A Figment’s Tale chapter 7

“It means I’m not really here,” Happy said. “And Joshua isn’t really dressed like a regular person. We should get you some real clothes, actually.”

“So you make people see things that aren’t really there, and you can actually move things?” Sarah asked. “Like telepathy combined with telekinesis?”

“Yeah. We don’t know what triggered it, but it seems this power has been buried in our subconscious our whole lives. Mom and Dad are afraid of it.”

“A lot of people will be afraid of it,” Sarah said. “You should probably make yourself look like a regular person.”

“But I’m comfortable like this. I was a regular person earlier at a restaurant, and it didn’t feel right. This is who I am.”

“Then you’re going to have a lot of trouble fitting in.”

“The only people who fit in with idiots are other idiots,” Joshua said. “We’ll deal with it. There must be people who can appreciate what we can contribute.”

“I’m sure there are,” Sarah said. “If it gets too hard or you need a place to crash, you’re welcome to stay here.”

“Until the police start staking the place out,” Happy said. “That’s what happened at Mom and Dad’s house. They haven’t contacted you, have they?”

Just then, Sarah’s cell phone started playing Ace of Base’s 90s hit, “The Sign.” She answered it. After a moment of chatter that Joshua couldn’t understand, Sarah said, “No, he hasn’t been here. I don’t see how he could get here so fast anyway. He’d have to go on a hypersonic jet or something.” Then more chatter on the other end. “I will. Bye.”

“That was a weird coincidence,” she said after she hung up. “Do they know about the things you can do?”

“I don’t know,” Joshua answered. “A few cops saw us disappear, and some others saw us fly away at Mom and Dad’s house, but I didn’t think they’d report it.”

“Well, they think it’s possible that you made it here already, so they seem to have some idea that the normal rules don’t apply to you.”

“We should move on then,” Happy said. “We don’t want to put you in danger.”

“Can’t you make it so they can’t see you?” Sarah asked.

“Yeah,” Happy replied, “but if they have a camera, they can see us. Joshua doesn’t want to have to hurt anyone even if they attack us first.”

“Do what you have to do then. But remember that you have a home here if you need one.”

“Thanks, Sarah,” Joshua said. “We appreciate that.”

Despite Joshua’s protests, Sarah gave him some money so he could get some proper clothes. He decided it was better to use money that was willingly given to them than to pay for things with money that didn’t really exist, especially when dealing with something like clothing. A store clerk could be fired for the price of even a single shirt being missing from the register. Then they left and walked to the Triplet Pines Mall about a mile away. Whenever they saw a cop, Happy made sure they were unrecognizable. If they had body cameras, as they were supposed to due to a history of abuse of power by police officers, they would later see that they’d passed by the escaped mental patient Joshua Mitchell, but by then, they’d be long gone.

Because the Triplet Pines Mall specialized in outlet stores, discount stores, and cheap knockoffs of expensive brands, Joshua and Happy were able to get a few outfits and a small suitcase to hold what he wasn’t wearing. They chose clothing that didn’t stand out—polo shirts, khaki pants, and plain-colored t-shirts. They also got a few essentials like a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, deodorant, and a yo-yo. Happy insisted on the yo-yo. It all fit neatly in the black suitcase. Happy eased its heft by augmenting Joshua’s strength with his own.

As they walked through the shopping center, Joshua looked at all the people and wondered if any of them had any idea they were living in a world where a person’s imagination could literally take on a life of its own. He wasn’t like them any more. He couldn’t live a normal life.

That’s ridiculous, Happy thought to him, hearing his thoughts as if they were his own. What is a normal life anyway? Getting a job? Having relationships with other people? We can still do those things. We’re still a person.

What kind of job could we get? Joshua replied. Nobody wants to hire a crazy person and his magical imaginary friend.

Dude, we can do things that nobody else can do. We’re like Superman. What would Superman do if he wasn’t fighting bad guys?

Joshua thought about it. It was easier to imagine what someone else would do with similar abilities. Superman could transport people all over the world in a fraction of the time it would take them to take an airplane. He could similarly deliver packages. He could work construction or in a warehouse. He could be a cop.

We could be a cop, Joshua proposed.

I thought you didn’t want to hurt anyone.

We wouldn’t have to. We’re way more powerful than any bad guys out there, and we wouldn’t have to worry about the police catching us. I know I said before that we’re not a super hero, but maybe we kinda are.

Usually, you’re the one raining on my parade, Happy said. I should remind you that that would mean going public and going through the normal application process, which includes a mental health evaluation. You’re diagnosed with a few mental disorders.

Joshua’s excitement died down. Happy was right. Contrary to what he thought as a child, having super powers wasn’t making his life any easier.

Happy continued, We don’t have to decide anything right now. Let’s just go and do whatever. We’ll see the world. We’ll meet people whose minds are open enough not to look at us and see a crazy person. We’re not crazy. We can make this work.

Joshua smiled. He trusted his figment. His friend.

