A Figment’s Tale part 17

Happy invisibly accompanied Joshua as he went to many stores buying furniture, clothes, appliances, dishes, silverware, and everything else they would need for their new place. It was all delivered that day in a giant circus of delivery madness.

That evening, everything was in place and cleaned up. Joshua collapsed on the couch with a pizza he’d ordered on the coffee table in front of him. Happy appeared floating over it.

“Finally!” he exclaimed. “That was a surprising amount of work. We probably could have done all that faster ourselves.”

“Probably,” Joshua said. “But sometimes it’s better to do things the normal way. I’m just glad it’s all paid for. Let’s see what’s on the news.”

Joshua picked up one of the remotes and turned on the big TV. All the major news outlets were reporting on the mysterious coma that the world’s Catholics fell into and then suddenly woke up from all at once. Doctors were baffled, but the families of the victims were relieved. Fox News blamed the president.

Then came the commercials, which Joshua usually didn’t pay attention to, but the first one started with the logo of the Church of Scirotology. It faded to a man standing in an empty field of white. He appeared to be in his early forties and had a serene smile on his face.

“Creepy,” Happy remarked.

The man on the TV said, “I’m sorry to interrupt the show you were watching, but I have something important to tell you. It’s the most important thing anybody has ever told you. It’s the secret to actualizing your true potential. I want to tell you how to harness your infinite potential for personal power over your life and your environment. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to do it right now, but if you come by the Center for the Scirotological Arts in downtown Houston, I will put you on the path to awakening the sleeping power within you. The address is on the screen. I can’t wait to meet you.”

Joshua wrote it down on a pad of paper: 2727 Fraudren, Suite 1A.

“When are we going?” Happy asked.

“Tomorrow,” Joshua replied. “Tonight we have a new bed to sleep in.”

“Maybe I could just go,” Happy suggested. “I could be invisible and patch you in on everything I see and hear.”

“I like that idea, but we’d probably be more effective together. I can do things you can’t, and you can do things I can’t. We’re getting paid a lot to do this, and I don’t want to half-ass it, you know?”

“Yeah, you’re right. I can hear what he’s saying but not what he’s thinking.”

“Assuming we even meet the head guy tomorrow. Whoever we talk to, it’ll help to know what’s going on in his or her head, and you never know when your muscle will prove helpful.”

“That’s right. We’re a team. We can keep each other from making mistakes too.”

For the first time in quite a while, both Joshua and Happy Face slept. They woke up the next morning feeling refreshed and strong. They were ready to join a new religion.

A Figment’s Tale part 16

Happy Face zipped back through the wall and became angel wings on Joshua’s back.

“Shall we go?” Happy said.

“You don’t want to hang around a bit longer?” Joshua asked. “How often do you get a chance to talk to a real live god?”

“He’s not a god any more than I am. I can’t believe people thought you were crazy when the people who created Yahweh are running around.”

“At least they’re all awake again. Now we can go on with our mission and find a place to live. Also, I’m hungry.”

“Me too,” Happy said. “Go figure.”

Joshua got up and walked out of the church as all eyes followed them in awe. Blogged accounts of the sight would one day become part of the Catholic Bible, especially descriptions of their takeoff.

Happy was a little drained from giving so much energy to Catholic Yahweh, so he flapped the wings he’d attached to Joshua in order to help get them into the sky. This created great gusts of wind that got the attention of everyone nearby. They had ample time to view, photograph, and make video recordings of the flying man.

Many of the people realized that he was the one who had come to challenge their god to a duel, and they all entered the church to talk to any personnel there who could tell them what it all meant.

Joshua and Happy ascended into the clouds. Then they decided to make their home in Houston, Texas. It was where their parents lived and where Joshua had lived and worked as the assistant to the head of tech support at the Law Offices of Goldman, Newman, and Goodman. Armed with a debit card connected to virtually unlimited funds, they went to the famously opulent Winning Towers and talked the snooty woman working the front desk into showing them their most expensive floorplan. As they spoke, Happy Face remained invisible, and Joshua tried to gain insight into her thoughts the way he did with the tourists in Malaysia.

