!”

“Hah! I’m annoying you!” Mephi cheered.


About two days later.

Sarah smiled after exiting Microsoft teams. 5th period study hall, time to get to work. She had a new assignment to do. A presentation, too bad she didn’t remember any good super bowl ads, she was normally too engrossed in a book. She should probably ask one of her brothers. She left her laptop and went to her older brother An, he went to a normal public school, and had more regular people friends than she did, he might know the name of the ad she was thinking about.

“Hey An,” she said to him quietly, conscious of her little siblings engrossed in classes two rooms away.

“Hmm?” he replied, busy on his laptop.

“What was the name of that elevator ad from the super bowl?”

“I don’t know. Why don’t you look it up?”

“You can look that sort of thing up?” Sarah said, slightly astounded. 

“Yep, now if you don’t mind I’m in the middle of a class.”

“Oh, sorry.” Sarah said, returning to her laptop. She shook her head at the weirdness of normal people, she never would understand the fad around superbowl ads.

As she started work on her presentation, an uninvited visitor popped up upside down behind her. 

“Whatcha doin’?” Mephi asked, yawning.

“Schoolwork, why are you here?”

“Probably because there is an important story bit coming up. Oh, wow,”

“What?” Sarah asked in spite of herself.

“The last two days of dialogue just got deleted.”

“What! Why?”

“Probably didn’t do enough to advance the plot.”

“Getting to know each other and establishing some sort of relationship is plot…” Sarah muttered darkly.

“Page limits.” Mephi sighed. “Well if our author brought me in right after a cut, there is probably something that is supposed to happen here, otherwise she would have just cut this too. So what exactly are you working on?”

“A presentation for English, we’re supposed to choose an old superbowl ad to study.”

“That sounds boring.” Mephi said, making a disgusted face. 

“There’s a twist,” Sarah added “We don’t have to present, we can do a paragraph of writing instead.” 

“Hah! Finally something for me to do! Time for a personal demon to come in and wreak havoc!” Mephi’s celebration is cut short by a burst of giggles from Sarah. 

“Sorry, personal demon? That just makes you sound like this character from a Manga that I like…”

“No, don’t! Stop it! Stop thinking about it!” Mephi shouted as his form began to blur, white lines streaking about him as if someone was erasing him and replacing him with someone else. When the magic died down, in his place was an immaculately dressed British butler from the eighteen-hundreds. Or well it would have been one, if it wasn’t black and white. In Mephi’s place stood the character Sebastien Michaelis from Black Butler.

“Oh. My. God.” Sarah said stunned. “Did I do that?”

“Yes, now if you don’t mind could you turn me back?” Mephi’s voice said, emanating from Sebastien’s mouth. “I have work to do.”

“How?” Sarah said.

“Just imagine me in my previous form.” Sarah concentrated, and Mephi’s original form returned. “Now please don’t ever do that again.” Sarah opened her mouth to ask questions but Mephi raised a hand to forestall her. “Yes you can control my appearance, I am your personal demon after all. I didn’t tell you about that because I thought you would abuse your power. I can also instantly soak up the information about the book from whatever character you imagine me as, so I get why you thought the idea was hilarious. The reason I’m not allowing you to ask questions is because we’re already on the fourth page and this has to be less than ten. Now can we get back on topic please?”

“We have a topic?” 

“Well yes presumably, wasn’t I about to torment you? Whisper all your fears into your ears and dissuade you from actually presenting your presentation?” Mephi rubbed his hands together, a gleeful look on his face.

“That’s unnecessary.” Sarah said.

“What? Tormenting you is always necessary. It’s literally part of the rubric I’m supposed to follow.”

“Well in this case it is unnecessary, because I have already decided not to present.” Sarah said, beginning to write up her paragraph.

“Um, yay I suppose? But that kinda takes all the fun out of it. And how are you going to show growth?” Mepi protested.

“Eh, I’ve already done two presentations this week, one for German and another for APUSH. Both of those times I think I did really well. This summer I couldn’t even make phone calls to the library or talk properly to the person who was supposed to put groceries in my car at Walmart. I think that shows enough growth.”

“Hmph, well, it’s your grade.” Mephi said, turning away.

“I’ve also spoken up in class a couple of times.” Sarah protested. “And I was co-host for my science teacher Ms. R at least thrice.”

“Yes, but you like Ms. R and feel comfortable around her. I don’t think that counts.”

“Well make up your mind. Do you want me to present or not?” Mephi stayed silent, and Sarah smiled. “I thought so. Did you mention something about a rubric?”