A Figment’s Tale part 6

Joshua Peterson was too hungry to feel guilty for paying for his hamburger with imaginary money. It wasn’t very good anyway, so he was all right with it even after he ate it. The Pepsi was ok, so he felt a little bad about that.

Happy took the form of a man in his early 30s so people wouldn’t find it strange to see Joshua talking to him. He also hid Joshua’s surprisingly comfortable hospital clothing under the illusion of blue jeans and a red t-shirt. The manager was far too busy with the dinner rush to check the security camera feed in her office, which showed a man in psych ward robes sitting at a table talking to nobody.

“She lives here.” A map stretched out on the table, Joshua’s finger rested on the city of Port Shimsham, located 2,000 miles to the northeast. “And I doubt the police will think to watch for us there. The only normal way to get there in less than a week is to take an airplane, and they’ll be watching all the airlines for us.”

“If we’re going to be talking out loud, we probably shouldn’t say things about escaping the police. In fact, there really isn’t much point in us talking out loud anyway.”

“It makes me feel like I’m not so alone.”

“That’s probably why I exist. I’ll humor you. If anyone understands you, it’s me. This is an even stranger conversation than the one we were having a minute ago.”

“Like anybody is listening. Can you tell if they are?”

Happy looked around without appearing to move. He moved closer to people’s heads and tried to listen to their thoughts, but he didn’t hear anything. Either they weren’t thinking anything or he couldn’t read minds. But based on their body language, none of them were paying attention to the two men who were actually one.

“They’re minding their own business,” Happy reported. “Let me figure out a route to Sarah’s house. Then we’ll both go. Keep your eyes on the map.”

Joshua continued to study the map, and his nondescript friend disappeared. Strangely, nobody seemed to notice. After a few seconds, he reappeared.

“Okay, we have a route. Do you still not mind going up high?”

“I’ll deal with it as long as we get there fast.”

“We will. It’ll just take a few minutes.”

Joshua nodded, and they both got up and threw their trash away. Then they went outside, where Happy took the form of a giant pair of monarch butterfly wings on Joshua’s back, and they took off.


This trip was a long one–nearly eight minutes. They didn’t go light speed, but Joshua’s body was accelerated to a degree that trained jet pilots couldn’t have survived. It seemed impossible, but when he landed back on the ground, he was perfectly fine.

Joshua and Happy touched down in their older sister’s backyard. Because they traveled so far east, it was much earlier in the evening than it was where they’d left. Joshua smelled freshly cut grass and heard a lawnmower behind him. The mower’s engine cut off, and a man’s voice said, “Joshua? Is that you?”

Joshua turned around and saw Sarah’s husband, Jeremy Freeman. He stood there with a dumbfounded look on his face, probably because Happy was still projecting the image of butterfly wings on Joshua’s back. They disappeared, and the circular form of Happy Face appeared sitting on Joshua’s shoulder.

“I forgot those were still there,” Happy said. “Hi, brother-in-law!”

“What’s going on here?” Jeremy asked, addressing Joshua.

“We came to see Sarah,” Joshua said. “This is Happy Face. He’s the voice I’ve been talking to.”

Jeremy was like a deer in headlights. Happy could clearly hear what was going on in his mind. He was afraid that he had lost his mind, and he was trying to figure out a way to hide it. Happy shared the information with Joshua.

“Is that what you think I am?” Joshua asked. “Crazy? They had me locked up for hearing things that weren’t real. As you can see, this is real.”

“Just because you can see something doesn’t mean it’s real,” Jeremy replied. “How did you get here?”

“I’ll prove to you that Happy here is real. Happy, can you finish mowing the lawn for him?”

Jeremy had just begun, so most of the grass was still overgrown. An instant later, it was mowed perfectly, and the hedges were trimmed neatly. Jeremy picked up some clippings from part of the yard that Happy had mowed and compared it with clippings from the part that he’d mowed. He couldn’t see a difference.

“This isn’t possible,” he said, dropping the grass.

Then Sarah’s voice came from the front door. “You’re done already? That was fast.” Sarah looked up from the lawn and saw her husband and her brother. Her smile faded. She knew they wouldn’t let Joshua out so soon after he was admitted to the Happy Place. “What are you doing here, Joshua?”

She hadn’t yet noticed Happy Face, but as she walked up to them, she saw him and stopped halfway between the men and the front door.

“This is Happy–”

“I know who he is,” Sarah interrupted. “Happy Face, your imaginary friend from when you were four. He’s all you would draw.”

“You should’ve given me some muscles,” Happy said, flexing his stick arms. “Anyway, we’re here to tell you that we’re all right and that we forgive you for sending us to that horrible place.”

“Horrible place?” Sarah said. “It’s the best mental health facility in the country. People have come out of there and become President.”

It was true. Two presidents had spent time at the Happy Place and received the help they needed. But that was a long time ago.

“It’s changed,” Joshua said. “They had me locked up in a padded room wearing a straightjacket. I rescued a woman who’d been sexually abused there for years.”

