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.

Between Worlds

By the time I come to, I’m already running. From what, or whom, I don’t know. all I know is that my heart is pounding, my mind is racing trying to catch up with whatever happened to require me to run, and This. isn’t. home.

The memories return in flashes, as they are known to do. Confusion, pain, passing out. And now I’m in a “here” that is like my own “here,” but not. A world parallel to the one I normally live in- same neighborhood, except not. Same sky, except not. I don’t know how I know, I just do.

I realize what I’m running from when the car screeches around the corner I just turned, long-haired teen with her head out the window, a gun pointed straight at me. Shit. I try (again, my memory reminds me) to explain that I am not a threat, that I don’t want to be here any more than she wants me to be, but she probably can’t hear me between the roar of the car engine and the shots fired from her weapon.

I dodge. Roll. Get up and find myself… elsewhere, again. What now?

This place, I don’t recognize. It’s even more oppressive than the first, feels wronger for me to be here. There are people running somewhere beyond the fence that leads into a theme park, yelling… calling out a name? Someone is missing. Given where I am, it’s most likely a child. Never good when a kid goes missing, especially somewhere as crowded and noisy as a theme park.

But hang on… Is that him? I wander closer to the bathroom shed, having caught a glimpse of a small figure slipping inside. There’s a giggle, which means either the child is playing a game in very poor taste, or I’m about to get supernaturally murdered. Which wouldn’t be good, considering I need to get back to my body and get the hell out of here.

“Excuse me,” a frantic voice calls out from behind me. “Have you seen my son?”

Relieved that I am spared a gruesome otherworldly death, I point towards the bathrooms. “I just saw a kid run in there. Was about to check it out when you showed up.”

The man runs past me and rushes in. I hear exclamations of relief, more giggles, stern rebuke. Disaster averted, I begin to walk away, trying to find some way out of this strange place.

“Thank you!” the man calls out. I turn. He has his son on his hip. They are, adorably, in matching pink shorts and white tees, the only difference being the father has no hat to cover his bald head.

I shrug. “No worries, I was just in the right place at the right time, is all.”

“You’re not from here, are you?”

“…No. How can you tell?”

“We always know. The same way you know you don’t belong.”

“How do I get out?”

“Keep walking. Your body will call for you; you’ll find yourself where you need to be.”

“Thank you.”

“Just be careful. There will be beings that do not want you to go back.”

I think back to the homicidal girl I’d just escaped, and smile grimly. “I think I’ve already met one. But I will keep that in mind, thanks.”

With a wave, they set off back towards the park, and I pick a random direction to start moving towards. The city looms out ahead of me, tall buildings and bright billboards, all of it looking and feeling inherently wrong to my senses.

A ripple. A shift. The city looking suddenly extremely close and then much farther away. And then I’m back.

Not home, not yet. But close enough. The same neighborhood where I know my apartment building stands in my world. It isn’t quite in the same place right now. I should be able to see it from where I am.

A gun cocks behind me. Shit. 


“No sudden moves.”

I slowly raise my arms. “Wouldn’t dream of it.”

“What are you doing here? What do you want?”

I hold up one finger. ”I woke up here.” A second finger. “And all I want is to get back to where I’m from.”

“So… You didn’t come here intentionally? You’re not here to profit?”

I laugh. “Profit? Profit off of what? I just got myself stabbed, and I’m lying in a coma somewhere on my planet, or ‘world,’ or whatever the term is. And I need to find my way back to my body so I can wake up.”

I hear the gun being put away. “You can turn around now.” When I turn, I see a little boy standing by the girl; he’s the same boy from the world I was just in. Huh. Interesting. Is there another me in this place too?

Raising an eyebrow, I ask, “Do you always bring little boys with you when terrorizing random people?”

“My brother is here to learn. We protect this place. It has the thinnest barrier between our world and yours, and plenty of people from your world have tried to take advantage. Create some sort of tourism business, as if the fabric could survive that.”

“I know nothing about that. I just want to get home. My body is in my bedroom, in my apartment, which in my world should be around here somewhere. But I can’t see it.”
“Tell me what it looks like. We know this place inside out. We’ll grant you safe passage. In exchange, you don’t come back.”

I reach out to shake the girl’s gloved hand. “Deal.”

Almost immediately after we’ve settled into her car, I hear growls from around us. “Um. What is that?”

“Shit.” She looks to her brother. “Don’t tell mom I said that.

“THAT is what we’re granting you safe passage from. There are things out there that don’t want people finding their way back. You’ve woken them up by coming here, and now they’re after you.”

“What do they want to do to me?”

