The Demon Rehabilitation Program

“D-66635, step forward.”

Mari’s chains clinked and scraped against the floor as he approached the clerk, a typical raven-haired beauty. He had to suppress a snarl at the sickly sweet smell emanating from the angelic creature. Think of the steps, he reminded himself. His rehabilitation officer’s words echoed in his head. Good is not bad. Good is pure, and the scent of it only triggers this knee-jerk response because you were raised to believe wrong was right, and right was wrong. Train yourself to think otherwise.

“Mariphilus Drayadina?” the clerk asked with a smile, staring fearlessly into Mari’s coal-red eyes.

“I actually prefer Mari,” he replied, nose twitching. Good is not bad. Good is not bad. They’re treating you with respect, so respect them back.

“Mari,” the clerk nodded, making a note in his sheet. “I’m Flaurian, and I’ll be your assignment officer for as long as it takes you to reach full cleanse.”

“Pleased to meet you.”

“No it isn’t,” Flaurian replied, without a hint of malice. “But I appreciate that you’re making the effort, and I respect how hard that must be.”

Mari resisted the urge to roll his eyes. He hadn’t realized how fucking patronizing the good guys could be until he’d surrendered himself. Still, beats the alternative.

“Given that your appearance is less… of a concern than some other demon breeds,” Flaurian continued, peering at his sheet, “you’ll be part of the Imaginary Friend program. This means a child will be assigned to you, and you are to provide them with companionship, protection, and guidance until they grow old enough not to need you anymore. At this point, they won’t be able to see you, and you will be re-assigned or directly transferred to Heaven if your sins are all cleared.

“Do you understand, Mari?” Flaurian looked up at him again.

Mari nodded.

“Excellent. You’re at 56 Road, Waverly Place. Sophie Bennett, 6, will be your charge. Next!”

With that, Mari was ushered off to be given a very unpleasant bath, and a fresh set of clothes: a dark suit with a white shirt. What kind of girl dresses their imaginary friend in a suit? he wondered.

And he would soon find out.

Sophie Bennet was crying in her room when Mari stepped through the portal, and Mari immediately wanted to go back. Instead, he heaved a deep breath and ran his fingers through his deep blue hair, trying to figure out how best to approach her.

To buy himself time, he looked around at her room. Pretty threadbare, with a few stuffed toys, a dollhouse, her bed where she lay face-down into a pillow, and some clothes and a school uniform hanging off a single rack. Not much time bought after all.

He cleared his throat loudly, and the crying stopped. Sophie looked up sharply, her face tear-streaked and her brown eyes glistening with more tears ready to fall.

“Who are you?” she demanded, her voice small and a little hoarse from the crying. She wiped her eyes fiercely, as if ashamed at being caught in such a vulnerable moment, and brushed back her curly mop of hair.

“I’m- I’m Mari,” he said. “Your new imaginary friend,” he added, when she just blinked at him.

“Imaginary friend?”

“Yeah, kid. I’m here to like… keep you company and help out and stuff.”

Sophie pondered this a few moments, then looked between Mari to the door. Mari thought she was calculating an escape when instead she asked, “Do you have powers? Can you unlock the door?”

Mari’s eye twitched. Something was wrong here. “Why is the door locked, Sophie?”

The girl looked close to tears again. “My mom locked me in. She said she had to go out. But I’m so hungry…”

For the first time since starting the rehab program, Mari felt unbridled rage on behalf of another being. A human at that.

“Your eyes are glowing,” Sophie said in wonder.

Mari didn’t answer, instead walking up to the door and unlocking it with a wave of his hand. He opened it wide, then held out his hand for Sophie to take.

“They do that sometimes. Come on, let’s get you some food.”

Sophie grinned and rushed off the bed, her small hand taking his big one, warm and trusting.

This story is based off of this prompt found on Instagram. Set a timer for 25 minutes and wrote it out. The drawing came after; tried to make it look like a kid’s drawing/writing, but not sure how successful that was, haha.

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