“No, that’s impossible. Straightjackets are banned from mental health facilities, and their screening process for employees is the strictest in the industry.”

“That may be what the brochures say, but it doesn’t match with reality. The point is, I’m not crazy. I’m . . . something else.”

We’re something else,” Happy said. “I’m part of him, and we can do amazing things. The angel we met thinks I might be some kind of god.”

“Let’s go inside and talk about this,” Sarah said. “Can you stay for dinner?”

“We ate on the way here,” Joshua said, “but talking sounds great. I’m just glad you’re willing to listen.”

“Of course. We’re family. Jeremy, don’t track any grass into the house.”

Jeremy rolled his eyes and pushed the lawnmower toward the backyard as his wife, his brother-in-law, and the figment of his brother-in-law’s imagination went into the house, leaving their shoes in the foyer.

Joshua sat down on the couch in the living room, and the phone rang. Sarah picked it up. It was their parents. “Yeah, I know,” she said. “They’re here. Yes, they. No, Dad, I’m not crazy, and neither is Joshua. We made a mistake. Yes we did, Dad. Yes we–you know what, Dad? I can’t talk to you right now. Call me back when you’ve calmed down.” She hung up the phone, composed herself for a second, and then looked up at Joshua with awe in her face. “Joshua, you went to see them earlier today?”


“And now you’re here, just over two thousand miles away.”


Sarah went to her purse, which was hanging from a hook next to the front door, and took out a digital camera. Then she went back to the living room and took a picture of her brother. She looked at the picture, and the look of awe on her face was renewed. “You’re really here,” she said. “Is that what you’re really wearing?” She showed the picture to Joshua. It was him sitting on the couch wearing hospital robes rather than the normal clothes he appeared to be wearing, and there was no smiley face button man on his shoulder.

“Interesting,” Happy said. “But it’s not too surprising. I’m projecting this image from my part of Joshua’s mind. If you take a picture of the lawn, you’ll see that I really cut it.”

Sarah sat down on a soft recliner, staring back and forth at the picture and her brother. “What does this mean?”

A Figment’s Tale part 5

Joshua couldn’t stand flying. It why he only ever flew on an airplane once, when he was a child. As an adult, if he had a long trip to make, he would drive or take a bus, even if it was extremely inconvenient. At least all the extra time would be spent on the ground. Never mind that, statistically speaking, flying was the safest way to travel.

So when his figment took the form of wings and lifted him into the air, his eyes instinctively closed. It didn’t help, though. Happy Face showed him what was going on from his own perspective. They went up toward a particularly fluffy cumulonimbus and flew around it with such great speed, even Happy, with his enhanced remote vision, had trouble making out its details.

“I don’t want to see!” Joshua shouted. With the wind rushing by them making a deafening roaring sound, there was no way Happy would be able to hear him if he had to rely on sound, but he didn’t have to. They were connected mentally. “Turn it off!”

“We’re perfectly safe,” Happy replied. “It feels so good to finally be able to flex my muscle. Lifting you is as easy as lifting nothing. I could keep us up here forever.”

“Put me down! I hate flying!”

“I don’t understand how you can not want to see this. It’s–”

“Down! Now! Please! There are other ways you can cut loose. Maybe just fly lower.”

“Are you sure you want that? We’re much more likely to run into–”

Suddenly, a small airplane passed through the cloud and came within inches of hitting them.

“All right, we’re going down,” Happy said. He turned off his connection to Joshua that was allowing him to see what the figment saw until they were close enough to the ground to be able to touch the roofs of trucks. He also slowed to match the speed of traffic.

“That’s better,” Joshua said, opening his eyes. “This is still fun, right?”

“I guess. Can we mess with the cars?”

“No way. We could cause an accident. You should make us invisible while we’re doing stuff like this.”

“Or I could make us look like a dragon. Or better yet, Superman!”

“Happy, we’re not a superhero. I don’t want to hurt anyone, even if they are robbing people or whatever. Let’s just not attract any more attention. I’m the one who gets hurt when we do.”

Happy reluctantly agreed and made them both invisible. When he did that, people could still see them, but their minds wouldn’t process the information or remember it.

The road they flew along ran through a hilly countryside. The weather was warm, and the sun shined brightly when it wasn’t blocked by one of the city-sized clouds above them. Happy looked up at them longingly.

“Where are we going?” Joshua asked.

“I don’t even know where we are,” Happy replied. “Mom and Dad are going to be worried when they hear we’ve escaped from the Happy Place. We should go and tell them we’re all right.”

“That’s a good idea, though the cops will probably be watching.”

“And you don’t want me to hurt them while they try to capture us.”


“Then we’ll be careful.”


After checking a map at a gas station along the road they were flying along, Joshua and Happy turned around and doubled back toward their parents’ house. They flew low but fast–too fast for Joshua to make any sense of the scenery. Happy knew what he was doing. It was the kind of thing he’d been doing his whole life. He’d crossed the ocean and even orbited the planet in minutes. His speed defied the laws of physics, and that made sense when it was just him. He was a projection of Joshua’s mind controlled by an alternate personality. The ease with which he could carry a person at that speed made Joshua wonder if there was something to what Adoniel said. Maybe they were a god.