“Whatever it takes to keep you from getting back to your body. We’re going to have to run. We’re sitting ducks in this car. They’ll tear through it instantly. But if we split up, they won’t know which one of us they’re looking for until – hopefully – it’s too late.”

Reaching forward, I grab one of the girl’s guns. “Guess I’ll be needing this then.”

With a nod, we shove the car doors open and sprint out in all directions. I can’t see anything yet, but I sure as hell can feel I’m being followed. Judging by the sounds that follow my new friends as they sprint off in separate directions, so are they.

The road gives way to dirt pretty quickly, and looking back I can see prints on the ground. Not human, of course. I try to run faster, and as I break out of an alley I almost cry in relief at the sight of my apartment building up ahead. Or at least, this world’s version of it.

The only problem is, whatever’s chasing me seems to have picked up on the fact that I’m the one its looking for, and is picking up speed. I’m going to have to fight the damn thing.

Pulling out the gun, I try to take aim at the space behind me and manage to fire a shot. I miss. Which only serves to piss the damn thing off, because now I can see it, humanoid, grey cracked skin, very sharp teeth growling right at me.

I take aim again, but nothing happens. The trigger is jammed, and I am screwed. As the demon thing bounds closer, I decide there’s only one thing for it. Bracing myself, I hold the pistol like a baton and beat the demon over the head as soon as it’s in range. While it’s still stunned, I stab the gun into its gut as far as it’ll go, which works surprisingly well.

The demon screeches, falls to the ground, and vaporizes like some cliche.

There’s a joke about knives and gunfights in this somewhere.

“You did it!” I turn to see the sister-brother duo running behind me. By the looks of the ash on their clothes, they killed off their pursuers too.

“Yeah! Your gun doesn’t work though. Please fix it.”

“Oh, no… You got Betty. She’s always jamming. I keep meaning to take her out of commission.”

“Doesn’t matter now.” I point to my building. “That’s home. I’m going to get going before more of those demons show up.”

I hand the girl her pistol back with a smile, and scruff the little boy’s hair. “It was really nice meeting you. Even if you were trying to kill me at first. I almost wish I could stay and get to know you guys better.”

With one last wave, and a sheepish goodbye from two (whose names I never learned, I’m realizing) I jog off towards home.

A ripple. A shift. The building looking suddenly extremely close and then much farther away. This had better be it.

And then I’m awake, stab wound and all. Clutching my side, I whisper out, “Thank God,” to the confusion of my nurse, and fall back asleep.

This time, I only dream.

Through and Out Again

August 2, 2019

I didn’t mean to go back.

It had been years since I was even allowed to, years since the last close call that marked my decision not to return. Not that I was given a choice— the door had been closed to me ever since.

I don’t know what changed. But sure enough, while my team was deployed across the grounds and everything was set, I looked up to see the entrance tantalizingly ajar. A single air conditioning vent in my room, partially unscrewed, the shadows of stored objects making themselves known.

I was alone, still hooked to my comms, and not needed for the rest of the mission. I figured it would be a minor distraction at worst— at best, I was wrong, and it was no more than a tactically-sound exit from the room I was holed up in. So I climbed, taking little notice of the dust brushing onto my clothes, past an old necklace that looked familiar, dusted copies of books whose titles I did not recognize, paintings and posters from decades ago. I got to a place I could stand, eyes sweeping the attic-like room unsure of what to pick up first.

She would like this place. It’s perfect for exploring.

A step forward, however, and it was attic no more. I had gone too far, slipped back toward a world I did not think I would see again. Back into a role I did not understand, though I knew it would be dangerous to admit it.

I was dressed in a tux this time. The bay windows showed nighttime, and I could both see and hear the distant crashing of waves on the shore. With a wry smile, I thought of how funny it was that such a gorgeous property existed technically so close to our apartment with the thin walls and lack of space. For a colonial moment, I wondered if I could not bring my family here instead.

Then it started, and I remembered the reason why even I had vowed never to return. She walked in, older now, but still beautiful. Dark, wavy hair cascaded down her back, and her black dressed shimmered as she walked towards me. I was rooted to the spot in panic; it was too late to hide.

“There you are! You look nice. Are you ready to go?”

I nodded, wondering how on earth I was going to escape this time. “I just… need the bathroom a second.”

“…You aren’t going to disappear on me again are you?”

I laugh, trying to be casual as I walk toward what I hope is salvation. “No, no.”

She follows, clearly not believing me after last time. Right into the bathroom with me. Now this is just ridiculous.

I make a show of fixing my bow tie while she scrolls through her phone, leaning against the bathroom door. Sighing inwardly, I turn to her. “Shall we?”

Just as we emerge, someone else joins us. Him, I don’t remember, which only serves to worsen the situation. “So,” he drawls lazily, a drink he’d helped himself to already in hand. “Shall we?”

