‘Please! Not again,’ Stan hissed with a tone that Jingtao had heard a million times now.
‘Can you sleep or something while I’m done?’ Jingtao said to Stan.
‘If I could, I would. This is the third time today. Can’t you stop?’ Stan pleaded.
‘Just the third time,’ smirked Jingtao. ‘Besides, I can’t go outside. What do you want me to do?’
‘Read books. Study. Write. Make YouTube videos. Heck! Make Tiktok videos, if you want.’ Stan wailed.
Jingtao ignored Stan and increased the volume of the video and picked a few tissues.
Jingtao had met Stan when he was twenty. Jingtao was fed up with his college, tired of all the drama that was happening in his life, frustrated with the lack of actual growth or development, exasperated with the direction his life was taking. Entered Stan. Literally!
Jingtao woke up one day and he heard his conscience speak to him, in a voice he had never heard before.
‘Jingtao! You are gaining weight,’ the voice said.
‘Yeah, I know,’ Jingtao said lazily.
‘Then why don’t you go for a run,’ the voice urged.
Jingtao ignored the voice considering it a part of his conscience waking up at an inopportune time. The voice got louder and then annoying.
‘Just go away!’ Jingtao said to himself one day, partially scared that he was going mad or was having some psychotic breakdown and partially annoyed by the insisting voice in his head.
‘If I could, I would,’ the voice replied equally annoyed.
‘Who are you?’ Jingtao asked in frustration.
‘Short version: Whenever humans do something that they can’t forgive themselves for all their life, we come into existence. Technically, we are close cousins of demons, although, I think we are closer to angels in our duties. Our job is to help you improve. We can go back to nonexistence once you are on the right path.’
‘Nevermind. How come I have never heard about it.’
There was a long pause.
‘Umm. We are not exactly allowed to talk to our humans.’
‘Ooh! You broke the fourth wall. Nice job buddy.’
That was five years ago. Since then, Stan has been with Jingtao.
In the past five years, Jingtao had worked at two companies, graduated from college and went back to another college. Stan continued to track Jingtao’s progress with diligence, still waiting to vanish.
‘What is it that you want?’ Stan would often ask Jingtao and would get a shrug in reply.
Once Jingtao was done, Stan asked him this question again.
‘What is holding me here Jingtao?’ Stan asked. Stan had heard that most demons end up living all their lives with the humans because humans don’t let go of their “inner demons” so as to speak. In fact, in many cases, the demons got company as the human gathered more inner demons. He had heard about a human who had a whole family of demons residing in them. An urban legend was about a human whose death had lead to the death of a whole city of demons.
All the existing demons had celebrated that event and it is celebrated every year in their honor even today. Stan didn’t know if this was really true. Can a single human even have that many inner demons and stay alive? Most end up dying, some through diseases, others through suicide, if they have too many demons in them. The body can sustain only so many before all the demon voices depress them enough to whither off and die.
With Jingtao, Stan was thoroughly confused. He couldn’t understand the point of his existence. Jingtao was living a life that didn’t have any major trauma. Neither had he faced any life-changing decision where he screwed up in a large way. Even with this virus thing, Jingtao had adjusted pretty well. Not doing anything came naturally to him.
‘You should tell me what’s holding you here. You are free to go if you want.’ Jingtao said and opened his iPad to play a game on it. He also opened a movie that he had been watching on a loop for the past two weeks – The Groundhog Day. Stan didn’t understand the charm. He also brought some apples, a knife, and water and kept them on the side table.
Stan couldn’t hear Jingtao’s thoughts even though he resided inside his mind. He could see everything that Jingtao was seeing but not what he was thinking.
‘Is there some deep, dark secret in your past Jingtao?’
‘I don’t remember killing anyone if you are asking that.’
‘I just wish…’ Jingtao said and trailed off. He was looking intently at the movie, the iPad lying without being used. His character in the game had died due to negligence. Classic Jingtao!
‘Yes,’ Stan said eagerly.
‘I just wish I had another chance,’ Jingtao said, ‘another chance to live up to my potential. To have the guts to do something that made me feel alive.’
Silence hung in the air as Bill Murray died and came back to life once again.
“Maybe…” Jingtao said aloud and picked the knife, looking at it hungrily.
Stan was surprised that Jingtao was thinking about suicide but he was partly glad. His ordeal would finally be over. Then Jingtao picked the apple and cut it and started eating it.
Stan groaned. He had really thought that he was going to be free.
When Jingtao woke up the next day, Stan woke up to a surprise.
“Hi, I’m Suzie,” the demoness said.
“You, here?” Stan asked.
“I am guessing Jingtao did something he regrets last night,” Suzie said.
Or maybe, Jingtao regrets not doing something, Stan thought.
Inspired from reddit prompt – [WP] It’s said that some people have personal Demons Inside of them. In your case, it’s literally true. His name is Stan and while he tries his best to help you, he’s frankly disappointed in your efforts so far. [Link]