Following the map’s directions, they soon arrived at the home of George and Martha Peterson. Nobody was out front, and no cars were even parked anywhere other than in driveways for many blocks. Joshua and Happy hovered in the air about two hundred feet above the house.

I think they’re trying to make it look safer than it really is, Happy thought to Joshua.

Can you tell who’s in the house? Joshua thought back.

Just Mom and Dad. The house could be bugged though.

Do you think they’d bother? They only think we’re crazy, not dangerous.

I guess we’ll find out. We’re touching down.

Joshua breathed a sigh of relief as his feet touched the front yard and the wings on his back turned back into the round, imaginary body of Happy Face. Both he and the figment wanted their parents to see him so they would know that it was a mistake to have them committed.

As they stood in front of the door, it opened before they pressed the doorbell. The aging–but not yet old–Martha Peterson stood on the other side with a nervous smile. The smile became confusion when she saw the figment of her son’s imagination standing on his left shoulder.

“I take it we were expected,” Happy said.

Martha’s confusion became fear as she backed into the house and the always-plaid-shirt-wearing George approached from behind her with a stern look on his face.

“Joshua, you need to go back to–what the hell is that?”

“I’m the reason you had us imprisoned,” Happy told him. “You can call me Happy Face, but really, I’m as much your son as this body I’m standing on.”

George stood there on the other side of the doorway, frozen with indecision. Acting on a hunch, Happy tried listening in on his thoughts. It was hard to read a foreign mind through all the static that he hadn’t learned to sift through like he’d learned to deal with his own, but the main sense he got was that George was afraid that he had gone insane.

“You’re not crazy, Dad,” Joshua said. “And neither am I. I do have the additional personality, but he’s not crazy either. We can do things.”

“Like break yourself and someone else out of a mental institution?” George asked.

“Yeah, like that,” Happy said. “And we can fly.”

“I’m not interested in your input. You’re not even here, so just stay quiet. I’m talking to my son.”

“He is here,” Joshua argued. “He’s in my mind, and I’m projecting him into your mind.”

“Then stop! It’s bad enough you’ve lost touch with reality. Don’t take us with you.”

Their minds are closed, Happy thought to Joshua. We’re wasting our time here.

I’m not even sure why we came. What did we think was going to happen? That they’d see us and understand that there’s nothing wrong with us?

Suddenly, sirens sounded behind them. Martha had called the police while Joshua, Happy, and George were arguing. Joshua and Happy turned to see three police cars in front of the house.

“It’s time to go,” Joshua said.

Happy became a pair of dragon wings and carried Joshua into the sky beyond the reach of the officers, who were prepared for a struggle but not for a flying mental patient. They looked into the sky and then at each other, silently deliberating which of them, if any, would be writing this incident on their report.


Take us up high, Joshua instructed Happy as they zoomed up into the sky.

Are you sure? I know you don’t like heights.

I figure I might as well get used to them. Anyway, it’s the best place to get away from them. They won’t go looking for us up there if they’re afraid to even admit to each other that they saw us fly away.

So they kept going straight up until it became difficult to breathe. Happy stopped, and they stood there in the sky. The air was cold, and it blew much harder up there than it did on the ground. It was also getting dark.

“We’re alone,” Joshua said sadly.

“A little,” Happy agreed. “What about Sarah? Maybe she’ll listen.” Sarah was Joshua’s older sister.

“I don’t know. I guess we can try.” Joshua’s stomach rumbled. “But first, we should try and find something to eat. Preferably something free. These hospital robes don’t have my wallet in them.”

A Figment’s Tale part 4

Joshua composed himself and looked up at the church. Its spires reached up to the sky like it was built to stab clouds to death. Doors lined the entrance to accommodate large crowds coming and going at once. Their metal-and-glass construction clashed with the building’s classical style, but it couldn’t be helped. Building codes demanded certain touches of modernity.

“I can’t believe we’re here already!” Maggie exclaimed, looking around like she still didn’t quite believe it. “We traveled five hundred miles in a matter of seconds. Praise the lord!”

Joshua looked at Happy Face in disbelief. Did we really go that fast?

We’re really here, so yeah.

How did we even survive that? The whiplash alone from the sudden acceleration should have broken our necks.

“Are you there, Joshua?” Maggie asked. “You’re spacing out again.”

“Yeah, I’m just . . . I don’t know. Anyway, we’re here. Who do we talk to now?”

“For what?”

“To get them to take you in. They have nuns, don’t they? I figure they could use one more.”

“Oh, that’s a nice thought, but I’m really not pure enough to be a nun. I’ve done things, and I don’t mean the things that happened at the hospital.”

“We won’t tell them then.”

“Lying is a sin, especially in God’s house.”

Joshua began to roll his eyes, but he stopped himself and made it appear as if he was just looking up at the church’s spires.