“Ah.” Mephi said, looking rather uncomfortable with the topic. “I should not have said that.”

“Seriously? Hagrid quotes?” Sarah asked. Mephi flipped back into whatever dimension he came from instead of responding. “Hmm.” Sarah said, noting his reluctance to answer her question. Then she continued working.


A couple more days passed, and Sarah received a reply from her teacher. She eventually figured out her other goals, and started plotting how to show growth there as well. Her other two goals were 5 and 8, but then she had to change 8 because it had practically nothing to do with school. So 8 changed to 4. Unfortunately her days were filled already, homework and other house duties swamped her days and sucked away her free time. Some days she wasn’t even able to do her thirty minutes of computer time at the end of the day. Her spare time came to her in scraps and minutes, and her extracurricular writing suffered as a result. But every now and then she would find herself done with her homework before supper, and would take the time to write.


“What are you doing?” Mephi asked, peering over Sarah’s shoulder at her laptop’s screen. Sarah didn’t appear to notice him, so he repeated his question louder. Eventually he realized that she had her earbuds in, and so yanked one of them out and stuck it in his own ear. “What is this?” He asked, listening to her music. 

“Thistle and Shamrock1, now give that back please. I’m trying to get in the zone.”

“What zone?”

“Not a literal zone, it’s like a mindset that allows me to write easier.”

“What are you writing?” 

“The summary for the next chapter of my story. Now give me back my earbud.”

“Can I see?” Mephi asked, handing back the earbud. 

“Sure, I don’t see why not.”

Mephi reads for a bit. “Hmm. This is actually pretty good, and could be entertaining. Although I don’t understand everything. That’s probably because I haven’t read the other chapters though.”

“Thanks.” Sarah replied, slightly suspicious of how nice he was being.

“Wait,” Mephi said, horror dawning on his face. “Did I just say all that aloud?”

“Yes.” Sarah replied, failing to stifle a grin at his comedic expression.

“Drat! I mean,” Mephi hesitated, trying to find something vaguely evil to say, “the- there’s a comma splice there!” He hurriedly pointed out, Sarah just chuckled. 

“It doesn’t matter, this is just the summary. It will probably be deleted anyways…” She trailed off, thinking. 

“Well how will you provide evidence for goal number four if you don’t submit this sort of thing?” Mephi asked. Sarah glared at him. “I’m just saying what you’re thinking.” He shrugged.

“Shut up then.”

“How are you going to show your work, your collection of ideas for big questions?” Sarah’s death glare continued, but Mephi didn’t appear to be daunted.

“You have to show work for something.” Mephi pressed, seemingly delighted to taunt her. A smirk appeared on Sarah’s face. Mephi paled slightly. “Oh no, I don’t like that look. Sarah, what are you planning? What are you-” He froze mid sentence as the white lines converge on him again. “Don’t you dare!” He shrieked as his appearance was erased and was replaced by an upright black and white cat with a CGI tail, in a top hat and a remarkable jacket. “Really? A magic cat?” Was his comment as Sarah chuckled at her work.

“What? You look cute this way, Magical Mr. Mistoffelees.” Sarah said, fully cheered up. “And you know what? I am going to turn it in, but only after a thorough editing process that you are going to help me with.”

Mephi started cursing vigorously at this pronouncement, and Sarah watched him wide eyed. “Are those all the cuss words that I know, but never use?” She asked eventually.

“Yes. Now turn me back!”

“Wow, my vocabulary is more extensive than I realized. Fine, I’ll turn you back, but you have to promise me to tell me about that rubric.”

“Anything to end this humiliation.” Mephi said, relieved.

After he returned to his normal form, he gave in to Sarah’s stare and started explaining. “Yes I have a rubric to follow, that’s because I’m getting graded for this. I’m in school too, because my age mirrors yours. Demon school is harsher by far than regular school, and since you’re at a magnet school, I go to our equivalent. No one has ever suggested canceling grades in hell though, because a lot of things are based on grades, and also this is hell we’re talking about. No you can’t see the rubric, or I automatically fail. But basically I’m supposed to torment you, and make you fail as much as possible. Seeing as you are in a choose your own grades class, I don’t think they will mind as much that I couldn’t complete that though. Any questions?”

“Probably, but I don’t think we have the page space for them.”

“True, we’re over five and a half pages in, and I think we have only covered 2 out of the three goals.”

“The last one is goal 5 right? The extended pieces of writing and editing one?”

“Don’t ask me, they’re your goals not mine.”

“Hmmm…” 

“Sarah, what are you plotting now?”

“Trying to figure out how I’ll show this one. The teacher said we wouldn’t do a lot of editing in class.”