He is certainly dressed nice, he heard her think faintly. But his manner of speaking is like that of someone who went to public schools. Must be new money. We’ll see if his credit score checks out.

Checking Joshua’s credit showed him to have a perfect score. His credit couldn’t have possibly been better, probably the work of the Bureau. The woman’s eyes widened. Then she looked at him, put on her best fake smile, and took a brochure out of a drawer and handed to him.

“These are our current floorplans,” she said.

Joshua opened it and looked for the biggest, most expensive one. It cost $20,000 per month and took up an entire floor of the building. Because of that, it had a great view of the city in the living room.

“I’ll take this one,” he said.

The woman told Joshua that he would have to show her proof of income. Trying something out, Joshua waved his hand and said, “You don’t need to see proof of income.”

The woman gave him a strange look, but Joshua concentrated and kept his gaze steady, and she said, “Oh yeah, I don’t need to see that. Everything is in order.”

Joshua considered getting the woman to waive the rent, but he didn’t want to push it. He signed some paperwork and received his keys. He then took a ride up the elevator to the 127th floor, which required that he use one of the keys, and stepped out into his palace. There was no furniture, so he laid down on the floor in the living room and looked up at the crystal chandelier hanging from the high ceiling.

Happy manifested sitting on the chandelier. “So what do we do first? Shop or do our job?”

Joshua smiled and replied, “I think you already know the answer to that.”

A Figment’s Tale part 15

I didn’t end up really totally finishing this chapter, so I’m just going to leave it short. Enjoy!

———————

Catholic Yahweh’s eyes shot open, and his whole body, imaginary as it was, tensed up like he was being electrocuted. His face didn’t register pain, though. He appeared to be experiencing a profound revelation. All over the world, men and women in hospitals behaved the same way, baffling doctors and nurses. After about a minute, Happy Face stopped the infusion, and Catholic Yahweh relaxed again, looking much healthier.

“That seemed to work,” Happy said, slightly fatigued.

“I’ll say,” Catholic Yahweh replied breathlessly. “That woke up every single one of my people and restored most of my power. I’d say it was a miracle, but you’re not a god.”

“You’re not either,” Happy said. “Not really. You’re the same kind of thing that I am, so either that was a miracle or there are no miracles. But it doesn’t matter what we call it. It’s done, and now I’ve undone the damage I did.”

“Hold on,” Catholic Yahweh said, sitting up. “You said that the Bureau came to visit your ‘other’ before.”

“Yeah, they sent some goons.”

“Can I assume, then, that you’re not working with them?”

“We are, actually. They made us a really good offer, and they seem to be on the up and up.”

“That’s good. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. The angels say you and Josh are a good man. Don’t let the Bureau change that.”

“It’s all right. They just want me to investigate Scirotology and some guy named Dave or something like that. We won’t be hurting anybody.”

“That’ll be someone else’s job if the god they’re making won’t cooperate with them.”

“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Happy said. “Now we should get going so we can find a place to live. See you around.”

A Figment’s Tale part 14

Where are you? Joshua asked the Catholic god Yahweh.

You won’t find me, Yahweh replied. I’m well hidden.

We don’t want to hurt you. We want to undo the damage we did and wake up your followers.

I don’t believe you. Have the Bureau send somebody else.

They didn’t send us, Happy said. I don’t know if they even plan to send anybody to help you. They probably don’t know how to.

And you do?

Well, not exactly, but if I can see you, I think we can figure something out.

You sound sincere and no longer drunk with power, so all right. I’ll send one of my representatives to bring you to me. I can’t really move right now.

A man with a neatly trimmed beard appeared near them. He held his arm out as if to show them the way somewhere. Joshua couldn’t help but notice holes in his wrist and the blood all over him. Between that, the facial hair, and the tattered robe tied around his waist, Joshua assumed he was the Catholic version of Jesus.

“You never cleaned yourself up in all this time?” Happy asked.

“I’m a surprisingly recent invention, actually,” Jesus replied. “Follow me to my father.”

Jesus turned toward a wall and walked through it. Joshua and Happy stood there, unsure of what to do. Joshua couldn’t pass through solid matter. Only Happy could do that.

