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Excerpt from Monsters

Demon Spawn

Demon Spawn

Illustration by Stephanie McMillan

This story is told from the perspective of a high school student whose parents are demons. The humans tease her by calling her demon spawn. One of the primary humans who teases her is Evelyn, whom the main character calls EvilLyn. The scene is set in a school play (Dr Faustus) where the theater director had made it so she would have to say a line that is degrading to herself. This excerpt starts right after the main character’s Uncle Mephistopheles suddenly appears in the audience.

EvilLyn stopped in the middle of her line and let out a squawk like a startled hen. I wish she would have let out a surprised fart, but such was not to be. She recovered and continued with the play as Mephistopheles strode toward the sea of empty seats near my parents, muttering as he went about inaccuracies in the set. And really, Uncle Meph, your critique was a bit unfair; we had glitter-covered and star-shaped pieces of cardboard hanging by wires from the ceiling to represent a night sky, and you complained that the Bunsen burner used as a prop hadn’t been invented for another couple of hundred years?

I wanted to curl up and die.

But I couldn’t, because my sole line was coming up.

I’d like to say I strode on stage with the same drama, confidence, and charisma with which my uncle had made his entrance, but I think it would be more accurate to say that I trembled my way into the spotlight.

Before I could speak, I heard my uncle’s voice from the audience, booming, “Brava! Bravissima!” I could hear his hands clapping like thunder.

Even I looked up to see if there’d been lightning.

And suddenly, in that moment, I knew that no matter how much I wanted to be on stage, no matter how much I didn’t want to make waves, no matter how much I wanted to be liked by those who hated me, no matter how much I didn’t want to let down all those who had let me down so miserably and so many times, I could not participate in my own degradation by saying the lines that had been written to humiliate me.

If this were a stirring tale of triumph I would have thought of something witty and profound to say, something that would have made not just their faces but their whole bodies go red with shame, that would have changed their attitudes not only toward me, but toward others for whom they felt contempt. All that would have happened in one shining moment.

But that’s not what happened.

Instead, my mind went blank.

I heard the evil faculty advisor hissing from the wings, “Stupid girl’s forgotten her line,” and I saw EvilLyn wrinkle her nose as though I’d farted. Again.

The moment stretched out. If the earth wasn’t going to open up and swallow me whole to save me from this embarrassment, and if I wasn’t going to conveniently die on the spot, then I thought I should probably just put my head down, mumble my stupid degrading line, and be done with it.

I didn’t know what to do. And I will never know what I would have done, given time, because right then EvilLyn’s father stood and shouted, “Demon spawn! Demon spawn!”

The theater was silent.

My mother stared at me with love and sadness in her eyes. Her eyes were holding me, helping me to remain standing. My uncle leapt to his feet, and started moving his lips in an incantation. I thought I’d soon see EvilLyn’s father turned into a steaming pile of dung, which would have been an improvement.

But my father stood, too, and laid his hand on Mephistopheles’ arm. My father caught him just in time, with the incantation barely taking effect: EvilLyn’s father remained human, but his eyes turned from steely-blue to turd-brown, and from then on, the smell! Let’s just say that from this time forward flies liked him a lot. My father stepped past my uncle and into the aisle, making his way toward EvilLyn’s father.

The man cowered.

My father, who has long had a weakness for inaccurately citing old movies, said, “Smile when you say that, partner.”

I had never been so proud of my father. Nor had I ever felt so loved by him, my mother, or my uncle, each in his or her own way. But what I wanted in that moment was for the moment to be over. For the (non-theatrical) drama to be over.

No, what I really wanted was exactly what my father had asked for. I wanted for people to smile at me when they called me what I am, “Demon spawn.”