“Let’s just go inside and talk to whoever is in charge,” Happy suggested. “Maybe a good word from an angel will get you in.”

Joshua gave up on the idea of talking sense into Maggie. Maybe enabling her delusions was the easiest way to get through this situation.

They entered the building and found themselves in a world that was trying hard to keep to tradition but had to make a patchwork of compromises–an air conditioning duct here, a light switch there. Rows of probably handmade wooden pews led up to a stage with a lectern and an altar made of white marble and covered on top with purple cloth. The purple probably symbolized something, but Joshua didn’t keep up with every religion’s rituals and holidays.

Though there were electric lights, they weren’t on. The huge space was lit by sunlight filtered through stained-glass windows and candles. A few people sat silently in the pews, looking down and praying. Joshua knew that they would eventually notice the light radiating from Happy Face, but the longer that took, the better. He wasn’t a religious man, but he was very uncomfortable with his figment posing as a divine being in order to fool people, no matter how silly he thought their beliefs were.

Maggie headed for the statue she mentioned, which was in a far corner. It meant they would be in front of the pews and very noticeable to the people sitting in them. As they followed Maggie, Joshua braced himself for whatever their reaction would be. But when they reached the life-size likeness of the robed Mary, he looked back to see that nobody was reacting other than to stare in wide-eyed wonder. They didn’t run or scream or approach them to worship the angel. They just sat there like this wasn’t all that out of the ordinary for them.

“What’s going on?” Joshua whispered. “They’re not freaking out.”

“Of course they’re not,” Maggie whispered back. “They know angels exist. Now hush. I’m going to ask the blessed virgin for guidance.”

As Maggie knelt down at the foot of the statue, a beam of light shined down on Happy from the ceiling. A gleaming silver sword came down like a bolt of lightning, burying itself in the figment’s head all the way to its hilt. Joshua cried out like it hit him and then fell to the ground, unconscious. Happy retook his circular form, and the sword fell through him, disappearing as it touched the ground. Angrily, he looked up through the column of light. By this time, all eyes were on them.

“No demon is welcome in the lord’s house,” a youthful male voice said from the ceiling. It sounded gentle, which was strange considering what it just did with the sword. “You will be destroyed in front of these believers, that their faith shall be bolstered.”

“Show yourself,” Happy replied. “If you want to fight, at least have the guts to do it in person.”

The light moved toward the still-unconscious Joshua. Happy rushed to cover him, enlarging his own form and protecting him from being burned up by the beam’s extreme heat.

“We’re not doing this here,” Happy said. He stretched out his arms, wrapped Joshua up, and carried him away from the beam and out the door. He put him down in a sitting position under a tree at the edge of a clearing near the church.

Out of the church walked a tall, thin man wearing a suit of silver armor that seemed to glow in the sunlight. Flowing blonde hair covered his head and waved like a flag in the wind despite the fact that the wind wasn’t blowing. In his right hand, he carried the same sword that fell down from the column of light.

Happy immediately darted toward him and struck him in the jaw with a tiny fist. His muscleless arms belied incredible strength, as evidenced by the armored man’s subsequent flight into the church doors. The shatterproof glass of the doors popped out of their housing and landed among the pews. Fortunately, they failed to hit anybody.

“Such power,” the armored man said as he got to his feet. He looked into the church just as a tiny foot struck him in the chest and sent him into the middle of the clearing nearly a hundred feet away. “Wait!” he called out, dropping his sword, which he somehow kept hold of thusfar, and holding up his oustretched hands. “I’ve made a mistake!”

“You certainly have.” Happy appeared in front of the man, his face scowling. “You took the first cheap shot. What’s the matter? You can’t fight someone who’s fighting back?”

“You’re right, I fought dishonorably. I apologize. I didn’t recognize you for what you are. Forgive me.”

“What I am?”

“You are a god.”

For a moment, Happy pondered this possibility. He was quite powerful. Then the greater implications struck him.

“There are gods?” he asked.

“Of course,” the armored man replied. “I am Adoniel, angel of retribution.”

“I’m Happy Face. The unconscious guy who you tried to kill is also me.”

“No single man can hold such power in his mind. Surely you are the result of the belief of millions.”

“No, I’m pretty sure I’m just from him. So a god is just a sort of collective figment?”

“All gods except for Yahweh. He is the alpha and the omega. He made the universe and everything in it.”

“Uh huh.”

Joshua began to awaken, and Happy flew over to him.

“What happened?” Joshua asked.

“We were attacked by an angel,” Happy told him.

“Very funny. What was it really?” Joshua looked around and noticed Adoniel, who now had a pair of wings on his back. “Are you doing that?”

“No,” Happy said. “He’s a figment, kinda like me, but made by a whole bunch of people.”

“I am an angel of the lord,” Adoniel corrected him. “I was created by the god of Abraham to do the will of Heaven. Other beings call themselves gods, but they are mere figments.”

He’s full of crap, Happy thought to Joshua.