After a few seconds, Jesus poked his head out. “Oh yeah, sorry. There’s no door to the room where Dad is. The real one will have to stay out here.”

“That’s fine,” Happy replied. “You can just sit somewhere and see from my perspective.”

“Okay. I’ll just sit on one of these oh-so-comfy hard wooden benches. Why does this religion hate comfort so much?”

“I don’t know,” Jesus said. “Something to do with desires of the flesh. They sure didn’t get it from me. Anyway, come on in. It’s just straight down this way through a few feet of stone.”

Jesus’s head disappeared into the wall again, and Happy followed. Joshua picked a pew and followed along through Happy’s “eyes.” At first, all he could see was black, but soon enough, he emerged in a small chamber with stone walls, a lightbulb hanging from a cord in the ceiling with a string hanging down from it, and an old mattress on top of which laid an old, bearded man.

“Thank you, Jesus,” he said in a tired voice. “You can go now. I’m sure your church needs you.”

Jesus nodded and disappeared.

“He’s not Catholic Jesus?” Happy asked.

“No, he’s Third-Wave West-southwestern United Episcopal Jesus. His favorite color is green. Second Wave’s Jesus likes blue.”

“Ah, of course. Perfect reason for a new denomination. Anyway, I’m here to apologize for what happened before. If I’d known that I was hurting people, I never would have challenged you.”

“I had no idea a figment from a single mind could be so strong,” Catholic Yahweh said. “I would have warned you if I had any idea. How is your physical mind doing?”

“We were in the hospital for a little while, but after some rest, we’re both doing fine.”

“Then I guess it’s safe to say that you won the fight. Has the Bureau found you?”

“Yeah. They confronted Joshua at the hospital. He clocked them good.”

Catholic Yahweh smiled. “That’s funny. They’ve never met a figment that could give them trouble.”

“I was out like a light at the time. He got away from them all on his own.”

Catholic Yahweh’s smile immediately turned into a grave look. “Your person has command over the power?”

“Yeah. Is that surprising? We share a common mind. We’re the same person. Your believers each have a little bit of power themselves. That’s where your power comes from. You don’t already know this?”

Fear began to tint Catholic Yahweh’s face, particularly around his eyes. For a figment, he was very detailed in his appearance. It made Happy consider his own simple appearance and wonder how figments chose what they looked like—if, indeed, they did actually choose it.

“I don’t understand,” Catholic Yahweh said. “This is too much. I need to rest. Maybe this will make more sense after I’ve rested some more.”

“Yeah, it doesn’t really matter,” Happy said. “I just wanted to come and apologize and try something I just thought of. I want to try giving some of our energy to you and see if that wakes up your people.”

Catholic Yahweh was too tired to protest or argue, so Happy assumed he consented to the procedure. He floated up to the old figment and put his hands on his head. Then he concentrated on sending some of his power into the deity. The results were dramatic and immediate.

A Figment’s Tale part 13

A small hole opened in the clouds beneath Joshua and Happy, and a pale-green, tennis-ball-sized ball of light flew up through it and stopped near them. In a calming, androgynous voice, it told them, “Follow me.”

Happy became a pair of leathery dragon wings on Joshua’s back, and they flew after the glowing orb. Whoever sent it must have had some awareness of what speeds Happy Face was capable of going, because it flew at many times the speed of sound. Happy and Joshua, of course, had no trouble keeping up, and the sky was clear until they began to see airplanes. This told them that they were near land, but what land they couldn’t yet tell. They were too high up to make out any details yet not high enough to see which continent they were flying over.

The orb made a sudden nosedive, and though it slowed down to half the speed of sound, it was still traveling perilously fast considering anything could pop up in front of them at any moment. Fortunately, nothing did, and they soon landed in the middle of the grand courtyard of a castle.

“Welcome to Dawkins Castle,” the orb said. “Built six hundred years ago for King Richard the wise, it now serves as the home base for the Global Bureau of Celestial Events. The director will be here shortly to show you around.”