She clearly knows him, smiling and making idle conversation in a language I know I’m supposed to understand.

When I think they’ve lowered their guards down just enough, distracted as they are by each other, I do something that still shames me. I bolt.

No words of excuse, no stammering explanation, no waiting to wherever we’re supposed to be going. I just run out through the only open window onto the patio, leap across the board walk, and keep sprinting into the shopping mall ahead.

Panting, I finally use my comms. “I need an extraction, quickly.”

There’s no response, but just as I hit a sports clothing store on my left, a clerk calls out, “In here! Colored changing room!”

I don’t break my pace as I veer inside, rapidly drawing curtain after curtain to find the right changing room, confusing the hell out of the people hovering outside. There’s more than one fucking “colored” changing room.

Just as I think it, my luck shifts and I find the right one.

Hybrid

June 24, 2019

The palace would have been immaculate, if not for the bodies.

Gleaming marble floors, polished banisters, light spilling in from the few stained glass windows unobscured by thick curtains. It was beautiful.

But those damn statues of death everywhere…

I had been on excursions like this before. All of us had, as part of our training— a full tour of the sites of the old war.

But this place… This place was different.

Nowhere else could you still see the soldiers, frozen mid-battle. Nowhere else could you see the last of the rival royal families as they fought or fled, locked in the last move they ever made, the last breath they ever took.

The last of the vampires, cursed to a second death that wasn’t death.

It had been eons since the spell was cast, with a strength of magic never seen before or since. And to this day, no one has been able answer the questions of why, from where, by whom… and most importantly, for how long. Fear and superstition abound across the kingdom, many still believing the vampires would one day awaken.

The point of the visit was to dispel those myths, and see for ourselves what truly became of the titans of old. Walking amongst them, however, it was hard to hold on to the objectivity required of a historian. The stories I had been told growing up replayed unbidden in my mind, and while I usually shied away from superstition and fancy, I could not shake the unease that had wrapped itself around my heart from the moment we entered.

The vampires may have been cursed to stillness, but the stillness did not feel like the lifelessness of death… It felt like the crouch of a tiger, waiting to strike.

“What fools.”

…Clearly, I was the only one who felt this way.

“Quiet, Garrick. We still don’t know whether they can hear us.”

“I don’t care. It’s not like they can do anything about what we say. And they were idiots, fighting amongst one another like uncivilized rats rather than the superior race they claimed to be.”

With each word Garrick flung so carelessly, my panic rose.

“Garrick,” I hissed, eyes darting to the statues closest to us. Of course, they had to be the former princes, the Wairf’s wings gleaming, the Pyr’s sword still raised to cut them off. “Not. here.”

Always one to enjoy making things uncomfortable, Garrick laughed. “Fine, out in the courtyard then. I have something to show you all anyway.”

I followed, more relieved to be out of earshot of the vampires to be concerned about whatever Garrick had planned.

Until I heard the screech.

I’d read the records. I had pored over the descriptions of our former kin, and the noises they’d make to strike fear in their enemies during battle.

But I never, ever thought I would live to hear a Wairf’s scream.

I whirled to face Garrick, who was far-too-smugly leaning against the garden wall. “What have you done?”

His smirk made me wish I was close enough to plunge my sword into him.

“I made a better vampire.”

My heart was plunging to the depths of hell as he continued to speak.

“I borrowed some DNA, and I cast a little spell. They were stupid. Wairfs… Pyrs… Even the names. It didn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. They fought for nothing, just so one could claim superiority when neither deserved it. Combined, however… Combined they create a new breed. Stronger than both. Smarter than both. And released right here, for them to see where their petty war got them.”

As if timed, the hybrid’s shadow cast over us as he flew screeching through the open palace doors.

The elders are going to be so mad when they wake up.

And suddenly I knew. They were going to wake. They were going to wake because of what Garrick had done, and our people would pay.

“You idiot!”

I ran. The king would be the first. The others were already beginning to stir, droplets of their entrapment dripping to nothingness. But I had to find King Alareiks.

Behind me, the demon screeched again, looping overhead. Garrick’s magic was nowhere near as advanced as his ego, yet even I could see that his creation was truly a hybrid. The strong wings and tail of a Wairf, the lean musculature of the Pyr, the standard wolf’s head of the advanced Pyr warrior who transforms in battle.

It would have been impressive, if it wasn’t so damn stupid.

He found King Alareiks before I did, landing on the balcony overlooking the ballroom just as I skidded in, his eyes shifting between me and the nearly-awakened King of Wairfs. I kept him in my field of vision as I approached, eyes cast down as was the old custom.