Clearly, Joshua thought back.

“Why did you attack us?” Joshua asked.

“I thought Happy Face was a demon disguised as an angel of light. I lashed out in haste, and I am deeply sorry.”

“I hope so. That really hurt. I’ve never had a headache like that. It’s like my brain was on fire.”

“I’d have cut our connection if I knew that was coming,” Happy said. “You felt the pain instead of me.”

“I am in your debt,” Adoniel said.

“I know how you can pay us back,” Joshua said.

And so, by impersonating an angel in a church, Joshua and Happy Face got a “real” angel to put in a good word for Maggie O’Malley to be given a position as a nun despite her lack of what they would call purity. She would be safe there.

“What will you do now?” Maggie asked as she stood with them at the front of the church in her brand new habit.

“Fight crime!” Happy exclaimed half-jokingly.

“Definitely not fight crime,” Joshua said. “I think we should go and see the world. I remember all of Happy’s travels, but I want to see it all with my own eyes.”

“That sounds educational.” Maggie smiled at Joshua in a way he hadn’t seen her smile. It made him feel uneasy. “It’s a shame we didn’t meet under different circumstances. I owe you big time. Both of you.”

Joshua smiled awkwardly, and Happy said, “It’s all in a day’s work.” Then he became a pair of wings on Joshua’s back, and the two of them took off into the sky. For a split second, Maggie could hear Joshua’s cry of alarm. She almost envied them, but that would have been a sin.

A Figment’s Tale part 3

Joshua, his figment, and Maggie ran out the cell door and past a group of taser-wielding night guards. It appeared that they weren’t in the mood to play around. When they reached the door leading to the stairs, Joshua checked to see if anyone was looking in that direction. The guards were still in the cell, probably wondering why it was empty. He opened the door and rushed the others through. Then he closed the door quickly behind them.

The alarm was a little quieter in the stairwell, so Joshua told Maggie to try not to make any noise. Neither of them was wearing shoes, so that wasn’t too hard. And the figment didn’t really even exist, so it was easy for it to stay silent. They made their way quickly down the stairs until they reached the bottom, where two doors stood on opposite walls. An exit sign hung above one of them.

Choosing the exit door, they found themselves outside and surrounded by police cars. They must have been called after the first alarm went off.

“Crap!” the figment exclaimed. “I didn’t expect them! They saw us for a second. They can’t see us now, but–”

Guns went off, firing rubber bullets at the escaping mental patients. Joshua and Maggie cried out in alarm, but the figment sprang into action. He flew back and forth in front of them, catching each bullet in his stick fingers in the order they were fired and throwing them back at the guns that shot them. It was as if they hit a forcefield.

“What the hell?” one officer said after his gun was knocked from his grip. They took out their stun guns and moved toward the door in a tight circle. Fortunately, Joshua and Maggie were already outside of it before they began to move.

The three escaped inmates watched the officers disappear into the building before they felt safe enough to speak or move. First, they moved. Joshua and Maggie collapsed to the ground and tried to collect their thoughts.

“Which way to the church?” the figment asked.

Maggie closed her eyes, moved her head around, and then pointed toward the building. “That way. I’m sure of it.”

“As long as you’re sure,” Joshua said.

“Yes I am.”

“How do we get there?” Joshua asked, directing the question to the figment. “Can you turn into a car?”

“I don’t really know cars that well, but as long as nobody tries to look under the hood . . .”

Joshua had been joking, and the figment knew it, but it still conjured in its friends’ minds the image of a silver 2001 Ford Focus. Nobody would ever look twice at it, making it perfect for their purposes. Joshua opened the driver’s seat door, sat down, and saw that the interior was pretty much like every other car he’d ever seen. Maggie sat down in the seat next to him.

“It feels so real,” Maggie said.

“Reality is what you perceive,” the figment said through the car’s speakers.

“How can you do all this?” Joshua asked.

“I live in your subconscious. It’s a very complex place. This car is nothing compared to what I can make you see. You guys are pretty light, but I won’t be able to carry you forever. Watch the fuel gauge. When it gets low, it means I’m getting tired. I won’t be able to do anything for you then until I’ve rested.”

The amount of detail in the car was amazing. Joshua couldn’t believe it came from his mind. A key was already in the ignition, so he turned it and heard the engine quietly start. He felt in control of it. Operating it like any other car, he drove through the grass to the parking lot and then out to the open road. They had escaped, at least for the time being.

As they made their way down the road past grocery stores, doctor’s offices, restaurants, dry cleaning places, and all the other gears that drove society, Joshua kept an eye on the fuel gauge. It didn’t appear to be moving, so after a while, he relaxed and took in the situation. That’s when he began to hyperventilate.

“Hey, it’s going to be all right,” Maggie told him. She had been staring dreamily out the window, strangely unfazed by the fact that they were being carried by a mass of telekinetic energy. “The lord will lead us in the right direction. I think this figment of yours is actually an angel. He came to set us free. Angel, can you tell us your real name?”