The orb disappeared, and Joshua and Happy Face started to look around the throne room, where the orb had left them. It was vast and mostly empty, aside from many thick marble columns that divided the room into large squares. There was also a tremendous throne that could have seated five large men, suggesting to Joshua and Happy that King Richard was either morbidly obese or compensating for something. Along the walls were paintings of young women in outfits that would have been considered skimpy six hundred years ago. They left the women’s necks and shoulders exposed, but no ankles could be seen.

“They weren’t Richard’s wives,” said the voice of a little girl from behind Joshua.

Happy had already noticed her, but he assumed she was the child of one of the Bureau members. Joshua turned and looked down to see that the girl was wearing a very nice grey business suit and had her hair tied back in a bun. She looked and spoke exactly like a small adult.

“Are you a midget?” Happy asked.

“Happy!” Josh admonished him. “I’m sorry, he doesn’t have much of a filter.”

“That’s all right, neither do I. I’m Evelyn Carlisle, executive directer of the GBCE. No, I’m not a midget. I have the mind of an adult and the body of a child. We don’t have time to get into it right now, but I’m sure you’ll discover a lot of things about this organization that will strike you as strange or even impossible. But believe me when I say that you are by far the most amazing thing here. That’s why we recruited you.”

“Is it why you attacked us?” Joshua asked.

“Yes. When you fled from our agents, I assumed that you weren’t interested in joining, so I thought it was best to have you eliminated. I’m glad to see I was wrong about you.”

“Like we were going to go anywhere with a couple of men in black,” Happy said.

“I didn’t assign the particular agents. I just told my assistant to have you brought here. I agree that they weren’t the best choice, but hindsight is 20/20. Now if you’ll come with me to my office, we’ll discuss the terms of your employment.”

Evelyn led them down a long hallway to a luxurious office. It had been the king’s bedroom, so it was the largest room in the castle other than the throne room. She handed Joshua a folder containing details of his first job and told him that he would be doing that same kind of thing for the first year. When she asked what they wanted to be paid, Happy joked that they wanted ten billion dollars a month. Their eyes went wide when she said, “Done.” They took a closer look at the folder to see what they wanted them to do for that kind of money.

They were to infiltrate a newly formed religion called Scirotology, get close to its leader, Daviid McCavige, and report their observations to their supervisor, Abraham Lincoln.

“Abraham Lincoln?” Joshua asked. “What an unfortunate name.”

“He’s not just a guy named Abraham Lincoln,” Evelyn told him. “He’s the Abraham Lincoln.”

“But isn’t he dead?”

“Yes. That’s why he’s a ghost. Don’t stare at his forehead. I told you there were stranger things at the Bureau than me.”

———

Evelyn sent them, head spinning, out to find their own lodging and begin their assignment with a month’s salary in advance in the form of a debit card. They could live anywhere they wanted, and they wouldn’t have to use their powers to steal what they needed. Evelyn also assured them that nobody would be looking to recapture them and throw them back into the Happy Place. They were declared sane, and their record was wiped clean of anything that would flag them to law enforcement. That made it safe for them to get some new outfits and travel to the church in Rome where Happy was able to summon Catholic Yahweh. Surely that was where the god would be recovering.

Nobody recognized them as they walked through the doors of the church wearing a ten-thousand-dollar suit. They sat in a pew and tried reaching out to the Catholic god with their thoughts.

Yahweh? they said together. It’s Happy Face and Joshua Peterson. Can you hear us? We came to say we’re sorry for what Happy did to you and to offer our help in getting back on your feet.

At first, they were answered only by silence. Then they heard a whisper in their mind. They strained to hear it.

When I get my strength back, I’m going to smite you into oblivion.

A Figment’s Tale part 12

Joshua and Happy’s conversation was interrupted by a visitor, which they didn’t expect all the way up in the clouds above the Indian Ocean. Another dragon approached them, but it didn’t attack like the last one. It had a flatter face than the previous one, with forward-facing eyes and a short snout. Its intelligent and wise appearance put Joshua and Happy Face at ease, as did its small size. It was about the size of a housecat.

