I am not a demon, I am not a demon, I am not a demon.
I bit down on my lip trying to ignore what was happening to my body. Changes. Bad ones. My belly twisted as I pressed the gas pedal. The car lurched around the corner grazing the curb.
"That's minus five points," the test instructor for the Department of Motor Vehicles harped and made a note on his clipboard papers, then shouted, "Red light!"
I lifted my foot. It felt hot and heavy dropping onto the brake. The tires screeched. The test instructor snapped forward until the seatbelt caught him.
"Sorry," I apologized as the car stopped twenty feet before the intersection. Why did this have to happen now? Gripping the steering wheel hard, willing myself to concentrate, heat radiated through my hands.
"Miss Kato, do you smell burning plastic?" The test instructor rolled down the passenger window.
"No," I answered. The steering wheel softened in my hands, its bumpy ridges sticking to my palms, melting. Just above my temples, two spots throbbed like giant puss-filled pimples about to explode. They wouldn't explode though. Each one had a tiny razor-sharp prong under it.
I am not a demon, I repeated to myself silently. I am Mari Kato, a normal American sixteen-year-old, about to get my driver's license.
My temples burned. My feet burned. My hands burned.
Who was I kidding? I wasn't normal. I just prayed horns wouldn't spike out of my skull. I am not a demon.
Thank god I thought to wear sunglasses. If everything else was burning, it was a good bet my eyes were glowing red embers.
"I want you to parallel park in the next block," the test instructor ordered.
"Yes, sir," I replied. I'd practiced it a thousand times. I could parallel park in my sleep.
"There," he said smugly, and pointed to a space. "Between those two trucks."
The space between the two trucks wasn't big enough to park a hot dog cart, let alone a car. "Isn't that a little small?" I asked.
"Now," the instructor commanded.
Now it was. Letting go of the steering wheel and clicking the turn signal up, I heard a sharp crack. The little lever broke away from the steering column, flew across the front seat and speared the test instructor in the shoulder.
"Ow!" he yelped, pulled the signal stick out of his arm, and threw it on the floor. "Minus ten points!"
Blood trickled down his sleeve. Delicious smelling blood.
Okay, maybe I'm not one-hundred-percent normal. In St. Mary's Academy for Young Ladies, I was the only one who didn't have her driver's license. I'd only tried three times. This was the best I'd done yet and it wasn't going well. Was God personally smiting me for being a demon?
Not that I'm a demon.
I haven't figured out the whole religion thing. My family enrolled me, a Buddhist vegetarian, in nun-central. It was the only high school in Southbridge, Washington that would take me. My permanent record has a couple black marks on it. Anyway, I blame my dad.
He's Japanese. Until my last birthday he claimed to be an ancient Oni demon. According to him, that so-called blessing has now been passed along. To me.
It's not true. I am NOT a demon.
With the turn signal tick, tick, ticking, I lined up beside the parking space and put the car in reverse. My plan was to gently press the accelerator, but my feet weren't cooperating. The front wheels of the car spun and smoked. The test instructor howled. I turned the wheel and stomped the brake. The car slid perfectly into the spot, bumper to bumper to bumper.
"I did it!" I cheered. "Do I pass?"
"Miss Kato." The test inspector held a hand on his bleeding shoulder. "I would not pass you if you were the last girl in the world, driving the last car in the world, and there was nothing to hit and no one to injure or annoy. You will never get your license. Ever!" He scribbled notes furiously.
Searing heat pulsed through my veins, bubbling up from the depths of my being. I took off my sunglasses and glared at him. "I need my driver's license," my voice rasped in an animal growl. "And I am not a demon. Because if I was, I'd bite your head off and eat it like a cheese puff."
My brimstone-and-sulfur breath, glowing eyes, and talon-like fingernail claws, were more than the test instructor could handle. He screamed and lunged for the door. Bolting from the car, he dropped his clipboard and ran down the street.
The clipboard clattered to the sidewalk, face up. Scrawled across the top of the page, in permanent marker, I read the words that cemented my fate: Mari Kato, FAIL.
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