“Angel?” the figment said. “Sure, why not? You can call me Happy Face. That doesn’t sound very angelic, does it? Maybe I can think of something better.”

“No, it’s a beautiful name,” Maggie said. “God is kind to have blessed you with it, and we are blessed that he sent you to free us and bring us to his house. I know we’ll be safe there.”

Joshua, of course, wasn’t so sure. “I’m sorry I got you into this, Maggie. Tell me if you want me to bring you back to the hospital.”

“Why would I want to go back to that place? You know what the guards, the doctors, the orderlies, and even the janitors did to me in there, don’t you? You said you’d take me to Saint Albert’s Church. Don’t tell me you’re going back on—”

“I’m keeping my promise,” Joshua said.

“Our promise,” Happy added.

“Yeah, our promise. I just think this might get dangerous, and I don’t want you to get hurt.”

“Happy Face will keep us safe. That’s what he was sent to do.”

“Happy Face didn’t come from Heaven. He came from me. He’s a figment of my imagination. Didn’t you hear when he said he lives in my subconscious? He’s not an angel.”

“Come on, Joshua,” Maggie said. “Can you hear yourself? Figments of people’s imagination don’t knock down doors, catch bullets, and turn into fully functioning cars. This is God’s work.”

“I’m pretty sure there isn’t—”

That’s enough, Joshua. If she wants to think I’m an angel, it’s fine. It doesn’t hurt anything, and nothing you can say can change her mind anyway.

Yeah, I know. It really could get dangerous, though. Is there any way we can get Maggie to the church faster? Before the police find us?

A second later, the car around them disappeared, and they lifted into the air, each held by the midsection by an arm covered by a white robe. Maggie gazed up and smiled. Joshua looked at what she was so happy about and groaned in exasperation. Happy had taken the appearance of an angel.

“We’ll be there soon!” he shouted to them over the noise of the wind rushing past. “Hold on!”

The world beneath them shrunk as the feeling of rapid acceleration turned Joshua’s insides into jelly. He had no idea how fast they were going or how high they flew, because he held his eyes shut as tightly as he could until the feeling stopped. When he opened his eyes, he was on his hands and knees on the ground in front of a beautiful cathedral. In his mind, he saw through the eyes of Happy, still in the form of an angel, looking down at him and Maggie.

“That was easier than I thought it would be,” Happy said. “That gauge was totally unnecessary. Anyway, here we are. Saint Albert’s Cathedral. Safe and sound. Totally alive and unharmed. You can get up now, Joshua.”

Figment news

I put out chapters 1 and 2 within a few days of each other, and one mistake that I often make with these things is that I get all gung-ho for a while and then lose my enthusiasm. I want to avoid that and really make this into a thing, because this is a story I’ve been crafting for more than half of my life. So in that spirit, I’ll just be posting new chapters once a week. Chapter 3 is in the works, and it will come out on September 2nd and every Wednesday after that.

Happy reading!

A Figment’s Tale part 2

Joshua Peterson sat there on his cot as he heard a commotion begin outside of his room. His figment disappeared from view, but he could feel it in his mind. They were more connected than ever before, and he could tell that it was startled by what it just did and what resulted from it.

The night guard who talked to him before was the first to reach Joshua’s room. He looked at him with confusion and worry in his eyes. He silently mouthed, “Did you do this?” Joshua found it strangely easy to understand.

“I uhh . . .” He couldn’t think of a good response. Then he quickly laid down on his cot facing the wall.

Do you want me to show you what’s going on? the figment asked in his and Joshua’s mind.

Yeah, but don’t let them see you.

Two more guards and a man in a fancy black suit ran in and looked around the room. The first guard told them that Joshua was sleeping when he got there. They searched the room, and the man in the suit carefully shook Joshua’s shoulder to rouse him. It was strange to see it from outside of himself and feel it at the same time.

“Wha?” he said, trying to appear groggy. At least his difficulty turning over was genuine.

“Did you see what happened?” the suit-wearing man asked.

“Something happened?” Joshua looked over at the door and feigned shock. “Hey, my door is gone.”

“Yeah. It’s in the room across the hall. It was pushed from this side. We’re going to have to search your room for explosives.”

As if anyone could have brought explosives into a cell at Happy Place. Security there was so tight, the most likely result of the investigation would be that the night guard in that section did it somehow. There was no evidence of it, but the hospital couldn’t just let the incident go without firing somebody. Maybe even prosecuting.

“Will somebody take this straightjacket off at some point?” Joshua asked.

“Not before we move you to a room that has a camera. You might have to bunk with somebody. Hey, Larson! Come bring the patient to room 405!”

One of the guards, a tall, lanky man with deep-set eyes, abandoned the search of the room, which was mostly empty anyway. “Isn’t that the Nun’s room?”

“Yeah. When you get there, give him back his arms. Maybe we’ll get a show on the monitors.”