“Good day, o mighty ones,” it said. “I wouldn’t dream of attacking you after what happened to the last ‘representative’ that was sent to you. I come from a team of imaginers who work for the Global Bureau of Celestial Events.”

“Did they send the last dragon?” Happy asked.

“I apologize for that. It was a miscommunication within the Bureau. It won’t happen again, I promise  you. It couldn’t possibly, since the people who sent it are now in comas. They overestimated their own strength.”

“So why did they send you?” Joshua asked.

“Yes, of course. The Bureau would like to extend an offer of employment. in exchange for your cooperation and services, they’ll pay you anything you want.”

“What do they want us to do for them?” Happy asked.

“First, they want to scan you to gauge your strength. It’s really just aiming a device at your head for a few seconds, not painful at all. Then they want to put you–the figment–through some training exercises.”

“My name is Happy Face,” Happy told him.

“Oh, you have a name already? That’s interesting. Anyway, after the testing and training, you’ll be sent out on assignments about once a month. Nothing dangerous, just reconnaissance. We investigate the formation of gods in new religions. I gather you know by now the truth behind gods.”

“They’re figments like me,” Happy said.

“Yes,” the dragon said. “When people gather together for a common belief, they can give form to what they believe in where there was none before. There is a delicate balance of power among the current gods and goddesses, and new ones have to be worked in gracefully to prevent war. When you fought the Catholic god, the Bureau was afraid that a war had broken out. We couldn’t believe it when we found out it was the figment of a single individual who had challenged him and nearly won.”

“Hey!” Happy protested. “I did win!”

“From what our agents observed, I’d call it a tie. You both used a lot of energy and emerged from the fight extremely depleted. The god you fought will take centuries to recover, while you seem to be back at full strength.”

“What do you mean he’ll take centuries to recover?” Joshua asked.

“What I mean is that half of the world’s Catholics are in comas because of the beating you gave their god.”

Joshua and Happy Face were stunned. They never meant to hurt anyone, let alone millions of people.

“I didn’t know,” Happy said sadly. “I never meant for that…”

“What can we do to undo the damage?” Joshua asked.

“You can’t do anything for them,” the dragon said. “Their minds took a heavy blow, but they’ll recover eventually. The children will awaken first, then the adults, and then hopefully some of the elders.”

“Hopefully some of the elders?” Happy asked. “What does that mean?”

“We don’t expect many of them to ever come out of their comas. But like you said, you didn’t know. This isn’t your fault.”

“Of course it’s my fault!” Happy shouted. “And I don’t understand why you’re so unemotional about it. Don’t you care?”

“I’m not connected to my creators’ emotions like you are. I’m a product of their intellect. They don’t sincerely believe in me. They’re just projecting me so I can talk to you here. So will you join us?”

“We’ll consider your offer after we find a way to help the people we’ It’ve hurt,” Joshua answered. “How can we contact you?”

“You won’t need to. We have eyes and ears everywhere. When you’re ready, you’ll see me again.”

The dragon disappeared, leaving Joshua and Happy to ponder what he’d told them. They communicated to each other through their emotions. Happy was beside himself with grief for what he did, and Joshua wanted to comfort him, but it really was pretty bad.

“What can I do?” Happy asked. “I can move things, but I’m not telepathic except for projecting a few illusions like this body and clothes for you.”

“When I’m totally asleep, you’re extremely strong,” Joshua said. “And when you needed to rest, I was able to do things I can’t do when you’re awake. Maybe if you go completely dormant, I can use my telepathic abilities to help the people.”

Happy smiled, the fog of his despondency lifting. “Oh yeah, that’s right. You’re telepathic. Maybe you can go into their dreams and wake them up from there.”

“I don’t think people dream while they’re in comas. It’s not normal sleep. But maybe I can go into their minds and fix the damage. That would take forever, wouldn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Happy said. “You’d have better luck healing Catholic Yahweh and healing everyone through him.”

Joshua smiled at his figment. It was the best idea he could think of, and they could use their new connection with the GBCE to contact the version of Yahweh believed in by the world’s Catholics and undo the damage they did. He stood up and shouted to the sky, “We’re ready to join you now!”

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