“You could always use your book and actually write up a new chapter.”

“You should probably stop being so helpful, Mephi, you might get a bad grade in demon school.”

“Good point.”

“Besides I’m not sure I want to really share that at school yet. And it is over 250 pages and 100,000 words. I’m pretty sure the teacher doesn’t want to read all that.”

“Another good point, you are on a roll.”

“But I’m not really sure what else I can share that would apply, I probably can’t use the narrative that future me would write as an example of growth and editing prowess, even though it is going to be well edited because I’ll share it around the family.”

“Why wouldn’t it work?”

“Too much 4th wall breaking.”

“Well it already includes that, not to mention the 4th dimension breaking.”

“What?”

“Well, I did inform you that we are in a story, and tell you about the future assignment. The 4th dimension is time, so I broke the 4th wall and the 4th dimension.”

“I thought you demons were all about sixes, not fours.”

“It doesn’t really matter does it?”

“True.” Sarah sighed. “I suppose I could submit a before and after of the narrative for editing, but that would be a total of over ten pages. Perhaps I will just offer up an old version and a new version of a chapter from my story at the end of the quarter. But the real question is how to show growth in the narrative itself. It’s such a small length that maybe if I knew of this assignment at the beginning of summer I could have done something. But I’m not sure the growth in my writing would be noticeable in less than ten pages written in less than 5 days.”

“Yeah, that’s not going to work.” Sarah looked at Mehi. “What? I’m trying to be as unhelpful as possible.”

“You’re succeeding, although you are also acting as a very good sounding board.”

“I’ll just try harder then.”


The next day as Sarah was checking on her grades Mephi popped up behind her. 

“Ew. Six missing assignments? And what’s with that 80 in english?” He asked. “Isn’t that the class where you have no grades? How could your non-existent grade drop that much?”

“Through no fault of my own. We were supposed to do an intro conference, and mine didn’t work out. So I rescheduled, but currently it is in as a 0 out of 1, and there were only 4 other grades. The missing assignments aren’t actually missing, they just haven’t been put in yet. It’s not nearly as bad as it looks, although in some cases it might be worse.”

“Oof, why don’t the teachers put in the grades? Isn’t that part of their job?” 

“Hey don’t blame them, they’ve got a lot on their plate, and most of them are still trying to figure out the technology, not to mention being swarmed with student emails begging for help. Everyone is still trying to adapt to distance learning.”

“I bet those in person students don’t have it nearly as bad.” Mephi mumbled. 

“No, they might have up to date grades, but they could get sick and kill their loved ones at any time. This is a bad situation for all of us, Mephi, and blaming people isn’t going to make it any better.”

“I don’t know, blaming people always seems to make things better in hell, and at least it makes me feel better.”

“Scapegoating isn’t good. And hell is backwards.”

“You’re weird.”

“Yes, and you’re my demon. What does that say about you?” 

Mephi changed the subject instead of answering. “Why do you think we are still being written?” 

“Well if I know me, I would say it’s because I want to throw a couple more book references in.” Mephi groaned. 

“Seriously?”

“Yep. That or worldbuilding, and she doesn’t need to build my world, so let’s hear more about your school.”

“Ugh, fine, it’s better than being stuffed into some weird story character’s body.”

“You and I are both weird story characters.”

“I’m just going to ignore that fact. So, demon schools, differences between normal schools. Um, corporal punishment isn’t just allowed, it is encouraged, we still sometimes use dunce caps, um…” Mephi was obviously stuck, so Sarah decided to suggest something that had been interesting her. 

“You said grades were very important?”

“Oh yes. The grading system is very strict, if you fail any class you never get to materialize properly on earth. You just come and go as whispers in your person’s ear. Everyone gets a demon, but very few get to meet theirs because school is so tough. The only reason I’m allowed here without graduating is because I’m working on a project and I go to an advanced placement school. Basically the same thing as a magnet school, but what would be our AP classes are actually MAGNET classes. I don’t remember what it stands for. Grades also decide your demon standing after you graduate, and if you can go to college, which is a fast track to becoming a very powerful demon. That really only happens if your person is going into politics though. No idea why. Um, what else?”

“What would you do if you were a headmaster?”

“Probably torment everyone. Why?” 

“Well, there’s this well know demon headmaster I’m thinking of…” Sarah trailed off as she saw Mephi’s horrified face.