All of the guards chuckled. They were accusing Joshua of something he would never do. Room 405 was home to Maggie O’Malley, a deeply religious woman who had been the regular target of sexual abuse by the guards and patients since she first came to Happy Place nearly two years earlier. She prayed constantly and threatened her abusers with God’s wrath when they used her.

You want me to get us out of this? the figment asked Joshua in their now-shared mind.

Not yet. Maybe we can do something to help Maggie first.

Joshua walked with the security guard, whose nametag he noticed because it said his name was Leslie. When Leslie saw him looking at it, he said, “It was my grandpa’s name. He was a war hero.”

Joshua stifled the amused smile that had begun to form on his face. He didn’t approve of war, but he knew better than to belittle anyone who was thought of as a hero. Jingoism ran rampant in the country. He faced forward as they entered an elevator, went up 3 floors, and walked down a hallway to room 405.

“Stay away!” the woman screamed when they opened the door. She was very thin, and the contrast between her pale skin and black hair made her head look like a penguin with two blue circles on its chest. Years of abuse in the facility had stolen the youthfulness from her face.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” Joshua said as Leslie unlocked and untied the straightjacket. His arms were sore, but it was a relief to be able to move them again. He held his hands in front of his face in an attempt to appear nonthreatening, as if the people who had hurt the woman even bothered to use weapons. Her nightly medication was enough to subdue her.

“Thou shalt not bear false witness!” the woman shouted. “God hates liars.”

“Maggie,” Leslie said, “this is your new roommate. He really doesn’t seem like the violent type.”

“I’m really not,” Joshua said. “I’ll just stay in the far corner over there, as far from you as I can be.”

“You’d better pray that the lord helps you to resist temptation. Are you a God-fearing man?”

Joshua was an atheist, so needless to say, he didn’t fear or believe in any gods. He didn’t fear any goddesses either. But if he said that, a woman like Maggie surely wouldn’t feel safe, so he lied. “Yes, Maggie. I’m very religious. Catholic, in fact.”

Maggie relaxed a little. “I hope, for your sake, you’re telling the truth.”

Leslie told the pair, “Have fun, you two,” and exited the room, closing the door quietly behind him.

Joshua looked around the ceiling and found the camera. It was in the center of the room and aimed at a mirror that was curved to give a view of the whole room. It was better that way. Joshua knew that if he found a blind spot, they would discourage him from hiding in it.

“I’m Joshua Peterson,” Joshua said.

“Maggie O’Malley. Pleased to meet you.” She wasn’t yet at ease, but she was at least making an effort to be friendly. “I’m here because I loved the lord too much. What about you?”

“Hearing a voice that wasn’t there and talking to it.”

“That sounds like either a demon or an angel. It can be hard to figure out which it is. Too bad we can’t get to Saint Albert’s Church in New Boston. There’s a statue of Mary there that heals any ailment if you kneel in front of her with a rosary around your neck.”

It was a real battle for Joshua not to roll his eyes at her. He could see why someone thought she had to be put into a place like this, but the help she needed wasn’t psychiatric. Then again, who’s to say she was wrong? A figment of his imagination just blasted a door off its hinges just by touching it. Anything was possible.

“The Bible says a demon can disguise itself as an angel of light,” he said. “Can an angel disguise itself, too?”

“If it’s God’s will,” Maggie answered.

“How can you tell the difference, then, between an angel and a demon?”

“I would pray and ask the lord for guidance.”

Joshua found that answer frustrating, because it didn’t tell him how she would handle seeing his figment. To him, a nonbeliever, it meant that there was a 50/50 chance that she would freak out, say that he was a demon, and refuse any help he offered her.

I could try looking like Jesus, the voice offered.

I’d rather not enable her delusions, assuming they are delusions.

Then how do you want to save her? And why do you want to save her?

Because I think she’s never getting out of here otherwise, and they’ll destroy her for their own amusement.

But where else could she go? At least at Happy Place, she was given what she needed to survive. She was cared for, after a fashion. Where could a devoutly religious woman go where she wouldn’t be sexually abused but she would get what she needed to live?

Then it hit him. They called her the nun.

“Maggie, do you want to actually go to Saint Albert’s church?”

“Well, I’d rather be there than here, that’s for sure. Why does that sound more like an offer than curiosity?”

Do you think you could get us out of here? he asked the figment.

Yes. Should I show myself?

No. In fact, can you make us invisible?

“Joshua, why are you just sitting there silently? You’re starting to freak me out. I wish you would—wait, where did you go? What’s going on here?”

With a great crash, the door was blown away the same way as the other door. Maggie screamed and huddled in a corner.

“Let’s go!” the figment shouted in its high-pitched voice. It included Maggie in their camouflage, and she could see it for the first time, manifested in its yellow smiley face form. “I promise you I’m not a demon. Please believe me.”

Maggie O’Malley stared in confused horror at Joshua and the figment. She closed her eyes and prayed desperately for guidance as the alarm blared and footsteps rushed toward the room. Just before the guards reached them, her eyes popped open, and she said, “Okay! Take me away!”


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