“Stop it! Stop it right now!” He yelled as the white light covalced around him. But Sarah didn’t stop. And when the light cleared Mephi stood grumpily in a pair of brown knee high boots, pink and red striped socks, strange slightly bloated white pants, a white waistcoat, and magnificently long matching cape, with a clasp at the neck. His hair was now a bit longer, reaching to his chin. He had a goatee and a top hat to finish the look. He also was not amused.

“Mephisto Pheles. Really? Couldn’t they come up with a better name? You were planning this weren’t you, Sarah?”

“Yes.” Sarah said, grinning unashamedly. “But that doesn’t really matter right now. What do you think?” Mephi pulled a floor length mirror out of nowhere, and studied his reflection stroking the goatee malevolently.

“I think you are way too fond of long hair and/or top hats on main characters. Other than that, I appreciate the goatee, like the cape, and find the stockings a bit too flashy. I can see the connections you drew between me and this character though, mildly similar names-”

“Almost exact.” Sarah muttered.

“No, but I’d rather finish my sentence than argue. Anyways, name, demon, and then headmaster bit. But from your expression you don’t look like you’re done yet. Who else’s shoes do you want to put me in.”

“I don’t know what expression you’re talking about.” Sarah said, smiling in what she thought was an innocent smile, but Mephi had learned to fear. “But yes, I do have one more character…” She trailed off as she concentrated and Mephi’s form changed once more. 

This time when the magic cleared there was still something blocking Sarah’s view, it was a cloud of moths. A gloved hand quickly dispersed them though, and Sarah let out a tiny fangirl squeal as her masterpiece was revealed.

This time Mephi was dressed in dark colors. Black tap shoes, black pants, black waistcoat with blue fringes, a blue overcoat with silver buttons, a white undershirt and a blue cravat with what looked like a dead moth on it. He had soft blue shoulder length hair, a black top hat decorated with a blue ribbon and more dead moths. His skin was nearly as pale as his white gloves, and the only mark on it was a strange set of what appeared to be tattoos under his right eye, occasionally marked with small gems set into his face, which a close observer would quickly learn changed color with his mood. He also had a magnificent set of moth wings on his back. 

Sarah’s hands were clasped tightly in front of her face, only partially obscuring the ridiculously wide grin on her face. “You look so cool!!”

“Oh shut up, I only look like this because you made me.” Mephi said, rolling his eyes. “This one’s name is Mothra?”

“That’s only what Jeb calls him!” Sarah said. “His real name’s Morpheus, he’s a character from Splintered, and he is amazing. Don’t you dare diss him or I’ll turn you back into Mistoffelees.” 

“Don’t do that! I won’t insult him again.” Mephi groaned.

“Well there’s one good thing about this.” Sarah commented to him.

“What could possibly be good about this?” Mephi replied.

“Well, this all might be very well deleted in the final version, you probably won’t ever be shown this way to the rest of the class.” This, much to Sarah’s surprise, didn’t seem to help at all. 

“You’ll still share it with your family.”

“Guilty as charged, but they won’t share it with anyone. I mean who would ever talk about my short stories?” Mephi didn’t answer the question, and the two sat in awkward silence for a little while. Eventually though, Mephi spoke up.

“Just turn me back to my regular body and I’ll go away and never come back.” he said, covering his mood gems.

“Wait, never? Is something wrong?”

“Besides that you keep dressing me up like a doll? Well the story’s over luv2, we’ve hit ten pages. It’s time for the editing to cut it down a bit. And after that, we won’t ever see each other again, after all we’re both fictional characters.”

“That doesn’t mean that we don’t ever have to meet again, what if I need you for another assignment or you get assigned to me again?”

“Well I suppose in that case we would come across each other. But really, what’s the likelihood of that happening?”

“Well, I’ve still got at least six more years of schooling ahead of me, and I want to do more creative writing, so better than you’d think. Besides, I’m gonna be an author. Even If I don’t ever run into you again, I promise to write you in somewhere.”

“Just make me cool okay? And please, no turning me into a cat.”

“I make no promises besides writing you.” Sarah said, smiling slightly sadly. She waved to Mephi as he disappeared, for what might be the last time. Who would have thought that she would miss a demon?


A couple days later, her 5th period class ended, and left a very un-surprised Sarah with a new assignment. As her study hall began, thoughts raced through her head and she began filling out a chart. Four hours later, she finally began her story.

“Your student,
Sarah Holzmann

Sarah finished her email with a smile and pressed the send button with a sigh of relief…”

1 Cool Irish Music, you can find it by googling NPR, going to the website and using their search-bar to lookup Thistle and Shamrock.
2 One of Morpheus’s terms of affection for the female lead Alyssa, Mephi knows it because he’s absorbed the books contents.

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